Friday 24 February 2012

Hurrah For HMRC

Before some suspect that I have lost copious marbley things, bear with me. I've been following the somewhat protracted administration problems at Portsmouth Football Club closely. They were the first Premiership club to go into administration and they've gone into administration for the second time recently - demonstrating once again that many football clubs are living beyond their means. But my main reason for following their plight closely is not because I have any particular affinity with them (yes good luck to them), but due to one man -  the administrator Andrew Andronikou.(pictured above - this is a bit of a personal post)

For those who are not familiar with the man, Andrew Andronikou works for chartered accountants UHY Hacker Young which in their words are: of the UK's Top 20 accounting and auditing firms
Mr Andronikou's profile can be found here:
He has extensive experience in Bank receivership and investigation assignments, and also liquidation appointments. He is particularly interested in undertaking corporate reconstruction work, such as Administrations and Company Voluntary Arrangements. Andrew has headed a number of high profile appointments including the recent Administration of Portsmouth Football Club, the first premier league club in history to enter Administration.
Hmm "extensive experience" eh? Not that implies any level of competence of course, and rightly so. A substantial part of Mr Andronikou's experience was being the administrator during the deeply entrenched money problems at Swindon Town. In summary, for long time until December 2007 we were a financial basket-case - and we were the first club to go into administration twice.

However according to Andronikou - when he was appointed at Portsmouth - he was the 'saviour of our club', as he became the only administrator arrogant enough to sign autographs:
This makes me think Portsmouth's administrator Andrew Andronikou (the only accountant in the country who signs autographs) isn't quite as media savvy as he imagines he is.
Yet describing him as Swindon’s saviour is a historical revisionism on a scale that the Ministry of Truth would have been proud of. Having been involved during that time, and witnessed first hand Andronikou's role, (and I'm not sure how to put this nicely), but his actions left the deep suspicion that his mind was not entirely focused on fulfilling his legal obligations to the professional standard that would be expected.

Now I should mention at this point that he also had a close relationship with Swindon Town's 'advisor' Mike Diamandis at the time. Diamandis was appointed as an 'advisor' despite being banned as a director for trading whilst insolvent. Yet in truth it was apparent that de facto he ran the club as a Director, some would say potentially illegally
He is the man who - behind-the-scenes - has effectively run the football club for the last five years.
Diamandis and Andronikou have had a close personal relationship in the past, their business record is indeed deeply suspicious. Andronikou was often appointed to a number of Diamandis' businesses which had gone into administration and no questions were apparently asked - it won't do to investigate rigorously whether a company was trading insolvently.

Unfortunately for them football fans tend to be a different kind of customer - ones with years of an emotional attachment that far outweighs concerns of finances. So as a consequence, and almost altruistically, awkward questions get asked, much to the discomfort of those with vested interests:
"I have an issue with the supporters trust as well as they could have caused untold damage if we had not ignored them. Their self importance genuinely put the club at risk. I think we all agree a supporters trust is healthy but for the right reasons. I think they have got out of hand. I think it represents about 20 people and that has to change quickly.
The Swindon Trust's response being:
"The comment about the 20 or 30 busybodies finding something else to do has caused a great deal of anger among fans," said Davis.
"We (the Trust) have over 950 members, all of whom are extremely concerned about the way the club is being run and the way that Mr Andronikou is supervising the CVA.
So...far from being a saviour, he took our club to within 24 hours of being wound up and didn't sign off our Company Voluntary Agreement for years after it should have been. Previous to that this was the man that always had 'mystery buyers' lined up which never materialised, ignored genuine buyers to the detriment of the creditors because it didn't apparently suit those in charge and blamed everyone else when things didn't go according to 'his plan'.

Not only that he took it upon himself to, despite being someone appointed to look after creditors’ interests, tell the creditors what to do (my emphasis):
"I have the discretion to do what I think is right for everyone. That is where it starts and ends really.  No matter what some people say, as long as I think it is in the interests of everyone to extend the deadline then I can extend or vary it as I see fit."
So it's no surprise to see Portsmouth experience the same 'incompetent' man:
Mr Andronikou was the preferred administrator - which sparked alarm among Pompey fans.
And as a result it comes as a source of great amusement to myself as a result of HMRC action that I learn this:
A High Court judge today refused to allow Andrew Andronikou’s firm to act as Pompey’s administrators. Mr Justice Alastair Norris ruled UHY Hacker Young will not be in charge.

The decision came despite Balram Chainrai’s firm Portpn Ltd offering £500,000 to the club if Mr Andronikou or another administrator it approves of was appointed.
And the Judge was pretty damning:
Mr Justice Norris added: ‘What’s proposed this time round seems to be exactly what was proposed last time round without addressing the real underlying problem. One would think that the real emphasis should be on reducing the trading losses of the club to turn it into a viable trading business. Perhaps a fresh view is called for.’

‘The general body of taxpayers, the ordinary consumers who do pay their energy bills and the ordinary traders and professionals who provide services such as, coach hire, catering, medical services, ground care and maintenance, must wonder why they should be subsidising the club’s energy bill and why it is that they are involuntary lenders to the club over their outstanding bills and why they will only get back pence in the pound for the services they have provided.’

And with that he blew the final whistle saying: ‘I will appoint Mr Birch and his team to be the administrators of Portsmouth Football Club.’
In other words the least of Andronikou's concerns was the small business creditors. But we knew that all along. Sometimes HMRC gets things right - albeit like a stopped watch still being correct twice a day.

Thursday 23 February 2012

I'm Saying Nothing...

From today's Daily Telegraph (my emphasis throughout):

The arrest of Labour MP Eric Joyce over an alleged assault in a House of Commons bar follows concerns over the culture of taxpayer-subsidised drinking in Parliament.
And from the Irish Times last Thursday:

BRITISH PRIME minister David Cameron has signalled support for a minimum price for alcohol that would raise off-licence prices, even though some members of his cabinet believe such a move could be illegal.
Mr Cameron, speaking during a visit to a hospital in Newcastle, said: “Every night, in town centres, hospitals and police stations across the country, people have to cope with the consequences of alcohol abuse.”

Monday 20 February 2012

Sweet Eurosceptic Topping

Boris Johnson aka 'I'm a lovable buffoon really' has just woken up to perils of CAP in his piece in today's Telegraph. One wonders what took him so long? Anyway, he bemoans, in rather convoluted language, the negative impact the EU is having on the American owned company Tate & Lyle:
This historic company produces about 40 per cent of the cane sugar in the entire EU, and most of it comes from the London plant. 

Now this superb business faces a threat from Brussels, and the imposition of an unnecessary and badly thought-out regulation.

The plant has the capacity to produce 1.1 million tonnes of refined sugar a year; and yet the company is prevented, by the EU commission, from importing the raw materials in the quantities it needs. Their current output is now down to 60 per cent of capacity — and the result is that jobs are being lost in a part of London that already faces the highest levels of unemployment in the city and indeed in the whole of the country.

For decades they have been artificially shielded, by high tariff walls around the EU, which mean that sugar prices in Europe are more than double the world market price.
Boris is understandably not happy, even though Richard North highlighted the potential effects in 2004 and 2005. So after a lengthy criticism, by Boris, of the situation and of the EU, what does he propose to do? Well... wait for it...cue drum roll:
And we are lobbying Brussels to drop its crazy prohibition, and allow Tate and Lyle to get cane sugar from wherever in the world it can find the stuff.
Lobby Brussels? Not advocating withdrawal - nope - instead a pathetically weak proposal of lobbying Brussels. There lies another Tory Europlastic. Boris naturally has form on this. Take this interview with Paxman on the Lisbon treaty in 2009. When asked what should happen if it was ratified, Boris hides behind:
That's a hypothetical question...and...I'm not an expert on Euro Treaty law.
An answer that is basically no different from Cameron's "we won't let matters rest there". As always beneath the sweet Tory Eurosceptic topping lies stale Europhile substance.

With more than one eye on Cameron's position Boris knows the sugary appeal of Eurosceptisim will win over the sweet-toothed Tory faithful. But should he win the leadership or even become PM we'll go through the whole "veto" charade again.

The man is our enemy not our friend.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Irony On Stilts

The main purpose of the EU, from the very beginning, has been to abolish the nation state and to destroy democracy. The founding fathers have always made this very clear. And partly to achieve this, with significant irony, the EU has adopted all the trappings of a country in all but name. This is aptly demonstrated by the shameless lack of democracy, involving Nigel Farage shown in the clip below (1:40 mins in)

The President of the EU Parliament, Martin Schulz, says:
Nationalism is propagated, in this house, by those who wear flags on their desk and nationalism on their sleeve.
So says Schulz, a member of the EU, an institution which thinks that the solution to try to destroy any kind of national identity needs a flag, a national anthem, effectively a capital, and a European identity.

Presumably when the EU gets around to producing its own dictionary, the phrase 'self-awareness' will be noticeably absent.

hattip: Ironies Too

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Deadly Switch Off

Swindon recently engaged in an experiment, despite local concerns, to save money and to 'reduce their carbon footprint' by switching off streetlights - enthusiastically supported no less by a Tory councillor.

But whoops it's gone a bit Pete Tong according to the BBC:
Hundreds of street lights in Swindon which were turned off to save money are being switched back on.
Swindon Borough Council said the authority felt it was not worth continuing due to the number of concerns being raised by the public.
But what the BBC report and the Councillors don't say is 'concerns being raised by the public' refers to the fact that lights have been turned back on because of significant safety considerations, views which were aired well in advance, and that accidents have subsequently increased as a result of the blackout.

Still at least it was supposed to save £20,000, only a snip compared to the total basic Councillor's allowances of £722,600.

Forcing Greece Out

As previously mentioned on this blog, and by Richard North, and by Mary Ellen Synon, it looks like Greece is on its way out of the Euro - forced by the Germans. It's nice to see the BBC catching up eventually, and the fact they're starting to report it, reluctant as they always are to mention EU matters, indicates how close this scenario is coming to pass.

A Nation Of Goldfish

If there's ever one issue guaranteed to drive me to drink, it's the subject of binge drinking and minimum pricing, which has cropped up yet again:
Cells known as “drunk tanks” which detain inebriated people until they sober up could be introduced to towns to tackle the nation’s growing alcohol problem, David Cameron signals on Wednesday.
Next month, the Government publishes its alcohol strategy which is expected to recommend higher “minimum” prices for drink, potentially by increasing duties on many alcoholic beverages. 
Drunk tanks? What the hell are they? Challenger 2's that run on ethanol?

It's like there's some software in Number 10 that shows an alarm and says; 'it's been 2 months or so since the last 'binge drinking' press release - time for another, we'll just re-arrange the words a bit'. We had one in December and one in August and so on.

So cue another day of apparent 'news', liberally sprinkled with the same old photographs of young drunk women (well, if you can't beat them join them). Given that the call for minimum pricing has gone on for years the MSM seems incapable of asking the obvious question, to both Labour and Conservative governments; "so why don't you just do it?". No-one else seems to be asking the same question either, preparing to take at face value regular press releases. Nevermind we'll just go through this whole charade again in a couple of months time. We really are a nation of goldfish.

Meanwhile real news is happening...

Monday 13 February 2012

The MSM Fiddles As Greece Burns

The Talking Clock makes an excellent point about the priorities of our nation's 24 hour news coverage. Last evening's coverage, on both the BBC and Sky, was dominated initially by the sad death of Whitney Houston (which albeit warrants a mention) and then for hours by pre BAFTA footage of self- congratulatory celebrities walking down the red carpet. Apparently, and this was important, they were adopting a 'green' theme - actor Colin Firth was wearing an 'Eco-friendly sustainable suit', whatever that means? All of this coverage despite that the event had a two hour time slot on BBC One anyway.

Meanwhile on the European continent - on our doorstep - Greece was experiencing severe social, economic and political turmoil. People were rioting, buildings were burning and Greek politicians were voting on approving a new austerity package the failure of which to pass the Parliament could have resulted in Greece exiting the Euro and possibly the breakup of the currency itself.

Not that any of us would have known this following the 'standard' media outlets. We had to instead rely on social networking sites and foreign news channels, such as Russia Today, to follow the unfolding events.

The MSM is retreating rapidly into an ever decreasing circle of relevance.

Deliberately Misleading?

Ian Cowie, the head of personal finance in the Daily Telegraph, rightly picks up on the disgraceful jump in the numbers of older people dying of cold, unable as they are to afford to heat their homes. His solution, rather than tackle the real issues, is to propose scrapping VAT on household fuel:
Warm words from politicians are cold comfort and no substitute for action. Bringing the tax on household fuel into line with zero-rated VAT on water and food makes sense - they are all necessities of life – and could bring immediate help to thousands of people suffering unnecessarily this winter.
One small problem however - Brussels.

Domestic heating used to have zero VAT until 1993. The then Major Government under pressure from the EU began the process of harmonising VAT in accordance with the 6th VAT Directive. This meant that, in an ever increasingly 'isolated' Britain, the Tories attempted to impose VAT on previously exempt goods such as; food, clothes and newspapers. Politically sensitive as this obviously was, the Tories began tentatively with domestic heating, the upshot being that we gave up that exemption (with a 5% duty) and so to get it back now requires the permission of Brussels - permission that almost certainly won't be forthcoming.

Despite being the head of personal finance, Mr Cowie doesn't mention any of this. Now this can only be because of one or two reasons: he doesn't know or he chose not to mention it. It's hard to believe he doesn't know. VAT is not some obscure EU Directive but a real tangible part of our membership - it's an EU tax introduced in 1973 as a consequence of joining the then EEC. To plead ignorance, particularly in his position on the Telegraph, must surely call into very serious question his abilities as a journalist.

So the only other option is that he is aware. Which then means he has written an article that he knows cannot happen but disguises this by hiding important information from his readers. An article in short that is a lie and a deceit.

Either way what he has written is pointless waste of time and illustrates once again the inability of our MSM to acknowledge where the real government lies. I do wish they would grow up.

Saturday 11 February 2012

By Default

It's another Euro crisis, so it's another deadline. It's reported that this weekend bankrupt Greece faces the ultimate decision of whether to stay in the Euro or not.

Now we have been at 'deadline hour' many times before, which has so far always proved false, so a little cynicism is in order. But the indications are that the momentum does appear to be heading towards a conclusion - I do agree with Richard North when he writes "There is definitely a sense that we are moving to the end game".

The pressure on Greece is intense and there seems to be a non-too subtle attempt, on behalf of the EU and Germany, to force Greece to default, and possibly exit the Euro. The likely reasons for the EU's bullying are manifold.

The cost of trying to save political face by keeping all the countries in the Euro has been superseded by the embarrassment of the Greek crisis to the Euro project, which has no prospect of ending anytime soon. Greece is an economic basket case - so the EU needs to get rid of, in part to try to improve the currency's 'respectability'. That Greece will default has always been a matter of when not if - a reality the EU has long known about. After over 2 years, weariness is creeping in. Greek promises are never kept and more importantly for some European politicians elections are due this year. Taxpayer's money to keep bailing out Greece is not popular to say the least.

The constant bailouts, or rhetoric, has also conveniently given time for the Eurozone to prepare for the inevitable Greek default - in short economic sandbagging. As Louise Armitstead argues in the Telegraph:
The bankruptcy of Greece is no longer the threat to the eurozone that it once was. For all the frustration caused by the constant delays - Greece missed four deadlines last week alone - the time has not been wasted. Banks have busily untangling themselves from the thicket of Greek debt; repricing and restructuring debt and taking large write-downs. In total foreign banks have slashed their exposure to Greece by 60pc.
In a note last week, Willem Buiter, Citigroup’s chief economist, said: “In early September 2011, we argued that the cost of Greek exit to the rest of the world would be very high. We now consider these costs to be much lower because the 'exit-fear-contagion’ could be contained.”
In essence preparations are being made to hang Greece out to dry, a view echoed by Jeremy Warner:
There is only one way of interpreting the set of fresh demands tabled by eurozone finance ministers last night in return for agreeing a new €130bn bailout for Greece – that they are now quite deliberately trying to push Greece out of the euro. All pretence at European solidarity has been abandoned, to be replaced by the vengeance of Shylock.

There is now no chance whatsoever of Greece making it in the eurozone. Economically and politically, the country is in meltdown. Richer Greeks...are all getting their money out as fast as they can, as those of us who have been gazumped in the London property market by Greeks bearing piles of wonga know only too well.

It's a disgrace what's going on, little short of the rape of Greece by its own countrymen, but it is an entirely rational and logical response to the grossly overvalued currency they find themselves with.
Greece has very little option now but to impose capital controls and leave the euro. The longer it leaves things, the more desperate will its plight become.
Despite enduring economic, social and political hardship strangely most Greeks still want to be members of the EU and the Euro. Sadly they are about to find out the hard way that membership of the EU, and more specifically the Euro, only works one way - it means doing what the EU orders when a member, and being jettisoned overboard without concern when an inconvenience. The other Euro members are saving their own skin but not without causing economic and social meltdown, without a care, in another country first.

But no doubt if the inevitable Greek default doesn't lead immediately to a Euro breakup, much rejoicing will occur in Brussels, along the lines of 'we're dealing with the problem'. However next up will be Portugal, and then... well close your eyes and put a pin randomly into a map of Europe.

Free Speech Goes AWOL

Old Holborn highlights a rather worrying development this afternoon regarding the on-going, and now getting very tedious, racism row between footballers' Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra:
Manchester United's game with Liverpool was preceded by the police confiscating several thousand copies of the Red Issue fanzine because of a spoof cut-out-and-keep poster showing a Ku Klux Klan hood on its back cover [seen above].
Leaving aside the fact that normal laws don't often apply to football fans, the Police's justification for such actions are deeply sinister indeed (my emphasis throughout):
The police's match commander, Ch Supt Mark Roberts, said:
"Officers are now seizing the fanzines and in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service we will take appropriate action against anyone either found selling this particular fanzine or provocatively displaying the image in public.
Let's be clear that no complaints by the general public were received regarding this image, instead the Police have taken this action upon themselves:
"Officers have also been made aware of a T-shirt on sale outside the ground that is also deemed to be offensive. We are also seizing these items and anyone found wearing one will be required to remove it and hand it to police.
Deemed to be offensive by whom? Oh just the Police, so...
"At this stage we have arrested one man in relation to the T-shirts on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and we will be continuing to work with the clubs to minimise the impact of the image, which we consider to be offensive.
"I have taken this cause of action as both items are potentially offensive and we cannot be in a situation where hundreds or thousands of people were displaying offensive images at a football match. The consequences of taking no action could have resulted in public order incidents inside or outside the ground."
To minimise the impact of the image? So a situation now arises where the Police can now confiscate arbitrarily, reading material because they deem it offensive even if no-one else did. And unbelievably and with deep irony the image confiscated is actually accusing Suarez, and by extension Liverpool, of racism - criticising and ridiculing his recent racist comments.

So, in a bizarre, ridiculous and very surreal twist, what is in effect anti racist material is impounded by the Police on the grounds of being potentially a racially aggravated public order offence.

One wonders what Ch Supt Mark Roberts would do if these chaps had been British.

Thursday 9 February 2012

The Decline of Veto Boy

I know polls are only a snap shot and it's the trend that matters, but I can't resist:

The Sun goes on to say:
And Mr Cameron's apparent U-turn last week over that could explain his party's dip in the polls. He returned from a Brussels summit having failed to stop the other 26 EU members signing a new treaty. That led to claims from his own backbenchers that he had not protected Britain's interests.
Oh what a web we weave...

This Is What A Death Spiral Looks Like

As the Greek Euro tragedy continues - futile attempts to prevent the inevitable default - Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from the Telegraph writes of the enormous cost to Greece as a consequence of current policies:
This is what a death spiral looks like.

It is what can happen if you join a fixed exchange system, then take out very large debts in what amounts to a foreign currency, and then have simultaneous monetary and fiscal contraction imposed upon you.

Germany discovered this on the Gold Standard when it racked up external debt from 1925 to 1929 (owed to American bankers) in much the same way as Greece has done.

When the music stopped – ie, when the Fed raised rates from 1928 onwards – Germany blew apart in much the same way as Greece is blowing apart. This is not a cultural or anthropological issue. It is the mechanical consequence of capital flows into a country that cannot handle it, as Germany could not handle it in the late 1920s.

By the way, Greeks work an average 42 hours a week, one of the highest in Europe. Just want to put the record straight on that.
'Reassuringly' the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi tries to play down the crisis by insisting there's no 'Plan B':
“ Having a Plan B means you’re defeated already.”
But of course Draghi is wrong, there's always a Plan B. In the absence of proper contingency plans, the default Plan B is always that it goes 'tits up'.


I can only agree
Now, check out this quote from the same article:
Chris Martin, from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said outside Southwark Crown Court that the taxman had 'no regrets' about pursuing the case.

He said: 'We accept the verdicts of the jury but I would like to remind those who are evading tax by using offshore tax havens that it always makes sense to come to talk to us before we come to talk to you.'
How creepy is that?
As someone who runs a small business and had run-ins myself with HMRC - indeed they've resumed proceedings against me again last weekend after 8 months of 'silence', for money I have proved I don't owe - the above quote neatly illustrates the impunity and arrogance with which they act. Despite a jury's verdict they make it clear they don't agree with it and that's it's wrong.

Unfortunately the malaise of unaccountability runs deep within our country.

Wednesday 8 February 2012


Some readers may have noted that my football team have booked themselves a place in the final of the 'watch-the-paint-dry' trophy. This strangely has left me with mixed feelings. Yes it's great to be in a final and have the opportunity to win some silverware, but it also means paying another visit to the new Wembley.

For me the new Wembley epitomises all that's wrong with modern football; the greed, the money, the corporatism, the buffoon-like administration by football authorities and also the woeful lack of imagination in new stadium design - in short I can't stand the place.

A visit to the old Wembley, particularly with your team, was one of the pinnacles of a supporters' life, it was one of the most magical grounds in the country -just walking down Wembley Way towards the twin towers raised goosebumps - the atmosphere inside often left me 'deaf' afterwards. However that's not to deny that the old ground had serious failings. There were many many faults; the lack of facilities, that the seats were too far away from the pitch, the view in many cases was atrocious especially towards the back where the roof obscured 2/3rds of the pitch, and the legroom...? What legroom - RyanAir's capacious by comparison.

So clearly the old Wembley was in need of a major revamp - a massive improvement in facilities yet retaining the old magic was required.  This was also the case with many stadia which the Bradford fire and Hillsborough showed up, with tragic consequences, the inadequacies of centuries old buildings which hadn't largely been touched since they were built. So the opportunity arose where we could build innovative, safe and exciting stadia. Some got it right like Sunderland, Huddersfield and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, but many went along with the "off the shelf, boring, MFI all-you-will-need-is-a-screwdriver" option. Wembley though is in a different league of its own. So what's wrong with it?

Well its dubious good points are that it's impressively large from the outside, but significantly smaller inside - like a Tardis in reverse, and it's efficient (and no, escalators do not belong in football grounds) and it has comfortable seats - yeah well so does my living room.

In summary it's a reasonably effective modern building. But then so is my local Tesco's, but I don't get excited when I have to visit it - I'm more concerned about the impact on my credit card. And that's the problem. Wembley is less a football stadium and more a soulless leviathanic credit card machine that has been dumped in North London. The fact that it should host football matches is clearly an afterthought. TV commentators often complain about the empty seats in the middle corporate box section - it looks an embarrassment but yet it is a fitting tribute to the current state of the game and to the priorities of Wembley.  The ultimate symbol of a game that has turned into an 'us and them'.

And then there's the arch. What's that about? Apparently it replaces the twin towers as the iconic feature of the stadium:
 The 2,000 tonne, 315 metre-long steel arch replaces the Twin Towers as the iconic feature of the...stadium.
Well sorry it doesn't, it just looks like a left over from an Alton Towers roller coaster ride. One wonders whether the FA went to Bolliger & Mabillard for its 'signature piece'.

Still, it only cost £798 million and was only a year late...

Tuesday 7 February 2012

An Anniversary

A day after Accession day for the Queen - 60 years on - Your Freedom and Ours reminds us of a less happy anniversary - it's 20 years today since signing the Maastricht Treaty:
A somewhat less happy anniversary today: twenty years ago the Treaty on European Union, otherwise known as the Maastricht Treaty was signed. That, of course, was not the end of the story even of the treaty and its implementation but the date does need to be remembered. Members of the Conservative Party (if there be any left) might like to remind themselves as to which party was in government at the time.
Not only did Maastricht signal a great leap forward in European integration - making us all, including the Queen, EU citizens - and fostering the beginnings of UKIP but it lay the foundations of the destruction of the Tory party. They have never won an election since Maastricht was passed by Parliament.

Monday 6 February 2012


The Environment Agency currently has a project to replace all five of the remaining old paddle and rymer weirs on the River Thames, three of which are Grade II listed structures. The EA justifies this by saying:
As owners and operators of the weirs on the River Thames, we are responsible for keeping them in good working order and safe for our staff to operate and maintain. We regularly carry out engineering surveys to identify areas on each weir that may need repair or replacement. 
We are replacing the paddle and rymer weirs because they can cause inherent long-term health problems. They can also have operational issues, be time consuming and potentially dangerous to operate. 
The new weirs will be operated more rapidly, safely and effectively. They will preserve the existing biodiversity and appearance of the river.
The proposed work has been controversial and very unpopular - much criticism levelled at the expense of replacing weirs that have worked for over a hundred years:
Villagers in Appleton and Eaton claim motorising the weir would be a waste of money and would removed a much-loved element of local history. “It will be a tragedy when they are replaced.

“Apart from the initial installation cost of an automated weir the annual running costs to provide power to the electrical systems and maintenance costs will be a small fortune.
“But now the Environment Agency seems bent on spending unnecessary millions to achieve the same result.
“It doesn’t make any commercial sense whatsoever.”
And, with work soon to start on replacing the Northmoor Weir, we witnessed on this evening's local news - BBC South today - Tory MP Nicola Blackwood echoing similar views; arguing that she couldn't justify the expense to her constituents at a time of austerity, and complaining that no proper cost/ benefit analysis had been done.

Now, as anyone who follows the EU closely knows, anything to do with the environment, rivers etc will ring EU alarm bells - of the gigantic brass variety - particularly when "preserving the existing biodiversity and appearance of the river". And so it proves. Not only does river management come under EU Directive 2007/60/EC which: requires Member States to assess if all water courses and coast lines are at risk from flooding, to map the flood extent and assets and humans at risk in these areas and to take adequate and coordinated measures to reduce this flood risk
But more specifically, as this Paddle & Rymer Weirs Replacement Programme Scoping Consultation Document makes clear the weirs fall foul of this EU required regulation (my emphasis):
The need for the project
The operation of paddle and rymer weirs is labour intensive. The Environment Agency has recognised that there are long-term health and operational issues associated with the operation of these paddle and rymer weirs, despite measures having been taken over the years to reduce the risks. A manual handling assessment (Williams 2009) concluded that there is a high risk of injury when operating these nine weirs because the guideline operational weights to be lifted/lowered as detailed in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 are significantly surpassed. The issues were highlighted during the 2007 floods, and could mean that the weirs cannot be operated effectively during periods of flooding.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 which is based on European Directive 90/269/EEC.

Unsurprisingly all of this goes unmentioned by the various local media outlets and not least also by Ms Blackwood. As a Tory A-lister - her eye is on promotion within the Cameron set - it simply wouldn't do to point out inconvenient EU truths.

Decline And Fall

If ever there was an event which shows up the infantile nature of our MSM it's when we have a bit of snow. News reports regarding snow could easily be summarised as; "there's been snow, there will be some travel disruption and here's where they are".

But no, particularly since the age of 24 hour news and digital technology, reporting the snow has turned into 'dire end of the world warnings' mixed with a cuddly multi-media slideshow of things covered in snow. This from the Telegraph:

 Or from the Mail

Just in case we don't know what stuff covered in snow looks like. We could of course just look out of the window if we really wanted to know. But despite this, the fact that it's just winter dominates the news, as epitomised by the BBC - it's headline news, consisting of reports showing people building snowmen and with copious reporters stand out in fields looking cold and telling us how cold it is. One dreads to think how the MSM would react if ever got cold enough to hold Frost Fairs.

Yet even the lack of snow doesn't stop them. A BBC reporter was standing on a bridge above the A1(M) at Gateshead on BBC Breakfast this morning, giving lurid accounts of heavy snow and traffic problems, while behind him not a flake could be seen and the A1(M) was flowing normally. And not just the BBC either, this from the Mail:

According to the caption below the picture:
Big Ben clock in London is seen in the river Thames surrounded by snow yesterday morning
Yeah I suppose there's some snow in there if you look hard enough.  However what makes this worse is the rise of so-called 'citizen journalism, where viewers and readers are encouraged to send pictures in - 1000s of pictures of stuff covered This is the digital equivalent of having to sit through your Gran's holiday snaps. Nothing could illustrate this better than this example from the BBC:

The caption underneath reads (and I'm not making this up):
Snow has fallen on many parts of the UK. Caroline Hall, from Pocklington, near York, sent this photo of her VW Beetle "Spaghetti". "He is very cold," she says. "Going to have to go and check he is OK soon, poor thing. There is even snow on his little exhaust pipes!"   
That is not news. This is news:

This is not news, it's a fucking snowman:

If the snowman were to go around kidnapping young children and flying them off to Greenland, that would be news but it hasn't so it's not.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Copy 'n' Paste Journalism

If the Daily Mail are going to copy and paste information from a website you'd think that at least they would ensure the spelling is changed from American to English as not to give the game away:

Friday 3 February 2012

Huhne The Loon Charged

After a rather lengthy process, the Euroslime, rabid-greenie, Lib Dem millionaire Chris Huhne has been charged with perverting the course of justice. If found guilty Huhne will certainly face a custodial sentence - previous politicians found guilty of this offence such as Jonathan Atkin and Lord Archer were sentenced for 18 months and 4 years respectively.

Arrogant, ruthlessly ambitious and nasty with an obsessive tendency to smear opponents as Nazis I doubt many tears will be shed at the demise of Huhne's political career. Indeed there will probably be the quiet popping of many champagne corks. Personally I think he should be locked up anyway for his dangerous, reckless and deluded energy policies. But at least this is a start.

It couldn't happen to a nicer chap.

Update: James Delingpole also doubts many tears will be shed.