Archive for May, 2010

It seems that Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, does have practical experienmce after all…. of Capital Gains Tax and is, therefore, ideally suited to overseeing plans to increase CGT for mere mortals.

Talk about Japanese footballers kicking balls into their own goal!

Telegraph article…

The claims appear to undermine repeated claims by Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, that no Lib Dem MP profited from the expenses system.

In the first televised leaders’ debate, Mr Clegg said: “There are MPs who flipped one property to the next, buying property, paid by you, the taxpayer, and then they would do the properties up, paid for by you, and pocket the difference in personal profit.’’

Who’s next?  Clegg?  Nothing would surprise me.


Wrapping Up the Danny Alexander Expenses Story

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Dear Reader,

You will have heard that David Laws reported himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and resigned yesterday as chief secretary to the Treasury.  While he accepts that he broke the rules, his sin is rather less serious than some who fiddled voraciously as they sacked John Lewis like Romans at an orgy. Some are still in the House, they say, and they haven’t resigned.  The Telegraph will, no doubt, remind us soon enough.

For my part, given that we need the Coalition to work – whatever political dogma we believe in (and Labour really do need a bit of ‘Time Out’ to get a bit of thinking done – it is rather tragic that the country has lost a fine mind and, more importantly, one with significant experience of banking, economics and how markets work.  George Osborne, as yet, does not have this expertise.   He may well prove to be good – and leaving aside parody, briefly – but not for too long, I promise, he is reported to have the brains to pick experience and knowledge up.

It is a bit baffling (but understandable in Coalition terms and binding the Lib-Dems into taking the pain) that Laws has been replaced by a young man with little experience of money, economics, finance, fiscal policy and markets – he did do a PPE at Oxford, but so what..? That is just one up from A level and no match for experience and instinct.  A commenter on my last serious blog post suggested that we get a petition going to have laws re-instated.  I think it would be very good for the country to accept that the expenses thing has happened, we have gorged on it, stop letting The Telegraph hold people and the country to ransom with their constant drip feeding (to whose agenda?)  let the country get on and bring Laws back into government quickly.  I am ever the pragmatist.  The MPs have eaten their porridge, even if, some say, more should have done porridge.  We need to get a grip on the economy and the country and that requires a bit of talent.  Here endeth the ‘lesson’.

I wasn’t going to watch Eurovision last night, but the tweets were so good that I had to watch and join in.  I made a number of observations while in a fairly advanced state of grace brought on by Rioja…

I was rather hoping that Greece won.  I’d have paid good money to see Greece asking Germany for the money to host Eurovision next year.  But one cannot have everything one wants, can one?

Humphrey Cushion ran an amazing Eurovision avatar changing commentary on twitter… she is worth following on twitter – very amusing, if you don’t already follow her. Mea culpa for failing to mention in the first edition of this post.  Honour is restored – quite rightly.  I hold her responsible for getting me into Eurovision again last night!

I don’t follow football, but I was surprised to see that England beat Japan today simply because two Japanese footballers decided to kick the ball into their own goal. perhaps these are good ‘omens’ for a few weeks time?  I do know that the white flags have started to appear on cars again.  I have a pirate flag mounted on my glasses.  Why shouldn’t people have white flags on their cars and vans?  Good effort!  The image to the left is ‘Sexy Soccer’..apparently.  Frankly… of greater appeal to me than the real game… but there we are.  That I don’t give a toss about football doesn’t make me a pariah…..

I wasn’t going to watch Eurovision last night but did…so anything is possible.  I did watch England win the World Cup two hundred years ago.  I watched it with my Mother.  I was 12.  I drank cider.  My mother, then a non-drinker, was completely unaware that Somerset cider had alcohol in it.  I think she suspected something was up when I suddenly leapt to my feet, tore my shirt off, shouted “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS” and  ran into the street shouting nonsense…

Briefly on Tory Education Policy…

Being interested in education, at least at the tertiatry or university and professional level, I have an open mind on Tory policy.  I was lucky enough, because my parents worked abroad, to go to a very good public school in Scotland.  Had my parents not been abroad, I would have been lucky enough to go to a very good state school in Scotland – but I had to board.  Scotland does education well.  This is not being a “Braveheart’.  It just happens to be true.   I would like to see everyone get the benefit of good schooling – for that lays the foundation for a happy and possibly, if you are that way inclined, a successful life in money terms.  The News of The World, taking a break from outing Duchesses and droning on about tits and footballers (Sometimes the tits are footballers and the footballers have tits), had an excellent piece on the founder of CarPhone Warehouse.

The founder of The Carphone Warehouse (David Ross decided to sponsor a school in his home town of Grimsby.), along with his new headteacher Nicholas O’Sullivan – a former Dominican friar – took the comprehensive over and freed it from council control.  Do, please, read it – it is quite inspiring and whether others will follow this route (and I hope they will) this was a great story.

On that uplifting note, I am orf to Battersea Square for a glass of vino in the evening sun.  I may return sooner rather than later

Best, as always


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We want LAWS!! not Law….

I write this week from a dark place, a place where the mob riots, pitchforks and flaming torches ready… a place where only the head of David Laws will assuage some.   The Telegraph outed David Laws – firstly as gay, in effect, and secondly for an expenses problem in connection with £40,000 worth of expenses paid to his partner.  This has been prohibited since 2006.  David Laws has apologised, given a full and detailed explanation and has offered to pay it back.

While I amused myself, over refreshed on twitter last night by making remarks about Ali Baba and the 40,0000 thieves…and noted that I would soon be ‘orf for 40,000 winks’, I woke this morning sober, refreshed as opposed to over refreshed and, after a coffee and a few Marlboros, thought about the issue.

Firstly, in the absence of any further revelations – some think that there is more to come – David Laws’ explanation seems reasonably credible to me.  The Law is a bit woolly in terms of the definition of ‘partner’ and Laws maintains …

“At no point did I consider myself to be in breach of the rules which in 2009 defined partner as ‘one of a couple… who although not married to each other or civil partners are living together and treat each other as spouses’.

“Although we were living together we did not treat each other as spouses – for example we do not share bank accounts and indeed have separate social lives.

“However, I now accept that this was open to interpretation and will immediately pay back the costs of the rent and other housing costs I claimed from the time the rules changed until August 2009.” (BBC)

I have absolutely no problem with David Laws being gay or, rather more importantly, with his wish to keep private matters private.  Why should he have disclosed his sexuality?   It is no-one’s business but his own.  I can understand, because there is still a group of people in politics who are ‘gay intolerant’, that Mr Laws may wished to have kept his sexuality secret and this is more than likely to have accounted for his interpretation of the rules in terms of the 2006 expenses revisions.

I do not think he should resign.  He has offered to return the money, given the interpretation of the rules alternative to his own, and he has reported himself to the watchdog.   I understand that had Laws claimed for his own rent or purchased a flat the cost to the taxpayer would have been even higher.  The fact that he is a millionaire is irrelevant.  He has already given up salary and compensation far in excess of anything a British government can afford to pay ministers.  How many of us give up our freedom to earn or wish to serve our country by being an MP.  I don’t.  I’ll do what I can, as most will, in other ways.  Being an MP is pretty heavy on the soul, I would have thought.? Hopefully, most MPs will enjoy the parody, the knock about – but how many of us could handle a campaign of vilification in the press?  Criticise and vilify when merited.  Is it really merited on the FACTS here? On the facts as reported so far – I don’t think so. I did not vote for the Tories or the Lib-Dems, nor, obviously, a coalition.  On purely practical grounds it would be unfortunate if Cameron or Clegg were to take the opportunity to be ‘tough’ by sacking Laws.  It would be unfortunate to lose a man widely regarded as clever, thoughtful and honest –  doing a job which the Coalition government says needs to be done.  It would be unfortunate if the government, not exactly over blessed with intellectual and economic talent, had to find a replacement.  I think that Mr Laws should tough it out.  The mob and the press will just have to wait for their first bloodied corpse.  Unless, of course, there is more to this than has been disclosed and meets the eye.

And so.. to the House of Lords.

Long overdue for reform – although I would go further than reform and welcome complete abolition , replacing a second chamber with elected ‘senators’ who will bring experience and expertise to scrutinise the work of The Commons.  We have a long and not always honourable history.  We do pomp and circumstance better than any in the world  and it is important to feel British.  Unfortunately, some of us feel that all the geegaws and baubles, The Lord, The Sirs, The Rt hons this and The Rt Hon that are all a bit undemocratic, all a bit old fashioned for a modern democracy and…frankly…all a bit f**king daft.

I have no interest in titles. If a grown man wants to call himself Lord Fuckerlugs of Spalding On Seaside, that is just fine by me.    Thankfully, there are some wonderful people who do great work with no thought of reward or  of getting a daft ermine gown and a ludicrous medieval title.  Some even decline.  Lord Prescott told us all solemnly some time ago that he had no interest in the Lords and would not accept a peerage.  He has and got his yeterday.  Again.. this is fine by me.  He will just have to accept the ridicule which goes along with it.

The issue isn’t about titles.  It is about substance.  How are we going to fit in 800+ peers, with more to come?  I thought Cameron said Big Society, not Big Government?  We seem to have more has beens and worthies than ever running the country. The Tories say they have to create more peers to outnumber Labour peers?  What happens when they lose the next election and Labour has to create even more.  At this rate, they’ll be holding their sessions at Wembley. The country will be crawling with ‘vermin in ermine’!..

It really doesn’t matter to me at the end of the day that some British people revel in all this nonsense – it is harmless.  What is not harmless is unelected peers governing us.  This has, surely, to come to an end?  We’ll see how many has beens and worthies want to be ‘senators’ and do good work, without titles.  I suspect, not quite so many. We shall see in time.

All the best… toodle pip

Have a good Bank holiday.  I’ll be back tomorrow with my weekly Postcard… but I must see a man about a Dukedom… Fergie says she managed to get me an introduction.   Must rush… Can’t keep the Palace waiting, can one!

Baron Charon of Rioja-on-Sea.

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F**kART: *LAPIN*! (2010)

LAPIN!  (2010)
Acrylics on canvas board

Lapin is a friend – a surrealist, photographer and voracious reader of books. I thought the PopArt style was about right and based it on a pic she took of herself recently.

I still have to tart up the yellow border colour and sharpen up the highlights and a bit of blue – this I will do when the paint dries

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Just a few jottings…

I thought I would start the Bank holiday weekend early. It is unlikely that many of my clients, or potential clients,  will wish to be troubled tomorrow by phone, email or at all. I have, however, noticed that on the Friday of a bank holiday weekend people are remarkably industrious.  When, in the past, I have telephoned on such a Friday I have been told “He’s in a meeting”… “He’s still in a meeting”… “Yes.. it is a very long meeting”…”He’s in another meeting” .  The other remarkable feature of Friday Bank holidays is how many people are ‘working from home’ but so industriously  that they cannot take calls or their mobiles don’t work.  I have therefore given up on the working on Fridays before Bank holidays…at least in terms of writing or doing new business.

And so apropos of nothing at all.. my thoughts turn to SurAlanSugar… or Baron Sugar as we must now style him… Lord Sugar,  if you are one of those children on ‘Junior Apprentice’. I’m afraid that I agree with a lot of people on twitterJunior Apprentice is a bit ‘creepy’.  I don’t like it.  I think they are a bit young.  Yes.. Sir Alan was building a multi-million pound business at the age of 14.  I was sweeping chimneys at 7… by 12, too large to get up chimneys, I was sent down t’mines and by 18 I was thinking about putting in a takeover bid for Harrods but Al-Fayed beat me to it.  I made all that up, of course.  I like Alan Sugar.  I admire the fact that he built up a business from scratch and speaks his mind.  I am a bit baffled as to why he revels – or appears to – in all this ‘Sur Alan’ and ‘Lord Sugar’ nonsense.  Harmless enough, I suppose.  I still prefer Keith Richards’ view about titles… on hearing that Mick Jagger had been given a knighthood…. “I’m not going on a fucking stage with someone wearing a fucking coronet and sporting the old ermine..” or perhaps that was apocryphal?   On the other hand.. if one can’t beat ’em… join ’em.  May well be time to start awarding myself some new titles.

I’m amusing myself by growing another absurd tache. I’ve also discovered a facility on my new iMac which allows me to take photographs of myself in sepia, colour, black and white and even X-Ray…. I won’t be inflicting any more pics of myself on you… but here I am in ‘moody’ sepia… retro… or what?

I shall, no doubt,  get bored with it… or when I realise that sitting having a coffee in Battersea Square impersonating King Lear is not one of my ‘great ideas’.

Torture inquiry should leave no stone unturned, says Amnesty

Guardian: Investigation into human rights abuses promised by William Hague needs to be independent and must look at criminal responsibility, says organisation

The coalition government should “leave no stone unturned” in the search for the truth about the UK’s complicity in foreign torture, the head of Amnesty International has said.

An inquiry promised by William Hague, the foreign secretary, needs to be both independent and able to decide whether any individuals should be prosecuted, said Amnesty’s interim secretary general, Claudio Cordone.

I can go along with that.

Lord Lester has published his Libel Bill. I’ve read it.   You can too, if you haven’t already.  The pdf is available here. I’m still thinking about the implications – but it is very interesting so I want to take a bit of time before I comment on it.  Some of the comments I’ve seen on the net are amusing – particularly from lawyers!  Vested interests tend to shape responses… ineluctably.

Lord Steyn: Defamation and Privacy: momentum for substantive and procedural change?

Guardian: Read Lord Steyn’s Boydell lecture on defamation law and privacy in full. This is most interesting and worth a read.   Are their hidden messages in it?  Seems there may well be.

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BabyBarista leaves The Times!

Tim Kevan is a good friend of mine – and a fellow blogger.  He has left The Times because of their soon to be implemented decision to hide BabyBarista and all their other content behind a paywall.

This is good news for those of us who enjoy his writing and will, I hope, encourage BabyBarista to branch out into other activities – like drinking, painting, and even a spot of commentary on Law?

The new BabyBarista blog is here.

[The cartoon is by Alex Williams]

If you are a law blogger (or, indeed, a blogger who likes a bit of law – would you be kind enough to add the new URL to your blogroll?  – I am sure Tim will return the compliment!

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F**kART: Coalition! (2010)

Coalition! (2010)
22 x 18 Acrylics on canvas board

Cameron is portrayed as a Captain America pastiche and the deputy prime minister, Clegg, as a spiderman type giving the bird with both fingers. They stand on a sea of choppy yellow water!  The ‘bird’ motif is perhaps ‘inelegant’ – but some of his voters think he did give them the ‘bird’ by getting into bed with Dave.

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