Sunday, 31 May 2009
I spent a nice quiet evening in with the family watching DVD's last night. We've had a busy week and to be quite honest, an evening in was pleasant. As I had to pick eldest daughter up from Luton airport at midnight, returning from Swim Camp, it was also a good reason not to drink. One of the films chosen was Defiance. This stars Daniel Craig and tells the story of the Bielski brothers, who set up a camp for Jews fleeing Nazi extermination in Belarus, in the USSR during the Nazi occupation. It is a very good film. Not being familiar with the story, I don't really know how accurate it was, but I think that anything which reminds us of sheer evilness of the Nazi regime is clearly something to be applauded. Tuvia Bielski is clearly someone who's name should be known more widely. The generally accepted image of the Jewish people under Nazi occupation was one of passive compliance. This was clearly not the case with Bielski or his band. They are an example to the whole world of why it is vital to fight tyranny when sometimes it seems hopeless.
After the film, as I drove up to Luton Airport, I was thinking about the situation in Israel, in light of the film. Given that many of the residents of Bielski's camp ended up as citizens of Israel, it is worth giving the matter some consideration. As I drove along, I pondered the thought that last year, the story of the war between Hamas & Israel was lead news item for many a day. The Israeli justification for the attack was the daily rocket attacks by Hamas on Israeli towns. The thought occurred to me that I hadn't seen a news report about a single Rocket attack since the end of the Israeli attack. Was this due to the story not being newsworthy any more, or have Hamas changed their tactics & decided to use political means rather than violence to further their aims. I did a quick google and it certainly seems the case that Hamas is still firing rockets. It must be said that the reports are few and far between, since the end of the conflict (although how much of this is due to the story not being "hot", I know not). According to the report I've linked to, Israel maintains a policy of Tit for Tat attacks. The question I have is whether this will ever truly deliver the results which the Israeli generals hope.
I firmly believe that every sovereign country has a right to defend itself from attack. Israel is clearly being attacked, therefore it cannot be disputed that it is within it's rights to mount actions necessary to defend it's population. If I were an Israeli, the question I'd be asking is whether the current political and military strategy will work. The precident of history does not really bode well. The leader of bomber command during WWII, Arthur Harris, claimed that the Nazi's could be bombed into submission. My dad flew a Wellington bomber for 40 squadron, part of 205 bomber group as part of this offensive. I've taken a keen interest in the subject, to decide whether the sacrifices he and his comrades made were worth it. As part of the campaign lead by Harris, nearly a million tons of bombs were dropped on Germany. Over 60 towns were decimated, 595,000 civilians were killed. At the end of the war, the RAF set up a group to review the findings and see whether the policy of area bombing of cities, with no military value assisted the Allied war effort. The results were inconclusive. German morale did not crack. Until the final weeks of the war, production held up. The policy of hitting oil targets had a far more profound and devastating effect than wiping out cities such as Dresden. One of the most successful campaigns was mounted by my fathers squadron, in mining the Danube. This prevented barges loaded with oil & other supplies from Rumania reaching Germany. As the Nazi's didn't care about their civilian population, the attacks made little difference to the leadership. Apologists for the campaign claim that huge resources were tied up defending German cities. This is nonsense. If the RAF had purely attacked targets in Germany with military or economic value and concentrated their tactics on these targets, the effects would have been more damaging, the same resources would have been tied up and the war may well have ended sooner. 55,000 air crew were killed. RAF bomber command had the highest attrition rate of any service in the war with a 40% casualty rate. The tours of duty were set such that a crew had a 50/50 chance of surviving their tour. Bomber command was comprised of volounteers.
Which brings us back to the Israeli campaign against Hamas. If the RAF could fail so spectacularly against the Nazi's, with a campaign to undermine German morale, how do they expect their campaign to succeed against Hamas. Hamas have a similar disregard for their people, treating them as human shields and cannon fodder. Like the Nazi's in 1944 they have no prospect of defeating Israel on the battlefield, but this will not prevent them from sacrificing their citizens. This brings us back to Israel. How should they respond to rocket attacks? I've got to say that I really don't know, but they should certainly change their tactics. If they put the energies they've expended on military campaigns into more subtle approaches, could they have been less successful in stopping the attacks?
As to Hamas? Well in the unlikely event that anyone from Hamas would read this blog or listen to reason, I'll ask this question. What have all of the rockets you've launched achieved? How have the Palestinian people benefitted? With my Irish Catholic roots it is quite clear to me that the population of Northern Ireland's lives are far better now than during the troubles. They may not have everything they want, but ordinary people can lead their lives in peace, without fear. If I were a political leader, that would be my very minimum first objective. Unlike Bielski's partisans, the Palestinian people will not be carted off to death camps if their leaders lay down their weapons and engage in political dialog. They will merely achieve a better quality of life.
I used to argue long and hard with my Dad about area bombing. My mum once butted in and told me that what I should realise is that after the Blitz, it cheered the population of London up no end to here that German cities were being destroyed. I suspect that if the Israeli government were honest, this is the primary reason for the tit for tat attacks. It is clear that they have little effect in stopping the attacks.
I wonder how Tuvia Bielski would have approached the issue?
Saturday, 30 May 2009
UKIP will leave the political EU and trade globally and freely. We will re-embrace today’s fast-growing Commonwealth and we will encourage UK manufacturing so that we make things again.
We will freeze immigration for five years, speed up deportation of up to a million illegal immigrants by tripling the numbers engaged in deportations, and have ‘no home no visa’ work permits to ease the housing crisis.
We will have a grammar school in every town. We will restore standards of education and improve skills training. Student grants will replace student loans.
We will radically reform the working of the NHS with an Insurance Fund, whilst upholding the ‘free at the point of care’ principles. We will bring back matrons and have locally run, clean hospitals.
We will give people the vote on policing priorities, go back to proper beat policing and scrap the Human Rights Act. We will have sentences that mean what they say.
We will take 4.5 million people out of tax with a simple Flat Tax (with National Insurance) starting at £10,000. We will scrap Inheritance Tax, not just reform it and cut corporation taxes.
We will say No to green taxes and wind farms. To avert a major energy crisis, we will go for new nuclear power plants on the same existing site facilities and for clean coal. We will reduce pollution and encourage recycling.
We will make welfare simpler and fairer, introduce ‘workfare’ to get people back to work, and a new citizens pension and private pensions scheme insurance.
We will support our armed forces with more spending on equipment, military homes and medical care. We will save our threatened warships and add 25,000 more troops.
We will be fair to England, with an English Parliament of English MPs at Westminster. We will replace assembly members like MSPs with MPs. And we will promote referenda at local and national levels.
We will make customer satisfaction number one for rail firms – not cost cutting and will look seriously at reopening some rail lines that Beeching closed. We will make foreign lorries pay for British roads with a ‘Britdisc’ – and we will stop persecuting motorists.
Last, but never least, we will bring in fair prices and fair competition for our suffering farmers, and restore traditional British fishing and territorial waters.
Watching Britains got talent and seeing 10 year old Holly crack up transported me back to when I was around 8 years old. Between 1967 and 1970, I was a successful child actor/model, appearing in numerous adverts. One of these, for Heinz beans won an award and others such as for Cadburys chocolate, Galaxy Chocolate, Tizer etc saw my face on ITV every night. I stopped acting in 1970, when my mum was diagnosed with stomach cancer and she had bigger fish to fry than my acting career.
Watching Holly crack up, vividly reminded me of the scenes we'd see during casting auditions. I'd turn up to be greeted by a room full of children with parents/chaperones. Generally the best parts for the biggest products, such as Heinz and Cadbury's were competetive. I'd walk in and eye up the competition. There were regulars, familiar faces. Rather like Alex Ferguson awaiting the draw for the Champions League, I'd know who the real competition were and what my chances were. About 50% were products of stage schools. Then there were a few first time hopefuls and the non stage school regulars such as me. As with Alex Ferguson, there were faces that, should they show up, you knew you were in for a proper game. Of all of these, the only one I really worried about was a boy called Darren Scott. Of all of the auditions I went to, either myself or Darren got picked on all but one occasion. That particular time, one of the last auditions, as my mum was ill, my brother Frank took me to. Upon seeing Darren Scott, I decided to take a novel approach to winning the part. I thumped him and gave him a black eye. Unfortunately the plan backfired and we were both ejected.
The thing that brought this back to me was the way Holly cracked up. One sight that probably happened at every audition was a pushy mum with a boy who clearly wasn't up to the job. To sit in front of a group of adults, be told what to do, get it right first time and look happy and at ease whilst doing it, well enough to impress a panel of hardened professionals is difficult at any time. When you are 8 and you don't want to do it is even harder. Often mums had spent large sums of money having a professional photo portfolio put together. The pressure was intense. Being dyslexic and useless at school, for me it was a welcome relief to be good at something. I've always been gifted with boundless self confidence. Unfortunately many of the kids were nervous wrecks by the time they went in. Many of the boys, especially the younger ones would crack. You'd see them being dragged out by the arm, pushy mum berating them. Hardened old timers such as myself and Darren Scott would smirk. The best time to go for your audition was straight after one of these breakdowns. In we'd bowl, smiling, confident, happy. After the audition, you'd look over to those you perceived as the real competition & smile confidently.
Sometimes we'd hear the mums pleading with the casting team for another chance. Sometimes the mums would have to be almost dragged out pleading. The point is that all of this went on behind closed doors. Apart from a few kids and a few mums, once poor little Johnny was home it could all be forgotten. The parental pleading was part of the job for the team. Once you'd worked with a director a couple of times, they'd sometimes just ask for you straight away. Those that cracked were generally not seen again.
The things that struck me about Holly's outburst were firstly how unfair it was on all of those kids who hadn't cracked. She'd failed, yet she got a huge sympathy vote. In any other casting, that wouldn't happen. In a private audition, Simon Cowell would have shown Holly the dorr straight away.
Secondly I thought how unfair it was to expose a child to such pressure. It was bad enough doing it in front of a few adults. On live national TV, it is immeasurably more stressful. At some point in the future, Holly will have to deal with teasing of her classmates. How will she cope? Maybe she'll do well. I just think of former child star, Lena Zavaroni. She died at 35, unable to cope. When I was 8, the actor I most wanted to emulate was Jack Wild. He was the star of Oliver! He died in 2006 of alcohol related problems. The stresses of early fame are not always easy to deal with. I adopted a very simple approach with my classmates at St Vincents. I never discussed it. The school forbade me from appearing in school plays etc, as they felt other kids should get an opportunity. I felt this was highly unfair at the time, but probably helped keep me grounded. It certainly meant that there was no resentment that I was aware of.
The entertainment industry is a brutal machine. The very last consideration made when providing 3 minutes of entertainment on a Friday night is the wellbeing of the child. For me the experience was a great one. I wouldn't deny any child that, but I had a caring family, 5 elder sibling and a great home life. I wasn't allowed to get big headed or arrogant, as I'd get slapped back down immediately.
I'd suggest that in fairness to the kids involved, that anyone under 16 should be filmed beforehand. If a child cracks up, then don't show the footage. A simple statement that "***** had to withdraw" would suffice. I'd also use child protection laws to prevent papers exposing what happened. There is no public benefit to seeing or knowing that a 10 year old child has cracked up.
A few people who read the blog have commented to me that despite often mentioning the fact that I'm a Roman Catholic, I've not written a single line about Peadophile priests or the abuse in Ireland. They've asked if I have a policy of ignoring the failings of the church, some have suggested darker motives. First, I'll explain why I mention I'm a Catholic, albiet a rather unholy one. I think that it's important to state interests if we have one. If I write about football, I say I support Manchester City. That way any United fans understand any bias. If I write about politics, I state I'm a Labour member, albiet a very lazy & inactive one. If I write about morality, I think it's only fair to say that I belong to a faith. Sometimes my views clash with those of the church (eg Birth control). It may on occasion open me to charges of hypocricy, where people say "How can you support the church if....". If I didn't state my interest, then you the reader would be unaware and that would be dishonest. In my eyes, that is worse.
Which takes us on to the issue of Peadophile priests. I've met good priests & I've met bad priests. The best ones have been inspirational, the worst - anything but. The one thing I've not had personal experience of are sexual advances from one. As such it is not an issue that has touched me personally. On top of that, some of the priests I've met have been extremely positive influences. As such, I've felt that putting the boot into the priesthood would not be fair or constructive, given that I believe that the bad ones are a tiny minority.
Having read some of the recent coverage of the situation in Ireland, I've come to realise that there is something seriously wrong with the institution of the Catholic Church. Whilst around the globe, individual priests are doing great work, the powers that be have systematically covered up endemic child abuse. Priests who should be in prison, have been moved from parish to parish. The church has used it's moral authority to silence parents. Abused children have been made to feel "responsible" for the dreadful abuse and have been permenantly damaged. As details emerge in Ireland, it has reached a point where it could destroy the church. The comments of bishops has displayed a terrible, head in the sand approach. There can be only one approach which will regain the confidence of the congregation. The files must be opened, the abusers must go to prison. Those who conspired in the cover up must be prosecuted. The church is unique in having the means to accomodate these paedophiles when they are realeased from prison. They should be sent to remote, sealed monastries, with big warning signs saying Paedpohile priest home. There they can while away their lives praying for gods forgiveness, on humdrum diets. Just to be completely clear about this, they'd be sent there after their release. Preferrably these monastries should be on remote islands, with no internet access. I'd not be unhappy for non priest paedophiles to join them. If they are truly sorry for their sins, they'd accept this without complaint. If the church did this, then maybe they would eventually recover the trust of the congregation. I was struck reading this by the words of a friend of mine who used to be the governor of the Maze prison during the troubles. I asked him about his view of Paedophiles and whether they could be reformed. His words were "In my experience, they only stop abusing when they are physically incapable of it or when they die".
Reading this coverage, I realised how much there was in common with the scandal regarding MP's expenses. Again, there are some MP's who do a great job and do not abuse the expenses. There are probably many MP's named in the Telegraph, who never dreamed before they entered Parliament that they'd behave like this. The reason they got embroiled was because they thought that there would never be any public scrutiny of their claims. A culture sprung up where the worst that could happen was that they'd get their claim knocked back. As such, many people were corrupted and encouraged in bad behaviour. They felt as if they were untouchable. Like the priesthood, they were wrong. Like the priesthood, they have lost public trust. Like the priesthood, radical measures are required to regain the trust of the public.
This leads us back to Barnet. As discussed above, the problems with priests and MP's have come about because matters were hushed up, discussed in private. Deals were done, problems coveredup. Where did it end up? In ruins. At Barnet Council, there have been repeated financial problems. These did not start under Mike Freer's regime. When Mike was in opposition, he was a keen advocate of scrutiny. Mike was a deadly inquisitor. Alison Moore, the leader of the Labour group once told me that being on the end of a Mike Freer inquisition was the most unpleasant moment of her political career. She admitted Mike Freer was a great opposition councillor. Her comments reminded me of John Prescott MP. In opposition, he was a fearsome opponent. If a train crashed, he'd turn up in his hard hat, berating the government. When it came to running the show, a different set of skills were required.
If you want good clean administration, you need open access to documents and good scrutiny. The best people to do this in the political arena are the opposition. Deals made behind closed doors, unminuted, undocumented and unscrutinised are bound to be flawed. In Barnet Council chambre, whilst discussing the Iceland debacle, the Lib Dems asked for the minutes of the meetings between council officials and Mike Freer, then head of the resource committee. Were these forthcoming? In fact the Lib Dems were criticsed by the Conservatives for putting pressure on council officers. As a result, the scrutiny committee and the people who pay taxes, ie us, are still unaware of how and why decisions are made.
As with the paedophile priests in Ireland and the MP's expenses, why are any of these decisions not being exposed to public scrutiny. This is the only way to ensure public confidence in the process. There is no earthly reason why the taxpayer shouldn't know why the Council decided to invest money in a certain way. I suspect that if councillors and officials knew that their decisions would be open to public examination, they'd be a bit more careful.
One thought for our Conservative councillors - where was "Freedom of Information" pioneered? In the worlds most successful economy - the USA.
Friday, 29 May 2009
In the past, in deference to his sailing exploits, I've called Councillor Matthew Offord Captain Useless. His latest sailing blog on the Hendon Times website was charting a course towards another entry in the chronicles of Captain Useless, when half way through the wind chaged. What was a rather dull blog about the effects of seasickness, actually became quite interesting half way through.
As those of you who follow this blog may have realised, it seems to me that Matthew isn't really cut out for this sailing lark. The first six paragraphs are dedicated to Matthew talking about the cause and effects of sea-sickness. To be fair, he throws in a witty anecdote about Isaac Asimov, worth reading the blog for. As I've said before, he should throw in a few personal experiences. As it is he just waffles. My favourite story was coming home from Cherbourg on a rather rough crossing. A colleague, who was rather prone to "Mal De Mer", but would never admit it, spent about six hours throwing up. As we approached The river Hamble & calmer waters, he announced "That Boullabaise last night really didn't agree with me, I think I just brought the last of it up". At this, everyone fell about laughing. After that, any subsequent trip to the side of the boat on future journeys elicited a comment of "The wife been cooking Boullabaise again". Other comments would follow as we entered various eating establishments.
Anyway, the 7th paragraph of Matthews blog suddenly lurched onto the subject of what the Council does with it's "unclaimed dead". This is the people who die, where there are no contactable relatives or friends. It seems that the council organise burials for those poor people. Matthew suggests that he'll be looking at ways to mark their passing. Given that they no longer have a vote, there is no one to know they existed and there is no one to mourn them, there isn't any political capital to be had. As such I applaud Matthew for raising the subject. I doubt that any suggestions from me will have much of a hearing from Barnet Council right now, but I do have a genuine one, which is constructive (hopefully).
I'd like to suggest that all such corporate burial be recorded on a Barnet Council website. Any known details could be left. That way, should relatives or friends ever wish to find out what happened, they could. Presumably some of these people have assetts. A percentage of these could be used to fund the running of the site. It seems to me unlikely that all of the people who died lead a completely solitary life. Giving long lost relatives an easy way to check what happened, may be a way to mark their passing.
As I read the entry I also wondered whether maybe Barnet should organise some sort of annual multi faith commemoration, where the names could be read out. Whilst many will be of no faith or at least no known affiliation, I'd like to think that a non denominational service, where anyone could say a simple private prayer for them, would be fitting. For once Matthew has raised a good point.
Seems that I was on the front of the local paper. Sooner or later I will discuss what it all refers to, but just between you and me dear reader, I'm livid. Tom Johnson, the reporter, is on holiday today, but I will be speaking to him next week. I know I'm probably not flavour of the month at the Times, for calling them the Barnet Tory Bugle, whilst referring to their coverage of the Sheltered Wardens campaign (until 2 weeks ago, when it became much better), but surely they have heard of the basic concept of good manners.
You see, I hadn't got a clue that my name would be plastered all over their little paper. They printed a whole front page, casting me as a central character, without even having the decency to give me a bell, check the accuracy, ask if the detail were correct, or even ask my opinion of the story. I used to write a blog for them, so it's not as if they didn't know the number - Tom has called me on occasion before, for background to stories. They specifically state that they spoke to the two other main protagonists in the story, who declined to comment. I wouldn't have had anything to say, but a heads up that the phone would have been ringing would have been nice. As it was, I had to leg it back to the beach, find an internet cafe, look at their website, take loads of calls, answer loads of texts, all of which cost me a small fortune.
I've no idea whether you can make a PCC complaint when a paper sticks you on the front page without telling you, having not even bothered to call you to check the facts with you. I've been warming to the Times of late, but I regard their behaviour in this matter as harrassment.
If the editor Charlie Strong or Tom Johnson, who wrote the report care to ring to explain why my views on a story about me were irrelevent, then assuming there is a good reason, I'll put it down to journalistic zeal. Charlie, Tom - the ball is in your court.
Thursday, 28 May 2009
Sure in the scheme of things it's a small amount, but isn't it indicative of a culture of sloppiness & waste?
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Another in our tour of the worlds hidden musical gems - reminds me of someone - I'd get sued if I said who !
A classic from the ex Saints Guitarist
I've designs on you that come from dirty books I would lie to you if that is what it took I can act out of spite And those times ain't few And everything I've got belongs to you Yeah everything I've got belongs to you I come by for you and take you by the wrist You might well boohoo there might be that risk To let you off of the hook That just wouldn't do Cause everything I've got belongs to you Yeah everything I've got belongs to you I don't care who's wrong or right I'll just start another fight You get yours, can't you see You always get your comeuppance with me Now, time has proved I'm churlish and I'm rude And I find a real contentment in bad moods And because it's all true, There's nothing to do Cause everything I've got belongs to you Yeah everything I've got belongs to you I don't care who's wrong or right I'll just start another fight You get yours, can't you see You always get your comeuppance with me Now, time has proved I'm churlish and I'm rude And I find a real contentment in bad moods And because it's all true, There's nothing to do Cause everything
I've got belongs to you Yeah everything
I've got belongs to you
I've got belongs to Everything
I've got belongs to- Everything
I've got belongs to-
Everything I've got belongs to you
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
The Taxpayer pays for Mike Freer's Leader Listens blog. He used to have a nice free blog at the Hendon Times, but oh no that wasn't good enough. He wanted one that us, the taxpayer paid for? Why? so he could stop oiks like me, you know the bloke who pays for it, from commenting.
Now I pointed out that as it's a public resource, he really shouldn't do this. Was Mike Bovvered. Did he look Bovvered. And how well does he look after his nice shiny blog? How many updates this month? Is he Bovvered?
Now Mike and his mates are probably sneering at this blog. Typical old fart trying to look trendy, that Rog T. There he goes using Catherine Tate and her Bovvered sketch. So last year. So 2008. Doesn't he know that idea is past it's sell by date? Ha Ha Ha.
Yup Mike, my point entirely. There is one councillor in Barnet who has caught the mood of 20o9. His name is Geoff Cooke, he's a Labour Councillor. If I was a Barnet Tory, I'd be looking carefully at what he's been saying. If I was the Barnet Times this would be my lead Story this week. "Barnet Politician catches Publix Mood" they haven't been able to write that for a while.
Monday, 25 May 2009
A true masterpiece, as dirty and nasty as you can get. True Genius. If you listen to one song this Bank Holiday
Kinky Afro by The Happy Mondays
You go spooky in a band
Son, Im 30
I only went with your mother cause shes dirty
And I dont have a decent bone in me
What you get is just what you see yeah
I should so I take it free yeah
And all the bad preserves be things that feed me
I never help or give to the needy
Come on and see me
I had to crucify some brother today
And I dont dig what you gotta say
So come on and say it
Come on and tell me twice
I said dad youre a shabby
You run around and groove like a baggy
Youre only here just out of habit
All thats mine you might as well have it
You take 10p back and then stab it
Spray it on and tag it
So sack on me
I cant stand the needy
Get around here if youre asking youre feeling
I had to crucify somebody today
And I dont dig what you gotta say
So come on and say it
Come on and tell me twice
So sack all the needy
I cant stand to leave it
You come around here and you put both your feet in
I had to crucify somebody today
And I dont dig what you gotta say
So go on and say it
I had to crucify some brother today
And I dont hear what you gotta say
So come on and say it
Come on and tell me twice
Sunday, 24 May 2009
Yesterday I found an old tape of my band, The False Dots. It was a "best of" compilation I'd made in 1988 for listening to in the car. It's been at least 10 years, probably longer since I listened to the tape. I thought I'd have a quick listen. Having forgotten completely what was on it, I was shocked when I played the start of the tape. In 1985, we'd done a gig at the Old Bull Art Centre in Barnet. I had a friend who was a talented comedian who had introduced us. The intro was hilarious. I'd put this intro as the opening of the tape. As I listened, I was overcome with sadness. My friend had massive issues with alcohol. He'd started drinking heavily at 14. I had heard that in 1990 he'd committed suicide. I realised that the reason I didn't listen to this tape was because it was just too depressing to hear him & think of the tragic waste.
My friend was 3 years younger than me. His life in some ways had followed mine. We'd both got to know each other as alter servers as kids. He'd followed me to Finchley Catholic High School. He was a highly intelligent and highly articulate kid. He was small for his age but able to verbally better anyone. He had a voice made for comedy and radio. The trouble was that Finchley in the early 1980's wasn't the school for his talents. In year 8, he'd said the wrong thing to the wrong person. He'd ended up in hospital. How did the school deal with it? They told his father that he was an unpopular child and his father could come to hear the pupils explain why. He followed my path from Finchley to Orange Hill School. Shortly after he started drinking. By the time he was 16 he was an alcoholic. I always liked him and tried to encourage him, but his demons were too deep. He moved to Ireland, had a child, came back. He'd try and get his life together, hit the buffers, go back on the drink. He fell off the Mill Hill scene radar. I saw his brother some time in 1990 and he looked distressed. "What's up?" I asked. "My Brother has committed suicide, the priest is on the way to see him". End of conversation. End of listening to that tape. Occasionally I'd find it, play it, put it away, feel sad.
Anyway, I found the tape yesterday. It was bitter sweet listening to it again. There is a line in the intro where he says "This band comes from Mill Hill. Mill Hill is a sleepy place, where everyone goes to bed by 9 O'clock. Well nearly everyone, because this band don't. When you hear them, maybe you'll wish they had" This got a rather big laugh. Memories, some things you can't buy.
Anyway, being a good Catholic lad, I went off to church this evening for the 6pm mass. As I left, I realised that my Uncle was there and I hadn't enquired after my Auntie who is unwell. I turned back and nearly knocked someone over in the process. He looked at me and said "Rog !". I couldn't believe my eyes. In the Catholic year, today is ascention day. The day Jesus departed to heaven. Rather remarkably, my friend who had committed suicide in 1990, was standing in front of me. It seems he'd come the other way ! I really couldn't believe my eyes. He explained that he'd taken a paracetamol overdose. He'd had 90% liver failure, received the last rights from a priest. He was currently off the booze & trying to get his life together. He said that every day since then he'd tried to treat as a blessing. He looked rather well, considering everything. He told me that he edits a newsletter for people with mental health issues. He is going for a job with the BBC as part of a program for people with issues such as his.
I always believed that if he got the chance he really could do well at radio or as a comedian. I hope he gets the opportunity. He was the most fearless person I've ever met, despite his slight build. He was also the most incisively witty. He was the person who lead me to the conclusion that if you are too intelligent, it is impossible to be completely sane. He couldn't listen to anyone or anything without seeing through whatever bull was being spoken. I think that's why he drank. It stopped him thinking.
I can't tell you how happy I was to find out that he was still with us. I told him about my blog. I hope he reads this. Some things are better than money, finding a friend you thought was gone forever is one of them.
Oh joy, the sun is shining, it's a bank holiday, the beer chiller is full, the sausages are in the fridge and the charcoal is in the shed. I can relax. It has been a great week for me. My daughter went back to the top of the national rankings for swimming in her age group for the 1500m freestyle after a great swim last week at the newly reopened Crystal Palace Swimming Centre. All her hard work & sacrifice is paying off. My son is off with the cubs for the cub jam. I've had a couple of great 5 a side kickabouts this week, winning both games. We've discovered a great singer at the studios, who we are currently working with. Played some early mixes to a friend who used to be head of A&R at Sony, who liked what he heard. That will be my holiday in Barbados next year ! Our music shop has just taken it's largest ever single order for equipment this week. It is to equip a local community project which we've helped develop. We've put a lot of time in to ensure they'll have great facilities & a truly groundbreaking mix of uses. Can't say anymore prior to the council's announcement, but we are proud to be involved in such a great local scheme.
It is great when local authorities spend money to improve the lives of young people. When the project is up and running, I'll take a few pictures and tell the full exciting story here. It is great to be able to report good news when councils do the right thing by there young people.
I was also proud to have been invited to attend the inauguration of the new Mayor of Barnet. No, of course I wasn't invited to the ceremony, I was invited to join the protest about cuts to the Sheltered Housing Warden Service, going on outside. Councillor Lynn Hillan and the council are trying to mislead everyone in to believing that this is a redistribution rather than a cut. If you read THIS BLOG by Vicki Morris, you'll realise what a massive porkie this is. A council which can afford civic receptions and relaid flowerbeds for the Mayoral inauguration can afford to look after its old & vulnerable. Maybe we should lobby all of the Mayors receptions, till he gets the message.
It is also great to see that our local papers are again serving the community. Hopefully the days when certain high up politicians at the council could ring up the paper and exert pressure to drop certain stories (or certain bloggers!) have gone. I think that the circulation figures for the Daily Telegraph since they started their crusade to clean up expenses has shown that the public have a taste for proper investigative journalism. If I was the editor of a National Daily paper looking for new talent, I'd be looking for they type of people who break stories, not those who slavishly rehash council press releases. Rebecca Lowe's fine story got some such recognition with a link from The Guardian. Print the stories and the readers will come !
Anyway, the Barnet Eye has taken an editorial decison to celebrate the good news and the great weather this weekend. We are not going to publish any more stories about local politicians or aything else which might ruin your day till Tuesday (unless some massive story breaks). It's all good news & fun from here. Enjoy your weekend
Saturday, 23 May 2009
The Barnet Eye is pleased to award the first annual Goldfish Impersonator of the Year award. This years winner of the prestigious award is none other than London GLA member and BNP member Richard Barnbrook.
This award is presented annually to the London Politician who opens and shuts his mouth most times in a public place, without anything actually coming out (anything sensible that is). I must thank his fellow assembly member James Cleverly for nominating him by providing this fine piece of evidence on his blog :-
Click HERE for JAMES CLEVERLYS NOMINATION
James sits next to Mr Barnbrook on the GLA, so maybe he'd be so kind as to give him the prize. We'll be sending James the fantastic prize - some tasty Tubifex worms, a treat for all of your familys Goldfish, to present to Richard at his next meeting. The Barnet Eye would also like to congratulate Richard Barnbrook on his prolific workrate since becoming a GLA member. He has managed to send out an impressive three press releases since he took office, the last in October - CLICK HERE TO SEE THEM - it is good to see that the BNP are this active in office. They often criticise other parties as troughers, scrougers and parasites? Can you guess how many other GLA members have sent out fewer press releases? Look at the shape of Richards mouth in my picture for a clue. The impressive total of three is a whole 1 more than the number of investigations Richard has prompted. Richard has run into hot water for making up porkies about crime in his patch. It must be assumed that as they thought they had a good chance of getting a seat at the GLA, Richard was the best candidate they had in London. Of course it's a free country, so people can vote for anyone on the ballot paper, but surely even BNP voters must be a little bit disappointed that with all the things going on in London since October 2008, Richard hasn't bothered to put out a single press release? Don't they feel just a tiny bit let down? He is there poster boy and yet he has nothing to say.
The BNP claim that they are different to the other parties. It seems they are correct. They are even more lazy !
I found this out courtesy of this story about Barnets brand new Mayor courtesy of the EVENING STANDARD.
Seems like our new Mayor has been very busy ! It seems he is rather "embarrassed" - not half as embarrassed as those on the list, no doubt.
************ Update ***********************
An eagle eyed reader has pointed out to me that this is an old story. The date is 6th Jan 2003, long, long ago. I must apologise as I thought the story date was the promenent date in the blue bar on the Standard. Clearly this was the act of a callow youth and our Mayor would not dream of doing such things now. The Barnet Eye is happy to report that Mr Coleman was not our esteemed Mayor at the time of the incident. Many apologies for inadvertently giving the wrong impression. I wonder if the legal grey area has been clarified?
Barnet Bloggers Bank Holiday Special
Continuing our series on the bloggers of Barnet. This week has been a great week for Vicki Morris aka VickiM57. As well as her blog, Vicki is the driving force behind the Barnet Community Campaign. I have unbounded admiration for Vicki. If she'd been hit by a bus last year, I suspect that the Barnet Tories may just have snuck through the warden cuts unnoticed. With her at the helm, there was no chance. The inauguration of the new Mayor was hijacked by the community campaign. His day in the lights was "spoiled" by a ragtag army of protestors outside, fighting for the elderly and the vulnerable. Two weeks ago Finchley High St, in Mike Freer's ward was brought to a standstill by a March organised by the BCC. Now there is much more to BCC than Vicki. She'll probably have the hump with me for pushing her to the fore, but she deserves it and I doubt that anyone else would disagree.
Vicki is unusual in a few respects. Probably 80% of political blogs are written by Tories and 95% are written by men. This hasn't stopped her blog from getting recognition. This week, the esteemed Dave Hill at the Guardian put a link to its from his London page. Now I'm not a close friend of Vicki. We've met at a few meetings & protests in the last few months. WhatI have noticed is that she is a great organiser and a great worker. Her latest blog details how the local press has fallen into line with the Barnet Community Campaign. A petition with 1,600 signatures was handed in to John Marshall, the outgoing mayor. The campaign has only been going a few months, so this should give you some idea of the effectiveness of Vicki's organisational powers.
The powers that be at Barnet spoke this week about taking on the bloggers. If I was them, the one I would truly be scared of is Vicki, because unlike me she knows what she's doing and she knows how to get results quick. Don't be deceived by her mild manners or her pleasant demeanour. When it comes to campaigning, I'm a bull in a China shop, she's a deadly skilled assassin !
David Miller, who writes the "Not the Barnet Times" blog, has been following a very simple agenda since he started his blog last July. It is quite simple. People in public office, be it Councillors or Officials should do their job professionally and with honour. He believes that collection of
taxes should be kept to a minimum, funding what is necessary, not extravagent lifestyles for those in the pay of taxpayers. His criticism of local officials and councillors has upset those in office. Talk has reached the Barnet Eye that certain highly placed people in the Chipping Barnet Conservatives have called for his head (well actually his ejection from the Party) following his strident criticism of the Queen of the Court at Barnet, Lynn Hillan.
The story is like a modern day reworking of the tale of John the Baptist. What did John say about Taxes? "collect no more than you are required to" (Lk. 3.13) Strangely enough this message didn't go down too well with the ruling elite. His criticism of the shenanigans at the court of King Herod lead to his imprisonment. Herodias, Herods wife bore a grudge against John for criticising her. She conspired with her daughter, Salome, and persuaded the King to behead John. How did John describe himself? Was he a prophet or a messiah? No he said he was "a voice in the wilderness".
Did it do them any good? Well if you believe the accounts, the population ascribed the defeat of Herods army in 36 AD to the wrath of God for killing John The Baptist. Now although I'm a good Catholic boy and I'm sure God was none to pleased with Herod, I'd suggest that there might be a more straightforward explanation. You see I think Herod had got so lazy, out of touch and complacent, as witnessed by the accounts of his court, that he let his army get to a state that they were not up to the job. Had Herod listened to John and cut taxes, made his soldiers behave professionally and cleaned up his court, he would still have had a lifestyle far better than his subjects. He would also have been seen as a popular and fair leader. Maybe his army would have done a little bit better.
Which brings us back to Chipping Barnet & David Miller. Whatever anyone may think of David, there is no doubt that he is a Conservative. There is no doubt that his views are in tune with the majority of grassroots activists. There is no doubt that his family is well respected within the wider party. There is also no doubt whatsoever that if the Barnet Tories listened to him, they would be far more popular and not just with ardent Tories. If the policies he advocates were implimented, this blog would have nothing to say most of the time, as the obvious cock ups would disappear. As to the Tory army - the activists who go out canvassing, delivering leaflets etc? Will Davids treatement inspire them? I don't think so.
David may not live in the desert on locusts, he's probably not lead the chaste lifestyle of John, I doubt that too many churches will be named after him, but when it comes to the Barnet Tories & common sense, he certainly is a voice in the wilderness ! One they'd be well advised to take heed of.
Friday, 22 May 2009
Seems like the Mother may be out in a couple of years. The boyfriend, the one who also raped a 2 year old girl, may be out by 2017.
Sky News just gave the details. I don't think there is enough alcohol in the world to drown my disgust at this news.
I just cannot express my anger in suitable words.
But us plastic paddies and you real ones can't get upset about all of this, oh no. You see, if you get upset you've got a chip on your shoulder. Now if you are a well balanced plastic paddy like me, you have a chip on both your shoulders. So I'm 1/4 Irish - how Irish do I feel? Well I used to share a pint or two of Guinness every night with my mum. I go to Church. I go and see the Pogues every year at Brixton Academy? How Irish is that?
I'll tell you how Irish I am. I'm Irish enough to feel proud of my ancestry. I'm Irish enough to have read about the Celtic Church and how that was the intellectual hotbed of Christian thinking, when freedom of thought was the trademark of a Celtic Christian. I'm Irish enough to know about the famine. I'm Irish enough to know about the struggle for freedom. I'm Irish enough to know about my mum's cousin, Kevin Barry, who was executed by the British government at 18 years old.
I'm Irish enough to know that when the British politicians start saying that the Irish are British, there is something bad afoot. There was a BNP - That's BRITISH National Party broadcast on TV today. In it the BNP leader included the Irish in the "British Family". I'm Irish enough for this to ruin my evening. I know all about the contempt with which the British Aristocracy hold the Irish in. I've seen Irish friends racially abused for their nationality. Probably the only acceptable form of racism is against Irish Travellers.
Given my Australian/Irish background, I've always felt more comfortable in the company of immigrants of all shades than with self styled "British Patriots". Strangley I've usually found immigrants often to be more patriotic. My Dad was proud to be a Commonwealth Citizen. The BNP talked in their broadcast about the sacrifice of the British - again they airbrushed out the contribution of the Commonwealth soldiers & the Imperial Army.
My Dad flew a Wellington on 40 missions for the RAF over enemy territory. On his 40th mission, the last in his tour of duty, he was shot down over Romania. His best Friend and rear Gunner was killed - his name Flying Officer Andrew Murphy. Any guesses as to his ancestry?
Britain has moved on. These days it's only the poor old doggies that don't get into guest houses. To any Irishmen tempted to Vote BNP in the Euro elections I say this. If the blacks get banned, who will be next? If you need reminding get the DVD of the commitments out, it's a great film for a Friday Night !
Dan Hope alluded to a conspiracy as to the way I posted Andrew Dismore's letter regarding his expenses. I just published it with no comment whatsoever and a curt "Draw your own conclusions". As I explained in my response to Dan, I thought that was an appropriate way to deal with such a letter, with a follow up response blog from me.
As Andrew Dismore is often keen to say, the devil is in the detail. Having read Andrews letter, he has probably written nothing in it with which I can take issue. What does this tell us? It tells us that when it comes to writing letters, Andrew is an excellent lawyer and I'm a dyslexic guitarist in a punk rock band. It reminds me of a story one of my teachers told me. A well educated athiest was up before the court for heresy at a time when the punishment was death. They asked him what he thought of the teachings of Jesus Christ. The athiest responded "I can say with all my heart and in a clear conscience that I agree with every word Jesus wrote in the bible". A suitably impressed court dismissed the case. When challenged in later life as to how the athiest could square his statement with his views, the athiest responded "Jesus didn't write a single recorded word, he spoke them and other people documented them".
The point I'm making here is that the problem with Andrews letter is not what he says, it's what he doesn't say. I fundamentally disagree with any London MP ever claiming for second homes. He may have claimed less than most but he is shouldn't have claimed anything. Full stop, end of story. It is all very well criticising others for their claims for Moats, but you should look at yourself first. Open the windows of your glass house before throwing stones.
Andrew talks about his 50% pay cut. He chose the job and there were plenty of other people who wanted it. Rightly or wrongly, people expect MP's to set a good example. There is an implicit admission that the second home allowance is wrong. If that is the case, it should never have been claimed. It reminds me of someone my father knew who employed a "financial advisor" to look after a substancial amount of money. After 2 years the friend was tipped off that the advisor had played the market with the money and made a huge profit. When questioned, the advisor returned the money with zero interest. A solicitor was contacted who advised the friend that "He returned all of the money, there was no contract to say he'd actually pay interest, so technically he's done nothing wrong" The solicitor went on to say "You are lucky, in cases like these, usually you lose the lot!". When I read the defence that MP's use "It was within the rules" - I know how my Dad's friend felt. When I read Andrew Dismore's letter, I understood his feelings when he was told "You are lucky". Sure Andrew has not broken the rules, sure compared to some he's been relatively restrained. Sure his letter contains many of the things that I think we'd like to have seen all along, such as on line access to expenses. I just can't help feeling let down.
Having given my feelings about Andrews letter, I must say that he appears to be getting his house in order. He is putting his claims on line, which must be applauded. This is the minimum I expect to see. There is a very interesting point which this has raised. Andrew's opponent for the Conservatives in Hendon is Matthew Offord, who until recently was the Deputy Leader. The Leader of the Council is Mike Freer, who is the Tory PPC for Finchley.
These two have a great opportunity to show whether we can trust them. Put all Councillor expense claims On Line as Andrew Dismore has done for his MP's expenses. This is an ideal opportunity to see if our prospective MP's are any better. If Mike Freer and Matthew Offord refuse full disclosure, we will have to assume that like their Tory colleagues with Moats, they have something to hide.
Thursday, 21 May 2009
If I had to name the bravest politician in Britain, who would I pick? In actual fact I'd pick someone, who I disagree with about a few fundamental issues. I'd pick Peter Tatchell. Peter has stood up for what he believes on countless occasions. He got thumped trying to perform a citizens arrest on Robert Mugabe and he got thumped recently in Moscow for attending a gay rights protest. Has it stopped him? Nope. Just like the nastiest byelection campaign in my lifetime saw the gay and in the closet Lib Dem Simon Hughes beat the gay and out of the closet Peter Tatchell, in a campaign which revolved around Tatchells sexuality. Thing is though, whatever you think of Tatchell, he is a very brave man.
For reasons I can't quite fathom, the BNP don't seem too keen on brave people. Recently the BNP leader was on the BBC saying VC winner Johnson Beharry could never be British. Now they are having a go at Peter Tatchell. If you follow the link I've given (it contains a warning that the material is unpleasant) you will see what the numpties have to say about him.
If you don't wish to sully your computer, I've copied it here.
"As we all know, the BNP is a racist and homophobic party. It refuses to allow non-white people to be members and wants to pressure black people to leave the UK. As well as supporting a policy of de facto 'ethnic cleansing,' the BNP has fought previous general elections on a pledge to outlaw homosexuality. It has described Aids as "nature taking revenge" on gay men. It opposed the repeal of Section 28 and the equalisation of the age of consent."What better reason to vote BNP on the 4th of june than to piss this horrible pervert off!
Below: Tatchell gets clubbed in Moscow!
The Author of this blog trades under the name "Britain Awake". It is vital that Britain does awake to what these people are saying. In case you are wondering what lead me to this blog, I was looking at an Anti BNP story on the ToryTroll blog. If you read through the comments, you will see one left by "Britain Awake" - be warned, it's not pleasant. I thought I'd look at his profile and his blog. I really think it is important that people who advocate violence are exposed for the thugs they are.
We all have a vision for how we'd like Great Britain to be. One blog which made me smile recently was Scarlett The Heavenly Healer's blog detailing the exploits at the "Alternative Miss World Party". I guess that if "Britain Awake" has his way, a team of Riot Police would have stormed in and beaten everyone to a pulp. My vision is rather different. I hope your is too.
20th May 2009
Dear Mr Tichborne,
In view of the widespread concern about parliamentary allowances I thought I should write to you with my views.
May I firstly start by saying that I have been as shocked and horrified as the public has been, over some of the claims put forward by some MPs. Indeed, people forget sometimes that I, and other MPs, are taxpayers, too, and do not like to see public money misspent any more than you do.
The recent revelations clearly show the need for change, and I have put forward my own suggestions for reform to the Committee on Standards in Public Life (the “Kelly” committee) including a complete abolition of the “Second Homes Allowance”, to be replaced with a system of renting or hotel accommodation which would overcome these difficulties. This might work out a bit more expensive for the taxpayer, but I believe such a price is necessary to restore the reputation of Parliament.
Having said that, I have always been open about my own allowances claims: By way of example, please feel free to read my most recent press releases, issued of 12th March (click here) and 15th April (click here), giving the background explanation, where appropriate. You will see, amongst other things, that I have renounced the right to claim the “second home allowance”.
I do not have (and never have had) a country house, with or without a moat, a tennis court, swimming pool or chandelier. My trouser press was a gift from my mother, and not part of any claim!
I did not go into politics for money. When I was a local government councillor, my very modest responsibility allowance (£1200 per year, a pittance compared to what leading members of Barnet Council claim) was entirely donated, in full, towards providing a service for my ward constituents.
When I stood for Parliament, I knew I would far worse off than in my previous occupation as a solicitor. The pay cut was almost 50%, for almost double the hours of work. I accepted this willingly, because I went into politics to serve the community and to try to make life better for all, individually, locally and nationally; not to enrich myself.
Indeed, since I was elected, I have spent tens of thousands of pounds of my own money, supporting my constituency office, particularly in the early years of my time in Westminster, when the then staffing allowance was not enough to provide the quality of service I believe you, my constituents, are entitled to expect.
The Daily Telegraph has been trawling through MPs’ allowances claim forms, and supporting receipts. The only comment on mine so far, has been to compare me favourably, with the Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, in the neighbouring constituency. I note it was only after this exposure, that she decided to publish her returns, and (in 6 month’s time) follow my lead in giving up the second home allowance.
In relation to my own large pile of documentation, unsolicited, I invited the Evening Standard to send a reporter to read through them and to take whatever notes or copies he wished (though publication would obviously need to exclude personal data like account and card numbers).
I have offered similar access to the Hendon and Edgware Times.
I believe that the Evening Standard reporter was satisfied that there was nothing untoward in any of the claim forms or supporting documentation: I am sure if there had been, it would have been reported in the Evening Standard, by now!
I am starting a new section on my website, on which my expenses returns will appear regularly, as soon as possible after their submission (click here). As to the historic records, which the Evening Standard inspected, I asked the Commons authorities if there was any way I could make them public, electronically, before they are formally published by the House in a few weeks’ time. The volume of paper is such that it is not practical to publish them in any other way. I was told there was no easy way of putting them on the internet, but once they are published I will then try to create a link from my website. The “journalist” inspection is the best I can do in the meantime.
As to other Parliamentarians, it is quite clear that there have been some appalling abuses carried out, for which I believe that we have all been found guilty by association, but inevitably we must all share the common criticism, of not having amended the rules before.
I am a member of the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, and we have made a number of recommendations, which regrettably were not all taken up, for example relating to the designation of which home should be the second home.
One of our most recent recommendations was that MPs should be taken entirely outside the allowance setting process, and this should be left to the Kelly committee. We tabled unanimous, cross party, amendments to this effect for the debates in April, which explains my votes, then, as the Government accepted one of those amendments but not the others.
In the past, I have supported disclosure of MPs’ allowances, contrary to what my opponent suggests. I did not support the disclosure of MPs’ private constituency correspondence which was at risk from the Freedom of Information Act. This also explains my votes on that issue at the time.
I also think it is fair to say that some of the newspaper reports have been somewhat disingenuous and have not given a full picture of the circumstances of particular claims; and there has been an element of party political bias or choreography in the way the Daily Telegraph, a Conservative leaning newspaper, has released the information.
For example, while focussing on the minutiae of some of the “furniture” claims, they have virtually ignored the claims by the Leader of the Opposition, a multi-millionaire, for almost £24,000 a year just for his mortgage interest payments, which have passed without criticism.
My political neighbour, the Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, has also claimed substantial sums for the purchase of her second home.
When I was claiming for the “second home allowance” for my Burnt Oak flat, I claimed for running costs only. I did not claim anything for the cost of buying it.
Nevertheless, this cannot justify in any way the outlandish cases that have been brought to the public’s attention. It is right that action is taken, and I am pleased the Prime Minister has suspended offenders from the Labour Party.
I do not think it would be appropriate for me to comment further on individual cases, because, as a member of the Standards and Privileges Committee, I may well be called upon to be one of those passing sentence, if the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards, who is an independent investigator, reports to us on breaches of the rules, which may well have been committed despite protestations to the contrary.
It is necessary that urgent action is taken, and I am pleased that interim measures are now being proposed, pending the Kelly review.
I hope, though, that this gives you an indication of my own concern on the issue, and the fact that I have personally tried to be as open as I possibly can as far as my own claims are concerned, which I published long before the Commons required it, each year.
If you have any specific questions about my own claims, I will certainly do the best I can to respond to them.
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
The blog was pulled, under orders from the rulers at Barnet Tory HQ, after famously posting pictures of all of the Barnet Council Labour group with the following caption (this is saved from the blog).
The new Mayor clearly isn't impressed by his colleagues behaviour and criticised bloggers whom he claimed pulled down civic institutions by attacking officers and councillors, as demonstrated by this awful blog.
The Marmite Mayor declared “I will not put up with it!”
From this, can we conclude that it was the New Mayor, rather than Tory group Leader Mike Freer, who was responsible for carpeting "Boombastic" and getting his obnoxious log removed?
Regular readers will know that the Barnet Eye regularly praises Councillors of all parties who do a good job, such as Mill Hill Tory John Hart. We trust that the Mayor is happy for us to attack those who are doing a lousy job and need some help!