Archive for March, 2013

‘A shameless betrayal of victims of press abuse’

15 Mar

Let’s quickly remind ourselves what happened with the Leveson Inquiry.

Lord Justice Leveson was hand-picked by David Cameron to conduct a public inquiry into various allegations that people’s phones had been hacked and that the ladies and gentlemen of the Fleet Street had behaved improperly.

Cameron said that he’d implement Leveson’s findings unless they were ‘bonkers’.

Leveson then proceeded to shine a very bright torch into the media sewer where we saw repulsive creatures like Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks and Paul Dacre summoned to give evidence and experiencing worrying outbreaks of highly convenient memory losses, particularly about who authorised what.

Various celebrities also appeared at Leveson, with the likes of Charlotte Church telling us how her sex life has been scrutinised in minute detail, her parents harassed and her phone tapped, followed by the families of services personnel killed on active duty saying their phones had been hacked and tabloid hacks had harassed and intruded on them and their grief.

It was a disgusting, sordid story of a media completely out of control.

The catalogue of shame included literally hundreds of illegal acts and collusion with rogue Police officers, and as a result there are now dozens of serious cases waiting to be tried  -  including cases against (David Cameron’s former press officer) Andy Coulson and (David Cameron’s Chipping Norton neighbour) Rebekah Brooks. *insert smiley face here*

Since Operation Weeting began in 2010, six former News of the World features and show business journalists – including two currently working for the supposedly cleaned-up Sun have been arrested. Only this week another four former Sunday Mirror senior journalists were arrested and charged with conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages. By my reckoning more than 60 journalists have been arrested, cautioned or charged.

So in light of this endemic corruption and malpractice, with dozens of arrests and court cases pending, you’d imagine that our politicians might look at laws to stop this happening again.


David Cameron, presumably breaking off sweating about how his friends are going to fare in the criminal courts, pulled the plug on cross-party talks about regulating the press this week.

In doing so he chimed in perfectly with the Newspaper Society, the umbrella group for the press which thinks we should be grateful for the fact that

the industry has spent many weeks in negotiating a new independent system of self-regulation, based on the Leveson principles, which provides £1m fines and the toughest system of regulation in the western world’.

So we’re to trust the same people who were caught red-handed to draw up a system to regulate themselves?  Seriously?

Apparently our Prime Minister thinks they are.

In doing this Cameron is breaking his word, given to many victims of press malpractice, and putting his own narrow political interests against both the national interest and the broader public interest.

Since Lord Leveson, Hacked Off and most reasonable people favour an element of statute to ensure that a new press regulatory body is free from industry interference - and only newspaper proprietors and a few Tory politicians stand against that - Occam’s razor applies.

Because the only credible explanation for Cameron’s behaviour, described by Hacked Off ‘a shameless betrayal of victims of press abuse’ is the simplest one:

He’s simply looking after the interests of people who fund and support him, including Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers, Viscount Rothermere, Richard Desmond and all the other right-wing proprietors, whose newspapers are perpetual election agents for the Conservative Party.




Gig Review: Status Quo, Glasgow Academy, 10th March 2013

12 Mar

Status Quo: Rossi, Parfitt, Lancaster, Coghlan.

The 2012 noise that the original Status Quo line-up would reform to play a final set of gigs had bones, so here we are in a snowy Glasgow after a thirty-year hiatus.

It’s easy to sneer at Status Quo and lots of people do - the ‘only know 3 chords/Dad-rock’ brigade – but they’ve had 64 hit singles, made 106 ‘Top of The Pops’ appearances, 22 top ten records and only The Rolling Stones have had more hit albums in the UK charts. And who opened Live Aid in 1985?

Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt reunited with singer/bass player Alan Lancaster and drummer John Coghlan to rekindle the line-up which made a mark with late 60’s psychedelia ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ then gradually morphed into a heavy blues rock outfit. The frantic four lasted well into the 1980s before a train-wreck of acrimony and ugly legal wrangling.

Tonight that’s all pushed aside by a frighteningly loud PA, vintage tunes from the late 60s and early 70s and a boisterous crowd of late middle aged men and women reconnecting with each other and with a love for the Quo.

Alan Lancaster’s poor health condition sees him visibly unstable on his feet but his playing is unaffected and he takes lead on opener ‘Junior’s Wailing’. It’s quickly clear that the band will revisit old school songs, with nothing more recent that 1976 played. Lancaster stays front for ‘Backwater’ and ‘Just Take Me’, by which time it’s clear that the musicians who produced some of the finest heavy rock and roll ever made still have both the goods and great affection for each other.

It’s joyous to see and hear.

‘Is There A Better Way’, ‘Rain’ and ‘Big Fat Mama’ are bellicose, ‘Railroad’ and ‘In My Chair’ rumble along like a Soviet tank parade and the crowd, including the Smith boys, bobs, jumps and roars approval, firing up the ‘Quo-oh-oh-oh-oh’ chant at every opportunity.

The sing-along version of ‘Bye Bye Johnny’ brings the show to an end and rather than sadness at the fin de siècle, the mood is celebratory, defiant and buoyant.

Happy, happy days………………..

Set List:

Junior’s Wailing


Just Take Me

Is There a Better Way

In My Chair

Blue Eyed Lady

Little Lady

Most of the Time

(April), Spring, Summer and Wednesdays


Oh Baby

Forty-Five Hundred Times


Big Fat Mama

Down Down

Roadhouse Blues


Don’t Waste My Time

Bye Bye Johnny

Bankers, Kleptocrats and Bonapartes

05 Mar

‘We will bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector.’

That’s an opening pledge from the Coalition Agreement, the joint platform on which the Conservative and Liberal Democrats formed their governing Coalition nearly three years ago.

How do we think that’s gone, so far?

Late last week it was announced that our old friend Stephen Hester will trouser a £2.04m bonus for last year as part of his work for RBS. Eric Daniels, his counterpart at Lloyds Banking Group, is to receive £1.45m.

Yet for both RBS and Lloyds, the majority shareholder is us, the taxpayer.

So let’s recap: we have a government put together around a specific committment to ‘tackle’ bonuses; we have two banks owned by the taxpayer, and we have two chief executives wanting nearly £3.7 million for running two failed institutions at a time when there is a three year pay freeze for public sector workers and every area of public spending is being slashed; surely the government has no choice but to intervene?


In fact this very day, George Osborne is participating in the EU’s Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) and will be arguing that capping a banker’s bonus at 100% of salary  – or 200% if shareholders agree - is an anti-competitive measure.

Don’t laugh, he’s actually doing that. Right now.

So despite the Coalition Agreement under which we are being governed and which put Osborne in Number 11 Downing Street, wee George is somehow arguing that a bonus of over double your salary – I’ll say that again, more than double – is acceptable.

The fact is we are now living in a kleptocracy, seemingly too bovine to care even when we are being blatantly lied to and misled by elected politicians.

The Tories and Lib Dems don’t want to tackle the bankers for different reasons: the Tories because the bankers fund their political party; the Lib Dems because they want Labour, and not the bankers, to be blamed for the economic crisis which engulfs us every day.

Bob Diamond, chief executive of Barclays is in line for £8m; Stuart Gulliver, the chief executive of HSBC £9m.

Yet,  as Neil Finn wrote, ‘you turn right over to the TV page’.

We are being held hostage by the financial sector, yet we have no influence or control over it.

That’s not just a recipe for disengagement from democracy, it’s a sure-fire way to ensure we get a catastrophic re-run of 2008/09 sooner than any of us imagined.

In reference to Napoleon and his nephew Louis Bonaparte, Karl Marx observed that history repeats itself, “first as tragedy, then as farce”.

Perhaps he had the British economy in mind when he wrote that.

The end of an era: a split in the Right which will reshape British politics

01 Mar

Lord Snooty: losing it?

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Eastleigh by-election result, but above all it spells serious trouble for the Tories.

Let’s face it, when your MP tells lies for a decade, is going to prison and may well have coerced his partner into an illegal act you’d expect voters to react badly.

That they didn’t is a testament to three things:

 1. the enduring ability of the Lib Dem machine to fight effective by-elections.

2. Eastleigh being a genuine Lib Dem stronghold: the Liberal Democrats hold every council seat and it’s usually a straight Westminster fight between them and the Tories. (NB The Labour vote has never been above 24%). 

3. The Tories stupidly pinning their 2015 electoral hopes on a collapse in the Lib Dem vote – last night’s result poured a bucket of icy water over that thought.

And make no mistake, third place is utterly disastrous for David Cameron and his Party leadership.

This is a seat the Conservatives expected to win, reckoning that Lib Dem voters would stay home or slew off towards either Labour or UKIP, while the Conservative vote held up enough for them to win by default.

As it was the Liberal Democrat share did fall; by 14.5%.

Problem was the Tory vote also fell by 14%, letting UKIP into (a worryingly respectable) second place.

The Conservatives fielded a supposedly strong local candidate, threw money and agents into the seat, sent Osborne, Boris Johnson et al down there campaigning…….all to no avail.

On the odd occasion their candidate was let out of her cage, she told us she wanted the UK out of Europe completely and opposed same sex marriage – she is precisely the sort of hard-line suburban bigot who could see off UKIP’s hard-line suburban bigotry.

Or maybe not.

It seems that in southern England UKIP are now the recipients of the ‘none of the above you’re all the same’ vote which once went to the Lib Dems.

The chatterati of the Tory press and backbench knuckle-draggers will now agonise over the need for Cameron to get tougher on immigration and press harder for a move even further to the right, supposedly to marginalise UKIP.

The beauty of this for progressives is that this is precisely the wrong electoral direction for the Conservatives. If they do that, they’ll reduce the chances of taking those Lib Dem seats they need to avoid heavy defeat in 2015. 

Seats like Eastleigh.

The reason the Left can be quietly pleased about two right wing parties taking almost half the vote, is that this heralds a split on the Right for the first time ever in modern British politics.

I’d never underestimate the capacity of the ruling class and their political foot-soldiers to adapt to changing political conditions.

But the rise of a credible electoral home not just for racist cranks, but for disaffected Tories and others sick of an unaccountable, bloated European Union spells big trouble, above all, for the Conservative Party.

It makes previously ‘safe’ Tory seats into marginals and upsets previously fixed calculations about targetting activity and money.

Having watched the SDP help deliver the 1983 and 1987 elections to Margaret Thatcher, we’re now looking at UKIP presenting an analogous problem to the Conservatives, who already couldn’t win outright in 2010 despite everything in their favour.

Lolz, I think the young folk would say…..


Stephen Smith: writer

Rants, rambles and other assorted thoughts

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