The Plastic Hippo

June 16, 2012

Country matters

Filed under: Law,Literature,Media,Politics — theplastichippo @ 10:20 am

There will now be a short intermission. Ice creams, popcorn, hot dogs and soft drinks are available in the foyer. After Lord Justice Leveson has taken a bit of a break, our main feature will start shortly.

Module 3 of the Leveson Inquiry, which investigates the relationship between the press and politicians, has almost concluded and we can now look forward to Module 4, the final part of the formal Inquiry which is scheduled to be completed by the end of July. This final investigation might prove to be the most difficult channel for Leveson to navigate as it seeks to come up with “recommendations for a more effective policy and regulation that supports the integrity and freedom of the press while encouraging the highest ethical standards”. For some observers of the goings on at the Royal Courts of Justice, the words “the press” and “highest ethical standards” contained within the same sentence might appear to be mutually exclusive and the noble Lord faces the difficult task of closing down the last chance saloon that has been open for business for centuries and has been doing a roaring trade since the end of the Second World War. So what have we learned from Leveson so far?

Well, we`ve had some knockabout comedy from some so called comedians, A to Z list celebrities taking arms against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune inflicted by the gutter press, more “ordinary” members of the public who have had their lives ruined even in the depths of grief and a whole troop of politicians who seem to be suffering selective amnesia and drowning in a sea of troubles. The heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to do not seem to be confined to Max Mosley. Former Prime Minister Major proved that Murdoch lied under oath and former Prime Minister Brown proved that Murdoch lied under oath with further evidence provided from the Cabinet Office that proves that the “unbalanced” telephone call did not take place. It`s a good job that Rupert is very wealthy because he will need to employ a better legal team than the one that advised him for his Leveson appearance. Only a “fit and proper person” is allowed to have a broadcasting license and perjury is a serious offence, even for a naturalised American citizen.

We had the Chancellor of Exchequer who claimed to have no opinion on the BSkyB takeover which he repeatedly stated was a “political inconvenience” rather than the most significant proposal for British television media since the invention of the cathode ray tube. Osborne claimed that Andy Coulson was the right man to head the number 10 press office and that Jeremy Hunt was unbiased in dealing with News International. Time and not Lord Leveson will the arbitrator of Osborne`s actions but, as he hands over another £80billion of our cash to his banker friends, time is not needed to decide that this oaf is fiscally incompetent and exhibits an almost imbecilic lack of judgement.

The grand finale of Module 3 was the appearance of David Cameron. Lacking the depth, intellect or subtlety to play the Prince of Denmark, the Prime Minister was an embarrassment. Gone was the swaggering bullying of insulting opposition MP`s because of a “working class” accent. Gone was the arrogance and posturing of a man born into privilege. Instead, he was unsure of facts, he prevaricated and he sweated. One observer, who should really get out more, noted that Cameron could not remember, did not recall or had no recollection of meetings, memos or conversations no fewer than 58 times during his five hours of evidence. Nearly six lapses of memory per hour are hardly likely to instil confidence in a Prime Minister who has forgotten that he did not actually win an election. Fortunately, his uncertainty over the frequency of social meetings with the bailed Rebekah Brooks was clarified over lunch by consulting Samantha’s diary. Lord Leveson might ask that Mrs Cameron`s appointments book but submitted to the Inquiry as relevant evidence.

Away from the intrigues of Elsinore or the Palace of Westminster, Cameron was exposed as a devious, manipulating and manipulated secondary character in the drama. Unable to justify the credentials of Coulson, relying on a hurried phone call to a cabinet lawyer who was on holiday to confirm the appointment of Hunt to oversee the BSkyB bid and a lack of understanding that being so close to the Murdoch gang implicates him in serious wrongdoing, leaves this Prime Minister without a shred of credibility. He may well be as barking mad as the Danish Prince, but perhaps we should turn to T S Eliot for a description of the usefulness of David Cameron:
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous –
Almost, at times, the Fool”
.

We have learned from Leveson that successive governments and Prime Ministers have debased themselves in the hope of garnering support from Rupert Murdoch. Blair and Cameron acquiesced and found favour. Major and Brown played the role of sycophant but democratic principle got in the way and they were pilloried in the Murdoch press. In defending the integrity and freedom of the press, Lord Leveson needs to consider the definition of a free press. In the hands of megalomaniacs like Murdoch, the rather bizarre Berkley brothers, fraudster Conrad Black and the repulsive Richard Desmond, the press cannot be considered as being free. The ghost of Robert Maxwell haunts Elsinore.

The printed press is dying and much was made at Leveson of 24 hour television news and, gawd help us, the internet. An interesting strata of evidence at the Inquiry suggested that News International were demanding that government abolish the Press Complaints Commission, remove Ofcom and do away with the BBC license fee. These three measures alone would allow News Corp to maximise profit and avoid wasting time on irritating litigation when accused of illegality. If the Murdoch Empire is successful, we may see more examples of private investigators in south London car parks having their heads caved in after getting too close to the truth.

With the influence of Murdoch waning after such an uber scandal onmi shambles, the reaction of the BBC has been interesting to say the least. Reporting on alleged deals between media empires and government, the BBC seemed to concentrate on the government line. On Monday, the scandal was about Brown and Labour and not the woeful performance of Osborne. On Tuesday it was about the honourable Sir John Major and the shifty Ed Miliband. Wednesday didn`t really matter as Clegg and Salmond are irrelevant. By Thursday, Nick Robinson was purring over Cameron`s confidence in describing future regulation of the press and glossed over the Prime Minister`s obvious failings when face with some fairly gentle examination. Few Labour MP`s have been invited to comment on Radio 4 and on Dimbleby`s Question Time, the ridiculous Grant Shapps was seen to be applauding like a performing seal when a member of the public suggested that the public wasn`t interested in Leveson. If there was no overt or covert deal between the government and News International, one wonders if the BBC are making positive noises about the government in exchange for the protection of the license fee and an offer of a favourable charter renewal.

If Leveson is to purge this viper`s nest of incestuous patronage and crony nepotism he has to be courageous. The elite may be rattled and made to feel uncomfortable about revelations over private conversations at drinks parties in Oxfordshire and Westminster, but they are surely confident that the storm will pass and we will return to the status quo where the unelected hold sway. Hamlet in Act 3 Scene 2 comes up with some outrageous innuendo worthy of a Sun headline. Ophelia, although worldly wise, was not impressed. It is worth remembering that most of the protagonists in that particular drama ended up stabbed or poisoned.

In classrooms across the nation, any discussion of country matters in Hamlet reduces boys to fits of girly giggles and causes girls to blush. What then should we make of country suppers? Ay, there`s the rub.

One wonders, given the level of greed and self interest being displayed, if the elite think that this country actually matters.

June 14, 2012

This could be tricky

Filed under: History,Politics — theplastichippo @ 12:04 am

On April 30 1973, with the full implications of the Watergate scandal finally sinking in, Richard Nixon sat down in the Oval Office to address the American people on live television. It proved to be the end of Nixon.

Nearly 40 years later, David Cameron is about to appear before the Leveson Inquiry and, rather than being coached by lawyers and spin doctors, he might be better prepared by reading Nixon`s “No whitewash at the Whitehouse” speech. The parallels are remarkable. What started with denial, then an insistence of one or possibly two rogue elements acting illegally followed by lies, more lies and cover ups led eventually to the resignation of a president as the only alternative to impeachment.

Cameron commissioned the Leveson Inquiry just as Nixon commissioned a Senate committee to investigate Watergate never dreaming that he would be called to give evidence under oath. Jeremy Hunt`s assertion that accidentally misleading parliament is different from lying reverberates across the decades with a sickening familiarity. Cameron has to be very, very careful and might like to pay particular attention to these words from Nixon`s speech:

“I again ordered that all persons in the Government or at the Re-Election Committee should cooperate fully with the FBI, the prosecutors, and the grand jury. I also ordered that anyone who refused to cooperate in telling the truth would be asked to resign from Government service. And, with ground rules adopted that would preserve the basic constitutional separation of powers between the Congress and the Presidency, I directed that members of the White House Staff should appear and testify voluntarily under oath before the Senate committee which was investigating Watergate.
I was determined that we should get to the bottom of the matter, and that the truth should be fully brought out, no matter who was involved. At the same time, I was determined not to take precipitate action and to avoid, if at all possible, any action that would appear to reflect on innocent people. I wanted to be fair. But I knew that in the final analysis, the integrity of this office, public faith in the integrity of this office, would have to take priority over all personal considerations.”

As it turned out, there was a whitewash at the Whitehouse and judging by the crude animal braying from the Tory benches during PMQ`s and the Hunt debate, the trail of illegality and corruption might be getting closer to a side street just off Whitehall. How long will it be before Cameron appears on television to claim that “there can be no deception in Downing Street?”

June 12, 2012

Yes Prime Minister

Filed under: Media,Politics — theplastichippo @ 10:42 pm

Serving politicians are not noted for their acknowledgement of actual facts when having a pop at anything that takes their fancy. Retired politicians, however, in the comfort of lecture tours and memoirs, can afford to be more accurate and truthful, especially when their reputation is at stake.

Former Prime Minister and son of the manse Gordon Brown swore an oath on the bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the Leveson Inquiry. When in office, both as Chancellor and as PM, Gordon had a reputation of being rather grumpy. The evidence he gave at Court 73 might explain why the irascible old curmudgeon chewed so many wasps. Being photographed, head down, eyes closed in prayer at a memorial service was interpreted by the Sun as unforgivable disrespect to fallen heroes. The Sun said that he was asleep. Seeing the medical condition of his infant son splashed across that vile tabloid would be enough to make any parent lob a mobile phone at the wall. Apart from some considerable prevarication regarding the actions of his spin doctors in briefing against Blair and Alistair Darling, Brown gave a good account of himself and, more importantly, implied that Rupert Murdoch lied under oath.

Former Prime Minister and a straight bat at cricket John Major swore an oath on the bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the Leveson Inquiry. When in office, both as Chancellor and as PM, John had a reputation of being rather dull. Major had as many tales of misrepresentation and vilification at the hands of the Murdoch press as Brown had and gave an equally good account of himself. More importantly, he implied that Rupert Murdoch lied under oath.

Apologists and cheer leaders for News International tore into Brown on Monday and replicated the bile and invective of 2009 accusing Gordon of lying. On Tuesday, they stayed strangely silent and did not replicate the bile and invective of 1997. One can only imagine the logic overload causing pea brains to explode when faced with actual evidence.

In April, Rupert Murdoch swore an oath on the bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the Leveson Inquiry. That is one crossed Rubicon that beggars belief given the veracity of the people he employs. Andy and Rebekah and a host of News International hacks have imminent appointments with the beak and, when Lord Justice Leveson delivers his findings, Rupert and his idiot son might find themselves back in the High Court to answer charges of perjury.

Cameron is up on Thursday but before that we have Jeremy Hunt in the commons. Clegg and his bunch of whores will abstain in an act of political cowardice that might please Vince Cable but is, in fact, a further grovel to the Murdoch Empire.

In his New York penthouse, Rupert will be smiling. Even in disgrace, he still has the power to bring down a British government.

June 11, 2012

Match of the day

Filed under: Law,Politics,Sport — theplastichippo @ 11:03 am

The big guns take centre stage this week and a fine line will be drawn between success and failure, triumph and disgrace. The Leveson Inquiry is about to become serious.

It can come as no surprise that Tory ministers have been rumbling around the media all weekend desperately trying to distract attention away from what is likely to be a splendid week at Leveson. Like horrified middle-class parents attempting to shield the eyes of their children from the sight of copulating stray dogs, they are prepared to say anything outrageous. “Look Jemima, there`s a ladybird. Come here quickly, Toby, there is an elf sitting up this tree. Harry, look up. Can you see the alien spaceship in the sky? Quick Samantha, leave Nancy in a pub and we can leak the story later.”

Thus we had the rather disturbing Michael Gove bleating about forcing children to memorise and recite times tables and the poetry of his choice and teaching the off spring of the great unwashed the delights of speaking in the language of the Aztecs. Theresa May shrieking with rage that the judiciary were callously upholding human rights even after she made an almighty dingo`s gonads of the deportation of Abu Qatada. Such is her confidence that supine former Liberals will fall into line, that she is threatening judges with primary legislation to force the legislature to abandon internationally recognised basic human rights and implement Tory policy. The ridiculous Eric Pickles attacked poor people demanding that they stop blaming other people for their poverty. This is from a man who, like every other Conservative, blames an inherited deficit for all our woes. It would seem, according to Eric, that poverty, mental illness and disability are self-inflicted. “Problem families” have nobody to blame but themselves.

Gideon Osborne is up before Leveson and, after blaming Europe for his complete lack of any economic understanding, has probably spent the weekend being coached in responding to cross examination. This would have involved being tied to a chair in a darkened basement with an angle poise shining in his face and being asked about holidays in ski chalets by government spin doctors. Given that Osborne is becoming an increasing liability to this flaking coalition, he may be being coached to fail. One slip from Gideon will result in resignation, much to the relief of the self-preservational sharks on the Tory back benches. The same might be happening to Cameron.

The eyes of Europe might be turned to Ukraine and Poland, but more interesting tussles will take place at Leveson. Brown and Harman should sail through the tough ordeal for they, like Blair before them, are trained lawyers. John Major and Alex Salmond were once bankers are so are well versed in the economic use of the truth. Have pity then for the three party leaders, Miliband, Clegg and Cameron. None have ever had a proper job and all three have experience of television research where style always comes before substance. Under oath, under cross examination and separated from advisors and script, weakness in central defence could be punished by the long ball down the middle, a carefully crafted set piece or a marauding centre forward in the shape of a tenacious QC. It will make for fascinating viewing. The full fixture list is:

Monday
Gordon Brown, George Osborne, England v France and Ukraine v Sweden.

Tuesday
John Major, Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman, Greece v Czech Republic and Poland v Russia.

Wednesday
Nick Clegg, Alex Salmond, Denmark v Portugal and Netherlands v Germany.

Thursday
David Cameron, Italy v Croatia and Spain v Republic of Ireland.

Expect all manner of sensational, outlandish and plain daft stories leaking out of government between now and Thursday. A government that is happy to release a two month old story about an eight year old being left in a pub is clearly desperate to deflect attention. If things go badly, government ministers are likely to resort to exposing their bottoms on Regent Street in order to keep Leveson off the front page.

As for David and Samantha Cameron and little abandoned Nancy, perhaps Eric Pickles should include them on his hit list of “problem” families. A Prime Minister who negatively uses his own child for political advantage is not just a problem for social services, but a problem for the whole country.

June 9, 2012

Here we go

Filed under: Media,Politics,Sport — theplastichippo @ 5:00 pm

No sooner has one spectacular celebration of patriotic unity ended, another one begins. No, not you Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, it`s time to lower the flag of the union and raise the cross of Saint George. Football`s coming home.

Fill up the fridge with beer, open up the packs of potato and corn based salted snacks and settle down for three weeks of national stereotyping and xenophobia. As Europe descends into financial chaos, Euro 2012 is here to take our minds off the ongoing crisis. Perhaps the footie fest would be more interesting if teams that are eliminated at the group stage are denied an economic bail out and the final winner takes control of the economies that reached the quarter finals. The IMF could be the referee. England, of course, can take no part after team captain Cameron walked out of the meeting that intended to save Europe from ruin in December last year. Standing on the touchline yelling abuse is all that England fans can do now.

Back in the real world and a million miles away from Cameron and Osborne; spare a thought for Michel Platini, president of UEFA. The controversial decision to stage Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine was always certain to cause concern. All the usual stuff about infrastructure, stadia completion and unruly violent home supporters comes with the territory, but added into the mix is the interesting way in which the process of government is conducted in Ukraine.
Following the Orange Revolution of the winter of 2004, Viktor Yushchenko was elected as president and then poisoned with, appropriately enough, Agent Orange. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is currently being beaten up in prison for the “crime” of trying to negotiate a trade deal. This is the equivalent of poisoning David Cameron and beating up Theresa May. Err…hmm. Leaving that thought behind, the British government have decided that ministers will eschew the hospitality of Ukraine and instead watch the game down the pub.

As for the England football team itself, oh dear. Even the most optimistic follower of English football will doubt that the current crop of millionaire adulterers will progress very far given the fact that they are useless. This is in marked contrast to previous tournaments when they were expected to win even given the fact that they have always been useless. Being useless, however, does not preclude the flower of English manhood from being role models for young people. They are the motivation that confirms that you can be thick, crude and unpleasant and still become very rich.

There is much talk of racism overshadowing Euro 2012. Fired up by a BBC Panorama documentary exposing fascist salutes and swastikas on the football terraces of Eastern Europe and ill judged comments suggesting that black and Asian fans will return to England in coffins make this a self fulfilling prophesy. The BBC asked Michel Platini if he would “consider his position” as president of UEFA if there were racist incidents. Platini, who scored nine goals in Euro 1984, asked the BBC if they thought that he was responsible for every racist in Ukraine, Poland or even England. Perhaps, just before the Olympics, state television services in Poland and Ukraine will broadcast documentaries featuring the fun and games that went on in London and elsewhere last August including footage of people shooting at police helicopters in Birmingham. Panorama has some form upsetting the football authorities. Just before the announcement of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup venues, a Panorama documentary exposed the governing body of FIFA as a bunch of corrupt, avaricious crooks. England lost the World Cup in more ways than one.

The Panorama documentaries might have been accurate but were hardly helpful. Yes, FIFA is a corrupt organisation and yes there are right wing hooligans on the terraces in Kiev and Krakow but that does not make Ukraine and Poland fascist states and has done nothing to make FIFA less corrupt. Right and left wing extremism exists everywhere and will increase as corrupt organisations and governments continue to rule and profit from the chaos created by corrupt organisations and governments. Confiscating the passports of known English hooligans will not stop the export of racism into Eastern Europe.

Mr John Terry, having mastered the art of tying football bootlaces and the 30 yard set piece, is a role model to many. Forgetting the brawl with a nightclub bouncer, the extra marital affair, the parking of his Bentley in a disabled bay and the unfortunate incident with an American tourist at Heathrow just after 9/11, he was once voted Dad of the year. A vital part of England`s midfield defence, he is important enough to have a court case deferred until after Euro 2012 has concluded. Accused of racially abusing an opposing player, a charge he rigorously denies, Mr Terry is too good a player to be left out of the squad. Clearly, this has caused tension in the England camp, particularly as he might be forced to train and play alongside the brother of the player he is said to have abused. The FA came up with an elegant solution to this dilemma. Pick the white guy, drop the black guy. Sadly, it looks unlikely that Mr Terry will represent his country as he is suffering, appropriately enough, from a groin strain. To prove that there is no racism in the England squad, a tasteful photo opportunity was arranged at, of all places, Auschwitz. Oh dear.

On reflection, perhaps it would be beneficial to restore the passports of English right wing hooligans and pay their airfares to Ukraine. The security forces of that proud nation are not known for their subtlety in deploying indiscriminate violence and the prospect of fascist thugs of different nationalities beating seven bells out of each other and then being “restrained” by riot police is too good to be true. That would make better television than watching two bankrupt countries slog it out in a boring nil – nil draw and would, no doubt, keep the sponsors happy. Punch ups sell burgers and trainers and beer and that is what “sporting” events are all about these days.

If this alternative fighting Euro 2012 is successful, it could be rolled out into the Council of Europe to solve the Euro crisis. After all, it`s already started in Greece.

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