Vince Cable is playing a very dangerous game

18 Sep 2013 at 10:31

Poor old Cleggy really doesn’t have much choice in offering his party as the coalition makers. He can hardly argue for a Commons majority with a straight face so he is wise not to try. But it is rather daft to pretend to cosy up to Labour after his comments that they “wrecked” the economy. Miliband and Balls in particular. I wonder at what stage that Miliband will be so desperate that he attempts to love bomb Cleggy.

Well, I am not going to wonder for too long. After all, after his election Miliband was rather clear that he wanted to ‘exterminate’ the Lib Dems and could not work with Clegg. I cannot see any circumstances in which those two could work together.

But what about Cable? This is where it all gets rather interesting. Cable is an old fashioned tax and spend former member of the Labour Party. In his Glasgow speech he boasted that he once was part of the Labour machine in that city. He admits he has had talks with Miliband, “I talk to everybody” and is happy to spend time trashing the Tories publicly and Danny Alexander privately. And what has he done to rein in his representative on earth the awful Mathew Oakshott whose smile could make cream curdle? Nothing.

And there was this weird political coitus interuptus over whether he would support Lib Dem economic policy. Was he in or out? Of course, as a member of Cabinet he had to be in, but he made it very clear that he was holding his nose.

I cannot foresee at this stage of the electoral cycle the possibility of Clegg being removed as leader. But what if Parliament is hung again? Lib Dem grass roots instinctively would support palling up with Labour. A swift coup slipping Cable into the leadership is not something that can be ruled out. And his price? Replacing Ed Balls as Chancellor of course.

But the thought of a Labour/LibDem coalition is too horrendous to contemplate. There would be no checks on the left and the Orange bookers would be out in the cold. The beauty of the present coalition is at least the Lib Dems are a civilising influence perhaps not on the Amish wing of the Tories who are perfectly happy to sulk gibbering and frothing in a corner, but on policy. What really pisses off the swivel eyed loons is that because of the sensitivity of a coalition, policy emerges after discussion and compromise. Not always perfectly, but at least giving the impression that it hasn’t emerged from the back of a fag packet in response to a MAIL headline.

And today is a double whammy for Labour. According to the latest You Gov poll they have a lead of just 4% over the Conservatives. Worse, for the first time since 2010 more people think that the cuts are good for the country rather than bad. In the run up to the Labour conference this is a potential disaster for Miliband.

It will be his personal winter of discontent.

But what is happening in the LibDems is reminiscent of what happened between Blair and Brown. Clegg and Alexander’s economic policy versus Vince Cable’s.

Cable has indicated that the Coalition may not survive until the election, whilst Clegg and Alexander are fully committed on the record to it running its full course.

What may be happening is that Cable is positioning himself for a ‘principled’ resignation so he can cause trouble on the backbenches. It will be nothing of the sort. Just naked ambition. This will not go down well with LibDem grass roots who are keen supporters of the Coalition. This nearly open warfare could be a return to the horrors of 1920.

Cable is playing a very dangerous game which could be catastrophic for the Lib Dems.

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The Ashcroft poll could be a gift to the Tories

15 Sep 2013 at 09:42

As is often the case Michael Ashcroft has done the Conservative Party a great service. His alarming opinion poll published in the Sunday Telegraph this morning that there is a UKIP surge in those marginal seats where the Tories have the smallest majorities has led to the usual crowing by labour and the Kippers. And no doubt there will be the usual jittery calls from the headless chicken brigade for an accommodation with the Faragistas.

This should be avoided like the bubonic plague.

But let’s pause for breath and think about what this poll means. That a vote for UKIP will propel Ed Miliband into Downing Street. And if that that doesn’t send a shiver down the spine of those who have sacrificed their standards of living to turn this economy around and the others who have worked their guts out to keep their small businesses afloat I don’t know what will.

So what is the clear message that the Tories should be shouting from the roof tops? That a vote for UKIP is a vote for all those policies that brought this country to its knees. That a vote for UKIP is a stealth vote for Labour. That a vote for UKIP will put back in charge those who robbed the sweet shop and then burnt it down for the insurance money. Only that they forgot to pay their premiums.

That a vote for UKIP is not just a wasted vote but a dangerous one.

The stupidity of it all is that the main thrust of UKIP popularity is immigration. And who opened the flood gates?

Their other attraction is a vote on an EU referendum. But that fox was shot long ago. So far only the Tories offer one. It won’t be long before the Lib Dems follow. And as for Labour? If they do an about turn on this one any smidgen of credibility that Miliband has left will be blown to the wind and Labour voters will stay at home.

I genuinely don’t believe that the electorate are as stupid as some commentators make out. But it does mean the Tory party machine in the marginals has to be stepped up a couple of gears and the message on UKIP crystal clear. Obviously the run up to the European elections will give the party plenty of opportunity for the latter. The danger is as that most people won’t bother to vote in the Euros because they don’t see them affecting their lives. Why would any individual want to contact their MEP? And where would they get in touch with them?

I haven’t a clue. I don’t even know who mine is let alone out to get in contact with him or her. And why would I want to? What could he or she do for me?

But this a problem for all parties except for the KIPPERS who are not really a party at all just an eccentric alliance of unpleasant prejudices.

So the Ashcroft poll may put a spring in the step of Miliband, but only temporarily. Does he really want to be propelled into office by this rag tag deserter army of racists, homophobes and isolationists who want to hurtle Britain back to the nineteen fifties?

I suspect that he doesn’t give a toss.

But this could be a gift to the Tories.

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This will be Miliband's Costa Concordia conference where the captain was too incompetent to land in the lifeboat.

13 Sep 2013 at 13:43

The next three weeks will be a terrible time for political journalists. Can you imagine having to endure the quirkiness of the Lib Dems, the despair that is Labour and the sphincter rattling horror of the swivel eyed Tory loons in full anti Cameroon rant?

And there are the spin doctors clambering over journos like dung beetles wailing how their master’s five point plans will save the nation. Then there are the activists. Earnest Lib Dems who will accuse Clegg of betrayal and demand his removal. Agonised Blairites who will accuse Miliband of betrayal and demand his removal. Finally colonel and Mrs Mad from the shires complaining how Cameron has betrayed them on same sex marriage (think Little Britain projectile vomiting at this juncture) and Europe, slyly hinting that the Faragistas speak of real Tory values.

Lastly there is the booze.

Enough to float what is left of the Royal Navy. Political journalists should be required to wear a Medic Alert bracelet with the legend, “warning if this person is bitten by a dog take the animal to the Priory for immediate detoxification.”

A Scottish journo chum of mind was interviewed by the police after the Brighton bombing and asked where they mind find his fingerprints.
“On the sides of the toilet bowl laddie, that’s where I spent the night.”

I suspect that Cleggy will have a much better time than expected at his conference. Most of the lefty loonies have departed to their Old Labour natural home. And the only people publicly calling for his resignation are Lembit Opik their own Vicar of Stifkey and Lord Oakshott who is so utterly repulsive that even the Samaritans would hang up on him.

This is the Lib Dem’s opportunity to show their individuality, the clear yellow water between them and the Tories. The trouble is their clear yellow water tends to be piss. A mansion tax and a return to the 50% tax rate hardly sets the pulse racing.

What they really should be boasting is how they have civilised the Tory right wing in government by putting the brakes on a mad reform of the NHS and pushing through tax breaks for the low paid.

Despite the valiant efforts of Tom Baldwin and Bob Roberts, two delightful and accomplished spinners, the impression will be that the two Eds are the millstone that will hang round their party and will drown most of them.

For Miliband this will be his Costa Concordia conference where the captain was too incompetent to land in the lifeboat. His trial and execution will be after the election.

For Cameron this should be a triumphal conference. The polls show that he is the Conservative Party’s electoral asset which must drive his haters into an apoplectic rage. Even better, Miliband is regarded as weak out of touch and in the hands of the unions. To be averaging a six to eight percent lead at this stage of the electoral cycle is nothing short of disastrous.

And I haven’t even mentioned the drop in unemployment and the encouraging economic news.

In his heyday Neil Kinnock was polling a lead of twenty nine percent against Thatcher.

I suspect the problem for Cameron will be the fringe meetings. Boris, who knows how to stroke the collective clitoris of the Party faithful will be up to no good feigning a jovial loyalty whilst sticking in the stiletto. But his leadership window of opportunity is closing. Ken Clarke knew precisely what he was doing when he told him to ‘cool it’. In effect this was a subtle hint that if you rock the boat you will be thrown overboard.

And let us not forget Farage. He quite sensibly has been banned from addressing an official fringe meeting. But he will have a stunt planned. A set piece speech a few minutes away from the conference centre will be packed. The importance of this will not be what he says but who will be there.

So all three conferences will have one thing in common. Great set pieces of loyalty but in the shadows hands on the hilts of daggers dripping with vitriol and curare.

Will anyone have the courage to draw them, let alone use them?

I doubt it.

But you never know.

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Parliament did not assert its authority last night it showed itself to be weak, afraid and self indulgent

30 Aug 2013 at 13:22

There were no winners in yesterday’s vote, only losers. The Coalition, the Opposition, Parliament and most tragic of all, those innocents who will be murdered by the Assad regime.

I went into the Commons to watch the debate and read it all in Hansard this morning. On the terrace the general consensus was that Cameron was passionate and determined and that Miliband’s speech was weak.

There will be a lot of loose talk that Cameron’s authority has been dealt a mortal blow and much chatter that Parliament has been shown to assert its authority. Both propositions are wrong.

The whips must have known about the thirty potential Tory rebels. Each area whip would have taking soundings for the last few days. What was not factored in was the about turn of Miliband which came as a body blow to Number 10. Things are often fraught between a Prime Minister and his opposite number but now I suspect there will be a real and intense dislike between the two. The man will never be trusted again. And PMQs will became even more bloody.

If Number 10 has any sense it will put the kibosh on the ridiculous Labour spin that Miliband has bravely stood up to the war mongering USA.

Obama a war mongerer?

They must be mad.

It has poisoned their relationship with the Democrats and lost the only friend they had in Europe, President Hollande. Today the White House made a bitter attack on Miliband’s party politicking.

And the Miliband amendment was defeated. The weak are a long time in politics.

Cameron haters are thrilled that he has been humiliated. They are putting it about that he didn’t prepare the ground. That the recalling of Parliament was too rushed. Did they not read the Joint Intelligence Committee memo? Nor the Attorney General’s advice? It would have taken ten minutes to conclude that limited military action would be lawful and that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on at least fourteen occasions.

He has been pushing the boundaries to see what the world will let him get way with.

But what was so breathtakingly naive was the Miliband argument that we should pursue diplomatic options. Diplomacy with Assad? Involve Iran in peace talks? Ridiculous.

These guys are on another planet.

But what was so depressing was that the rebels were panicked by the opinion polls and their post bags. Rather than show that Parliament works it has shown it to be weak and afraid. Don’t they realise that they are representatives not delegates? They probably didn’t even think that they were going to defeat the government.

And what on earth did the ghastly Justine Greening think is she up to? Didn’t hear the division bells? Didn’t know when the vote was? She should be sacked for incompetence or gross disloyalty and Andrew Mitchell brought back.

The rebels are crowing that Parliament has shown its authority. Really? It has shown that it is weak, frightened and self indulgent. And they have washed their hands of the murder of over one hundred thousand man women and children.

Sickening.

I agree with Paddy Ashdown. I am utterly ashamed of what happened last night.

David Cameron at least had the courage to try and do the right thing. It is a tragedy he received so little support.

For the people of Syria.

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Ed Miliband's road to Damascus

29 Aug 2013 at 09:37

There will be much cheering by the Labour left today. Red Ed has out manoeuvred Cameron and thrown NATO plans to singe Assad’s moustache into chaos. Milibanders, now an endangered species, will spin this as a sign of his strength and guile.

The truth is that it is testament to his weakness and proof that he is a prisoner of the left.

What is so utterly despicable is that at a legal briefing he gave no indication of a change of policy or lack of support. Two hours later he made the terse phone call to Cameron that he could not support his plan.

For now.

Yet the slippery Douglas Alexander made his views of waiting for the weapons inspectors to report to the UN a day before. So was Miliband being dishonest, which on matters of national security borders on the treasonous, or was he just awaiting his orders from the likes of McCluskey.

Personally, I would give him the benefit of the doubt and bet on the latter. Either way he isn’t going to win a prize for leadership or decisiveness. And God help him if this gives Assad a spring in his step to commit further atrocities.

But apart from anything else it makes Britain look weak. I suspect Cameron briefed Obama that the Commons would deliver before the weekend and had no cause to believe that he would be mislead by the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. And the question for Obama must be does he wait until next week to strike or does he go it alone with a little help from France? Militarily this is not a problem but politically it plays into the hands of Russia and China.

In the short term the public will support Miliband, but in the long term he will be holed below the waterline. Voters like decisive leaders and hate it when they put party politics before the national interest.

It is not often I get really angry about despicable behaviour of politicians as in in many it is ingrained in their DNA. I was naive enough to believe that Miliband may be misguided but was not a shit.

I was wrong.

I suspect that what pushed him over the limit of what is honourable behaviour was the intervention of Tony Blair.

Whatever your views on him he is not a shit. Independent of the Security Council he sent our forces into into Kosovo to stop genocide. This was as courageous as well as noble. Ed Miliband would be wise to read Blair’s Chicago speech where he set out the doctrine of when a nation should intervene militarily in a country’s internal affairs to bring a halt to genocide.

Miliband has shown that he is not the sort of man to go on a tiger shoot with. He would try and do a deal with the tiger before being mauled to death.

Cameron now knows something that he has always suspected. Miliband is not a man to be trusted.

And as for Nick Clegg? A herogram.

Getting the majority of LibDems on side on such an emotive and sensitive subject just before a stormy party conference is nothing short of a miracle. And courageous. The man has grown balls of steel.

But what does this mean for Ed Miliband? This has been his road to Damascus.

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It is time for the civilised world to assert its moral authority over the Assad regime

28 Aug 2013 at 14:34

The difference between being a leader or a statesman is the ability to take necessary decisions that are unpredictable, unpopular but necessary.

David Cameron was right to lead world opinion on the invasion of Libya and right to fly in the face of opposition from his own party in pushing forward legislation to allow same sex marriage

But what about his determination to lead the civilised world in military action to show our abhorrence at the Assad regime’s wicked use of chemical weapons against innocents?

St Thomas Aquinas set out a passable rule of thumb to justify a just war.
It must occur for a good and just purpose.
It must be waged by a legitimate authority.
And peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence.

It is right and proper that Parliament has been recalled to debate and vote on our options. But Cameron must avoid a free vote for his party. If it is government policy that we embark on surgical strikes on Assad’s military installations then there should be a three line whip as it is not a matter of conscience.

The trouble is that Labour thinking is disfigured by the Iraq war and can only be seen through the prism of the so called dodgy dossier. The default position of that old snake oil salesman Douglas Alexander is to wait for the weapons experts to report their evidence to the UN Security Council.

This is dangerous nonsense.

The Assad regime has done everything possible to hinder the collection of evidence. A five day wait. The heavy bombardment of sites destroying most traces of any evidence that can implicate the regime.

And as for the Security Council? There will be never be unanimity so long as the Russians and the Chinese dishonestly and obstinately stick to their line of never interfere with the internal workings of a sovereign state.

In some ways I can sympathise with this. But since 2005 there is scope to intervene outside the scope of the Security Council in matters of genocide. And no sentient being can fly in the face of the actuality.

Does it really stand up that rebel forces have either the capacity or the desire to use chemical weapons to murder their innocent women and children or even, as it has been suggested by George Galloway, that the state of Israel bears responsibility?

Of course not.

It would be a disgraceful cop out if we adopted the line in the nineteen thirties after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia that Syria is a far a way place that is not our concern.

The wringing of hands at the wickedness of the Assad regime is not enough. A clear military expression of the horror of the civilised world at the use of chemical weapons against innocents must serve as a warning to those other regimes who believe that they too can get away with it with impunity.

But we have to accept our limitations.

There can be no ground troops. There can be no attempt at air superiority and there can be no arming of the rebels.

We can’t arm the rebels simply because there is no coherent command structure. There are a lot of men with guns. Some are on the side of the angels others are gangsters and terrorists.

And there can be no attempt regime change simply because it won’t work.

Assad’s regime did what it did because it thought and still thinks that they can and will get away with it. We must prove them wrong.

We would be failing in our duty and we would be cast into a moral vacuum if we do not support a multilateral surgical strike on key military installations.

But that is as far as we can go.

Tomorrow the House of Commons has the opportunity to show courage, fortitude and determination rather than vacillation and party manoeuvring.

David Cameron has shown leadership and courage. But does Ed Miliband have the stomach to take on his left wing and union leaders to do what he must know is the right thing?

Of course a one off strike will lead to uncertainty and will rattle the cages of those who have been fighting an Islamic war for over eight hundred years.
But if we want to show that the civilised world has traded its moral compass for influence in this troubled region then we are not much better than the men of terror.

The Aquinas criteria have been met. And it is time for the civilised world to show its moral authority.

Syria is a rogue and failing state. We must now make it a pariah state so long as Assad and his gangsters are in charge.

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Burnham's cry for help and the first Blooms of mysogeny by the Kippers

11 Aug 2013 at 10:40

This has been a weird week in the bare knuckled roller coaster ride of politics. Nobody should have been remotely surprised at the Godfrey Bloom’s Bongo Bongo land sly little wink to racism. Yet his well known view that women of child bearing age shouldn’t be employed should be much more worrying to UKIP. Women very often swing elections. Their vote is crucial. Upset them at your peril.

Bongo Bongo land was an unpleasant little side show. The message from the Kippers is quite simple. We don’t stand for any of this political correctness nonsense. We call a spade (with a little racist wink) a shovel. Oh, and women are great for bringing up our kids and keeping the home but they really should know their place.

Lynton Crosby take note.

And then there is the tragedy of Andy Burnham. His comments about Labour need to shout more was a desperate ploy to save his own job. If Miliband sacks him he can claim it was because of him telling the world what every Labour MP thinks, namely that Ed is about as much use as a cat flap in a submarine.

Agreeable enough guy Burnham is history has shown us that he presided over an NHS that lacked care, compassion and competence. Keep him at Shadow Health and he is just a moving target for the Tories. And Jeremy Hunt has proved to be an excellent marksman.

If you don’t get Peter Kellner’s daily polling brief you really should. It is a terrifying read for Labour and Miliband in particular. An average party lead of 6% is a disaster being the harbinger of a catastrophe. And his personal ratings are falling faster than a flasher’s trousers.

It’s all very well saying that Labour should shout their policies louder but that’s not the problem. Kellner’s consistent top three concerns of voters is the economy, immigration and Health.

The Balls remedy for our economic ills has been proved to be utterly wrong. A change of course would be a disaster as business confidence is at its highest since 2007. The great ship of state is beginning to turn. And we are still two years down the road to the election.

Obama’s comments about not giving the Republicans back the car keys as they can’t drive are even more applicable to Labour as Ed Balls is the Baron Samedi of the politically dead leading his Zombie army back to their graves.

Now lets have a look at immigration. Labour presided over a policy of actively encouraging mass immigration under the direction of the failed, hopeless and diabolically incompetent UKBA. Theresa May is probably the first Home Secretary to terrify her dysfunctional department into action and UKBA will soon be buried with a wooden stake through its heart.

She really is becoming a force of nature. Poor old Yvette Cooper really doesn’t have a chance, it’s like being savaged by a nun on holiday.

And lastly the NHS. This is Labour territory. It is their jewel in the crown. Not any more.

But never underestimate Tory backbenchers talent to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory.

And now I read that Boris is on manoeuvres. Speaker Bercow is said to be bequeathing his safe seat to our saviour. But in 2017.

Some people say that Boris is his own worst enemy.

Not when David Cameron is around.

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Grayling has found a supporter for his legal aid reforms! But caveat emptor

1 Aug 2013 at 11:03

I am delighted to report that our beloved and beleaguered Lord Chancellor has found a friend! Yes a solicitor who was quoted in the Guardian supporting his very popular reform of legal aid. His name is John Wilson of Wilson’s solicitors in Bradford.

This is what he was quoted as saying:

“The legal profession has a vested professional interest in keeping the system as it is. I think we should scrap the legal aid system. Legal aid accounts for 10% of the fee income of lawyers. Every lawyer ought to do 10%of their work for nought. Lawyers are experts at squeezing as much money out of the system as they can”.

As Mr.Wilson has referred us to the Guardian piece on his firm’s website I imagine that he stands by his quotes as accurate.

This isn’t perchance the same John Wilson who wrote to his local newspaper in 2004 saying that Legal aid is a “cash cow for lawyers”?

And is he any relation to a solicitor called John Barrie Wilson?

If it is him it would be useful to read the following ruling at disciplinary proceedings.

No. 9989-2008
SOLICITORS DISCIPLINARY TRIBUNAL
SOLICITORS ACT 1974
IN THE MATTER OF JOHN BARRIE WILSON, solicitor (Respondent)
Upon the application of Peter Harland Cadman
on behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority
______________________________________________
Mr. D. Green (in the chair)
Mrs J. Martineau
Mr. G. Fisher
Date of Hearing: 11th, 12th 13th and 14th January and
23rd, 24th and 25th February 2010
______________________________________________
FINDINGS AND DECISION
______________________________________________

Appearances
Peter Harland Cadman, Solicitor & Partner in the firm of Russell-Cooke of 8 Bedford Row, London, WC1R 4BX the Applicant, on behalf of the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA).

The Respondent was present in person.
The application to the Tribunal, on behalf of the SRA, was made on 14th May 2008 with Further and Better Particulars dated 2nd October 2009.

Allegations
The allegations against the Respondent were that he had:-
1. Failed to provide adequate confirmation to clients contrary to Practice Rule 15, Solicitors’ Practice Rules 1990 and Solicitors’ Costs Information and Client Care Code 1999.

2. Failed to provide adequate advice to clients of the firm as to the funding of litigation.

3. Failed to act in the clients’ best interests.

4. Failed to keep clients properly informed of cost liabilities.

5. Taken unfair advantage of clients.

6. Acted where there had been a conflict of interest between his own interest and that of the clients.

7. Raised bills of costs in a matter to decrease funds available to legitimate creditors.

8. Improperly provided a business card to a client, Mr Foster, describing him as a consultant of the firm contrary to the Solicitors’ Publicity Code 2001.

9. Failed properly to supervise staff.

Factual Background
1. The Respondent, born in 1961, was admitted as a solicitor in 1986. His name remains on the Roll.

2. At all material times, the Respondent was in practice in partnership as Wilsons (the firm) at 6A Rodley Lane, Rodley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS13 1HU. The Respondent is the sole equity partner with one salaried partner.

3. An inspection of the firm had been carried out by the SRA commencing on 15th August 2006 and resulting in a Forensic Investigation Report dated 5th March 2007 (the FI Report). Following correspondence between the SRA and the Respondent, on 6th August 2007 an Adjudicator referred the conduct of the Respondent to the Tribunal.

4. Of the 19 complaints registered by the firm, ten had related to costs. Two of the firm’s general documents had dealt with costs information; “Our client care charter” and “Employment problems”.

The matter of Mrs O
5. From 13th November 2004, the firm had acted for Mrs O in an employment tribunal matter conducted by Paul Jackson, a trainee solicitor. The matter had resulted in a contested employment tribunal hearing that had concluded on 17th October 2005 with an award, in favour of Mrs O, in the sum of £57,227 together with costs of £1,000.

6. The firm had received £58,252.56, held in client account as at 5th December 2005. On 15th January 2006, the Respondent had submitted his first and only bill in the sum of £58,252.56 and Mrs O had not received any compensation.

7. During the conduct of Mrs O’s case, the trainee solicitor had charged at £140 per hour. At the hearing, the trainee and another member of staff had attended and the intention had been that the client should be charged for both. The firm had not submitted monthly bills to Mrs O during the course of the retainer and she had been unaware of the extent of her costs liability.

8. Following Mrs O’s complaint to the Law Society about the costs, the matter had been resolved with the Respondent re-paying £35,000 to Mrs O.

The matter of Mrs W
9. In the matter of the firm’s client Mrs W, on 4th November 2004 the Employment Tribunal had made an award in her favour of £29,426.48. The firm had charged the client £25,745.40 plus a medical fee of £58.60. Mrs W had therefore received only £3,621.48 from the award. Following her complaint, the matter had proceeded to Law Society adjudication on 21st August 2006 when the Respondent had been ordered to pay compensation of £1,500 and to refund costs to the client of £15,936.57.

The matters of Mr & Mrs Foster
10. The Respondent had acted for Mr & Mrs Foster with regard to financial and other matters. On 12th December 2001 an equitable mortgage had been created by the firm between the firm and Mrs Foster. It had related to Mrs Foster’s interest in half of the equity of a property, 8 Stoney Croft (the property). The equitable mortgage had been to cover the legal services provided by the firm to Mr & Mrs Foster. During the period 22nd January 2002 to 18th August 2003, bills had been raised to a total sum of £19,609.31.

11. On 29th June 2005, following the death of Mrs Foster’s Mother, the Life Tenant, Mrs Foster’s sister had agreed to purchase Mrs Foster’s half share of the property for £69,000. On 12th July 2005, the Respondent had written to Mr & Mrs Foster informing them that the firm was looking to recover costs in the sum of £43,000. At that point Mr & Mrs Foster had sought legal advice.

Documentary Evidence before the Tribunal
12. Inter alia, the Tribunal reviewed the Rule 5 Statement dated 14th May 2008 together with the documents exhibited to that Statement and the Applicant’s Response to the Request for Further & Better Particulars. The Tribunal also reviewed four lever-arch files of papers served by the Respondent, a chronology and arguments. In his statements, the Respondent denied all the allegations. A copy of the Adjudicator’s Decisions of 21st August 2006 and 30th April 2007 were also before the Tribunal.

Witnesses
13. Paul Jackson, who had been a trainee solicitor at the firm of Wilsons between September 2003 and September 2005, gave oral evidence. He relied on his statement dated 24th August 2009, dealing with the details of the employment claim brought by Mrs O. Mr Jackson stressed that the Respondent had been closely involved at all stages of the claim. He also explained that Mrs O had been told that her legal fees would be met from any award of compensation and that it was always possible that her legal costs would exceed the amount of any award. However, Mr Jackson agreed that monthly bills had not been sent to Mrs O, with the result that she had not realised the full extent of the costs being incurred on her behalf and, when she had been awarded a large amount of compensation, she had not expected to lose it all in costs.

14. Debra M Tennant, a friend of Mr & Mrs Foster, gave oral evidence. She relied on her statement of 13th August 2009 dealing her relationship with Mr & Mrs Foster and her meetings with the Respondent. Mrs Tennant explained that she had been aware that Mrs Foster was entitled to half the value of her Mother’s house (the property). Shehad also known that Mrs Foster’s sister was to buy Mrs Foster’s share in the property for £69,000. Mrs Tennant said that she had known nothing about a charge and that she had understood that the Respondent had been keeping the Fosters’ creditors at bay and that Mr Foster had been working for the Respondent to pay off any fees. Mrs Tennant explained how she had been aware that Mrs Foster had wanted to buy a static caravan and how surprised she herself had been when the Respondent had said to her that he was not having his money used for that purpose.

15. John Foster gave oral evidence and relied on his statement of 14th August 2009. He gave details of his dealings with the Respondent, inter alia, explaining how the Respondent’s firm had acted for him in a professional negligence claim for some £600,000 against his former solicitors. That claim had settled in 1999 in the sum of £85,000 and subsequently the Respondent had acted, pro-bono, in a complaint, against those same solicitors, to the OSS. Mr Foster said that during the course of the litigation he and his wife had incurred credit card debts that they had subsequently been unable to pay off. He explained that the Respondent had said that he could help them against the creditors and that the Respondent had arranged for Mrs Foster to sign a blank document telling her that he wanted to protect her future inheritance. At that time Mr Foster’s debts had been about £35,000 and Mrs Foster’s some £18,000.

16. Mr Foster told the Tribunal that he and his wife had received bills of costs until 2003 but had believed the Respondent when he had told them that he was doing the work for them for nothing. From August 2003, Mr Foster explained that he had been working for the Respondent, who had provided him with a business card, a car and a mobile ‘phone. His role had been to help with the expansion of the Respondent’s business.

17. In April 2005, Mr Foster said his Mother-In Law had died and, at a meeting in May 2005, the Respondent had confirmed that he and his wife owed the Respondent nothing. However, in a letter dated 12th July 2005, the Respondent had said that Mrs Foster owed the firm £43,000 which, if properly billed, would take the full amount of her inheritance. Mrs Foster’s sister had also received a letter dated 12th July 2005 asking her to forward her cheque for £69,000 to the firm to enable them to deal with the transfer of the property.

18. Mr Foster told the Tribunal that following the adjudication of their complaint by the Law Society, they had been awarded £15,000 and told that no costs had been payable.

19. In response to detailed cross-examination by the Respondent, inter alia, Mr Foster agreed that he had probably received letters from the Respondent, including client care letters and a copy of the equitable charge, but that he could not remember them specifically. He insisted that the Respondent had said that he and his wife would not have to pay him and that all bills should be just put in a drawer and forgotten. Mr Foster said that his wife’s signature on a blank piece of paper had not been witnessed in her presence.

20. Mr Foster agreed that he had become bankrupt in November 2005, on the advice of an insolvency expert, but insisted that he had always known that he would do so eventually.

21. Hilary Foster gave oral evidence and relied on her statement of 14th August 2009. Inter alia, Mrs Foster explained that she and her husband had a meeting with the Respondent at which they had given him all their credit card bills. The Respondent had given her a blank piece of paper with dots on to sign that she had thought had been a form of authority for him to act on her behalf. Mrs Foster said that the Respondent had never advised her to see another lawyer.

22. Following her Mother’s death in April 2005, Mrs Foster explained that there had been a meeting at the Respondent’s office during which he had said to her and her husband that they owed him nothing.

23. In response to detailed cross-examination by the Respondent, inter alia, Mrs Foster insisted that they had not approached the Respondent but that he had ‘phoned them and offered to help in November 2001. Moreover, that she had signed a blank piece of paper in the Respondent’s offices and did not remember subsequently receiving an equitable mortgage deed by post or discussing the property with the Respondent or being advised that her creditors would have to be told about it.

24. Mrs Foster said that the bills had stopped when Mr Foster had started working for the Respondent.

25. Inter alia, Mrs Foster denied knowing anything about setting up a charity or wanting a bank account or being advised by the Respondent that she had already lost her inheritance. Moreover, she did not know why initial correspondence from her subsequent legal advisors had not referred to her signing a blank piece of paper at the Respondent’s offices.

26. Stephanie Young, the Investigation Officer who had investigated and prepared the Report dated 5th March 2007, gave oral evidence relating to her Report and produced further documents as listed in her statement dated 27th November 2009.

27. In cross-examination, inter alia, Ms Young provided details of her professional experience and the purpose of her factually-based Report. She stressed that her role had been to obtain facts and not to reach conclusions.

28. Debra Parkin, who had been employed by the firm, gave oral evidence relating to her knowledge of the file of Mr & Mrs Foster.

29. The Respondent gave oral evidence adopting his original statement together with his Summary Agenda, Arguments and Chronology, copies of which documents were handed to the Tribunal. He also referred to specific documents in the four lever-arch files before the Tribunal.

30. The Respondent provided details of his professional background and of his firm emphasising his intense interest in his Profession. He stressed that the matters of Mrs W and Mrs O had been concluded more or less at the same time. The Respondent explained his firm’s approach to so called “unbundling” in Employment claims and referred to the relevant documentation supplied to clients, including his firm’s client care charter. He detailed the circumstances of the cases of Mrs W and Mrs O and stressed that both clients had been warned that their costs could be as much as, or even exceed any damages recovered. The Respondent insisted that he had been acting in the best interests of these clients.

31. Dealing with allegation 6, the Respondent asserted that conflict existed in all cases undertaken by solicitors. He explained that in Employment cases monthly bills could have been misleading and that all such clients had been told, at the outset, that their costs liability could well equal their compensation. However, he stressed that clients had never been at risk in that if their claims had failed, they would not have been subject to any costs liability.

32. In relation to Mrs O, the Respondent stressed that she had been told throughout that she would not achieve a financial benefit. However, her case had not been about money but about her future ability to work in her field. The problem had been that she had not been informed about her escalating costs and could not understand that because of those very high costs, her compensation, albeit larger than anticipated, had not resulted in any payment to her. The Respondent stressed that her actual benefit had been in being able to continue to work in her field in that previously her name had been removed from the POVA list.

33. In relation to Mr H, the Respondent explained that the client had been receiving monthly accounts, although his costs estimate had not been revised, and that the matter had, at all times, been supervised by an experienced matrimonial lawyer.

34. The Respondent explained, in detail, the system of supervision within his firm.

35. In relation to Mr & Mrs Foster, the Respondent referred the Tribunal to his 71 page statement dealing with the background and all the relevant issues taking the Tribunal through all the key points. He explained that he had completed his statement early in 2007. The Respondent stressed that in October 2001 Mr & Mrs Foster had asked to see him and that he had made it clear to them that while he was prepared to help them in relation to various matters, he was not prepared to sort those matters out for them for nothing.

36. The Respondent insisted that Mrs Foster had agreed to, and had signed, an equitable charge, while being fully aware of what it was and of what it was for that was to secure the Respondent’s costs of acting for both Mr & Mrs Foster. He stressed that he had also served notice of the charge on the sole executor of Mrs Foster’s late Father’s Estate and also on her Mother and Sister. The Respondent explained that he had been instructed to and had sought to stave off the bankruptcies of both Mr & Mrs Foster pending the change in Bankruptcy Law. He stressed that the whole point had been that as at November 2001, because of her debts, Mrs Foster’s inheritance had already gone but could be used to secure legal fees.

37. The cessation of the firm’s monthly accounts in August 2003, the Respondent said, had occurred solely at the request of Mr & Mrs Foster who had found them distressing.

38. The Respondent explained his charity project and its associated activities. He insisted that Mr Foster’s role had been not to work for Wilson’s Solicitors (which had never been charged for his time) but to promote the idea of the legal charity which had been related to un-met legal need.

39. Following the death of Mrs Foster’s Mother, the Respondent explained that he had sent three letters to Mr& Mrs Foster in order to separate their business relationship from their relationship as friends. He had viewed his letter about his firm’s bill as a starting point for negotiations. However, their relationship had broken down and subsequently both Mr Dyson and Mr Manning (solicitors) had been involved in trying to resolve matters. The Respondent insisted that any matters, including the allegation of the signing of a blank piece of paper, not raised by Mr & Mrs Foster in the letter of 10th January 2006 had been subsequently made up by them.

Findings as to fact and law
Allegation 1 – That the Respondent had failed to provide adequate confirmation to clients contrary to Practice Rule 15, Solicitors’ Practice Rules 1990 and Solicitors’ Costs Information and Client Care Code 1999.
40. The Applicant submitted that inadequate confirmation as to costs had been provided to Mr & Mrs Foster, Mr H, Mrs O and Mrs W in that they had not been provided with adequate, clear and up-to-date information as to the extent of their cost liability arising during the course of their litigation. Moreover, Mr Foster had not been advised as to the merits and benefits of the work to be undertaken.

41. The Respondent submitted that both Mrs O and Mrs W had been aware of their costs liability with the firm and that Mr H had been provided with monthly bills. Mr & Mrs Foster had instructed him to act initially to sort out their debts and subsequently to delay bankruptcy while being fully aware that the monthly bills would be paid from Mrs Foster’s half-share in the house.

42. The Tribunal found the allegation to have been substantiated on the facts and proved in respect of all the named clients. All the clients had costs liabilities to the firm and should have been provided with regular and detailed costs updates. Such bills as had been provided had not been sufficiently detailed.

Allegation 2 – That the Respondent had failed to provide adequate advice to clients of the firm as to the funding of litigation.
43. The Applicant submitted that inadequate advice as to the funding of litigation had been provided to Mrs O and Mr & Mrs Foster. In the case of Mrs O, she had not been provided with any advice as to alternative possible funding. Whereas, Mr & Mrs Foster had not been advised either as to the possibility of alternative funding or as to the actual merits of retaining paid solicitors for the purposes of and for the extent of the work actually undertaken.

44. The Respondent submitted that all avenues of funding had been properly considered with all clients. Moreover, Mr & Mrs Foster had been aware that they would not receive any of the proceeds from the house but had initially wanted the bankruptcy process to be as civilised as possible and subsequently had wanted bankruptcy delayed to benefit from the changes in the relevant law.

45. The Tribunal was not satisfied that it had been proved, to the required standard, so that the Tribunal was sure, that adequate advice as to methods of funding had not been provided.

Allegation 3 – That the Respondent had failed to act in clients’ best interests.
46. The Applicant submitted that in the matters of Mrs W, Mrs O and Mr & Mrs Foster, the Respondent had failed to act in their best interests.

47. In the cases of both Mrs W and Mrs O, the Applicant submitted that they should have been properly advised as to the amount of the costs of the litigation and that that obligation had increased as the litigation costs had become disproportionate to the possible benefits of the litigation.

48. In the case of Mr & Mrs Foster, the Applicant submitted that they had not been properly advised as to the benefit of retaining solicitors to act in the particular matters. Moreover, Mr Foster had never been advised adequately as to the likelihood of avoiding bankruptcy or of the benefits of an immediate bankruptcy as opposed to the matter being drawn out for a number of years prior to the occurrence of the actual bankruptcy.

49. The Respondent submitted that at all times he had acted in the best interests of his clients. In the case of Mr & Mrs Foster, he stressed that bankruptcy had not been inevitable.

50. The Tribunal found the allegation to have been substantiated on the facts and proved in respect of all the named clients. The Respondent’s failure to keep each client informed in detail about costs and prospects of success had resulted in those clients not being in a position to make an informed decision.

Allegation 4 – That the Respondent had failed to keep clients properly informed of cost liabilities.
51. The Applicant explained that the allegation related to Mr & Mrs Foster, Mrs O, Mrs W and Mr H.

53. In the case of both Mrs W and Mrs O, the Applicant submitted that they should have been provided with appropriate costs information, the extent of which should have included, on a regular basis, the quantum of costs, the degree of risk and the cost benefit to the clients of continuing with the matter.

54. In the case of Mr & Mrs Foster, the Applicant submitted that they should have been provided with appropriate costs information and that they should have been informed as to the extent of the cost on a regular basis especially with relevance to quantum, the degree of risk and the cost benefit to them of continuing the matter to its conclusion. Moreover, the Applicant submitted that although bills had been delivered to Mr & Mrs Foster they had not been bills that the firm had expected to be paid.

55. The Respondent submitted that Mr H had been provided with monthly bills and that Mrs W and Mrs O had been warned about the potential level of costs. Mr & Mrs Foster had initially been sent monthly bills until they asked not to be sent any further bills. However, Mr & Mrs Foster had been fully aware that not only were they to be charged for the Respondent’s work but that those charges would be satisfied by way of the equitable charge entered into by Mrs Foster.

56. The Tribunal found the allegation to have been substantiated on the facts and proved in respect of all the named clients. The Tribunal noted, however, that Mr & Mrs Foster had been informed regularly, but only up to August 2003, about the amount of their costs and had been aware that those costs would have to be paid eventually. Mr H had received monthly bills but his costs estimate had never been updated.

Allegation 5 – That the Respondent had taken unfair advantage of clients.
57. The Applicant explained that the allegation related to Mr & Mrs Foster, Mrs O and Mrs W.

58. In the case of both Mrs W and Mrs O, the Applicant submitted that their litigation had been allowed to continue when in fact they would not have been the net beneficiaries of any successful litigation in that the only beneficiary would have been the Respondent’s firm.

59. In the matter of Mr & Mrs Foster the Applicant submitted that bills of costs had been generated by the Respondent’s firm with regard to Mr Foster in circumstances where Mr Foster had believed that no bill would need to be paid in part because of the services that he had been providing to the Respondent. Also that the Respondent had charged fees for work that had not been undertaken and had included such fees in the bills submitted to Mr & Mrs Foster.

60. Further the Applicant submitted that the charge taken over Mrs Foster’s beneficial interest in real estate had been improperly obtained and had not been in the best interests of Mrs Foster and moreover that the billing arrangements between the firm and Mr & Mrs Foster had not been in their best interests.

61. The Respondent submitted that there had been benefits for both Mrs O and Mrs W notwithstanding that their costs would reduce their damages. He stressed that claims in the Employment Tribunal were not made for the primary purpose of recovering compensation and that all clients were told that they should proceed on the basis that they would recover nothing. Monthly accounts would have been both misleading and not of benefit to clients.

62. As to Mr & Mrs Foster, the Respondent said that they had never undertaken any work for or on behalf of his firm. He submitted that the evidence before the Tribunal fully justified a finding that the equitable charge had been properly obtained and signed.
63. The Tribunal was not satisfied that it had been proved, to the required standard, so that the Tribunal was sure, that the Respondent had taken unfair advantage of his clients Mrs O, Mrs W and Mr & Mrs Foster.

Allegation 6 – That the Respondent had acted where there had been a conflict of interest between his own interest and that of the clients.
64. The Applicant explained that the allegation related to Mr & Mrs Foster, Mrs O and Mrs W.

65. The Applicant submitted that with regard to Mr & Mrs Foster, Mrs O and Mrs W there had been a conflict between the firm’s interest for fee income and the obligations to act in the best interests of individual clients. In the case of Mr & Mrs Foster the conflict had been exemplified by the circumstances in which a charge had been taken over the assets of Mrs Foster and the lack of any independent legal advice.

66. The Respondent submitted that any conflicts had been managed appropriately by the firm in the best interests of the clients.

67. The Tribunal was not satisfied that it had been proved, to the required standard, so that the Tribunal was sure, that the Respondent had acted in a situation of conflict of interest with his clients Mrs O, Mrs W and Mr & Mrs Foster.

Allegation 7 – That the Respondent had raised bills of costs in a matter to decrease funds available to legitimate creditors.
68. The Applicant explained that the allegation related to Mr Foster only in that he should have been advised earlier to enter into bankruptcy or an IVA. He submitted that there had never appeared to have been a realistic possibility of Mr Foster being able to reach a settlement with his creditors or compromise his debts.

69. The Applicant further submitted that the work, undertaken by the firm and the bills of costs created had been un-necessary and could have taken precedence over the rights of creditors. He stressed that that had been exemplified by the legal charge take over the assets of Mrs Foster which had secured the Respondent’s own position as against those of Mr & Mrs Foster’s creditors.

70. The Applicant explained that the allegation had been presented as one of general misconduct but that it had also been a breach of Practice Rule 1(a) – Solicitor’s integrity, 1 (b) – Solicitor’s duty to act in the best interest of the client and 1 © – the good repute of the Solicitor or of the Profession. It had also been presented as a breach of Rule 17.01 – a breach of an obligation of fairness by taking unfair advantage.

71. The Respondent submitted that there had never been any possibility of an IVA in that Mr Foster had had no funds with which to finance any proposals. He stressed that Mr & Mrs Foster had wanted his firm to undertake work for them and the whole point of the equitable charge had been to ensure that, with the Fosters’ full agreement, the firm got paid for all the work done on their behalf.

72. The Tribunal found the allegation to have been substantiated on the facts and found it proved. The Tribunal particularly noted the contents of the retainer letter and was satisfied that the amount of work done and the costs incurred had been excessive and completely disproportionate. The Tribunal was satisfied that the Respondent had been aware that those fees generated by him would reduce the funds available to meet the debts owed by Mrs Foster.

Allegation 8 – That the Respondent had improperly provided a business card to a client, Mr Foster, describing him as a consultant of the firm contrary to the Solicitors’ Publicity Code 2001.
73. The Respondent submitted that the evidence was clear that Mr Foster had been a consultant to the charity AdviceNet Trust and not at any time to the firm.74. The Tribunal found the allegation to have been substantiated on the facts and the evidence and found it proved. It noted that the business card had been similar to those issued to other members of the firm and the words Wilsons Solicitors appeared clearly on its face.

Allegation 9 – That the Respondent had failed to supervise staff properly
75. The Applicant submitted that the lack of supervision related to Paul Jackson, a trainee solicitor, in the litigation matter on behalf of Mrs O.

76. The Respondent submitted that the evidence, particularly that of Paul Jackson himself, had supported a system of full and effective supervision.

77. The Tribunal was not satisfied that it had been proved, to the required standard, so that the Tribunal was sure, that Paul Jackson had not been subject to proper supervision by the firm.

Mitigation
78. The Respondent said that most of the more serious charges against him had not been found proved and although he did not underestimate the seriousness of the proceedings, he did feel justified in defending those proceedings as he had done as he had succeeded in defending his integrity. He stressed that his firm was now providing costs estimates and regular costs updates and that he had been operating as a full-time manager rather than as a fee-earner. The Respondent reminded the Tribunal that the relevant events had taken place some six years ago and he offered his apologies. He hoped that he was facing a financial rather than any greater penalty and possibly no penalty at all given that he had spent the last five years defending his good name.

79. The Respondent provided details of the current financial circumstances of his firm and of his own financial circumstances. He submitted that the Applicant’s costs schedule of almost £60.000 should be subject to a detailed assessment and severely reduced. Moreover, that he should be awarded some costs.

Costs Application
80. The Applicant submitted that all of the allegations had been properly reviewed and prosecuted, that there had been no admissions by the Respondent and no allegation of dishonesty before the Tribunal. All the allegations had come before the Tribunal as fully contested matters. The Respondent had insisted that the Forensic Investigations Officer be called but had failed to provide a statement himself in answer to the specific allegations and cross-referenced to all the documents submitted by him in four lever-arch files. Such an approach, the Applicant submitted, had added to both the time of and the costs of the hearing.

81. The Applicant agreed that a summary assessment of the costs would be inappropriate.

Sanction and Reasons
82. The Tribunal had found five of the nine allegations proved on the evidence presented to it. It considered that those allegations were of a serious nature affecting as they did the reputation of the Profession and the trust placed in members of the Profession by the Public. In the view of the Tribunal, it was vital that clients were provided with full costs information and updates and that instructions and advice were clear, recorded in writing and updated as necessary. It was for clients to be provided with full information and to be advised, in the light of that information by the solicitor, but it was for the client, with the benefit of that information and advice, to make his or her own decision.

83. The Tribunal had been extremely concerned about the Respondent’s actions in relation to the bills of costs raised in matters relating to Mr & Mrs Foster: large sums to achieve very little. Taking into account the nature of the five allegations proved, the Tribunal considered a fine of £25,000 appropriate in all the circumstances. It had considered suspension, but in the light of the time that had passed since the events leading to the allegations, the results of the adjudications and the changed procedures within the firm, had determined that a significant fine would be appropriate to mark the serious view that the Tribunal took of the relevant events.

Decision as to Costs
84. The Tribunal was of the view that the Applicant was entitled to costs, subject to a detailed assessment, as it was satisfied that all the allegations had been properly brought. It considered that had the Respondent made appropriate admissions to certain of the allegations, agreed certain parts of the evidence and submitted a clear and concise statement, referenced to his documents, that could have been adopted as his evidence in chief, substantial costs could have been saved and the hearing would not then have taken seven days.

85. The Tribunal did not find any reasons for making any order for costs in favour of the Respondent.

The Orders of the Tribunal
86. The Tribunal Ordered that the Respondent, JOHN BARRIE WILSON of 6A Rodley Lane, Rodley, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS13 1HU, solicitor, do pay a fine of £25,000.00, such penalty to be forfeit to Her Majesty the Queen, and it further Ordered that he do pay the costs of and incidental to this application and enquiry subject to a detailed assessment unless agreed between the parties to include the costs of the Investigation Accountant of the Law Society, such costs not to be enforced through the Courts without the prior consent of the Tribunal but it is to be understood that this Order does not prohibit agreed terms for payment between the parties.

Dated this 29th day of June 2010
On behalf of the Tribunal

D. Green
Chairman

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I received this information from the Solicitors from Hell website.

I wouldn’t have thought that they would be popping the corks at the MOJ just yet.

Although John Barrie Wilson seems just the sort of chap who fits all of Grayling’s criteria to get a contract to provide a “quality” legal service.

It goes without saying that if the John Wilson in the Guardian who practices at Wilson’s solicitors Bradford is a totally different person from John Barrie Wilson formerly of Wilson’s solicitors in Leeds then he can hold his head high.

However I have done some research. Looking on the solicitor’s roll there is a John Barrie Wilson whose registered office is Law Offices Ltd. When you google that office have a guess which solicitors firm you are directed to? None other than the same Wilson’s solicitors whose very own John Wilson refers us to his comments in the Guardian.

Interesting.

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Diary wars no Kidding

25 Jul 2013 at 18:48

The first thing I do when reading a newspaper is claw my way to to the diary section. I have a view, which may not be entirely bollocks, is that editors are obsessed with the front page splash and the diary.

As someone who wrote a political gossip column for PUNCH for five years the golden rule is quite simple. Make a list of your proprietor’s friends and enemies and puff the former and slag off the latter. If you want to pay the bills never ever get it wrong as the P.45 is never too far away.

I used to work for Mohammed Al Fayed. And under the skilled tutelage of some seriously brilliant editors, James Steen, Dominic Midgeley and Richard Brass they drilled into me the rules of the game. I would never write a nice piece about Michael Howard. “Zee man is a crook and a liar” or my mate Neil Hamilton “a rent boy”. Nor Mick Jagger “Zis man has eyes like a frog. What does that beautiful woman Jerry Hall see in this fuckwit?”

Mr. Libel lawyer I know that that all these allegations are baseless and totally mad and they are not attributed in anyway to Mr Al Fayed.

Welcome to Fleet Street.

Similarly if I had taken the Dacre shilling I would never have the stupidly of writing a nasty piece about his mate Michael Howard. Out of the door I would have been.

Although Paul I am available.

The skill of a diary writer is the polishing of the turd. It’s all in the writing. My two favourites are Hugh Muir of the Guardian and Sebastian Shakespeare of the Standard’s Londoners Diary. Both are works of art.

To read Muir’s diary is like reading James Joyce. Beautifully written, linked, waspish and entertaining.

It is like wiping your arse with silk.

And Sebastian sits in his eyrie, looks at the depressing copy from some of the children sent off to dreary parties, spots the little nugget of gold and writes it like dream.

This is not journalism. It is an art form. From diaries you can get a real insight into the lives of our lords and masters. It is a gateway to their souls.

It is also a great way for journalists to learn their trade. Martin Ivens, Sarah Sands all started off on diaries.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a funny quote. But most people don’t have a clue how to extract it.

And politicians, despite what they say, love the publicity.

I once wrote a piece about Stephen Byers who was then Industry Secretary. I rather cruelly said that he had a double first in toss pottery pure and applied. He spotted me at a party and came up to me. There is nothing worse than a journalist meeting his victims. My heart sank.

“Hi Jerry. Loved your piece. Let me buy you a drink and give you a story.”
That man knew how to play the game.

A different approach was adopted by Charles Clarke then a junior education minister. I really can’t remember what it was I wrote about him. It may even have been true. But he was not amused.
“Hi Jerry you lying little cunt”.

Believe it or not I rather like Charles. He was a good Home Secretary. Although a tad right wing for my taste.

But now we have a new kid on the block in the shape of Patrick Kidd. Times editor John Witherow had the good sense to reintroduce the diary. And his inspired choice was Kidd who trained (or rather lunched) under Giles Coren. If you haven’t read it yet please do. It is classy, stylish and a very good read.

This seems to have ruffled feathers at Telegraph Towers. For reasons beyond my comprehension, Tim Walker, veteran diarist, seems to have taken against Kidd and seems to miss no opportunity at having a pop. At the last count he has devoted nine paragraphs disparaging the Times Diary.

This mystifies me. Tim deals with Tatler type tales. Lots of Royality and lots of “when I spoke to Lady Chlamydia launching her new gallery promoting the works of the Honourable Tarquin de knob heir to the rampant rabbit dildo empire” sort of stuff.

It is a different market.

And before I receive a paragraph “how desperate Kidd is to get the services of failed MP Jerry Hayes to promote his lost cause” let me declare a non interest. I’ve only met Kidd once for ten minutes and the Telegraph Diary was never a topic of conversation.

But I do have an interest in good writing. And the Times Diary is a classy confection.

However let me be an honest broker. I will happily host a lunch at the Savile Club for the pair to end their differences.

Diarists should never fall out.

But I do miss writing one.

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Why I almost agree with Owen Jones

22 Jul 2013 at 20:33

It is not often that I agree with Owen Jones, but his piece in the Independent about Sunny Hundal’s rather sad attempt to villainise the Conservatives as “evil” struck a sensible chord.

Firstly, I must declare an interest. Although I totally disagree with Owen about most things, I rather like him. His views maybe hopelessly wrong (to me) but they are well held and genuine. When he writes I don’t get the impression that he is trying to create a bit of cheap publicity.

He, unlike so many lefties, has a sense of humour, sometimes against himself. He is one of the few flag bearers of the sentient left. Blimey, he actually believes in Socialism!

They are, I suspect an endangered species. But when the Miliband meteorite finally strikes (I won’t hold my breath) I would rather like Owen to be spared having his bones displayed in the Natural History Museum.

Sunny Hundal I don’t know at all. But anyone who considers themselves a commentator to be taken seriously should really be careful about their use of words.

Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussain and Robert Mugabe can be easily considered evil. Their policies were murder and genocide for a political end.

But the Tories? For heaven’s sake get a grip.

Or does he want to get a grip? I suspect not. A load of silly season publicity certainly. And apart for his fifteen minutes of fame, what serious political commentator is ever going to take a word he says seriously again? How is he going to ratchet up his next piece? “The queen presides over a theocracy that demonises Islam”?

Sadly the poor fellow has become a caricature of himself. He has gone beyond parody. A sort of left wing Daily Mash.

This is all a terrible shame. The left really do need a sentient voice. People who can challenge the anti benefit orthodoxy.

The trouble is that Milliband has realised that Labour is on the wrong side of the argument here. Not even the most swivel eyed loons on the Tory backbenches honestly wants to demonise the poor. The essence of Thatcherism was to give everyone a fair crack of the whip. Not just the boss classes jambocking the working classes.

Equality of opportunity.

We haven’t got anywhere near that yet while the trade unions seem to be content for women to be paid less than men for doing the same job. Strangely, the most recent statistics show that the gap between rich and poor is the smallest since records began.

In rock terms Thatcher “stuck it to the man.” In every sense.

If I had been born in the 1900s I would have been on the picket line with Manny Shinwell. I would have been a card carrying communist.

There were no benefits and if you lost your job with the colliery or the mill you would have been turned out of your tied home with nothing.

I know, my grandmother scrubbed floors to keep her family alive.

Yet this was not just capitalism at its red, toothed viciousness. It was pure ignorance of the governing classes as well. Until Joseph Rowntree delivered his report on poverty the ruling elite genuinely believed that the poor were poor by reason of choice.

Incredible by today’s thinking, but back then it was the received wisdom, even by the so called “enlightened”. Pretty depressing.

What I find so remarkable is that the only champion of the poor, the only spokespeople for those ashen faced mothers who have a daily dread of their young boys being seduced into the drugs gangs, is the Coalition.

Which include the “evil” Conservatives.

Quite honestly, I am probably totally wrong for giving Sunny Hundal a single column inch. But he is indicative of how totally out of rhythm the left are with ordinary people trying to scrape together a living together in very difficult times.

And Owen? Sorry to cause you embarrassment, but you are rather good news even if I thoroughly disagree with you!

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