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Monday, March 20, 2017

Heseltine reveals Tory attitudes with elitist defence of Osborne

It's hard to forget what the Tories are really like, despite Theresa May’s disingenuous One Nation rhetoric. But with his defence of George Osborne, Lord Heseltine has provided us with a timely reminder.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions programme on Friday (17/03/17), Heseltine trotted out the sort of elitist claptrap that would have made Marie Antoinette blush.

Osborne, he argued, should be commended for adding the Evening Standard editorship to his expanding portfolio of jobs and we should be grateful to have such an exceptional chap living among us. The country would be impoverished, he said, if people like Osborne were driven out of public life.

Out-of-touch: Heseltine
Allow me to pop on some rubber gloves and unpack this sodden parcel of stinking manure.

Heseltine believes Osborne to be an exceptional individual even though, in the very same breath, he suggests the former Chancellor would leave his role as a public servant if he were denied the ability to take on other lucrative work.

Therefore it appears that 'exceptional' to Hezza is a person whose commitment to public service is so weak that even £74K pa and generous expenses aren't enough to keep them focused on the job.

But isn't Osborne now also getting £650K pa from BlackRock, the world's biggest fund management firm? Isn't this enough to stop him collecting jobs like a dung beetle collects, well, dung?

Clearly not. But maybe it's not about the money. So let's instead consider that priceless commodity - time.

How does Osborne attend and take part in parliamentary debates, respond to inquiries from his Cheshire constituents and act on their behalf if he's behind a desk at the Standard, managing a major paper serving an audience in London? Being exceptional might enable you to work faster than other mere mortals but you can’t be in two places at the same time.

'Exceptional': Osborne
Practicalities aside, what is truly appalling about Heseltine’s remarks is how disingenuous and self-serving they are. If a policeman or teacher turned up for work and said they couldn't fulfil their duties properly because they had taken on another major role elsewhere, they would be sacked. And rightfully so.

If a nurse or carer decided to turn up for a fraction of their contracted hours but demanded their full remuneration they would be laughed out the door, all the way to the job centre.

Heseltine hooked a red herring to try to support his dissembling, citing professional footballers as an example of where the public seemed to have double-standards when it came to huge pay packets.

Firstly, this assumption is wrong: I know many people who think money has ruined the game and that players are obscenely overpaid. And, secondly, if a pro footballer decided to pick and choose which games to turn up for because of other work commitments he'd be on the transfer list faster than you could sing, 'The referee's a merchant banker!'

So let me help Tories like Heseltine understand what exceptional is. Exceptional is the single parent who holds down a job and budgets a meagre salary sufficiently to feed and clothe their kids, who they look after without the assistance of a nanny or au pair.

Exceptional is the nurse or teacher who works dozens of extra hours a month, not because they will see any extra money for their toils but because they are genuinely dedicated to public service; because they care for those who rely on them; because they are selfless.

Exceptional is the ‘White Van Man’ who has started his own business and works tirelessly to keep it afloat, knowing his family rely on him and if it all goes to shit they won’t be able to make ends meet.

Exceptional are the millions of ordinary people collapsing into bed at the end of another relentless day of work, kids, school pick-ups, PTA meetings, football coaching, caring for elderly relatives, shopping, cleaning...the list goes on, the chores and responsibilities never ending. That’s what exceptional looks like.

But not to Heseltine and the born-to-rule Tories. To them exceptional is the individual who can hoard the most power and wealth, never having to worry about life’s real responsibilities: money can take care of those - nannies, au pairs, PAs, private schools, private healthcare, chauffeurs, first class travel...

It is an utter disgrace, and to our eternal shame, that we treat those who do genuinely exceptional work with contempt, paying them a pittance when compared with our avaricious political masters.

Heseltine said he’d like to salute Osborne. I’d like to salute both of these egregious Tory toffs - with two ***ing fingers!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Millionaire Frank Skinner takes driver's lunch for making him late - and doesn't pay a penny for it!

Funnyman Frank Skinner stunned listeners to his radio show by admitting he’d taken the packed lunch of a driver he blamed for making him late.

The millionaire comedian boasted of how he didn’t offer any money in return for the food, which had been lovingly prepared by the eastern European driver’s wife.

He then seemed to suggest the man’s heritage meant going hungry would not be a big problem for him. “He’s probably queued for vegetables in his youth,” he said.

Skinner, 58, recounted the bizarre anecdote during his Saturday morning show on Absolute Radio, which is co-hosted by Emily Dean and Alun Cochrane.

The previous day, the Room 101 presenter had been on route from his London home to Hampton Court Palace where he was due to chair a Doctor Who panel at the Radio Times Festival.

Skinner played the character Perkins in series eight

Skinner is a huge fan of the sci-fi show and played the character Perkins in Series Eight. He had been booked to quiz the current Time Lord Peter Capaldi, writer Steven Moffat and executive producer Brian Minchin.

But after being picked up by a driver, Skinner soon found himself gridlocked.

“We got stuck in the worst traffic you’ve seen in your entire life and I thought I’m not going to make it. I felt myself tense up. I was clenched,” he told listeners to his radio show.

Skinner went on to say that although the driver was already feeling “very, very anxious” the comedian added to the pressure by telling him “you’re the bad guy, everyone hates you” in a bid to “fire him on to find quicker routes”.

After Skinner moaned that he was hungry and “could faint” on stage at the Doctor Who event, the desperate driver offered his wealthy passenger the packed lunch his wife had made for him.

Shamelessly, Skinner said he accepted, much to the shock of his co-hosts.

“You took his lunch?” asked Dean, genuinely dismayed.

“I presume it was his dinner,” said Skinner in a joke that fell flat.

Assuming Skinner had paid for the food, Cochrane asked: “How much did you give him?”

Skinner replied: “I didn’t give him anything. Well, I thought he owed me (for being late).”

Dean gave her pithy assessment: “Okay. We were asking this morning, ‘What would Frank Skinner do?’ I think we’ve successfully answered that question.”

There is such a thing as a free lunch - if you're Frank Skinner

Unabashed, Skinner attempted to justify his actions saying “it just seemed the obvious thing to do” but remarked out loud “you don’t agree” when he realised he was alone in this view.

To make the story even more awkward, Skinner then described how the food he had taken off the driver had been “packaged with love”.

As he described how the driver’s wife had carefully prepared her husband’s food, Dean said: “The poignancy. I can’t bear it!”

Skinner was unmoved. He said: “It was it was lovely - and tasty!”

One listener summed up the views of many in a tweet read out on air by Dean.

She said: “We’ve had a tweet in from Mike. #WhatWouldFrankSkinnerDo? Take a hard-working man’s lunch and tell the nation how nice it was.”

Skinner dug himself in deeper. 

He said: "We don’t know he’s hard working -- it took him two hours to get from my house to Hampton Court Palace!”

Dean’s sarcastic rejoinder: “I’m glad you’ve addressed the key issues.”

Skinner, floundering by this time, continued to display how out of touch he has apparently become with real life.

He said: “It made absolute sense because I had to go straight on stage. He (the driver) could wander about and find food.”

Dean again reflected the mood of listeners: “That’s a super attitude.”

After bragging about his un-Christian behaviour, Skinner, a practising Catholic, then moved on to talk about the pope, without recognising the glaring irony.

Skinner may have sated his appetite -- but the whole affair will leave a bad taste in the mouth of many of his fans!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Open letter to Rupert Murdoch: Why haven't you sacked Katie Hopkins yet?

Dear Mr Murdoch,

I was wondering whether you would explain to me why you haven’t yet sacked Katie Hopkins? I realise you’re a busy man so I guess you must have forgotten, or just have not got around to it.

I also understand you’ve just taken on a new employee in a key role. (I read somewhere that she’s called Rebekah Brooks and that she used to have something to do with mobile phones?) Maybe helping her to learn the ropes is taking up some of your time too.

But seriously Mr Murdoch, why haven’t you dismissed Katie Hopkins yet? You do remember what she said about refugees back in April don’t you?

She wrote: “Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care.”

She went on to say that gunships should be used to stop people crossing the Mediterranean. She compared migrants to cockroaches, Mr Murdoch. Cockroaches.

The fact this horrible, racist rant was published in one of your newspapers might suggest you too feel the same way. Do you? If you do, you should have the courage to say so.

But if you don’t, you must be appalled by what she wrote. Free speech is one thing but this was hate speech.

I notice The Sun has softened its line towards refugees after the public outcry that followed publication of pictures of a young Syrian boy whose lifeless body was washed up on a Turkish beach.

You surely know that thousands of migrants have died this year trying to reach Europe by sea? You must know that many children were among them.

You must know that when Katie Hopkins was writing her poisonous, callous, hateful ‘gunships’ column, similar tragedies to the one so graphically illustrated in those photographs were commonplace.

Those images stirred compassion and empathy in the hearts of those who saw them. They made people see refugees for what they are: human beings with fragile lives just like us. They made people think, ‘There but for the grace of God...’ Katie Hopkins’ column was designed to make people think, ‘Good God, they’re a disgrace!’. Its aim was to dehumanise refugees and make people in Britain feel resentment, anger and revulsion towards them.

You must know this is a bad thing to do. The Sun routinely passes judgement on people who have done bad things in the eyes of the paper. Isn’t racism a bad thing in your eyes Mr Murdoch?

More than 300,000 people have signed a petition asking for you to remove Katie Hopkins as a columnist but still she remains in post.

So I ask again: why haven’t you shown her the door?

If the answer is that you don’t think she has done anything wrong, tell me: what exactly would she have to do?

If you think sacking her is a step too far, let me suggest an alternative penance.

Why don't you send Katie Hopkins to Syria for a few weeks, or perhaps make her join a group of Eritreans fleeing conscription, or maybe just give her a fortnight in the failed state that is Libya.

Better still, put her on a dinghy with a group of desperate refugees attempting the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean.

If she comes back (and that's a big 'if') she could write about it for The Sun. The story of her journey would make a fascinating article. 

And maybe, just maybe, she might have discovered her humanity along the way.


Bertie Bile. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Frank Skinner compares the Queen to 'football fans wrecking towns'

The comedian Frank Skinner has launched a savage verbal attack on the Queen, likening her to English football hooligans wrecking towns. 

In an extraordinarily outburst prompted by Her Majesty’s reaction to a recent portrait gift, the Room 101 presenter said he was now “finished with the Queen” and accused her of being “rude” and “deliberately low-brow”. 

The 58-year-old funnyman launched his scathing assault on the monarch during his show on Absolute Radio

Co-host, Alun Cochrane brought up the presentation to the Queen by the German President Joachim Gauck of a modernist portrait during her recent visit to Germany. 

The acrylic painting – entitled Horse in Royal Blue - depicts a young Princess Elizabeth on a blue pony, with her father George VI holding the reins. 

Horse in Royal Blue by Nicole Leidenfrost

Her reaction was cool to say the least. She said: “That’s a funny colour for a horse.” 

This was too much for Skinner who could barely conceal his contempt for a royal who is held in almost universal high regard by her subjects, including many republicans. 

He said: “I’ve always had a soft spot for the Queen, as you know. To me I’m finished with the Queen now. To me that is like…that’s up there with English football fans wrecking towns and stuff.” 

And he wasn’t finished. He said the Queen was guilty of the “sort of deliberate celebration of ignorance that you normally associate with The Only Way Is Essex”. 

“I honestly thought it was a terrible, terrible moment,” he added. 

Even that wasn’t enough. The Three Lions and Fantasy Football League star appeared to be livid because, as he saw it, the Queen had “had a go” at the artist, Nicole Leidenfrost, and not appreciated the questionable merits of her work. 

He said the Queen's comments were “rude and deliberately low-brow”. And this from a man who has sung a duet of Da Do Ron Ron with Mr Methane, a lycra-clad so-called ‘Performing Flatulist’ whose act revolves around breaking wind to order. 

Skinner went on: “It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened. Don’t mention the Queen to me. She doesn’t mind a blood-covered stag being the wrong colour.” 

One listener to the show said: “Frank Skinner is one of the funniest comedians of the modern era and he often makes comments that are a little extreme to get a laugh - but this was different. 

“He considers himself a bit high-brow these days, something of an intellectual and culture-vulture and the Queen’s reaction to this artwork had clearly annoyed him greatly. 

“He’s entitled to his opinion I guess but I reckon he’s blown any chance he may ever have had of being recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours. 

"And, to be fair to the Queen, that painting was rubbish.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

When will we learn not to trust politicians on education?

The ban on parents taking their kids out of school for holidays during term time is a classic Tory divide and rule tactic. It is wrong, unfair, and a risible example of the sort of collective punishment we seem to lap up in the UK for reasons that defeat me.

As we, the 'plebs', argue about the rights and wrongs of the issue (and quickly start throwing accusations about poor parenting at each other), the Tory toffs remain immune to their own divisive dog-whistle politicking.

Taking kids on holiday abroad - or indeed in the UK - is a costly business at any time of year. But outside of term time prices leap up thanks to our wonderful 'free' market system that allows companies to profiteer whenever the inelasticity of demand increases.

These rocketing costs hammer the least well off but have zero effect on the rich. If you earn a six-figure salary and have a heathy sum in the bank, a few hundred quid extra means nothing to you. You can afford to go on holiday whatever the bill, wherever the destination. But if, like most people, you're on a regular wage, the difference can determine whether you actually take a holiday or not.

Supporters of the ban point out that going abroad is not a human right and education is more important. But since when did travel not represent education? Are we really saying a week in a foreign country has no educational benefits to a young mind? Really? Is it better to learn about, say, Spain from a book - or to go there?

And since when did our state system get so good that missing a week or two made a massive difference anyway? Be honest: would a fortnight out really be impossible to catch up on for an averagely bright kid? I really doubt it.  

But here's the other key point. This ban is a blunt instrument that hits all parents when in reality the problem of repeated pupil absences is down to a minority of problem families. Most responsible parents want their kids to go to school and don't want them to miss classes unnecessarily.

However it's true that in life there are, sometimes, competing needs, pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages (you get the drift). A short vacation that expands a child's horizons might only be affordable in term time and financially unreachable during the official school holidays. In such a scenario, is it really in the kid's interests to force them to remain at school doing their times tables instead?

The bottom line is this: if the politicians want to ban parents taking their kids out of school during term times, fine. But make it fair. Regulate to ensure holiday companies can't hike their prices to exploit the situation. Or, better still, invest sufficient money into state schools so they have the same resources and garner similar results as the exclusive private sector educational establishments that most of the Cabinet attended. 

They won't do that though because the last thing they want is for the oiks like us to have what they have: power, money, and real freedom. And the cash to pay for such an investment isn't available in the Treasury in any case - it's in the bank accounts of the multi-national corporations that refuse to pay taxes on the vast profits they make in Britain.

If people were really concerned about the education of their kids they would demand real change and an end to the obscenity of rich politicians sending their kids to private schools (thereby entrenching nepotistic power structures) while the rest of us have to move house to get our kids into schools that Ofsted optimistically deems not to be complete shite.

In the end it comes down to who you think knows what's best for your children. Our deceitful, hypocritical, well-off politicians - or you. You don't need to have gone to school to work that one out - it's a no-brainer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Piers Morgan is 'with the science'. So why aren't you?

Piers Morgan has declared he is “with the science” on the issue of climate change.

The journalist and broadcaster’s response to a question posed by this blog on Twitter seemed unambiguous.

But it wasn’t long before some people opted to interpret his answer to match their own skewed views.

It seems that while Piers is able to accept the science, many others would rather trust their own bizarre prejudices, or the propaganda of the organisations that make vast profits and wield huge power through the control and sale of fossil fuels.   

Despite human-caused global warming being “the ruling paradigm of climate science” (see here for more on this), there are still countless bar-room experts, contrarians and conspiracy theorists who refuse to accept that it is happening.

Many of these individuals base their denial on the belief that a so-called 'green blob' has some sort of sinister agenda and therefore must be making the whole thing up for their own mysterious ends.

What these ends could possibly be isn’t clear. What is glaringly obvious though is that any accusations about the propagation of agenda-driven pseudo-science should surely be leveled at those who are really pedaling misinformation about climate change.

As Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out on an edition of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher last November (2014): “The truth of the matter is that the oil companies and the coal companies have spent tens of millions of dollars on a disinformation campaign.”

And the top climate scientist James Hansen told the BBC: “The deniers want the public to be confused.”

Watch #GreenCrap NOW!

Why is it that so many people believe that reasonable, rational guys like these are wrong at best – or liars at worst – when they should be aiming their scepticism at the obvious target: the multi-billion dollar fossil fuel industry that has so much to lose from a major switchover to clean, renewable energy sources.

This issue is really a no-brainer. Even if you disregard the science, it surely stands to reason that we should be looking towards a future that minimises waste and pollution; a future in which we develop and use clean energy and fuels that don’t have damaging by-products.

There is another well-worn point to raise here. If those who are campaigning for drastic action to halt climate change prove somehow to be wrong in the future, what exactly will we have lost by switching to renewable energy sources and creating new green industries? Nothing. We’ll have built a sustainable future for our children, created new jobs, protected biodiversity, and emasculated regimes whose appalling human rights records are wilfully ignored by Western nations desperate for their oil supplies.

On the other hand, if the deniers are wrong and climate change accelerates, as predicted by James Hansen and many others, where will we be then? We’ll be living on a planet that becomes increasingly uninhabitable. Ocean levels will rise, severe weather will become the norm, flooding and famines will devastate vulnerable communities, governments and economies will buckle under the strain.

Why would any sensible person take a gamble on those outcomes? They wouldn’t. So, like Piers Morgan, I’m with the science. 

You should be too.