Friday, 22 August 2014

That Stiff Pilchard thing...

The current hoo-hah over whether Cliff Richard abused a young man at a Billy Graham event back in 1985 just gets odder and odder.

Let's face it, the guy is an easy target. He's a bit weird - a rampant Christian and self-proclaimed celibate. So he's got to be an arse bandit and a kiddie fiddler, right? Just tar him with the same brush as all those Catholic priests who claim to be celibate Christians.

For some time there has been a concerted campaign on some of the internet's weird side to 'get' the guy. Cliff himself describes it as a 'whispering campaign' and refused to grace the smears with a response. Quite right too. Most of these guys are just sad, weirdo attention seekers with little regard for irrelevancies like proof or facts. Imagine how they are crowing now that the current events are unfolding! They just love it. 'We were right all along' and 'We told you so!'

Cliff himself denies everything and is preparing to return to the UK to talk to police. In the meantime, questions are being asked about the way events unfolded. The BBC treated the whole thing like a reality TV show and had cameras in place and helicopters in the air before the police even arrived in Sunningdale. Now it seems that the collusion between the two may bring into question the legality of the search warrant.

Speaking to The Times, Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, said: "To apply for a search warrant, having come to an arrangement with a media organisation in advance, so that the warrant can be used to create an event designed to reflect favourably on the behalf of the police, is completely disreputable conduct on the behalf of the police.It is possible that the failure to disclose these facts renders the warrant unlawful."

And in an even more bizarre twist, Cliff's fans have been buying up copies of his 1992 hit 'I Still Believe In You' to the point where it is on the verge of entering the top 40.

I can't help wondering how raiding an apartment that he didn't even own at the time in order to investigate something that happened nearly 30 years ago is going to produce any evidence and whether Cliff is just the latest victim in long run of celebrities being witch hunted in the wake of Savile.

I'm not suggesting for a second that accusations of sexual assault should not be investigated, but it does seem to me that there is a right and wrong way of going about it - and this case definitely looks like a case of the latter to me.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

No news

Mrs D and I have our daily routine like all old farts set in their ways. Since we live on a road, our dreams of sleeping in late are generally ruined by some bastard driving past on his way to work or some bloody builder from the nearby site parking under our bedroom window. Bastards, the lot of 'em. But I digress...

We wake up. I open up the telly at the end of the bed, get the remote control out of the bedside cupboard and chuck it on the bed, and then trot off downstairs to make the tea. We spend the next hour or so watching the news.

So imagine my surprise when yesterday morning Mrs D announced that she wasn't going to watch the news any more. I nearly choked on my tea. "What? Whyever not?"

"Because it's boring, it's the same old stuff over and over again and you can't believe a word of it." So that's me told. You can argue with her if you like, but I'm not wasting my breath.

Actually, she has a point. The news - especially on the BBC - has become so biased, politicised and sanitised that is just plain boring. Lately we've been switching over to Sky News a lot mainly to watch the reviews of the papers which is, at least, a bit more varied than the same old repeated headlines over and over and over get the idea.

Mind you, I draw the line at Emmerdale and Corrie which is, after all, only on about 87 times a week and is only marginally less boring than the BBC news. This morning we settled down to watch The Professionals which was excellent if only for Martin Shaw's hairstyle and Gordon Jackson's wooden acting. Nevertheless, it was like watching a time capsule in it's own way.

I do, however, draw the line at the Teleshopping channels. How the hell did there get to be so many anyway? Do people really buy stuff of these things? Really? Blimey!

And then there's Homes Under the Hammer, The Royal, Heartbeat. So much choice and so little time.

Couple that with the News and the selection of absolute shite at 7:30 in the morning is almost endless. Ho hum...

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Scrapping the Upper House

It probably won't surprise my regular reader that I'm not particularly fond of the House of Lords. It's too big and it's full of party donors, retired political big wigs and ex-MPs who are offered a seat in the upper house to get them out of the Commons.

The main objection to the Lords seems to me to be that it is an unelected chamber. The argument is that this is undemocratic - which frankly it is - and that our rulers should be subject to the democratic process. So let's chuck it out and replace it with an elected Senate. That would be much better. Or would it?

The Americans have an elected upper Senate. It might surprise you to know that it was modelled on the Lords and until 1913 it was unelected too. So has the American model improved government? Well, I see no evidence to suggest so - although I can see an argument that since 1997 when Blair got in, the Lords has gotten worse.

Now far be it for me to suggest that you can buy a peerage through party donations. No siree! It's all just a coincidence that such people are moved in there. And putting people in there can backfire on you, too. Just look at Baroness Warsi for a prime example. She gets a peerage so the Tories can get a poster girl for equality in the cabinet and now because she's a baroness, they're stuck with her. So maybe that's an argument for electing them. It would mean we could get rid of a few when they're no longer useful.

And then there's the Bishops. The so called 'Lords Spiritual'. Now I've been upsetting one or two of those lately, but why are they in the Lords? They're all Anglicans of course, but if we really want representations of faith in the upper house - and I see no good reason why we should if I'm honest - then why restrict it to Anglicans?

On balance, I think it has to go and be replaced with an elected chamber filled with people who are put there not because they give money to one political party or the other, or know the right people, or want a cushy route out of the commons. The honours system that puts them there also needs a severe overhaul while we're at it.

But at the end of the day my biggest bug bear is that once they're in, they're never out again. The US Senate might not be a huge improvement on our system, but at least their Senators don't get a job for life from which they can never be removed.

And that has to be an improvement, doesn't it?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Down and out!

Over the weekend, I came across an interesting article by Austin Mitchell MP who is standing down at the 2015 General Election at the age of 79. Well worth a read.

Mitchell is going willingly because he doesn't want to die in office but he's clearly disgruntled about the reaction of glee he got from the Labour Party when he told them he was going. He accuses Labour of 'rampant ageism'. There are 30 Labour MPs over 60 standing down next time around and Mitchell makes it quite clear that they're not all going willingly.

"Joe Benton, Labour MP for Bootle, where Euan Blair (son of Tony) is mooted as his replacement, had to be carried out kicking and screaming" he says. Others seem to have been told that they're not on for another parliament and that the House of Lords would be a good place for them to go instead - as if there's not enough of them there already!

"The parliamentary party is undergoing the biggest process of feminisation and rejuvenation embarked on since fabulous pink Camay soap promised to make us look a little lovelier each day." A cracking turn of phrase. Labour wants to look more inclusive, younger and cuddly.

All Women Shortlists are being foisted on constituency committees whether they want them or not. Pressure is being brought to bear to select young, fresh faced candidates. The exceptions to this would seem to be where the seat is required for people with surnames like Blair, Benn, Kinnock or Straw.

In culling terms, Blair culled about 8% of the party before coming to power in 1997. By comparison, Miliband is culling around 16% and replacing them with youngsters and females, dangerously ignoring whether the successful candidate is the best person for the job.

It's all very well being cute and cuddly, but if Labour come to power next year, do we really want the country run by a bunch of kids? OK, they'll be easy to manipulate - which will no doubt appeal to Miliband - but they're going to get ripped to shreds by battle hardened Tories bitter about losing power...

...and that can't be good for the country whichever way you look at it

Monday, 18 August 2014

Talking to the Bish...

Yesterday I had a bit of a go at Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds because I feel strongly that church and politics is a particularly bad combination. In fact, I felt strongly enough to post the following on the good Bishop's blog under his open letter to government. Here's what I wrote...

It went into his moderation queue, and when it didn't appear several hours later, I followed it up with this :

Surprisingly, the Bish replied denying that he would do any such thing :

Now I'm quite prepared to apologise to anyone when I'm wrong but not unreasonably I like to be proved wrong first - any there's still no sign of my original comment. 

Then another response appeared :

Apparently he was not calling me mad - but then I remember once someone saying to me that he wasn't calling me a liar, he just didn't believe me so I understand doublespeak. Repeating my question didn't seem unreasonable, then this arrived :

Interestingly, my original comment is not there. Where is it? Damned if I know! One thing is certain; it's not been published. Now I might be doing the Bish a great disservice. All my other comments have appeared as above, duly moderated and approved...

...except for the last one. I did wonder if, by the time this post appeared, it may well have been approved and published. Bishops are busy people after all. But I checked at 08:35 this morning and it's still in 'moderation'.

Censorship or technical error? Draw your own conclusions.