The Plastic Hippo

June 29, 2012

Don`t spoil it, Sir

Filed under: Sport,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 11:38 pm

There are only a certain number of once in a lifetime experiences a simple soul like the hippo can endure in a three month period. Only the most churlish would point out that from a metaphysical ontological perspective, birth and death are the only true once in a lifetime experiences. But, hey, let`s not spoil the party.

The torch comes to Walsall this weekend, not in the usual form of clearing inconvenient historic buildings, but as a symbol of all that is noble and heroic in the pursuit of sporting excellence. The Olympic Games are now less than a month away, or six weeks if you are the Home Secretary, or “what Olympic Games?” if you are the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, or the games that were not, no definitely not, in no way shape or form, not in a million years ever inherited from the previous government and Ken Livingston. Walsall can at last experience and celebrate the sweet smell of two-thirds propane and one-third butane without fearing the worst.

As with all significant and potentially planet changing moments in history, there can be serious emotional and psychological effects on those that witness such epoch defining epiphany. After watching some river boats on television, hearing Sir Elton John sing “I`m thtill thtanding” through layers of Botox and seeing the England football team loose on penalties, do the good people of Walsall have the cognitive inner strength to cope with yet another once in a lifetime experience? The very sight of some fire on a stick parading through the borough passed Tesco, Poundland and lots of vacant shops might induce hysteria and possibly fainting.

Not wishing to add to the cost of providing the trauma counselling that will be required following the outpourings of sheer joy, jubilation and profound patriotism that a cheese grater on fire available on EBay will provoke, your humble correspondent intended to stay away. The plan was to haul a grumpy bum up the garden armed with a flagon of Old Rosie Scrumpy, sit in the shed listening to Mahler and enjoy the thirty eight in a lifetime experience of reading George Orwell`s 1984. Sadly, the goblins and the elves that share the house have other ideas.

In spite of a thorough grounding in sceptical cynicism at home, the state educated progeny seem to have bought into the once in a lifetime marketing opportunity. It`s just a rumour that is going around school, pretty soon they`ll be handing out free, unlimited McDonalds and Coca-cola when the bandwagon hits town. Well, I ask you? No amount of clenched fist, bulging eyeball incredulity could dissuade them that a false promise of a free Big Mac was a once in a lifetime experience. “Come on, Dad,” they pleaded, “don`t spoil it”. At this point, any responsible blogger with an eye on advertising standards, competition law and the blatant use of product placement would add that other mechanically rendered meat product patties and E number packed sugar beverages are available. In this case, though, they are not. Looks like Old Rosie will not be allowed to see the torch.

It is certain that thousands of Walsall people will take enormous pleasure from the day and that will be down to the hard work, dedication, commitment and professionalism of council officers, the police, fire, ambulance and other public servants who, astonishingly, are having their pensions and even livelihoods torched. The day will go well and we owe them a debt of gratitude for some stunning organisational work. The fact that the International Olympic Committee and the body that is organising the torch relay and the sporting activities taking place in the capital city of the United Kingdom in the 12th year of the 21st century (one is not allowed to use the words London 2012 Olympic Games for fear of litigation) have recognised that Walsall is not in Poland is a small step forward in promoting the future of our dying town. This might explain the feverish activity of pot hole filling, drain cleaning, litter picking and general tidying up over the last few days that one might expect from a local council entrusted to provide adequate community services. If only we could arrange for a flaming torch every week. Not, however, the type of flaming torch that accompanies pitch forks when opposing wind turbines in Aldridge, the wrong type of Mosque or the outrageous proposal to open a nursery in Streetly. Regeneration, is seems, relies upon the torch.

It looks like the grumpy bum will witness the passing of the flame after all and, according to the intellectual giants that hide in the Walsall cabinet, enjoy the once in a lifetime experience of face painting, donkey rides in Bloxwich, having the car towed away and shelling out a fortune on Big Macs and Coca-cola. The advice is that the wearing of a Pepsi t-shirt, eating a Mr Sizzle lunch for a pound burger, taking a call from any other service provider other than BT, not using a Visa credit card or looking into a shop window that provides services from a non sponsor will result in an immediate arrest by the brand police on suspicion of terrorism. Well, I ask you?

On the day that we were told that the Prince of Wales received an increase of 11.8 per cent in his benefits, a man with multiple medical problems, denied support from the state and judged by a bogus private company as being fit for work set fire to himself outside a Job Centre in Selly Oak in Birmingham, we welcome the Olympic torch. It is interesting that the rich receive benefits but the poor and disadvantaged demand benefits. Earlier in the week, the Prime Minister was heckled by an employee of the company that will provide the sporting activities taking place in the capital city of the United Kingdom in the 12th year of the 21st century. Cameron`s response was swift, apposite and, for once, truthful. “Don`t spoil it, Sir. Don`t spoil it, Sir. This is not about politics, this is about Britain.”

Cameron was right. It is not about politics. It is about a Britain run by corporate interest, the greed of the elite, the power of brand advertising and the corruption at the highest levels of finance and government.

It has nothing to do with sport.

June 28, 2012

Get your coat, Pauline

Filed under: Politics — theplastichippo @ 3:59 pm

It is possible, if you are prepared to dig deep enough, to find an explanation for even the most bizarre behaviour. When faced with a perfect storm of malice conjoined with incompetence, the least we can expect is a little bit of cabin fever madness and some random arson.

The recent nonsense spewing out of the coalition government is far from accidental and has, if you think about it deeply enough, exposed two important if unreported facts. Firstly, the coalition government is in complete political, economic and moral disarray. Secondly, away from prying eyes, they are fighting like ferrets in a sack in an effort to inherit an empire of dust. In a futile attempt to divert attention away from a massive failure of economic management, we are now treated to the undignified spectacle of cabinet ministers scurrying around lighting bonfires of distraction. Having grown accustomed to blaming everything on inherited deficit and the previous government, 25 months of blatant lies and abrogation of responsibility no longer seems to be the only tactic of choice for the discerning ministerial millionaire. The Conservative Party have turned away from their core electorate and are now concentrating solely on appeasing their powerful corporate financiers. As Essex white van man and angry of Tunbridge Wells raise a quizzical eyebrow at the latest smokescreen reported in the Murdoch press, ministers are beginning to realise that the game is up.

Osborne has fulfilled his potential by developing himself into the most imbecilic Chancellor this country has ever had to suffer. The coalition`s single most important priority was to reduce the deficit. The deficit has increased. The strategy to reduce the deficit was to reduce borrowing, reduce spending, reduce public services and by doing so, inexplicably, stimulate economic growth. Borrowing is up to record levels, spending has increased and cuts to public services, mostly involving the removal of gainful employment, has resulted in tax revenue down and benefit payments up. Growth has come to a grinding stop and we are in recession. Add to this a spectacular inability to grasp the fundamental difference between accumulated debt and a shortfall between income and expenditure and we are left with an inept Chancellor equipped with only the economic experience of extorting tuck money and cigarettes from the younger boys in the dormitories of St Paul`s Public School.

Old Paulines, as they are delightfully described, include Milton, Pepys, Sir Isaiah Berlin and Nicholas Parsons. Osborne may not possess poetic genius, the skill of a diarist or an understanding of value pluralism in political language, but he is certainly capable of extraordinary feats of hesitation, deviation and repetition. When it became clear that Osborne`s disastrous March budget would lead to ruin, even Tory back benchers realised that simply repeating “inherited deficit” as an excuse was becoming more than a mere irritation and was, along with Osborne, an electoral liability. Taxing pensioners, caravans and savoury pastry based products did not go down well in leafy Tory shires and the reversal of lunatic budgetary imposition began. To cover this deviation away from Plan A, cabinet ministers did not hesitate to say anything, no matter how ridiculous, to divert attention away from the economy going down the plug hole.

So we had Francis Maud jabbering wildly about petrol shortages, Duncan Smith, Grayling and Pickles slagging off the poor, the terminally ill and people with disabilities, Lansley blaming Labour for hospital closures because Gordon Brown invented PFI schemes, Gove running up and down the curtains with a piece of the carpet in his mouth making no sense at all about O levels and Baroness Warsi finally and mercifully forced to stop talking drivel due to her unfortunately error in breaking the ministerial code. Jeremy Hunt was told to keep his mouth shut but that did not stop Mr Speaker allowing him the honour of being the first MP in history to be described as a liar in the House of Commons. Teresa May tried valiantly to join the pantomime but has now, like Maud, Hunt and Warsi, disappeared from view after the Home Secretary was found guilty of contempt of court. House Captain Cameron sallied forth with some utter bilge about removing housing benefit from the under 25`s possibly, maybe, sometime after the next election and by questioning the morality of the tax arrangements of someone off the telly. We should be concerned about the stability of the Prime Minister`s mental state as he seems to be suggesting that he is capable of being re-elected and that he pursued a so-called comedian over tax avoidance rather than under the trade descriptions act.

As Osborne`s budget unravels, no amount of willy waving and petulant pouting can disguise the fact that the Chancellor`s days are numbered and it is here that we are offered a glimpse of the true nature of the Conservative Party. Budget priorities that will not be reversed are tax breaks for millionaires, a cut in Corporation Tax and relaxed legislation in governing the behaviour of banks including further bail outs and the level of executive bonuses. This humble blog will return to the breaking scandal at Barclays and other banks once the lengthy FSA report has been read, digested and puked back up.

Call it Omni, mega, uber or complete, government is in a state of total shambles. An hour after briefing Tory MPs to attack Labour as hypocritical for demanding a reversal of an increase in fuel duty, Osborne told the Commons that he was reversing an increase in fuel duty. Forgetting the noble concepts of chivalry and gentlemanly conduct instilled into the pupils of St Paul`s School, Osborne went to dinner and left the hapless Chloe Smith to face a savage mauling on Newsnight. In defence of his Chancellor, Cameron may have misled the house by stating that Osborne could not attend media interviews because he was making his statement in the Commons. The statement was made just after midday, Newsnight, a live programme, starts at 22-30. Poor Chloe, her credibility now ruined, also took a kicking on the Radio 4 PM programme at 17-00 and on Channel 4 News at 19-00. One can only assume that Osborne enjoyed his dinner.

Given carte blanche to say whatever they like, no matter how outrageous to distract the electorate away from the current economic train crash, Tory ministers possessed of more ambition than ability, see the parlous state of government as an opportunity to seize power. Osborne is toast and Cameron has a haunted look and if any serious investigation into their tax affairs is undertaken, the regimes at St Paul`s and Eton might yet prove to be morally preferable to an education at Wormwood Scrubs or Pentonville.

The added distractions of the Jubilee and the Olympics might stave off melt down until the autumn but with voracious self interested ministers already looking at succession by attempting to appeal to the hearts and minds of the 1922 committee, the ferret fight is likely to become dirty. Sadly for the wider electorate, the 1922 committee have not been blessed with either hearts or minds.

As an Old Pauline, George Gideon Oliver Osborne, heir to the Ballentaylor baronetcy of Tipperary will know that “Surmaster” means Deputy Head and will understand the significance of the Apposition Dinner and ceremony held every year at that school. Apposition allows for the removal of poorly performing, corrupt and incompetent masters. One High Master, way back in 1748, was given his marching orders for threatening to “pull the Surmaster by the nose and kick him about the school”. Gideon, with his nose offering the only tangible evidence of actual growth, might wish to cut his puppet strings and become a real boy, but he is best advised to avoid any future Apposition Dinners.

David Cameron, a direct and illegitimate descendant of William IV, went to Eton. At the end of dinner at that school, they have a mess. That, for those that don`t know, is a pudding. It might just be coincidental that what Cameron calls pudding, is now the definition of his government.

June 25, 2012

Bloop bleep

Filed under: Walsall — theplastichippo @ 5:49 pm

There is an incontrovertible law of both physics and causality that demands that bread lands butter side down on carpets, a pocket full of small change will be rejected from town centre car park machines and anything involving plumbing will end in tears.

So it was with the dripping tap that seemed intent on eroding the bathroom sink into a heap of soggy porcelain paste. It was, of course, on the “to do” list of household tasks along with rewiring the dodgy lighting in the under stairs cupboard, removing the contamination at the bottom of the oven which seems to be evolving into life forms beyond the imagination of even the most lurid of science fiction game developers and the thorny problem of re-pointing the garden wall. Somehow, these vital tasks found themselves relegated down the list as more pressing undertakings took precedence. Watching football, drinking beer and listening to the radio were the boxes that had to be ticked. For weeks, the incontinent faucet plipped and plopped with the insistence of an old Danny Kaye 78 until it finally met its nemesis in the colossal form of a teenage boy in possession of cognitive logic based on brute force. He, unlike his father, succeeded in making the tap stop dripping.

The laws of Murphy and, indeed, Sod dictate that when things fail, they do not fail safe. Prime examples of this truism are helicopters, knicker elastic, amorous advances at office parties and governments. The tap was no longer dripping but was now issuing a torrent usually associated with jet blasting rally cars and grubby civic buildings. This sudden inundation threatened to convert the bathroom into Aberystwyth or Hebden Bridge. On the plus side, the customary monosyllabic adolescent grunts had been replaced with gales of hysterical laughter as the sink began to overflow and the tap gave up the existential ghost and abandoned its role and definition of tap.

Risk assessment, emergency contingency and disaster recovery plans are vital and the decisions made in the first moments of a crisis are crucial. My initial response was swift and robust. A towel was wrapped around the tap, a tooth mug was employed to bail out the sink and a concentrated effort was made to remember where the main water supply stop cock was hiding. Fortunately, someone sensible was close by in the shape of the lady wife who knew where the stop cock was located and arrived in the bathroom bearing spanners. It went downhill from there.

The bathroom fitting formerly known as tap refused to be removed without a fight suggesting that it had been installed by a gorilla with similar upper body strength as the family Orc who broke it. After much monosyllabic geriatric grunting, the beast was finally free of the sink and it became clear that the tap had dripped its last. No problem, a quick walk into town, buy new tap, back in about half an hour. What could possibly go wrong?

Walsall once boasted a proud and vibrant town centre. Now it is like watching a dear old friend slowly dying. In the town of a hundred trades, it proved impossible to buy a simple bathroom tap on a Saturday afternoon. Yes, all the expected retail outlets were visited and no taps were for sale, not even for ready money. Enquiries were made and advice sought which resulted in blank looks, shrugs and one suggestion that I should try Birmingham or Wolverhampton. It would appear that the basic equipment needed to ensure even a modicum of personal hygiene was not a stock priority for the trade’s people of Walsall. On the plus side, there was a huge range of junk food available, England flags, the clothing of dead people in charity shops and an awful lot of rubbish that cost only a pound or even 99 pence. The ancient open air market was no help; Geraniums, flat triple A batteries, England flags and dodgy mobile phones were not going to set the water flowing again at hippo towers. Running out of time, a walk to a known builder`s merchant on the edge of town turned out to be futile because it was shut. Supermarkets were doing in roaring trade in flags and beer.

Returning home, empty handed, to find people desperate for coffee, tea and a wee, the only option was to take the car to an out of town retail park to hunter gather a tap. Two hours and 50 quid for a pair lighter, the new tap was fitted and the water supply returned. The new tap failed and the flood was back. After allowing family members to use the loo and then fill as many jugs, pans and kettles as possible, the water supply was again disconnected. Further inspection confirmed that the tap had unwisely invited a cracked seal into our home and the ongoing problem was not the result of my cowboy plumbing. By now disgruntled, I retired to the Portugal Spain game and drank beer and we boys were lucky enough to be able to urinate on the compost heap at half time. No such luck for the ladies of the household.

By strange coincidence, that God of Walsall`s social media, Brownhills Bob, highlighted a preposterous piece in the woeful Express & Star on the very day that it was impossible to buy a tap in Walsall. Given his location, the Bobster knows a thing or two about dying town centres and the power of multi-national corporate retailers. The arrant nonsense expressed in the publication formerly known as a newspaper claimed that £400million was being invested in local high streets. A clue to the accuracy of this drivel was gained by the description of Pizza Express, Nandos and Prezzo as “restaurateurs”. Even if you forgive the typo, one might be justified in asking how many Michelin stars have been awarded to these junk food joints. The E&S have put the rat back into restaurant and trumpet the arrival of Primark and Co-op into Walsall. For all its good intentions, disregarding its involvement with the disgraceful Workfare scheme, the Co-op is yet another supermarket. Primark and the Co-op do not sell bathroom taps.

The task for Sunday morning was to drive back to the out of town retail park and demand a refund. No, the offer of a credit note or replacement was not acceptable. I thought about offering an emergency colostomy performed using one of the alleged taps but considered that procedure too risky for a customer unqualified in either surgery or plumbing and, after some difficult negotiation, I was finally reunited with my cash. Driving home, dark thoughts of a day without water suppressed the usual rage at the inconsiderate motoring skills of others until I discovered salvation by complete chance.

Approaching red traffic lights, I noticed an old fashioned hardware store that, astonishingly for a Sunday morning, was open. The contents of the shop spilled out onto the pavement. Broom handles, dustbins, fishing nets, mops, buckets and rabbit hutches indicated the possibility of taps. After parking in a side street, the urge to enter and ask for four candles was overwhelming. Fortunately, the original offending ex-tap in my pocket provoked caution and the shopkeeper proved to be both sympathetic and helpful. He disappeared into an unseen stockroom and returned with an array of precious and rather wonderful taps. Inspecting the device that in a former life once controlled the flow of water, he concluded that lime scale was the problem and then selected a suitable replacement for the princely sum of five quid. He also suggested that the investment in some stuff that chemically removes the stalactites that grow in taps might be a good idea and also gave sound advice on changing the wretched thing.

I suggested to my saviour that a town centre location would make him a fortune but he disagreed as he felt that the rents and rates in Walsall were prohibitively high for successful business. I was unable to offer an alternative argument and so plundered his shop for some three core mains cable, a new light fitting, an industrial strength oven cleaner and a big bag of ready mixed pointing mortar. My newest and bestest mate, Mohammed the shopkeeper and font of all knowledge, carried the bag of mortar to the car.

The tap is now fixed, there is light in the under stairs cupboard, the oven is almost healthy and the garden wall can wait. Walsall, however, is far from fixed and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Bloop, said the local politician, bleep.

June 21, 2012

Birds of a feather

Filed under: History,Media,Politics,Rights,Society — theplastichippo @ 3:23 pm

As any tyrant knows, the key skill in conducting organised genocide is to make sure it happens in secret. When secrecy is broken, denial, distraction and a friendly press will buy enough time to load the private jet with gold bullion and take off to somewhere nice. Step forward Michael Gove.

On the day that our Prime Minister attacked a rather mediocre comedian for his “immoral” tax arrangements and in doing so opened a hornet`s nest of scrutiny and hypocrisy, the Department of Education leaked Gove`s latest crackpot scheme to the Daily Mail in yet another exercise in news management. As an added bonus, a sparsely attended debate in the House of Commons that focussed on the disgraceful removal of the rights and dignity of people with disabilities went completely unreported in the mainstream media. It was left to the excellent Sue Marsh and BendyGirl and the BBC Parliament Channel to shine some light into the black hole of coalition policy and malevolence. It should be noted that the BBC Parliament Channel broadcasts raw footage from inside Westminster and elsewhere and is not subject to the BBC News editorial code which demands that every news bulletin should be a party political broadcast on behalf of the Conservative Party.

Maria Miller, Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Disabled People at the Department for Work and Pensions, knows a thing or two about distraction and flogging a brand rather than a product. An alumna of the London School of Economics, Maria became an advertising executive at Greys Advertising Ltd before becoming a marketing manager at Texaco. She then returned to Greys as a director and then, prior to being elected as the Conservative member for Basingstoke, was a director of the Rowland Group, a public relations company gobbled up by Saatchi and Saatchi and then gobbled up by Publicis Consultants.

Publicis are an interesting multi-national PR giant who specialise in “health and wellbeing” and can proudly boast of having Nestle as one of their major multi-national clients. Nestle, you will no doubt remember, undertook an aggressive marketing campaign in the developing world to persuade new mothers that Nestle formula milk product increased the life chances of babies rather than breast feeding. Sadly, the opposite was the case. Newborns died. In 2002, and with famine ravaging Ethiopia, Nestle demanded the repayment of a six million dollar debt from the government of that unhappy country. Perhaps a consignment of Cheerios and Shreddies might have proved more helpful. More recently, Nestle were happy to exploit trafficked child labour to harvest cocoa beans in the Cote d`Ivoire that are vital to the production of the delicious confectionary produced by the company. You might wish to consider this the next time you tuck in to an Aero, KitKat, Lion Bar, box of Quality Street, tube of Rolo or Smarties or a wafer thin After Eight Mint. Take a break; take profit from child slave labour.

It is, of course, utterly preposterous to suggest that Maria Miller was involved in any of this obscenity. In 1977, when the milk scandal was revealed, she was at school in Bridgend and by 2010, when trafficked children were working for Nestle, she was in government. Guilt by association remains, quite rightly, a fallacious syllogism under law as none other than the current Prime Minister will attest, however, we might wish to consider the career culture and experience of the Under-Secretary of State and how that qualifies her to be the champion of disabled people.

The rather strange Publicis website offers potential clients “Lifestyle marketing, including earned product placement in film and TV, influencer and celebrity seeding, and celebrity spokesperson management.” Maria Miller might not have any knowledge of the challenges facing people with disabilities, but having absorbed the skills of celebrity spokesperson management she is perfectly qualified to speak for a government that is determined to stigmatise, demonise and oppress the very weakest in our society.

It is, of course, utterly preposterous to compare the indecent haste, the lies, the bigotry and the sheer malice necessary to propel the Welfare Reform Act into law with the Holocaust, the barbarism of Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of the Balkans. But the repulsive sight of Tory MP`s laughing, cheering and waving their order papers every time a minister suggests that a paraplegic is a scrounger should instil fear into anyone who considers themselves to be human. Labour, armed with actual facts, offered spirited but ultimately futile opposition to the first phase of the final solution. The motion was defeated with Liberal Democrats looking at their shoes with embarrassing silence and voting to condemn and vilify the very people that they were elected to protect. As the words shame, cowardice, hypocrisy and cronyism exit the Liberal Democrat lexicon, the word Remploy has replaced inherited deficit in the Tory distraction.

With disability hate crime on the increase and convictions on the decrease, these elected representatives, including Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller at the DWP, aided and abetted by hysterical press reports of benefit abuse, no longer have the right to consider themselves as representative or, in fact, as members of the human race.

Lacking any sense of shame, the private jet full of bullion will be the only option when the anger inevitably erupts unless, of course, they wish to suffer the same fate as Joseph Goebbels.

Maria Miller MP

Maria Miller MP

June 17, 2012

Neeps and tatties

Filed under: Education,Media,Politics,Rights,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 6:11 pm

In a world where almost every news bulletin provokes gloom, despondency and an increasing tendency towards incandescent rage, how nice to follow a story that raises a genuine smile. Argyll and Bute council just got owned by a little girl.

As part of a literacy project, nine-year-old Martha Payne decided to write about school meals on her NeverSeconds blog. She rated the food she was served in marks out of ten and posted photographs of the meals by way of illustration. Not content with merely honing her IT and writing skills, Martha`s blog also set out to raise money for charity, in this case the intention is to fund the building of a kitchen to feed hungry children in Malawi. One might imagine with both local and national government either destroying education through malicious intent or by sheer incompetence, Martha`s efforts would be embraced by the half-wits in control as an example of good news and success. Not so, Argyll and Bute council banned her from taking photographs in the school canteen.

The ire of the faceless officers based in the bustling metropolis of Lochgilphead was caused by a piece in the Daily Record which is part of the Trinity Mirror group. The rag later described the headline that called for the sacking of dinner ladies as “light hearted”. Quite what processed Argyll and Bute council to censor a primary school pupil rather than complaining about the Daily Record is anybody’s guess especially as Martha seems to enjoy the atmosphere of the canteen, gets on well with the catering staff and has awarded some meals ten out of ten. One clue might be the relationship between the tabloid paper and political allegiances of Argyll and Bute councillors. The Daily Record openly supports the Scottish Labour Party and the council is controlled by the Scottish National Party. In addition to 13 SNP councillors, the authority has 16 Independents, four Libdems, three Tories and not a single Labour elected member. If he is not too busy, perhaps my noble Lord Leveson might wish to investigate.

The paranoia displayed by a council usually engaged in discussing the need for a census of stags and the frequency of ferries to distant, picturesque islands is, sadly, becoming the default position of most local authorities. In a bizarre press release, the public servants of Argyll and Bute claimed that the little girl`s blog published unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service which have led catering staff to fear for their job. The information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils. However, this escalation means we have had to act to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing.” What? The noise of droppings left by the Monarch of the Glen council press officer hitting the extractor forced the local SNP leader Roddie McCuish onto the World at One to reverse the ban and again allow the subversive activity of photographing potato croquettes.

This level of nonsense is being replicated across the nation as hopeless local authorities attempt to equate legitimate criticism with wrongdoing and even terrorism. The deeply disturbing Draft Communications Bill which will allow government to monitor all our phone calls, tweets and blog posts at a cost of £1.8billion is designed to silence objection and not, as a succession of cabinet minister’s claim, to protect us from organised crime, drug dealers, suicide bombers and those sub-humans who choose to abuse children. The coalition government has clearly learned the art of suppression from its valued trading partners in China, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Here, nestling between the magnificent grouse moors of Cannock and Pheasey Park Farm, Walsall council will no doubt embrace the Draft Communications Bill with all the enthusiasm it displays when enforcing the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000. RIPA, you will no doubt remember, allows local councils to undertake covert surveillance of the public and its employees if the council suspects the planning and execution of acts of terrorism and other life threatening offences intent on destabilising public order or the fabric of society. You may also remember when Walsall council leader Mike Bird went on the radio to defend spying on council workers who threw a sickie and residents who put the wrong kind of rubbish into the wrong kind of bin. He`s gonna love the Draft Communications Bill.

When a council decides to keep everything important in the dark and attempts to throw up a smoke screen of banal, irrelevant, asinine and anodyne “engagement” with social media, bloggers like Martha Payne become invaluable if anything approximating to truth is to be made available. In Walsall, the failing council is spending money on printing and distributing 100,000 leaflets in a back-to-basics re-education programme regarding recycling. It required the redoubtable Brownhills Bob to expose this hokum for what it was; complete and utter rubbish. The borough`s recycling is now being taken to Leicester where a cheaper contractor is unable to process the stuff and is lobbing it into landfill and our council tells us it`s all our fault. If Argyll and Bute are capable of producing bizarre press releases, they have been outshone by the Walsall press office. Here is an extract from the response to the diligent work of Brownhill`s finest:
Just to confirm, they`re not struggling with volumes. Far from it. Their unit is running within capacity, as we understand it. However, across the country are being much stricter in what they are allowin. Cllr Harris says.” What? Note the careful use of “as we understand it”. At least Argyll and Bute and the little girl that they are so frightened of can spell and have a basic grasp of grammar and sentence construction. Perhaps the councillor should stick to collecting the fares for the dodgems as he is not very good at collecting rubbish and is unlikely to collect a gold star for his use of English.

It has been suggested that Argyll and Bute council should engage young Martha to train its press office in the use of social media. She might be able to educate them in tactics to avoid the Streisand Effect, an episode where the aging chanteuse mistook the action of coastal erosion for an invasion of privacy and almost fell off a cliff of embarrassment. If the dimwits north of border pass up on Ms Payne, perhaps we could persuade her to relocate to Walsall. After about a year in the press office, she would be qualified to be the council`s chief executive. After that, she could become council leader and then Prime Minister. That prospect is, of course, unlikely as she and every other child at school has to first survive the complete insanity that is being inflicted by Michael Gove. Martha, though, has had the last laugh. Traffic to her website and, more importantly, donations to her chosen charity have gone through the roof.

However, there is a downside. Now, as a known troublemaker, it will not be the Daily Record that will be hacking her phone and monitoring her blog for sedition. It will be her government.

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