Take Me To Your Leader Writer

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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Monday 23 May 2011

Stand by for the supercalifragilistic-injunction

It was more than a farce before today, as I wrote in the Sunday Mirror, but the Giggs (there, I've said it) saga is now beyond fantasy.
The courts have been left floundering because the law is exceedingly slow to move and we live in an age in which everything else moves with breathtaking rapidity. It was a laugh when in the sixties a learned judge asked "Who are the Beatles?", but it's not amusing when they do the equivalent today by refusing to understand Twitter.
Ultimately, though, the weapon that blasted the rock away from the mouth of the super-injunction cave wasn't Twitter but the ancient ruse of Parliamentary privilege. And I'm not sure that Parliamentary privilege should cover what has been going on in the Commons and Lords.
An MP or peer cannot get up in the House and say of someone standing trial "He is as guilty as sin" or whatever. That is considered to be interfering with justice. So why can they break a court order?
The Speaker should have jumped up (he likes doing that) and ordered that what the hon. member had just said should not be reported by the media as it was not covered by privilege. Though had he done that, Bercow would have been hung by the press.
Don't think the problem of the super-injunction is dead now. The lawyers - like those very clever tax accountants - will always find a way to keep ahead of the game.
Prepare yourselves for something like the supercalifragilistic-injunction which will make the current reporting bans look mild.
It is only the rich and powerful who have had resort to the courts and all that money they flash around will find a home in a law office somewhere.
Meanwhile the phone hacking scandal gathers pace as MPs, mainly, try to get back at the press for exposing the scandal of their expenses.
It is a monumental struggle between two unedifying armies and there can be only one winner. Unless the politicians unite to smash the media. And, frankly, they simply haven't the balls to do that.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Why Gordon Brown can't and shouldn't get the IMF job

It is incredible that anyone (apart from himself) could seriously think Gordon Brown was in with a cat's chance in hell of getting the top job at the IMF.
Yet he is being touted as a leading candidate and his failure to receive David Cameron's backing is being put down to petulance and party grudges. What rubbish.
His brief tenure at No. 10 showed beyond doubt that Brown is incapable of holding any managerial role. Dominque Strauss-Kahn had problems with women but Brown's difficulties were with man management, including woman management as he was the first prime minister to make the garden girls cry with his violent and abusive behaviour.
But it is how he acted towards other European countries which has ruled him out so totally.
When he was Chancellor, he treated other EU finance ministers with contempt. He refused to speak to them and Brussells correspondents reported how he would turn his back on them or refused to join their discussions at summits. Why would other European governments think this is a man they could do business with?
They want an IMF director who is sympathetic to the euro project and who will do what he can to helpin their hour of need. Yet Brown's antagonism to the single currency is legendary and he (and Ed Balls) boast about keeping the UK out.
As if all of this wasn't enough, when the recession hit, Gordon Brown went strutting about swaggeringly claiming that he had saved the world and its economies. Politicians may be boastful but they don't like to see others doing the boasting.
As for Cameron's attitude, while it is only marginally true that Brown's spending landed Britain with its huge national debt, his reckless support for the banks is more than partly responsible for the tens of billions that had to be spent bailing them out. Hardly a good record for runninng the IMF.
Gordon Brown's big problem was always that he believed his abilities were far greater than they are. This time, no amount of bullying will get him the job he obsessively feels should be his.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Mess with the Tories at your peril

What do these three politicians have in common, apart from being Liberal Democrats? David Laws, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne. The answer is that all have been undermined by vitriolic stories. As Bob Dylan said: Someone's got it in for me, they're planting stories in the press.
Laws became the shortest-serving Cabinet minister for decades when his fiddling of rental expenses was revealed by the Telegraph.
Cable lost his role regulating the press and much of his reputation by simpering and boasting to undercover reporters (from the Telegraph, again). Now Huhne is getting viciously turned over for allegedly getting his ex-wife to take points on her licence when he was caught speeding.
The first two won't have been Tory party stitch-ups. Political parties tend not to be organised well enough to do these things. But the papers are. Never underestimate the ability of the press to pursue their targets to destruction.
It is possible that government fingerprints may be found on Chris Huhne's predicament. What is certain is that the moment he slapped down No to AV propaganda on the Cabinet table and demanded of David Cameron and George Osborne that they dissociate from them, the conspirators got out their hatchets.
His ex-wife is taking the rap for being a bunny boiler but why should she do this now? It isn't true that Huhne's confrontation with the Tory top brass was part of a plan to take over the LibDem leadership from Nick Clegg - he was furious at the behaviour of the Tories and was prepared to go public over their two-faced, disgraceful dissembling. Now he is paying the price.
When Liam Fox appeared to be sticking the knife into Cameron before and somehow anti-Fox stuff got leaked to the press, he got off the hook because the Tory papers weren't prepared to pursue it and him. They agree with him and relish the prospect of an even more right-wing leader. They will back off the latest leak, too.
Meanwhile Chris Huhne will be pursued to extinction as he is seen as an enemy of the Right.
Sad, isn't it?

Thursday 12 May 2011

A year is a short time in politics

Can it really be only a year since the coalition was formed? It seems to have been going on forever.
Most governments need much longer than 12 months to screw up badly. This one has achieved it spectacularly in almost no time at all.
The bulk of commentary on the first anniversary has been only too predictable - how well they are doing, how much more there is to do, keep your noses to the grindstone, keep right on to the end of the road, and so on and so forth.
There are only two facts worth noting about the "achievements" of the past year, though. The first is that never before has any government been forced into so many about-turns in such a short time and particularly so soon after coming to power.
Secondly, this is an administration of incompetents and incompetence. It comprises a mix of demonically driven right-wing ideologues who refuse to see or accept that their ideas are not just mad but unworkable; and weak ministers who may see what is going wrong but haven't the guts or the authority to do anything about it.
It is going to end in disaster. Ceretanly disaster for the LibDems and Clegg. Surely disaster for the Tories. And, tragically, disaster for the country.
Labour doesn't have the answers or the ability to oppose effectively let alone lead the fight. The cuts are about to bite which will foment real resistance which in turn will cause panic among the headless chickens who believe they run the country.
It is impossible to see where this is all going. The problem is, the politicians haven't a clue where it is going, either.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

The stupid party fails its entrance exam again

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I do like David Willetts, who is not just clever but decent and thoughtful, but what a mess he made of the announcement to allow rich kids to buy their way into university.
It was nonsense from the start, made obvious by his claim that letting the children of the wealthy pay above the already high going rate wouldn't hinder social mobility but could actually help it. How painfully inept.
Inevitably Willetts had to rush to the House to say he hadn't said what everyone thought he had said and even if he had he didn't mean it. Pull the other one, David.
There has never been a more gaff-prone government than this one. Time after time they plunge in and then realise they shouldn't have. Sometimes it is a speedy about-turn, sometimes it takes ages (remember the forests sell-off?).
The coalition is driven to make announcements in a quite ludicrous way. They are obsessed with telling the world that they are not just doing things but changing things. But we have had more than enough of their proposals, most of which are ludicrous or unworkable anyway.
The rich kids plan - which suddenly isn't that at all but generous charities and companies paying for poor kids to get into university - must have been formulated to draw attention away from the cesspit into which the 80 per cent cut in funding for higher education and consequent trebling of tuition fees has plunged the Government and particularly the Liberal Democrats. It's just stupid and is hardly the only dumb move they are making.
Which brings us to an interesting point. The Tories used to be known not only as the nasty party but the stupid party. Yet here they are in coalition with some rather bright LibDems as well as having one or two clever people of their own, none cleverer than David Willetts.
So if they still come up with such ridiculous ideas, what does that say about their collective IQ? Too low for even the wealthiest parent to get them into Oxbridge, I'd say.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

The only way forward for the free press

It is human to want to keep your private life private and it is human to want to gossip about other people's private lives.
The Establishment has the first principle at its heart while the media thrives on the second. When they come into conflict - as they always have done from time to time and they always will, as no totalitarian state will survive forever - there is an almighty clash. We are witnessing one at the moment. Actually, it is several, all mixed and muddled.
There is the apparent creation of a privacy law by judges using the Human Rights Act, the battle by Max Mosley against the New of the World and the creation of and increaing use of superinjunctions. As well as the problems created by the internet and, lately, twitter.
These intertwined hot issues, providing lawyers with rich pickings and the press with much mouth-foaming material, are very much a matter of opinion and riddled with bias on both sides as well as ignorance. Yet they can and should be boiled down to one simple question: Who controls the media?
Should it be politicians? Only politicians think it should and any who tried to introduce laws regulating the press would be not brave but foolhardy.
So should it be judges? Only in extreme cases of law-breaking. Judges are deeply embedded in Establishment thinking, which should be the opposite of how the media operates.
So who? It has to be the media itself. But the media is totally irresponsible, its critics cry. Not exactly. Saying that is like saying that all polticians are venal and corrupt - some are, most aren't.
Yes, parts of the media are slightly corrupt and view their work through distorting spectacles which make the world a nasty place populated by bonking footballers and unfaithful stars of showbusiness. But most of the media isn't like that and most journalists aren't.
The alternative to journalists controlling what they do is too appalling to contemplate. We see it in many other countries and anyone who thinks that should happen here can be provided with a one-way ticket to Zimbabwe or Libya.
The press in particular has to clean up its act - not a huge or particularly irksome task. Politicians and judges can keep well away.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Why can't political commentators do simple sums?

What is half of five? According to political commentators and analysts, it is one.
We are only a year into a five-year parliament yet everyone is describing the Conservative losses as the usual "mid-term blues".
Not only is this not mid-term, it should be part of that other psephological cliche, the honeymoon period. One year after Labour won in 1997, it managed to increase its number of council seats and councillors .
The Tory result is being presented as satisfactory for Cameron because anything looks good compared to what has happened to the Liberal Democrats and, naturally, their supporters don't want to accept that this is almost certainly the start of a very long slippery slope.
The cuts have hardly started to bite, there will be hundreds of thousands thrown out of work in the next few months and the economy is stagnant, with prospects of another downturn (why does anyone think that isn't likely when the Bank of England's monetary policy committee has again refused to put up interest rates, despite inflation running at twice its supposed level?)
Incomes have suffered their biggest decline for 30 years and house prices continue to plummet in all but the wealthiest areas.
The real test for the Tories will be in next year's local election and the year after. Unless the coalition collapses before then.

The only way forward for Clegg now

If a couple went to a party and he spent the whole time slagging off his wife in the most vitriolic terms to all their friends, it would be hard for their relationship to stagger on. That is what is happening to the coalition.
Chris Huhne is being vilified (by the Tory papers and commentators) for tackling Cameron and Osborne over the disgraceful attacks on Nick Clegg by the No campaign.But he is completely right and displaying the balls which sadly the rest of the junior partners don't have.
The Tory campaign - and the No campaign was precisely that; no one else was running it or funding it - boiled down to: If you change the voting system, you will get more of Clegg and he is the worst kind of politician as evidenced by all the promises he has broken.
But the reason he broke them was because that is the price he and the LibDems have paid for putting Cameron and his thugs into power. I don't agree with Clegg and I think it is appalling that the Liberal Democrats are supporting so many reactionary, destructive policies but why attack a man for doing what you want him to do.
Clegg may have to forgive, even if he can't forget, but the coalition will never be the same. In fact, it can't survive.
Someone is going to walk out before too long - maybe Huhne, maybe even Cable - pushed into it by the inevitable grassroots rebellion by the hundreds of LibDem councillors who lose their seats.
Clegg's two arguments for going into government was that it was for the good of the country and the good of the party. But the consequence has been that the country is being wrecked and so is the party. It has all been for nothing.
If Clegg had got voting reform, he could at least have told his members that, despite everything, despite the pain and the uncertain future, they had finally taken a small step towards changing the electoral system. Instead he has suffered a catastrophic defeat in the referendum, which has put reform back years, possibly decades, and been left looking weak and pathetic by the senior partners in the coalition.
There is only one way out. Nick Clegg should resign.