Turmoil in Academia


In a recent blog I touched on the acquisitive and unseemly behaviour of many University Vice Chancellors and their senior colleagues. This group, ostensibly managing the Higher Education sector, had been perceived as directing far too much of their collective energy  to looting the public purse and far too little of their collective energies to improving the various institutions in their care.

On the plus side, the tireless hacks were on the job and the hapless, albeit affluent, Vice Chancellors were being flushed out, excoriated and advised to mend their ways.

Since my blog appeared – it concluded with the VCs defiant but beleaguered – other contentious issues in the H.E. sector have emerged, giving rise for concern about the well being of the sector.

Sadly, there seemed to be no end to the media coverage about the sins of the Senior Management of our Universities. It was reported that some Vice Chancellors are members of the remuneration committees that determine their pay – a most agreeable arrangement for those on the receiving end. No figures were available but it has been whispered that very few VCs were in favour of an austerity era  in which their pay might be cut.

On February 26, 2018, the Channel 4 Dispatches Team broadcast a documentary:- “ Britain’s University Spending Scandal”. Given that various media investigators had spent much of the past few years exposing precisely these scandals I would award the members of the Dispatches Team a bare pass for zeal but zero marks for topicality. I now look forward to the next Dispatches report – “Is there an end in sight to the Boer War?”

The other Higher Education issues to emerge included:


  • The growing anger about the loan arrangements whereby today’s students incur huge debts to fund their tuition costs. This  resentment also extends to the arrangements for maintenance costs and especially maintenance costs for those from poorer backgrounds.
  • Resentment among the lower ranks of academia about plans to erode their retirement pensions.
  • A more muted debate about the steady rise in the number of first class and upper second class degrees awarded – clear evidence here of an H.E. sector in good shape.  
  • A lively debate about the stifling of free speech in our Universities.
  • The personal intervention of Mrs May – don’t we have enough trouble already?


Before we move on to the other issues – yet another word about our Vice Chancellors. As a group our VCs were notably silent on the various contentious issues. This reticence should surprise no one. Stealing money from the public purse is not as easy as it looks and careful thought and lots of tireless dedication are required to ensure that the Vice Chancellors and their senior colleagues end up with the absolute maximum that they can get away with- this leaves them with little or no time to spare for the traditional duties of our senior HE administrators.


Tuition fees.


In my day – I am speaking here about the late 1950s – all tuition fees were paid for out of public funds. The responsibly of the student was to meet the specified academic requirements for admission to the courses of their choice.

Maintenance support was based on parental income and the full amount was more than sufficient to live in comfort with some left over to enjoy the social opportunities available in public houses. 

My father’s income as a plate layer with British Rail  was an the low side – this was before the days of tough negotiators like the late Bob Crowe –  and the outcome was that I received the full amount of maintenance support. For the only time in my life I was more affluent than most of my peers because substantial numbers of middle class parents were reluctant to pay the amount stipulated.

My memory may be faulty but my recollection is that we Higher Education boys and girls – mostly boys in those days – lived off the fat of the land.

To return to the subject: the idea behind the introduction of variable tuition fees was there would be competition between the various colleges and the outcome would be that market forces would keep tuition fees down.

That was the theory. Things did not quite work out according to the theory. Our Vice Chancellors – mostly recruited from the Arthur Daley School of Business Studies – were quick to spot the opportunity to set up a cartel and set their fees at the top of the scale – and this is exactly what happened.

Who was responsible for the original absurd view that there would be competition and why is he/she still employed by the state?

Just to rub salt in the wounds of the next generation of graduates, the interest rates applied to student loans are in some cases above the rate that would be expected to apply given the interest rates set by the Bank of England.

So – to sum up the situation at this stage –  our students are collectively pissed because of:

  • The looting of funds by the senior managers of the H.E sector.
  • The further looting of public funds entailed in the cartel arrangements for the setting of tuition fees.
  • The piling of debt on debt triggered by unfavourable interest rates on the loans taken out.


Is that it?  No it isn’t. Not quite.

The planned erosion of the pension arrangements for academics

On February 27, 2018, The Times published a letter written by a Dr Rupert Reid from the Department of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. In his letter Dr Rupert Read sets out persuasively both the case to retain the existing pension arrangements for academics and the justification to retain these arrangements by whatever measures are available.

I have some – not much – sympathy for the predicament of the academics mainly because, as a British Steel pensioner, I have recently seen my pension arrangements reduced and I do not take kindly to the thought that part of the tax paid on this reduced retirement income will be used to maintain the life styles of aged academics.

So much for the appeal to the heart strings: what about the strike tactics?

Predictably the tactics employed by the leaders of the striking academics have been shrewdly, if controversially, deployed against those least able to defend themselves – the customers or as we ought to refer to them – the students. The strike leaders appear on camera,  after applying onions to eye lids, to lament that the students will suffer but sadly they have no alternative if right is to triumph.

The strike tactics have been carefully planned to inflict the maximum pain on the students – no details to be given out in advance as to which lectures will not be given, and rather more painful, which exams will not be held.

The bolshies  appear to have moved in – the transparently clear aim of the strike is to secure the retention of the existing arrangements using the simple but effective technique of causing as much disruption as possible.

Regular train travellers – the suffering public – will have seen similar scenes down the years as rail union leaders deplore that the innocent will suffer because of the sins of the management.   


‘Lecturers can’t expect us to pay their pensions’
Headline above the Daniel Finkelstein column in
The Times, February 28, 2018.


In his weekly column Lord Finkelstein looks at what is going on and ruefully, but with just a hint of malice, notes that “the younger lecturers are, therefore, literally striking against themselves.”

As usual Lord F is infuriatingly persuasive, rational and transparent. A most valuable asset for The Times but a massive challenge to his would be imitators.

The weakness of his case lies in the headline above his column – “Lecturers can’t expect us to pay for their pensions”.

But my dear Lord F – that is precisely what they do expect.

Finally, Holdenforth cannot leave the HE pensions issue without a word about Mr Bill Galvin.

‘University pension chief got pay rise despite £6bn deficit’
Headline in The Times, February 23, 2018


In the report which accompanied the above startling headline, Rosemary Bennett noted that “The Chief Executive of the vast university pension scheme at the centre of the nationwide strike was given an £82k pay rise this year despite claims that there is a £6bn hole in the Fund… however he is not the best paid member of the board. Two staff earn more than £1m …”

Note that this report appeared not in The Bolshevist Times, but in The Times.

As Mr Littlejohn might say – indeed he would say – you couldn’t make it up.

We aged manager johnnies might suspect that there is some scope for reduction in the administrative costs of managing the HE pension scheme – seemingly run by graduates of the Arthur Daley business school.

A word about free speech

It has long been a hallowed tradition within our institutions of higher education that there should be – indeed must be – no attempt to suppress the voicing of opinions, however controversial, on University premises.

This tradition has come under strain recently and University managers have been criticised  for allowing the Sons and Daughters of the Red Dawn to deny free speech to those with opinions at variance with  their own.

Predictably the Senior Managers had other things to worry about – principally how to hang onto their loot – and the raucous element prevailed.

A confession on this issue. Back in 1961 I recall attending a meeting in King’s College in Newcastle addressed by Mr George Brown, then deputy leader of the Labour Party.

There was a great deal of raucous heckling – in which I joined  – but Mr Brown pressed on and made his points.

Where does heckling end and the suppression of free speech begin?

You tell me.

Is the Higher Education sector in good shape?

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper

All would appear to be well if we consult the all important criterion of results. I gather that there has been a huge rise in the number of First Class Degrees  and Upper Second Class degrees awarded in recent years. – clear evidence of a massive improvement in standards.

Could it be that I – with my scraped pass degree – am in no position to cavil and that all is well in this best of all possible worlds?

It is just possible that standards may have fallen but that is an unworthy suspicion.

A stroll down memory lane

Back in 2002 I wrote a book in which I examined the cushiness or otherwise of a range of professional jobs. In a blog published a few weeks I updated what I had written in the book about lawyers.

In the following notes I will revisit what I wrote about academics and assess what has changed and why in the intervening years. Specifically I will look a few of my points from 2002 to be able to say that “I told you so” and “I saw it coming”.

All the quotes are taken from A Cushy Number.

“The aspect of job of job security is the one that has probably seen the most drastic change in recent years. Time was when the job of an academic was synonymous with security of tenure. It was the original job for life. This is no longer so and temporary contracts are very much in evidence. The startling rise in the phenomenon of temporary employment contracts, and, in particular, their spreading into previously sacred professional areas has already been noted.  We will, in line with our previous practice, exclude this class of untouchables from our analysis.

“Suffice it to say that temporary jobs and cushy numbers are mutually exclusive categories. A  key career priority therefore of all new entrants to the academic profession is to obtain a permanent position, and there can be no relaxing until this is secured. Once obtained, the degree of job security is total.”

(Update – My sources tell me that the use of temporary contracts to serve as system shock absorbers has continued unabated to the consternation of those desperately seeking a permanent job. This desperation would be unlikely to soften the hearts of the University Admin boys and girls.)

“At an early point in his tenure as Prime Minister – on a temporary contract – Mr Blair said: – ‘Let there be an increase in the number of students in higher education ‘nd there was an increase in the number of students in higher education.

“The reasons behind this doctrine were  not entirely clear. Some cynics (not me ) suspected  that this expansion was cheaper than two possible alternatives, the dole and, even worse, descent into crime. After all, the argument runs, they must be learning something, and whilst thus engaged, they are off the streets.”

( Update – the percentage of the population opting to enter the H.E. sector has increased steadily with predictable increases in the costs of the policy and an anxious search for funds to sustain the upward trend. As noted earlier the students found themselves in the unhappy position of funding themselves – not an agreeable prospect.) 

“One branch of the academic profession has grown at a bewildering rate, namely that of business schools. This growth has been in inverse proportion to the performance of British business. We do not argue for a cause and effect relationship between the two, although we certainly suspect it.”

(Update  –  As the size of the business – academia sector maintains its steady growth so the productivity performance of the UK economy declines! A Cushy Number got this spot on. )

“The job of an academic is said to offer extensive opportunities for sexual networking. We hope that most  academics and our readers  will indignantly reject this as a benefit, but the possibilities are there should you so wish. It may be that we have got this side of academia out of proportion, but it has to be said that it looms large in all fictional portrayals of academic life, both in print and on screen.

“It may well be the case that novel writing academics, usually from the humanities, write about affairs with students on the simple basis that they have no other subject matter available to them. Nevertheless, we must raise the matter, if only to dismiss it. The profession does tend to promote more opportunities in this area than most. It is up to the job holder to exploit or to ignore these opportunities according to personal preference.”

(Update – As an aged manufacturing manager I have no idea what the situation in this area is in 2018 and Holdenforth would appreciate feedback on the subject.)

“UK Politicians of all colours are  mindful of the fact that the economy is under-performing relative to our main global competitors and that one priority is to raise the skill level in the community. To this end a new Quango, The Education and Learning Initiative, was launched to ensure that the required skills were  made available via a comprehensive training program. The plan got off to a slightly inauspicious start when it emerged that the Quango had been defrauded on a large scale by various enterprising individuals and groups throughout the UK.  Accordingly the scheme was scrapped.”

(Update – the innovative spirit displayed by those who exploited the Quango has been a notable feature of many projects launched and then jettisoned at huge cost to the public purse.) 

“It would be appropriate here to put in a word about the management methods employed by University and College administrators. This group saw what was going on in the privatised utilities sector and they saw that it was good. They followed suit by pushing up staff productivity by the simple expedient of pushing up student numbers whilst holding staff numbers constant. They directed significant fractions of the cost per head savings into their own reward packages, and who shall blame them? The academic admin boys have hit the jackpot. Their jobs are much less demanding than those of the staff they employ, and their reward packages much better.

“Well done, Vice Chancellors.”

(Update – Excellent foresight shown by A Cushy Number. Spot on.) 

Drafting revisions to A Cushy Number in 2015, I added that:

“A letter appeared in todays Times ( February 2, 2015) written collectively by the English members of the Universities UK Board. The anxious admin boys were worried that any proposals to reduce university tuition fees would ‘affect the quality of students education’. This commendable altruism did not appear to have been a consideration back in 2014 when a number of reports appeared in The Times deploring the acquisitiveness of this group. Headlines at the time included ‘Stop university fat cats lining their pockets’ (March 12, 2014), and ‘Salaries still soaring for university chiefs’ (April 4, 2014). The reports took on a woebegone aspect a little later, including ‘University heads roll in drive to justify salaries’ . Behind the headlines it turned out that a few heads, deeply concerned at their portrayal as greedy parasites – a fair description – opted for the safety and tranquillity of early retirement on their enhanced pensions. Small wonder that a sense of  disillusion may have been discerned in the lower ranks.”

(Update – don’t say that you didn’t know what was going – it was all in the papers.)

A gloomy conclusion to A Cushy Number

“Are you a little nervous about the longer term prospects in this sector?   Can we go on like this with the numbers expanding remorselessly and the academic standards going who knows where and the top brass getting richer, much richer, between the sporadic episodes of exposure in the media.  Difficult questions to answer.

“Are standards in tertiary education rising inexorably like those in secondary education? Or are they in decline? Who knows?

“Sadly we suspect that the latter is the case and, in gloomy mode, we see the prospect at some not-too-distant time of a decision being taken at the highest level – say the European Court of Human Rights – to award every UK citizen a starred first from Oxbridge in the subject of his choice from the college of his choice. At the end of the exercise  all our Universities and Colleges of Further Education could then be shut down, and, at a later date, a modest percentage of them re-opened, possibly after fumigation, under more time honoured disciplines and arrangements.”

(Update – my modest proposal at the time may in retrospect have verged on the extreme and yet – why not? Radical solutions are said to be all the rage.)

Holdenforth readers will expect a few suggestions to improve the creaking crumbling shaky flaky H.E. sector – so here goes.

  • The greed and dishonesty of the top management beggars belief – nothing will be achieved without large scale dismissals and huge salary cuts. Accordingly – a ruthless cull of the worst of the offending and offensive Vice Chancellors – there can be improvement until they have been handed their P 45s and given – let’s be generous – 30 minutes to clear their desks.
  • For those allowed to remain in post – given that Vice Chancellors favour cartels – set an upper annual salary limit of £99k until a sense of purpose and respect for old fashioned University values has been restored. While on the subject – abolish all bonuses – the bonus here is that you get to keep your job if your performance is good enough.
  • The enthusiasm of senior managers for global travel to be discouraged. I understand that modern technology is now available via SKYPE and Video conferencing to facilitate face to face discussions and thus avoid the high costs incurred by unnecessary travel jaunts. The recent Dispatches documentary highlighted the propensity of senior managers to opt for jetting off to warmer climes whilst neglecting the more prosaic but time honoured tasks normally associated with the job.

In short – Senior managers  to manage and to be seen to manage – those who can’t or won’t to walk the plank.

My last point concerns the Vice Chancellor  of my alma mater – The University Of Bolton. Many years ago I was a student at what was then Bolton Technical College – said by those in the know to be a fine example of the excellent institutions set up after the Industrial Revolution to maintain and develop the local demonstrable technical excellence.

The current VC of Bolton University George Holmes figured prominently in the list of Academic Fat Cats. The fuss over his ludicrous justification of his reward package had barely died down when it emerged that he had attended the unseemly Presidents’ Dinner held at the Dorchester Hotel ostensibly to raise cash for good causes – nice timing George.

A symbolic act by an all too representative Vice Chancellor.

Image courtesy of BBC







The Brexit Gospel According to St Matthew Parris

“Tories are lying to the voters and themselves”
Headline above the Matthew Parris epistle to the readers of
The Times, February 3, 2018

This Parris epistle is the text for the following Holdenforth blog.

The gist of the Parris column

Matthew Parris was in fiery, combative mood from start to finish. He began by wading into the mild polyphiloprogenitive Jacob Rees-Mogg, and proceeded to excoriate the Tory Brexiteers:

“With a complicit Prime Minister and a supine cabinet trailing in its wake Europhobia – this mutant gene in the conservative body politic now spreading its cancer through the whole government – is moving from idiocy to dishonesty…. Isn’t it now clear that the government doesn’t believe in what its doing, can’t even decide how to do it, hasn’t the guts to say so, and is trying to creep forward under cover of fog, wretchedly hoping something will turn up?”

Parris rounds off his tirade by comparing the morality of Mrs May as regards Brexit with that of Mr Eden over Suez and to that of Mr Blair over Iraq – in each case to the disadvantage of Mrs May – on the reasonable grounds that Eden and Blair believed in their respective policies.

His final two sentences sum up his position – “ A special kind of guilt attaches to the sane majority of the Conservative Party. It is written across their faces.”

In his epistle the normally urbane, rational Parris displayed the notorious bad temper of Dickens’ Dr Slammer  – “he would have added more but his indignation choked him.”

What then has happened to trigger his outburst against Jake Mogg, the Bertie Wooster of our time? Mr Mogg is portrayed as a cad  and/or a bounder – I am not sure where the one ends and the other begins. Such insults, such invective! The voters have grown accustomed to hear GOBO, the notorious pair of Gove and Johnson being so described – and deservedly so -in these terms, but not Mr Mogg.

Mr Michael Winner, had he still been with us, would have suggested that the blessed Matthew calm down. What has Holdenforth to say?

Notes on the Brexit war front as perceived from the fringe of the edge of the margin

In no special order:-

  • The outbursts of Anna SoubryA modern Tory – albeit a left wing Tory – version of La Passionara (the fiery anti fascist fighter in the Spanish civil war) had evidently had more than enough of the GOBO and Jacob Rees-Mogg when she urged the Tory Party to sling out the hard line Brexiteers. More turmoil in the ranks.
  • The Chief EU negotiator, Michel (Aggro) Barnier is getting warmed up. As the Daily Mail noted on February 12, he “warned that the EU  could reject Theresa May‘s request for a transition period if substantial disagreements over its terms remain” and “has been accused of trying to take advantage of the UK by imposing a so called punishment clause that would allow the EU to sanction Britain at will until 2020”. Those on the EU side of the negotiating table are evidently running out of patience – and who could blame them? I suspect that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better – if indeed they ever do get better.
  • Mr Soros  and his generous gesture in supplying that most useful of lubricants – cash – to the remain cause. The support of George Soros for the remain cause triggered an irate response from Paul Dacre ( I take it that the Mail editorial in question was him:  “obscenely wealthy ….. Made a fortune destabilising sterling ….. Using his hedge fund wealth – undermining elected government … unelected elite incarnate trying to impose their views on the majority of British voters”. You can‘t accuse the Mail of opacity – that is, telling it like it is.
  • The verdict of the House of Lords. A clear victory here for the remain cause. Their Lordships and Ladyships turned out in force to attack the Brexiteers and support the remain cause. The atmosphere was civilised but the broad collective thrust was clear – they want to stay in the EU. There were a few discordant voices but that’s Lord Tebbit for you.
  • Cabinet Unity on its approach to Brexit. Mrs May was adamant that the cabinet was united but it did not seem so from my remote observation point. At times it seemed as if Cabinet Meetings might as well have been  recorded given the rapidity with which the various disputants sought out and secured platforms to express views that were not easy to reconcile with the party line put out by various apologetic and confused spokespersons.
  • Professor Anthony Grayling. Who he I hear you ask? Well, he is an academic philosopher and also a hirsute, crazed latter day John the Baptist bellowing in the wilderness to any one that will listen that Brexit is a gigantic fraud and that the UK should simply stay put in the EU.

Current Concerns of a Committed Remainer

It must be admitted that Holdenforth has been and remains uneasy about some of the support that has made its way into the ranks of the Remainers.

Holdenforth readers – I am confident that the number is more than one – will recall that in recent blogs I have argued passionately in favour of the Remain cause, but for those of you new to the blog, the gist of the Holdenforth case to remain in the EU can be summed up in a few bullet points:

  • In recent decades the EU as an organisation had been doing a reasonable job.
  • There had been steady progress in improving the effectiveness of the various branches of the EU, but there was and is much to be done to curb corruption and to improve the accountability.
  • The political movement in the UK to withdraw from the EU had been led by politicians whose dislike of the EU and all that it represented was of long standing and commendably consistent – let us cite William Cash and Nigel Farage as examples from this group.
  • All the main political parties with the exception of UKIP  were broadly supportive of staying within the UK. Brexit was and remains the raison d’etre of UKIP – as ex and current members will ruefully confirm.  

Prior to general election held in June, 2015 Mr Cameron, apprehensive about the possible future threat that might be posed by the would be leavers foolishly and unnecessarily committed the Tories to holding an in/out referendum should the Tories win the  election. Prior to making this foolish and unnecessary commitment Cameron would  have carefully assessed the views of those big hitters across the political spectrum , who would campaign for and who would campaign against. Bill Cash and the unelected Paul Dacre would campaign for Brexit and Ken Clarke would campaign against.

What Cameron did not expect was that Boris Johnson would not only campaign for Brexit, but that he would be the most effective of the Brexit campaigners. He would have based the former opinion on the fact that Johnson had never been known for his Brexit views, but he should also have remembered that the views and actions of Johnson were guided by just one fiercely held principle, namely that he, Johnson, would always act in the best interests of Johnson. 

In short – two fatal errors of judgement by Cameron.

  • To commit to a referendum – no need – there was no need to do so.
  • To rely on the most dishonest politician of our time to support the remain cause.

Following Cameron’s resignation in the wake of the Brexiteers’ victory in June 2016, there followed a confused interval in which Mr. Gove put the knife into Johnson, triggering the departure of Johnson from the battlefield.

A short time later Gove was given the bum’s rush by the Tories eligible to vote – oh joy – and finally Mrs May made her way through the confusing melee into No 10.

 A year later, and after much further confusion and an abysmal political performance by Mrs May, the outcome of the snap election was the loss of the Tory majority and the emergence of the DUP to prop up the shambles that now constitutes the Tory Party

At this point -and to borrow a phrase from Churchill – “ You ask – what is the policy of Holdenforth as regards Brexit?”

1. The policy of Holdenforth remains clear – to stay in the European Union.

2. How exactly does  Holdenforth think that this admirable aim might be achieved? 

This is where it all gets a bit tricky – just ask Mrs May.

Let us see if we can suggest how the situation might develop?

We will return to our text as supplied by the Blessed Matthew Parris on February 3 for inspiration.

  • “They (the Government) know (most of them) that the referendum placed voters in an impossible position”  – but who placed them in that impossible position?
  • “They know that narrowly the voters made a mistake” – you betcha
  • “They know that our party is now acting against the interests of our country” – agreed  
  • “ And nobody has the spine to say so” – not quite true – one or two heads have appeared above the parapet

One more quote from the Blessed Parris, this time above his column published a few days earlier, on January 27, 2018:

“ One well – aimed speech could topple Mrs  May”

A most promising suggestion – the Remainers from across the political spectrum should get in some vocal target practice to trigger the toppling of  Mrs May.

Where do we go from here?

“Depend on it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”
Dr Johnson to Mr Boswell, 19 September, 1777.

Holdenforth sees only 3 possibilities.

1. Mrs May and her government stagger from crisis for the next 4 or so years. Not impossible but not very likely.

2. Mrs May loses a vote of confidence and this would trigger a general election. For this to happen just 10 Tories would be required to vote against. Quite a strong possibility. A slight variation on this option is that the DUP withdraws from the current support “arrangement” , something which could happen at any time given the volatility and unpredictability of politics in Northern Ireland. 

3. Around 50 or so Tory MPS would have to write to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee to request a leadership election. This is the second plausible possibility, especially given the shaky record of Mrs May in her brief but turbulent stay in Number 10.

A word on the mechanics of this last option.

To trigger a leadership election disaffected Tory MPS are required to write to Mr Graham Brady, the discrete Chairman of the 1922 Committee. It has been reported that Mr Brady never gives the slightest indication to anyone of the number of requests – if any – that lie in his potential explosive in-tray.

Doubtless actual and potential conspirators have some idea of who might join their movement but – a muttered word in the corridor is one thing – a signed letter delivered to Graham Brady is something altogether more positive and more traceable.

Which of our two plausible two options would have the greatest appeal to disaffected Tory MPS.

Quite simply the leadership challenge, even if successful, would solve nothing because the successful challenger would face the same formidable catalogue of problems.

This leaves the only realistic option of  lancing the boil as being for a sufficient number of brave MPs either to vote against or abstain on a vote of confidence to trigger a general election.


  • There are currently 314 Tory MPs in the Commons.
  • 10 or so Tory votes to support the opposition would be enough to dislodge Mrs May.

To put the arithmetic slightly differently – just over 3% of the entire Tory membership in the Commons would be enough to do the trick.

Might we have enough Tory MPs with the required amount of intestinal fortitude and/or a private income and / or a job offer in their pocket?

Holdenforth asserts with confidence – Yes!

We urge the required 3% to follow the example of Henry V before Harfleur as he urged his followers to “imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise nature with hard favoured rage, and so on and so forth” by putting their heads above the parapet during and at the end of the confidence debate.

There would then be a repeat of the 2017 General Election – sorry about that, Brenda from Bristol – a single issue General Election which would be a second referendum in all but name.

Our legislators would then be required collectively to decide how to proceed and the voters would be entertained by the spectacle of the elastic consciences of the thousand or so candidates competing to be elected to the House of Commons being stretched to breaking point.

Mr Corbyn and the Labour Party

“In those days – the 1960’s or thereabouts – The Young Trotskyites in  Liverpool hated capitalism, they hated imperialism, but most of all they hated each other.”
Alexei Sayle

Will Mr Corbyn wake up, grasp what is happening, and ask the adherents of the late Leon Trotsky to butt out and allow him to develop a Brexit strategy that will attract rather than alienate the voters?

Holdenforth fears the worst if Mr Corbyn were merely to follow the advice of Mr Micawber and wait for something to turn up.

This passive policy lacks both vision and energy- it just won’t do. 

 “Either poverty must use democracy to destroy the power of property, or property in fear of poverty will destroy democracy”
Thomas Rainsborough, Putney Debate, August 1647, quoted by Aneurin Bevan in “
Why not trust the Tories”

Mr Corbyn has argued that “The Labour party should serve the many, not the few.” I hope that when the time comes – and it will come quite soon – he and his colleagues will realise that the case to serve the interests of the many against the interests of the few is much more powerful in the wider context of the EU than in the parochial context of the UK.

Go for it – JC!

For now – Holdenforth suggests an approach along the following lines.

The key policy elements of the remain camp to be:

  • Persuade enough dissident Tory MPs to trigger the toppling of Mrs May.
  • A intent to reverse the events of recent years and a wholehearted wish to get back to business as usual within the European Community.
  • The subsequent general election / second referendum to be fought in a spirit that would combine a readiness to acknowledge  that the two main parties have made some appalling errors of judgement in the past few years – a point made powerfully by Matthew Parris – and a readiness to debate the issues rather than to swap slogans.

One last point.  Sadly the irate response from  Brenda from Bristol back in the spring of 2017 struck a chord across the country.  I sadly suspect that the perception of many voters about ALL politicians – from committed remainers through the apathetic middle to the committed leavers  – is that since politicians don’t worry about the voters why should the people worry about political matters – even when the key political issue is the future of the UK.

Many voters resemble apathetic observers of a mega spectacular acrimonious divorce.

 Image Courtesy of The Times



Notes on Charity

A few years ago I began to collect newspaper cuttings which featured various problems concerning the operation of UK charities.

It appeared at the time and has seemed so since that charity, the greatest of the virtues, was being abused by some of the managers heading up the charities. The Daily Mail was raucous in its condemnation of these hypocrites. The Times was similarly critical, but as usual, was rather more subdued and cautious in its approach.

Other topics subsequently caught my imagination, notably Brexit, and I allowed the subject of charity to be transferred to my back burner.

All the President’s Men

My interest was re-kindled by events in the Dorchester Hotel on the evening of January 21, 2018. The gist of the story was that an expensive men-only event had been held at an expensive venue with the avowed purpose of raising money for charity. So far – so good.

Sadly, it was belatedly discovered that the proceedings had been enlivened or marred, according to taste, by the presence of many young ladies of the nubile variety, ostensibly as waitresses, and that the behaviour of some of the male guests towards these young ladies had been “inappropriate.”

I was intrigued to note the rapidity with which some of the guests sought to distance themselves from what had transpired. Indeed, so many guests claimed to have left early that it appeared that the young nubile ladies were left to molest each other.

One of the guests who was appalled by the proceedings was the Vice Chancellor of Bolton University, George Holmes. Readers of this blog may recall that George Holmes figured prominently in the list of greedy vice chancellors seeking unsuccessfully to justify their absurdly inflated salaries. It may be that I owe George Holmes an apology – I had not understood the tireless energy with which he worked long hours in his own time to alleviate the sufferings of the poor.

To return to my central theme – what is about the management of charitable activities that so often seems to fall far below the standard required?

In the following notes I will try to shed some light on the charity sector and to ask if there have been improvements since the very public scandals that have hit the headlines in recent years.

It seems to me that all is not well and that, despite determined efforts by the authorities to ensure that cash collected by charities ends up in the pockets of its intended recipients, that this is by no means always the outcome.

Ongoing concerns about the sector include:

  • Allegations that some senior managers in the sector have diverted rather more of the funds entrusted to their care to their own bank accounts than to the relevant charities.
  • Some of us have been startled to read about the extent to which charity finances are entangled with taxation issues with the result that the beneficiaries are usually tax experts who move with cat like tread in the complex thickets of taxation rules.
  • Most donors to charity would expect that most if not all of their contributions went to the intended recipients. Sadly, the investigations by media flushed out far too many instances where this was not the case.

Put bluntly much of the criticism heaped on the charity sector centred on the perception that far too much of the funds collected ended up in the pockets of the managers, and by a simple process of arithmetic, far too little to the worthy causes.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing…..
Charity suffered long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly… is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil……
And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
1 Corinthians Chapter 13 – St Paul.

St Paul let the Corinthians have both barrels in his well-known epistle. Might it have been the case that at that time there were those in Corinth who needed to be taught a sharp lesson on the supreme virtue of charity?

“Every genuinely benevolent person loathes almsgiving and medicity
Charity is the most mischievous sort of pruriency”
‘Maxims for Revolutionaries’,  Man and Superman – Bernard Shaw

Two millennia later Shaw took a very different view of charity from that taken by St Paul, indeed he took a very dim view of charity.

Which of them was right and why?

A recap – Back in 2015 I sent the following (unpublished) letter to The Times

Two elderly gentlemen of benevolent appearance had cornered a morose Mr Scrooge before Christmas.
“A few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the poor some meat and drink and means of warmth…. What shall I put you down for?”
“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.”
“You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone” said Scrooge
A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens.
It is likely that Dickens intended his readers to suppose that the two gentlemen fund raisers who begged the support of Mr Scrooge were acting in an unpaid capacity and would not dream of claiming any expenses incurred in carrying out their charitable work.
A comparison can be made between their commendable efforts and the work of contemporary fund raisers. The front page report in today’s Times paints a slightly worrying picture about what happens to the funds raised in the highly competitive market that constitutes charitable work in 2015. For instance – of the money raised – how much ends up helping up the poor and how much ends up in the pockets of the fund raisers?
It would appear that a significant number of managers in the UK charity sector are working tirelessly to ensure that those responsible for allocating funds are firmly committed to the principle that charity begins at home.
Until this sector is subject to the sort of (unwelcome) publicity supplied by your report I suspect that the public may well be tempted to give the same reply as that of Mr Scrooge.”
John Holden

The Times was unable to find space to accommodate my cynical suspicions but on the plus side the Times has been commendably supportive of attempts to clean up the charity sector.

What exactly is a good cause? Is your idea of a worthy cause the same as mine?

The formal dinner arranged by the Presidents Club referred to earlier was attended by two gentlemen who shared the name Philip Green.

  • The first PG was Sir Philip Green of BHS notoriety.
  • The second PG was plain Mr, but his notoriety was of the Carillion brand.

Clearly both PGs were only too ready to support a high-profile charity event, although neither was anxious to be seen to endorsing the cavortings alleged to have taken place.
I have no views on the cavorting – I was not there at the kick off and so was unable to leave when the proceedings got out of hand. The episode brought to my mind the phrase always used by News of the World reporters in bygone days – “At this point I made my excuses and left”

I do have views on causes that are worthy and causes that are rather less than worthy. I suspect the two PGs would define a worthy cause as one which enabled them to rob the poor – not a universal accepted definition and significantly at variance with hallowed tradition.

Who is right – the pair of Greens or the Dickensian traditionalists?

Is your good cause my good cause?

What sort of flaws and abuses in the charity sector were made public?

Let us start at the start at the top by looking at the performance of the Charity Commission. Why not allow Mrs Margaret Hodge, the doughty acerbic Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, to do the job for us.

“The Public Accounts Committee had issued innumerable reports criticising the Charity Commission. By 2015 the commission was responsible for monitoring 165,000 registered charities that between them boasted an annual income of £69 billion. Yet Committee Reports in 1988, 1991, 1998, 2001 and then our report in2013 all found severe shortcomings in the work of this regulator……
“In the previous 4 years it has removed only one trustee from their role and it had frozen the accounts of only two charities. It was the guardian of the public interest for the charitable sector and I found its performance pretty dismal …..the chairman , William Shawcross, was another old Etonian … in my view he was appointed because of his politics , not his experience.”
From “Called to Account” by Margaret Hodge

I recall watching one session when Mr Shawcross was attempting to explain what was going on within the Charity Commission or rather what was not going on. He cut a lamentable figure as he tried and failed to answer the simplest of queries from PAC members.

The obvious conclusion to be drawn – and which was drawn – was that if the performance of the hopeless helpless Mr Shawcross in his role as Regulator in Chief was par for the course in the Charity Commission – then the vultures and / or sharks – choose your own metaphor be it nautical or aeronautical – on the lookout for easy pickings – had nothing to fear from that source.

Sadly Mr Shawcross added a whole dimension to the word pathetic.

What other flaws and weaknesses were flushed out?

In no special order:-

  • The salary packages of some senior managers were felt to verge on the excessive.
  • In the case of some charities it was not easy to ascertain just what percentages of the funds collected had found their way into the pockets of the intended recipients.
  • The expenses incurred by some charities were perceived as being – well not exactly in keeping with austerity of the times.
  • The link between HMG and the charity sector and HMG/HMRC emerged as an issue. I very much doubt if I would support the objectives of the every single one of the 165,000 charities – and yet all of them benefit from tax concessions.
  • The spread of the curse of bonus elements in the reward packages.

A selection of case studies – to get the show on the road.

1. Kids Company

“Such a very profligate luvvie – Charity scandal raises troubling questions about BBC boss who loves spending your money”
Daily Mail, August 7, 2015

“Mystery of charity’s unpaid £700,000 tax bill”
Daily Mail, August 7, 2015

“BBC boss rages at reporter investigating Kids Company”
Daily Mail, August 7, 2015

“Underfire charity was given clean bill of health”
The Times. July 8, 2015

The gist of this story was that Kids Company, a charity run by the exotic Camila Batmanghelidjh, was thought to be spending rather too much of its uncertain income on funding an expensive lifestyle for CB and for her close colleagues.

This particular story was spiced up by the revelation that one of her close colleagues was Mr Alan Yentob of BBC fame or notoriety – according to which newspaper you read. One piece in The Daily Mail reported that Mr Yentob had been quite tetchy with a BBC reporter, Lucy Manning, when questioned about various problems said to have arisen in the management of Kids Company. Mr Yentob said that “this is about the kids”, a perfectly reasonable point to make had it been the case that Kids Company had scrupulously ensured that the donations received by the charity had been spent on their intended recipients.

“Children recover with unrelenting love.”
One of Kids Company’s mottos.

Who could possibly argue with this proposition?

What is less clear is this – to what extent did the lavish lifestyle of CB that was funded by Kids Company help children to recover from whatever it was that they were suffering from?

2. Which?

“Which” chief paid £819k for year.
The Times, February 24, 2016

“The British charity set up to save money for consumers will give its chief executive (Peter Vicary-Smith) £819k for the year representing a 135% increase on the previous year.”

Nice work if you can get it.

“Which” does not receive direct funding from HMG, but does benefit from tax breaks because of its charitable status.

It was interesting to note that PV-S had worked for McKinsey in a previous life and he was well placed to recognise a managerial cushy number when he saw one.

Another interesting point to emerge from the PV-S piece was that “Last year The Times revealed that more than 1000 charity chiefs were paid six figure salaries by voluntary organisations.”

This item was quite coy when you think that six figure salaries range from £100k at the bottom to £999k at the top – that is what I call a big spread.

Charities and tax

“Fat cat charities rely too much on taxpayers. For all the good they do, it’s time voluntary organisations accepted there are strings attached to taking public cash.”
Headlines above a piece in The Times by Libby Purves – February 8, 2017.

This was a splendid column by Ms Purves. She highlighted the extent to which “ a great many charities have in effect become quangos:…. They are sustained by grants and lucrative central or local government contracts…….. The bigger the charity is the more likely it is to be heavily funded by taxpayers . The 139,000 smallest charities get only 3% of this state support”

Ineffective control of both income and expenditure

“RHS boss stole £700k to fund party lifestyle”
Daily Mail, July 23, 2016

According to the article, “A senior manager at the Royal Horticultural Society lived the high life using money he stole from the charity. Stuart Medhurst persuaded friends to submit fake invoices to help him carry out his fake £700k ten-year scam… the case has shocked the RHS.”

Well it would, wouldn’t it?

“A former financial controller has admitted stealing £440k from a hospital charity”
The Times August 14, 2017

Let us name and shame him: Ronald Chigunwe of Basingstoke pleaded guilty to four charges related to his job at Wessex Heartbeat which supports the Wessex cardiac centre.

(Just a thought – how effective were the procedures which allowed Mr Chigunwe to help himself to almost half a million pounds?)

“Charity run by Cherie’s sister mislaid £90k.
Lauren Booth, Cherie Blair’s sister, has been stripped of her status as a charity trustee after £90,000 raised by her Islamic appeal went missing.”
The Times January 29, 2018

How exactly can £90,000 just go missing?

Stop press – The Times later published an amendment to the original report which noted that the penalty imposed on Lauren Booth was rather less severe than that reported.

I would guess that the £90k is still unaccounted for.

Should charity begin at home? Notes on the overseas aid scandal

Holdenforth does not have enough space to describe in detail the reports of the flaws in the arrangements for ensuring that funds provided by the British Taxpayer to support worthy causes abroad reached their planned targets. Suffice it to say that the malpractices flushed out by the press sleuths amounted to a repeat of what had been exposed on the home front – only more so.

The overseas aid budget was splashed around with jaunty abandon, with those “responsible” believing – rightly – that the lack of scrutiny of their activities amounted to an invitation to help themselves – an invitation which they gratefully accepted.

A few examples will have to suffice.

“Too much aid money, not enough sense”
Daily Mail , December 20, 2016

This referred to the Mail‘s staggering revelation that Britain lavished £9.2 million of our foreign aid budget on promoting the careers of the Ethiopian Spice Girls …

“Aid minister promises a profiteering crackdown”
A Times investigation revealed that Department for International Development spending on consultancy services had doubled to almost £1 billion a year and found one think tank quoting Dfid more than £10,000 to write a single blog post.
The aid minister in question was Priti Patel, recently moved to other duties following her rash foray into matters outside the scope of her departmental responsibilities.
The Times, December 20, 2016

“Stunning victory for MoS foreign aid campaign as FOUR fat cats have to quit”
Mail on Sunday headline – March 5, 2017

The Mail on Sunday had a field day as it named and shamed four senior executives as Adam Smith International who had employed questionable methods to secure lucrative contracts for ASI and, obviously, to help themselves big time to the aid budget.

Let us follow the example of the MoS – the bad guys were:-

  • Peter Young – Strategy Chief – we now know what his strategy was.
  • Andrew Kuhn – director
  • Amitabh Shrivastavata – director

I was confused by what the report had to say about William Morrison, Executive Chairman – he was to quit “after restructuring the firm.” I would have thought that a prompt P45 and 5 minutes to clear his desk would have been more appropriate.

Just one more.

“Consultants take billions from foreign aid budget”
The Times, December 8, 2016

The article observed that “The bank JP Morgan shared £1m in aid money with a law firm to advise on Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund.”

These snippets do suggest that the Dfid was incompetent at best and corrupt at worst in its management and control of the distribution of the funds provided by the UK tax payers

The charity enforcers

“Stop the bullying, Charities told”
“Big four are savaged over phone tactics and asked: where are your morals?”
Daily Mail headlines July 8, 2015

Let the Daily Mail tell the story:

“Charities were ordered to clean up their act after the Mail revealed the aggressive cold calling tactics they use to raise cash.
The British Red Cross, Oxfam, the NSPCC and Macmillan were savaged over their use of “boiler room” call centres to secure donations.
The four charity giants were revealed to be hounding people on the Governments official “no call” list, the telephone preference service.”

The report added that fundraisers were ordered to be brutal with potential donors. In a separate report on the same day the Mail named and shamed four “£100k -a-year bosses driving cold-call menace”.

One employee of the enforcing four, Mr Mark Astarita, deserves special mention. One target of aggressive fund raising by charities, 92 year old Olive Cooke, committed suicide, and her tragic death was said to be in part to have been caused by the relentless pressure to which she had been subjected.

Mr Astarita cautioned against over-reaction claiming recommendations to tighten regulation could cost the British Red Cross £2million per year.

How sensitive can you get?

Further details of these possibly well intentioned sharp practices appeared in the Daily Mail two days later.

“Leading charities were in crisis after ministers threatened new laws to crack down on their grotesque fund raising practices”
Daily Mail, July 10, 2015

The above admonition was issued by Chris Grayling, the then Leader of the House, but I suspect that not all the reported abuses will have been discontinued. Mr Grayling is noted rather more for his words than his deeds, and, in any event, the tiresome issue of Brexit has occupied and pre -occupied political minds in recent years. Not much time left to tackle a real and present and widespread and odious social malpractice.

The Mail printed a sample of the many calls they had received on this aspect of managerial malpractice in the charity sector:

“After a TV appeal for blankets for Syrian Children I donated £3 by text. After that I was inundated by mobile phone calls at all times of the day.”

Addressing the Issues

I have outlined some of the problems that disfigure the charity sector. What about some solutions?

“Something must be done.”
Comment made by Edward the Eighth when he was taken to see the appalling conditions in the South Wales coalfields in 1936.

Quite so, Your Majesty – but what exactly did you have in mind?

This blog has to do better than that. How about the following suggestions on how to tackle the ailments of the charity sector?

1. Start at the top – put in place a Charity Commission capable of effectively policing the charity sector.
2. In the search for new members of reconstituted Charity Commission – look outside the pool of deadbeats and political lickspittles of those in power that are typically recruited.
3. Eliminate all links between charities and the HMRC – both groups have enough problems to sort out without bringing them together.
4. When malpractices are exposed – all investigations by the Charity Commission to be prompt – the languid Chilcot adopted by Sir John Chilcot to be avoided here as it should be avoided everywhere.
5. I have suggested elsewhere that the practice of allowing senior managers to design their own bonus arrangements should be banned. Instead the inadequate to be handed a P45 — the competent get to keep their jobs. This rule to be extended to the charity sector.
6. Stringent rules governing the management and control of charity finances to be put in place in place. The practices used by the late Arnold Weinstock would serve as a splendid model – very little ever escaped the eagle eye of Lord W.
7. Impose harsh penalties for the plethora of sharp practices that are a feature of the charity sector. Those at the top caught with their fingers in the till need to be made aware that their exposure will not simply result in their being banned from future work in the sector. The lesson will only be fully learned when the top guilty men – it always seems to be men – are also relieved of their ill-gotten gains.

There are plenty more where these came from but they will do to get the project to cleanse the UK Augean Charity stables up and running.

“As an example of charity Live Aid couldn’t be worse… The performers donate their time which is wholly worthless. Big Corporations donate their services which are worth little enough. Then the poor audience pledges all the contributions and buys all the trash with money it can ill afford. The worst nineteenth century robber barons wouldn’t have had the cheek to put forward such a bunco scheme.”
PJ O’Rourke, Give War A Chance

It is doubtful if Sir Bob Geldof would endorse these abrasive comments by an abrasive columnist, but that is the beauty of the charity sector – so much scope for lively disagreement.

To return to my opening paragraph: Great Ormond Street Hospital is reported as having returned all the money raised by The Presidents Club.

What happens next?

A closing suggestion – Why not send the money raised at the unseemly dinner to an alternative worthy cause – the group of impoverished BBC celebrities and especially those of the male persuasion – the new untouchables.

Those in favour might care to contact Mr Alan Yentob at either the BBC or Kids Company or wherever.

A last word

Sir Stephen Bubb is the CE of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations – a most impressive job title.

He may have regretted having the spotlight shone on his activities when it emerged that in August 2013 it was reported that “his 60th birthday bash in Westminster had been partly financed by his own charity, ACEVO. Despite the charity paying him a salary in excess of £100,000, he still felt it was fine for the charity to cover some of the costs and opined that it “seemed just right to celebrate my 60th with a tea party in the House of Lords on Monday!”

Given the scale of the reported excesses in the charity sector at home and abroad it verged on the niggardly to upbraid Sir Stephen for charging the cost of a handful of wafer thin cucumber sandwiches to his own charity.

What do you think?

Notes on Carillion and Related Matters

“I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift , nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise , nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happened to them all”
There is no new thing under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 9,11

George Orwell used this verse from Ecclesiastes in his essay, “Politics and the English Language “ as an example of the English language at its best. Accordingly I am reluctant to suggest that it needs to be updated to reflect today’s all too prevalent social and political chicanery – but your blogger feels that he must say what he believes – so here goes.

The reference of Ecclesiastes to riches not being acquired by men of understanding is simply wrong. Understanding is a sine qua non in the acquisition of riches – a necessary but not sufficient quality. The other sine qua non is greed.

In the following notes I hope to demonstrate the validity of this point.

I have called this blog “Notes on Carillion and Related Matters”. Well, what related matters?

In the past few weeks there has been a spate of angry reporting and comment in the media about perceived excessive payments to a variety of fortunate recipients together with one notable case of perceived underpayments to a raucous group of senior female BBC employees. The groups in question are the senior managers of some of our major construction companies, including Persimmon, the senior managers of Carillion, the multi tasking company, senior employees of the BBC and, the story that simply won’t go away – the bosses of our Universities referred to by known by the reverential title of Vice Chancellors.

We are barely 3 weeks into 2018 and here we go again – more examples of how in the UK those at the top have yet again succeeded in enriching themselves at the expense of those unfortunate enough to dwell on the lower slopes of our national economic terrain.

The media treatment of the stories involving Persimmon and Carillion have been filling the headlines in recent days – a case of the hogs hogging the news.

Holdenforth will now look at what happened and why and, where appropriate, suggest solutions.

The pay debate at the BBC

I considered this conflict zone in my previous blog. To recap:-

Some senior female BBC employees discovered to their surprise and chagrin that that their male colleagues were paid considerably more for doing what appeared to many outsiders – including your blogger – the same job. This practice was in breach of the law which specified that the same rate be paid for doing the same job.

Two solutions were suggested:

  • Bring the pay for the women up to the level paid to men.
  • Bring the pay rate of the men down to the level paid to the women.

A third factor surfaced as the debate warmed up, namely that many licence payers thought that pay rates for the senior women for not especially demanding work was already far too high and that the rates paid to men for the same work was disgracefully high.

Holdenforth suggested that the BBC be privatised and this bold move would allow the free competitive market to decide who was worth what.

I trust that the Parliamentary Media Committee is now actively examining this option. Holdenforth will not remain silent if a Chilcottian dilatory approach is adopted.

Both categories – the ladies and the gentlemen – need to be reminded that not all licence payers share the view prevalent across the BBC that the BBC is a national treasure to be funded up to and beyond the readiness of the aforesaid licence payers to foot the bill.

An Avarice of University Vice – Chancellors

The gist of the problem here was that it belatedly appeared that our Vice Chancellors had been busy helping themselves to funds originally intended to improve the financial health of their various institutions.

I suggest the word “ Avarice“ as a working collective noun for our acquisitive VCs.
I had thought that the Avarice had managed to defuse the public anger but more and more instances emerged about the commendable and tireless energy displayed by the Avarice in their search for wealth.

The latest to surface – On January 18 – noted that “University Chief complained about cuts… then saw her pay rise by £45k”. The chief in question, Dame Julia Goodfellow, had received a £25k performance bonus paid presumably in recognition of her tireless efforts to maximise her reward package.

Now for the first of the two new big issues – Persimmon.

Events at Persimmon made the headlines primarily because of the perceived large payments made to senior managers.

“Why the housing boss being paid an obscene £131 million must be forced to give his ill -gotten gains away-”
Headline above a report by Alex Brummer, Daily Mail January 11, 2018

Let us allow Mr Brummer to have his say.

“Persimmon’s Chief Executive, Jeff Fairburn, is due a pay and bonus package of £131 million… Other bosses at the firm – which has seen its stock market value soar as it has ruthlessly cashed in on the Government’s controversial Help to Buy scheme – will be given shares worth a staggering £800 million.”

Mr Brummer went on to point the finger at former chairman Nicholas Wrigley who absent-mindedly forgot to impose a cap on bonuses and left Persimmon “in recognition of this omission.” He also left Persimmon with his £131 million.

In his fiery piece, Mr Brummer neatly analyses the flaws in the Help to Buy scheme, flaws which Mr Fairburn spotted and exploited, with the unintended assistance of the sleepy Mr Wrigley, to the significant benefit of his bank balance.

Clearly Mr Fairburn was and is man of understanding.

No problem in identifying the winners here- the top brass.

Equally clearly, the losers were those who will be unable to access the scheme because of the depletion of the allocated funds.

I estimate that around 1,000 would-be home owners have lost out.

Now for the really big issue of today’s Holdenforth Blog – What went wrong at Carillion and why?

“Don’t ever work for McAlpine or Wimpey or John Laing”
Memorably sung by the late Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners as he exhorted his listeners not to work for the named well known construction companies because of the combination of appalling working conditions and lack of job security.

The message of “McAlpine’s Fusiliers” had already been overtaken by events because many large building companies – including that known as Sir Robert McAlpine – had been absorbed by Carillion.

Hopefully a successor to Ronnie Drew will emerge and produce a protest song to be used in the inevitable demonstrations that will be held to draw attention to the misdeeds of those at the top.

Who are the villains?

Well, Alex (Bolshie) Brummer is still in splendid form, in articles entitled “Chairmen in the doghouse” and “Carillion fat cats WON’T get payments” which appeared in the Daily Mail on January 18.

According to Brummer, (Carillion) Bosses including former CE Richard Howson were due to continue receiving payments despite the construction and outsourcing firm going into liquidation on January 15 owing around £3 billion. Other senior managers said to be still enjoying enviable reward packages were Mr Zafar Khan and Mr Keith Cochrane.

The report noted that senior Carillion managers had been careful to arrange for their own financial well being whilst Carillion was heading for the liquidators – possibly their business role model was the captain of the Cruise Liner Costa Concordia who steered his cruise liner onto the rocks and subsequently took care to ensure that he was one of the first into the lifeboat. His conduct in terms of self preservation was prudent but not in keeping with the noblest traditions of the maritime service.

In an article published in the Mail the previous day (“Easy ride for miscreants”), Mr Brummer was dismissive of the announcement from Greg Clarke, an employee of HMG, of a fast track Insolvency Service probe into the collapse of Carillion and its current and former directors.

‘Bolshie’ Brummer was dismissive mainly because of the abysmal record of HMG and its associated quangos in getting to the bottom of even simple corporate financial failures, and even less so with failures as labyrinthine as the current spate.

He sighs sadly that “Carillion Chairman Philip Green – no relation to BHS Phil Green – can resume his search for honours , former CE Richard Howson can retreat to his Swiss chalet and serial non executive director and former Tony Blair acolyte Dame Sally Morgan can look for the next job.”

Having got that off his chest, Brummer suggests that “a judge led probe with directors required to give evidence under oath would be ideal. One thinks back to the late Bingham enquiry into the collapse of BCCI in 1992 which was completed and published within a year.”

I fully support the Brummer suggestion and his insistence on the need to avoid a languid Chilcot approach and its associated Maxwellisation constraints.

I would go further – given the required urgency – and urgency and lawyers do not go together – the central issues could be flushed out and the report published within the next 3 months.

An innovation of this kind – making it clear that retribution would be swift and the consequences drastic for those found to be responsible – would be a splendid foretaste of a new resolve to ensure that senior managers did the job properly – or else.

For the record, the Captain of the Costa Concordia was sent to prison for 16 years for his double offence – that of taking an irresponsible short cut and then of leading the rush to the life boat. The lawyer leading the urgent enquiry might well bear the outcome of this nautical malfeasance in mind.

“Carillion in the dock”
Daily Mail leader, January 17, 2018

The leader writer played little Sir Echo to the Brummer piece – he/she demanded “Nothing less (than an urgent judicial enquiry) to investigate the greed and management failures that brought down Carillion – leaving millions of taxpayers and pension holders to pick up the pieces.”

I second the views of the irate Mr Brummer and of the Mail leader writer – and confirm that it is a pleasant experience to pay fulsome tribute to the doughty views of Mr Paul Dacre and his team in their thirst for justice.

“Hung out to dry by the Carillion fat cats”
“Up to 30k small firms could get just 1p in the pound owed to them by failed contraction giant that paid its bosses millions”
Daily Mail headlines, January 17, 2018

The mail reporters Daniel Martin, Rachel Millard and Tom Kelly spelled out the serious consequences to the thousands of companies and the ten of thousands of employees of the downstream companies. Consequences including reduced pensions and for many the loss of jobs in what were rightly assumed to be key national priority activities – the construction of hospitals, schools, roads and additional rail capacity.

On a personal note I have recently been required to choose between two options for my own modest retirement British Steel pension and I have every sympathy with those now at risk from the Carillion scandal.

It needs to be highlighted that robbing pensioners of income that they have rightly counted on to be a protection against an impoverished old age effectively robs them for the rest of their lives.

I have observed at close quarters the fears and anxieties triggered by the problems with the old British Steel pension scheme.

I would also like to mention the problems posed by the predatory activities of the vultures – alias financial advisors – circling round the British Steel pensioners as they sought advice about how to invest their pension funds.

Robert Maxwell was a prominent founder member of the pension robber club – and the term ‘Maxwellisation’ was coined to enable the guilty to defend themselves thus prolonging the already interminable proceedings.

How did Mrs May respond to queries about Carillion at PMQ on January 17

“Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye”
Matthew 7, 3

More prosaically – “People in glass houses should not throw stones.”

Her robust rejoinder that the situation was just as bad in Wales and in Leeds – both Labour controlled – was true but it was unlikely to be of comfort to the many thousands whose lives and plans have been so savagely disrupted.

One of her weakest rejoinders- and most of her rejoinders were pretty feeble – was that HMG was not responsible for the management of Carillion.

Quite true – but HMG was by far the biggest customer of Carillion, and, as such, HMG was and still is in a very strong position to take prompt effective action if and when it is so minded.

As details of the fiasco emerged, one servant of HMG was reported as requesting that the employees affected should be supplied with the address of their local job centre – a response on a par with suggesting that members of the public injured in a terror attack be given the location of their nearest A and E department.

Thoughts on the root causes of the Carillion debacle. In no special order:-

  • A leadership team whose top priority was to ensure that they emerged from what they dimly perceived as the approaching collapse of Carillion with the maximum of money for themselves. They – the Carillion leaders – were working tirelessly to loot the system but sadly this allowed little or no time to manage the business.
  • A government riddled with ineptitude as it sought in vain to distance itself from the consequences of its own failure to act.
  • A government so obsessed with and pre-occupied by Brexit that all other issues are relegated to the pending file.
  • Decades of government policy – going back to the Blair years – which allowed the private sector to exploit the public sector.The effect of the revolving doors practice

In the various reports about Carillion much has been made of the dubious nature of Private Finance Initiatives – including the extent to which they contributed to the collapse of Carillion.

There may be some truth in this view and the doubtless the High Speed Enquiry will have the item on its agenda.

I would like to consider just one aspect of the controversial relationship that exists between the public sector and the private sector and the perceived no mans land in the middle.

There has been a great deal of media discussion in recent years about the so-called revolving doors syndrome. The gist of this practice is that senior mangers leave the public sector and move speedily and seamlessly across into the private sector.

We should ask ourselves – just what do these transferees have to offer the private sector – certainly not the languid approach to management that prevails in the public sector.
The appealing feature of those making the move is overwhelmingly their familiarity with the managerial weaknesses that prevail together with the experience that would allow their new employer to exploit the public sector.

Attempts have been made to limit the speed with which these transfers are made but these are more observed in the breach rather than in the observance. Thus, knowledge of the naivety of those employed in the framing of major public contracts is of considerable help to those on the other side of the table – the civil service lambs are on the one side and the private sector wolves are on the other.

The best of them – those civil servants that are wide awake – will be recruited by the wolves and the outcome will be all too predictable.

Beware the temptation to blame it all on Capitalism

“Yes, capitalism has flaws – as the Carillion catastrophe shows. But the alternative is too chilling to think about”
Peter Oborne, Daily Mail January 20, 2018

The situation is getting out of hand – I agree with some of the points made by Mr Oborne.
Sadly – and as is usually the case with him – he gets carried away by his own indignation and fails to make clear the improvements required to allow PFI arrangements to operate effectively.

Holdenforth will not make this elementary error.

For now I will just mention – for the umpteenth time – the tried and trusted aphorism:_

Q-“Why does a dog lick its balls”
A – “Because it can”

We reformers will suggest how it can be improved – by removing the balls.

I hasten to add that Holdenforth will not suggest this wholly disproportionate step for the human offenders – that would be verging on the over zealous – but effective and simple remedies are available.

A digression about Mr Corbyn

Mr JC proclaims that he is in business to govern for the many and not for the few. I take it that the few are the haves and the many are the have nots.

Given the likelihood of a General Election in the next few months we need to hear from Mr C and his colleagues as to how exactly they plan to put their admirable campaign slogans into effect. We need some policy flesh on the bare bones of the slogans.

I doubt if there if there is much hope from Mrs May – Holdenforth sees her sole political aim as being to preserve just one job – her own. Understandable but lacking in mass appeal.

Accordingly I will suggest a few policies for JC and his colleagues to consider.

(I note that Mrs May is reported as being ready to put in place effective measures to bring the situation under control. Sadly The Times cartoonist is not persuaded that she is serious.

In his first drawing on January 22, 2018, Mrs May’s “to do” list is headed — * “Tackle Corporate Greed”; in his second drawing, “To do” is replaced by “To say.”)

Holdenforth wants more stick and no carrot.

  • Tax rates at or close to 100% to be set for the corporate thieves – these rates to stay in place until senior managers grasp that they had been appointed to the job to work for the prosperity of the organisation rather than exploiting the various loop holes in the tax and reward package arrangements.
  • Outlaw the practice of setting complex bonus arrangements for senior managers. The reward for effective performance to be that the effective managers get to keep their jobs.
    For the ineffective – prompt P45s with no generous farewell packages.
  • Any enquiries into what has gone wrong to eschew the Chilcot approach. The guilty men were quick enough to deploy their sharp practices.
  • Any enquiries to eschew the Maxwellisation approach – the very name ought to have ruled it out.
  • Do not use any enquiry into corporate abuse as an excuse to put capitalism on trial – otherwise we will get nowhere very slowly.
  • Similarly do not use any decision to take the railways back into the public sector as an excuse to put socialism on trial – otherwise again we will get nowhere very slowly.

Let us be very clear – as Mrs May would say — the collective group that needs to be on trial is that of the Senior Managers in the private and public sectors who have abused their positions of trust to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us. So – get rid of the Arthur Daleys that prosper at the top and replace them with senior managers who can combine competence with integrity.

Senior Managers in all sectors of the national economy are subject to temptation and sadly some will succumb.

Like the dog and his propensity to lick his balls -they abuse the system because they can.

Let us try to put in place effective measures to discourage them – those spivs looking for quick easy risk free bucks would soon get the message.

To end on an optimistic note.

It is still the case that those senior managers who have converted their organisations into modern versions of the Augean Stables are very much a minority group.

So – Bring in managerial replacements who can and will do the jobs to the required standard.


What the Papers Say

For many years the broadcasters on radio and later on television have allocated broadcasting space to reviews of the contents of the newspapers.

Holdenforth has thus far distanced itself from this activity but on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, January 9 and 10, the Times and The Daily Mail gave many column inches to accounts of and opinions on three separate but not wholly unrelated stories.

These stories were:

  • The gender pay gap at the BBC.
  • The performance of Mrs May as she sought to refresh her administration.
  • The decline and fall of Mr Toby Young.

The opportunity to comment was too good to miss – so – here goes.

There are, as the saying goes, lessons to be learned from all three stories, although not everyone will have learned the same lessons. As a bonus and given that Holdenforth is both a campaigning blog and a fertile source of suggested remedies for the various problems under discussion – solutions will be put forward  where appropriate.

The gender pay gap at the BBC

“Lawyers advise women on BBC pay row”
“The BBC’s failure to treat women fairly beggars belief” – Giles Whittell
Headlines in The Times – January 9, 2018

“Male BBC stars face salary cuts as equality row flares”
Headline in The Times, January 10, 2018

“The BBC does not exist”
Headline above a piece by Matthew Parris, The Times, January 10, 2018

Well – up to a point, young Matthew.

I suspect that Lord Hall would second this puzzling assertion on the grounds that it might afford temporary relief to his very real and sadly beleaguered organisation.

 “BBC begs Huw to cut £600k pay cut.”
“Radio 4’s Flagship Show imploded in a soggy morass of smuggery”
Daily Mail Headlines on January 9, 2018   

(The last quotation is included not for its topicality but for its relevance.)

This particular spat was triggered by the resignation of Carrie Gracie from her BBC job as its China Editor. The gist of her complaint against the BBC was that it was and is acting in breach of the law which states that equal jobs should receive equal pay.

The problem was by no means a new one and resentment by the fair sex against the other sex had been simmering since the BBC had been required to publish pay bands for its highest paid employees. This information was sufficiently informative to trigger resentment amongst significant numbers of female household names.

This observer was startled only because these household names had been all too ready to pretend to exercise their investigative and forensic skills to expose inequalities around the world but also that they were seemingly unaware of what the man sitting next to her was being paid – considerably more as it turned out.

Options open to the BBC were said to be just two:

  1. Bring the rewards paid to the men down to the rewards paid to the women.
  2. Bring the rewards paid to the women up to the level paid to the men.
  • For obvious reasons the top boys in the BBS were less than enthusiastic about option 1.
  • For equally obvious reasons the ladies were prepared to settle for nothing less than the going rate for the men?

At first glance the solution is obvious – obey the law and pay the same rate for the same work.

Listeners to Radio 4’s flagship Today programme had a field day as the various problems were debated between John Humphrys and a most unhelpful Ms Frostrup who was said to be fuglewoman for the cause of the downtrodden females.

During their lively altercation Carrie Gracie was sitting at the next desk but taking no part in the proceedings.

“Women fume as Humphrys jokes about BBC pay”
Times headline, January 12, 2018

The widespread ineptitude at the BBC has evidently been passed to John Humphrys – during the Today programme in question the following exchange between Mr Humphrys in London and Jon Sopel in America was recorded.

Remember – recorded – not broadcast. Remember also that the feisty Carrie Gracie was sitting next to John Humphrys at the time:

“JH – Oh dear God she’s actually suggested that you should lose money. You know that don’t you?
JS – Yeah I have Yeah.
JH – The idea is I’m not allowed to talk to her about it throughout the whole course of the programme. Not a word.
JS Can we have this conversation somewhere else?”

The last comment by the cautious Mr Sopel was a good example of securing the stable door after the horse had bolted.

To get back to the main issue – how might the BBC get out of this fine mess that it has created for itself?

In my capacity as a company manager I had long supposed that the rate for the job was the same regardless of sex.

I vividly recall the question arising around 30 years ago when I queried the situation. The fiery female HR Officer told me – “Don’t even think about it – just pay it.”

Some male chauvinists might argue that for Carrie Gracie to claim pay parity with her male colleagues is rather like Mr XYZ who plays centre-forward for Solihull Motors claiming pay parity with Harry Kane who plays in the same position for Tottenham Hotspur.

One point to note here is that if both players were to be placed on the transfer list then the asking price for Mr Kane would be significantly more than that asked for Mr XYZ.

The same point would apply to the requested salaries for the two players.

There is a clue here as to how the BBC problem might be resolved.

The point to highlight is the anomalous position occupied by BBC in the world of UK, European and Global media businesses. Its highest paid employees – the senior managers and the celebrity stars – are quick to use the need to pay competitive salaries when he argument to do so is convenient.

So far – so good.

These same advocates also stress the admiration in which the BBC is held across the civilised world and the need to preserve the commendable Reithian standards.

It is time that this self-serving balloon was punctured. The BBC is an organisation responsible to no one, and, at the top, full to the brim with the arrogant, the complacent, the elite, and the mediocre.

Matthew Parris in the piece referred to earlier noted that in the BBC “there are endless meetings and a lurking fear of what other meetings might think”. Mr Parris – there is unanimity across the top echelons of the BBC on one key issue – their the readiness to loot the system to their own financial advantage.

The remedy for this confusion could not be simpler – sell the BBC to the highest bidder.

It would then be interesting to see how the pampered mediocrities get on the real world. Its senior managers and its celebrity stars would soon find out just what value the real world placed on their services.

I suspect that a few of them might be able, via their agents, to negotiate reward packages at or close to the present levels.

A closing, clinching argument – The revenue brought in from the sale of the BBC could help provide the funds for the renationalisation of the privatised utilities.

 The May Reshuffle

The big event in No 10 on the first two days of this week – January 9 and 10 – was the eagerly awaited cabinet reshuffle. There had been numerous press briefings telling the hacks that there was to be an infusion of new blood, new energy, new ideas. Out with the old and in with the new.

How it was done in the good old days:

“I particularly remember when (Lord) Derby was asked by Bonar Law to come and see him. After I had shown him in I went back to my room, The bell rang; I went into Bonar’s room and Bonar said – “David, where did you send Derby?“…. I said to Bonar – “Oh Sir –  you thought of offering him the War Office.”
“Oh yes” said Bonar; “Derby -what about the War Office?
Formation of the cabinet of Mr Bonar Law following the Tory win in the 1922 general election. Memoirs of a Conservative by Lord Davidson

Given that nearly a century has elapsed since the above exchanges one might think that the management of the processes of cabinet selection and of cabinet reshuffles would have become rather more efficient.

It would appear from the accounts of what happened earlier this week that if anything things have got worse.

“What happened, what happened – I’m coming to that” – as WH Auden might have said – indeed as WH Auden did say.

The following selection of headlines from The Times and The Daily Mail indicate the disappointment felt in the media at the gap between the glowing prospects held out during the briefings and the understandable reluctance of some of those marked out for the P45 treatment to go quietly.

It should be noted that the quoted comments are from newspapers not noted for their Bolshevik tendencies.

“Greening quits in shambolic reshuffle”
“Defiance and derision greet May’s day of mixed messages”
“Shambolic day for a powerless prime minister” -Rachel Sylvester
Headlines in The Times, January 9, 2018

“Backroom reshuffles can’t save the Tories”
Lord Finkelstein in The Times, January 10, 2018

The last quote would have caused most concern in Tory HQ because Lord F gave cogent reasons why backroom reshuffles “can’t save the Tories.”

“No Prime Minister!”
“On day of reshuffle chaos, Health Secretary turns down new job and May is forced to sack Education Secretary after she refuses to move”
“May sacks Greening after 2-hour stand off”
“Education Secretary snubbed new cabinet job in clash at No 10”
“But “Unsackable” Hunt defies PM to stay in charge at Health”
Daily Mail headlines, January 9, 2018

The Daily Mail headlines do not suggest that the planned changes had proceeded smoothly and the accompanying reports simply  bruised the flesh on the already bruised bones of the May administration.

The obvious point was made that if Mrs May is unable to manage her own cabinet – and clearly she can’t –  then how she can be trusted to grapple with rather more urgent and serious matters – like Brexit.

“How Theresa’s showdown with Justine turned ugly”
Andrew Pierce, January 10, 2018

The master plan ahead of the meeting between Mrs May and Ms Greening had been to move Ms Greening from Education to Welfare. According to well-informed sources the meeting was ill tempered but the key outcome was that Ms Greening opted to leave the cabinet rather than be moved.

She was said (by the well informed sources) to be furious at being fingered by the No 10 briefers as a contributory factor in the abysmal Tory performance in 2017 election. She did not take kindly to being described as “dead wood” – and who shall blame her.  After saying something along the lines of – you can stick welfare up your  **** – but I wasn’t there and can only conjecture as to her actual words  – out she flounced, looking suitably aggrieved.

Deborah Ross in her Times column on January 10 wrote about the case to raise funds for “the middle aged white men that are the victims of something that didn’t actually happen nonetheless and may be crouched under a table at the Garrick, hoping that this this will all go away, even though it never came.” Trust the acerbic Ms Ross to kick a man when he is down even though he is not actually down.

Reflections on this latest shambles:

  1. Yet further evidence of a Government on its last legs. In my previous blog I opined that Mrs May will not be in No 10 come the end of March.
  2. Meanwhile I suggest that Mrs May seeks the advice of Lord Sugar about the most efficient way of dispensing with the services of those deemed surplus to requirements. I gather that Lord Sugar is commendably crisp in handing out P45s. Get him in, get his advice, and next time – if there is next time – follow it.

 The decline and fall of Toby Young

As with the previous two stories I will get the show on the road via a few headlines:

“Knives out for disgraced Young over role at free schools charity”
The Times, January 10, 2018

One of the knives was inserted by Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the national Education Union, who said that “now his repugnant views were in the open, Mr Young’s role as director of the New Schools Network must be in doubt.”

“Fury as hypocritical Labour MPs force Toby Young to resign”
Daily Mail, January 10, 2018

Mr Young resigned from the board of the Office for Students (OfS) following a furore over inappropriate remarks he made several years ago.

Sadly the main cause of the peevish comments in The Mail was that his critics in the Parliamentary Labour Party had not been equally critical of colleagues in the Labour Party who had been exposed for carrying out similar unseemly activities.

For me the only point to be made here is that politicians from all parties have a long record of selective indignation – evidently it goes with the job.

“Why chumps like my friend Toby should get a second chance”
Headline above a piece in the
Daily Mail by Sarah Vine, by chance the wife of Michael Gove, a close friend and stout defender of Mr Young, January 10, 2018

The gist of the story

  1. Toby Young was recently appointed to a nice little earner on the board of the OfS.
  2. It belatedly appeared that Mr Young had been in the habit of sending out Twitter messages that some might consider as verging on the indelicate.

The Times published a small sample of his tweets, one of which read as follows.

“Referring to a publicity shot of himself with Padma lakshmi, fellow judge on US TV show Top Chef who he appeared to be touching, he said:-

-Actually, mate, I had my d**k up her a**e -”

We can all decide for ourselves if we consider the writer of pithy little tales like this and hundreds more is just a chump and that he should be given a second chance.

What do you think?

  1. My Young was initially inclined to tough it out – but it soon appeared that he was fighting a losing battle.
  2. He fell on his sword in the full glare of the media lights.

The publication date of the most recent edition of Private Eye magazine was too late to include the news about Mr Young’s resignation. It did, however, publish a piece about Toby Young which dwelt at some length on other aspects of his career. Friends of Young (including Messrs Gove and Johnson) had emphasized his passion to improve education standards in schools, a passion which he had pursued tirelessly in recent years.

Private Eye drew attention to the fact that Toby Young had done very nicely from his activities with New Schools Network, a charity that promotes academies and free schools and relies heavily on government funding.

Now – we are getting warm.

Last year I wrote a blog about the pros – not many – and cons – no shortage – of academies. At one point I wrote the following:

“Let me speculate about the probable consequences of a mass transfer of schools from Local Authority control to management by super heads. I predict that  the teaching profession will be invaded by a Tsunami of Arthur Daleys masquerading as pedagogues, but  in reality in hot pursuit of a quick buck, the sort of quick buck easily acquired by those familiar with the no mans land of the public – private sector, a world where the public funds the business and the private operators  scoop up the profits, if any. We are looking at an educational version of the City of London populated and run by spivs for spivs, all avid for frenetic activity in the business of mergers and acquisitions.

“More prosaically my concerns about this switch to academies centre on the following points.

1.Arrangements have been in place for many years whereby the control of schools rests with democratically elected local authorities.

“My contention is that to the extent that these bodies are failing to discharge their responsibilities then the public has the means to take effective actions.

  1. My main concern is that this transition to academies will divert the attention of Head Teachers away from the core task of providing the best possible education for all pupils to one of casting about for ways of maximising their own  reward packages.

“In short I see a replay of the squalid farce that has been enacted in Higher Education with the shameless looting by Vice Chancellors of the unguarded public funds.

“I see a significant number of Academy CEOs plunging into wholly unnecessary restructuring in order to line their pockets at the expense of pupils and of the public.

  1. I would go further and predict that if the dash to academies wins out, in a few years time the standard of education will suffer a further decline, a decline that is wholly avoidable.”

Unlike Toby Young with his unseemly tweets, I would not retract or redact of what I wrote about academy schools.

It is wholly apposite that the two most prominent defenders of Toby Young are the GOBO (GOveBOris), the Guilty Men of the Brexit farce.

The Prospects for Brexit in 2018


“The idea that Brexit can be stopped is a dangerous delusion that ignores the continuing revolt against political elites.”

Daniel Finkelstein, The Times, 3 January 2018


My text for today is the excellent article by Lord Finkelstein published on January 3. As always with Lord F his piece is infuriatingly plausible and irritatingly reasonable. I doubt if the case for accepting the result of the referendum could be put more persuasively. And yet I still take the view that the out decision should be reversed although I am far from clear as to how this might be achieved.


The key point of his article is not that there is no possibility that the ‘out’ decision is irreversible and he concedes that a way might be found to achieve precisely this objective. The thrust of his article is that that if this were to happen- “ the damage done to trust in democracy would be huge. Unless the second referendum arose from a huge public clamour (which is incredibly unlikely) millions will conclude that their vote and the promise made to them were worthless when they challenged the interests and attitudes of the political establishment.”


Well – only up to a point, Lord F.


Lord Finkelstein compares and contrasts the stance of Lord Adonis with regard to reversing the ‘out’ outcome with his own stance. He readily concedes that on the merits of the case he and Lord A are as one.


“Where we part company, rather sharply, is the idea that there is no self mutilation  involved in parliament overwhelmingly voting in favour of a referendum, telling voters it would implement the decision and then deciding not to.”


On the following day Tony Blair was asked by John Humphreys about how the various forces that were said to be gathering momentum (sorry about using that bad word) to reverse the ‘out’ outcome. The old maestro was in splendid form as Aggro Humphreys tried and failed to pin him down. Was this outcome an indication of the waning powers of Mr Humphreys, a confirmation of what we all knew and still know, namely that TB remains a very bright star in the political firmament, or, quite possibly, evidence that the electorate is becoming increasingly mindful that it got it wrong back in June 2016?


Most likely – a combination of all three factors.


A brief reminder of how we got ourselves in this fine mess or to be precise, how we were landed in this fine mess and who got us into it. 


The gist of how we got to where we are can be succinctly stated.


1. David Cameron, faced with the prospect of being outflanked by UKIP, foolishly decided to resolve the long festering in/out sore, by making an in-out referendum a key element of the Conservative party manifesto prior to the  2015 general election.


2. He added significantly to the rashness of his decision by banking on the previously declared support of Boris Johnson that the UK should remain in the EU.  What can one say about the judgement of a prime minister capable of such a gross error of judgement?


3. Cameron realised soon enough that he had miscalculated as the in-out campaign got under way, and Boris, sensing his opportunity, threw all his considerable talent for mendacity to campaign for an ‘out’ outcome.


4. Cameron put his party before his country in agreeing to the referendum.


4. Cameron paid in full for his errors, the outs had it, and he promptly resigned.


5. In the ensuing campaign to succeed him as Tory leader and, more importantly, as our PM, Boris was mortified – to his chagrin and to the huge delight of many opponents and neutrals – by the predictable treachery of Mr Gove. Well, it takes one to know one. It is worth noting that Boris put the interests of Boris ahead of the interests of the Tory Party and of the Country and no one should have been surprised by this flexibility.


6. The Tory faithful then gave the bum’s rush to Mr Gove and Mrs May strode through the gap that had opened up to become our PM. The trivial fact that she had previously been a cautious advocate of remaining in Europe was obviously not going to prevent her from seizing this fortuitous main chance.


7. Mrs May proceeded to make a hash of everything she attempted in her new role as Prime Minister, culminating in her decision to call a general election in June, 2017. The flighty electorate seized its chance to issue a comeuppance to her and duly did so. (Note – a sure sign of a desperate Brexiteer is one who asserts that Mrs May won the June 2017 election.)


And so, what might be termed the gist of the gist of the above:


1. David Cameron made two foolish errors and paid the price for his folly in full.


2. The dynamic duo – Gove and Johnson – let us refer to them as GOBO – failed to win the approval of the Tory faithful in the ensuing beauty contest.


3. Mrs May emerged initially as the winner, but since her “victory” has continued to dig herself deeper and deeper into trouble


Lord Finkelstein argues, under the flimsiest of democratic pleas, that the rest of us should accept the consequences of this lamentable catalogue of deplorable opportunism, errors and failures executed by a tiny group of shady, shabby, wholly discredited Tory chancers.


I have been a consistent supporter of the European Union for many years. For the reasons noted earlier I opposed the whole idea of resolving the issue via a referendum. I don’t believe in keeping a dog and doing your own barking.  I was dismayed by the outcome but not surprised by the slippery behaviour of GOBO.


If the situation changes – so should you


“In the course of time as circumstances change and the issues are altered we may find it necessary to change some part of the programme; that will not be because we thought the programme was wrong but just because it might be readjusted to changing conditions. You know, comrades, to change programmes is not an admission or error, other all history would be a series of confessionals.”

Aneurin Bevan, speech to the Labour Party Conference in 1959.


“Fuck Dacre”

A shrewd comment taken from the collected sayings of Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch was talking about a different Dacre – to be precise he was referring to Hugh Trevor Roper – but what of it – his pithy dismissal  applies even more so to Dacre of The Daily Mail 


 Is it being undemocratic to seek to reverse the ‘out’ outcome?


Not at all and here is why.


I see what is happening via Brexit as a national disaster and it would absurd to proceed given the basis on which on which the referendum was conceived and how the largely uncertain pros and cons were presented to a bemused electorate, irresponsibly deceived and stampeded by GOBO. 


The old military maxim – do not reinforce failure – is of relevance here. 


“Why a second referendum is a lost cause”

Headline above a column by Philip Collins, The Times January 5, 2018 


Mr Collins simply plays Little Sir Echo to the points made previously in The Times by Lord Finkelstein. At one point Mr Collins notes that “back in the day (when Mr Blair was PM) the brains who powered the Labour party made up the most formidable electoral team in modern political history”. Collins is quite right to make this point – Blair was the most accomplished harvester of voters in modern times. Collins was also uncharacteristically shy when he omitted his own key role in this formidably electoral team.


In the long years since the departure of Tony Blair from No 10, Collins has contented himself with writing columns of quite startling blandness for The Times. Might he be persuaded to resume his former career as a mouthpiece for Blair? Once a pen for sale – always a pen for sale.


“Humphrys mauls Blair over call for new EU poll”

James Groves, Daily Mail, January 5, 2018


Well – James Groves would say that, wouldn’t he?


“Lies, damned lies and Blair on Brexit”

Headline above Daily Mail editorial, January 5, 2018 


Well – the Daily Mail leader writer would write that, wouldn’t he/she?


No surprises there.


Whither Brexit — Key points to consider. 


1. Brexit is the only political show in town – all other political issues are being relegated to the sidelines. Please note that a major reshuffle at the top of HMG  is rumoured to be in prospect. P 45s for some cabinet ministers are said to have been made out and are ready to the aforesaid cabinet ministers – – so be it. (See the stop press for an update here. )



NHS said to be in chaos – for now – just give Mr Hunt a good kicking.


Sanity of Mr Trump is questioned – nothing new there. Actually there is something new here – see later notes.


Rail transport in the home counties remains in chaos – for now – give Mr Grayling a good kicking. 


And so it goes on, with all issues other than Brexit being relegated to back burner status. 


 2. All the self proclaimed insiders are united on one point – HMG is in chaos as it tries to pick its way through the tangle that is Brexit


As one blogger wrote – 


“To this outsider, the proceedings at the heart of HMG can best be summed as the ongoing effing fiasco. In no special order the collective performance of Mrs May and her cabinet colleagues can be described as faltering, floundering, foundering, failing, flailing, frustrated, fulminating, festering, furious and fractious.


Another eff word suggested itself but this is a family blog and the decencies must be observed.”


 3.  Parliamentary arithmetic


“Eleven Conservative MPs led by Dominic Grieve QC collaborated with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and other opposition parties to demand that they rather than Theresa May should approve or block our withdrawal from the EU.”

Quentin Letts. Daily Mail, December 15, 2017 


The eleven rebels were duly Dacred – or, if you prefer, vilified, by Dacre and his underlings, an outcome which cannot have surprised them.


“This country has long grown used to Lord Heseltine’s love affair with the EU. But when the 84 year old grandee suggests Brexit would do more damage than a Corbyn led government, it is surely time to summon the men in white coats.”

Daily Mail micro editorial, December 27, 2017 


Lord Heseltine would have known that he was setting himself up to be Dacred and he was right and he was duly Dacred.


However this particular gem raised the same issue as that currently being raised about Mr Trump – is he losing the plot.? (Note in the case of Mr Trump – the answer is -yes!)


“May rift with Davis as he admits Brexit might not happen”

Mail on Sunday headline, December 31, 2017 


This headline from the Daily Mail’s stable mate paper gave further evidence that all is not well at the top of HMG.


Mr Davis has been showing signs of strain as he attempts a task comparable to all the labours of Hercules. It would not be surprising if in an unguarded moment he let slip his view that Brexit was by no means the foregone conclusion demanded and predicted by Mrs May.


And so it goes on a daily basis as we, the public, anxiously scan the print media and listen to the broadcasters for developments on  the Brexit – who has gone over to the Remain cause? Who is rumoured to be about to switch sides? It is all enthralling entertaining stuff.


 A few prosaic Brexit points


* The May government is sustained only with the support of the DUP – a shaky flaky foundation.


* There are growing signs of restiveness within the Tory ranks as the unfortunate combination of ineptitude and friction at the top of HMG becomes more evident by the day.


* What about Mr Corbyn – said by many to be shrewdly keeping his powder dry and relying on Mrs May to dig not only her own political grave but also that of the lame Tory government? The critics of Mr Corbyn – he has his share, including, of course, Paul Dacre – have suggested that he has taken this approach too far and that his impersonation of Mr Micawber waiting for something to turn up has been rather overdone and needs to be replaced by something rather more positive. (Shadow Cabinet – please note.)


 A slight digression – a word about the delicate situation within the Parliamentary Labour Party


Conventional wisdom back in the summer of 2015 had it that the plausible three candidates -Burnham, Cooper and Kendall – were all thought to be capable of giving David Cameron a run for his money, a run that did not exclude their arrival in No 10.


How did it come about that a candidate widely perceived as a no hoper BEFORE the leadership election was elected by a huge majority over the plausible three?


I can only guess at the reason(s)  for the unexpected outcome but I suspect that by far the most crucial reason in the minds of the 2015 electorate was that the election of any one of the plausible three would simply represent more of the same and that the electors in their collective wisdom comprehensively rejected that option. 


This raises the question – how does a party deal with a situation in which a huge gap opens up between the views and aspirations of the leaders and the led. Just as the great majority of Labour MPS had no  confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, so, or so it would appear,  the great majority of Labour Party members  had lost confidence in their elected representatives in the House of Commons.


It would not be easy to find high calibre replacements for the vast majority of the current crop of Labour Party MPs. Equally it would not be easy to discard the current crop of around half a million seemingly truculent party members and replace them  with the same number of pliable tranquil equable members.


Over to you Mr Corbyn.


What next? 


I am mindful that the UK political pundits collectively have a dismal track record in terms of their ability to make accurate forecasts of the outcomes of recent appeals to the electorate. Additionally and significantly the judgements of Mr Cameron and Mrs May have been notably way off the mark.


If the professionals can and do get it so badly wrong – what chance have I got?


In any event – here goes.


Possible outcomes include:-


Mrs May stays in No 10 until 2022 – her preferred outcome. The bookies are currently quoting roughly evens as the odds of Mrs May still being in office by the end of 2018.


Mrs May opts for another election – this is the least likely outcome given how badly she got it wrong last time.


Mrs May loses a vote of confidence triggering a general electionThis is by far the likeliest outcome given the continuing  of loss of support for Mrs May from within her own party, together with the jumping ship of key current Brexiteers as they realise that the game is up.


So – where does Holdenforth stand?


I predict that:-


* The lack of any alternative candidates perceived as being able to implement Brexit is the ONLY factor that is now sustaining  Mrs May in office.


* Mrs May will lose a vote of confidence.


* This will happen no later than the middle of 2018 and probably within the next 2 or 3 months given the steady draining away of support for her. 


* This event  will trigger her departure from No 10.


* The resulting leadership contest will end with – you tell me – in No 10. 


* The ensuing general election will be fought solely on the Brexit issue.


*  A  new political group will emerge Phoenix like from the ashes of Brexit to despatch Brexit into the dustbin of history where it belongs.


 Stop Press items from your oracular blogger –  January 7


 May set to axe “pale and stale” Ministers

Mail on Sunday headline. January 7, 2018


A senior government source said ”Theresa understands that, when voters look at her government, they see a lot of stale, male and pale Ministers who are on the wrong side of 50. She will be promoting more women and those from non-white backgrounds and there will be more of an emphasis on youth.

From the same Mail on Sunday report


So – the pale stale male aged Ministers are being lined up as fall guys – and why not?


Mr Marr grills Mrs May on “The Andrew Marr Show” – January 7.


I gave this one a miss on the grounds that Mrs May might have taken a leaf out of Marr’s book and taken out an injunction banning the raising by him of awkward questions.  


You never know these days.


 A gem from the Mail on Sunday on which to finish.


“ Wilson’s spin doctor: One of us must be a liar. You’ll have to judge who.”

Headline above a piece by Joe Haines in the Mail on Sunday,  January 7, 2018 


The issue in question refers to disputed authorship of the notorious Lavender List which surfaced after the resignation of Harold Wilson in 1976.


Joe Haines, one time press secretary for Harold Wilson, points the finger at Marcia Williams. Those of us with long memories will recall that Joe Haines wrote a hagiography of the portly pilferer, Robert Maxwell after leaving Number 10.


Like Andrew Marr – Joe Haines has form.


As Mr Richard Littlejohn might put it – you couldn’t make it up.


Image courtesy of BBC


The Prospects for Brexel 2: A Second Brexit Election

Brexel 1 – My term for the general election called by Mrs May in June 2017. Her sole reason for calling Brexel 1 was to strengthen her negotiating position with the other 27 EU countries – an objective which she failed by a wide margin to achieve.

Brexel 2 – My term for the forthcoming General Election which will be fought mainly on the painfully protracted pros and cons of Brexit.

Those arguing for the latter will be seeking to reverse the outcome of the in/out referendum held in June 2016.

Let me declare an interest at the outset – I remain a committed Remainer. My devotion to the Remainer cause grows stronger with every development and revelation.

Two other definitions:

Brexit – common term to denote the scheduled departure from European Institutions by the UK.

Mexit – My term for the likely departure of Mrs May from No 10 before the end of January, 2018

“Not another one” – A lament from Brenda – from Bristol – on hearing that Mrs May, bolstered by her walk in the Welsh Hills, had called for a general election on June 8th.

My dear Brenda from Bristol – I’m afraid that the events which triggered your exasperation back in June, 2017 are about to be repeated and that another general election will be called in the very near future.

“They (the Labour Party) can be the party for overturning the referendum altogether… Or they can let the government have its way. There are no other options.”
Lord Finkelstein, The Times, December 6, 2017

I am not sure that Lord Finkelstein is right in his clear short list of options for the Labour party. However I hope that the Labour Party DOES opt to reverse the June 23, 2016 referendum and that the Labour Party wins the Brexel 2 election.

A stroll down memory lane – Notes on the turbulent 2 years from the 2015 general election to the June, 2017 general election

General Election held in June 2015:- The Conservatives managed to shake off the shackles that had tied them to the Lib Dems and secure a narrow but perfectly workable overall majority over all the other parties combined.  A happy day for David Cameron.

The only cloud on the horizon – soon to become a typhoon – was his rash but firm promise to hold a referendum on the UK membership of the EU.

Two immediate casualties of the Tory win were the departures of Mr Miliband (E) and Mr Clegg from their jobs as the leaders of the Labour party and of the Liberal Democrats respectively.

September, 2015 – In the election held to determine the replacement for Mr Miliband (E) – Mr Corbyn won by a large margin, securing around 60% of the votes cast, with the remaining 40% shared between Mr Burnham, Ms Cooper and Ms Kendall. Given that Mr Corbyn only made it onto the list of candidates because of a capricious decision by some senior Labour figures – who ought to have known better – to make the contest more diverse and more interesting – this was a truly astonishing outcome.

June 23, 2016 — The date of the in-out referendum – another startling result – a narrow majority in favour of leaving the EU – consternation and recriminations all round.

The main casualty here was Mr Cameron himself – he resigned immediately, thus triggering an election for a new leader of the Tory party and, rather more importantly, a new prime minister.

There followed a few weeks of entertaining farce the highlight of which was the knifing of BOJO by Michael Gove – oh joy unbounded. Mr Gove came a poor third in the first ballot thus demonstrating the shrewd judgement of the Tory electorate. There was a further confused interval in which Mrs Leadsom fell by the wayside after suggesting that maternity should be an essential qualification for a woman Prime Minister.

The thought occurred to me that, according to this novel criterion in the election process, my mother, and the mother of my 8 siblings would have been admirably qualified for a leadership role – but I digress.

September, 2016 – Meanwhile Labour MPs were far too pre-occupied with their own problems to worry about the internal and national and international problems afflicting the Tory party.

Mr Corbyn had not managed to win the hearts and minds of the Parliamentary Labour Party and accordingly enough pressure built up to force a second leadership election on the grounds that there was a widespread lack of confidence in his performance. JC was judged to be a decent enough chap but sadly it was felt that under his leadership the Labour Party was unelectable.

It was unfortunate that the MP who stood against him, Owen Smith, had recently been rejected by the electorate as the Labour candidate in Blaenau Gwent – one of the safest labour seats in Westminster.

Obviously Mr Smith had relevant painful first hand experience about who is and who is not electable.

For whatever reason or combination of reasons Mr Corbyn scored a second overwhelming majority.

November, 2016 – yet another surprising outcome from the democratic process, this time with global implications and repercussions – Mr Trump was elected President USA – as if the world did not have enough problems. Mr Trump is currently arranging for the US embassy in Israel to relocate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a change that has not won universal approval in the Arab world, or indeed anywhere else on the globe.

April 17, 2017 – I recall that I went walking in the Welsh hills and that my feelings were limited to jubilation when I made it to the top of Waun Rhyd.

April 18, 2017 – Mrs May was and is made of sterner stuff. After her walk in the Welsh hills at around the same time she announced that there would be a General Election on June 8. She explained her decision to renege on her previous resolve not hold an election because it was important to demonstrate to our EU partners that we were as one in our collective resolve to make our own way in the political life to come.
Given the importance of the Brexit issue throughout the campaign I referred to the election as the Brexel election – there is much fun to be had by manipulating those 4 letters – BREX.

April 18 to June 8 – A protracted election campaign which to a considerable degree centred on the extent to which the Tories would increase the slender but adequate lead – to be precise 17 – secured by Mr Cameron just 12 months previously.

My own prediction of the result was based on what the bookmakers were predicting – after all what do I know? The bookies were predicting not the outcome that I hoped for but the outcome that I dreaded – a Tory majority of around 90 seats over all other parties combined.

It is worth repeating the gist of the various forecasts and of the possible consequences of each forecast.

Those with long memories will recall that the Tory Brexel strategy was excessively focused on the alleged strengths of Mrs May and the perceived fragility of Mr Corbyn.

Firstly, if the Tory majority was actually diminished, the consensus was that (a) Mrs May would resign immediately and that (b) Jeremy Corbyn would be very secure in his position as Labour leader.

If the Tories secured a majority of, say, 18-40, then a weakened Mrs May would solider on (Corbyn again secure); 41-75, and May’s decision to go to the polls is justified, while Corbyn might cling on; 76 and above (the outcome predicted by the bookmakers with 12 hours to go before the election) would have represented a ringing endorsement for May, and a P45 for Corbyn.

June 8, 2017 – The Brexel/ Brexit General Election – a very significant day in the political history of the UK.

“What happened, what happened, I’m coming to that”
The Witnesses – WH Auden

Mrs May lost her majority and her authority was significantly eroded.

Mr Corbyn was and remains understandably jubilant.

Some – not all – Tory party knives were out for Mrs May.

Many Labour MPs who were hoping to see the back of Corbyn were both wrong footed and crestfallen by actual outcome.

A BBC documentary – “Labour – the summer that changed everything”- recently reported on the confusion within the ranks of the Parliamentary Labour Party as the likely consequences of the actual outcome sank in. Cue for a mass switch by Labour Party MPs as they grasped the implications for themselves of the outcome.

The programme makes for highly entertaining and rewarding viewing and I can recommend it – via Youtube.

I was very pleased about the outcome but rattled about my inability to sense the change in the public mood – I had gloomily albeit confidently anticipated that the Bookies would get it right.

I suspect that Paddy Power and William Hill et al will in future stick with the outcomes of rather more rational and predictable matters – the Bookmaker business model allows zero scope for losses.

Notes on the even more turbulent 6 months from June 9 to date

In the immediate aftermath of Brexel 1 – a shaky understanding was arrived at with the DUP – not a coalition – in order to enable Mrs May to stay in No 10. This shaky understanding was adequately lubricated with a large bribe from a government that had been previously stressing the need for austerity and belt tightening.

To this outsider, the proceedings at the heart of HMG since the arrival in No 10 of Mrs May in June 2016 can best be summed as the ongoing effing fiasco. In no special order the collective performance of Mrs May and her cabinet colleagues can be described as faltering, floundering, foundering, failing, flailing, frustrated, fulminating, festering, furious and fractious.

Another eff word suggested itself but the decencies must be observed.

What about Mrs May?

“We have the weakest PM in living memory
The time has come to acknowledge that Theresa May is unsuited to leadership and must be replaced urgently
Headlines above a piece by Iain Martin, The Times, December 7, 2017

Mr Martin was less than well disposed towards Mrs May and he explained his views in a thousand well chosen words.

Sadly his piece descended into bathos in his last paragraph – “ whether the job falls to Michael Gove or Amber Rudd or Boris Johnson, the key figures need to meet immediately … to agree on a replacement.”

This somewhat implausible suggestion raises the question – did Mr Martin get this fairy tale from GOBO?

So – what happens next? – Possible outcomes to the Mexit dilemma

At some early date a sufficient number of Tory MPs – a dozen or so will do the trick – may decide that they can’t take any more, and trigger a confidence vote which would be lost thus precipitating a General Election.

Or, Mrs May – no one else – decides that attack is the best form of defence and calls a General Election. Her persuasive logic here would be that Brexel 2 would be rather more about issues – to be precise about Brexit – and rather less about strong and stable leadership as was the case with Brexel 1

What outcomes do I want :- In no special order –

A coalition to be formed comprising all those whose over-riding political objective is to reverse the outcome of the June 2016 referendum.

In terms of practical politics – I hope and suspect that this coalition will consist of a Labour Party that will have undergone a dramatic conversion similar to that experienced by St Paul en route from Jerusalem to Damascus – Jericho, together with all the Lib Dems, the SNP and a significant number of Tories weary of the Brexit fiasco.

A brief digression.

“Brexit tribes are tearing our country in two- The lazy labels of “Remainer” and “Leaver” are stifling debate and spreading hateful stereotypes”
Headline above a piece by Clare Foges The Times December 4

Ms Foges castigates those responsible for creating a tetchy climate of mutual antagonism rather than rational exchanges of views.

At one point she noted that “Remainers are cast as the metropolitan elite ( I live in the suburbs of Pontypool), the ones drinking stupidly expensive coffee – (I never drink coffee) – who are to be found campaigning for transgender toilets – not a topic when I was in my prime many years ago – and – so on and so on.

My failure to fit in to any of the various alleged attributes of the Remainer tribe caused me to worry – albeit briefly – if I am in the wrong tribe.

Back to a plausible manifesto for the Remainers in the forthcoming Brexel 2
A selection along the following lines should do the trick
1.1 – The UK to stay in Europe. After the Brexit election has been won – back to Business as Usual.  All other electoral issues pale into insignificance by comparison.
1.2. Nationalise the utilities. This proposal has nothing to do with the ideology of Karl Marx and everything to do with restraining the avarice of senior managers as they ruthlessly exploit their monopoly and near monopoly positions in the national economy.
1.3 – Tax rates for the rich to soar way above the modest 50% suggested by Mr McDonnell. The logic behind this proposal is to encourage those on the highest incomes to spend a little more time on the work that they are paid to do and a little less time on looting the system – Vice Chancellors – please note – we know where you live.
1.4. For senior managers in the financial sector – bring in other measures over and above increasing the top rate of tax. These other measures to end the payment of bonus elements designed by themselves and their cronies. The principal reward element to be that senior managers get to keep their jobs if it can be demonstrated that their performance is up to the required standard.
1.5. “The Winner’s Shout, the losers curse/Dance before dead England’s hearse.
William Blake -”Auguries of Innocence
It is bad enough being poor, bad enough not having a secure job, bad enough having no access to affordable housing without the exposure to the vultures looking to loot the most vulnerable in our society. There are plenty more opportunities to put some flesh on the bones of Mr Corbyn’s wish to govern for the many not the few but these will suffice for now.

Mr Corbyn – what has he been up to in the past six months.
* Wisely keeping his head down and his powder dry
* Ongoing abuse from Messrs Dacre and Murdoch – no surprise there
* Possibly relishing the discomfort of those in the party who had sought his departure.

A brief Corbyn digression

Conventional wisdom back in the summer of 2015 had it that the plausible three candidates -Burnham, Cooper and Kendall – were all thought to be capable of giving David Cameron a run for his money, a run that did not exclude arrival in No 10. How did it come about that a candidate widely perceived as a no hoper BEFORE the leadership election was elected by a huge majority over the plausible three?

I can only guess at the reason(s) for the unexpected outcome but I suspect that by far the most crucial reason in the minds of the 2015 electorate was that the election of any one of the plausible 3 would simply represent more of the same and that the electors in their collective wisdom comprehensively rejected that option.

This raises the question – how does a party deal with a situation in which a huge gap opens up between the views and aspirations of the leaders and the led.

Just as the great majority of Labour MPS had no confidence in JC, so, or so it would appear, the great majority of Labour Party members had lost confidence in their elected representatives in the House of Commons.

It would not be easy to find high calibre replacements for the vast majority of the current crop of Labour Party MPs. Equally it would not be easy to discard the current crop of around half a million seemingly truculent party members and replace them with the same number of pliable tranquil equable members.

A Situation Report as of December 2017

According to some reports
* Labour lead the Tories at the polls
* Remainers lead brexiteers in the polls, especially among the young
* Most MPs would reverse the outcome of the June 2016 if the opportunity to do so were to arise. Well I have news for them – that opportunity may well be imminent.
* The most accomplished harvester of votes in modern times is said to be preparing to re-enter the political arena to support our continued membership of the EU.  MY ACE TO BE TONY BLAIR.

Dec14, 2017

Stop press – The Roller Coaster effect
1. Mrs May returns triumphant from Brussels – a worthy successor to the Iron Lady

2. Whoops – we spoke too soon –
“Eleven egotists and act of sheer treachery
Headline above a Daily Mail editorial – December 14.
It seems a bit over the top to compare the eleven rebels to Mr Quisling and Lord Haw Haw but, as noted, we are living in turbulent times.

3. What about an election slogan for the remainers in the Brexel 2 contest that is just around the corner
How about – from the collected sayings of Rupert Murdoch – F*** Dacre