Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Victimless Crime?

For a crime that many people were claiming has no victims, the conclusion of the Tommy Sheridan trial has a queue of people claiming to be victims.  Unfortunately there was a lot of BS being spoken by those claiming victimhood.

We can now say that Tommy Sheridan did visit swingers clubs, and we can say that Sheridan was unfaithful to his wife.  Sheridan claims that he is the victim of a vast conspiracy to bring him down, where in the future films will be made starring Kevin Costner.  The truth is that Sheridan was the victim of a conspiracy by his party to oust him from his position, and was a victim of his own vanity.  The film of that will star a couple of guy’s from River City.  Sheridan let his vanity take over when he began his libel case. 

Had he not launched the case he might have been able to laugh it off and make a comeback a couple of years down the line.  Instead of which, Sheridan adopted the same moral high tone of Cecil Parkinson and David Mellor and painted himself as an honest man with family values.  Were this a certain kind of blog, I would be speculating about exactly what kind of relationship the Sheridan’s have.  After all Sheridan’s career is now dust because of his desire to keep his extravagant sex life out of the public eye, and more importantly from his wife.

First in the queue for victimhood are the SSP. If memory serves, they ousted Sheridan from the leadership and started to brief against Sheridan from the off.  Not exactly the wronged stance they have been attempting to re-write in recent day’s.  Unless i am very much mistaken, adultery, sex clubs are not illegal.  After all, this is the UK not Iran.  Yet the SSP took the puritanical line, that this kind of behaviour was not acceptable and that Sheridan should be removed from his post.  I should point out two things here. Firstly I don’t think Sheridan’s behaviour was acceptable, but secondly i don’t think he had the full support from his party.  Which is why i think his ousting as SSP leader is the only conspiracy on show here.  I think that winning 6 seats at the 2003 Holyrood elections went to some people’s heads, maybe Colin Fox’s, maybe Carolyn Leckie and maybe people thought that we don’t need Sheridan, and oops here’s an opportunity to get rid of him.

Not that this post is the only one gunning at the pious positions taken up by the anti-Tommy camp.  The rival party set up by Sheridan, Solidarity, has backed their man and attacked the SSP hierarchy for taking the side of Rupert Murdoch in this argument.  Conveniently ignoring the fact that Sheridan “slept” with a News of the Screw’s columnist.

The truth is that the real victims of Sheridan’s conviction, and the events surrounding it, are voters of a left wing persuasion.  At a time when a right wing government (wearing a red rosette) has been replaced with an equally right wing government (wearing a fetching blue/yellow combo), politicians from the Solidarity/SSP camps have shown themselves to be selfish, duplicitous, sneaky, untrustworthy, and perfectly at home in adopting Tory family values.  They have preferred to train their fire on each other than on the enemy.  In short they have made themselves un-electable.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Pressing The Nuclear Button

In amongst the heat and fog surrounding Vince Cable’s comments regarding the Dirty Digger, there are two things that strike me.

Firstly he did not say “I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win” – the quote is the very definition of taken out of context with the full quote being “No, he has minority shares and he wants a majority - and a majority control would give them a massive stake.

"I have blocked it using the powers that I have got and they are legal powers that I have got. I can't politicise it but from the people that know what is happening this is a big, big thing.  His whole empire is now under attack... So there are things like that we do in government, that we can't do... all we can do in opposition is protest."

I am picking my fights, some of which you may have seen, some of which you may haven't seen.  And I don't know if you have been following what has been happening with the Murdoch press, where I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win." .

I might be alone in this but I think that Cable meant that the News International perception was that he had declared war, by referring the bid in the first place (as opposed to waving the bid through as has been the precedent for the past 30 years).  Had he not opened his mouth, i suspect that “we” would have won.

The second point is about the impartiality issue.  News International owns “The Bun” and the “News of The Screws”, both of which are influential among key voters.  For this reason, politicians have been bending over backwards to accommodate the requests from News International, starting with the purchase of The Times and The Sunday Times in 1981.  New Labour were just as bad as the Tories when in office, so it is sad, but not a surprise, to see the Blairites John Denham & Hilary Benn rush to suck up to Rupe by sticking the knife in so quickly. It’s hardly consistent for the comentariat (those who have taken the Murdoch shilling in the past or now) to bleat on about impartiality.

Cable has blundered badly by revealing his thoughts and views to two strangers.  We shall see whether Cable will remain in post and for how long.  However the bigger punishment though will be paid by a broadcasting sector that will see a further strengthening of a dominant player.  Remember as well that Cameron & his then shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt were happy to shape their policies to the Diggers wishes – they advocated the scrapping of OFCOM and the reigning in of the BBC in columns penned for The Sun.  I think that we will now see News International given the green light to buy the rest of BSkyB, especially as it looks like Hunt has been given the decision over BSkyB.  Impartial huh!

Friday, 17 December 2010

More Toothlessness From the FSA

One of the news stories that I missed while I was away was the  FSA announcing that they had cleared the Royal Bank of Scotland of any wrongdoing, quantifying their judgement by stating that RBS had made “a series of bad decisions” that “were not the result of any lack of integrity by any individual and we did not identify any instances of fraud or dishonest activity by senior individuals or a failure of governance on part of the board”.

It is worrying that the FSA, above everyone else, has failed to grasp the accusations levelled at RBS.  The charge against Goodwin, McKillop and everyone else is not that some sort of fraud occurred.  It is that in the course of events, the board of RBS did not show due diligence when approaching the takeover of ABN Amro.  In short the charge against RBS is that of criminal negligence.  What the FSA have done is akin to investigate a murder and found no charge of murder, when manslaughter had taken place.  Not that the FSA were able to uncover any smoking gun, with Adair Turner saying in his letter to Andrew Tyrie that “We find that, while there are undoubtedly instances of highly questionable judgement, there was not behaviour which could be subject to a successful enforcement action.” I have said before that the RBS board were very keen to push the takeover of ABN Amro through, before seeing the key debt reports.

It is interesting though that RBS have blocked the publication of the full judgement.  The FSA have in response to this written to the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, Andrew Tyrie requesting help to resolve this impasse.  The FSA in the letter are looking to publish by March of next year.  Interestingly, in Robert Pestons own post about this, he reminds us that in the US, RBS are in the middle of a lawsuit involving investors who believed that they were misled by the bank’s directors.  Peston makes the point that this is the equivalent to taking the third amendment.  Critics would argue that this is RBS trying to hide evidence.  Their actions here do make them look guilty.  Of course in this country, only the rich can afford law suits, this is the reason why RBS are not in trouble here.

The letter to the Treasury Select committee raises the issue of the constraints that the FSA are tied into, constraints which hamper the regulatory processes.  Unfortunately as the financial sector continues to try and wind the clock back to 2006, the FSA have shown themselves to be ill equipped to go after the main culprits.  This does not bode well for their investigation into the collapse of HBOS.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The Perfect Storm?

NB: This post was written before the resignation of Stewart Stevenson, which as this post argues was overdue.

For many years, we have laughed at the south of England for their inability to cope with snow fall in winter, and how any kind of snow fall brings the south east of England to a stop. Ah the schadenfreude!

That joke is now on us, thanks to the inaction of Father Jack lookalike and Transport minister Stewart Stevenson.  There were weather forecasts on Sunday predicting that there would be heavy snow showers on Monday morning, there was even a weather warning for that time.  Our pilot even said that heavy snow showers were forecast for Glasgow around the time we were due to arrive.  So why were the gritters not working the streets?

It was supposedly raining just before the snow started.  I do remember that the weather was calm, if very cold as we made our way through a deserted Paisley at 6am on Monday morning.  With not a gritting lorry in sight.

Stevenson might have got through Monday or Tuesday with little damage.  Any hope that he would have escaped any serious damage though will have sank with the series of interviews, culminating with his infamous interview on Newsnicht Scotland – where he claimed that no snow was forecast.  The BBC and the Met Office soon countered the lie, by re-playing weather forecasts from Sunday.  More curious was the interview with Salmond on Wednesday morning where he talked ad nausium about the forecast for Monday at 08:01, at which point snow was already falling.

Stevenson should have been formulating plan B throughout Sunday evening in preparation for “The Perfect Storm” – as Salmond put it.  He should have been in contact with AMEY (who hold the contract for maintenance of Scotland’s motorways) and the local authorities (who have been even more remiss with their winter weather programmes – large parts of Glenburn & Foxbar were still untreated up to Thursday morning).   His inaction has made Scotland even more of a laughing stock than it is already.  Does it not occur to our politicians to seek expert advice from countries who deal with these conditions on a regular basis?

What is clear though is that by seeking to blame the lack of any accurate forecast,  Stevenson, Salmond and the rest of the SNP have left themselves exposed as being inept and incompetent. With the Holyrood election’s now under 5 months away, an old phrase springs to mind – a phrase often repeated in the Sunday Post.  Oppositions don’t win elections, Government’s lose them.