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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Nadine Dorries – Three In A Row?

[Update at end of post]

The Sunday Mirror has managed for the past two weeks to feature a story involving Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries, and rumours are circulating that political editor Vincent Moss and reporter Ben Glaze may be in possession of sufficient ammunition to make it three in a row. This suggests that attempts to shut them up have been unsuccessful.
Now, it is not done here on Zelo Street to spoil the fun and pre-empt the nice surprise that may be in store for the fragrant Nadine, but there are hints that can be deployed without giving the game away. The paper has majored on two subjects thus far: that Ms Dorries shares a business partner with a Romanian “mobile hairdresser” called Ramona Ladin, and aspects of her behaviour as an MP.

My understanding is that any new article, or articles, will follow from those already published. So what might we see? Well, in the case of Ms Dorries’ parliamentary activities, I understand that she will be providing information, and explaining herself, to the Parliamentary Standards Committee (PSC) early next week. However, and here there is inevitably a however, they will have more to consider.

For starters, a number of complaints have been made about the fragrant Nadine since her apology to the House of Commons recently. Zelo Street knows of more than one: I cannot elaborate at present. The PSC may also wish to quiz her following remarks suggesting, yet again, that she has not really done anything wrong and the apology was just because she was “being bolshie with them.

But the most fertile ground for further revelation concerns the activities of Ramona Ladin and any possible connection between her, her business partner Andrew Rayment, and the MP. Let me put it directly: the kind of activity discussed in Vincent Moss’ first article – guardedly calling Ms Ladin an “internet glamour model” – is meat and drink to the Sunday red-tops.

So if there is a back story, papers like the Sunday Mirror will pick up on it. And Ms Ladin has been in the UK since 2007, at a time when Romania might have acceded to the EU, but when its nationals could not just rock up in other member states seeking work without it first being offered. My information is that she has worked somewhere that has previously featured in the Sunday tabloids.

And whatever comes out, it is bound to feature Ms Dorries’ name, because of that common business partner. Will the threats work? No they won’t, except to make the Sunday Mirror yet more determined to use the MP to shift more copies. She has suggested that she will take the whole weekend off Twitter. If only she had done the same thing a few more times recently.

Yes, it’s looking good for three consecutive Dorries appearances in the Mirror.

[UPDATE 1 December 1140 hours: and so it came to pass that Nadine Dorries did indeed appear in the Sunday Mirror for a third consecutive week. Vincent Moss has homed in on her Parliamentary behaviour, in the shape of her declaring her media earnings: this is part of the information she is providing to the PSC, as I noted earlier.

Those earnings last year totalled almost £130,000, or around twice her MP's salary. That's a significant sum of money, and why it has not previously come to light would be interesting to know (some mention of her fee for I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here is also made). Sadly, there is nothing new on the matter of her business partner and the Romanian "mobile hairdresser", but give it time.

After all, there's always next Sunday. I'm sure Ms Dorries is already looking forward to it]

Mail In BBC Yeah But No But Shock

Yeah but no but ... it must be Vicky Pollard, right? Wrong. It’s the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail. The fearful followers of the Vagina Monologue have been – not for the first time – caught facing both ways on one of their trustiest sources of clickbait, the hated BBC. The Corporation is A Very Bad Thing ... but then, suddenly, it isn’t.
At first, it’s all bad: “BBC Question Time in shambles after panelists travelling to Salford stranded on train following trackside fire”. Yeah, see, should have done it from London instead of that really expensive new place somewhere near Manchester! [This misses the inconvenient fact that Question Time would have been equally in schtuck anywhere else outside the capital, and probably in London too]

And there’s the licence fee to kick: “And now for yet another public service announcement: New BBC chief Tony Hall wants corporation to use its channels more aggressively to argue for £145.50 licence fee”. See, they use YOUR MONEY to advertise themselves to you! Rubbish isn’t it?!? And guess what? Even their own stars say they’re rubbish!

Who did they have in mind? “Alan Sugar in blast at BBC jobsworths who stop money being spent on better programmes”. Yeah, he says they’re rubbish too! And he’s not alone: “I hate how the BBC wastes its money and talent: An audience with a VERY feisty Jennifer Saunders”. Funny how they stop being lefty luvvies when they say something that suits the Mail.

And, on top of all that, there’s an assault from talentless and unfunny churnalist Richard Littlejohn: “And over on BBC... another £1bn wasted”. Yeah, they spent all that money on a place in Salford and flogged off Television Centre on the cheap (no citation). They all have to travel from Euston every day (no citation) says accurate and highly respected Daily Mail pundit (no citation).

As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point. The BBC is A Very Bad Thing. But then, along comes Jan Moir, who is between hatchet jobs right now. “Your Xmas telly starts here! From a dashing new Mr Darcy to the return of Open All Hours, JAN MOIR, snuggles up on the sofa for a cracking Christmas on the box”. Er, hang on, both those programmes are on ... the BBC.

You betcha, says Sarah: Ms Moir lists eleven must-watch shows, plus a big plug on the side for The Great British Bake Off. That makes twelve, of which nine – or 75%, if you prefer – are on the Beeb. ITV, Channel 4 and Sky have to make do with one each. So the BBC is actually A Very Good Thing. Who’d have thought it? So maybe the Mail was channelling Vicky Pollard all along.

Or maybe Dacre’s hacks are a bunch of steaming hypocrites. No change there, then.

Nigella – Now Saatchi Comes Clean

What a difference three days makes: earlier in the week, the press splashed on the alleged drug use by Domestic Goddess (tm) Nigella Lawson, predicting the end of her career on both sides of the North Atlantic (the Maily Telegraph is for some reason still holding to this line). Now, after Charles Saatchi fetched up at Isleworth Crown Court yesterday, it all looks so different.
But Nigella, you only just served pudding, remember?

Saatchi was now contrite. He told his inquisitors that he had, contrary to the tone of his email to her accusing her of being “off her head on drugs”, never actually seen her taking an illegal substance (his own nicotine addiction – he’s a chain smoker, hence being at an outside table at Scott’s restaurant – is not mentioned, as it’s legal) and he was going entirely from her former assistants’ testimony.

So that rather shoots the supposedly damning email to pieces. And finishing it off completely is Saatchi’s admission that its tone was “nasty”, which is something of an understatement, although at least honest. Moreover, in a moment Trinny Woodall might not have enjoyed hearing, he told the court “I adore Nigella now... I'm broken-hearted to have lost her”.

This was all very touching, but those who have examined Saatchi’s apparently controlling and abusive behaviour will not have been surprised to hear that he still believes he can put forward a reasonable explanation for the moment at that Scott’s outside table when he was snapped with his hand around his now ex-wife’s throat, the moment that led her to finally walk out on him.

I was not gripping, strangling or throttling her. I was holding her head by the neck to make her focus, can we be clear?he told the court, a statement that will have the Daily Mail features desk on the phone to Melissa Kite in short order, probably highlighting Saatchi’s comment “Bravo – you have become a celebrity jurist on a global television gameshow and you have got the pass you desired, free to enjoy all the drugs you want forever. Classy” for good measure.

What it now comes down to is this: Saatchi admits he never saw Nigella do drugs, and that “I don't like drugs at all and I didn't like reading what the Grillos said was the culture in my home” (nicotine excepted, it seems). If Ms Lawson turns up and says she didn’t, and is backed up by her oldest daughter, that means one thing.

It all turns on the credibility of the Grillo sisters. That’s the sisters who are accused of fraud. On that I will make no further comment. For Saatchi, however, no matter how contrite he was yesterday, his inability to see that what he did – and was seen to be doing – to his ex-wife outside Scott’s restaurant is not acceptable, and he should desist from trying to explain it away.

Charles Saatchi’s reputation is at an all-time low. It’s time he shut up about it all.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Leveson Anniversary Lecture Greeted With Abuse

It was a year ago today that this blog was represented at the presentation of Lord Justice Leveson’s report which followed from his Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press. Since then, we have seen the cross-party Royal Charter on press regulation pass all hurdles. But most of the Fourth Estate, rather than accepting the will of the people, is behaving like a sulky teenager.
Moreover, there is a collective myopia in the press over how the public sees them, and nowhere has this been brought more sharply into focus than the reaction to former Sun editor David Yelland’s 2013 Leveson Anniversary Lecture, which was delivered this afternoon. While many are digesting his conclusions, others on his former manor have merely resorted to abuse.
An edited version of the Yelland speech can be seen at the deeply subversive Guardian, and it covers subjects such as the press reaction to the Leveson proposals, the Daily Mail’s bullying of David Bell, the excesses of the tabloids – not sparing his own time in the editor’s chair – and the inability of the press to see that they are just another of the vested interests they claim to challenge.
In a more rational climate, one might expect this to spark a reasoned debate, but because Yelland has broken ranks with his former colleagues and gone against the collective code of Omerta, his reward has been petty, vindictive and vicious abuse, typified by Neil “Wolfman” Wallis, most recently scouring the web for sympathy following his being left on bail but not charged for over a year.
Poor terrified drunk David Yelland, nice but dim, Blair’s tragic poodle” began Wallis, ignoring the minor fact that Yelland has been dry for eight years. And, as the man said, there’s more: “As Kelvin MacKenzie would say, David Yelland couldn’t edit a bus ticket”. That’s Kelvin MacKenzie of Hillsborough, “Gotcha”, Elton John front page libel, and Freddie Starr didn’t really eat a hamster infamy. No thank you.
And it was all the BBC’s fault: “David Yelland always had this sad craving for approval & acceptance by the Liberal Establishment. And Guardian/BBC axis will love this”. It’s not a “Liberal Establishment”, Neil. You and your pals are part of it. Go on. “What a shock! Yelland’s speech is organised by the Media Standards Trust, parent and fund provider to Hugh Grant’s Hacked Off”.
The MST is not connected to Hacked Off, which is not a personal possession of Hugh Grant, but hey ho. And to round it all off, there is a one-line appraisal of Yelland’s motivations: “Failure, public attention, craves liberal approval/acceptance”. There’s nothing quite like playing the man rather than the ball, BBC paranoia and dishonesty to spray everyone’s sympathy so spectacularly up the wall.

Wallis is not alone in his attitude. They still don’t get it. The press is still in denial.

Wormwood Scrubs Goes Manhattan

First, London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson turned his back on the anti-HS2 lobby that had invested so much trust in his backing them (unwise, eh?), and then, to no surprise at all, the Evening Standard, aka London Daily Bozza, began to run artists’ impressions a-plenty as the area around Old Oak Common, site of an HS2 and Crossrail hub, was talked up as The Next Big Thing.
It's not Manhattan, it's for Very Naughty Boys

The problem for the Standard, and anyone else gushing about all the big new shiny glass stumps that are supposedly going to materialise near the HS2 interchange in the near future, is getting the numbers, the credit, and the hyperbolic comparisons in sync. First we were told that Old Oak Common was set to be the next Canary Wharf by Jonathan Prynn in the Standard last June.

A vision for a ‘Canary Wharf of the railways’ regenerating one of west London’s most deprived neighbourhoods is being unveiled this week. At a cost of at least £10 billion, more than 100 acres of windswept railway sidings and semi-derelict wasteland at Old Oak Common, just north of Wormwood Scrubs, would be the setting for the capital’s next large scale ‘phoenix-like’ revival”. Gosh.

Yes, it was going to be, as Benny Hill said in The Italian Job, “big ... y’know ... BIG”. How big? “Twice the size of the redevelopment of the King’s Cross railway lands”. And it “would create 90,000 jobs and result in 19,000 homes being built”. And the HS2 station would be “vast”. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point. But then the cost and comparison changed. And in came Boris.

This month, Standard transport editor Matthew Beard proclaimed that not only was Bozza personally overseeing events, but also that “By 2025 a ‘mini-Manhattan’ of skyscrapers and apartments will shoot up around the station in north-west London”, but the cost had shrunk to just £6 billion. Other numbers had also changed: it would “spur the creation of 80,000 homes and 20,000 jobs”.

So now we would see Manhattan, or at least a smaller version of it, towering over the Scrubs. But not everyone was happy about Bozza hogging the limelight, not least his Tory pals at Hammersmith and Fulham Council. So in they waded: “Hammersmith and Fulham Council is backing proposals to make Old Oak Common Britain’s best connected railway station” they asserted.

Council leader Nicholas Botterill says the regeneration potential will boost this deprived part of the borough where around half of working age adults are unemployed”. Funny, only yesterday Bozza was crediting Margaret Thatcher with the Canary Wharf development. Now it seems it isn’t down to the PM of the day – not when there’s a little dusting of the sparkly stuff on offer.

We won’t get Manhattan. But we will get hot air. No change there, then.

Toby Young – Pants On Fire

There are some in the punditerati whose tendency to reach for the L-word as a first resort betrays their own tendency to dishonesty. And the Telegraph seems to have rather a strong concentration of them, most notably Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, who spent much of the last London Mayoral campaign shouting “liar” at the Labour camp. Gilligan is not alone in his endeavour.
Who might I have in mind? Step forward the loathsome Toby Young, whose latest pronouncement on the subject of Free Schools is notable not for what it does say, but for what it does not. Moreover, Tobes, in his excursion in Standpoint magazine, also manages not to disclose that all may not be well at the West London Free School, the one run by Himself Personally Now.

The article is modestly titled “Tristram Hunt’s Lies About Free Schools”, and Tobes opens by admitting to some problems: “The headmistress of a new primary in Pimlico resigned unexpectedly, a secondary in Derby was judged ‘dysfunctional’ by Ofsted and another in Bradford stands accused of financial mismanagement”. This gives us a superb example of dishonesty by omission.

Future Academies, set up by Tory Schools Minister Lord Nash, which included Pimlico Free School – the one Tobes mentions – in its portfolio, also looks after Churchill Gardens academy, whose head teacher left last month amid accusations of managerial bullying. And the departure of the head at Pimlico Free School was not, as Tobes pretends, unexpected. She wasn’t up to the job. They were warned.

Also not on Tobes’ list of Free School difficulties is the IES Breckland Free School in the Suffolk town of Brandon, which last month lost its head teacher just after six other staff departed. At that time, the school was three department heads short (English and Communications, Maths, and Modern Foreign Languages). Had it been in the state sector, Tobes and pals would have been over it like a rash.

And there is no sign in Captain Bellend’s Standpoint piece about the Discovery New School in Crawley, which has also lost its head teacher and has been served with a “Special Measures Termination Event and Financial Notice to Improve”. Lord Nash, who did the serving, has implied that the school’s pupils will be dumped on the state sector if it closes. How convenient for Free School advocates.

Back at the West London Free School, which parted company recently with the head teacher who featured in the opening ceremony attended by Tobes’ pal Bozza, two teachers have recently departed and the reply to a Freedom if Information request about the circumstances surrounding the event is proving elusive. So when Tobes starts the mudslinging, he is doing so from a very draughty glasshouse.

Still, the propaganda pays Tobes’ bills, so that’s all right, then.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Express EU Migration Fail

Interrupting its usual diet of miracle cure, pension, and weather frighteners, the Daily Express has today returned to kicking the hated Eurocrats and scaring its dwindling band of readers by shouting long and loud about all those people talking foreign who are going to come here just to claim benefits. “Crackdown On EU Migrantsproclaims the front page fraudulently.
Oh no there isn't

On top of that is the paper’s attempt to use real and official statistics to play the numbers game, and so we also getEU migration behind half a million new immigrants entering UK, latest figures show”, the sub-heading explaining that “IMMIGRATION into the UK is running at more than half a million a year, with EU migration fuelling the population growth”.

In the former case, as I pointed out yesterday when filleting similar assertions from the Daily Mail, there was no new crackdown, as Young Dave has not – contrary to what Express man Macer Hall is saying – ordered any new restrictions on benefits, as anyone coming to the UK from other EU member states cannot claim them immediately in any case.

And in the latter, when it comes to using those official figures, well, two can play at that game. I too have the ONS numbers which the Express is using to frighten the readers about immigrants (you can see the release HERE and the relevant table is 2.03, available in spreadsheet form). And the first thing that has to be said is that the Express’ “half a million” number is approximately right.

However, and with such arguments there is inevitably a however, this is the total inflow of people (that being both EU and non-EU). Of these, other EU member states contributed just 148,000. And, as with any two-way street, there is also an outflow, which the Express manages to miss. This number is 321,000 for 2012, of which 75,000 were nationals of other EU member states.

So we can, as they say, do the math, and get the Net Migration, which, after all, is what will produce all that strain on hospitals and schools that papers like the Express enjoy banging on about. This amount was just 177,000, or around a third of the Express’ Very Big Scary Number. And almost 70% of that net migration was from outside the EU. As Winshton might have said, “shome fuel, shome growth”.

The net migration from other EU member states was just 73,000. That’s less than 15% of the headline number that the Express is pitching. Now, papers are free to put forward their point of view on any issue, but the “half a million” figure linked to the EU is downright dishonesty. One might even suggest that Richard “Dirty” Desmond and his staff may have their trousers well alight.
But it moves papers, and that means it’s another Benchmark Of Excellence!

Boris Is Still Full Of Crap

[Update at end of post]

As if to prove once and for all that he is in politics mainly for the advancement of Himself Personally Now, London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson fetched up to deliver the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies – another of those Astroturf lobby groups out there on the right – and apparently laid claim to Mrs T’s mantle. As if.
What Would Maggie Do Today?” was Bozza’s subject, and straight away he was off in crowd pleasing mode: “The amazing thing about the funeral of Baroness Thatcher was the size of the crowds, and the next amazing thing was that they were so relatively well behaved. The BBC had done its best to foment an uprising”. Anyone’s bullshit detector not sounding? Get it fixed sharpish.

Then he segues effortlessly into a lame appeal to authority: “They weren’t around in the 1970s. I was, and I remember what it was like and how this country was seen. Our food was boiled and our teeth were awful and our cars wouldn’t work and our politicians were so hopeless that they couldn’t even keep the lights on because the coal miners were constantly out on strike”. Yeah, right.

The only thing that stopped me getting to work in the 70s was the weather. And the power cuts came during Sailor Heath’s premiership – a cabinet that included one Margaret Thatcher. He then lets it slip: “in January 1975 ... I was already a pretty irritating 9 year old”. Yeah, nine year olds have the most authoritative view of contemporary life, don’t they? Do they heck.

And then there are the whoppers: “In 1983 she took on Neil Kinnock and gave Labour an epic drubbing”. That would be news to Kinnock, who did not lead the Labour Party at the time (it was Michael Foot). But back to Mrs T, who “had introduced millions of people to the satisfaction of owning their own home”. And Big Bang, both of which served to rack up debt (he doesn’t remember that).

Then he did it: Bozza mocked 16% of the population. “Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16 per cent of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2 per cent have an IQ above 130. The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top”. Cornflakes don’t rise to the top. It’s called gravity.

But he knows what Maggie would have done – apart from mocking those who don’t do well in an IQ test – and to no surprise this includes the now dead and buried Boris Island airport, which would be named for Mrs T, just to show what a crawler he is. And building monuments to greed, along with giving thanks to the well off for deigning to pay their taxes. Perhaps we should tug our forelocks as well.

Bozza wants to lead his party. If they have any sense he won’t. A simple choice.

[UPDATE 29 November 0950 hours: while the usual suspects have been showering praise over Bozza for supposedly saying what all right-thinking people are supposed to have been thinking anyway, not everyone has read his speech with enthusiasm.

Corporal Clegg has passed severely adverse comment, and Suzanne Moore, no friend of all those clever people who talk loudly in restaurants, has called Johnson's philosophy "not just elitist [but] sinister". And it has had to be pointed out that IQ tests can be rigged through cramming.
Copyright (c) Steve Bell 2013

And the IQ test just happens to be what all those fee-paying schools use to do the selection that produces folks like Bozza. Not that London's occasional Mayor is going to let that one slip]

Don’t Menshn Lostprophets Management

Hailing from Pontypridd in South Wales, nu metal” band Lostprophets sold millions of albums and for many years toured the UK and USA to some acclaim. But the music stopped very suddenly last year when frontman Ian Watkins was charged with a series of child sex allegations, some of which this blog is not going to go anywhere near. This week he pleaded guilty. The band has now split up.
We won't be seeing this again

Watkins spared his victims and their families further stress: “He accepts he was a determined and committed paedophile”, the prosecution told. The singer had accumulated a series of images and videos. The BBC advised that “One laptop seized from Watkins's home was password protected ... which was uncovered when it was sent to GCHQ to be cracked”.

But what the why-oh-why brigade homed in on was the law enforcement authorities: “Female fans warned for nearly four years that Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins was obsessed with child porn... so why didn't the police act sooner?” howled the Daily Mail, this being an ideal conjunction of the current cop-bashing meme with the trusty paper-selling “but what about the children”.

The police faced serious questions last night over why they failed to act sooner to stop Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins [it’s always “last night” in tabloid land] ... From early 2010 horrified fans who had become friends with Watkins went online to beg for help after discovering vile images on his computer”. Well, up to a point, but the rozzers were not the only ones who should have been on the lookout.

High profile bands are signed to management companies, who, in the case of Lostprophets, one might have expected to pick up on such serious allegations. So which of these companies had signed Watkins and his pals? Step forward Q Prime, based in New York City, the same outfit that looks after Jimmy Page, Metallica and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Look who's in the Retweet list

The third wife of Q Prime’s co-founder certainly recognised the name of Ian Watkins the other day: former Tory MP and now self-appointed know-all Louise Mensch was sufficiently up to speed to seek out a Tweet about Watkins’ laptop allegedly being cracked by GCHQ and Retweet it. One assumes that she and Peter Mensch, co-founder of Q Prime, on occasion talk to one another.

So what did Q Prime do about Ian Watkins? It’s interesting to see the company’s website has no trace of the band – well, they’ve broken up, and so there’s a good reason for that – but there has, it seems, not been any word from Peter Mensch or anyone else at Q Prime. The BBC suggests he signed Lostprophets. And Watkins’ habits were known about back in 2010. So the question must be put.

What did Q Prime know about Ian Watkins, and when did they know it?

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Plebgate – Leaving A Nasty Taste

[Update at end of post]

Back to life has come the Plebgate saga, as Tory MP Andrew Mitchell has more or less accused one of the Police officers on duty in Downing Street on the evening of the fateful incident of lying. And, by mere coincidence, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has also accused Channel 4 News of being less than honest, by asserting that the CCTV images previously broadcast had been “edited”.
DPP Alison Saunders told that “The CCTV footage that has been aired publicly was edited and did not show the full picture”. The inference is that Channel 4 was engaging in some kind of sleight of hand. Their man Michael Crick was unimpressed: “C4 did NOT edit CCTV footage to change or alter sequence of events. Our 3 CCTV streams were image-matched frame-by-frame to confirm veracity” he countered.

Channel 4 and ITN concurred: “The CCTV footage was obtained by Andrew Mitchell from Downing Street and provided to Dispatches and Channel 4 News. The footage as broadcast for the first time on 18 December 2012 was not edited by the production team to change or alter the sequence of events ... Furthermore the three camera angles that we were provided with were image-matched frame by frame to confirm their veracity . We stand fully behind this investigation”.
So perhaps the DPP will let us know exactly what Channel 4 News is supposed to have “edited”. And then they can let everyone know why PC Keith Wallis is the only one of a total of seven serving officers who is to be charged over the incident. The officer accused of dishonesty by Mitchell, PC Toby Rowland, who was not interviewed under caution, will not even face disciplinary charges.

And, as for Ms Saunders, who “said there would be no charges for officers who had leaked details to the media as a jury was likely to decide it was in the public interest for what had taken place to be made public”, that is not the point. It wasn’t the leaking, but the lack of candour, that has caused yet more mistrust in the Police.

As Mitchell put it, “I wish now to make clear that PC Toby Rowland, who was responsible for writing those toxic phrases into his notebook, was not telling the truth” and told of “the incendiary fact that armed police officers guarding officials in Downing Street have stitched up one of those they were supposed to be protecting. I have told the truth ... the police did not”.

Mitchell was right that if the cops could do it to an MP in Downing Street, they could do it to anyone, at any time. The DPP may have been convinced by submissions made to her, but many more among the wider public will not be. Andrew Mitchell was forced to resign and had his Parliamentary career trashed. And the impression given is that most of those responsible will get away with it.

There is only one conclusion that can be reached: that’s not good enough.

[UPDATE 1915 hours: the CPS and Cabinet Office have now "clarified" their statement that the Channel 4 CCTV footage was "edited".
As Michael Crick has Tweeted, any suggestion that Channel 4 did the editing has been withdrawn. The only editing done to the footage was to pixellate some of the faces of those in the video. Sadly, some hacks - notably the Sun's non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn - are set to auto-smear and so have taken no notice. No change there, then]

Mail EU Victory That Isn’t

The Daily Mail is a happier place this morning, as the paper can claim it still has influence with Young Dave: “I DO share your concerns on migration, declares Cameron days after Mail's explosive poll: PM unveils sweeping new restrictions on access to benefits” is the triumphant headline (you can read all about that “explosive” opinion poll right HERE).
So what are these restrictions? “There will be time limits before out-of-work benefits can be claimed”. That isn’t new, as anyone who knows about the “habitual residency test” can tell you. “Migrants who currently get jobseekers’ allowance after less than a month will have to wait three months before claiming”. They already do have to wait three months before claiming.

Benefits will no longer be paid indefinitely, with payments stopped after six months unless people have a genuine prospect of employment”. That’s just another way of putting what is already in place. “Beggars and vagrants from EU countries will be removed and barred from re-entering Britain for 12 months”. That, too, is nothing new: those without work already have to leave.

Most controversially, the Government is planning a new ‘minimum earnings threshold’ – below which benefits that top up earnings, such as income support, will be cut altogether. Government sources said the threshold had yet to be set, but would aim to prevent EU workers topping up low incomes with benefits”. Note use of the word “planning”. That would be illegal, and the Coalition knows it.

How can I be so sure on all of this, especially the “three months before claiming” part? And why is the Daily Mail being singularly disingenuous pretending otherwise? Ah well. Here we have to check out J Clive Matthews’ excellent Nosemonkey’s EUTopia blog, where all is revealed in a post from April 2010 titled “The EU’s role in UK immigration”. And it’s not good news for the Dacre doggies.

Responding to scaremongering over “uncontrollable” immigration, Matthews cited a report in one of the day’s papers titled “Homeless migrants will be ordered to leave”. This told readers “Officers told the migrants that, under EU rules, if they haven’t worked for the last three months they can removed from their host country”. And, as the man said, there’s more.

People from EU countries have a right to travel freely in the EU and can live in the UK for up to three months if they can support themselves ... After that time, they can only stay in the country if they are working, they are registered students or they are self-supporting”. So no benefits. And the paper Matthews quoted from? Why, look, it’s the Daily Mail! Facing both ways at once take 94!!

What a load of two-faced steaming hypocrites. No change there, then.

Nigella Smear – It Won’t Work

As if to underscore the point that he is sore as hell at being shown up as a wife-beater, Charles Saatchi has now tried to put the boot in on former partner Nigella Lawson as part of a fraud case being heard at Isleworth Crown Court. An email from Saatchi to Nigella was read out in court, accusing the Domestic Goddess (tm) of regular consumption of a range of legal and illegal drugs.
Not now Nigella, I've only just finished the last lot

Moving right along from the thought that Saatchi was in the advertising business at the time that a lot of people in, er, the advertising business were singing in the key of C on a regular basis (or meeting Charlie, or playing in the snow, or whatever else you care to call it), the conclusion has to be reached that he was the one who gave permission for the email to be read out – and subsequently reported.

So who’s on trial? “Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo are contesting fraud charges in which the two are accused of defrauding Saatchi and Lawson of more than £300,000 while working for the celebrity couple”. And Saatchi apparently “accepted the Grillos' claim that Lawson had allowed them to spend freely on the understanding they would not tell her husband about her drug use”.

And then we are told that he and Nigella needed to communicate via email. “Of course now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you were so off your head on drugs you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked … and yes I believe every word they have said”. Does anyone other than me find it strange that they were married and he didn’t know she had a drug habit?

On top of that, we find that the revelations mean Nigella getting potentially grilled by cross-examination, with Saatchi siding with the Grillos against her, having also decided to sue his now ex-wife for a cool half million quid, that being his part of what has been allegedly stolen, plus his legal costs. It looks rather like a calculated and utterly vindictive revenge attempt.

Will it work? No it won’t: even if the Grillos’ story holds up – they didn’t mention drugs until last month – Saatchi cannot excise the impression he has given of being a manipulative and abusive partner. Moreover, the idea that he worked in an industry that blew an awful lot of snow, and somehow didn’t take part, or know how to recognise a participant in the game, is just not credible.

Many will look at Charles Saatchi and conclude that anyone having to put up with such a gold-plated, copper-bottomed, ocean-going shit could be excused resorting to Class A drugs. And gratuitously slagging off a Domestic Goddess (tm) will get him nowhere. He got caught assaulting Nigella. He admitted it to the rozzers. He’s got the caution on his record. End of story.

Give it up, Charlie. You’ll just look a bigger douchebag as a result.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Iran Deal – Israel Lobby Upset

There is no problem on this blog with the right of the state of Israel not merely to exist, but also to expect to be able to do so in an atmosphere of security within its borders – as well as normalising relations with its neighbours. So when Egypt, and also Jordan, made their peace, this could only be A Good Thing. Then, following the exit of the Shah, there was the question of Iran.
Since the Ayatollah Khomeini flew in from Paris all those years ago, the situation in the country has been one where the clerics hold power, and others have to accommodate themselves to their demands. And now the country, which has made severely hostile noises towards Israel, has a nuclear programme. But then came the agreement in Geneva the other day.

Basically, the pause button has been pressed. During the next six months, those who have worked on the current interim agreement can move towards something more permanent. But Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu will, as David Blair at the Telegraph has pointed out, not be satisfied with anything short of a total Iranian surrender. And this is a view held by many on the right in the UK.

That view, more or less, is that nothing short of total and unequivocal support of whatever Israel demands of the West is acceptable, that no other point of view is valid (such things are often howled down as anti-Semitism), the other side is always to blame if any dispute breaks out, the IDF never puts a boot wrong, and anyone supporting the Palestinian cause is a rotten leftie Guardian reading poo hole.
And, to no surprise at all, this faction has been protesting long and loud about the Geneva deal, not least the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, sneering at William ‘Ague for supposedly appearing before a Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) gathering yesterday, only to be given a reception ranging from polite to downright frosty.
The Fawkes folks put the boot in withHe sounded like a Cathy Ashton mouthpiece”, perpetuating their press pals’ laughably wrong take on the EU’s high representative for foreign policy. In support has come Raheem “Call me Ray” Kassam, asserting that the CFI crowd were “pissed off”, that Master ‘Ague “Sounds like a stooge”, and that he was “patronising” his audience.
But the reality is that nobody who matters is interested in this fringe view. Agreement is not reached by one party rubbing the other’s nose in the dirt. And, as Peter Oborne has pointed out, the deal reached in Geneva is what Iran offered the West in 2005, only for Tone and his pal Dubya to reject it. Netanyahu knows he has to accept that the deal has been done. His cheerleaders in the UK need to follow.

They should remember their Churchill: “Jaw-jaw ish better than war-war”.

Mail Online Body Shame Hypocrisy

The Daily Mail pressed its New And Honestly Very Wonderful pundit Sarah “Vain” Vine into additional service yesterday to pen “Oh Becky, beauty isn't everything: How tragic that a young woman as inspirational as Rebecca Adlington would swap it all for model looks”, not that they’re trying to flog papers on the back of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, oh no.
Spot the double standards

There's not normally much to be gained from watching I’m A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!” observes the woman otherwise known as Mrs Michael “Oiky” Gove. So what’s she doing watching it, then? Simples. The Mail wants everybody to know about the apparent unhappiness of former double Olympic champion Becky Adlington, who has previously been sniped at over her appearance.

This insecurity has been heightened by the presence on IACGMOOH of one Amy Willerton. Who she? Who cares? She’s just another of those skinny-women-with-ample-chests who are, by common consent of those who decide the specification of the supposed “ideal woman”, supposed to have the “Pwhoar factor”. So Mail Online has lots of photos of her in a bikini.

Yes, the same hacks that are playing the why-oh-why side of the field in pretending to sympathise with Ms Adlington – trying to cash in on her deserved popularity and her appealing straightforwardness – are also playing the other side by promoting the more basic lechery over her fellow jungle inmates. And nowhere can this be seen to better effect than to look at Ms Vine’s article online.

Opposite on the “sidebar of shame” is “Battle of the babes: Amy Willerton has some competition as Lucy Pargeter and Annabel Giles both strip to swimwear for jungle shower ... The 21-year-old model has sported several different bikinis in the shower over the past week, but Lucy, 36, and Annabel, 54, have both jumped in the shower wearing swimwear and looking fabulous”.

While the next item is “'What the hell is she doing in there?' I'm A Celebrity fans vent their fury as Rebecca Adlington is exempt from SECOND Bush Tucker Trial for unknown medical issue” with a trawl through the Twitter feeds of hostile viewers. And in case anyone was wondering, elsewhere on the sidebar there is, yes, don’t worry, another item about Kim Sodding Kardashian.

I get what Sarah Vine is trying – not very well – to get across, and would not be at all surprised in the near future to see poor Becky Adlington vanish for a few weeks, only to reappear with new nose and boobs. It’s a part of sleb culture. Whether it is a good or bad thing is for others to decide. But for the Mail to pretend sympathy for the double Olympic champion is just coming it. They couldn’t give a stuff.

It is, as usual, all about selling clicks and copy. No change there, then.

IEA – Another Rail Travel Turkey

As citizens of the USA prepare to commemorate Thanksgiving later this week, those helpful people at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) have brought forth a turkey of magnificent proportions in the shape of a “Discussion Paper entitled “Transport Infrastructure: Adding Value”, authored by one David Starkie. It claims to be “peer-reviewed by at least one academic or researcher who is an expert in the field”.
More standing room: London Overground train sets at Highbury and Islington

One can only guess which field that reviewer was standing in when he checked Starkie’s work over: a glance at the ideas being put forward for getting more out of passenger rail capacity show all too clearly a lack of understanding of the economics involved, an ignorance of the commuter rail experience today, and a willingness to make spurious comparisons with other transport modes.

Take this opener: “The public sector should learn from the continual experimentation of the private sector and address the quality issue by exploring the different preferences that travellers have for different attributes of the transport service. Consequently, when adding capacity, it should offer travellers a choice of different price-quality bundles, in the manner of the de-regulated aviation sector”.

So train operators should be free to limit capacity to the number of seats available, set draconian limits on accompanying luggage, and then put on and take off routes on a whim without being too fussed about punters’ travel plans? Because that’s the reality of carriers like Ryanair. But do go on: “Rail commuters, for example, could be given more choice regarding the quality of service and the cost of fares”.

And how would that one work? “An additional high-density ‘economy class’ section could be introduced on commuter trains, access to which would be priced during the peak at a large discount to current fares. From the resource cost point of view, there would be more passengers on a standard- length train without the recourse to high levels of taxpayer-funded investment in expensive new infrastructure”.

OK, now I’ve read enough of this rubbish. So it’s time to put Starkie and the IEA straight. Many trains already have higher density layouts: new trains for London Overground are laid out not unlike tube trains, to get more standing room. This is fine because of the comparatively short distances travelled. Other operators have removed some seats to provide more standing room.

Then there are high density interiors with 3+2 seating. All are already in service, and tailored to get the most out of train capacity – while considering the length of journey that will be undertaken. Whole train sets are thus configured – this ensures economies of scale for fitting, maintenance and cleaning. This is the reality of commuter travel throughout the world today.

That, IEA people, is the real world. The one you would do well to join sometime.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Nadine Dorries Twitter Meltdown

[Update at end of post]

As predicted here on Zelo Street on Saturday, the Sunday Mirror duly ran a second article yesterday on the activities of Mid Bedfordshire Tory MP (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries. This time, a second reporter was involved, the focus had shifted from her business partner to the logistics of her constituency workload support operation, and once again she did not take the news well.
And, when the question over how someone who lives 89 miles away can be an effective secretary was posed, responding with threats of assault occasioning actual bodily harm may not have been the wisest cause of action. Nor was it a sensible ploy suggesting that one of her accusers was routinely drunk, in view of yesterday evening’s astonishing meltdown after a visit to the pub.
At 1731 hours, Ms Dorris Tweeted “Off now to the best pub in Bedfordshire with the best people. Night all”. If only she had left it at that: it’s rather early to be off to the Rub-A-Dub if you’re going to be there a while. Now, there is no suggestion that the fragrant Nadine became Elephant’s Trunk And Mozart while out, but after 2200 hours she was back on Twitter, and was not always making sense.
After earlier talking of “the woman whose ID your reporter stole in setting up a false web site” in response to Gemma Aldridge, she snapped at Nick Owens’ suggestion that this was a serious allegation and she should have proof with “I don’t have to prove it ... the Police are investigating”, at 2217 hours. Then, seven minutes later, she adds to an earlier accusation aimed at Owen of “YOU are scum”.
I repeat, she had NEVER met me, still hadn’t did NOT tell your reporter we were ‘best friends’” ranted Ms Dorries. So this appears to be a reference to the Romana Ladin story – a week after the event. And, as the man said, there’s more: “Now I understand. You are just thick and ignorant. You CANNOT excuse what you did to that woman or her child” aimed again at Owen.
Then, just to make sure, came a truly bizarre one: “When I said I’d nail his balls to a floor, if what I think happened did, I meant a prison floor”. What meaning that is intended to convey I leave to others. In the meantime, in summing up, Ms Dorries has alleged that the matter has been passed to lawyers, that the Police are investigating, and that the Sunday Mirror is guilty of various deceptions.
But what the fragrant Nadine is missing is this: the paper now has two reporters on her case – and two storylines – and all that the physical threat achieved was to gift them an eye-catching headline. If any of her allegations do not prove true, as they are on record – pace Sally Bercow – she could be in serious trouble later on. The Mail’s version of the Romana Ladin story is still live. More may be to come.

And Unity at Ministry of Truth has news on her mobile phone claims. Well, well.

[UPDATE 26 November 1000 hours: news of the Dorries outbursts has now crossed the North Atlantic, and the New York Daily News has observed "What ever happened to diplomacy? An unhinged British lawmaker threatened to nail a reporter's genitals to the floor" (a reference to her "message" to Ben Glaze of the Sunday Mirror).

More significantly, Political Scrapbook has revealed that Ms Dorries had crossed the defamation line with the Sunday Mirror and its reporters. It told "She went on to make the defamatory claim that Ramona Ladin's profile on the adult dating site fling.com - for which Scrapbook can vouch authenticity - had been fabricated by journalists from the Sunday Mirror".

Let me spell that out for the fragrant Nadine and her cheerleaders: Ms Ladin's fling.com profile was extant before the Sunday Mirror knew of the story. So she now has some explaining to do]

Cathy Ashton Shames Paul Dacre

When Cathy Ashton was nominated for the newly created EU post titled High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy back in 2009, not all those involved in European politics were impressed. When she had become a trade commissioner the previous year, one had called the event “a perfect demonstration of what is wrong with the British state”.
But such whining was only to be expected from Dan, Dan The Oratory Man. Well, as time passed, the condemnation of whatever she did poured down, especially from the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. The Daily Mail was routinely aghast that Ms Ashton had not only been given the job, but also that she would not leave when they demanded it.

The following year brought “Brussels foreign affairs chief Baroness Ashton 'saving £40,000 in EU tax deal'” from Gerri Peev (nice change from BBC bashing there), who later followed up with the routinely fraudulent “Baroness Ashton 'facing axe' from her £250,000 EU job because she's 'too weak'”. And then came a truly dishonest and plain nasty smear from Tim Shipman.

Baroness Ashton called on to resign after likening shooting at Toulouse school to troubles of Palestinian children in Gaza”. The killing of Jewish schoolchildren in the French city had, however, not been simply compared thus: Ms Ashton had also mentioned killings in the Israeli town of Sderot. Shipman’s interpretation could only be achieved by editing that out. So now it was getting very personal.

There has been much more from the Mail in this vein, but what there has not been is any equivalent acknowledgement of Cathy Ashton’s achievements, and there have been several notable ones. As trade commissioner, she led the delegation that sealed a trade agreement with South Korea, virtually removing tariffs. She was the first to gain access to Mohamed Morsi following his removal from power in Egypt.

She has helped to significantly reduce piracy off the Somalian coast, and brokered a deal normalising relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Now Cathy Ashton has been centre stage in getting an agreement over Iran’s nuclear capability. There was even a grudging report in the Mail, but not so much as a hint that there was any regret that Dacre’s attack doggies had expended so much energy kicking her.

Shame on you, Paul Dacre. And shame on your cowering, miserable hacks.

Ric Holden And The Curse Of Mensch

You may not have heard of Ric Holden, and in that case you are truly fortunate. This sad individual, who answers to the title “Deputy Head of Press – Political”, runs the Official Conservative Press Office Twitter feed, which claims to offer “snippets of news and commentary from CCHQ”, but in reality churns out cheap propaganda, attack doggery, and yah-boo cat-calling at opponents.
Holden also indulges, from time to time, in rebuttal, and here he recently came unstuck big time, engaging Tweet some distance in advance of brain. The occasion was the embarrassing realisation that Young Dave’s Twitter feed was following Carlton’s of London, which is not a suitably upmarket gentleman’s club, but an elite escort agency. Red faces all round!
An only mildly fraudulent description

The story was broken by tech source The Register, whose writer called Carlton’s, only to be told “I think there is a wrong number out there ... We sometimes get very lewd calls, which are very rude indeed. I don't know anything about the Prime Minister or Twitter”. I mean, how dare they! And then the hated BBC also ran the story. What was young Ric to do?

Well, there were two sensible approaches to take here: one, do a Denis Thatcher and keep one’s own counsel, or two, laugh it off as a mistake and allow the news cycle to move on. Sadly for Holden, he was too stupid to do either, and instead made up a rebuttal on the hoof, telling James Lyons of the Mirrorbecause Gordon Brown set the No 10 account to auto-follow-back when he ran it”.
The reason for this stupidity? It's because ...

Yes, the old “A big boy did it and ran away” ploy. But here a problem entered: Holden had not researched his rebuttal first. So what does Twitter say about “auto-follow-back”? Well, you can see a forum discussion on that very subject HERE. Note that, on the question of “auto-follow-back”, the unequivocal response is “Twitter does not provide an auto follow back feature”.

So Ric Holden had been caught with trousers well alight. What can have caused this rush of blood to the head? Has he somehow been cursed? Ah well. Something just as bad has indeed happened to the unfortunate Holden: he has been endorsed by former Tory MP Louise Mensch, now representing the distant constituency of Manhattan Upmarket.
... poor Ric has been cursed by this act of praise

My @TheSunNewspaper column today – includes why Cameron should sack No 10 disaster Craig Oliver and replace him w/ Richard Holden” she proclaimed. Thus the Curse of Mensch descended upon Ric Holden and condemned him to exhibit the same kind of stupidity that emanates from the attention-seeking but not brain-engaging-first former MP turned taker of the Murdoch shilling.

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bloke. Say sorry, Ric, you fouled up. Again.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Mark Pritchard And His Other Jobs

Tory MP Mark Pritchard, who represents the Shropshire constituency of The Wrekin, is rather well connected for someone who represents one of the country’s more rural areas. He is also not backward in coming forward when it comes to engaging the services of lawyers, the most recent instance being in response to an undercover operation by the Maily Telegraph over his contacts in Albania.
Pritchard is also a firm supporter of the security services, and was not slow to insert his bugle into the row following the detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda at Heathrow Airport when en route from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro recently. He was dismissive of Greenwald’s protests: “It may have inconvenienced the Guardian and those that work directly or indirectly for the Guardian”.

And, of course, they’re subversive and rotten lefties, and so don’t matter. So who does matter? “But the fact is they had concerns that there may have been somebody carrying sensitive material that may have directly or indirectly undermined our national security. And I'm glad the police took the action they did”. The security services. That’s who matters to Mark Pritchard.

And recently, he has “called for a debate to reform the Official Secrets Act to ensure people are deterred from committing ‘treason’ against the country”. One wonders what his definition of “treason” is. But that is a side show compared to the claim made by the Tel that Pritchard is all too ready to exploit his contacts in other countries for money, something he denies.

The problem with both the steadfast support of the security services, and the denial about his alleged behaviour as revealed in the Telegraph – together with the associated threats of legal action – is that the Independent has now further revealed that Pritchard “receives fees from US intelligence firm while holding security positions in Parliament”. Well, well.

Ali Soufan runs the Soufan Group, a private intelligence organisation based in New York City, and “Mr Soufan has been paying a British MP with heavy involvement in the Government’s defence and intelligence operations as well as with Nato, as an adviser at a rate of more than £2,000 a month for 13-and-a-half hours’ work”. Who might that be? Mark Pritchard, come on down!

Soufan Group tells visitors to its website that Pritchard is “a member of the UK delegation to the Nato Parliamentary Assembly, and is also a member of the UK National Security Strategy Committee”. Is it appropriate for someone in that position to be trousering £27k a year on the back of his knowledge? Hopefully, more will ask the question next time Pritchard sounds off on security matters.

The Independent may have just done the Telegraph and Guardian a service there.

Blair Batting On Sticky Track

This morning, it is not only England’s cricketers who are experiencing batting difficulties: the blessed Tone is also having to go in facing a hostile barrage, and one that may not be as well-intentioned as Mitchell Johnson. Because his long love affair with Rupert Murdoch has been well and truly torn asunder by a welter of recrimination, aided by a generous helping of nudge-nudgery.
Beyond an accusing Mail On Sunday headline, thundering “Murdoch’s Feud With Blair Over Wife Wendi”, the rest of the text does not make happy reading for Tone and his pals, going on “'Terminal' end of friendship over claims of 'multiple encounters' between ex-PM and tycoon's wife”. Are you insinuating something, Simon Walters? “Oh no, no, no, no, no, no ... YES”.

The nod and wink could not be more suggestive: “Sources claim that Mr Blair and Ms Deng had multiple encounters of which Mr Murdoch was unaware ... The former Prime Minister has always maintained his friendship with Ms Deng is platonic ...  The Blair camp insists the claims are 'ridiculous and untrue'”. Note use of the word “encounter”. We’ve all seen Brief Encounter.

So what’s involved? “Sources close to Mr Murdoch in London say that staff at his home in California claimed Mr Blair and Ms Deng stayed there overnight at the same time on weekends in October 2012 and April this year, without Mr Murdoch’s knowledge ... [plus] a weekend overnight stay at Mr Murdoch’s home in Los Angeles and meetings in London and New York”.

As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point, especially when Walters deploys the denial-that-is-merely-cover-as-insisted-upon-by-the-legal-team: “There is no suggestion by this newspaper of any impropriety by Mr Blair or Ms Deng. And Mr Blair’s friends have repeatedly denied he had an affair with Ms Deng”.  No suggestion, but the sub-text is spun more heavily than a Shane Warne flipper.

Add to this the Telegraph lifting the story – both they and the Mail would normally steer clear of discussing other media figures, as part of the press adherence to the code of Omerta – and you can see that the papers sense there is more to this than has so far been revealed. And Blair’s camp is not helping its cause by dismissing Murdoch’s statements as “the ravings of a sad old man”.

Rupe’s official statement should be read carefully: “Rupert has been thorough, careful and has not acted lightly ... If you think that Rupert made a decision to end his marriage and a long-term friendship without just cause, you are sorely mistaken”. That means he’s done his homework, he took the decision on the basis of thorough research, and there may be more to come – at his discretion.

So Tony Blair would be best advised to keep schtum for some time to come.

Marr Show – Same Old Pundits

How many years is it now? Like so many across the UK, my Sunday morning when at home starts with The Andy Marr Show (tm) and, before that came into being, started with David Frost. It’s informative but not too demanding. The politics side is always prevented from overwhelming the rest of the show. But one aspect of the programme is becoming sadly tedious.
An all too typical pundit line-up

And that is the roster of talking heads that are summoned to review the Sunday papers, today being a classic example. Iain Dale and Polly Toynbee are a good double act, they’re knowledgeable and sound people, and both are comfortable with their roles. But, and here there is a very big but, we’ve been here before. They are part of an all too predictable cast.

Think about it: tune in BBC1 at 0900 on Sunday and if you don’t see either of today’s paper reviewers, you are all too likely to see folks like Sun columnist Jane Moore, Mirror man Kevin Maguire, Max “Hitler” Hastings or Amanda Bloody Platell. The impression is given that there is a very limited variety in what is offered. The result might just be a diminishing return in viewer interest.

Not, of course, that I or anyone else is suggesting that Marr, Barney Jones and Chris Cook should let any external force do their selection for them. But, and yes, there’s another but, they are missing a trick. When the press regulation debate was raging, where were Even Harris and Brian Cathcart? Was the BBC frightened of asking a Hacked Off supporter, instead of just talking about them?

And where are the younger generation of pundits? Compare and contrast with the same channel’s Question Time, where Owen Jones from the left and the likes of Tim Stanley – well, had he got to Salford Quays last week, that is – and Mark Wallace from the right are invited, among others. They could do a lot worse that my good friend Sunny Hundal – not that they’re asking.

Maybe some of those named sneaked on to the Marr Show sofa while I wasn’t looking, in which case the apologies are on their way. But somehow I don’t think they have. And that’s the whole point: when John Cleese, on the same show, points out the way in which the Beeb has become horribly conservative about commissioning comedy shows, he could have included much more of the Corporation’s output.

And that’s a pity: yes, viewers like their Sunday mornings not to be too demanding, but not to be stale and predictable. Why bother to tune in if you know who’s going to be guesting and have heard their spiel so many times before?

There’s one for Ye Olde BBC Suggestion Box.