The Plastic Hippo

October 30, 2012

Gimme some truth

Filed under: Music,Politics,Society — theplastichippo @ 4:37 pm

“No short-haired, yellow-bellied, son of tricky dicky is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me with just a pocketful of soap. Money for dope. Money for rope.”

David Laws, you might remember, was the Liberal Democrat credited with forming the economic bits of the coalition agreement that has resulted in the remarkable success of economic recovery. Sadly, Mr Laws was caught embezzling public money and rather than going to prison, was punished with a week off work and two years on the naughty step. Happily, he is back and is now a minister in the Department for Education. The former merchant banker and fraudster is now in a position to lecture teachers who fail to inspire their students. It seems that Laws thinks that teachers are holding back children leaving them with “depressingly low expectations”. One assumes that David Laws, having offered the defence of a desire to conceal his sexual orientation, would prefer teachers to take on the role of Fagin and encourage children to greater expectations by picking a pocket or two. After all, that is what he has done.

The blessed Saint Michael Gove, clearly on a mission from God, continues to assert that Academies and Free Schools will improve the education of our children and demands that teachers should be literate and numerate. That, of course, is a very good idea assuming that you are coming from a mind-set that hates state school teachers. Sadly, the embarrassing statistics show that state schools out-perform Academies and Free Schools in GCSE results and vilifying state school teachers after introducing any old nutter failing a basic CRB check suggests a policy of desperation and, more importantly, complete ignorance.

Iain Duncan Smith served his country as a soldier by heroically eating dinner and drinking wine in the officers` mess and in a variety of consulates and embassies around the world. Upon leaving the army he signed up on the dole. After an unsuccessful attempt as an arms dealer, he again signed up on the dole. With little else to do, Parliament beckoned and, amazingly, he became Leader of the Conservative party. He was utterly useless and was, quite rightly, removed. Happily, he is back and telling us that people with disabilities are scroungers and that the poor are only allowed to have two children. Mr Duncan Smith has four children, a house subsidised by tax payers, a car with a driver and his meals and booze and expenses for whatever he wants paid for by us.

Jeremy Hunt, a man who lied to parliament and suffered shocking amnesia in front of the Leveson Inquiry, once hid behind a tree to avoid photographers when attempting to pick up his pay cheque from News International. Promoted to Health rather than incarceration, he recently visited a hospital in Norwich on an autumnal morning to praise NHS staff. In the afternoon, 600 staff received letters of redundancy. One can only hope for Jeremy`s sake that there are enough dead Ash trees outside Richard Branson`s office to hide behind when he picks up his pay cheque from Virgin Care.

Chair of the Health Select Committee, the Conservative member for Charnwood Stephen Dorrell, has demanded a full, independent inquiry into what NHS trusts knew about child abuse in hospitals and secure units when a television celebrity was doing his worst. Interestingly, Stephen Dorrell was Secretary of State for Health between 1995 and 1997. At about the same time, the then Welsh Secretary may or may not have seen evidence of abuse at residential homes in and around Wrexham involving named individuals with links to the government. That Secretary of State for Wales went on to become party leader but proved to be as utterly useless as Iain Duncan Smith. Happily, he is back and is conducting foreign policy with all the unnecessary charm of a Trident nuclear warhead aimed at a tent full of extremist militants.

The Conservative member for North Thanet, Sir Roger Gale, has suggested that senior management at the BBC are responsible for the celebrity child abuse scandal. He told the Daily Telegraph:
“BBC management, over far too many years, has sought to maintain an imperious distain for criticism and it has become clear that successive directors general have, while happy to criticise others for not answering difficult questions, either turned a blind eye to criminal activities or have not known what has been going on on their own doorstep, which is also culpable. It is as if your favourite and respectable aunt has been revealed to be on the game, and if Lord Patten is not able to grasp that, then I fear that not only the director general but also the chairman of the BBC Trust are going to have to fall on their swords.”

It took the sublime Sandi Toksvig on The News Quiz, ironically a BBC Radio 4 production, to give some background to Roger Gale`s comments. Sir Roger, a former pirate radio DJ, was appointed Director of BBC Children`s Television in 1976 just as the second series of Jim`ll Fix It went to air. The soon to be ex Director General George Entwistle that Gale seeks to blame was 14 years old at the time. That is just about the same age as the victims.

The sound you hear is not just the closing of establishment ranks but the slamming of cupboard doors that the light of truth will almost certainly never penetrate. There is something very, very wrong in all of this and with the stakes being so high we are unlikely to know the full story.

For all his contradictions and flaws, John Lennon summed it up. He recorded this 41 years ago:


October 28, 2012

Hair of the dog

Filed under: Environment,Politics,Society,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 10:44 pm

Tax Payers Alliance

There are occasions when, after months of trying to think up an excuse, a legitimate and perfectly valid reason for not doing something presents itself. Serendipity has smiled and it appears that I have developed an allergy to the adopted dog.

Regular readers of this humble blog might recall the rather tragic story of how I was duped into walking a stupid great lump of canine after a dear friend and neighbour was taken ill. Once recovered, the dear friend no longer required the services of a reluctant dog walking fitness coach and I was free to go. Nearly 18 months on and I am still being dragged around Walsall Arboretum by this idiot beast for reasons that escape me. It is no longer true that the almost daily walks are efficacious in maintaining health as the brute is trying to kill me with his loyalty and unconditional affection.

This summer, or what passes for summer in this country, the warmer days and dryer air provoked the strangest of reactions. A new experience of an unusual itching inside the nostrils, watering eyes, tightness in the throat and explosive sneezes suggested late onset hay fever. This went on for about a week unabated during every visit to the Arboretum until, when the dog and owner were away on holiday, a Sunday morning family walk in the Arboretum was free of streaming eyes, the copious amounts of snot and the desire to drink the Arboretum Lake. The dog returned, the walks resumed and the symptoms presented themselves again. During the next few weeks, with walks in Canon Hill Park in Birmingham, the Lime Pits, Merrion`s Wood, Cuckoos` Nest and the Dingle in Walsall without the company of this wretched animal and without the suspected hay fever, it became obvious that the discomfort was being caused by the bloody hound dog.

Upon hearing this, the dear friend and owner of the gluttonous brute assumed that the dog walking would cease. Sadly, I blew it, mumbling something about wishing to keep an eye on the Arboretum improvements and the opportunity to part company with the slobbering wolf in wolf`s clothing was lost. The stuff about the Arboretum improvements was partially true and the company of the wretched cur merely incidental… honest. The warm, dry two week summer was endured and the allergy receded, which brings us to a late October Saturday morning following a late Friday night and too much wine. Under clear, blue, cold skies, the Arboretum looked stunning in her gold, brown and red autumn skirts. The refurbishment is looking very good and work on the play area has started at last. Whoever is supervising this project is doing an outstanding job in improving an already cherished civic asset. However, dark rumours suggest that those who care for Walsall`s green spaces will be rewarded with a hollow thank you and a P45.

It`s budget setting time again in dear old Walsall and yet again the same old garbage is being spouted by cabinet councillors and their bag carriers in the propaganda office. There are the usual platitudes of “hard times” and “difficult decisions” and “there`s nothing we can do about it” and the insulting farce of claiming to be listening to the public via sham “consultation.” Mike Bird and his troughing cronies really do think we are stupid. The latest solution to years of municipal financial mismanagement, incompetence and arrogance is to neglect common public spaces and make the people who care for them redundant.

Eminent and venerable local bloggers have been quick to hit their keyboards with common sense that will sadly be way over the heads of the useless clowns that sit around the cabinet table. The wonderful mad old baggage Linda Mason, with a salutary nod toward Joni Mitchell, was first to express concern at the proposed idiocy. Linda has now been on the radio as much as Joni but not as much as Mike Bird when Radio WM, as part of its charter obligation, needs to fill its idiot broadcast quota. The twitching Mushroom weighed in with a lovely piece describing the wealth of wildlife that exists in our green spaces. One armed bowman and stunt double for Brian Glover AideyM added his wise voice and the redoubtable Brownhills Bob did what he does best. In terms of plain speaking, straight-to-the-point honesty, Bob could give “man of the people” bully boy Bird a run for his considerable stash of money.

In such articulate and esteemed company, there is little that this humble blog can add other than to agree and vow to challenge this threat to one of the few things that Walsall Council does well. The officers that care for our countryside have given more to this borough and its people than the likes of Mike Bird and his chums could ever dream of. When times are hard and difficult decisions have to be made, it is easy to identify the public servant committed to serving the public who wishes to give rather than take. Bird tried to increase his remuneration, not once, but twice and will no doubt try it again. After years of thinking up excuses for their own inability, this woeful cabinet must be wishing for serendipity to rescue them from the mess they have created. They seem to have developed an allergic reaction to accountability.

After the bracing walk with the dog on Saturday morning around the Arboretum and what used to be a golf course, the Friday night hang-over was gone. If this wonderful habitat goes as well, there will be a very large wolf in wolf`s clothing that would love to be introduced to the people responsible.

And it will not be to pass on an allergy.

October 26, 2012

Gideon`s bible

Filed under: Fiction — theplastichippo @ 3:59 pm

Autumn statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer:

“The recession is over. Rejoice. The economy is growing. Everyone has a job and everyone lives in a mansion and it`s all thanks to me. Yes me, gorgeous me.

The massive one per cent rise in GDP is proof that my brilliant plan for prosperity is working and we are beginning to repair the reckless vandalism of the previous Labour government. After years of uncontrolled Labour borrowing, all the opposition can now do is complain that I am borrowing more than they ever did and that the growth rate is actually zero point seven per cent with a margin of error of zero point seven per cent. They claim that the deficit they created has not been reduced by my masterful economic strategy and by my superb fiscal expertise. It just goes to show that Labour can never be trusted ever again.

I did not deliver this magnificent achievement by copying Labour and wasting millions, no billions, of pounds of public money on unnecessary schools, hospitals, care homes, stadia, venues and infrastructure. I did not borrow more and more money to allow layabouts to enjoy flat screen TV`s, cars, holidays, alcohol and cigarettes at the expense of the decent, hard working tax payers after these scroungers made a career choice of a life sponging on benefits. No, I borrowed money to reward the strivers, not the shirkers. To reward the wonderful entrepreneurs making our nation great again and not the something-for-nothing, idle, work-shy trade unionists. To reward the wealth creators, like investment bankers, and not the work-shy money grabbers demanding hand-outs. I also charged the public an arm and leg for tickets to see the synchronised swimming and the scroungers in wheelchairs playing basket ball.

Of course, I could not have saved the economy alone. My brilliant creations the Office for Budget Responsibility and the equally gorgeous Office for National Statistics have contributed enormously to this remarkable economic recovery. Working tirelessly with only a daily delivery from number 11 of a case of Krug Grande Cuvee NV, some tickets to the opera and an introduction to ladies that work in the entertainment industry to sustain them, these marvellous departments are the powerhouse of the recovery. Their statistical skill proves without doubt that my inspired plan is working.

They have conclusively and irrefutably confirmed that under my stewardship, employment is up, exports are up, unemployment is down, inflation is down, the deficit is down, borrowing is down and hospital waiting lists are down. Working closely with our donors, we have created one million private sector jobs providing unpaid employment for the feckless. We have made it easier for hard working entrepreneurs to export money to the safety of foreign tax havens. We have cured the disease of idle unemployment by removing benefits from cheats pretending to suffer from a terminal illness and others feigning infirmity. Inflation is down thanks to our friends in the merchant banks who heroically kept the LIBOR rate under firm control. My beautiful OBR and ONS have given us clear evidence that the deficit hardly exists and we no longer borrow money. We have successfully cut hospital waiting list by simply removing unnecessary hospitals by selling them to the private sector. There is no need to thank me. I am simply doing my duty.

In difficult times, we all have to take tough decisions and our caring government is helping families to make those tough decisions. We have removed the stress from a single mother having to choose between food or heating by allowing her to afford neither. If that same single mother faces the anguish of pregnancy and is considering a termination, my good friend the Secretary of State for Health after his Olympic triumph, has made that difficult decision for her. If, however, that single mother is claiming benefits and already has two children, my good friend Iain Duncan Smith will ensure that she will not receive a single penny piece more of state money to finance her promiscuous lifestyle at our expense. My good friend IDS, as a compassionate father of four is something of an expert on child benefit.

But it is not just single mothers we are helping back to unpaid work. Up and down the country, from white transit van man in Southampton, to Essex man in Dagenham, to scrounging health workers in Rotherham, the nation is united in its gratitude for salvation which is all down to me. But there is still more to be done and I am not complacent even though I am a genius. I will work hard for all the people like me who work hard to remember to keep in regular contact with their accountant to ensure that the inherited trust funds from their fathers are working hard accruing interest in offshore accounts. As for the lazy parasites ruining Britain, I say this and I want to make this clear.

I have only just begun.”

October 24, 2012

Now then, now then

Filed under: Media,Society — theplastichippo @ 2:31 pm

The current BBC charter, implemented in 2007, has at its heart the duty to “inform, educate and entertain”. With the corporation currently engaging in an orgy of self flagellation over the vile behaviour of one of its former employees, one out of three isn’t bad.

Eddie Mair, a sometime front man for Newsnight discusses a Panorama investigation into a dropped report on Newsnight on the BBC Radio 4 PM programme. The Today programme will discuss the PM reporting of the Panorama investigation into the Newsnight programme that never was and will be covered by Newsnight prompting another Panorama investigation which will be covered by Newsnight after being leaked to the Today programme and then discussed on the PM programme. Thank goodness the new Director General of the BBC receives an adequate salary to ensure that he understands this stuff. Unfortunately the new Director General of the BBC is implicated in the alleged nonfeasance, misfeasance and possible malfeasance surrounding the conduct of a “celebrity” where talent was inversely proportional to ego and committed horrors under a smokescreen of charitable good. Not, of course, by aiding and abetting these crimes but by inaction and a desire to boost Christmas ratings by broadcasting “tributes” to the thankfully recently departed. Are you keeping up, Chris Patten?

The Panorama broadcast was brutally honest and the accounts of the victims heart wrenching, but behind the attempt to uncover the scale of the horror was an underlying theme of “it was a different culture back then” and the false dichotomy of “nobody suspected” but “everyone knew”. The corporation`s self harm was made more interesting by scheduling the broadcast in the same slot as Newsnight. Panorama is usually aired earlier in the evening. Newsnight editor Peter Rippon, who has “stepped aside”, must have had a busy evening of garden leave pressing the scapegoat button on the remote control. Meanwhile, DG George Entwistle was rehearsing memory loss before his appearance before a parliamentary select committee and carefully avoided mentioning his previous title as the bizarrely named “Director of Vision” at the BBC. As an assistant producer on Panorama and as deputy editor and then editor of Newsnight, George must surely have a nose for a big story. Strange then that he had no interest in a scandal involving serious allegations against a self promoting, self canonised “national treasure” made by hacks working on a programme renowned for its excellence in investigative journalism. George, before he embarked on a career as a Chris Grayling lookalike, was in charge of the bloody thing.

As the hours go by and more and more victims are finding the courage to speak out against the evil that they were forced to endure, this crisis for the BBC is likely to spread far beyond Broadcasting House. Quite how a talentless, northern oik went undetected raises some difficult questions for the corporation and for successive governments who need to explain what power and influence led to so many blind eyes being turned. The BBC obsessing over one individual is convenient in that it can further avoid reporting the incompetence of government and the illegality surrounding ministers and the sell-off of the NHS. More worryingly, even as rumours abound of the wider involvement of very senior members of the ruling elite, both living and dead, the BBC seem to be attempting the one bad apple defence. With the cabinet office desperately issuing injunctions, super injunctions and defamation orders against all and sundry who might be tempted to name names, this is now becoming very serious.

With so many reputations at stake and with so many careers at risk, it is unlikely that the truth will ever emerge unless more representatives with the courage of Tom Watson stand up to ask uncomfortable questions and we, the public, care more about the victims of terrible crimes and demand to know the secrets of the powerful. If it happened then, it`s happening now. How`s about that then, guy `n` gals?

October 21, 2012

By the time we got to Woodstock

Filed under: Birmingham,Literature,Politics,Rights,Society,Sport,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 2:22 am

Image via The Daily Mirror
Image via The Daily Mirror

There can be fewer more depressing places on a chilly, autumnal Saturday morning than New Street station in Birmingham. One place, however, is New Street station on a cold October Saturday night surrounded by herds of morose and drunken Aston Villa fans following a one nil defeat away to Fulham.

Announcing that another meeting had to be attended in that there London did not cause any surprise in the hippo household. Over the past few months, visits to our capital city and host to the Olympic circus have not been uncommon. Sadly, the rather splendid project being proposed was dropped due, you guessed it, to budget cuts. When told that this meeting would be with trade unionists and others opposed to greed, austerity and budget cuts, one child commented: “One of these days Dad, you`re going to get your head kicked in.” There was little point in arguing to the contrary and in spite of offers to join the march, I found myself alone at New Street at half eight in the morning armed only with some corned beef sandwiches, a bottle of water and a packet of Jammy Dodgers. The corrupt establishment were already quaking at the thought of this one man Durruti column sipping coffee that cost a little bit less than the Columbian national debt and only a little bit less than the tax owed by a certain evil bunch of mercenary bastards that operate an evil, mercenary chain of coffee shops. How ironic that this act of defiance and moral outrage should be delayed by the late running Virgin Trains service to London Euston. I decided not to sit in first class and claim to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer because I do not have access to an expense account to pay for the 160 quid upgrade.

Euston was its cheery, welcoming self and the plan was to take the Northern line to Bank and meet up with some chums who had travelled up from Brighton. The tube was packed with middle class anarchist families and the platform at Bank was absolutely heaving with well dressed, polite revolutionaries. It seemed wise to continue onto London Bridge and then walk back over the river and reach Bank along King William Street. I was no longer alone and the city was full of people carrying flags, placards and children. At the lovely old church of Saint Mary Woolnoth, some words from Eliot`s The Waste Land came back from A-level times with a thump to the chest:
“A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.”

In The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot was describing the bland wage slaves working in the banks of the City of London from nine to five. This was noon on a Saturday and the whistles, horns, bells and bands were proclaiming that the heirs to those bland bankers in the City of London were the ones responsible for this entire, unholy mess a corrupt government seeks to perpetuate. Text messages were sent and received to and from the chums from Brighton but the sheer numbers of people made the planned rendezvous unlikely and we agreed to meet up later. Joining the back of the march on the Embankment near Blackfriars Bridge, I shared a corned beef sandwich with a doctor from Basingstoke. I had to apologise when she suggested that corned beef sandwiches were made better by the addition of tomato sauce. Medical advice we should all follow.

After about 90 minutes we started to move or, more accurately, shuffle along towards Westminster. One fellow terrorist, who turned out to be a Deputy Head teacher from Durham, received news via his phone that the front of the march had already reached Hyde Park and that the police had stated a turnout of more than 100,000 demonstrators. Interestingly, and in sharp contrast to the recent nonsense involving the EDL in Walsall, the police presence seemed rather low key and generally very friendly. In fact, the biggest deployment of the Met`s finest was outside a branch of an evil, mercenary tax dodging chain of coffee shops and an evil, mercenary tax dodging residential street just off Whitehall. Cameron was probably hiding at Chequers blaming Clement Atlee and Kier Hardie.

By the time we got to Hyde Park, we were 150,000 strong and everywhere there was song and celebration. We missed the speeches which, on reflection, was probably a bit of a result and a text message from the Brighton chums directed me to Marble Arch where DPAC were blocking Park Lane. Finding my university lecturer friend chaining her wheelchair to another wheelchair, the most surreal of conversations ensued. We asked for news about each others` children and partners and discussed our summer holidays as if we had met for lunch and were not about to be arrested. The moment of the day was when a charmless overweight taxi driver upset by the road closure screamed at us: “Why don`t you get a f**king job? F**king scroungers.” My friend, not normally known for being unpleasant, shouted back: “Why don`t you get a gastric band, you fat f**king bigot.” Even the police officers laughed.

When the fuss died down, we retreated to Bayswater for something to eat. The owner of the trattoria, seeing the banner attached to the wheelchair asked if we had been demonstrating against the government. When we confirmed that we were indeed anarchists, he walked away but soon returned with two bottles of wine which, he said, were “on the house”. We left a more than generous tip.

Back at Euston, the soulless concourse was filled with football fans either emptying their bladders or attempting to communicate with each other via the medium of vomit. In the great scheme of things, being beaten one nil by Fulham is probably the end of the world. The journey back to New Street was awful and the temptation to impersonate Gideon Osborne and occupy first class without the correct ticket became overwhelming. But, once a pleb always a pleb and I remained in my position as second class. Walking home from Walsall station at approaching 11 o`clock on a Saturday night is always an interesting experience. Avoiding the fighting boys and ignoring the obese girls dressed only in dental floss, I realised that I still had something nice.

Arriving home, the boy child was still up and awake. “So Dad,” he said, “you managed not to get your head kicked in.” I had to agree and offered the last Jammy Dodger that I had saved for him.

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