Cameron out in cold as the heat turns up on Osborne

There comes a time in every Government when that whiff of decay hangs in the air over it like an albatross. Its usually hard to recollect the exact moment when our leaders turn from politician to pantomime horse .But without exception it happens to them all.

What is exceptional is the speed with which David , ” call me Dave,” Cameron and his side kick George Osborne have gone from hero to zero. The Government which Cameron leads is only just half way into its first term. It was as recently as last Saturday that Prime Minister Cameron stood like a giant in the political firmament  Little did he realise that in less than 24 hours the Sunday Times investigative team would make him look more like “Del Boy,” than everyone’s mate Dave.

Within a short time of the paper breaking the story Murdoch was on twitter congratulating his staff on a job well done, and Cameron was left fuming. With the truth of “dinnergate,” dinner for large donations with the PM at his private Downing Street flat , being dragged out like teeth, the Tory press, to Murdoch’s delight joined him in savaging his ungrateful disciple.

The  Government’s rearguard action to paint matters in a different light gathered all the momentum of a horse on its way to the knackers yard and things went from bad to worse when his closest political confidante. George Osborne got a custard pie in the face. metaphorically speaking.Warm Cornish pasties, it was discovered buried away in the budget Red Book, were to be subject to a VAT charge of 20%. How warm was a warm pie he was asked by an MP.  If it was judged on the ambient air temperature as indicated it could be vat able and non vat able at different times on the same day.

Questioned further Osborne admitted he was not a Cornish pasty man and could not remember the last time he had eaten one, if ever. The senior side of the partnership was soon at the microphone. Never mind the state of the economy or threat of a Middle East war with Iran Cameron announced to the world his love of pasties. He had eaten one a week ago, he said, at Leeds station and it was marvellous.

The world breathed in a collective sigh of relief. David Cameron likes pasties. No doubt the Ayatollahs were satisfied and no doubt Rupert Murdoch laughed. Hardened business man he may be but he puts a great store by loyalty and feels that not only had Cameron dumped him like yesterdays newspaper but dumped mutual friends for political convenience.

Rupert Murdoch stood by his UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks way beyond the level of common sense. Cameron had also been friends with Brooks and was a university friend of her husband Charlie. But ever since the phone hacking story swarmed round Cameron he has cut his erst while ” good friends,” off and his aides ensure he is never in the same place as the couple, who live close by his country home, for fear they could be pictured together.

For Murdoch those who are disloyal pay a price, and it seems Cameron will pay in full. Papers which he might have expected to stay with him have gone for Cameron as eagerly as the Murdoch press.  Smugly they claim to be doing what a ” free press,” always does, and thats chase the story no matter where it may lead.

Where this may lead could well be to a new Tory leader or a split in the coalition. Meanwhile Labour leader Ed Miliband sits on the sidelines. Already written off as yesterdays man he might yet be the man for tomorrow. The question is not whether he will have tea with Murdoch but does take one lump or two?

For those who are intrigued about the ingredients of a real Cornish Pasty they are as follows: Diced butter, lard, plain flour with a beaten egg,. Thats for the pastry, and Inside, beef skirt or chuck steak, chopped, one large onion, chopped, potatoes, thinly sliced,diced swedes and black pepper. The quantities.? This is a political column not a cookery one. Surely you have a Delia Smith cook book on the shelf!

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Murdoch’s Revenge As Cameron Wobbles

Life is about co-incidences and I am sure that the exposure of Prime Minister David Cameron in a Murdoch owned newspaper has nothing to do with the estrangement between The Tory party and Murdoch’s News International Group.

The sight of the 80 year old Murdoch being grilled in front of a Commons committee was unedifying for some and sweet revenge for others. The much vaunted Parliamentary security couldn’t even manage to give the Octogenarian the kind of protection any witness was entitled to expect, and it was his wife who jumped to his aid when a missile hurled at the media boss turned out to be a bag of flour. It could have been far worse.

Much mirth was made of the News International claim that phone hacking at the now defunct News of the World was the work of one rogue reporter who was acting alone and without encouragement or permission from his bosses. As News International’s case unravelled in front of their eyes lessons were their to be learned.

David Cameron and his advisers failed to take them on board. Or if they did note them they were far too arrogant to keep them at the forefront of their minds. David Cameron would not be the first Prime Minister to think his position unassailable. Tony Blair was not called “Teflon Tony,” for nothing

So when the hapless Tory party joint treasurer Peter Cruddas was caught, making extravagant claims to Sunday Times undercover reporters of how influence with David Cameron could be bought with the ease of a transaction in an Arab bazaar — as long as you had the odd £250,000 available — Cameron’s men acted with the same indecisiveness that was the hallmark of the News of the World all those years earlier.

Cruddas, like News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman was immediately thrown to the Wolves, and then the cover up began. The Treasurer, like Goodman, was acting alone, claimed No 10. No money changed hands, and no body in the hierarchy of the Tory party knew what Cruddas was up to. Though that must have come as a surprise to the now dumped treasurer. It was an almost identical defence to that originally put up by News International, and it failed. If you interchange the names Goodman and Cruddas there is not a scintilla of difference.

If Cameron expected some help and appreciation from the press, or at least the Tory side of it, he was to be a disappointed man. He might have temporarily brought low the Murdoch empire and thwarted their short term wish to own all of Sky TV but the opposition news paper dynasties have short memories when it comes to a choice of gratitude and a good story. Especially when they saw the judicial inquiry started by Cameron denigrating their names and reputations and threatening to dump their voluntary code of ethics for something more legal and binding.

Judicial inquires are often set up by Government’s to kick topics into the long grass. In this case it appears the inquiry after many weeks of sitting is seeing the wood from the trees, and the papers do not like it.

So instead of a thank you Mr Cameron for cutting Murdoch down to size the big guns of Fleet Street are taking aim at the jugular and Cameron is feeling the noose tighten around his neck. With no ex News International staff on the payroll to smooth the way, and an ever increasing band of disgruntled right wing MP’s behind him baying for blood, there is no one to take the pressure off him. Perhaps he should forget about inviting star struck businessmen around for dinner at £250,000 a head and inquire whether Mr Murdoch would like to come to tea. He could always, as he told the inquiry was his custom, slip in through the back door.

All Hooligans Together!

If has taken Fabrice Muamba’s cardiac arrest to demonstrate that football fans are not a bunch of hooligans— though the press,police and even their own clubs portray them tin that light.

For years club managers have given interviews as to how they want their home ground to be like a fortress. A cacophony of noise that will terrify the opposition. The fans of theTurkish club Galatasary  even display a poster at the ground aimed at the opposing team and their supporters which simply says “welcome to hell.”

This and loud abuse hurled at the opposition players leaves no one in any doubt whats required from the home team fans of all nations. A fortress yes with only the boiling oil spared the opposition.

So when Muamba collapsed on the pitch the authorities feared the worse. If lucky a chorus of boos would swirl around the head of the prone Bolton player. if things went to the other extreme racial epithets would be hurled at him. The editor’s were already sharpening their pencils with “White Hart lane Disgrace.”

But something happened. There were no boos or jeers, just cheers followed by a stony silence. Tears then appeared in the eyes of grown men as the full significance of Muamba’s collapse hit home. The tears were shed not just by the Bolton fans but the Spurs supporters as well. At the end of the day the man unconscious on the pitch was not  just a footballer. He was a family man with a kid seemingly on his way to a premature death.

When the referee abandoned the game after consulting with both managers no one in the stadium demurred. The fans filed out of the stadium in an orderly fashion and suddenly football fans were in vogue. They were cuddly instead of grizzly and threatening. What had changed? In reality nothing. The crowds at our top stadiums are filled on a weekly basis by father and sons, mothers and daughters. People like you and me. In fact I go too.

The football fan did not change that day. Only the perception. No doubt like all honeymoons this one will soon be over. What good football reporting wants is a crowd worked up baying for blood. Not long now. Watch this space.

Zap You Are DEAD!

With each passing day the allied administration of Afghanistan wobbles between tragic comedy and black farce. When not burning Korans or bombing wedding parties they are sneaking half mad soldiers, who have adopted personal campaigns to reduce the size of the population, out of the country.

For all the good they are doing they might as well offer tribal chiefs free egg and bacon breakfasts.

However despite the Obama /Cameron solidarity pact proclaiming to the world they will stick it out to the end, for those not in the know the end is not that far away. It’s in 2014, how I have longed to say the end is nigh. However no mention has been made about the pace of troop draw down. I think it’s a safe bet that as the clocks ticks around to welcome in the new year in 2014 there will be little left of the allied force. Not much more than a man and his dog.

What then will have changed in this new order of self Government for Afghanistan. What is to stop the lunatics  from once again taking over the asylum. Certainly there will be no grim and determined allied troops on the ground.

No after much soul-searching and not a little planning in the Pentagon I think that this truculent and backward place will be the first country to find itself enveloped in the new style of 21st century warfare. The Americans have for a long time been sending Drones over enemy lands.  First they replaced the Spy Planes which flew just this side of space . Then they replaced the  planes and tanks which fired the rockets and cannon.

The success of the Drone is now an established fact. Ask the people in the tribal lands of Pakistan who are subjected to these death flights on an almost daily basis. Eyes pinned to the skies enemies of America scurry about their business. They know that whether in the their homes or out in the open they are not safe from the menace from the skies.

The Yemen too has an increasing body count thanks to these computer controlled killers. It not only takes out the foot soldiers. After failing by traditional means to kill the first American born citizen to top its most wanted terrorist list the Americans finally blew Anwar al Awlaki  to bits  with a Drone. With him at the time was another American born terrorist Samir Khan who died alongside him. A little more than a week later a second Drone was sent in to polish off his 16-year-old Abdulraham ,also described by the authorities as a terrorist.

It was once said that an ability at darts or snooker was a sign of a misspent youth, until the public starting shelling out money to watch the stars of these games play. Now its the turn of the Geek. Every little boy who ever locked him self  in his bed room while zapping an ever more sophisticated enemy in ever more realistic games is now an ideal recruit for the Special Ops department of the CIA in Langley, Virginia. The most competent of them  have a future ahead sitting back in a comfy chair, coke in one hand mouse in the other, while a camera in the sky follows an unsuspecting victim in his vehicle along a dusty road some thousands of miles away.  Then when the Geek presses the button and screams “Zap you are dead,” it’s really true—the ultimate reality game with real good guys and bad guys and ultimately a real human quarry.

 

 

Never Cross an Oligarch

Much has been made of the fortune paid out by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to a succession of hapless managers who have not been able to live up to his brief of providing everlasting success for his beloved football club.

The pay off to the seven managers is said to total more than £50m that’s in excess of $80 million — and that does not include monies paid to club’s who have grudgingly released their managers under contract all be it for millions in compensation .

Chelsea’s latest man in the hot seat Andre Villas Boas lasted barely 8 months. But it is said his failure earned him a pay off in excess of $20m. This massive amount in my view would be enough to make any failures eyes light up with joy. Yet AVB, as he was dubbed by the press, was seen crying after leaving Chelsea’s training ground in Cobham, Surrey, where he was personally given his marching orders by the great man himself.

Why the tears I thought. If it were me I would be positively jumping for joy. Then I thought deeper about Oligarch’s and their history. They are Russian, which Abramovich certainly is, they are obscenely rich, he is said to be worth more than $21 billion, and they have no truck with failure in any shape or form, he fits that bill too. But wait a minute…. Not only do they not accept failure but like the celluloid villains in Bond films who fail to satisfy the cat loving boss of Spectre and end up dying the most horrible deaths Oligarchs, by and large, have been a merciless bunch.

Enemies of Oligarch’s in Russia were traditionally found in blood spattered alleyways or pulled out of lakes with a chunk of concrete tied round their necks. Was that why AVB was crying? Or perhaps the small print in his contract said no payout if fired on a Sunday. It might all sound highly improbable but I think we ought to know. One thing was for certain he was not crying tears of joy.

The day after his summary dismissal of the young manager Abramovitch addressed the team. He told them straight out he held them personally responsible for the poor results and the manager’s departure. He told them he expected better. No wonder they have not lost a game since or even conceded a goal since.

Please note that none of the above is written to cast any doubt on the honesty or integrity of Roman Abramovich who has ploughed more than $2 billon into Chelsea and given many millions to charity. I have simply written a potted history of the Oligarchs of Russia and the way some in the past have shot first and asked questions later. I wonder if that nice Mr Mourinho will as rumoured be returning soon to the fold or whether he considers it safer, sorry, more career enhancing to remain in Spain.

Scotland Stands up for Israel

This headline immediately caught my eye when I saw it on the net.  After all the Scottish Nationalist party  which governs the country, and wields similar powers to that of an American or German state , has long been an unquestioning supporter  of the Palestinian cause.

I soon discovered it wasn’t so much as all change but a play on words. A private clinic in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, is offering a new break through treatment for male impotency developed at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital.  The treatment is based on a series of low intensity electric shocks which in most cases completely cure this embarrassing problem.

As no drugs such as Viagra or Cialis are used there is no chance of side effects and the other benefit is the cure is permanent. Drugs like Viagra are not a cure and have to be  taken  repeatedly based on the patients sexual activity. The cost of this pioneering treatment, which for now is only available privately at the  Spire Murrayfield  Hospital is £1500 or nearly $3,500.

My immediate reaction was Israel was targeting the wrong market. Sure the hard drinking Scots are ideal candidates for such treatment and who knows the reaction of satisfied patients might mean they view Israel in a new light. No what Israel really needs is a sub contracting firm that could export this medical treatment to Iran. I am sure a whole host of elderly Ayatollahs would be grateful for it. Who knows it might even take their minds off developing nuclear bombs to threaten their neighbours with.
On second thoughts this might be too high a price to pay for the long subjugated women of Iran.

On Being a Great Power

There used to be two Super Powers, the USA and the Soviet Union.  Then with the breaking up of the Soviet Union into its constituent parts only one was left..History like time never stands still and as the Soviet Union fell it was inevitable that sooner or later another power would rise up to replace it.

Though the replacement of the Soviet Union was not instant it was soon very clear who the new kid on the block would be. Though calling China, which means middle kingdom because its emperors believed it was the centre of the world, a new kid hardly gives credit to its thousands of year old civilisation and culture. So as the Soviet sun set in the West the Chinese star rose in the East.

Like the British Empire before it and the Americans after it China has all but conquered the world through trade. Where trade goes the military often follow. Now China has joined the space race, built its first aircraft carrier, while the British share one with the French, and increased defence spending to record levels.

At the same time China has announced it has no military ambitions. Well the cynic would reply they all say that don’t they?  What we do know is that China is the second power in trade having sometime ago eclipsed its bitter local rival Japan. Now it has the United States in its sights. Some say it will take twenty years others thirty before it catches and passes the States. Others say because of the problems its huge population presents it will never happen.  We also have to consider how much longer China will be allowed to manipulate its currency for its own benefit or blatantly steal patents from Western manufacturers. That probably won’t stop until like the Japanese they start developing products of their own rather than manufacturing others under license.

If you notice thus far I have been careful to refer to the United States military and ideological rivals as Super Powers rather than Great Powers. Military Might may well make you Super but it will never make you Great. It is my contention that there has only ever been one Great Power and that was and still is the United States. As long as it remains true to its core values and economically strong it will remain the Great Power even if measured by trade China one day forges ahead.
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To be a Great Power you must exercise more than self interest. You must not only pay lip service to freedom and democracy but put your weight and power behind these ideals at the cost of apathy, or even opposition, from your friends and the deaths of your own military personnel in pursuit of what is right..

This great Power status was first demonstrated by the United States at the end of the Second World War. The introduction of the Marshal Plan gave a broken and broke Western Europe a fresh economic beginning thanks to the untold millions of dollars it poured in to kick start their post war economies.  This was in contrast to those countries occupied by the Russians in their unstoppable sweep to Berlin. Poland and all the countries east of it became client States officially embracing communism while at the same time their people loathed it.  Their centrally controlled economies barely creaked along and when the people rose up in protest the bullet and death was the Russian answer.

Meanwhile in the cosines and safety of the West a politically motivated section of the population organised marches and demonstrations against the “war mongering and militarist” Americans which many of the naïve and gullible joined. When years later massacres occurred in the newly independent Balkan countries of Muslims it was the “ Great Satan,” America who intervened without a United Nations resolution  because as President Clinton put it at the time “ I could not stand aside any longer and watch these people be massacred.” The Russians stood back and let matters take their course. They did the same in Kosovo and in the original United Nations coalition against Iraq in the first Gulf War. In the streets of Western Europe no one marched to stop the Balkan massacres but they came out in force against the US in its two wars with Iraq.

The second Gulf War ,as the perceived wisdom now says, was a war for oil. Nowadays few politicians will admit having been in favour of the war. Yet at one time polls n the UK showed a majority for the war and even the leaders of those countries against such as France believed Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction .In fact it has even been suggested that Saddam Hussein himself believed Iraq possessed them.

Because of the freedoms we enjoy we can happily trash the reputation of men like Tony Blair, the leader who more or less single handed modernised Britain. He introduced the minimum wage, ended official discrimination against Gays as well as a raft of other social legislation  now taken for granted.  Meanwhile protesting against the system in China takes real bravery and dissenters unlike in the West find themselves in prison or financially ruined.

With the coming of the Arab Spring China and Russia have not just sat on the sidelines while vile massacres are perpetrated by their friends they have vetoed UN resolutions designed to stop them.  I am puzzled why the streets of Europe’s capitals are not filled with demonstrators. The only demonstrations, it seems, are in the streets and alleyways of Syrian towns where the people are mown down by Russian supplied guns and bullets. Only the cry of “Free Palestine” seems guaranteed to bring a rent a crowd  on to the streets.

Up and coming powers like India and Brazil have acted little differently. Not surprising when in the main their leaders were brought up on what was the prevailing ideology of Russia and China.

No doubt we will keep on moaning about America while we watch their films, eat hamburgers, drink Coke and munch popcorn and envy their life style.. Perhaps on occasion I might join the wingers and whiners. No one is right all the time and I value the right to be different.

But compare the chest and inside leg measurements of the other big players on the world  stage if you like. One or more might deserve the title of  super but  great, no way. That takes guts and blood and the willingness to stand by unpopular decisions and support democracy wherever it takes route. Beijing and Moscow take note.