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July 6, 2017

SIR John Chilcot has returned at dead of night to his home Chilcot Manor to find a burglar ransacking the property.
This is the conversation.
Burglar: “Ah, hello Sir John, I’ve been expecting you. I decided to enter your property to check on your security totally free of charge and without any obligation on your part. I hope you don’t mind and feel you will benefit from this service.” (he smiles a broad, toothy grin and winks)
Sir John: “My good man, you appear to be well intentioned and emotionally truthful and in the absence of any conflicting new direct or, indeed, indirect verifiable evidence of a personal and officially sanctioned and approved nature and offered without exerting external pressures and given, of course, without prejudice or persuasion, I am inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt though not, withstanding any other interests and totally without prejudice and persuasion and purely on a non-attributable basis bearing in mind the possible legal complications, at a non-formal level at this stage and subject to full approval at committee and pre-committee stage and with the full co-operation of all parties to the matter though not in any way, of course, binding them and entirely without benefit of a full and detailed report or, for that matter, of a formal inquiry set up to examine and evaluate the known and unknown variables in this anomaly.”
B: “Oh thanks, guvnor. You’re a proper gent and a toff and make no mistake.” (he smiles a broad, toothy grin and winks).
Sir John: “May I just ask you, my good man, why you have bundled all my prized personal possessions, including my Rolex watches some of which were gifts from senior members of the Law Society and the House of Lords, my new set of bespoke Nike golf clubs which I use as a full member of Wentworth Golf Club, and my treasured personally inscribed gold cuff-links into a bag marked SWAG which you appear, though I cannot state with certainty without prejudice or persuasion at this early stage, to be carrying over your shoulder?”
B: “OH THAT……ahh well, I was just checking for flaws in the security, if you see what I mean, guv. You gotta check haven’t you.” (he smiles a broad, toothy grin and winks).
Sir John: “My good man, I will preface my remarks at this pre-inquisitorial stage very carefully and fully in accordance with your rights in this matter, not binding you or in any way prejudicing the proper and entirely independent course of administrative process and quasi-legal advocacy customarily entered into at this tender and sensitive time.”
B: “I expect nothing less from a gent like you, sir, nothing less.” (he smiles a broad, toothy grin and winks).
Sir John: “Although I am unable to state with absolute and incontrovertible certainty that your intention is dishonourable and that you are not entirely engaged in an act of unselfish altruism especially aimed at furthering my personal interests and those of the numerous other inhabitants of this well resourced and scrupulously respectable neighbourhood, I am, at this early stage, inclined to venture the point, though I expect you to want to contest it forcefully in full accordance with your rights and you will, of course, be given the opportunity to do so, that the fact that you are carrying a bag marked SWAG is, on the face of it and without direct or indirect evidence from other parties, something of a contradiction which, on the face of it, leaves me somewhat conflicted.”
B: “I couldn’t have put it better myself, sir. You’re a toff and a proper gent, sir, what with all them long words and educashun and all what you’ve had. Course, I only went to a comprehensive in Streatham.” (he smiles a broad, toothy grin and winks).
Sir John: “Are you in any way, may I venture to ask, connected to the man parked outside Chilcot Manor in a car which appears not to have any verifiable number plates and was being prepared for what seemed, on the face of it and entirely without direct or, indeed, indirect evidence, to be being prepared for a somewhat accelerated and instantaneous escape with the engine running or, to use the vernacular of sixties crime films if I may be frivolous on this one occasion, getaway?”
B: “Never seen him in my life before, sir. What car’s that?” (he smiles a broad, toothy grin and winks).
Sir John: “I will now enter into a somewhat admittedly ad-hoc and unspecified quasi-legal process of evaluation and assessment, gathering direct and indirect evidence from all interested parties, then collating such and I will report on my findings in due course. I would remind you, my good man, that while this process is ongoing, you are free to venture any new evidence or engage in constructive ventilation and exposition with any officially appointed and officially endorsed agents specified and appropriated in the course of my inquiry on a non prejudicial and entirely voluntary basis.”
B: “Any idea when you might report back to me, sir. Not wanting to rush you at all or anything at all like that, sir, but I’ve got a lodge meeting to go to tomorrow night. Bless your heart, sir, and good health and all that” (he smiles a broad, toothy grin and winks).
Sir John: “Although I am no ethicist and cannot be certain about your intentions in visiting my property, I am inclined to venture an opinion which, ordinarily and in the entirely officially sanctioned and recommended scheme of evaluation leading to a comprehensive and constructive report which is not only de-facto non prejudicial to all parties but also, and crucially, seen to be de-facto and non prejudicial to all parties; I would not, in the natural scheme of things, venture. While you have furnished me with what you believe to be a factual and entirely empirical account of events here at Chilcot Manor and your previous conduct and general demeanour is and cannot be allowed to intrude in any way in this protracted and scientifically-based administratively led process, to the best of your ability and to the best, given all cognitive factors not under the control or supervision of any interested parties in this matter, of your recollection given that it is a time of great stress and deep emotional vulnerability for you, my good man, I remain somewhat uneasy and conflicted about the SWAG bag and the presence of a car being prepared for accelerated and instantaneous escape from the vicinity.
“You are not, in any strict legal sense, currently prevented from pursuing any of your own lines of enquiry or volunteering new and hitherto unconventional and untried angles and approaches which might constructively and even wholeheartedly, if I may be somewhat uncharacteristically maverick in my use of language here, advance and enhance the process of evaluation and assessment entered into by interested parties in this really rather troubling configuration given the need for probity and to instantiate a gravid, clear-sighted and voluntarily entered-into process of exposition. A thorough and totally impartial process of inquiry will now proceed which should report in due course at a time and date unspecified with all evidence and admissions made in strict confidence in accord with agreed policy and protocol.”
B: “Blimey sir, if only I’d paid attention in class…..You’re a genius, sir, that’s what you are. How about I just put the SWAG bag down and scarper?” (he smiles a broad, toothy grin and winks).


June 23, 2017

LET US take a look at the Welsh Assembly’s wonderful new report Creating a digital dialogue – How can the National Assembly for Wales use digital to build useful and meaningful citizen engagement?
The first question that springs to mind of course is “Do we care?” and the second is “Why are they so desperate for us to engage?” Other questions include “useful and meaningful, to who?” and “How do you define dialogue?”
Let us take a look at the report and begin by looking at the members of the “small and expert” task force (their words, not mine).
To ensure a Welsh Labour bias, Leighton Andrews, a man famous for his snide and corny “cheap date” jibe at Plaid Cymru, which eventually cost him his Rhondda seat, has been chosen to chair. So, not a brilliant start, then.
Around him sat these people:
Cath Allen who has 27 years’ experience in several roles at the BBC and is a former Board Member for BBC Cymru Wales and former Managing Editor of the BBC Wales political unit. She now runs Cath Allen Associates. James Downes, Head of Product at Companies House, has been deeply involved in the strategy, design, development, delivery and continual improvement of digital products and services for over 18 years and has delivered transformative digital projects in central government, charity, finance, membership, heritage, education and automotive sectors. Ifan Morgan Jones, who worked as a reporter and then deputy editor of Golwg Magazine, before becoming the editor of the Golwg 360 news website. He is currently researching the effect of communication technology on the Welsh language, with special attention paid to the periodical press in the 19th century and the digital revolution in the present day. Valerie Livingston, a public affairs professional and small business owner with extensive media expertise. She founded her own political research company in 2011. The company, newsdirect wales, reports on developments in the National Assembly and provides policy briefings to a wide range of private, public and voluntary sector clients. Prior to launching the company, Valerie was a senior press officer for the SNP at Westminster. She has also spent time working in the Scottish and European Parliaments and on several election campaigns. More recently, she has been a regular political commentator appearing on the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Hannah Mathias, a Learning Technology and Resources expert and E-Learning Manager at Cardiff and Vale College. Building and implementing Moodle and SharePoint 2010 systems. Her specialties are Learning Technologies; eResources; Social Media; Mobile Technologies; Video editing; audio editing; HTML; SharePoint architecture; Moodle administration and design, and Web 2.0. Emma Meese, who manages Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism (@C4CJ), a unique fusion of research and practice committed to developing a strong network of hyperlocal and community journalism in Wales. She is also running a series of short courses at Cardiff, giving everyone access to the highest standard of training in digital and social media. Emma also speaks at a number of conferences and events, including the Social Media Conference for Wales. Gareth Rees, a software developer at MySociety. He is currently working on Alaveteli – an open-source platform for making public Freedom of Information requests. He worked on applications for Box UK, World Vision, Cardiff University Students’ Union, The Wales Trades Union Congress and Havering Fabian Society. He founded and runs cardiffrb, a monthly meet up for Ruby programmers in Cardiff. He also created Cardiff Collective as a place for entrepreneurs in Cardiff to connect and share knowledge and works with Sam Knight to open Welsh politics with Your Senedd. Iain Tweedale, a digital entrepreneur, has worked at the BBC as Head of Online and Learning in Wales, and has held senior international roles at IBM and Sonera. At BBC Wales he was responsible for the Wales edition of across all connected platforms. His team also produced content for brands such as Doctor Who, Sherlock and Crimewatch. As Head of Learning at BBC Wales, he was responsible for curriculum-related content such as BBC Bitesize, through to archive development for education. Dr Andy Williamson, who works globally to support democratic innovation and effective civic participation. He works with a wide range of public bodies, such as the UN, the European Commission and the parliaments of the UK, Chile, Moldova and Serbia. Andy is author of the 2016 World e-Parliament Report and the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Social Media Guidelines for Parliaments and is a member of the UK Open Government Partnership Steering Group. Andy is the Founder and CEO of Democratise and a Governor of The Democratic Society.
Now, the descriptions of these people here are definitely not mine (I’m notoriously difficult to impress and very mean with glowing tributes) but come from a (yes, you guessed it) Welsh Assembly publication which habitually, tirelessly accentuates the positives for political purposes and always denies the negatives until we eventually come to believe that they don’t exist at all (Alistair Campbell was good at that).
Names that stand out for me are the ubiquitous busy bee Valerie Livingston – a Scottish Nationalist Party apologist who keeps popping up on the BBC to explain Welsh politics to us because the BBC doesn’t trust its more independent paid political journalists to do it and thinks us too stupid, and Emma Meese, who is not and never has been a journalist yet is spearheading Cardiff University’s bid to equip village busy-bodies with a good contacts book who own a PC and can read and write with pitifully meagre skills which she for some reason thinks qualifies them to become professional journalists able to report on local politics but not, of course, paid ones.
Professor Laura MacAllister, a former women’s professional footballer and a Welsh Nationalist Party apologist, (who also now very kindly often pops up on the BBC to explain Welsh politics to the masses) does not, perhaps surprisingly, feature.
It is twenty years since devolution was voted for in a wafer-thin majority of Welsh people – with some lingering talk of skulduggery around the voting procedure which still taint it – so it is considered by presiding officer Plaid Cymru’s Elin Jones an appropriate time for them to look at getting more prominence, support, engagement and, of course, money.
The problem they face is that there is no visible and overwhelming evidence that the voting public are actively engaged with them and see them as a force for good in the way they were actively engaged in, say, the confrontational and highly-charged European referendum and this is definitely not helped by the lack of a properly resourced, vibrant and healthy Welsh media which could give them valuable prominence day-to-day to portray them as active, functional and not just a pretty powerless glass-fronted talking shop.
Leighton Andrews begins by telling us in the foreword that their report is radical in that it wants the government to be “content creators” (now I’m starting to worry and feel fearful).
“Our starting point is that all Assembly communications should be designed with a citizen/user interest at their heart, with a presumption of open data, seeking to build long-term relationships with the citizens of Wales,” writes Leighton.
That, of course, is exactly where he sounds like an excited new editor of a new newspaper or online news organisation seeking to win new paying customers by offering them a package they might like and might want to buy into.
But hold on a minute, Leighton is a Labour politician, isn’t he, so how can he possibly offer us a presumption of “open data” whatever that may mean? (significantly, he doesn’t say).
He goes on to write that the, “Assembly is a content platform which captures facts, information, data, commentary, opinion, and analysis, both written and audio-visual, that leads – or sometimes consciously doesn’t lead – to action. Properly
organised, this is a profound, valuable and democratic digital space which reflects the nation’s conversations about the issues which are of most concern to it.”

So, he is now moving from a legislative and administrative body to a productive body which he thinks can not just discuss Welsh political issues and make decisions but also inform the Welsh public about those issues so that they feel in some way involved in the process. Now isn’t that exactly what Jack Straw was alleging happened in 1997? That Welsh Office mandarins ensured that their would be more jam for them.
Anything that “reflects the nation’s conversations” that emanates from government is, de-facto, biased, partial and compromised.
Leighton, however, sees it as “profound, valuable and democratic”. Now that is the deep danger lurking in this report. It assumes that we the public see our government as our partners and allies and want them to inform us about political issues when we know that our government in Wales is and always will be Labour-led propped up by Plaid Cymru because of the stasis due to the weakness of alternative parties and alternative mind-sets in the voting public.
It is also the first step on a long and dangerous journey to the destruction of independent guardians or gatekeepers who ensure accuracy, hold the powerful to account and probe wrongdoing and corruption in high places.
It will lead to a gradual and almost unnoticed transformation of political dogma and opinion into “fact” or “news” which will go unchecked and unchallenged and it will radically and cynically misinform and desensitize a gullible and largely disinterested Welsh public who long ago lost faith in politics and politicians.
“Awareness of the work and responsibilities of the Assembly is low, whilst interest in the subject areas that the Assembly is responsible for is high.” the report states confidently. “To help address this, the Assembly Commission decided to re-examine how the Assembly presents itself to the people of Wales, how the work of the Assembly is explained and demonstrate how the Assembly enables people to interact and engage with the organisation.”
Nauseating marketing mantras setting out idealistic and fantastic aims with ridiculous hyperbole of the “world leading” (how can anyone check if that is true?) “we aim to be a world class, open, democratic and easily accessed body” type are liberally sprinkled all over this report like sweet smelling talc on a day-old dead body.
“The Assembly should lead the way and establish an integrated content service using social media and other channels (such as dedicated email newsletters) to engage directly with the people of Wales. The Assembly should put people – rather than the organisation and its processes – at the heart of topical news stories and aim for an emotional connection with the public it serves.” it trumpets, sounding like every newspaper style book to guide its paid journalists I’ve ever read (strange that, isn’t it). An emotional connection, whatever next.
“The structure of the Assembly’s social media channels should be reviewed. Smart social media analytics should be adopted to identify online conversations and communities, and allow the Assembly to become involved in these discussions. The Assembly must exploit every alternative to the press release as a means of promoting its work. Maps, infographics, blogs and neat summaries all have the potential to articulate difficult messaging in a memorable way.” This reads rather like “We will tell you the news, whether you like it or not” with startling and alarming encouragement for Assembly staff to adopt new hitherto undreamt of down and dirty journalistic instincts and techniques (what, pray tell, is “smart social media analytics”?).
The words “trust building” (another strong and repetitive journalistic sales staple) appear so that we are left in no doubt about the depth of mischievousness and vaulting ambition in these Cardiff Bay Svengalis.
“The Assembly must develop a culture where people feel both able and empowered to try new approaches to delivering digital services without fearing the consequences of this not going exactly to plan. Creating such an environment relies on people knowing they can fail fast and fail safely. This is preferable to failing after months of expensive work undertaken behind closed doors. The Assembly needs to ensure digital becomes built in to all Assembly processes and develop an understanding that digital is not just about technology – it is a way of thinking and working.” So there will be no bollockings or sackings, then?
Now, here is another key feature. “Hyperlocal” websites which keep people up to date with local news (something paid journalists used to do) will be directly linked to the Assembly “content platform” (isn’t that a bit like district reporters all reporting to a news editor at headquarters and broadly writing what the news editor tells them to write to suit the editorial direction?)
“Content should be packaged so that it can be pushed directly to platforms that audiences are already consuming, rather than expecting the audience to come to the Assembly’s own platforms. This change in approach would also result in useful materials being produced for Welsh local and hyperlocal news publications, particularly those that require content packaged for digital platforms.” the report states. How very thoughtful and considerate of them to package content for them!
“New leaders in digital content and news management should be recruited and given the space and time to plan the Assembly’s news and promotional work effectively.”
“They should also be afforded the freedom and trust to prioritise editorial content according to organisational objectives. Delivering engaging digital communications on behalf of the Assembly is not solely the responsibility of the Assembly’s Digital and Media team. Internal partners, including committee clerks, researchers, the visitor, education and outreach teams, must all play their part in this process.”
And that’s an order!
“Associated with the rise in social media is the new phenomenon that ‘the audience has an audience’. In other words, by reaching some users who have large social media followings (social influencers) it is possible to get content to large numbers of people with the audience themselves acting as the content distribution network, this socialisation of content distribution is a powerful medium for persuasion.”>
Mmmm….now, if I was a “social influencer” the first thing I would do is distribute content for the Welsh Assembly government for no pay, wouldn’t I? Errr, not on your nelly, Carwyn. “Let’s turn our citizens into persuaders” is the aim and what a nakedly offensive and deeply disturbing aim for a public body to have.
“Rather than absorbing ourselves in the pessimism related to the lack of media plurality in Wales, this new mind-set opens the door to exciting new opportunities for the Assembly to reach audiences directly. We think the Assembly should lead the way and establish an integrated content service to engage directly with the people of Wales. Headed by an experienced, impartial editor we suggest establishing a small team of journalists focused on producing content about the stories coming out of the Assembly, packaged in a way that is suitable for digital platforms.” How small a team exactly? Maybe four people rushing around like headless chickens writing propaganda on the hoof all day long, eh? I wonder if this small team will contain anyone who discloses even slightly right of centre attitudes or allegiances?
“If the Assembly itself is a content platform, it makes less and less sense to think of the established media as requiring support that is different from other audiences. Our argument is that the Assembly as an organisation should bolster its direct reach to the wider public. Creative packaging of Assembly information at source would benefit the established media as well. While established and well-resourced media organisations such as the BBC and ITV will capture most of the material they need themselves, other smaller outlets will need additional, targeted support.
“Responses to our media survey, limited to Welsh regional and national media, have identified a direct need for clear, concise, inspiring copy that provides an at-a-glance summary of comprehensive reports. In some cases, visual data (maps, infographics and animations) to illustrate the findings and access to “real people case studies” were also requested. The survey responses suggest that while the production of video content may be crucial for the purpose of promoting the
Assembly’s work on its own channels, network news organisations in Wales will simply not use it if provided.”
Thank God there are still some standards left somewhere.
“The Communications team needs to possess other skills such as content production. It may be that they will need to divert time and resources from supporting those who already cover the daily ‘churn’ of Assembly politics – committees, etc. – and refocus the bulk of their resources on attempting to reach the majority who have a limited understanding, access and interest in their services currently. In order to support the diversification of the role of the media team, other staff need to see writing for publication as part of their role, beyond report-writing itself, with training for writing in different formats, including blogs, articles and social media content.” What, free training as well?
“This is our report, today in mid-2017. Technology is changing and will develop further, with advancements in augmented and virtual reality, in artificial intelligence and machine-learning, in new platforms, in voice and image recognition and many other ways. Consequently, the recommendations in our report should be kept under active review and there should be a specific lead commissioner responsible for driving these forward.”
The report then features opinions from “citizens” who are not named. “There’s not many countries that allow you to access this kind of data and then readily invite you in to their home to play with their data and see what you can do – it’s been amazing to work with the team and see what we can build.” says one particularly gullible and dense one.
Another says: “Speaking as someone who doesn’t have any tech ability, just ideas and the will to talk to people, I’ve found that the Assembly today has been so open and giving, and so willing to make sure that everything is open for us – not just data but people and the physical building – everyone’s experiences has been so enlightening, for example before today I didn’t feel particularly engaged in the Senedd and what the Senedd does but now I feel like I’ve got a better understanding of what you do, who does it, why you do it and actually how the public can be engaged in that – I’m a member of the public and I feel more engaged.”
I wonder if there was anyone who said: “Do I have to be a member of the Labour Party?”



June 23, 2017

DEPRESSED women who give birth in the hope that new life will mean new hope put a curse on their children that leads them inevitably to suicide – that’s the focus of Alice Birch’s bleak but phenomenally powerful new play Anatomy of a Suicide, which I saw at the wonderful Royal Court Theatre, London, yesterday.
Carol gives life to Anna before taking her own life on a railway track, then Anna gives life to Bonnie before taking her own life through electrocution in the bath. Lesbian medic Bonnie takes responsibility to close the circle by choosing not to give birth and all this happens on one stage over two hours without an interval with the spotlight on the three women in three separate stories which are interwoven into each other seamlessly.
I struggled at first to make sense of it, however, due to the distraction of constant, frenetic energy on stage (new props are taken on and off by other cast members incessantly and the three women, who stand stripped metaphorically and literally to their underwear for much of the show, have different costumes changed for them by other cast members). The lines are skilfully synchronised (Ms Birch has experimented by overlapping words spoken by two actors at the same time on stage and “scored” her dialogue across the page to enable actors to find the right pace and weight of words so the three stories at times relate to each other). The actors never appear to be putting on three plays at the same time although there are three separate and distinct storylines going on at the same time. It sounds and looks like an expensive Swiss clock with three large bells giving off three separating jangling, shrill and piercing tones which never clash with each other though never complement each other either and yet somehow keep perfect time in a bare and tightly choreographed production directed by Katie Mitchell.
Like a spectator sitting high up over Wimbledon, it was like being able to look down on three tennis matches going on at the same time. My eye switched from Carol (the first woman from the 1970s, played by Hattie Morahan), Anna (from the 1990s, Katie O’Flynn) and Bonnie (from 2033, Adelle Leonce) as you would if you were trying to choose which to follow before finally relaxing into all three at the same time by just sitting back to really enjoy the skilful volleys, drop shots and poignant, agonised, raging interplay rather than religiously and anxiously monitoring the score in only one.
Much is made of the fact that more men than women end their own lives so this refreshing new take on the subject – a woman writing with searing, fearlessly honest personal insight about women – is a welcome and hugely dynamic development which Ms Birch can be congratulated for (though she has won more than one award for some of her other plays already).
The thick fog of despair envelopes them in a self-loathing grey mist or sheen whilst their family lineage and the issue of inheritance rings eerily and discordantly in the background like an ominous, grim, tolling bell sometimes heard loudly and other times not heard at all but always still there and always dominant in their lives and the lives of their children and friends and families.
They all move in slow motion, lacking energy, enthusiasm and direction and are hopelessly unable to alter speed appropriately like some of their friends do to quickly avoid mishaps or respond swiftly to grasp new opportunities.
Situations and clothes are placed upon them as they exist in isolation – many are encouraged by others to do things like have babies to give their lives some purpose (Carol, being the first in the line, is offered electric shock therapy by a brusquely unsympathetic psychiatrist who threatens her with hospital if she tries to end it all, a common reaction in the 1970s and lesbian Bonnie falls in and out of bed with a succession of unsuitable one-night-stands she keeps at arm’s length in a meaningless and misdirected search for happiness). The circular journeys of random encounters with random people then random regrets and random apologies lead inexorably to random deaths.
Anna sells the house where her mother ended her own life to give others a new start there but is left wary of a future for herself which she fears will take her back to her inheritance and her deep despair in the certain knowledge of it.
Anatomy of a Suicide is a deeply uncomfortable piece of work which takes significant risks in showing women as they would never want to be seen. It strips away taboos around families blighted by suicidal matriarchs by boring in on the women’s obsession with their resentment of happiness (in the way some addicts obsess around their drug of choice yet constantly seek a meaningful and satisfying alternative to it) and their families’ obsession with their resentment of unhappiness (in the way some sober people obsess around their contrasting sanity yet constantly seek a meaningless and unsatisfying alternative).
Only women can give life but for them it is a compulsive two-sided coin which brings with it the risk of rejection (by the mother of the baby girl/by the baby girl of the mother, by the new person of life and by life of the new person). The sound of silence is very much an emphatic final reward – “I have stayed, I have stayed – I have stayed for as long as I possibly can”, says fragile Carol in this – for these desperate, doomed women who can only see the light after their act or acts of creation by carrying out their final act of destruction. The silence is golden.


June 21, 2017

JACQUI Thompson, Dr Sally Baker, Paddy French, even Royston Jones, yes, even him…….keep writing your blogs for God’s sake because the Welsh Assembly Government is now planning to recruit its own “journalists”.
I have always known that this was the real agenda behind their “media plurality” and “Welsh media” strategy.
After the horrendous mistake of pumping money into Newsquest’s South Wales Argus only for the company to pack up and leave to save money and having concluded that the meagre offerings of the blatantly biased Western Mail is nowhere near enough, they now aim to go the whole hog and write the news themselves.
And why not….after all, they now see themselves as generators and they’ve got a lot of money to spend and a lot of hot air to generate.
At least George Osborne won’t be applying for a job there. He couldn’t take the pay cut.
It is my firm belief that it is the beginning of the end for democracy when a government employs its own journalists.
They are, in the final analysis, the last defenders of liberty in a free democracy and have always to treat the government as the devil they only sup with using a very, very long spoon.
They are an independent insurance against a government and not messengers employed by that government.


June 21, 2017

I FOUND myself in the bizarre position of relying for information about today’s Queen’s Speech on a newspaper edited by a man who specialises in denying other people jobs – George Osborne at the Evening Standard, a man who is to journalism what Dr Goebbels was to public relations.
Osborne – the man who really brought scoundrel super-soaraway former Sun editor Andy Coulson to Number 10 by rationalising that only an archetypal Essex man could connect the party to the masses – found himself relishing and glorying in Theresa May’s dreadful predicament so went to town in the comment section of his newspaper “this government is one of the weakest in our history”, he wrote (there’s nothing like journalistic impartiality and this, Gideon, really was nothing like journalistic impartiality).
Osborne has denied a real journalist a job at the Standard – where standards appear to be lower than Katie Hopkins’ labia if journalists (I wonder if they even think of themselves as journalists any more) are now taking orders from him – and he probably denied a real politician a job in his constituency of Tatton in Cheshire for many years, where entranced rich constituents were unlikely to rain on his parade.
A leader or opinion column in a newspaper was once considered to be a sacred, highly prized vessel containing precious, well polished gems of reasoned, deeply expert and impartial weighty assertions from trusted, authoritative, heavyweight writers who sensed which way the wind was blowing and could be relied upon to accurately predict the direction.
Now we read leaders in the Western Mail, based in Cardiff, and it feels as if they have been written by Welsh Labour wonks slavishly salivating over Carwyn Jones’s “superior” strategy.
The London Evening Standard, which has a former Tory would-be prime minister at the helm, appears to be settling his old scores histrionically rather than polishing any gems or offering anything constructive to move us forward.
“Don’t follow leaders, they’re walking parking meters” was what Bob Dylan once wrote. Especially if you want to know which way the wind is really blowing, Bob.


June 12, 2017

THE next Queen’s Speech should really be the Queen’s and she should begin by saying that too much is at stake for petty, selfish and childish political bickering and points scoring and order Parliament to work together to advance everyone’s best interests in a powerful, purposeful coalition.
Come off the fence Betty Windsor, bang a few heads together (but don’t cut any off) and tell your government that you want to keep your Kingdom United and politically independent of Europe whilst retaining crucial, mutually beneficial business, welfare, health and cultural links with our many close friends across the channel (some particularly close to her) while keeping our currency, our legal system and our sovereignty.
There will be no costly divorces (she will certainly know about them and how they should be avoided) particularly at the end of a marriage which we were always half-hearted and hesitant about. We never really believed in our vows and that ghastly vicar kept calling us back to add new ones after the wedding service which we had no say in and did not agree with then told us we could not see any others at all ever without his permission and also, for some reason, told us where we could and could not go fishing.
We should work together to let the rest of Europe know that we will always be friends, allies and can be relied upon to be good Europeans no matter what (she will remember how we came to Poland’s aid when Germany invaded then worked hard for peace after the second world war) but we have no appetite or desire for a federalist super state which would dictate to us in new, menacing ways and take out more than we put in.
Naughty Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne “Natalie” Wood, Paul Nuttall and Tim Farron would all be ordered by the Duke of Edinburgh in a personal message littered with salty adjectives to never again appear on television or face having to spend the rest of their lives as dukes and duchesses of Berkshire.
Oh, and we would begin negotiations by insisting that we actually win the next Eurovision Song Contest regardless of how awful our song is.
Now that really would be a Queen’s Speech worth listening to.


June 9, 2017

GOOD news that comes out of yesterday’s disastrous General Election is the end, hopefully, of the phenomenon known as Nick Clegg – a man deeply in love with any mirror but deeply devoid of sincerity, integrity and purpose (his “gay marriage” with Cameron was an all-time low in British politics).
BAD news is that Tim “nice but dim” Farron, a nauseatingly verbose, deeply self-righteous evangelical Christian who can no longer be welcome among the happy clappers because of his support for gay marriage, is to take his place for even longer.
Stop the bus, I want to get off.