Fred the Shred has the last laugh !

Having spent an hour covering up the vulnerable allotments plants in anticipation of the forecast frost that didn’t ensue, I had a drink or two with my friend Daniel who is taking a break from journalism to write scenarios for the London-based Project Fear think-tank. He told me that the next major revelation will focus on the near certainty of house values dropping by 50 per cent in the event of a Brexit. He has until Wednesday to come up with a reason for such a calamity, and seemed unabashed when I pointed out that it will be of academic interest only since we will by then be in the midst of war and genocide. That story, he said, didn’t “shift the polls”.

I enjoyed telling my pals about this ‘exclusive’ as we cleaned out the squabbling hens. But they seemed unimpressed, and seemed intent instead of banging on about the police investigation now being conducted into allegations that the Conservatives broke spending rules in the general election. Apparently letters in the name of our dear leader were sent to homes across the country and included specific references to relevant constituencies. Party spokesmen claim that it was a national brochure and therefore not part of the election campaign. Likewise the cost of battle buses and coaches for activists. Yesterday the Electoral Commission went to the High Court to gain access to withheld documentation, an action that could lead to prison sentences. Perhaps Boris will find access to Number Ten easier than he anticipated.

The dual activity of thinking and digging had by now exhausted us, and we retired for to the Eric Pickles hut for such sustenance as can be found on a Tesco bakery tray. Albert was keen to discuss the adjustment in EU migrant totals from 900,000 to 2.4 million, but given that they didn’t believe the original figure anyway most were more inclined to return to someone who once dominated our daily headlines. Fred the Shred is back in the news.

Scottish prosecutors announced yesterday that Fred Goodwin and other former RBS executives will not face criminal charges relating to the banks near collapse in 2008. The Crown Office had been investigating the decision by RBS bosses to sell shares in the bank in the months leading up to its collapse, which led to huge losses for investors and the insertion of £45 billion of taxpayers’money to prevent the bank from collapsing. Goodwin was criticised for his part in the crisis and was stripped of his knighthood. But it seems that there is “insufficient evidence in law of criminal conduct”. Interestingly a report in 2011 by the then Financial Services Authority found that “multiple poor decisions” had caused the crisis that brought the bank to its knees.

So it seems that good old Fred did nothing wrong, and presumably is now free to ask for the return of his title. Triggering a recession and robbing investors of their hard-earned cash seems wrong to us, but we confess to understanding little about the law and even less about bankers.

Perhaps none of it happened at all and all our libraries, care services, police and the NHS have suffered in vain. Perhaps Gorgeous George will any day discover that, like the EU migration numbers, our national debt was miscalculated. Perhaps Mark Carney was right – the recession to be triggered by Brexit will be the first in modern history.

But it’s Saturday so let us end on a positive note. Last night the Beeb was allowed by John Whi(pp)ingdale to screen the final day of the Invictus Games from Florida. At last our wounded servicemen and women are receiving the acclaim they so richly deserve. And it is all down to one young, caring man. Prince Harry is a true star, and his barnstorming final speech was incredible. No notes, from the heart and inspiring. And unlike our posturing politicians he has experienced the nightmare of armed conflict.

He probably doesn’t believe in an EU army either and if Boris could persuade him to campaign – Cripes!
QUOTE FOR TODAY ” When he resigned in October 2008 Fred Goodwin’s compensation was made up of a £1.29m salary plus £762,000 of pensions and benefits. In 2007, he was paid £4.2m including a £2.86m bonus. He also owned 2.53m shares in RBS, In January 2012 it emerged that he was also drawing payments worth around £700,000 a year from a pension pot then valued at £16m”…. Chris Green, Scotland Editor, Independent.


The mystery of Saddleworth Moor: who was ‘Neil Dovestone’?

One December morning, the body of a man in his 70s was found on this craggy outcrop in the south Pennines. Who was he, and did he come here to die?

On a desk in Oldham police station is a grey box file. Written on its lid is “John Doe”, beneath a photo of a grey track winding up a rocky moorland valley. I know the track quite well. It’s on Saddleworth Moor in Greater Manchester, and takes you from Dovestone reservoir at the bottom of the valley, to the smaller Chew reservoir, which, when it was built in 1912, was England’s highest, at 488 metres.

Close by, in Greenfield, lies the Clarence pub, built from the burnt-looking millstone grit that is used in most of Saddleworth’s older buildings. The closest pub to Dovestone reservoir, it’s popular with daytrippers, but when I drop in one spring afternoon the place is deserted save for a table of four men in their 60s, walkers sitting around their emptied lunch plates. Once the pub has cleared out, Mel Robinson, the landlord, comes and sits with me while I finish my pint. He speaks solemnly, wanting to focus on the facts of what happened that afternoon five months ago.

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The Queen merely spoke the truth !

Regular readers will know that our Canadian millionaire Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, is not one of our favourite people. Unlike his predecessor, dear old Mervyn King, who once told me that above all else he distrusts politicians who “say one thing and do another”, he is a consummate political animal. Yesterday he chose to enhance his standing with his boss by declaring that a Brexit could lead to a recession. Perhaps he has forgotten that we have just endured the worst recession in recent history despite being an EU member. To be fair it wasn’t caused by Aunty Merkel et al but by, er. Bankers. But the timing of his intervention suspiciously served to take attention away from the revelation that the official number of EU migrants arriving here between 2011 and 2015 of 0.9m was somewhat understated – the real number was 2.4m. Truth, it seems, is becoming an increasingly rare commodity.

We were mulling this over as we cleaned out the squabbling hens this morning. Given their age it is perhaps inevitable that my fellow madmen are old fashioned. They cut their teeth in an age before spin-doctors were invented, and still cling to the notion that the truth will out. The tendency revealed itself again as the wind sent caps flying in the direction of Manchester airport. They seemed genuinely shocked at the news that a new wave of EU regulations to crack down on our kettles and toasters were being held back until after the Referendum until a nosy reporter found out about them and decided to spill the beans.

Lest we forget the Brussels bureaucrats have already imposed on us bulbs that are too dim and take an age to warm up, and vacuum cleaners that lack the oomph to clear our hut of dust in the unlikely event of our ever attempting to do so. None of which is all that important in itself, but it does raise the question as to why, if they cannot even decide such trivia, we need our masses of pontificating MPs at all.

All this idle speculation helped to pass the time as we lugged corn and hay about, and before we could say Eric Pickles we were gathered in the hut for our doughnuts. Here the subject of truth emerged again for my pals are highly indignant about the press hoo-hah regarding the supposed indiscretion of the Queen. It seems that microphones picked up a conversation Her Majesty had at the first Buck House garden party of the year with Commander Lucy D’Orsi, the senior police officer in charge of the Chinese state visit last year. Responding to the commander’s account of the “testing time” she had experienced, the Queen said that some of the Chinese officials had been “very rude”. She added that their behaviour in walking out of a meeting had been “extraordinary”.

Shock and horror from the politicians. Why? Perhaps it was the unfamiliar experience of being confronted with truth. Yes it was unforgivable that the media decided to use technology to intrude on a private conversation, but the fact remains that the Queen was absolutely right to express her dismay over aspects of the Chinese state visit, a stiff awkward event that had signified our humiliating collusion with a totalitarian regime. Prince Charles had revealed what he thought of the Chinese leadership by staying away from the official banquet but the monarch had no such escape. She was forced into an inappropriate situation by her ministers whose only concern was to curry favour with people who are to democracy what our 20-stone local bartender is to hang-gliding.

Those of a republican inclination sometimes ask what it is that makes our unelected royals different from the leaders we elect. The answer is they tell the truth!

And if the example of Prince Harry with his Invictus Games is any indication, they actually do good!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” Corruption can no longer be described as a cancer in the political system. It is the system”….New York Times.

Public support has saved the Beeb !

The return of the sun is always greeted on the allotments with the sort of delight one experiences at finding a space on the hospital car park. And there it was as we arrived this morning – suddenly the damp and dull rhododendrons of yesterday were a blaze of glory. It was almost akin to seeing Jeremy Corbyn reappear in a Boy George suit, and it lifted our spirits in no uncertain manner.

This it was that we cleaned out the hens in a relaxed, leisurely manner and retired to the hut without a care in the world, an attitude enhanced by the news that Gorgeous George has let it be known that the treasury is preparing contingency plans to ensure financial stability in the event of a Brexit. Of course that will be academic should the World War and genocide promised by our dear leader ensue, but so upbeat was our sun-induced mood that we were prepared to be grateful for small mercies.

Talking of which it was perhaps inevitable that today’s promised plans for a “radical overhaul” of the Beeb was the main topic of speculation as we staged our version of an Eric Pickles breakfast. We have been banging on for weeks now about rumours that John Whittingdale was planning to emerge from his dungeon to wipe our main source of uninterrupted entertainment and balanced reporting from the face of the earth. If the stories leaked to this morning’s comics are any indication there appears to have been a change of heart. Whether this is due to the threatened rebellion by Tory MPs or the outrage of Strictly fans led to believe that their addiction would have be satisfied in the small hours is less than clear. But either way it sounds as though our dear leader will not be getting another horse from Rebekah any time soon.

Of course it is possible that like Newcastle United supporters who just two weeks ago sang of the great escape, we may be rejoicing prematurely. But as we understand it there is to be no Governmental overseeing of programme scheduling or content. The new 13-member BBC Board will include seven BBC appointees. The licence fee will rise in line with inflation, evasion will remain a criminal offence and the iPlayer loophole will be closed. Best of all there will be no infuriating commercials.

We have never blindly defended every aspiration of our state broadcaster. The leaked documents suggest that it will be forced to reveal the pay of “stars” earning more than £450,000 a year, and we say quite right too. Rumours have it that the likes of Gary Lineker, Chris Evans and Andrew Marr take home more than one million pounds of public money and we regard that as scandalous. The BBC has argued that transparency could lead to departures – we can only reply by wondering who it is waiting to match such largesse for what are essentially front men.

We shall await the official version with interest. Right now it seems distinctly possible that for once the great British public has summoned the courage to defy the politicians who take their Uriah Heap-like obedience for granted. Perhaps like us it has noted the outcome of political meddling with our other great institutions?

In our patch it has just been announced, to public fury, that the central Post Office is to be moved into a branch of W H Smiths. It is ridiculous nonsense born of mistaken ideology and can only result in a huge deterioration in service, not to mention claustrophobic overcrowding.

They choose to speak of wars. Perhaps at last the people have decided to give them the taste of one?
QUOTE FOR TODAY: “I have no wish to hobble the BBC. I’ve always made it clear that editorial independence is an incredibly important principle”…..John Whittingdale, Culture Secretary.

Is the EU really dictating the shape of your bananas?

Boris Johnson says EU laws about vacuum cleaners and bananas are ‘crazy’. We take a look at whether he is right

Launching the Vote Leave battlebus with an impromptu speech in Cornwall, Boris Johnson has listed several factors he said mean the Brexit camp had “right on its side” and 24 June – the day after Britain’s EU referendum – would prove to be “Independence Day for Britain”.

Brandishing a Cornish pasty (rather ironically, one of more than 60 British food and drink products that have protected geographical status under EU law, meaning they cannot be ripped off by imitations made elsewhere), Johnson said it was “absolutely crazy that the EU is telling us how powerful our vacuum cleaners have got to be, what shape our bananas have got to be, and all that kind of thing”.

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Receptionist ‘sent home from PwC for not wearing high heels’

Nicola Thorp says she was told to leave on her first day at City accountancy firm after refusing to wear shoes with a 2-4in heel

A receptionist claims she was sent home from work at a corporate finance company after refusing to wear high heels.

Nicola Thorp, 27, from Hackney in east London, arrived on her first day at PwC in December in flat shoes but says she was told she had to wear shoes with a “2in to 4in heel”.

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British justice in the dock

Don’t panic! The voice of Corporal Jones rang around the allotments this morning as we considered the claim by our dear leader that Brexit means war. He forgot to mention who the likely assailant is, but it is easy to imagine the massed ranks of the Luxembourg army already massing along the French coast. But we are not doooomed as Private Fraser would undoubtedly suggest – we codgers stand ready with our pitchforks to prove that they don’t like it up ’em. We are less confident about tackling ‘Dave’s’ genocide, and are wondering why this wasn’t included in his £9m brochure. Perhaps that military genius Liam Fox is right to suggest that he made the whole thing up?

But as we cleaned out the hens we quickly moved on from the comic opera that the EU referendum campaign has become. Boris was surely right to declare that Project Fear has become Project Armageddon, and we noted with interest the outcome of a survey released by Ipsos-Mori showing that almost half of the citizens of Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden want their own referendum. Unsurprisingly Poland have no such desire, and the Greeks are too busy rioting to even consider it. Perhaps the whole Cameron v Boris contest is an academic one since all the signs point to the EU coming to an untimely end, with or without Britain.

The rain was back this morning and we were glad to escape to the Eric Pickles refreshment emporium. And after more ribaldry concerning the Queen and Mr Cameron forgetting to check whether the microphones were switched off before letting their hair down on the subject of the pesky Chinese and Nigerians, we turned to something of real substance and concern.

Back in August 2014 Cliff Richard’s Berkshire home was raided in his absence in a live broadcast. Helicopters circled overhead as a near-army of armoured police officers forced entry. The circus was subsequently slammed by the relevant police and crime commissioner as having “certainly interfered with Sir Cliff’s privacy in a way likely to cause unnecessary distress”. But in no time at all the police had revealed that they were investigating a claim of a sex crime in the 1980s. Guilty until proved innocent!

Since then the singer has been interviewed twice, each occasion being publicised widely. No charge of any kind was made. By now the affair had all the hallmarks of a witch hunt. Now we learn that the file of evidence has at last been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service which will consider “whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction”. Note the words – they carry a clear implication. We have no idea whether anything untoward happened 36 years ago, but of one thing we are sure. Until such time as the police force concerned had clear evidence to place before a jury they should have made no public statements, let alone staged raids in conjunction with the BBC.

If this is how someone in the public eye is treated heaven help the rest of us. But surely a police force would not have done any of this if it didn’t have cast-iron evidence. Surely we are talking here of an arm of the law for whom fairness and integrity are bywords. Sadly not.

The force in question is the South Yorkshire Police. A few nights ago a two-hour documentary released in the wake of the Hillsborough inquest revealed a story of lies, cover-ups and corruption on a breathtaking scale. And now we learn that the very same body may have been implicated in similar conduct in regard to the miner’s strike. Even during the inquest senior officers attempted once again to implicate Liverpool supporters despite knowing that they were peddling lies. The current chief constable has been suspended. To quote Andy Burnham, the South Yorkshire Police force is “rotten to the core”.

Their behaviour toward Cliff Richard is improper and unjust. If the reputation of British justice is to be left in hands such as theirs it is doomed to eternal damnation.
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” It would be inappropriate to comment while the matter is still under review”…Spokesman for Sir Cliff Richard.