31 December, 2008

Cookery: Oxtail

Does anyone eat oxtail any more? Perfect winter food, perfect recession food. Recommended for a winter recession. You don't have to brown the meat. Start two days early.

For two people:
As much oxtail as your butcher will let you have. The small bits help the stock.

Half a bottle of red wine.

Marinade the one in the other overnight. Add a tin of Italian plum tomatoes and top up with water to cover the oxtail. Add 6 juniper berries, 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed garlic clove and a bayleaf. Simmer all day, topping up with water as necessary.

Following morning scrape off fat and reheat without lid so liquid evaporates. The oxtail browns while this happens. Keep turning it into the liquid.

When liquid reduced by half to two thirds serve with potatoes and the remaining 11 1/2 bottles of wine.


UK: House prices

The figures are in from the mortgage lenders. It seems that from the peak in Apr-Oct 2007 the average house price has declined about 12%, to where it was three years ago. That is to say what they put on between early '06 and mid '07 they have now lost.

Not quite such a disaster as the press would have us think. I suppose there's not much of a story in 'house prices don't decline much'

29 December, 2008

UK: Ken Clarke

Rumours, rumours, rumours.... that Ken Clarke is due to return to the shadow cabinet.

Now I, and I am sure thousands of others, could not vote Conservative with Clarke in any major role unless he made a clear statement that he agreed with Cameron's plans to repatriate powers from Brussels. My guess, however, is that he's not such a hypocrite.

Which can only mean....

Cyprus: Papadopoulos dies

Henry Kissinger was said to have left instructions with his staff that if he were found meddling in the Cyprus problem they should put him in a straightjacket. Now I have a feeling that not enough is being said and written on the subject, and the death of Tassos Papadopoulos a couple of weeks ago is a reminder.

What the EU would have us believe (both Greece and Cyprus are members) is that Cyprus is in a mess because of the intransigence of the Turks. No major country recognises Turkish Cyprus, effectively saying the whole island belongs to the Greeks. The truth, is, as so often, more complicated.

Cyprus became independent from Britain in 1960. The constitution provided for representation in parliament by the Greek and Turkish communities according to population, resulting in 70% Greek, 30% Turkish MPs and ministers. In addition the Turkish community was given the right of veto.

In the late 60s Greece was subject to a military coup, and was ruled by The Colonels, who wanted union between Greece and Cyprus (Enosis) and were dissatisfied with the Greek Cypriot leader, Archbishop Makarios. In July 1974 Greece engineered a coup d’état in Cyprus, suspending the constitution and excluding the Turkish community from the Government. Turkey appealed to Britain, as it should have done because Britain was one of the guarantors of the Cypriot settlement, but we did nothing. Accordingly Turkey invaded and sealed off the Northern part of the territory.

At the time of the coup, Papadopoulos was part of a group which was trying, by fair means or foul, to rid the island of ethnic Turks – what we would now know as ethnic cleansing. He became president in 2003, and in 2004 there was a UN plan to bring peace to the island, which the Turks accepted. Papadopoulos campaigned against it and it was rejected by the Greeks, resulting in a continuation of the partition of the island. His idea was that the larger, wealthier southern part of the island could bide its time and achieve a result on its own terms. It was never going to work. Papadopoulos was ousted from office in the elections in February this year and now he is dead. Perhaps Cyprus can look forward to peace.

27 December, 2008

Here they come

An extraordinary piece in the Telegraph, an interview with Andy Burnham. Mr Burnham, and this will shock some people, is a cabinet minister, with responsibility for culture and the media. One of the surprising parts is this: ‘Mr. Burnham also uses the interview to indicate that he will allocate money raised from the BBC’s commercial activities to fund other public-service broadcasting such as Channel Four.’

So: we pay for the BBC and if it does anything to make a profit this is allocated towards Mr. Ahmadinejad’s fee for his Christmas Message. I hope he is paid less than Jonathan Ross.

But the really gripping part was Mr. Burnham’s views on the internet. ‘If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that Governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now. It’s true across the board in terms of content, harmful content, and copyright. Libel is [also] an emerging issue.’

I think we can see where this is going, can’t we? They will use the excuse of child porn or some such to enrage the Sun and the Mail, and then restrictions will be quietly extended to anyone posting anti New Labour ‘unhelpful’ propaganda. At least we know where the battle lines are.

Just to be clear exactly where this blog stands, Mr Burnham is a diminutive junior fascist, probably bullied at school. His boss has wrecked the British economy and will be seen as the worst Prime Minister of modern times.

In order also to fall foul of the pornography excuse I may publish lists of body parts in later posts.

Harold Pinter

While all the tributes to Pinter are pouring in, I thought I'd add my 2 centesimi-worth. I didn't like his plays, his poems, his ghastly left-wing politics and his defence of ethnic cleansing by Serbia. His only redeeming benefit was that he liked cricket, which should at least get you an introduction to the man with the keys at the pearly gates.

And when the One great scorer comes
To write against your name
He marks not if you won or lost
But how you played the game.

Pinter, though, was a tosser of the first water.

Benazir and the Beeb

We get BBC World here, and I have just gone through the astonishing experience of them observing a minute's silence for the anniversary of the death of Benazir Bhutto.

I knew Benazir slightly, years ago. She was self-obsessed, almost to the point of insanity, hedonistic, look-at-me hubristic and, of course, rich. In her time as a politician she enriched herself further at the expense of some of the poorest people on earth, her husband, who is now president, creaming off a slice of any major contract in the country. What the BBC fawningly describes as 'her vision for Pakistan' was that the keys of the treasury should be in her pocket and that her opponents should be in prison.

It is difficult to get the BBC to respect the minute's silence for our war dead. This was a disgrace, which must go into the pot with so many other incidents when we finally get to decide its future. Mene Mene Tekel upharsin. I hope it's soon.

25 December, 2008


'Rome, by all means, Rome' said Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, and who am I to disagree?

Here until Epiphany. Best wishes to all

24 December, 2008

Letter from Italy (Christmas)

It is said that everything in Italy has a political connection but you don’t expect it in the annual jamboree of calendars. Every year hundreds of starlets, aspiring models and C-list celebrities publish a collection of a dozen over-posed half naked photographs of themselves. The calendars are bought openly and shown in newspapers; wives buy them for their husbands. It seems strange to the less colourful world of northern Europe. Amongst the many this year are a couple each showing a dozen female students, one lot against the educational reforms of Maria Stella Gelmini the other in favour. My vote? Those against the reforms start at a disadvantage because they are fully clothed, and the education minister herself is better looking than any of them.

The astonishing tale of Prime Minister Berlusconi continues. Having won 47% of the vote at the general elections, his coalition is now polling over 50%. He himself has a 60% approval rating. The left-wing Partito Democratico are increasingly looking like yesterday’s men. Berlusconi is making noises about the President being directly elected (he is currently elected by MPs); it may be he has a candidate in mind.

Alitalia goes from weakness to weakness. Christmas travellers were left stranded at Fiumicino due to a wildcat strike by baggage handlers. Eventually the minister for transport had to tell them it was illegal but they have threatened further action later. The new owners, the CAI consortium, will be realising that attitudes have to change: it is not enough to concentrate on the numbers.

Bad weather coming down from the north, the recession and a minor earthquake in Parma have not dampened Italian enthusiasm for Christmas. Romans will spend an average of €270 per head. The trains are full with people rejoining their families ‘Natale con I suoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi’ (Christmas with your family, Easter with whom you please). In the wake of falling demand for Champagne, sales of spumante and prosecco are up 10%, and exports to Britain more than double. Cin Cin!

Internal Minister Roberto Maroni has announced that the Ferraris, Maseratis and Porsches confiscated from Mafiosi will become part of the police car pool. This has generated a new enthusiasm and a further 99 have been arrested this week.

Giuseppe Rebaudi, who six months ago married his sweetheart after living together for 56 years has died aged 101…….in the arms of his housekeeper. Forza!

Auguri a tutti

20 December, 2008

UK: global cooling

From the BBC's environment correspondent (I'll repeat, that's the BBC)

"The world in 2008 has been cooler than at any time since the turn of the century, scientists say.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) notes that temperatures remained about 0.3C above the 1961-1990 average.

One recent analysis suggested there may be no warming for about the next decade.

What is beyond dispute is that 2008 saw temperatures a shade below preceding years"

Could we please, therefore, have less of this stuff about global warming? Could we start telling the truth, however un-trendy it may sound? Please? Isn't that what independent news services are there for?

The motor industry

In pushing for a bail out of the motor industry, I believe Barack Obama has made his first mistake, before even taking the oath. Detroit's business plan has for years been unrealistic. The three companies have been making cars which no one wants to buy, shored up by a tax break on SUVs. That has been enough government interference. They cannot export their way out of trouble because no one in Europe or Asia wants something the size of a truck with an enormous inefficient engine, and which doesn't go round corners too well. The industry should go into bankruptcy and anyone foolish enough to own shares in it must take the hit.

In the UK, Jaguar Land Rover was bought just a year ago by one of the world's most successful businessmen, Ratan Tata. His business plan must have seen the downturn coming, and it would be perfectly preposterous for the hard hit British taxpayer to bail him out. I doubt the expertise exists in Lord Mandelson's department to understand all this, but they should at least have an inkling as to how badly various governments have run the British Motor industry in the past - I should say UK because De Lorean was the creature of the Northern Ireland Office.

I suspect they will spray our money around just to cause the Tories difficulty. Thanks.

18 December, 2008

UK: odds on the euro?

I am told that William Hill are opening a book on whether the UK will join the euro and when. The odds:

During 2009: 20/1
During 2010: 14/1
During 2011: 10/1
After 2014: 2/7

I should have thought the 2010 bet is the best: Labour win the general election and join immediately. But neither scenario looks likely to me. Good luck to the punters.

17 December, 2008

UK: the Post Office

When discussing the future of the Post Office / Royal Mail we should not forget the part played by Michael Heseltine. The old fraud could have sold off the Post Office at a profit years ago, when delivery companies were gearing up to meet the expected burgeoning of demand for home deliveries from internet purchases. But like every other decision he faced, he muffed it. There was talk of it being a meeting place for old people, as if that were any business of the State.

There is no reason why the State should own one means of communication - the most old fashioned - while the private sector runs all the others.

Now the Post Office loses 6p for every letter sent and its pension fund, helped downwards by Gordon Brown's removal of tax relief on dividends, is apparently £6bn in deficit.

The plan is to sell off one third (it should be all of it), insisting on single price delivery, even to the most remote areas, but guarantee the pension funds payments. This way the government gets to take what is in the pension fund (£20 billion apparently) to make the national debt look a bit lower, but of course saddle future generations with this vast liability.

The Tories should expose this sleight of hand, and insist that the whole thing is sold of, pensions shortfall and all, to the highest bidder, without any restrictions as to what the purchaser does with it. Without this daft idea we could have had public internet and fax points in every village by now, at a fraction of the cost.

16 December, 2008

Europe: Germany stronger and meaner

Much has been said about Peer Steinbruck’s ‘crass Keynesianism’ comment including Gordon Brown trying it on that this was a piece of internal politicking, (since denied by another member of the German government) but people are beginning to ask what the Germans really should be doing in this crisis. The German government has announced a €32bn stimulus package but analysts say this is largely stuff which has already been announced (oddly, an old Brown trick).

Ambrose Evans Pritchard, in a forceful piece in today’s Telegraph, believes Germany’ is in breach of EMU's implicit contract, and that it should reflate, using its surplus’. But why? ‘The rules of the game are that surplus countries should boost demand’, says AE-P. Well, I’ve never seen these rules.

The Stability and Growth Pact limits countries from going off the rails, applying ceilings to budget deficit and debt (broken by many countries, including Germany) but there is nothing in the Pact suggesting that in a recession the strong should reflate to help the weak. Germany has suffered and has held wages down in a way that France and Italy have not, their industry is now competitive, as evidenced by a trade surplus the size of China’s and they feel now that they should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of their labours, rather than having to bail out the less prudent.

This will make Germany stronger in Europe in the long term, and if we don’t like that, we can reflect that it is our own fault.

15 December, 2008

Italy: Alitalia, what's in a name?

The CAI Group finally took over Alitalia on 12th December. Unfortunately, however, it is not allowed to use the name Alitalia until 12th January.

Quite how one is supposed to book a ticket is not explained, but I've a feeling that isn't going to be much of a problem for them.

UK: priorities

I was due to be speaking on Radio Solent this morning about the benefits or otherwise of joining the euro, but was bumped off due to an overrunning discussion about the voting on Strictly Come Dancing.

14 December, 2008

Italy: The Tiber in flood

The picture shows a boat crashing into the Ponte Sant'Angelo in one of the worst high waters Rome has seen for years.

All over the centre of the capital there are marks showing where the high waters reached a century or so ago, most of them at waist height (so this is nothing to do with global warming).

The waters have eased a little now, but the Italian capital was within inches of disaster.

13 December, 2008

UK: BBC: Ed Stourton

I have just heard that the BBC has fired Ed Stourton from the Today programme. Stourton is an excellent journalist with one thing against him: he is a little bit posh. The BBC tried to get rid of him before, using the excuse that he was separated fro his wife an was living with another woman. Naturally they didn't fire Andrew Marr when it transpired he had fathered a child with Alice Miles, the Times journalist. Marr is 'one of us', innit?

This is really awful of the BBC. I have just been listening to their 24 hr news service, where everyone has some sort of regional accent and some daft Scottish presenter couldn't make herself understood to the reporter on the ground, referring to our 'Trips' in Afghanistan.

The BBC has become so awful over the last five years that it now seems impossible that it can carry on as before. We need a very large scalpel.

EU: the Irish problem

The extraordinary story of the EU Constitution rolls on. It is rejected by France and Holland (and would have been by several others, who didn't get around to voting), it is given a different title 'The Lisbon Treaty' and that is rejected by Ireland. A stranger would have thought that was it, but it is an indication of how inured we are to the anti-democratic nature of the European political class that no one was really surprised when the Irish were told to vote again.

The problem now facing the eurocrats (and don't forget the livelihood of many of them may depend on this) is that if the Irish are given the same old rubbish they will vote no again, probably with an even bigger margin because of the insult to their intelligence. But if there are any actual changes to the Treaty then they have to be put to all 27 member states again (without, I suggest, a snowball's chance in hell of being approved).

So they have to make changes without doing so. This will be in the form of 'clarifications' of the text, and I fully expect some Belgian lawyer to say he has looked at it carefully and it is quite in order.

That is the nature of the regime under which we live.

12 December, 2008

UK: Sark

When is feudalism not feudalism? When is not-feudalism feudalism? There have been strange goings on in Sark.

For over a century the island has been under the feudal rule of the Beaumont family. By all accounts the Sarkees were happy with this rather strange arrangement but the Barclay brothers, who live on the nearby island of Brecqhou and have been heavy investors in Sark, were not. They forced the island to have its first democratic election, which has just taken place. The Barclays set out in a newsletter who their favoured candidates were and whom they disliked: one had ‘a socialist streak’ and another was referred to as ‘a feudal talibanist’.

Unfortunately, and this is the problem with democracy, isn’t it, David and Frederick?, only two of the Barclays’ approved people were elected, out of nine.

Now, in a fit of peevishness, the Barclays have stopped their investment in the island and 140 people will lose their jobs. These poor folk must be thinking they were better off with feudalism.

My suggestion to the Barclays is that they spend less time in the Channel islands, where they are less than popular, and more time trying to rescue the Daily Telegraph, which they also own. Now known as the Labourgraph, its editorial line is skewed and it is haemorrhaging readership and journalists at an alarming rate.

10 December, 2008

UN: Human Rights are 60!

Today is the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Britain played its part in drawing this up, as it did with the European Declaration on Human Rights which was drawn from it; and the British Human Rights Act is taken from that.

But I must say I sometimes wonder what we have got. The Declaration contains a number of worthy aims: Article 5 says ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’; here is Article 19: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression’

But it seems to me we have seen this time and again: making a worthy expression of what is good makes us feel better but doesn’t get us any further on. Since December 1948 we know that it is only the bad guys who torture; has torture stopped? Now we know that only evil countries prevent freedom of expression. Imagine! And this has lead to other unworldly wordiness, as with Tony Blair’s ‘handguns’ law, the result being that only the bad guys have guns; or the landmines declaration so beloved of the late Princess of Wales which results in the British Army not being allowed landmines but the people they are fighting having them anyway.

Some say that the value of the UDHR is to lay down a fundamental law so that even though they didn’t actually sign it, the likes of Radko Mladic are subject to it. But what is the use of that? Did we prosecute China for breach of Article 15 ‘Everyone has the right to a nationality’ or Article 21 ‘Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives’. And how many articles is Mugabe in breach of?

It simply hasn’t been convenient to enforce the UNDHR in many places so we simply haven’t, which means that every tin pot dictator knows it is worthless. I think that it would be better if instead of making cosy social democratic love talk we shut up, unless we were prepared to invade anyone in breach of our list of rights, and we’re not, and simply set an example in our own country for the rest of the world to follow.

09 December, 2008

Letter from Italy: the Immacolata

It is hard to imagine a time when Europe disagreed so much about the economic facts. Whilst Britain almost revels in the headlines of falling house prices, empty shops and unemployment, the Germans rather think it is something happening to other people and the Italians, well the Italians aren’t sure. One reason is that the present downturn began in the financial markets, where Britain is especially strong and Italy is weak. Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti announced with delight that the Italian banks had not got round to investing in these new-fangled credit instruments and were therefore strong. Italians do not have a debt culture and the average family saves a bit. Whilst Italy’s governmental debt is high, if you add personal debt the figure is about the same as Britain. At the start, it all looked like a problema anglo-sassone.

Italy is not of course immune to the second wave of the crisis – the business downturn. But again things are slightly different here. There was already an economic malaise in the country; people feared that Italy was slipping behind her neighbours month by month, year by year, due to the peculiarities of its economy: rigid labour markets, stultifying bureaucracy, massive black economy. Italy knows it is not immune from the happenings in the rest of the world; it is dependent on exports and if Ferrari and Gucci are to survive people worldwide have to be buying their products, but there is almost a comfort in knowing that others are in the same boat. It might even be their fault.

Monday 8th December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, is traditionally the first day of Christmas shopping. Italy is not likely to have a disastrous Christmas because family values are entrenched and the presents are a part of that, also because many Italians are paid with a thirteenth month and so have cash in their pockets around this time.

The underlying Italian economy is a network of small family firms, heavily geared to export. It is the totems of the economy which Italy doesn’t do well. Alitalia’s takeover has still not gone smoothly, despite a determination to proceed even without the approval of the pilots and the cabin crew. What is increasingly certain is that it cannot survive on its own. The planes are old and the working practices so outdated that essentially Alitalia is a collection of landing slots and not much else. Air France is favoured as the lucky partner. There are stories of short time working at FIAT, and whilst the CEO Sergio Marchionne is generally regarded as a miracle worker, he has warned that the car industry can no longer survive in its present form: global consolidation is the only way forward. Previously a black hole swallowing cash at an alarming rate, FIAT is now regarded as an attractive partner. ENEL, the national electricity giant, reports industrial usage down 30%. The bright side of this is that it was struggling to supply its market due to a failure to upgrade to modern gas-fired power stations and now might limp through the winter without power cuts. The Venice Mose project, consisting of a flood barrier which can be raised on hydraulic rams, is now likely to go ahead following exceptionally high waters in recent weeks.

Politically Silvio Berlusconi is in a stronger position than ever, in part due to the fragmentation of the left, and in part due to some rather modest successes on the Naples rubbish crisis and Alitalia. A raft of measures on security, corruption, education and the economy have progressed almost unopposed, whilst he has secured immunity from prosecution in time for the prosecution’s winding up in the Mills trial expected before Christmas. He was criticised for increasing VAT on his media rivals, Sky, but with a magician’s sleight of hand produced a letter from the EU asking him to do so. As Greece, Spain and Portugal suffer from the downturn, Berlusconi’s Italy looks stronger internationally, with a greater acceptance in Europe, for example with its plan to relax environmental laws on cost grounds, which many agree with. It seems likely that in the next 12 months Italy’s economy will overtake Britain’s as fifth in the world, which would be nearly as important as winning the World Cup.

04 December, 2008

UK: Speaker and Serjeant 2

An apology to Damian Green: someone had told me that his name was spelled Damien, as in Hirst, so I didn't bother to check. I now learn the correct spelling and that we are the same age and were at University together.

There will be no shortage of lawyers, barrack room and other, on l'affaire Green, and indeed there has been some well-informed comment on my last post. I need not put my two penn'orth in, except to say that I have been told that the permission for the police to search without a warrant, I think S8 of the PACE, may not apply to a Royal Palace, only to you and me. I'd be interested to hear opinion on this.

What the law should be may be different. A whistleblower is stealing but of course there should be the defence of public interest. This would seem to me to apply to the 5,000 uncleared illegal immigrants including one cleaning the Commons and another guarding the PM's car, but not to a list of Labour defectors over a piece of legislation.

An MP may, I suppose, therefore be in the position of receiving stolen goods, but the public interest defence should apply even more, with the added caveat that he wouldn't know it was in the public interest until he had read it.

I am not impressed with this idea of 'grooming', that an MP might induce a whistleblower to get some information. An MP should be regarded like a taxi with its light on, available for the business of receiving information at all times. He doesn't need to say he will receive information enabling him to hold the government to account, of course he will.

I do not believe, as some commentators and MPs have said, that the police should under no circumstances be allowed to search an MP's office. We have had in the past MPs who were sympathisers with terrorist groups in N Ireland (Bobby Sands was of course an MP although never took up his seat) and we don't want them using the Palace of Westminster to store their data, right under the noses of the establishment.

Lastly it is not in the Tories' interest to get rid of Martin: another Labour speaker would be elected in his place. He should be allowed to go quietly at the general election.

03 December, 2008

UK: Speaker and Serjeant

The Speaker, Michael Martin, seems to have dropped the Serjeant at arms, Jill Pay, into the doodoo. He says he was informed by her that Damien Green's office was going to be searched, but only that. Questions still surround Mr Martin as to whether he raised a complaint or even showed any interest at the news but the spotlight will be on Mrs Pay. It would appear that she did not ask the police if they had a warrant (they didn't) but let them in anyway.

It will be remembered that the office of Serjeant at arms is in the gift of the Queen and has gone traditionally to a senior military officer. Martin got rid of the last one (Major General Peter Grant Peterkin) and appointed Mrs Pay.

Her Majesty was said to be outraged and refused to receive Mrs Pay, but I am afraid it is yet another example of her abrogating her powers, not to the people, but to the executive.

Pay's previous job was deputy director of the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative at the Department of Employment, and if that doesn't have a New Labour flavour to it I don't know what does.

I have written before about New Labour's ability to get their own people into senior positions in all walks of life (Andrew Marr is a prime example at the BBC). I am afraid MPs are going to have to ask themselves (pointless asking her) if she would have acted in this way if it had been a Labour MP under arrest.

UK: The Queen's English

I was a little bit surprised to hear that the Queen says 'enhance' to rhyme with 'pants'

Has someone taught her this? Did she go to the BBC's pronunciation unit?

I think we should be told

UK: the euro (2)

What José Manuel Barroso said was that he had had discussions about joining the euro 'with the people who mattered in Britain'.

Peter Mandelson has denied it, and assuming he is not lying (impossible, surely? - Ed) there can only be one.

He has been talking to Jonathan Ross.

UK: Premium Bonds

The applicable interest rate to the prize pool on premium bonds (National Savings) has been reduced to 1.8% meaning that even with the maximum investment of £30,000 you could expect only £540 a year on average, and are likely to get the £1m jackpot once every 1,851 years.

Seems even ERNIE's feeling the pinch

UK: the euro?

There's been a fair bit of talk in recent days about Britain joining the euro. Not just from Mr Barroso, the jefe de la junta in Brussels, but whispers in markets, too.

It scarcely need be said that it would be barking mad: even in the short term there is the problem that the largest economy, Germany, has a low budget deficit and doesn't believe in borrowing to get out of recession (Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, alluded to it saying 'Just because all the lemmings jump off the cliff at the same time doesn't make it the right decision); in the long term the structural differences are likely to widen.

But it seems even dafter politically. There has to be an election by Spring 2010. Just imagine the headlines in the Sun if Brown were to attempt this having 'abolished the pound', 'sold out to Europe'.

No, mes frères, I think not.

02 December, 2008

UK: new police chief

Among the runners and riders for the job of Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police are:

Bob Quick, the head of the specialist unit which carried out the raid on Damien Green

Acting commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, who authorised the raid

The head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Ken Jones, who is fiercely supportive of the way the Met have behaved.

I wrote some time ago that the way to decide which candidate is suitable is to ask them to list in order the public's concerns and match their answers to a survey of the public. Clearly these three are miles off target and should be rejected.

Unfortunately the position is in the gift of the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

01 December, 2008

France: journalist arrested

While Britain seethes over the arrest of an opposition politician, life across the channel doesn't seem that much better.

A senior journalist with Libération, Vittorio de Filippis, was arrested and handcuffed in front of his children in a 6.30am raid, for an allegedly defamatory comment left on Libération's website by a reader, two years ago.

Apparently Emperor Sarkozy is holding discussions about the constitutional position of the press in France. He might start by looking at this.