Monday, 31 March 2008

Adam Applegarth is a leech

I’ve tried to avoid the subject because to be honest it’s verging on criminal. It’s immoral and it’s definitely insulting. It’s also crass and due to what is happening with those who are left to pick the pieces up, particularly in this region, it’s very insensitive.

Sadly it’s all very legal and not at all unprecedented.

Adam Applegarth, the Chief Executive responsible for the collapse of the Northern Rock Bank, has been awarded a £750,000 pay off. He will also receive a £2.5 million pension when he reaches 55.

2000 Northern Rock jobs are to go as a result of his incompetent leadership.

The man is a leech.

A Nasty Shock

Most people will be aware that the BNP is going through a little spot of internal turmoil at the moment. However, the strife is only at the top end – the grass root organisers remain active and well prepared for the local elections in May.

Today’s Time’s has a comment article on the subject by Tim Hames. Here’s some pertinent extracts:

“A by-election was held in Redwell West last Thursday. The Conservatives easily retained the seat but there in second place, eight votes ahead of Labour and with four times the strength of the Liberal Democrats was the British National Party candidate. At Yapton, seven days beforehand, the BNP had come third, a mere seven votes behind the Liberal Democrats, and with almost a fifth of the vote. A fortnight earlier Lawford and New Bilton had witnessed a cracking contest with Labour hanging on by a single vote over the Tories and with the BNP securely third on 15 per cent, well ahead of Nick Clegg's contender.”

“The last local by-election conducted in London was on March 20 at Gooshays in the Borough of Havering. The BNP had narrowly won it in May 2006 in something close to a statistical fluke but now had to defend it after the departure of its councillor. It was assumed that this might be a challenge for the BNP. Far from it. Its share of the vote went up from 28 per cent to 38 per cent. The Liberal Democrats, for the record, managed the singularly strange feat of finishing sixth.
The ward of Gooshays is striking for the lack of immigrants who live there. The ward is 96.4 per cent white, making it one of the least ethnically diverse in London. The place, however, is polarised by age (disproportionately large numbers of very young and very old voters), has comparatively high unemployment and very low levels of educational attainment. It is ideal terrain for the BNP and there are other Gooshays in London. That being so, the stealth success of the BNP could be the real story of the local elections.”

Hames then goes on to list three reasons why the BNP could do better than expected this May. Firstly, this year there is a lack of a European vote and UKIP candidates. Secondly, the BNP are better organised than ever and thirdly, a plethora of fed up voters are waiting to knock their party of choice - Labour voters sick of Brown and the state of the economy, Conservatives voters disappointed with the lack of a solid anti immigration policy and a Liberal Democratic Party which cannot attract any votes at all.

Unfortunately all the ingredients for a gain in seats exist – it’s up to those who can see through the racist overturns to stop them. Whilst voter disillusionment will account for some of their votes, so will the apathy of those who campaign against them.

We all need to be on our guard.

Once a Mosley, always a Mosley!

Poor old Max Mosley, boss of Formula One’s governing body (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) the FIA. Max is the son of Oswald Mosley, the pre war leader of the British Union of Fascists and part time friend of Adolf Hitler. Mosley Jnr has admitted himself that even now he still comes across negative reactions to his unfortunate lineage. Perhaps then, posing for a video whilst being whipped by 5 women, and also acting out a scene from a concentration camp strip search with added sado masochistic sexual overtones is not the best way to combat allegations of Nazi parenthood.

Naturally, Jewish organisations are livid that one of the world’s most powerful sporting administrators has been caught out behaving like, well, his father!

Time to leave the starting grid Max!

No Parking

In February I sent a question in to Full Council concerning how many parking tickets had been cancelled on appeal in the Borough since the decimalisation of parking. Due to the 20 minute rule the question was not put and it was to be answered as if it were a Freedom of Information request. I correspondingly received my reply, but it was concerning another question put at a previous meeting.

After reading today’s Times, I think I may know why the Council may be “reluctant” to answer the question. 60% of parking ticket appeals are successful, and Caroline Sheppard, the Chief Adjudicator of the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, has today introduced measures which will make it even easier to appeal against a fine – and so she should. 8 million tickets are issued every year in this country, giving rise to £1 billion in revenue. No wonder Councils are keen to see them handed out like confetti. They have also secured the permission to issue tickets via the post. What happens if the offender doesn’t receive them in time and how will this impact on the work needed to present the evidence that the ticket should not have been issued in the first place?

The appeals procedure is now even more important. Below are a couple of website address which explain how you can go about it.

Oh Lordy

Not content with MP’s in the House of Commons making a profession out of eating from the trough of plenty, their brothers and sisters in the House of Lords want some of the action. Today’s Guardian highlights a crisis meeting of the Lord’s Privilege Committee which will meet to discuss allegations of expenses fiddles and the payment of certain “fees” to certain Lords, particularly from the arms industries (now there’s a surprise).

Of course we should really feel sorry for the poor old Lord’s and Lady’s in the upper chamber. Their expenses structure is not as good as their riff raff cousins in the Commons – they can only claim £308 per day for attendance. All they have to do is clock in mind, they don’t have to stay.

Oh, and by the way, the Lords Privilege Committee is a toothless lion with fewer powers than its Common’s counterpart, and that’s saying something.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Willie the Wonker!

What BA said before the opening

“Will T5 open without a hiccup? Yes and yes.”

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways in The Sunday Times last year

“We have done as much as we possibly can and we are ready. Our customers will absolutely love T5 and our people will love working there.”

Walsh, writing in British Airways News, March 20

“The terminal will be fantastic. I think it’s particularly pleasing that we’ll get an opportunity to do a better job at Heathrow when we move into Terminal 5.”

Walsh, the day before the terminal opened What BA said after the shambles

“I’m sorry for passengers, and I’m sorry for staff. If you want to blame someone, you should blame me.”

Walsh on Friday


Terminal 5 cost £4.3 billion and took more than fi ve years to build. Designed to handle 30m passengers a year, it has a computerised baggage system capable of processing 12,000 cases an hour on 11 miles of conveyor belts travelling at up to 23mph. The terminal’s fi ve fl oors could accommodate 50 football pitches.


The baggage system ground to a halt from overloading. Mountains of bags from transfer passengers are stuck in storage at other Heathrow terminals. More than 240 fl ights were cancelled in the fi rst three days, affecting 20,000 passengers. Thousands more have suffered delays.

The Trough of Plenty

Sitting with my pot of tea and catching up with yesterdays Gazette, it would appear that South Tyneside’s senior executives have had a pretty good year when it comes to trousering lots of money. A report by the Tax Payers Alliance shows that four senior executives earn over £100,000 per year, with Irene Lucas naturally coming in first with £129,135 for the year 2006/2007. Ms Lucas only earns £58,000 less than Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Missing ballot boxes, anger over regeneration projects, school closures and Gerry Mandering of Council meetings, South Tyneside’s Chief is hardly value for money. In fact, she should offer the people of South Tyneside a refund on their money so disgraceful has her performance been over the last 12 months.

Unfortunately, the people of the Borough cannot unseat Ms Lucas with their vote. If they could, she would be at the job centre on 2nd May.


So what happened to Saturday’s posts? Work, because nobody bothered to turn up. The remainder of the day was taken up with exhaustion. Such is life.

Head of Centrica (British Gas) – Sam Laidlaw - £1.87m in pay and benefits, 80% rise on last year

Head of Centrica (British Gas) – Sam Laidlaw - £1.87m in pay and benefits, 80% rise on last year

Laidlaw – basic salary - £873,000, £753,000 bonus, £180,000 additional payments, £64,000 benefits

5 top senior executives at Centrica – paid over £5 million last year

Centrica - £1.9 billion profit

Average household bill - £1000 per year

British Gas customers – 15% rise in fuel bills

Number Crunching ITV Style

Michael Grade – pocketed nearly £2 million in his first year as Chair of ITV (includes share of £1.6 million bonuses).

ITV shares – value has fallen 40% in last year

Fly in a bottle

It’s always good to laugh – but perhaps not so good while you’re broadcasting live to the nation on Radio Four’s flagship news programme “Today”. Enter one Charlotte Green, who whilst covering the worlds oldest recording (a woman singing “Au Clair de la Lune” in 1860) got a fit of the giggles as the recording sounded like a fly in a bottle. Unfortunately for Ms Green, the mirth continued into the next item – an obituary!

Moments like this, whilst slightly unprofessional, remind us that perhaps sometimes we take things a little too seriously. Who can forget the Goons splitting their sides over nothing, Spike Milligan laughing at his own (terrible) jokes on his “Q” BBC 2 series, or the link below, Jonathan Agnew and Brian Johnson – an absolute classic!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Number Crunching Local Election Style

Decisions so far delayed

TOP’s – not Top of the Pops, but the decision to close some of the regions best schools, especially in the Labour hinterland

Gypsies Green and the Foreshore Development – planning permission delayed till June.

Ambulance Call Centre – Hebburn Call Centre delayed, especially now that they may have to leave the Iona Club where it is!

Leaks to the Northern Herald News Desk have been extremely revealing when it comes to the Iona Club situation. May I quote directly from the most recent email – I don’t like bad language on this site remember.

“Your f****d McAtominey, you t** f***d b*****d, the leadership will never be yours because of this project”.

I presume the sender referred to the fact that WAGGGOTTT will loose Fellgate, and then the in fighting will really start.

Malcolm’s (in the middle) beware – it’s not quite in the bag just yet!

Oh dear, Conservatives of a similar ilk!

How they seem to multiple!

It’s just getting a bit to close to home.

Would you really trust this bunch of Victorian reprobates with the safety of your children?

Terminal - ly Ill

Despite the fact that the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport cost £4.3 billion to build and has been running “tests” for the last 18 months, the baggage system yesterday suffered a complete failure.

34 flights were cancelled and thousands of passengers lost their luggage.

Despite the fact that BA and BAA have been singing the new terminal’s praises for the last five years, they couldn’t get it right on the first day – and who was to blame? According to BA, it’s the staff's fault for not being familiar with the “system”. Hmm!

British Airways promised that Terminal 5 would transform the flying experience – it certainly did, the planes never left the ground!

Wembley Stadium, Olympic Games, The Dome - blah blah blah – we couldn’t build a Lego house on time with windows that worked!

Riot Force

Today’s Times carries a disconcerting picture of riot police just before they go into action in London.

Operation Mista took place yesterday and it involved 1000 policemen and women. The targets concerned drug dealers, money launders, receivers of stolen goods and forgers. 56 addresses were raided. The picture says it all.

1000 policemen in a series of raids – that’s why when you call the police on a Friday night about social disorder they never turn up till Saturday.

As somebody on the Times blog said - surely 3 policemen on these streets 365 days a week would have stopped all this crime.

Spitting Satire

Regardless of your political persuasions, nobody could have failed to appreciate the antics of the “Spitting Image” creators (1984 – 1996). The programme is to be resurrected in digital format ala Toy Story format, with original writer Henry Naylor being joined by that master of wit and impersonation Rory Bremner.

The programme starts a week this Sunday.

Be there!

Tommy’s Tribulations

It just goes to show that patent leather loafers and Saville row tailored suits can’t disguise the crook that lurks within.

All hale Tommy Sheridan, socialist, capitalist, liberal, snappy dresser and all round sleaze merchant. Yesterday Tommy and his equally communist wife were arrested and charged with lying under oath. The charges relate to a News of The World libel trial and a certain award of £200,000 to the Sheridan’s ISA Account.

Looking like he’d been Tango’ed, Tommy and Mrs Tommy are 2 of 7 who have been charged with regards to the original trial.

Yet another court case to follow in detail.

Number Crunching Nimrod Style

How costs took off:

Cost when approved: £2.8 billion

Cost estimate now: £3.5 billion

Original in-service date: April 2003

Current forecast in-service date: September 2010

Cost rose at the end of 2006-07 by £687 million

Cost rose in 2007-08 by another £100 million

Air craft carriers and now support aircraft, this country cannot build anything on time and at its original cost.

If this country were forced into a war similar to the 1939 conflict, we would need 8 years notice.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Thats All Folk's!

Research issues will take up a lot of time tonight, so it’s a case of “That’s All Folks” for today.

A Fishy Tale

It looks like Michael Martin isn’t the only MP to have fishy smell of decay about him. Have a look at MP Alex Salmond’s (also Scotland’s First minister) expenses claims for his House of Commons duties.

Total claims – over £130,000
Overnight Stays - £2331
Staff - £846664
Incidental expenses - £18591
Travel - £3856
Communications - £2221
Stationery - £1017
Postage - £4768
Computers - £1255

During the time period for these claims, Mr Salmond made only 6 appearances in the Commons and voted 18 times.

What a stinker!

Back of the Queue

When it comes to the dishing out of brains, House of Commons speaker Michael Martin was definitely at the back of the queue, if he was in it at all. Despite months of stinging coverage over his own personal abuse of MP’s expenses schemes, the last few weeks have also involved some pretty poor coverage for an elite group of his colleagues (again including Martin) who seem to view homes and their contents like Monopoly pieces.

You would have thought then that Mr Martin would want to avoid any further controversy – oh no, remember where he was in the queue!

Despite an Information Tribunal (the body which deals with Freedom of Information appeals) decision forcing the release of the expense details of 14 prominent and retired MP’s, Martin has seen fit to not only block any Commons debate on the issue, but he also gone to the High Court to have the Tribunals decision over turned.

The words “something to hide” immediately come to mind. If Martin is prepared to go to these lengths, hammering the nails into his own employment coffin as he goes along his merry way, then there must be something in this information worth protecting.

Oh, and by the way, the cost to the tax payer for the court appearance has already passed the £100,000 mark.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Twelve months to tell the truth!

After nearly a full year of prevarication, denial and cross accusation, South Tyneside’s Head of Corporate Governance, Mr Brian T Scott, has finally admitted that the case of the 18 missing ballot boxes was his fault and his alone. He has even gone as far as to offer a full and extremely humiliating apology. If Mr Scott were a Cabinet member of government, he would have had to resign today – he may even have been sacked. As it stands, he remains in full employment.

Today’s Gazette covers the issue in full, the information etc coming from a Council press release which released today. I have placed the relevant links at the end of this post. It is pointless reproducing the arguments – they are fully outlined in the links. You would be well served to visit my original post 30 January 2008 which exclusively highlighted certain court documents etc.

Nearly 12 months after the event, this issue is still drawing front page attention. The Gazette’s letters page will be forced to cover another double spread. However, we should not allow this to be the end of the affair and should instead look at three main points.

Firstly, Mr Scott should not be allowed to hold the position of Returning Officer for any future elections. His mistakes have cost the Borough dearly in its reputation for fair play, and he has shown that he has exhibited a degree of incompetence which is astounding in legal circles. He may even find himself being referred to the Law Society for gross negligence.

Secondly, had Mr Ahmed Khan not lodged his original petition, the public would never have known that these ballot boxes had gone missing – we may rest assured that the Council would not come clean on the issue of their own accord. The question must then be asked – has this happened before?

Thirdly and finally, the issue centres on why the Council and Mr Scott have gone to these very humiliating lengths to issue the apology. The answer to this question lies not in a sense of public duty, transparency or accountability, but on the fact that 45000 missing ballot box news letters were distributed by the Independent Alliance to individuals and households within the Borough. It was the Alliance’s actions which brought the truth to the voters, not the council.

So much then for open government!

Whiteleas Ward

Earlier this morning I posted on the fact that Robin Coombes would not be standing for election in the Whiteleas Ward. He was in fact stepping to one side to allow Terry Haram a clear run at the seat. To gain some background to the affair, I spoke to the South Tyneside Alliance and obtained the following statement:

“Robin has been out of the country for a couple of weeks and when he returned he independently decided to speak to the wards current incumbent, Terry Haram, about the forthcoming election in May 2008. Robin was of the opinion that if “two” independent candidates were on the ballot paper, Labour would take the seat by default and without a mandate. Robin offered to do the honourable thing and stand aside to let Terry have a clear run in the vote. We fully understand and support his decision. As we are not a political party, he will not be replaced by an alternative candidate.

Robin has indicated that he will work with Terry to achieve what is best for the ward, both before and after the election. We understand that Robin will stand for election in two years time. The Alliance therefore fully supports Terry in his desire to be re-elected in May. Our individual members and associates will no doubt offer him any help they can, as we would any other candidates, either Conservative or Liberal Democrat, whose reason for seeking election is to break the Labour Party’s control of the Borough. South Tyneside needs an effective, independent opposition not bound by party issues, and we would encourage those who feel the same to support any individuals who adopt similar approaches”.

Well done Robin, you have taken a dignified stance, and good luck Terry.

Rumour Mill

It has finally been confirmed that Robin Coombes will not be standing in the Whiteleas ward election this year. After discussions with the current incumbent Terry Haram, it was felt that two” independent” candidates in the ward would split the vote and allow Labour to take the seat. Robin has done the honourable thing and stood aside to allow Terry a straight win. However, the two will work closely together after the election on issues that affect the ward, with a view to Robin standing unopposed in two years time.

This pragmatic approach deserves praise – we want an opposition in the Council Chamber, not Labour members voted in by default.

Well done Robin – so much for “independent” standing against “independent”.

I am currently collating significant quotes from the Independent Alliance sources, and will update this post later today.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Consulted my A**e!

It seems that all is not to well at the local Hebburn “Iona Social Club”. Despite being earmarked for a massive regeneration programme which will include err…. a Tesco’s, the lads at the club would rather stay where they are and not see their club knocked down – and why not, this is their watering whole, they own the land they stand on and the members feel it is the heart of their community.

Sadly, the members of the club will have been consulted on the issue before plans were made……accept that they weren’t! Claims today in the Shields Gazette quote club officials as saying the first they new of the demolition plans was when the paper itself highlighted the development. In essence, South Tyneside Council decided on the regeneration plans, which included bulldozing the club, and then decided to consult the club stewards etc. Its like saying to a dead man – sadly you’ve passed, but would you like this life saving drug!

At a recent Regeneration and Resources Scrutiny sub committee meeting on the Foreshore Development Plans (including Gypsies Green) I personally witnessed an exchange which went along these lines:

E. Malcolm (for it is he) – You were consulted prior to the plans to demolish Gypsies Green were you not?
South Shields Harriers Rep - No, we were only contacted when the press released details that the Stadium was to be demolished.

My well toned Sherlock Holmes senses are beginning to spot a Council pattern here – could the strategy be “let’s only consult when the plans are so far down the line that opposition is useless”.

To make matters worse, two of the current Liberal Democrat Hebburn councillors take refreshments at club – I bet their made to feel welcome under the present climate. No wonder rumours still prevail that their going to cross the floor to the Labour side next month.

Put it this way, the only place left for them to drink will be the Fountain Inn!

A sterile argument

During the period of the kidnapping of Shannon Matthews there was a definite story which was running under the surface of the main police enquiries to find her, and that was the childs social back ground. Shannon was living with her mother and step father, neither worked. Shannon also had six other brothers and sisters, all off whom had different fathers. Unlike the McCain’s, they weren’t media friendly and they had no PR gurus to fight their case. They were therefore always questioned outside of their council house, looking dishevelled and untidy. One major news paper reported that whilst the child was missing, they actually had the shame to have a Chinese meal delivered.

Many friends of mine held the view that this family should be stripped of any benefits they received, thrown out of their home and all the children taken into care. The word “spayed” was also used by a particular individual.
Nothing surprises me much these days, but I was taken aback by these view points, voiced in some cases by articulate and intelligent people.

This whole issue has been further highlighted by the comments of a Medway Council councillor in Kent. John Ward commented on his own site:

"There is an increasingly strong case for compulsory sterilisation of all those who have had a second child - or third, or whatever - while living off state benefits. It would clearly take a lot of social pressures off all concerned, thus protecting the youngsters themselves to some degree, and remove the incentive to breed for greed, i.e. for more public subsidy."

Clearly, this view point is held by a wider proportion of people than I initially thought. What worries me is that not only does this stance have the stamp of the Nazi regime, but it is an indication that compassion has disappeared from certain elements of society.

My own personal view point is that the system of social payments made to those in need who have support needs root to branch reforming. Money needs to be targeted to those who really need it, and diverted from those who expect it. However, we cannot simply either abandon people or split up their families because we don’t like what they have done or become. The state system created these people, and only by re education can they be removed from the subsistence trap that they find themselves in. If this country can support an influx of nearly ¾ million migrant European workers, then we can retrain and re-educate ¾ million of benefit receivers into worth while employment.

Surely that is a better approach than neutering?

Strange Bedfellows

Many moons ago there was a pop group called “Mull Historical Society” fronted by lead singer and song writer Colin MacIntyre. The “Mulls” played pretty honest music, but weren’t prepared to ditch their admirable artistic trappings and be sucked into the mainstream music mangle.

Colin has now gone solo.

Many moons ago there was a Labour politician called Tony Benn. Mr Benn, like him or loath him, was a pretty honest guy. He wasn’t prepared to ditch his admirable views and be sucked into the mainstream political mangle.

Tony left the House of Commons and went solo.

The two have now got together and an album of music has emerged. Benn has penned the lyrics to the final track on the album, and it represents the left wing veteran’s first venture into humanist poetry. Sneak previews of tracks from the album reveal some excellent songs.

This is a far cry from Neil Kinnocks ventures into the world of music (Red Wedge, Tracey Ullman) but it shows that pop and politics can still mix it!

There’s only one certainty in life and that’s death!

So the old phrase goes, but if you live in Zimbabwe, you might hope that the certainty might just delay itself for a few more years or at least till the economy is under control.

Latest reports show that the cost of a funeral in the country has risen to Z$1 billion (in words to emphasis the amount “1 billion Zimbabwe dollars). The highest denomination note now available is Z$10 million.

This is Robert Mugabes Zimbabwe – with elections looming next week end there has never been a regime so ripe for change. However, there are already reports emerging from the country that corruption will prevent Mugabe from loosing his control, and international observers (the ones who have been allowed into the country) are already preparing to leave.

Whilst we rightly complain about 18 missing ballot boxes, we should always remind ourselves that our system whilst not fool proof, has stood the tests of time.

Monday, 24 March 2008


Not a great fan of late, but nobody really deserves this type of treatment.

Something has gone very wrong in society for this to happen.


Thanks to Bryan at for this post, though I don’t think his link took me to where I wanted to be.

I’m not a great fan of anything nuclear, bomb or power.

Thatcher hated CND with a vengeance. CND is still going strong, but Thatcher was err….. kicked out and dumped by her own party!

What a drag!

Radio 5 this morning is leading on the plans to ban the display of cigarettes in shops, pubs, clubs and restaurants. The Daily Telegraph also covers the issue with a pretty good summary of the situation.

Being a non smoker, I take great pleasure in leaving pubs etc, not smelling of someone else’s dreadful habit. I do also despair when I see school children beginning their daily journeys with a couple of Lambert and Butler’s before the school gate beckons.

However, banning cigarette display cabinets etc will not stop young people smoking, and it’s this element of society we need to tackle first. If you can stop young adults from taking up the habit and educate them as to its dangers and social restrictions, then as mature adults the site of a row of Embassy Number 1’s when they buy their local paper is not going to make any difference to the their judgement.

Education and price restrictions are the only things which will deter the potential smokers of the future, not draconian restrictions which only increase the level of state censorship in our daily lives.

I vote for none of the above!

Today’s Guardian headlines with an interesting article on what it claims are government plans to radically change the traditional “first past the post” voting system. The plans, backed in principle by Gordon Brown, would involve a second transferable vote, polling stations open on weekends and even the possibility of making voting compulsory. The ideas are based on the desire to restore trust in our political structures and encourage higher voter turn out

Being very much a traditionalist, I like the current system. It produces clear winners (in the main) and every body knows who they are voting for. However, I do except that it is outdated and needs amendment. Whilst opening polling stations for two days is a valid change, the idea of compulsory voting has no place in a democratic society. The desire to vote or not as the case may be, is intrinsic to the principles of moral and political free will: the action of not actually voting is often a decision based on the lack of support for either the party’s involved in the election or the system under which they operate. It was compulsory to vote in Communist Russia – do we really want to replicate those totalitarian principals?

If politicians really want to restore public trust and encourage public turn out, perhaps they should look at themselves first. Expenses claims, payments to family members, poor attendance in the Commons, an unelected second chamber based on privilege – reform is needed firstly from within, then you can look at the voting laws.

Mind you, compulsory “attendance” laws would be a major step forward for MP’s and Councillors, but where would that leave certain local representatives?

Sunday, 23 March 2008

School Report Cards

Once again the mists of time have rolled over South Tyneside Council Chambers, with our elected (and unelected) representatives packing their satchels up and heading of home to prepare for the elections. Who knows, some may never return again and their desks will be used be new faces after May. As committee meetings grind to a halt, it also that time of year to see who went to school and who played hooky – yes, its school report card time!

Over the next week or so I shall be looking at the register for councillors, relating them to their attendance rates at both full and sub committee levels.

Who will be head prefect, and who will be expelled? Put it this way, read the two posts below and see where the bookies money is going!

An Appeal from The Panel - Have You Seen This Man?

Once again I have been forced to put pen to paper and comment on the goings on surrounding that intrepid explorer, Councillor David Potts (Cleadon and East Boldon Ward, incorporating Edinburgh for good measure).

Oh no you cry, here we go again. Perhaps, but this time it’s a case of “here we don’t go again”. Here’s a little scenario which was put to me a couple of days ago. Please read on – this one is a classic.

There exists in the South Tyneside Council sub committee structure a body called the “Appeals Panel”. Heres how the Councils web site describes its remit:

“This Panel deals mainly with appeals by individuals against housing allocation decisions and employee related appeals but it is also used to hear appeals in relation to certain other Council services. The Panel is actually a pool of Councillors from whom 3 are selected each time, to hear specific appeals, as they arise. As the appeals are always of a confidential nature they are always held in private. You will not therefore find any papers for these appeals sessions stored in this system.”

No this sounds pretty important to me, especially say if as a couple you’ve been on a housing list for a long time and feel aggrieved that you may have been missed out unfairly. The fact that the hearings are conducted in private is also an indication of the serious nature of some of these meetings.

As the preamble states, 3 councillors are chosen from a pool of 12, thereby ensuring continuing impartiality. One member from the three Chairs the Appeals Panel for that particular gathering. All three members must be present for the meeting to go ahead. So far so good. Looking at the Council’s web site, I can find no record of the Panel not being able to meet as a result of its appointed members not turning up.

That is of course until 14th March 2008. Enter one (or not as the case may be) Councillor David Potts.

At the last Appeals Panel, three Councillors’ were appointed to attend the next gathering. One of these was Mr Potts, and he was also given the additional honour of acting as Chair. Times, venues etc, were all given to the three councillors so no body was in any doubt of what was required of them. Everybody gathered on the appointed day, everybody except would you believe it, Councillor Potts. Not only was the Chair missing (in) action, but without his presence, the meeting was not a quorum and could not go ahead.

A series of frantic phone calls took place. Councillor Potts was finally located at about 10.30 a.m (the meeting began at 10.00 a.m.) Guess what, he was on a train coming back from Edinburgh. No problem, perhaps his train was just running late. Yes problem, the train was running to timetable. OK then, perhaps he would just be a little late then. Not OK, he had no intention of going to the meeting and err…..that was it. His failure to appear no doubt had nothing to do with the Conservative Spring forum being held at The Sage Gateshead, sadly at the same time as the Appeals Committee.. As we all know the Sage is very near to Newcastle Central Train Station, were trains from Edinburgh also regularly stop.

The meeting therefore had no Chair and not enough Councillor’s present to deal with the appeals that were on the agenda, including members of the public who have given up their time to present themselves to the Panel. Not to be deterred and in the interests of accountability and fair play, council officials contacted the next representative on the list, in this case Councillor Ken Hickman. With a deep sense of civic duty, he agreed to turn up. The meeting was able to go ahead, and the appeals were dealt with.

Firstly, well done Councillor Ken Hickman, at least you had the decency to acknowledge your duties as a public representative.

However, what of Councillor Potts?

Let us remind our selves of a recent sermon by said councillor which appeared in the Shields Gazette. Attacking the fact that government minister for the North East, Nick Brown, had allegedly snubbed South Tyneside, the article posed the question “where exactly is he?” A hand full of lines later Pott’s offers his own views on the situation;

Coun David Potts, leader of the Conservatives in the borough, said: "We haven't seen hide nor hair of him in South Tyneside."How dare our local Labour MPs pretend that they care for the people of South Tyneside when their own 'Minister for the North East' can't even be bothered to turn up?

Oh dear, what an own goal.

Cant be bothered to turn up, pretend that they care for the people of South Tyneside, kettle calling pot black - how dare indeed, especially when the first quote could actually apply to the Councillor himself.

So there you have it. It is now official - the trivial concerns of the public are of no concern to Councillor David Potts. His craving for self publicity matters more to him that the discharge of his public duties and representational obligations. What matters even less are the tribulations of the people of this Borough, many of whom are referred to the Appeals Panel because they have a valid grievance against the Council, particularly when it comes to housing matters – what can be more important to people than the roof (or lack of it) over their heads. There is also the problem of the concerns of his own Ward members – who is looking after there welfare when Pott’s is north of the border? Who indeed!

Councillor Potts has a particular penchant for first class rail travel; I sincerely hope that the Council is not reimbursing any of costs re his jaunts to Scotland. That would be very wrong, and I suspect it would also contravene every rule regarding councillor’s allowances. However, as somebody once said to me, Mr Pott’s relationship to the Labour hierarchy in the Borough is to close to be of a formal nature. Whether it’s close enough to see a repeat of the infamous “Cambridge” claims will all be revealed at the end of the month when Councillor expenses claims and allowances are available for public scrutiny. That’s when the diaries come out, meetings are cross referenced and journeys north are plotted on the map.

In the mean time, Councillor Pott’s continues to lead the polls when it comes to having one of the worst attendance rates for council committee meetings.

God help the people of Cleadon and East Boldon if he is re elected in May, but worse still, what will the good people of Edinburgh think of him when this type of behaviour is highlighted by Alistair Darling et al at the next general election?

One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest

Perhaps people might like to avail themselves of this post which appeared some time ago on the Corner Shop web site Like a cuckoo Councillor Potts sometimes drops an egg into the site in an effort to gain a little bit of self publicity.

What a grandiose motion, full of potential and heart felt calls for cross party support – very House of Commons material. In his preamble Potts talks of taking “responsibilities seriously” and complains about “frivolous motions” being put to full council.

In the post said proprietor of the site asks a couple of questions of the cuckoo, but misses out on the essential one – “since I have given you such coverage, will you actually turn up and propose the motion and therefore not make me look like a berk for giving you the publicity”. If Mr Rigg had posed such a query, he would have received a resounding err….no, because that’s what happened. Once again Councillor David Potts didn’t bother to turn up at the meeting, not even to propose and support his own motion.

Taking responsibilities seriously, frivolous motions, party of opposition – Mr Potts must wear steel capped boots because the amount of times he has shot him self in the proverbial foot with his hypocritical mutterings leaves me surprised he can even walk!

Who knows, perhaps that’s the reason he never attends meetings, he’s to busy filling his boots somewhere else!

Private Eye's Little Eye



Spot the difference - which one is a muppet?

Number Crunching Polls Style

55% - percentage of Iraq’s expressing optimism about the future, according to opinion poll on anniversary of invasion

7% - percentage of Britons expressing optimism about the future, according to opinion poll on Budget

Number Crunching Money Style

£5616 – annual income beneath which someone is living in poverty, according to government rules

£6335 – public money MP’s can spend on installing a new bathroom, according to parliamentary rules

Number Crunching Bottled Water Style

£141000 – shocking spend on bottled water per year by Hampshire Council revealed in BBC’s Panorama programme last month

£313000 – shocking spend on bottled water per year by BBC in London and Glasgow.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Not the first time

Have a look at this post from Mr Rigg is at his Corner Shop dated some time in November 2007. Nothing to do with Mr Ahmed Khan, but he still put his photo next to the article and headline so you would all be misled. Hardly impartial is it?

Am I the first to spot a pattern?

The Daily Sport awaits your abilities!

Thanks to Bryan for the email.


Just like the missing ballot boxes, here are 2 “missing posts” from over the last few days. Work, work, work. Hopefully, things will be back to normal Sunday.

Dont Panic!

Like an incompetent Captain Mainwaring, Gordon Brown intends to resurrect “Dads Army” in the form of a civil defence network and national alert register. The plan is for members of the public to join in and help local authorities during times of national crisis. Such emergencies will include terrorist activities, Cyber war fare, pandemics (flu), climate change and “suspect visitors to the UK”.

With MI5 staffing levels to rise by 4000 and terrorism analysis budgets to rise by 10%, Brown also wants to create a civilian counter terrorist force capable of “going anywhere in the world”.

Oh dear, the British obsession with committees, groups, lists associations and clubs, all designed to tackle problems which frankly, we don’t even no if they exist. Put it this way, if a flu pandemic does break out, by the time “Browns Army” has had its meeting, produced its report, printed it in duplicate, risked assed the findings, put the tenders out for scrutiny, sourced the PFI funding and ratified the final version – we will al be dead.

May I be the first to nominate an entry for the national threat register – Labour.

Oh What A Circus!

A couple of days ago I posted a rather a long comment by “Anonymous”, not because I agreed with him or her, but more specifically because somebody had taken a lot of time to pen it and therefore deserved some sort of accolade!

However, with the news of the malicious run on the Halifax (HBOS) shares, perhaps Mr Anonymous is not that far of the mark. Whilst current financial jitters are centred on the credit squeeze and lack of “hard” money in the lending market, Halifax’s problems come from rumours spread by stock market manipulators after a quick, but handsome, profit. The attack wasn’t the result of problems in the USA or the Banks own liquidity issues – it came from within the UK market. If unscrupulous traders, motivated by greed and profit, can wipe nearly 20% of a Banks share value via a couple of false emails, then the financial markets are in worse turmoil than currently acknowledged. The worlds banking system currently resembles a game of “Jenga”, and the last wooden block is about to topple!

The question nobody seems to be asking is where were the FSA (Financial Service Authority) the Bank of England and The Chancellor in this fiasco. Once again, they were to slow to react and powerless to stop the Halifax’s shares from plummeting. All three resemble the lion tamer who is mauled by his animal in a fit of aggression.

So who really runs the circus – the ring master or the clowns?

Thursday, 20 March 2008

“B******t is b******t, it just goes by different names”

Easter is always a busy time, none more so than for those involved in the food industry. Posts will be light until Saturday PM at the earliest.

However, I couldn’t part company without reference to a press release from our local Labour Party in South Shields.

A couple of days ago I received an anonymous email warning me that the both the Council and the Labour ruling group were considering seeking a court injunction against the “Electoral Fraud” leaflet which has been distributed to 30,000 homes across the Borough. Grateful for the tip of, I kept of the subject for 48 hours. Another email informed me that legal advice had gone against the Council, and no injunction would emerge. What a surprise.

However, the “Malcolm’s” in the Middle have penned a response via the local Labour Party site, showing that they have got their loyal red knickers in a right twist. Entitled “Here We Go Again “(how imaginative – how they must have brain stormed in The Fountain that night) the text represents the last throw of the dice for the Boroughs controlling elite before the election campaign begins in full.

The first section of the release quite frankly is absurd – it rambles more than a Malcolm at a Meeting. Postal votes – fraud – but never once refers to the election petition (a legal document) filed at the High Court. What an omission and how convenient!

It’s the next section which really shows that Labour is rattled!

Under the title “It’s a Fact” the release goes on to cover……. err…… not the facts.

But their contents did. Somebody therefore deliberately opened them, disposed of their contents, and blamed a porter. That’s right, the Labour Party blamed the man at the bottom of the chain – what a vote of solidarity for the Borough's work force!

This is news to me – no reference has been made to this element publicly. Why have they not been offered for scrutiny then?

Wrong. Freedom of Information requests leaked to this site via an unknown source indicate otherwise. The Labour Party's claim is entirely without foundation.

Of course there is – there is no greater mystery than “where are the ballot papers?” Somebody out there knows, and I wish they would reveal the truth.

A little bit disingenuous, especially when the Labour Party omit to mention that election officers have Indemnity Insurance to cover them for such eventualities, something which the Council have failed to reveal details of via a Freedom of Information enquiry (I told you the Council had failed to answer questions on this issue). As towards the public paying costs, any donations are given freely, and the public purse is not affected. For the benefit of the Chuckle Brothers, the public have given remarkably generously! They wont be so generous with their Labour votes when it comes to the election.

What the circular fails to mention is the details included in the original election petition, particular a certain surname - “Malcolm”. I wonder why they have been so selective - they have had full view of the Court papers since at least May 2007? Must have escaped their collective memories.

Oh, before I forget and sign of, another 15,000 “Election Fraud Leaflets” are to be distributed before the election campaign begins (that’s 45,000 in total so far), such is the demand for them in Wards which have so far been spared the truth. Another 5000 are ordered for next Tuesday - something tells me the sound clanking letter boxes will drown out the sound of Labour's lies.

The Chuckle Brothers may be popular with the kids, but the adults have seen through the facade, and they want the truth – and their going to get it!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

South Tyneside Democracy Forum

I would like to refer every one to an article which has been published in today’s Gazette.

More events, statements and letters to the press are in the pipe line.

Surely the Council didn’t think the matter had gone away?
30,000 letters to house holds and individuals should have told them better?

The posts are long, but have you seen the comments!

Some people receive comments, but not this big!

Here’s a one I received yesterday, but sadly (s)he won’t give their name!

1 – 2 of 2
Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public ... Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public figure about the economy or humanity in general. They are all part of the problem. Its like a game of Monopoly. In America, the richest 1% now hold 1/2 OF ALL UNITED STATES WEALTH. Unlike ‘lesser’ estimates, this includes all stocks, bonds, cash, and material assets held by America’s richest 1%. Even that filthy pig Oprah acknowledged that it was at about 50% in 2006. Naturally, she put her own ‘humanitarian’ spin on it. Calling attention to her own ‘good will’. WHAT A DISGUSTING HYPOCRITE SLOB. THE RICHEST 1% HAVE LITERALLY MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. Don’t fall for any of their ‘humanitarian’ CRAP. ITS A SHAM. THESE PEOPLE ARE CAUSING THE SAME PROBLEMS THEY PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT. Ask any professor of economics. Money does not grow on trees. The government can’t just print up more on a whim. At any given time, there is a relative limit to the wealth within ANY economy of ANY size. So when too much wealth accumulates at the top, the middle class slip further into debt and the lower class further into poverty. A similar rule applies worldwide. The world’s richest 1% now own over 40% of ALL WORLD WEALTH. This is EVEN AFTER you account for all of this ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS from celebrities and executives. ITS A SHAM. As they get richer and richer, less wealth is left circulating beneath them. This is the single greatest underlying cause for the current US recession. The middle class can no longer afford to sustain their share of the economy. Their wealth has been gradually transfered to the richest 1%. One way or another, we suffer because of their incredible greed. We are talking about TRILLIONS of dollars which have been transfered FROM US TO THEM. All over a period of about 27 years. Thats Reaganomics for you. The wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as we were told it would. It just accumulates at the top. Shrinking the middle class and expanding the lower class. Causing a domino effect of socio-economic problems. But the rich will never stop. They just keep getting richer. Leaving even less of the pie for the other 99% of us to share. At the same time, they throw back a few tax deductible crumbs and call themselves ‘humanitarians’. Cashing in on the PR and getting even richer the following year. IT CAN’T WORK THIS WAY. Their bogus efforts to make the world a better place can not possibly succeed. Any 'humanitarian' progress made in one area will be lost in another. EVERY SINGLE TIME. IT ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK THIS WAY. This is going to end just like a game of Monopoly. The current US recession will drag on for years and lead into the worst US depression of all time. The richest 1% will live like royalty while the rest of us fight over jobs, food, and gasoline. So don’t fall for any of this PR CRAP from Hollywood, Pro Sports, and Wall Street PIGS. ITS A SHAM. Remember: They are filthy rich EVEN AFTER their tax deductible contributions. Greedy pigs. Now, we are headed for the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time. Crime, poverty, and suicide will skyrocket. SEND A “THANK YOU” NOTE TO YOUR FAVORITE MILLIONAIRE. ITS THEIR FAULT. I’m not discounting other factors like China, sub-prime, or gas prices. But all of those factors combined still pale in comparison to that HUGE transfer of wealth to the rich. Anyway, those other factors are all related and further aggrivated because of GREED. If it weren’t for the OBSCENE distribution of wealth within our country, there never would have been such a market for sub-prime to begin with. Which by the way, was another trick whipped up by greedy bankers and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. The credit industry has been ENDORSED by people like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGenerous, Dr Phil, and many other celebrities. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. Now, there are commercial ties between nearly every industry and every public figure. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘good will’ BS. ITS A LIE. If you fall for it, then you’re a fool. If you see any real difference between the moral character of a celebrity, politician, attorney, or executive, then you’re a fool. No offense fellow citizens. But we have been mislead by nearly every public figure. WAKE UP PEOPLE. THEIR GOAL IS TO WIN THE GAME. The 1% club will always say or do whatever it takes to get as rich as possible. Without the slightest regard for anything or anyone but themselves. Reaganomics. Their idea. Loans from China. Their idea. NAFTA. Their idea. Outsourcing. Their idea. Sub-prime. Their idea. High energy prices. Their idea. Obscene health care charges. Their idea. The commercial lobbyist. Their idea. The multi-million dollar lawsuit. Their idea. The multi-million dollar endorsement deal. Their idea. $200 cell phone bills. Their idea. $200 basketball shoes. Their idea. $30 late fees. Their idea. $30 NSF fees. Their idea. $20 DVDs. Their idea. Subliminal advertising. Their idea. Brainwash plots on TV. Their idea. Vioxx, and Celebrex. Their idea. The MASSIVE campaign to turn every American into a brainwashed, credit card, pharmaceutical, love-sick, celebrity junkie. Their idea. All of the above shrink the middle class, concentrate the world’s wealth and resources, create a dominoe effect of socio-economic problems, and wreak havok on society. All of which have been CREATED AND ENDORSED by celebrities, athletes, executives, entrepreneurs, attorneys, and politicians. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for any of their ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS. ITS A SHAM. NOTHING BUT TAX DEDUCTIBLE PR CRAP. In many cases, the 'charitable' contribution is almost entirely offset. Not to mention the opportunity to plug their name, image, product, and 'good will' all at once. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. These filthy pigs even have the nerve to throw a fit and spin up a misleading defense with regard to 'federal tax revenue'. ITS A SHAM. THEY SCREWED UP THE EQUATION TO BEGIN WITH. If the middle and lower classes had a greater share of the pie, they could easily cover a greater share of the federal tax revenue. They are held down in many ways because of greed. Wages remain stagnant for millions because the executives, celebrities, athletes, attorneys, and entrepreneurs, are paid millions. They over-sell, over-charge, under-pay, outsource, cut jobs, and benefits to increase their bottom line. As their profits rise, so do the stock values. Which are owned primarily by the richest 5%. As more United States wealth rises to the top, the middle and lower classes inevitably suffer. This reduces the potential tax reveue drawn from those brackets. At the same time, it wreaks havok on middle and lower class communities and increases the need for financial aid. Not to mention the spike in crime because of it. There is a dominoe effect to consider. IT CAN'T WORK THIS WAY. But our leaders refuse to acknowledge this. Instead they come up with one trick after another to milk the system and screw the majority. These decisions are heavily influensed by the 1% club. Every year, billions of federal tax dollars are diverted behind the scenes back to the rich and their respective industries. Loans from China have been necessary to compensate in part, for the red ink and multi-trillion dollar transfer of wealth to the rich. At the same time, the feds have been pushing more financial burden onto the states who push them lower onto the cities. Again, the hardship is felt more by the majority and less by the 1% club. The rich prefer to live in exclusive areas or upper class communities. They get the best of everything. Reliable city services, new schools, freshly paved roads, upscale parks, ect. The middle and lower class communities get little or nothing without a local tax increase. Which, they usually can't afford. So the red ink flows followed by service cuts and lay-offs. All because of the OBSCENE distribution of bottom line wealth in this country. So when people forgive the rich for their incredible greed and then praise them for paying a greater share of the FEDERAL income taxes, its like nails on a chalk board. I can not accept any theory that our economy would suffer in any way with a more reasonable distribution of wealth. Afterall, it was more reasonable 30 years ago. Before Reaganomics came along. Before GREED became such an epidemic. Before we had an army of over-paid executives, bankers, celebrities, athletes, attorneys, investors, entrepreneurs, developers, and sold-out politicians to kiss their asses. As a nation, we were in much better shape. Strong middle class, free and clear assets, lower crime rate, more widespread prosperity, stable job market, lower deficit, ect. Our economy as a whole was much more stable and prosperous for the majority. WITHOUT LOANS FROM CHINA. Now, we have a more obscene distribution of bottom line wealth than ever before. We have a sold-out government, crumbling infrastructure, energy crisis, home forclosure epidemic, 13 figure national deficit, and 12 figure annual shortfall. The cost of living is higher than ever before. Most people can't even afford basic health care. ALL BECAUSE OF GREED. I really don't blame the 2nd -5th percentiles in general. No economy could ever function without some reasonable scale of personal wealth and income. But it can't be allowed to run wild like a mad dog. ALBERT EINSTEIN TRIED TO MAKE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND. UNBRIDLED CAPITALISM ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK. TOP HEAVY ECONOMIES ALWAYS COLLAPSE. Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The American dream will be shattered. and thats just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world. Causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, and Bill are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE HUMANITARIAN. EXTREME WEALTH MAKES WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. WITHOUT WORLD PROSPERITY, THERE WILL NEVER BE WORLD PEACE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE. GREED KILLS. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman.. Of course, they will jump to small minded conclusions about 'jealousy', 'envy', or 'socialism'. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause. WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE.



I love it when stories hit the press about famous pianists or violinist having their hands and fingers insured for thousands of pounds – it is a reminder that everything has its price. Today’s Daily Mail however, has beaten all the other bizarre insurance policies I have come across.

Ilja Gort is a wine maker, and owner of Château De La Gardein Bordeaux. The vineyard produces 80,000 bottles of gold medal wine every year. So what is the most essential part of his business? His estate manager, the type of soil his vineyard grows in, the sun to ripen the grapes? You’ve guessed it, its none of these – it’s his nose!

While the tongue has only 5 areas of taste, the nose can distinguish millions of scents. Girt considers his own particular bugle to be essential in ensuring the quality of his wines, and has had it insured against loss of smell, and indeed in case loss of nose, for £3.8 million.

Now that’s one hell of a valuable nose, but not something criminals would want to kidnap for a ransom. As long as Mr Gort doesn’t stick his proboscis where it isn’t wanted, he should be ok.

It has occurred to me that David Beckham’s nickname was “Golden Balls”!

Wonder what he had insured?

Rigg holds hostage and tries to kill her with cleaver (Corner Shop Shock)

Good God, not the “Rigg” who runs the Corner Shop Site? Has he lost the plot?

No, this is another Rigg, but they share the same surname. However, some of you may have thought that Mr Rigg had run amok, such was his dissatisfaction with the lack of Conservative representation in the Borough...

Some of you may have also thought that the “Khan” quoted in said Rigg’s post referred to Mr Ahmed Khan of the Beacon and Bents Ward missing ballot box case.

Sadly for Curly and his Labour supporters, it is not. It relates to something completely different which is highlighted by the link at the end of this post.

When you read the original article, the “Khan” in question has nothing to do with South Tyneside, nothing to do with Ahmed Khan, and nothing to do with missing ballot boxes.

Clearly, certain people will stoop to any measure to deliberately inflate their own egos or propagate their own political view. This sadly is a case in question.

Its cheap, it’s poor and it demeans the writer.

It also follows a pattern of a man demanding a lost past and forlorn future.

I thought you had more decorum Mr Rigg – sadly you clearly don’t.

The post is the worst piece of deliberate innuendo I have ever come across.


Arthur C Clarke 1917 – 2008

Over 100 books

Hal says “hello”

Tuesday, 18 March 2008


A little piece in yesterdays Shields Gazette highlights another example of an element of society taking their welfare into their own control due to a dissatisfaction of existing structures which are supposed to represent them.

The owners of some of the town's Indian restaurants have come together to form the Bangladesh Welfare Association (BWAS), and will operate to encourage members of the Borough of South Tyneside who have Bangladeshi origins to become more proactive in the community.

Hopefully, this will include all elements of the regions structures, both social and political.

Thousands of people in this Borough feel that they are not being represented, particularly on a political front. The BWAS is another example of a section of society who feel that they have to pursue another direction in order for their voice to be heard and their community acknowledged.

How to delay bad news (Patent: South Tyneside Council)

Five years into the Iraq war, the situation is about as dangerous and as fluid as it ever was. Even Tony Blair, a man who referred the issue to God for tactical advice, is starting to admit that the decision to go to war may have been flawed.

The momentum for a public enquiry is beginning to once again pick up steam. However, it appears that Gordon Brown may have taken a tactical prompt from South Tyneside Council (TOPS, Tavistock Hotel development delay). Whilst acknowledging that an enquiry may be warranted “we believe that is not now”. So when will “now” be? Clearly after any election when the bad news that will emerge from the findings will be forgotten, buried and glossed over well before another election.

That assumes of course, that Gordon secures another term.

Hmmm……, no enquiry then.

Poll's Apart (1)

Backing up polls from the weekend’s papers, the Guardians ICM Poll has the Conservative Party (42%) 13 points ahead of Labour (29%). At the last election, Labour won with 36%.

If these figures were extrapolated to a regional remit, Labour would potentially be wiped out. However, that clearly won’t happen. Looking at South Tyneside, the Conservatives will struggle to field candidates in every ward, never mind drum up enough votes to make a difference. The likely winners will be the Independent Alliance candidates, but again their roster does not embrace all wards.

Regionally under fire and nationally criticised, those Labour candidates up for re election must be extremely worried about their seats. This is an area where the Northern Rock is viewed with pride and compassion – the perception is that Labour allowed it to become a victim of the financial wolves – nobody likes to see people loose their job, but they like it even less when they are made redundant at the hands of a Labour government.

There is a price to pay for incompetence, and local labour councillors are going to have to settle the bill!

Poll’s Apart (2)

Yesterday a YouGov poll in the Evening Standard (highlighted again in today’s Guardian) placed London Mayor candidate Boris Johnson 12 points ahead of sitting incumbent Ken Livingstone. Brian Paddick trailed in third. Embroiled in scandal after scandal, Ken has obviously passed his sell buy date and looks set to be taken of the shelf.

Why, hundreds of miles away in South Tyneside, should we be concerned about what happens in the metropolis of London, clearly an area which has no concerns about what goes on in our own Town Hall? Two reasons. Firstly, London sets the trend. The first city to introduce congestion charges predominately as a money making exercise, other cities and Boroughs are queuing up to milk the cash cow and impose their own schemes. The second – the Olympic Games 2012. With an influx of 100,000 construction workers expected over the next 3 months, and with billions of pounds sloshing around the city in building costs, consultancy fees and advertising revenue, the potential for corruption, mis-spending and white elephant projects has hit 10 out of 10 on the “problem” scales. In six years we may be not just looking at one “Dome” situation in London, but several, and it won’t be just London who will be expected to pay the cost – we all will.

So who is the right mind man to lead the capital forward? Sadly, none of those standing have so far shown that they have the capabilities to meet these challenges.

However, at least when Boris slips up, he’ll do it with flourish and aplomb!

Monday, 17 March 2008

A Stubborn Stranger to Political Correctness

So today’s Times describes 50 years of “Carry On” films. After 31 outings, 300 guests gathered to celebrate half a century of innuendo, titillation and “kiss me quick” humour.

Proving that this quintessential style of British mirth never dies, Ned Hudis (85), who was a screen writer for the first six films, said:

“Not many of us are left. We thought we’d better have the reunion this year. Next year it could have been a séance”.

As a child I have fond memories of the Carry On brand, and I defy anyone from that era (or todays) not to watch the films without a little giggle. They were harmless, they were funny and they starred some brilliant character actors. Who can forget the comic genius of the likes of Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey?

In 1992 a reprise of the series stalled with “Carry on Columbus” – it died a tragic death at the hands of the critics and was even less well received by the public. However, plans are afoot for one more outing. “Stars” such as Vinnie Jones, Shane Ritchie and Daniella Westbrook have been pencilled in for the project, loosely based on a British version of the Oscars. To be honest, this sounds like a “Carry On To Far”, but who knows, perhaps now is the time to once again inflict a specific and profitable element of British humour on an unsuspecting but very politically correct public.

Mike Myers got away with it with Austin Powers, so why can’t our own Vinnie give it ago?

3000 P45's

Despite having absolutely nothing to do with the fiasco surrounding the crash of Northern Rock, it appears as if the staff are going to bear the brunt of cost saving measures. Today’s Times reveals that the Bank faces being “shrunk to half its present size”.

Are the measures being taken to ensure the Banks survival? Are they part of an overall rescue plan? No, the cutbacks are the result of the need to satisfy European Union competition rules. Alastair Darling, a man loosely described as the Chancellor, will inform the European Commission of the “radical slimming down” plans today, though he has yet to inform the Bank staff or indeed the House of Commons.

Branches will close and up to 3000 jobs will be lost. Not because they have done anything wrong, but because unelected officials in Brussels demand it.

Now there’s democracy for you!

Number Crunching Northern Herald Style

This site has now passed the 10,000 visitor mark

Double Speak

Just a quick one to start the day of with. David Miliband, Foreign Secretary, has just been interviewed on Radio 5 over the recent violence in Tibet. When asked if Gordon Brown had any plans to meet the Chinese leadership to discus the issue, Miliband replied along the lines of “At the moment he doesn’t not have any plans to meet them”.

Microsoft Spell Check calls this “negation use”. I call it Double Speak.

Why didn’t he just say he doesn’t know?

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Whistleblowing and what rights do whistleblowers have?

Over the last few months I have received a series of emails to TheNorthernHeraldNewsDesk@Yahoo.Com asking for details on “whistleblowing” or how to raise issues which are causing people concerns as a result of who they work for, what they do, or in some cases, what they know. Not all are from the same person, and most are from outside this Borough. I always reply to such contacts, and if you have received one of these answers, you will know what I have to say on the issue. However, many people out there, particularly in the public work place, are not fully aware that they have a series of protections which not only guarantee their confidentiality, but also offer them legal and employment protection.

Let’s begin with the concept – what is whistle blowing? Whistle blowing occurs when an employee raises issues of an ethical or legal concern, particularly about the organisation they work for. This may relate to an instance where they know their employer has broken the law, engaged in an activity which has damaging consequences for the public or other workers, or where an individual within the organization has been involved in illegal activities i.e. awarding contracts to family members or accepting bribes for business contracts. In other words whistleblowing concerns the breaking of the law, but because you work for the people involved, you cannot raise your concerns directly with them.

Many people are actually afraid to “whistleblow” on their employers. However, what they don’t realize is that specific legislation exists to protect them. The main piece of law designed to help them is Public Disclosure Act 1998, which has also been incorporated into the Employment Rights Act 1996. If you believe an injustice has occurred or the law has been broken by the people you work for, then this Act will protect you from dismissal etc. Many large employers, particularly public bodies, now incorporate proactive whisteblowing procedures within employment contracts etc.

The scope of the act is also pretty specific – it doesn’t concern personal problems which you are having at work. To be more accurate, it does concern the following

A criminal offence

Failure to comply with any legal obligation

A miscarriage of justice

Endangering the health and safety of any individual

Causing environmental damage

The deliberate concealing of information which would constitute evidence of any of the above.

So who can you contact if you think a miscarriage has taken place? Clearly if your employer has already conducted a cover up, you can’t approach them. Police involvement should never be ruled out, and the media must always been considered strongly when you wish to raise issues. The benefit of this latter approach is that reporters will conduct discreet and background research to verify the information put forward, thereby distracting attention away from the true source. Any reporter worth his salt will also never reveal his sources.

How then, would The Northern Herald react to a contact from somebody who feels the need to whistleblow?

The procedure is simple:

The information would be looked at clearly and without bias.

If possible it would be verified without revealing or compromising the source.

With the full agreement of the source, the information would be posted on via the site, or in the case of very serious allegations, the press would be involved. This site would act as the intermediary.

If the source of the information changed their mind at any point, the information would be destroyed and the matter would end there.

When I return emails to people, I highlight the above. I also allow the text to be used as a legal document, thereby ensuring that I will honour the approach highlighted.

So that’s the law, but what are the practicalities? Many Council documents have passed across the news desk, and the sources have never been revealed. In some cases the sources are actually not known. Many relate to scanned documents, or hints as to where to look for information. Unless asked, I never reply to the approaches, and they are deleted once posted on.

An example of a scenario whereby the whole whistleblowing approach could be applied relates to South Tyneside Council and case of the missing ballot boxes. Somebody somewhere, knows what actually happened to these boxes and their contents. For legal and employment reasons they may feel intimidated when it comes to revealing the truth as to what actually happened. However, should they wish to take matters out of the confines of their work place, the Public disclosure Act would protect them from any redress from their employer.

In these days of an increasing consideration for public accountability, whistle blowing is becoming a lot more common and a lot more acceptable. Indeed, it is now considered a duty and a commendable attitude both towards workers duties as an employee, but also towards an obligation to the community as a whole.


The 7 principles of public life as highlighted by the Common’s Committee in Public Life:


Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.


Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.


In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.


Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.


Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.


Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.


Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.