Sunday, September 30

At The Going Down of The Sun

Picture by Peter Troy
As the sun sets in County Durham on the evening of Sunday 30th September we briefly pause to reflect on an eventful month and promise that those that have upset us will, in the new month, be left in no doubt of the power and influence of blogging. The Editor is confident that having today reached the mature age of 54 he is a very ready able and willing British Subject.

Booker on Brown on Britishness

Not that we counted but, according to one report, Gordon Brown mentioned "British" or "Britishness" no less than 71 times in his conference speech last week. It takes Christopher Booker in his column today, however, to illustrate exactly what this means in practice to our Prime Minister and his Labour government. Read the piece by Dr Richard North on posted on EU Referendum.

Patientline -The End

Patientline PLC the troubled hospital communications company that we have been monitoring since April admitted at its fraught AGM on Thursday that it is in urgent talks with banks regarding restructuring its balance sheet (again) because of growing liquidity problems. In other, more simple words, is about to go bust!
The reason is as we have pointed out on this blog more than a few times (see labels below) is that Patientline's vastly over paid Directors and senior managers got it badly wrong. They over expanded the company, over priced the product and under performed on the quality of the service - currently over 20 per cent of the equipment in the 150 hospitals in which Patienline operates is in some way faulty.
The company, which achieved pre-tax losses of £30.2 million, admitted its shares are now virtually worthless (less than one pence each); the cash flow is at a critically low level with suppliers queuing up to be paid.
The hard pressed ward and call centre staff who are paid little more than the minimum wage - with unobtainable high pressure sales inventives - are either leaving in droves or calling in sick as a direct result of the vast quantity of daily complaints from ward staff and patients.

Amazingly a Patientline spokesperson said on Friday: ''there has been a reduction in incoming call revenues as a result of a challenging operating environment and the recent instruction by Ofcom, whereby a message must be played to customers at the start of calls informing them of the cost of the call.'' So there you have it Patientline's failure is a result of not understanding their customers and consumer legislation!
Since Patientlines demise is now inevitable there is an urgent need for the Government to establish non-profit organisations to deliver the 'patient power' service (a Blair legacy) that Patientline have quite spectacularly failed to do.

The Sunday Quote

''Always forgive your enimies. Nothing annoys them so much.''

Oscar Wild (1854 -1900)

Friday, September 28

The End of Week Quote

Tony Benn the veteran left-winger in Bournmouth on our 'government' - the EU: " a group of people who are not elected, cannot be removed and don't have to listen to us".

Thursday, September 27

Best Left to Politicians ?

By Peter Troy

What do the the following business pressure groups have in common: The Federation of Small Businesses, Confederation of British Industry, British Chambers of Commerce, Forum of Private Business and the Institute of Directors?
The answer is that none of those business organisations have made any clear statement on the specific issue of a referendum on the so called ‘Reform Treaty’ which is, in all but name, a new constitution for the EU and thus also for the UK.

Why are the representatives of the nation’s business community curiously reticent on this vital issue when on the other hand the trade Union movement has been very vocal? The answer, in part, is buried in the key issue, that of the opt-out (or otherwise) negotiated by Tony Blair of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, this being an annex to the treaty.

At the recent TUC Congress Union leaders took the issue head on. The Prison Officers Association, RMT, and GMB, dealt a sharp rebuff to Gordon Brown. Although they stopped short of also pledging to campaign to any future "no" vote, it was made clear that, if the government does not change its position on the Charter opt-out, they will in fact join a "no" campaign.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights is also matter of some concern to both the representatives of the corporate business world the CBI as well as the FSB, the largest organisation representing the nations 3 million small businesses; both organisations are concerned as to whether the opt-out that Tony Blair claimed to have secured is in fact enforceable in law.

The FSB goes as far as to comment that: ''It would be a huge step backwards for us to sign up to this treaty if it meant surrendering our hard-won economic advantage over our neighbours in Europe.'' Though the FSB specifically added that: ''Our 210,000 members do not see the internal workings of the EU as being a priority for action''. Well that is probably true since FSB branch delegates, on behalf of their members, have twice voted to persuade the government to leave the EU at the Federation’s annual conferences (in 1995 and 2001).

The drivers of the Trade Unions position, however, are angered at the opt-out for British workers from the EU Charter. This, they claim, will give their counterparts in the other 26 member states increased rights to take industrial action – in particular, the right to strike. The GMB in particular says its members are "bitterly disappointed" that the charter will not apply to British workers. It states that the government needs to show that it is committed to "Europe's social dimension as this is necessary for British trade unions' support for the future development of Europe. Needless to say, the Trade Unions position is somewhat at odds with other pro-referendum campaigners who oppose the treaty in principle. The unions, it seems, will be campaigning on a platform of "more Europe", rejecting the treaty because it does not increase the EU's powers sufficiently.

The business organisations are clearly united in the view that if the Charter opt- outs do apply then their position is best summed up in the words of Adam Powell, Press Officer at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI). ''The Reform Treaty is a political issue that in our view is best left to Politicians.'' A comment that one would expect from the corporate world (but not the small business community) whose vast resources is able to effectively influence the EU project.
The business organisations are less than keen to confront the issues that arise from the UKs continued membership of the EU, prefering to lobby from the 'inside'. This results in the organisations becoming a part of the culture of the EU in all its complex forms. A situation that has led this author to comment in the past that at least one organistaion (in my view) has become ''a part of the problem rather than the solution''.
In the meantime it is gradually emerging in the nation’s newspapers that if the ‘Reform’ Treaty (or the Lisbon treaty) as it is will soon be known will in my view for worse have far reaching consequences on the UK Economy, our legal system and not least how we are governed. The contents of this treaty will effect all businesses whether large or small, Trade Unions and for that matter the huge numbers of public sector employees; the issues are far too important to be left to our politicians to decide.

So there we have it; the debate is now raging from all angles, an important fundamental issue which affects all segments of our country and yet our Prime Minister is stubbornly refusing to keep his promise of a referendum.

The above piece was published by The Journal in the 'In my view' column yesterday.

Monday, September 24

The Sun has got his hat on .......

You all know the next words, and at least a few cheers for the The Sun which is taking the EU referendum issue on with a full-frontal assault in today's newspaper. The graphic sums up Brown’s attitude to perfection, putting two fingers up to the nation. He has the power, and he knows it – and is prepared to go ahead regardless. The full story posted on EU Referendum.

Statue of Crapper

Dr Helen Szamuely over on "One London" comments that "Hizonna" has resurrected the matter of statues in central London. He wants Mahatma Gandhi's statue in the already overcrowded Parliament Square. Very British Subjects has other ideas on who should be commemorated.

Well if there are to be nominations for appropriate British Subjects to have new statues erected in their honour in our Capital City the editorial team on this Blog wish to nominate Thomas Crapper. Mr Crapper was a small entrepreneurial Business man that mass produced the WC and ignored the prudish attitude of mid-Victorian society in the interests of public health - and indeed growing his own business.

Whilst Thomas Crapper did not invent the first flush toilet he very much advanced its popularity. He was a very shrewd businessman, salesman and self-publicist. In a time when bathroom fixtures were barely spoken of, he heavily promoted
sanitary plumbing and pioneered the concept of the bathroom fittings showroom.

Thomas Crapper's name has been taken in vane since his death in 1910 and now this Very British (plumber) Subject deserves public recognition. The Editor will make a note to mention the promoting of a statue of the late Mr Crapper to the Federation of Small Businesses; one feels a motion at the annual conference coming on.

Sunday, September 23

The ''Family'' Blog

Our expanding band of regular readers may have noticed substantial changes to this glorious Blog. The most important being that we have joined the new Umbrella Blog.
The new Blog aims to provide easily accessible reference to a "family" of blogs, allowing the reader to see at a glance what has been posted, and to give enough information about each post to enable readers to decide whether they want to read more. That way, Umbrella Blog is a convenient time-saver and a quick source of information, removing the need to trawl through a large number of blogs yet enabling readers to pick up information they might otherwise have missed. As the "family" of bloggers expands, editors aim through them to cover a wide range of subjects, providing a complementary overview of the issues of the day, with analysis and insights that the MSM rarely offers.
For a fuller explanation go here. I hope readers will approve of our new adopted family in the mean time this Blog will as the great man often said when the chips were down: '' Keep Buggering On (KBO)'
Peter Troy - A Family Blog Editor

The (Regular) Sunday Quote

''We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is awedge designed to attack our civilisation.''

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was the thirty-second (and longest serving) President of the United States.

Man of Letters

Letter Published Friday 21 September'07

In The Northern Echo


Don't Rock the Rock.

Confidence is a delicate thing. Savers are no longer queuing at the doors of Northern Rock for their money back because there is enough residual trust left in the government to believe, for the time being, the Chancellor's promise that the taxpayer will underwrite the finances of the bank.

The last thing in the world Northern Rock savers need is any doubt. from the EU Commission. This week Brussells has requested information from the British authorities over the government support of Northern Rock, concerned that it could violate EU state aid laws if support leads to distortion of the banking market.

The one thing the Chancellor did not make clear was that his guarantee to Northern Rock savers is conditional – and time-limited. The "conditionality" is that any guarantee made is valid only insofar that it conforms with EU requirements, for the time period in which it is allowable. If Northern Rock savers come to the conclusion that, at any time, the EU can pull the rug from under the UK government, then we may see queues re-forming outside the bank offices and this time there will be nothing that can be said which will turn them away.

If I still had any money in Northern Rock (or any money at all), I would be very worried.

Peter Troy, Sedgefield.

(With thanks to Dr Richard North)

Is MAD Driving you, Mervyn?

by Christoper Booker
Did Mervyn King know what he was talking about when he was grilled on the Northern Rock affair by the Commons finance committee last week?
The Governor of the Bank of England began by saying "the main point" he wished to make was that he had not been able to rescue the bank as he would have likedbecause of constraints imposed by four pieces of new legislation, in particularthe EU's Market Abuse directive (officially known as MAD).
The chairman, John McFall MP, impatiently brushed this aside, but Mr King insisted that, where as once he could have carried out a rescue "covertly", MADrequires all such operations to be done in openly.
The MPs showed no interest in the point Mr King felt was so crucial, any more than did the media, although the European Commission later stated that thedirective would not have prevented Mr King acting as he wished.
As it happens, the Commission appeared to be right. The chief purpose of MAD,directive 2003/6, is to end financial skulduggery by promoting "transparency" inthe dealings of companies and individuals, not central banks.
Indeed a Commission Regulation, 2273/2003, issued under the directive,specifically exempts transactions designed to achieve "stabilisation", of thetype Mr King wanted to bring about in the affairs of Northern Rock. In such cases, it is only necessary to reveal what is going on after stabilisation hasbeen brought about.Was the Governor correctly advised as to what MAD says?
He did at one point saythat the wording is "ambiguous" and that the constraints he referred to appearedto be an "unintended consequence" of the directive.
Did anyone from the Bank consult the Commission as to whether a "covert" rescueoperation was illegal?
The MPs spoke much of the "tripartite" grouping nowresponsible for such financial regulation - the Bank, the Treasury and theFinancial Services Authority - but clearly it should be seen as "quadripartite",with Brussels just as important as the rest.
That even the Bank's Governor seems confused by this labyrinthine system raisesyet more doubts about the curious new form of government under which we live. It makes a nonsense of the proudest boast of our new Prime Minister, that he gave the Bank its "independence".
France is considering rejoining Nato as a full member. A development hinted at by French Priesident Nicolas Sarkozy who said he wanted France to resume "its full place" in the organisation, insisting Nato was no rival to France's ambition of a robust European defence capability. What are the consequences for the UK? Read Defence of the Realm.

Saturday, September 22

The End of Week Quote

''The Reform Treaty is a political issue that in our view is best left to Politicians.''

An amazing comment by Adam Powell Press Officer at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in response to the Editor of this Blog's question on the view of the organisation on the question of a referendum on the EU 'Reform' Treaty.
Clearly one can assume that they are not that keen on people power. Next Wednesday the UK business world's view on a referendum on this vital issue will be explored in detail in The Journal. Readers should check the 'In my view' colum an irregular series by Peter Troy.

Community Support ?

They look like police officers, they sound like Police Officers and they often pretend to be police officers but, as the tragic story of the young boy who drowned while two community support officers (CSOs) stood by affirms, they most definitely are not Police Officers.
The posting on the New Umbrella Blog details the sad story of the young boy who drowned, while two CSOs who were summoned to help merely called for a trained police officer.

Friday, September 21

The Rock and the EU

At yesterday's Treasury Committee hearing, there can be no doubt about what the Governor of the Bank of England wanted to say. His difficulties were due to EU Market Abuse Directive 2003/6/EC, which stopped the Bank mounting a rescue operation. The dead hand of the EU was at the heart of the Northern Rock crisis. Dr North's article is posted on EU Referendum.

Thursday, September 20

London Assembly Demands Referendum

On a motion from Damian Hockney, Leader of the One London group (who else) the London Assembly has voted to urge to government to keep its manifesto promise to hold a referendum on the Constitutional Reform Treaty that will be agreed on in October at the Inter-Governmental Conference. Full story is posted on One London.

Hartlepool's Twilight Zone

If you want to enter the Twilight Zone then, says Councillor Steve Allison, go to a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council; a depressing thought even on a wet North Eastern afternoon.

Well Mr Allison as an elected UKIP Council Member should know all about 'twilight Zones'. Recently a motion by the ruling Labour Group in the Hartlepool costal town proposed a motion praising everything the Labour Government has achieved since 1997 (a long list we are told) was passed only because some Conservative Councillors voted with the Labour Group.

Details of this Alice in Wonderland world of local government can be read on Cllr. Steve Allison's Blog.

Wednesday, September 19

Biofuels - Not Green

The European Enviromental policy came under serious challenge today at the largely unreported Green Party conference in Liverpool.
There, delegates delivered a near unanimous resolution calling for a halt in the use of large scale biofuels – or "agrofuels", as they prefer to call them. The strength of the vote, say the Greens, reflects "a growing concern by the general public in the last six months that agrofuels are causing significantly more harm than good."

On top of the destruction of ecosystems, they say, agrofuels are precipitating a human rights problem of epic proportions as speculators are seizing arable land as well as evicting indigenous peoples from their forest homes. For detail on these points see ...Biofuels: The Five Myths of the Agro-fuels Transition.
Food prices are escalating, putting basic staples outside of the reach of families living close to the bread line - even in European countries, as evidenced by Italy's "pasta strike" last week and rising UK bread prices.
The Green Party is also showing a touching concern for its fellow man, talking about "competition between food and energy for agricultural resources", which is set to decrease the amount of land given over to food production as energy prices rise. This, they say, will cause global food shortages exactly when we should be boosting food production to maintain stable prices. This latter statement is exactly the sentiment of this blog.

The Great Debate Continues

If one tries hard enough anything is possible in British politics.
This week saw the amazing sight of UKIP leader Nigel Farage speaking at a fringe meeting at the Lib Dem Conference. Mr Farage was appearing at the event to support Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell's surprise call for a referendum on not the EU 'Reform Treaty' but on the whole question the UK's EU membership.

It has to be said that Nigel Farage's message that Britain should leave the EU to gain control of its own destiny did not go down well with all members of the pro-EU audience - which was to be expected.
"I shall treasure my Lib Dem conference pass over some years to come. I never thought that would happen," Farage told the meeting.The UKIP leader was sharing a platform with fellow MEP Chris Davies, the former leader of the Lib Dem group in Brussels.
Mr Davis said to the meeting said he did not believe there should be a referendum on the constitution treaty - as it was simply a "sensible" reform of the European Union and there was "nothing fundamental" about it. Errr right well......... !
However Davis did back Sir Menzies' call for a wider poll on the question of whether Britain should remain in the EU."I want to clear the air. I am glad that Menzies Campbell has come out with the position he has. Let's clear the air. Let's have a fundamental vote on are or are we out. Clear it off the agenda."He warned pulling out of the EU - as UKIP wanted - would reduce Britain's influence and relegate it to the sidelines in important negotiations. He said Mr Farage wanted to "turn us into the eunuch of Europe - he wants castration for Britain".
The eloquent Mr Farage hit back, saying: "It is a wonderfully clever inversion of the argument to pretend that it is patriotic to give away the government your own country."Surely the most patriotic thing to do is to be master of your own destiny - to have it your way and not be governed by someone else.
The UKIP leader said Britain should be free to negotiate its own bilateral trade agreements, arguing - to boos from the audience - that it was a "liberating, positive and modern thing to do".

Mr Farage also warned that not giving the people a say on the constitution would fuel the rise of "far right" and "extremist" parties across Europe. A point that the British media do not often refer to.
Many members in the Lib-Dem audience applauded UKIP's call for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU, prompting the UKIP leader to tell the Lib Dem delegates "it is not that awful to agree with UKIP occasionally". Well what ever next!

Tuesday, September 18

Plain Plots

Jos̩ Manuel Barroso, President of the EU commission, tells us Рvia the Lib-Dem conference yesterday Рthat "Europe is not full of hidden plots." What he means is the "European Union", but he is right about one thing Рthe "plots" are not hidden. For those who care to look, they are in plain sight. Read more ....

Troy's Short Briefs

The combined direct and indirect costs of membership of the European Union to every every man, women and child in the UK is over £1,000 per year.

The bare facts:
● Over-regulation costs Britain at least £26 billion per annum
● The Common Agricultural Policy costs Britain at least £15.6 billion a year
● The UKs accumulated trade deficit with the EU is £359.5 billion
● This year membership of the EU will cost the uk £50.6 billion net.

Monday, September 17

Lost Confidence

On this blog we have made the point many times that our politicians and corporate leaders have squandered our trust - they are no longer believed by the public since they have lied and spun the truth far too often.
The long queues outside the Northern Rock's branches depressingly confirm that the people of our country have lost confidence in the so called good and great.
Paradoxically the recent statements by both The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Chief Executive of Northern Rock and indeed the Chairman of the Financial Services Authority that Northern Rock investors have no cause for concern are as any expert in economics or commerce will confirm accurate. Yet the past few days run on the Bank in which over £2.5 billion pounds has been withdrawn will probably now cease to exist in 12 months, a buy-out clearly will now be forth coming. The most likely buyer being HSBC who have currently only a very small slice of the UK mortgage market.

Potential corporate raiders received a boost late on Sunday evening when the Bank of England pledged to keep the emergency loan facility in place after a sale.

At the end of the day the run on the Northern Rock Bank (or as we refer to it as the 'run on the rock') has been caused without doubt by a complete and utter lack of trust in our corporate and political leaders. We are witnessing on our high streets a very un-British phenomena to which the cure is simple but long term - a return of transparent credible political leadership.

School EU Debate

Congratulations to the Economics 'A level' students at the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle-up-on-Tyne who last week voted the withdraw from the European Union.

Following a heated but well informed and at times humorous debate the students debated the key issues of the UK's continued membership and concluded by a majority of 60 per cent to leave the EU.

The motion ''This house proposes that the UK leave the EU '' was proposed as readers may by now have guessed by the editor of this blog who following the debate commented to the press: '' Excellent debate excellent points and excellent result''.

The motion was opposed by Dr Christian Schweiger Lecturer in Political Science at Durham University.

Run on the Rock

The queues of worried customers on Streets of Britain's high streets outside Northern Rock Banks is due to a loss of confidence by its investors. Much has and is being written about the crises as can be found on Google News Links.

The 'take' on the 'crises' by this blog is that the run on the bank was caused by a series of badly handled media communications and an amazing lack of understanding of corporate commercial practice by the great British public which in turn was not appreciated by the Directors of the Northern Rock Bank. The volume of bank customers demanding their money back is now causing the bank to rock - shares this morning at 8.30 am - have dropped 32 per cent.

A worthy comment that can't be found elsewhere is ''Don't Panic'' from Arthur Dornan a Director of Independent Financial Advisers Carterbar based in Billingham in the North East of England.

Arthur specifically comments:

Northern Rock is a massive mortgage lender which receives a relatively small amount of funding from savers. It therefore borrows significant amounts from the money markets but due to the concerns about the USA sub prime mortgage market, lenders have been more cautious about investing in mortgage lenders and basically Northern Rock have been unable to raise enough money for their day to day needs. They have therefore had to approach the Bank of England for a loan.

The fact that the Bank of England has agreed to provide this is a very clear indication that they believe that Northern Rock is not likely to go bust.

At the Carterbar office we have had calls from investors and borrowers concerned about their position and have told them that they should not act hastily. However, huge queues at their branches suggest that investors are not prepared to take risks, and we have heard of one saver who withdrew £3.2m.

Rashly withdrawing money really is pointless. Such panic withdrawals can only make the situation worse but the fact remains that Northern Rock is a profitable business. They have caught themselves in the position of a small business who wins a lucrative contract which will pay a handsome profit in six months but needs to pay the staff each week, so they approach their bank for an overdraft.
So there we have it: Don't panic don't even act hastily. Northern Rock are this morning putting out the message 'crises what crises?'.

Sunday, September 16

The Appellant In Person

Click to enlarge

From the Editor's own Briefs.

Holding open the gate of the dock the security guard frowned and demanded ''this way''. ''Oh no'' I protested ''I am the Appellant in Person''. Judge John De Walford from his lofty position in court number 9 at the modern yet imposing Teesside Combined Law Courts intervened ''that's fine he commanded Mr Troy should sit on the council benches'' pointing to the end seat at the back row of the lawyers and other proffessional's three benches in front of the Judge. An usher showed me to my seat provided me with a jug of water and a glass.

Relieved that I was not in the dock and thus in a better position to argue my case I placed my carefully prepared papers on the long shiny bench in front of me. Looking round I observed the stern faces of the two Magistrates sitting aloof with the Judge. They looked out of place next to the scarlet robed Crown Court Judge in his horse hair wig and the Crown Prosecution Barrister (an amiable fellow) who I immeadatly nicknamed 'Rumpole'. In the seats normally occupied by the jury sat six Magistrates from Hartlepool who were observing the morning's session. One reporter (a charming young lady) from The Hartlepool Mail sat shorthand notebook at the ready.
The events that led me to the Crown Court to appeal my conviction of not filling in a Notice of Intended Prosecution, known as NIPs (see Revolting Action January 2007) following an alleged speeding offence. I was convicted last month at Hartlepool Magistrates' Court (see From the Dock - July 07).

The proceedings lasted 45 minuets 'Rumpold' addressed the court summarising rather well the situation that was before the Court. The narrow point of my appeal was really quite simple I had in fact given the required information to the Chief Constable not on the innocuous NIP form but in a letter of protest to the Chief Constable. When satisfied that he understood the case the Judge beamed at me: ''Well Mr Troy why did you not fill in the NIP form?''

Well your Honour I thundered: ''It is an Englishman's right to protest.'' I explained that at the time of my letter two very British Gentleman had made an application to the European Court of Human Rights that Section 172 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act which demands that motorists suspected of such heinous crimes as travelling a few miles an hour over the prescribed limit confirm that they were the driver of the vehicle on the date and time stated is contrary to their Human Rights. (British persons who by the way who are suspected of minor offences such are murder, rape theft, arson etc do not have to make such a declaration and are protected by our ancient right of silence).

His Honour asked a number of questions - I read out my letter to the Chief Constable from last January stressing that I objected to filling in the NIP form but nevertheless complied with the adequacy of the Road Traffic Act of 1988. In short I was very mildly protesting at the abolition of the right to silence for British motorists. During the exchange between my self and the Judge the six Magistrates moved their heads from left to right and back again as if watching a tennis match at Wimbledon.

The Judge and the two presiding Magistrates left the Court to deliberate. Taking a line from Alex Guinness in the 1950's Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets I lent forward to 'Rumpole' and remarked that ''I must confess to being a little curious as to the outcome of their deliberations''. Well I know I was not (like the character that Guinness was playing) on trial for my life but the £120 fine and costs imposed by their worships in July - to say nothing of the principle - was worthy of the mighty fight I was putting up. ''Oh'', said 'Rumpold' leaning back '' I think you have the day''

''All stand'' shouted the Usher in as commanding voice as she could muster. The six magistrates from Hartlepool all stood and then sat as if they were one. I remained standing. The Judged glared at 'Rumpold' and in speech that lasted some ten minutes detailed why the case in the lower court should not have been tried that I had in fact satisfied the requirements of the Section 172 Paragraph 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and in tones that could have been set to music confirmed that ''I find for the Appellant''.
Indeed ''I had the day''. Well hurrah for that I thought and very nearly said.
I sat down then immediately rose again the eyes of the six Magistrates - yet again as if one person - fixed upon me. ''I am'' I said ''grateful to your Honour, may I have leave to submit my expenses to the court.'' ''Indeed you may'' added the Crown Court Judge and for the lower court as well, clearly you have been very inconvenienced. Indeed I had. ''Thank you your Honour.'' I took a step to the left - bowed to His Honour and indeed the Royal Crest high on the wall behind him. Judge De Walford, much to my amusement, looked at me and added ''Well played''. The Six Magistrates looked from the Judge back to me and I felt their eyes following me out of Court Number 9.

I gave a sight nod to 'Rumpold' as I left with the satisfied knowledge that British Justice had been done and that the original allegation of speeding last November of a few miles per hour over the 40 limit had disappeared well into the mist of (my) legal argument.

The usher called ''next appeal case please'' I replied to her ''and I expect to win that one as well''. Understandably she look confused, but that will be an other story for another day.

The Sunday Quote

''Good bankers, like good tea, can only be appreciated when they are in hot water.”

Jaffer Hussein (1931-1998) A noteable International Banker, one time Governer of the Bank of Negara.

Booker Across the Pond

Christoper Booker today is published in the Wall Street Journal under the title, "The Big 'Terminological Inexactitude'" – a piece primarily written for American readers on the EU Constitutional Reform Treaty. A highly recomended read.

Saturday, September 15

Patientline's Penny Shares

Patientline the hospital bedside Telephone and TV provider who's failing commercial activities are closely monitored by this blog is due to hold its Annual General Meeting on 27 September.
There will be a large amount of unhappy investors at the meeting next week since Patientline's shares have now reached an all time low at a fraction over a whole 1 pence each; the year high was 9.5 pence .
One can feel sorry for the investors who have watched as Patientline's incompetent Directors and senior management throw their investors money 'down the drain' in arrogant defiance of what their customers and front line staff have been quite clearly saying to them for the past three years.
The company dramatically raised its charges in April 2007, but adverse publicity which this blog played a key part see links below) was humiliatingly forced it to reduce prices in August. Outgoing calls went up to 26 pence a minute, this was cut back to 10 pence a minute (to BT lines only) in August. But incoming phone calls are still charged at the rip off rate of a huge 49 pence a minute. At least 10 per cent of Patientline's bedside equipment is faulty at any one time; something which causes unacceptable stress in the hospitals where patient operates.
Staff absence due to sickness is at an all time high and resignations of key staff are a daily occurrence. This is undoubtably due to the pressure placed on staff directly as a result of the corporate operational failings of the company.
In a recent statement the Directors confirmed they are still looking for ways to sort out the company's huge debts (one understands that sentiment) of £85 million and that '' other ideas for the reconstruction of this debt are being explored". Well, one suspects at least one disgruntled share holder will be asking at the AGM if the lacklustre board members actually understand the needs of their customers; since they give every reason of not doing so.

Friday, September 14

Honouring the Covenant

This week has seen the launch of a political campaign by the Services charity, the British Legion called "Honouring the Covenant", demanding better medical care, swifter holding of coroner's inquests into the deaths of those killed in action, and more generous compensation. Dr North looks at some of the some wider issues on Defence of the Realm.

The End of Week Quote

This weeks end of week quote is the The Daily Telegraph piece picks up on what could well be one of those seismic issues which has the potential to turn the tide of the whole EU referendum debate.

Wednesday, September 12

How Do You Do?

Editor: Peter Troy

Very British (Political) Subjects

This blog provides comment on: British political issues, British history, the British media, British people and the British way of life.

Postings will be controversial, informative, entertaining, frequently disturbing and we (that's the Royal we) aim to be a tad thought provoking and indeed very British.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the Editor and do not necessarily, though they should perhaps, represent the views of any political party, organisation, think tank, media news outlet or person (living or dead) that is (or was) or is about to be formally associated (or disassociated) with the Editor.

Trade Union Members Revolting

An openion poll published yeaterday reveals that Trade Union Members will desert Labour at the next general election unless there is a referendum on the EU constitution.

A third of voters would consider voting for another party — enough for Labour to lose power, the YouGov poll said. The most powerful unions will this week demand a vote on the ''reform'' treaty. The GMB and rail leaders will put motions to the TUC conference on today to demand a referendum on the treaty.

Curiously business organisations have yet to make any significant comment on the debate for a referendum!

Sunday, September 9

Winning Doesn't Matter.

Matthew d'Ancona doesn't get it.

"Winning really matters," wrote the Tory leader in yesterday's Daily Telegraph. "Coming a respectable second will condemn Britain to five more years of waste, disappointment and failure." So obvious and yet still so often forgotten. All eyes are on Mr Cameron in the countdown to Blackpool, and rightly so. But the real question is whether his party and those who call themselves Tories want to win as badly as he does.

Yet we are told "Tories vow to match Labour spending"

No cutting back on spending and no worthwhile tax cuts. What is the point of a Tory victory?

From Sympathy to Suspicion

With so many vital issues for the British media to focus on it is a reflection of the soap opera focus of the British press corps that so much has been published about the 'Maddie affair'; where the tide of press comment has now dramatically turned against the Doctors McCann.

Whilst the death of a four year old girl, however caused is a tragedy; there is a need to balance that with the many other vital issues and events that affect the lives of British people. The fact that that balance has been missing, yet again, from the press is a reflection of how far editorial journalistic standards have fallen in the British press in recent years.

If one must read about the issue it is The Scotsman that provides probabley the best analysis of the current situation. The Maddie affair: From sympathy to suspicion

Coming Soon on this Blog

The Appellant in Person - how to convert a fine imposed by Magistrates of £60 (plus £60 costs) - all caused by that modern road side menace the Gatso cash collector - into an award of the same amout in costs from a Crown Court Judge.

Watch this space!

Of Busses and Brussels

MPs cling to their final power, to pretend that they're in power.
By Christoper Booker
Our politicians continue to show an extraordinary reluctance to admit that thereis an "elephant in the room" in the matter of how we are governed.Boris Johnson makes the disaster of Ken Livingstone's scrapping of Routemaster buses{pictured above} in favour of ridiculous, Continental-style "bendies" the flagship issue of his bid to become London Mayor.
Yet, as he coyly admits in The Daily Telegraph, "alas, I don't think that current legislation would permit me to reintroduce the Routemasters as they were". What he is too lily-livered to explain is that the law that would make itillegal to bring back the much-loved, user-friendly Routemaster is the EU's Busand Coach Directive, 2001/85.
"The government," we are told, "plans to introduce new pictorial health warningson cigarette packets," showing close-ups of diseased lungs and the corpses ofthose who have died from smoking-related diseases.
What we are not told is that "the government" that ordered us to do this is not the one we used to have in Westminster, but the new government we now have in Brussels, which laid down through directive 2001/37 just which shocking pictures we must place on our fag packets.
Again, when we are told that "the government" plans to introduce compulsory water metering, we are not told that the government proposing this is the EU -any more than that the reason our ministers cannot scrap their absurd HomeInformation Packs is because this would put them in breach of directive 2002/01on the "energy performance of buildings", issued by the EU to combat globalwarming.
Finally last week, just to bring home where our seat of government now is, therewas the campaign to stamp out food additives. When the Food Standards Agency was asked to introduce such a ban, to stop ourchildren behaving badly, it had to admit that it no longer has the power to make laws on food safety, because this has been handed over to head office, the European Food Safety Authority.
Presumably the reason that our MPs are so reluctant to explain how little powerthey have left to make our laws is that this might make us wonder why we bother to elect them at all.

Very British Warriors

The Warriors have finally arrived in Afghanistan. Posted on Defence of the Realm.

The Sunday Quote

''My Country, right or wrong is a thing that no patriot would think of saying, except in a desperate case. It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.''

G K Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

Chesterton considered himself a mere "rollicking journalist," though he was actually a prolific and gifted writer in virtually every area of literature. A man of strong opinions and enormously talented at defending them, his exuberant personality nevertheless allowed him to maintain warm friendships with people such as George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells with whom he vehemently disagreed. Indeed a very British writer.

From the (Senior) Editor's Desk

As our regular readers will have noticed the Blog has recently acquired a new talent in the form of North Junior who will shortly introduce himself on a link from a side bar though probably it will not include a picture since we do not wish to disturb too much.
The regular Views from (the) North Junior will add to the mix of thought provoking contents of our postings. Our loyal readers need not worry - we have no intention of converting to a tabloid format.

Saturday, September 8

A Self Serving Media Whore

Cameron uses many words to say little today. His advisors have scripted this diagnosis:

Today, the big question in British politics is about our society: how we tackle the family breakdown, the crime, the educational failure and the welfare dependency that are all part and parcel of the social breakdown that is disfiguring our country. Much of the answer is the same: give people more freedom and control over their lives, so they can exercise responsibility.

He is right. The big question is our society. His solution is also correct. We need more freedom. But freedom in this regard is not something you can legislate. Freedom in its most basic terms comes down to money. If I have money I am free to do as I choose.

So what can the government possibly do to make sure I have more money? Well perhaps cut down on public sector waste and a vast reduction of the welfare state so that we may keep that which we earn.

But where are the policies that tell me he knows this? Where is the "Small government, low tax" mantra we expect and demand from a Conservative leader? Until I hear the words "Extensive tax cuts" from this man I will not be a believer.

While the environment and social responsibility are things we all have a stake in
Simon Heffer is more in touch with what is worrying the average voter... Money, credit and housing.

For some time we have all known that things were too good to be true. We have all been living as if there were no tomorrow and suckers for every thing we can have now. We have also known that a crunch is coming and it is only a matter of time before we feel the effects of New Labour profligacy.

But why have we collectively been spending money we don't have? I can offer this... Some of us think that because we go to work we should be able to have those things that people who do not work cannot.

We the workers have done our bit. We have done things we hate for less than we deserve and we have had our money confiscated and abused. Who can blame us for throwing caution to the wind. With a society like ours who will jail a man in debt?

While the welfare state has ensured that we all have the basics, those who put in the extra effort do not see the rewards of doing so. The socialist drive for equality has worked alright. But equality never equates with fairness.


Why is this the lead item on the Telegraph website?

Second on the bill is "Mirren talks about sex life". I kid you not...

One would have thought
this would be front page stuff.

Never mind.. I mean it's only money hey?

Friday, September 7

A view from the North Junior.

In a Times report today we are told "Almost half of Britain’s mosques are under the control of a hardline Islamic sect whose leading preacher loathes Western values"

Tell us something we didn't know.

We are also told "Many had their studies funded by local education authority grants." Anyone surprised?
Melanie Phillips is still AWOL after summer vacation but I'm sure wherever she is she's working up quite a foam with which to start the new political season.

In a second report in the Times we learn of university degrees that
"may add nothing to a lifetimes salary":

"The expansion of university education has reduced the value of some degrees to zero, with recent male graduates in arts and humanities earning no more than those who left education after their A levels."

Thank you for flying Last Years Airlines. No doubt in one terms time we will be seeing reruns of the "one in four students drop out in first year" headlines. Makes you wonder why the call them "News" papers.

And so, when faced with a deadly threat from Muslim extremists preying on young Muslims who have no chance of getting a decent education or succeeding in industry (as if they were somehow different from the rest of todays youth) and a university system which achieves little more than masking a vast youth unemployment problem, you would expect the Tories to be leading the field in the media this week. At least you'd expect that under any other Conservative leader.

Were I in my normal flow of motivation I would descend into an incandescent rant about the inadequacies of the modern day Conservatives and their "leader" but today I feel no need. Helen over at
EUreferendum, clearly has more energy for rubbishing David Cameron than I today, which is quite unusual.

The problem is, it's a turkey shoot these days. You need a moving target to enjoy it. As a computer programmer I now have enough material to write a random Anti-Cameron Autoblog application. All I need do is an RSS newsfeed to the comments section of a Simon Heffer piece any time he mentions the C word. One can also take ones pick from here. What could I possibly add without descending into vulgarity?

But that would deprive bored bloggers of the chance for some typing practice and a chance to enjoy using all the delectable words from the negative end of the British lexicon.

End of Week Quote

And now for our carfully selected ''end of week quote".
''Politics is not fair. Labour is ahead in the polls, and Gordon Brown is seen as a statesman, while David Cameron looks inadequate. Yet Mr Brown's policies mostly consist of milking the productive sectors of our economy to pay ever more for the unproductive ones. ''
Simon Heffer – sounding off in his usual robust style in the Telegraph during the week. ''Our Simon'' notes that the Tories seem to be playing down the need for a referendum on the EU treaty, well fancy that!

Would you join up?

Last nights Newsnight reports that we are having difficulty holding on to experienced troops. No surprises there. They are being asked to fight harder for longer in increasing perilous parts of the world with very little support from the public and even less political support.

When I ask members of the public with regard to the complete inadequacy of army vehicles they say "Send people into stupid situations and they'll die." When I ask my MP I get the usual brush off... "I have raised this with the Secretary of State for Defence but to no avail". Hardly surprising then, that soldiers would defect to private organisations who equip properly and pay properly.

There is still every reason to join the armed forces in terms of the opportunities in and after service. All the best aviation and technical jobs prefer some exposure to armed forces because of the training and experience it offers. But balance that with the very real possibility of being blown to smithereeens in one of these contraptions for no reason other than MOD arrogance and indifference. It's a no-brainer.

I see remarks along the lines of "You have to accept there will be casualties if you send young men out to fight". These come from the public and generals alike. Why do I have to accept that soldiers die needlessly? Blind acceptance of the way things are is the mentality of dumb beasts. You might as well say "You have to accept if you do not have wings you will never take to the skies." It shows a distinct lack of imagination, ambition and care. Thankfully the Wright Brothers never shared this view.

You could expect this kind of nihilism from those with no stake in our society. Those who lack the will to see it succeed in it's mission to bring stability and prosperity to the forgotten regions of the world. Also from those who care for nothing just so long as the cheap Chinese imports keep rolling in; But when our top brass shares this same attitude and compounds it by sending our troops out in unarmored death traps, ignoring the vast design experience of the Israelis and South Africans in favour of their pet toys, one is hardly surprised that those who would be inclined to join up take a boring, but safe job in a call centre instead.

As with all things political in this age, apathy wins. If the government is not willing to take its wars seriously, if our brass accepts the death of troops so freely, if the public cares so little, why should anyone be asked to put their lives on the line? Furthermore, what is the point if we are going to surrender just for the want of some half decent trucks?

Soldiers are leaving because they feel the public no longer believes in their mission and that "society no longer recognizes their sacrifices". They are right. The prevailing view being that troops are "government troops" not "our troops".

In effect the government is no longer seen as acting on behalf of the nation and by proxy, the armed forces are not either. Someone-elses' government, someone elses' army, someone elses' war. When we lost our democracy we lost our country too.

Thursday, September 6

''Up Yours''

By Dr Richard North
The British government has no plans to hold a referendum on the new EU treaty, Miliband has declared.
He was speaking to a joint news conference with his Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos, prior to today's meeting of the foreign ministers in Portugal to discuss the new EU treaty."The position of the British government is that we should have parliamentary scrutiny of the reform treaty and not a referendum," Miliband added, then going on to say: "We are looking forward to the final signatures being put on the treaty at the end of the year and then proceeding to parliamentary scrutiny according to the well-established procedures of previous treaties."
And, as a parting shot, he told the journalists, "The Nice, Amsterdam and Maastricht treaties, as well as the Single European Act, were all approved by Britain's parliament".
Previously, EU commission president Barroso had expressed his "confidence" that the new treaty "could be agreed at a summit next month". He was speaking at a joint press conference with Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva, who "agreed" that the negotiations on the treaty should be wrapped up at the EU summit in Lisbon on October 18-19.
Silva said he was becoming "more confident" that it would be possible to conclude the reform treaty under the Portuguese EU presidency, so that the European Union could concentrate on other pressing matters such as its global role, the economy and climate change. "Europe needs more Europe not less Europe," he asserted. "Even big countries and rich countries can't go it alone, we have to work together," he said.
So there you are. Not one iota of movement, not a scintilla of concession - not that we expected either. These people have the power and intend to use it. They didn't exactly say, "Up yours," but they might just as well have done.

Taxman Receives A Final Demand

Disgracefully around 130,000 small businesses are still awaiting cheques promised as an incentive (and a very well publicised one at that) for filing PAYE returns online (a great help to the taxman (sorry taxperson).
To make the point The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has, we are deligted to report, sent the taxperson a final demand. The UKs largest member based business organisation has demanded that Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) honours its obligation to the scheme (sooner rather than later) which pays firms £150 to encourage them to file their returns on line. Something that will become compulsory in 2010.
HMRC says payments to business owners that complied with the taxpersons incentive will now be delayed until December. We on this blog agree with the statements of outrage from the FSB.

"It is a very different scenario when HMRC are owed money from small businesses," said a frustrated Bill Knox, FSB Taxation Chairman, a man well known for is forthright comments. "There is little room for a small business owner to tell the taxman, 'actually, it will take about four months to pay you because we’ve just been too busy’.
"What we are saying (continued Mr Knox) is don’t wave a carrot to small businesses if it’s going to be left in the air for months. The financial incentive may not be a substantial amount to larger businesses but is vital to smaller ones, and waiting over a quarter of a year for it is too long a time."

In contrast, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (formerly the DTI and indeed it does sound like a department from ''Yes Minister'') has been working hard to penalise business people who fail to pay on time since the introduction of late payment legislation in 1998.

Wednesday, September 5

''Your Fired''

From the other side of the pond a management story about a piece of management practice that back fired:

A company, feeling it was time for a shake-up, hired a new Chief Executive Office (CEO). This new boss was determined to rid the company of all slackers. On a tour of the facilities, the CEO noticed a guy leaning on a wall. The room was full of workers and he wanted to let them know he meant business!

The CEO walked up to the guy and asked, "And how much money do you make a week?"

A little surprised, the young fellow looked at him and replied, "I make $300.00 a week. Why?"

The CEO then handed the guy $1,200 in cash and screamed, "Here's four weeks pay, now GET OUT and don't come back!"

Feeling pretty good about his first firing, the CEO looked around the room and asked, "Does anyone want to tell me what that goof-off did here?"

With a sheepish grin, one of the other workers muttered, "Pizza delivery guy from Domino's."

Now we know why we in the UK have so many EU inspired Employment Laws - they are to protect us from US management practices!

Who Said '' Spin Was Dead''

The pictures of the military convoy (supplied by the MoD), banners and flags rampant, looked for all the world like a victory procession, rather than an ignominious retreat.
However, the fact that British forces were able to make the journey without disruption was due to the "safe conduct" they had been granted by the militias is quietly ignored. Spin is hardly confined to the politicians.
As to whether the politicians and the military are merely deluding themselves, if they are arging that this is anything other than a retreat, according to a poll for BBC2's Newsnight more than two-thirds of the public think British troops are losing the war in Iraq, and more than half believe the war is already lost. Some "military sources" are also conceding that Britain's "overstretched forces" had effectively been forced to "do a runner", one such being Colonel Bob Stewart, who adds that Basra is still lawless after four years of British occupation and the Iraqis were not ready to take control of Basra.
With the retreat of the military, however, also comes the retreat of the media. It was interesting to note that the bulk of the media reports from "on-the-spot" reporters, came not from Basra but from the safety of the "green zones" in Baghdad. We will, therefore, get very little first-hand information of what is happening in the aftermath of the retreat – and what we were getting was thin enough.
If one wants a recent historical parallel, look to al Amarah. In 2003, British forces occupied the centre of the city, with their base in Cimic House – the former governor's residence. After the epic battles during the Mahdi uprising in 2004, the Army quietly withdrew to the outskirts, hunkering down in Camp Naji, where it was mercilessly mortared and rocketed, until its full-scale retreat last year.
Now, who really knows what is going on in al Amarah? Ostensibly under Iraqi control, for all we know the militias are running things – we simply do not know.That, most probably, will be the fate of Basra. Our forces five miles outside the city, might as well be 500 miles, for all the information they will be getting.
Short of full-scale war, therefore, we are unlikely to hear very much of the goings-on, which means, for the time being at least, Gordon Brown will be able to maintain the fiction that the City is under control.
The picture above, however, is one to keep and treasure. It is all rather reminiscent of our retreat from Aden, almost exactly 40 years ago when, in November 1967, British forces pulled out, marching six abreast with flags flying, never to return.

Extracted from Defence of The Realm by Dr Richard North

Monday, September 3

The Parachuting Mortgage Advisor

>Please read lateset update at the bottom of this post<

It is amazing how time flies; once again we ask the question, why leave a perfectly serviceable aircraft whilst in mid-flight?

The answer of course (this year) is to raise money for an exceptionally good cause, Butterwick Hospice Care (

This year we are supporting the intrepid Rachel Loynes, 26 a Mortgage Broker with Carterbar, Independent Financial Advisors based in the Tees Valley. Rachel is also the Secretary of the dynamic and expanding BNI (Business Networking International) Warrior Chapter (Branch); at the traditional seaside resort on the North East coast of Seaton Carew.
Rachel is determined to raise over £1,000 for the Butterwick Hospice Care, based at nearby Stockton-on-Tees when she jumps on Thursday 27 September from Peterlee Parachute Centre along with the Army Red Devils Display Team.
As well as giving Rachel the new exhilarating experience of parachuting the fund raising event will also make Rachel something of a local celebrity with features in the local press and veteran broadcaster Stewart McFarlane MBE will be producing a radio documentary on Rachel’s fundraising experience.

Unashamedly and with enthusiasm this Blog will be supporting Rachel’s fundraising jump. The editor’s only regret is that he will be holding 'the clipboard' with two feet firmly on terra firma.

Readers wishing sponsor Rachel can contact her directly at: 0r call Carterbar direct on 01642 343495.

Stop Blog - Update.
Rachel has now received pledges in excess of £1850 (updated Sunday 30 Sept) and is aiming higher and intends breaking the record of raising over £2, 500 for the Butterwick Hospice. Rachel can sponsored by email - see above. Special thanks are due to the Directors of Carterbar Independent Financial Advisers, based in the Teesvally, who agreed that the company would sponsor the cost of Rachel's jump with the Red Devils (almost £400) on Thursday 27th September at the Peterlee Parachute Club.

Cutting from The Evening Gazette - Middlesbrough 22-9-07 . Click to enlarge

Cutting from The Hartlepool Mail Saturday 29 -9 -07. Click to enlarge

Sunday, September 2

Do As We Say Not As We Do

This year is the European (EU) Year of Equal Opportunities for All. The Commission seeks to make people in the European Union more aware of their rights to equal treatment and to a life free of discrimination. These are two of the basic principles that apparantly, we are told to belive, underpin the EU and assumes that each member State can not deal with such matters on their own.

This year the sees the launch a major debate on the benefits of diversity both for European societies and individuals. Read on here if, dear reader, you wish to learn more of how the EU loves you.

Anyway in the full sprit of the 'Year of Equal Opportunity' EU Employment Commissioner Vladimir Spidla demanded last month that a huge improvement in women's career prospects be made across all the 27 member states. The Commissioner was particularly vocal with regard to the 'gender pay gap' which is currently 15 percent wide across the EU.

What is particularly embarrassing (or highly amusing depending on one ones point of view) is the Commission's own record on promoting women to top jobs.

An examination of the detail (always important with EU matters) shows that only 16 per cent of EU officials in the top three grades are women and less than 10 percent of all female Eurocrats have made it into the top five grades. At the bottom of the Eurocrat grades however women make up 2,459 of the lowest three grades compared with only 1,224 men.

Well the concerned Commissioner could seek to get his own house in order first by seeking help from his five special (senior) advisers, all of whom are men. Quelle surprise!

The Sunday Quote

'' It's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, rather than outside the tent pissing in.''

The 36th President of the United States of America, Lindon B Johnson (1908-1973) on the then highly powerful John Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) who was a longterm influential and controversial Director of the FBI .