Cash for Peerages Fiasco

Here’s a new storm in Whitehall: a “peerages for loans” controversy that threatens to engulf Toni Blah in yet more allegations of sleaze.  Labour’s treasurer Jack Dromey said he had been “kept in the dark” about the loans policy and called for a full investigation by the Electoral Commission.

He accused the Prime Minister of running a secret funding operation involving millions of pounds without the knowledge of the party’s elected officials.   An accusation that seems to be holding up as the PM admitted today that he used a loophole in the rules on political donations to nominate for peerages three businessmen who made “secret” loans of more than £1 million to Labour.

“It was the Labour Party that campaigned in opposition for action to ensure that there was the necessary transparency as part of the clean-up of politics,” Dromey said. “The Labour Party needs to put its house in order to restore public and party members’ confidence.”   Too right…but probably too late.

Allegations that Mr Blair was abusing the patronage system by hiding donations in the form of loans and offering peerages in return resurfaced last weekend after another donor, Chai Patel, the chief executive of the Priory health care group, revealed details of Labour’s methods.

Mr Patel, who was offered a peerage after lending the party £1.5 million last year, said he had been prepared to give the money as a gift. But senior party figures had persuaded him to hand it over as a loan instead, on which interest would be paid at commercial rates.

By raising money in this way, political parties do not have to declare it to the Electoral Commission, which makes the figures public. As a result, they hoped to avoid accusations that they are selling peerages or other honours.

Apparently Mr Dromey was incensed by reports that Mr Blair’s close ally and envoy to the Middle East, Lord Levy, had acted as the go-between – completely without his knowledge – to secure loans of about £4.5 million from three supporters who were subsequently recommended for peerages.

While there had been no “illegality”, there had been “impropriety.”  That is putting it nicely!

Mr Patel, who has not withdrawn his name from the list, said he had not sought or expected a peerage (not entirely sure that is honest either..). But he conceded that the honours system had been “reduced to a bazaar” in which people asked “what was the price of a peerage?”    I can help here Mr Patel; market evidence supports a valuation of about £1 million a pop.

If I recall it was the relentless allegations of sleaze that brought down the previous Conservative government.  It would appear the current administration has learned little.

Standing quietly in the wings, smiling, is PM in waiting ‘tax and waste’ Brown.

Not buying british

It was with a mixture of anger and incredulity, that I read of Tax and Waste Browns’ decision to elect to buy a new Toyota Prius as opposed to a Jaguar, as his new ministerial car.

I am sure this is a precursor to him raising more taxes from the beleagured motorist, under the guise that he is now a cuddly eco friendly vote winning chancellor.   Fat chance.

He should have been making a far more important statement:  supporting the 25,000 or so workers making cars in England.   What is wrong with this country when our ‘leaders’ make such appalling decisions?   It’s not that the Prius is a bad car – actually I think it superb – but can you honestly ever imagine a German or French leader not buying a car produced locally from a national manufacturer?

Thought not.

Backwards Bush

The internet is a wonderful thing,    Surfing, searching for inspiration for a blog for today about Dan Brown, I came across a site about ambigrams and then a link to this site…..Backwards Bush.   Tenuous links indeed…and more about Dan Brown later.. if I have time dear reader….

I digress…clearly not a republican site, it contains a backwards counter, because counting backwards makes time pass more quickly (?), displaying how long Dubya has left in office.

They are also offering for sale a keyring countdown – simply a must have for all good democrats this season – and offer a tempting list of reasons why you need one:

  1. You’ll never again be mistaken for a Republican.
  2. Wearing one around your neck helps to keep Republicans away and smells much better than garlic.
  3. You can attach a magnet or tape to the back of it and hang it anywhere you damn well please!
  4. Carrying a BackwardsBush keychain will make it much easier on the Secret Service to identify you when they break into your house in the middle of the night to take you to Guantanamo.
  5. In case of impeachment, keychain can easily be reset to reflect new departure date.
  6. It’s worth buying one just to see how ticked off Republicans get when they see it.
  7. Purchasing a BackwardsBush keychain instantly qualifies you for “Enemy Combatant” status.
  8. You might as well spend your money on a keychain now, because if social security gets privatized, you won’t have any money left!!!
  9. Once Bush gets his judges on the bench, the keychains will be illegal (and therefore a collector’s item).
  10. Since you’re reading this, you’re probably already being spied on by the NSA so you might as well make it worth it!!!

Wonderful….and it put a smile on my face today.

Website of the day

Apparently on the Steve Wright in the afternoon show on Radio 2, Miles Mendoza (one of his studio sidekicks) has a feature called ‘Website of the Day’.    Shivs sent this to me today…

It’s well worth checking out.   The premise is a the site is run by a chap in his 30’s and he seems to travel a lot.   And drink a too.   He records all the wine he drinks, where it is drunk and he rates it accordingly.   No fancy descriptions, just a simple star rating and comment.

Brilliant.   Wish I’d thought of it!

Rally Preparation

Having been bitten hard by the rally bug at last years Rally of the Tests, I have been planning which events I would like to do this year.

The plan has been for Shivs and I to take part and, with that in mind, I’ve entered the Three Castles Rally in Wales in May.    And May is not far away and the car has not had any of the repairs it needs…

So I made a start on one of the main problems over the weekend and removed the radiator which had become rather too friendly with the fan, with dramatic consequences.   The repair – effected with the help of the amazing Tony – comprises plastic padding and RadWeld.   Amazingly it worked

The offending parts:

The list of other repairs is very long – it was prepared in detail on completion of the rally in order to be really well prepared for this one.

If only I could find the damn thing.

Waynes Words

I learned today that footballer Wayne Rooney (20) has signed a five book autobiography deal for Five  Million  Quid.

Quite how he will fill five volumes I know not.    Churchill needed eight – of course he was a little older – and had a tad more about which to write.

I just hope for Waynes sake, someone will read them to him.

Dying Freedoms

The Lords and Commons Pipe and Cigar Smokers Club meet for their annual lunch in London on National No Smoking Day


And it will be their penultimate event, thanks to the over prescriptive legislation their colleagues in government supported, banning smoking in all public (and many private) places from July next year.

Dangerous Driving or model behaviour?

From the Torygraph today, part time model Donna Maddock, was photographed by a SPECS speed camera applying her make up as she drove at 32 mph through a known accident blackspot.  They even provide a snap to prove it:

Donna Maddock in her car

Two points spring to mind – first, obviously, that she is a numpty with mascara for brains.   Second… and a tad more sinister, is why was a picture taken of someone who was not speeding?

Just a thought.

London Calling: The Best Rock Album Ever?

Sound Knowledge in Marlborough is run by the eponymous Roger The Knowledge – well, at least as far as I am concerned.   I’ve been popping in there over the last 6 months to indulge in some new tunes – more of which later as I’ve heard some gems thanks to Rogers guidance – and also some re-issued masters….

(the album cover of the century:  paul simonon trashing his fender bass in frustration at a seated audience:  the horror! – pic by pennie smith)

Now on the one hand I have a bit of an issue paying another 20 quid for the same stuff I bought in 1979 for a fiver just because the format has been revised… and anyway the real single sleeve double album with the lyrics in the sleeve notes will always be irreplaceable… sure, but actually this re-issue was 15 quid, came with 20 ‘new and unreleased versions/songs and a DVD of the making of the quintessential Clash album.

Following 2 albums (The Clash and Give ’em Enough Rope) which received mixed critical acclaim and success, the Clash were at a bit of a low.   They came back from a US tour, played football and made this masterpiece.   19 songs for the price of a single album covering a range of styles from punk to reggae – if you don’t have it: you should.    This ‘anniversary’ (of precisely what?) edition is well worth your hard earned, according to me and the Las Vegas Mercury:

Hollywood found itself with a giant cash cow in 1998 with the emergence of the DVD format, whereupon a film could be presented in its most crisp and clean version, along with bonus programming options. Watching a movie changed as its backstory became part of the viewing experience. The music industry has gotten in on this lucrative windfall as well, starting with home video-oriented DVD packages, and CDs with bonus “rare footage” DVDs.

The best example of this could just be Sony’s recent 25th anniversary edition of the Clash’s London Calling, one of the most revered albums in rock history. As if there wasn’t enough ambition on the original 19-track version, its latest release features another 21 tracks of demos (including five “new” songs); a DVD with a documentary, footage from the recording sessions and promo videos for three of the singles; and a booklet with essays and previously unpublished photos. It actually takes longer to absorb the entire package than it does the band’s 1981 triple album, Sandinista! Everything here tells the story of how the British band’s third album was conceived and recorded, and explores the legacy it has developed since its breakthrough. It reveals the songs’ various institutional, social and political influences. And it features tasty footage of the album’s hyperactive producer, Guy Stevens, who thrashed orchestra chairs down in the studio the same way bassist Paul Simonon destroyed his white Fender, as seen on the cover artwork.

Yet none of it is as scintillating as the actual album itself, a tight 66-minute work that confidently stretches the boundaries of punk rock without a hint of self-consciousness. And then there are the tunes–the iconoclastic melody march of the title track, the alluring dub bassline of “The Guns of Brixton,” the pop reverie of “Train in Vain.” It makes this new package feel less like a marketing ploy and more like a celebration.

Just buy it.

Weekend activities

A splendid and varied weekend in the country is just the ticket for recharging the batteries and lifting the spirits.   Which, in common with my LandRovers battery, were flat as a pancake on Saturday morning.

Fridays’ day off was ruined early on when we found out the house we were hoping to buy was to be sold to someone else.   A trawl of the estate agents did little to enhance my humour as the total stock of suitable property in Wiltshire was nil.    A bright spot was the chance to do the school run and pick the kids up at close of play – giving Shivs ample room to cook a wicked steak – a treat as Electric Pete was coming to stay.   A good bottle of Baron de Brane ’95 and things were looking up.

Saturday began bright and cold with the challenge of pursuading a recalcitrant LandRover to start.   Battery start packs connected… spare batteries added…. to no avail… the motor would turn, but without adequate compression would not fire.   Jumping from the Jag was my last resort which promptly blew the 100A aleternator fuse, confirming the Landies status as ‘dead’.

No matter – off to TH White for a new fuse and a genuine Disco battery.   No stock.   Well, why would they?   The’re only the official Land Rover dealer down these yeerrrr parts.   Helpful staff were some consolation.

So, plan B.   Lovely day.  Bright, dry and cold so perfect for a bit of open top motoring.   MX-5 cover off, started first turn of the key and bob’s your mothers brother off we go to a shoot working party.    Feeders from around the farms were brought in and the chainsaw twins set about clearing part of the pen in an attempt to improve access.   Very satisfying indeed.

Saturday evening dinner in The Bell at Ramsbury followed by a quick doze in front of a glowing log fire teed me up for a busy Sunday.

West Kennet Long Barrow, Photo: S. Topham

We started with a walk around West Kennet Longbarrow – part of Wiltshires famous Neolithic past – this is a 5,500 year old burial ground and is now a world heritage site before driving over to the great Stone Circle at Avebury.   Avebury has the largest stone circle in the world and pre-dates Stonehenge some 20 miles to the south east.

Avebury Image





Culture completed, and with the weather warming up, it was time to exercise some more of the fleet.    The Midget first and then the B and I forgot how much fun they were around the local lanes.    And how much work is needed to the B before the Three Castles Rally in May…back to the list of jobs, the log fire and the Moss catalogue.

More to come on car prep…when I have a moment.