Monday, June 23, 2008

Cops, crabs, crap rugby players and Abu Qatada

A HOME Office flunkey proudly announced this week that people charged with murder will no longer be allowed out on bail. The news was presented as some kind of positive step when, in fact, we should be outraged that it ever happened in the first place. At the same time, it was claimed that convicted killers would be made to serve more than half their sentences. Again, why aren’t they already?

But the real legal lunacy of the week came with the release from prison of Abu Qatada after the Home Secretary’s bid to deport him to Jordan was thrown out by the courts.

He’s now out on bail while the Home Office appeals to the House of Lords to try to get the judgement overturned, but it’s his bail conditions that really highlight the barminess of this ruling. He’s got to live in an MI5 safe house, he must stay indoors 22 hours a day, he can’t use a mobile phone, nobody can enter his home without the Home Secretary’s permission except his wife, his children, his lawyers or a doctor and – the most ridiculous of all – he’s not allowed to meet or contact Osama bin Laden. Well, that’s all right then.

In theory he is allowed to work, but I think we can give that one a miss, and the cost to the poor taxpayer of all this is estimated at between £500,000 and a million pounds a year … presumably for ever. It really is enough to make a cat laugh.

YOU’D THINK that after using a stepladder for 30 years, school caretaker Anthony Gower-Smith would know how to go about it. Sadly not.

While removing cards and staples from a gym wall at a primary school in Hampshire, Mr Gower-Smith fell off a six-foot stepladder, fractured his skull, broke a cheekbone split a kidney and spent time in intensive care. Now, to add insult to his injuries, he’s suing for £50,000 in damages because the county council failed to train him how to use the stepladder in the first place.

You might ask, how much training does one need to use a stepladder? It’s a fair point, especially when Mr Gower-Smith admitted in court that he’d had one of these lethal devices at home for at least the previous 30 years. He also admitted that he’d ticked the box on the induction training form saying that he’d received the necessary “ladder training” before starting the job.

So where do we go with this? Sadly, we must regard Mr Gower-Smith as a chancer on the make. Our current compensation culture makes it all too easy for prats like this to take us for a ride. The silly old fool should be ashamed of himself.

UNFORTUNATELY, HE’S not the only one taking the mickey. I’d just been into Lidl to buy tea – dolphin burgers, one week only – when I found this top secret report left on the seat on the train. It appears that the equivalent of two whole police forces are currently on the sick - and on full pay – while working as little as one hour a day.

More than 8,200 police officers are being paid a full salary while on “restrictive or recuperative duties” at a total cost of £284 million a year. And this is not officers off sick through work-related injury: this is those who have returned to work, presumably after being signed off by their doctors, who don’t quite feel up to a normal day’s graft. Well neither do I some days, but I still have to drag myself into work.

The sad truth is that there is a layer of public service employees who will take every opportunity to milk their cushy positions at the expense of the rest of us, the people who pay their wages. In the case of the police, it’s even more annoying that hard-working, front line officers are being denied the support they deserve by the slackers amongst their own ranks.

And why does the Home Office put up with this? Because it would cost too much to make every copper with an imaginary bad back redundant. So instead we limp along with a handicapped service, while toddlers stab each other to death at their nurseries. Ain’t life grand?

were a lad, there was only one health and safety rule that mattered when you were catching crabs in rock pools – don’t let the little blighters bite you. These days, things are a little more complicated.

Around 10,000 leaflets were handed out last week to Norfolk holidaymakers by students from Cambridge University, who had taken it upon themselves to protect these poor crustaceans from the attentions of the nation’s children.

According to the bunny-huggers, overcrowding crabs in buckets could cause stress for the smaller ones and lead to vicious fights. Consequently, children are “advised” to only keep 10 crabs or fewer in a bucket at a time; to change the water in the bucket every hour; and to make sure that their bucket isn’t in direct sunlight.

It is uncertain what will happen to children who defy these rockpool rules. Perhaps they’ll be captured on CCTV and be subject to a fine from the Crab Police. It’s hard to tell these days.

I’m only glad that we weren’t subject to such strictures when we used to spray them with lighter fuel and send them running down the beach like eight-legged Buddhist monks. Well, we had to make our own entertainment in those days.

IT APPEARS that there have been some accusations made against our rugby union players currently touring New Zealand. A lady apparently alleges that some of them behaved inappropriately towards her.

To be honest, after watching them last Saturday morning, I find it hard to believe that they could actually catch someone, never mind hold them down. Although I’m not sure that counts as evidence.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stop whining and tuck into the 2p sausages

WILL YOU please stop whining at the back? Yes, your house might be worth five grand less than it was last week, but what does that matter unless you’re mad enough to want to move at the moment? And what about all those illusory £1,000 a month increases you’ve supposedly enjoyed for the past five years? You’re just gutted that you didn’t cash in when you had the chance.

But even then, the money was just paper money. Unless you were in the fortunate position of having got rid of your cash-leeching kids and were able to downsize from the four-bed suburban semi to that little cottage in the Dales, the new house you would have bought would have also gone up in price exponentially, so in the end no-one wins apart from the estate agents, the solicitors and the stamp duty thieves of central government.

That’s what makes me so mad about this current wave of economic panic sweeping the country. How much of it is real and how much of it is created by the scare-mongering media?

Yes, it makes your eyes water when you fill up your 4x4 at the garage. Yes, food prices are on the up – although an extra few pence on a packet of pasta or a loaf of bread is hardly going to result in widespread middle class starvation. Not when you can buy three cases of wife-beater for £20 or a pack of 2p sausages at Asda.

Of course it’s a bit tough if you’re just coming to end of a fixed-rate mortgage, but isn’t that the nature of fixed-rate mortgages? It’s swings and roundabouts: you’ve had the good times and now you’ll have to get real.

And yes, I do have some vague sympathy for those buffoons who took out 125 per cent mortgages with Northern Rock, but surely they realised that they would be in negative equity from day one?

I honestly think that we’re talking ourselves into a slump, instead of a momentary blip. I listened to a radio programme the other day where idiot after idiot called up to relate a horror story they’d heard from The Man Down The Pub.

“His mate was evicted after his mortgage payments went up 50 per cent.”

“His wife has to walk 13 miles to work because they can’t afford the petrol.”

“They’re now living in a cardboard box in t’middle of t’road.”

On and on it went, with the moronic presenter failing to extract a single fact to support these apocryphal tales of woe. No wonder people are selling their children and eating gravel. The economy of this country is no longer controlled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It’s The Man Down The Pub who is calling the shots.

We should invoke the spirit of Corporal Jones instead of frightening ourselves to monetary death. And if all else fails, there’s always those 2p Asda sausages.

SPEAKING OF which, a girl of 12 brought up by her parents on a strict vegan diet has been admitted to hospital with a degenerative bone condition said to have left her with the spine of an 80-year-old.

Now doctors are under pressure to report the couple, from Glasgow, to police and social workers amid concerns that her health and welfare may have been neglected in pursuit of their beliefs.

The youngster, fed on a strict meat-free and dairy-free diet from birth, is being treated for a severe form of rickets and has a number of fractured bones. The condition is caused by a lack of vitamin D, which is needed to absorb calcium and is found in liver, oily fish and dairy produce.

I think you know my views on this. A far as I’m concerned, militant vegetarianism verges on a hate crime. Hitler was a vegetarian and he banned smoking. Look where that got us. Inflicting lentils on an innocent child is abuse of the worst possible kind.

Which brings us to a conversation overheard on a bus (not by me, I hasten to add).

“My daughter's a vegetarian now,” said one woman to her companion, “but I still put Oxo in all her dinners as I don't want her getting rickets.”

Now that’s what I call proper parenting.

SPEAKING OF overheard conversations, have this one, fresh from the meat counter at Waitrose.

“We’re not having any more kids.”

“Two’s enough then?”

“Oh no, but a psychic I went to in Blackpool said that I’d have a boy and a girl and we’ve got them now.”

You just know that nine months on this woman would be astonished to find herself pregnant again after not bothering with contraception because she didn’t think she’d need it. I blame school dinners for this abject stupidity - not enough meat.

AN OLD folks’ home in Germany has come up with a cunning plan to stem the tide of escaping pensioners – a fake bus stop outside the front door.

What happens is that the elderly residents, most of them suffering from that Old Timer’s Disease, get the urge to go walkabout, see the bus stop and wait for their getaway transport to arrive. Of course it never does and they eventually forget what they’re doing there and go back to their rooms.

It’s a stroke of genius from the people who brought you Colditz.

I said, of course it never does and they eventually forget what they’re doing there and go back to their rooms. Back to their rooms.

FORGIVE ME, but I thought that dolphins, like the 26 which died on mud flats in a Cornish river after running aground, were supposed to be intelligent? Not so smart now eh, you clacky-voiced show-offs?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Roll up for the frenzied Nazi spank orgy

WITH ALL these toddlers stabbing each other to death in nurseries in London, you’d think that the Metropolitan Police would want to spend their money where it matters – in getting bobbies on the beat.

Instead they seem to have this weird obsession with paying one member of their own staff hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation on a fairly regular basis.

The chap concerned is Detective Sergeant Gurpal Virdi, who joined the Met as a constable in 1982. Since that date, he has thrice brought assorted claims against the force and has pocketed more than £300,000 in compo. Given his history of litigation, and my blood pressure problem, we should quickly point out that Mr Virdi has done nothing wrong at all and has at every point acted properly and within the law. The problem is not his; it is that of his employers.

The saga begins in August 2000 when Mr Virdi was awarded £150,000 by an employment tribunal for racial discrimination after he was unfairly dismissed after being accused of sending hate mail to black and Asian officers at his police station.

He was re-instated in February 2002 and awarded another £90,000 in an out-of-court settlement for “injury to his feelings”.

In 2005 Mr Virdi applied for promotion, but was turned down by a review panel despite having the backing of his senior officers. This week, that snub cost the Met another £70,400 after a tribunal decided that the promotion process was “shoddily operated”. As we speak, Mr Virdi still has two claims outstanding against the force; one claiming victimisation and another alleging bullying.

I understand that Mr Virdi is 49 years old. He can therefore retire in three years time. Is it too much to ask that his bosses might just bite the bullet and be nice to him until then? It might not only be the right thing to do, but it would certainly be cost effective as well.

WHILE WE’RE talking about employment matters, just what exactly does it take for you to get you sacked these days? I know you’re not allowed to grope the staff or tell dodgy jokes - or even, it seems, to ask them to actually do a bit of work - but since when was it permissible to organise a frenzied Nazi spank orgy (and that’s a phrase you’ll not often see in this newspaper) and still be allowed to clock on the next morning?

Yet Max Mosely, 68-year-old president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (the governing body of motorsport) and son of fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosely, remains in post after surviving a vote of confidence by the impressive margin of 103-55 despite being caught on video cavorting with a number of ‘escort girls’, some of whom were dressed in a manner which will shortly be the subject of a libel case.

Mr Mosely insists that such shenanigans were purely a private matter. But that begs the question of what kind of behaviour would tip the balance from private to public? Maybe if Max had worn a little Hitler moustache and sang the Horst Wessel song while being spanked, it might have swung the balance. Other than that, one can only imagine that engaging in foreplay with a farmyard animal in the pit lane five minutes before kick-off would get him the push.

I’VE WARNED you before that once the Nanny State stigmatised smoking, they would turn their unwelcome attentions to the supposed evils of drink. Now we are assailed on a daily basis with dire warnings that the odd glass of wine will condemn us to an early grave (at the same time as some scientists urge us all to enjoy a couple of glasses of red wine a day to help prolong our lives).

But what I find quite extraordinary is Public Health Minister Dawn Primarola’s decision to issue “advice” to each and every family in the country on how much their children should drink.

Well call me a sadomasochistic blackshirt, but from the birth of my first child, I kind of realised that it might not be a great idea to feed her alcopops instead of Farley’s rusks. She didn’t drink Guinness at primary school; she wasn’t necking cider during her GCSEs. (Well actually she might have been, but let’s not go there.)

She was allowed half a glass of wine with Sunday lunch from the age of 14. That seemed reasonable, sensible and suitable preparation for later life. Mind you, she still went out and got bladdered at the first opportunity, so maybe dear Dawn is right and I was wrong.

The other issue I have with the government’s latest anti-drink campaign are the ads in the national press. One shows an ice-cold pint of lager; another a bottle of fine wine; a third a tinkling glass of gin and tonic – each and every one of them sends me running to the fridge for a livener. They might want to think this through again.

SEEING THOSE pictures of the lost Amazonian tribe shooting at a passing plane with bows and arrows definitely reminded me of something, but I just couldn’t place it.

Then I remembered. I’d been in Cornwall the day the first Ryanair plane flew into Newquay Airport.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Let's hang councillors from the lampposts

I KNOW I keep calling forlornly for it, but the revolt of the pesto peasants – the day the victimised middle classes of this country rise up against the government – can’t be far off.

In the end, I don’t think it will be the disgraceful hike in car tax or the eye-watering cost of filling your fuel tank that does for this discredited NuLabour administration. It’ll be the Gestapo-like tactics of the Bin Police who’ll see local councillors swinging from lampposts while the Town Hall burns.

Not a week passes without another series of aberrations: this week’s horrors included the council in Plymouth forcing families to nominate an adult member of their family who could be fined and given a criminal record in the event of any bin-related malpractice; the stunned pensioners of Skipton being told that they had to lift the heavy internal containers out of their wheelie bins themselves “to spare the binmens’ backs”; and the case of arch criminal single mother Zoe Watmough of Bolton, who was fined £265 for putting her bins out a few hours too early.

These are garbage gangland tactics that not even waste disposal supremo Tony Soprano would dare try.

Try to question your local council about this institutionalised bullying and they’ll claim that it’s all down to central government. Collar your local MP and he’ll blame the EU if he’s a Tory or drowning polar bears if he’s Labour. That’s if he’s a “he”, rather than one of those appalling harridans who shouts down all opposition while never having held down a proper job in her life.

The truth of the matter is that we are being tormented because much of the Netherlands lies below sea level. No, really. Dig a hole for landfill in Holland and the whole place turns into Hull. And, because the Dutch can’t bury their rubbish, they’ve led the way in forcing through legislation that stops the rest of us doing it as well – even though we have more than enough empty coal mines to accommodate the next 100 years’ worth of disposable nappies or Waitrose carrier bags.

Just think about that the next time you’re buying tulips, or Edam, or dope.

FROM THE Bin Police to the Balloon Police. Sixteen-year-old Max Twizell was attending a charity event in Newcastle city centre when the pink, helium-filled balloon he was carrying escaped his grasp and floated away. This prompted a litter warden to pounce and present him with a £50 fine for littering.

Max’s mum, Lorraine, is rightly indignant: “Will the council fine every charity that holds a balloon race £50 per balloon, or toddlers in prams who accidentally release helium balloons?”

Stephen Savage, director of regulatory services and public protection at the council (and there’s a Turkey Army job if ever I’ve heard one) is predictably pathetic: “To some people this may seem harsh but we believe that to create a cleaner, safer city we must send out a clear message that this will not be tolerated.”

Well, it’s good to know that the streets of Newcastle are free from discarded balloons (although I’m not sure you could say that about the back alleys around the Bigg Market). If only they could do the same for knives, we might be making progress.

AND THERE’S till time for the Paddling Pool Police to make their debut. The amusingly-named Lourdes Maxwell (a single grandmother, if that makes any sense) has been putting one of those inflatable paddling pools in the communal garden of her council flats for the past 24 years. In all that time the two-foot deep pool has been used by her children, grandchildren and the kids of neighbours without incident. But no more.

Portsmouth City Council has now decided that this plastic peril cannot be used in future without the presence of lifeguards and a hefty insurance policy. We defer to another Turkey Army apparatchik, Nigel Selley, neighbourhood manager, who says: “We did not have sufficient assurances that the risks associated with providing such a facility would be well-managed. We have since spoken to Ms Maxwell and she is aware of our concerns for child safety and the risks associated with drowning.”

Yes, well, I’m sure the prospect of a submerged toddler has never occurred to her before, but there we go. Let’s just hope that Ms Maxwell (47) can afford to hire a couple of red-trunked hunks to keep the council happy.

NOW EXPLAIN this to me. Prince Andrew’s Berkshire house, the much-derided Sunninghill Park, is on the market for a mere £12 million – even though it doesn’t even have an inflatable plastic paddling pool on the premises.

Now along comes a Kazakhstani billionaire who promptly agrees to pay £15 million for the pile. Totally incidentally, this is a chap with whom Andrew has been doing a bit of business back in the old country.

Now that’s not right, is it? Why would someone cough up £3 million over the odds – money that wasn’t even being asked for – if there wasn’t some ulterior motive?

You might ask why this matters. Well the house was paid for by Her Madge, which ultimately means us. And while I don’t begrudge in any way the 80p a year that the Royal Family costs me, I’d rather it didn’t involve enriching a lardy-arsed, golf-playing freebie merchant with a ginger ex-wife and two fat daughters.

IT APPEARS that we don’t have room to discuss the government’s latest IT project, a £120 million Department of Transport computer system that only speaks German. And you’d really let these people administer an identity card database?