Heseltine gets handbagged – one last time

Posted on April 11, 2013

An email arrives. Even after her death, it seems the Iron Lady still has an acute political aim:

 

APPG MEETING 17 APRIL  CANCELLED

Rebalancing: A discussion with Michael Heseltine

THE DISCUSSION WITH MICHAEL HESELTINE ON WEDNESDAY 17 APRIL HAS UNFORTUNATELY BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO BARONESS THATCHER’S FUNERAL. PORTCULLIS HOUSE WILL BE DIFFICULT TO ACCESS ON THE DAY BECAUSE THE FUNERAL PROCESSION IS SET TO START FROM WESTMINSTER AND THERE WILL BE SUBSTANTIAL SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS. WE WILL ANNOUNCE THE RESCHEDULED DATE IN DUE COURSE.

 All Party Parliamentary Group on Rebalancing the British Economy

Exclusive preview clip of the new ‘Yes, Prime Minister’

Posted on January 14, 2013

Yes, Prime Minister – one leg of the holy tripod of British political comedy, the others being The New Statesman and The Thick Of It – is back. And I am pleased to present a CrashBangWallace exclusive preview of the new series:

The new series starts tomorrow at 9pm on Gold. Will it live up to its legendary status? We’ll have to wait and see…

Exclusive: that new Kate portrait put right

Posted on January 11, 2013

The National Portrait Gallery have just unveiled the first official Royal portrait of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. As a portrayal of  famously beautiful woman, it’s received what could politely be called a mixed reaction:

Kate portrait

Personally, I think the most amazing thing is that way that only one of her eyes follows you round the room. How on earth have the NPG managed to commission a painting so iffy that it has already been nicknamed #CrosseyedKate?

As a public service, courtesy of @MrAndyBoy, CrashBangWallace.com can present an exclusive reworking of the portrait, putting it right with a tender combination of sensitivity and expertise.

At last we have the image in the full glory that it deserves:

Kate Portrait corrected

That’s better.

More BBC Bolsheviks

Posted on December 06, 2012

Steve Baker MP, one of the libertarians on the green benches, has an interesting report over at the Commentator about the BBC. He has complained to the Corporation that a recent BBC News piece about the ways in which China’s murderous totalitarianism is supposedly superior to democracy neglected to mention that the author, Martin Jacques, was formerly a senior figure in the Communist Party.

Needless to say, Auntie replied to say that she sees no reason why it might be misleading to portray Jacques simply as an “economist”, with no mention of his political affiliations.

Steve’s article is worth a read – and I suspect this won’t be the last we’ll hear of the case.

Furthermore, it seems Martin Jacques isn’t the only fan of communist revolutionaries who walks the BBC’s corridors.

Newsnight’s famously lefty Economics Editor, Paul Mason, was tweeting away earlier this week celebrating the fact that moving the Beeb’s HQ to the West End meant the arrival of “6000 unionised media workers…in Soho” would push the media world to the Left.

His comparison of choice was to call New Broadcasting House the “Putilov Factory of [the] media economy” – after the St Petersburg factory widely credited as the hub from which communist ideas spread in the run-up to the Russian Revolution.

It’s a slightly odd choice of heroes to worship – we’d best hope that the impact he hopes the NUJ will have on London’s media won’t be as negative as the impact the Putilovites had on long-suffering Russians.

For that matter, let’s hope the Beeboids don’t suffer the same fate as their Putilov predecessors. Having sparked the revolution, the factory’s workers soon became disillusioned and denounced the Soviet state as a “dictatorship”.

Their reward for criticising the masters they put into power was for 200 of them to be executed by Lenin’s secret police. Perhaps the BBC’s Bolsheviks should be careful what they wish for.

Back to School, Back to Maggie Bashing

Posted on September 05, 2012

Well, it’s back to school week, and it appears the lefty Maggie-bashers among our teaching community are hard at work already. Tom Chapman, the Deputy Chairman of Leicestershire South CF, spotted this poster go up at his school in Leicestershire:

 

It’s an exam guide, themed around a pretty vicious attack on Margaret Thatcher – nice to see our schools aren’t pumping kids full of political propaganda.

The photo quality isn’t great, so if you can’t read it here is a handy summary of what it says around the Margaret Thatcher cartoon:

Meet Maggie the Evil Examiner

Don’t forget to PEE her off
To really get under her skin use the PEE chain. Make a POINT, give your EVIDENCE, and then EXPLAIN yourself!

Obsessive
Maggie is obsessed with key words so make sure every answer has them!

The Milk Snatcher
Maggie actually hates children so ruin her day by writing an excellent set of exams!

Do you measure up?
Maggie actually uses a ruler to measure your answers so make sure you write enough for each question.

Maggie the cynic!
Maggie trusts nobody. This means that you must use examples in your answer to prove you are right.

Cheat! Idiot!
Maggie cheated on her exams and is really quite thick. This means that you have to explain everything to her. Write idiot proof sentences.

Aside from the poor writing, and the questionable approach of teaching kids contempt for their examiners rather than simply how to do well, this is an outrageous piece of nakedly political propaganda. By what right do lefty teachers tell children that one of our greatest Prime Ministers is “evil” and “thick”, “hates children” and “cheated on her exams”?

Is it too much to ask that children are taught facts rather than hatred?

“Don’t forget to bring your cheque book”: Virendra Sharma MP’s office breach Parliamentary rules

Posted on April 02, 2012

The way MPs use their taxpayer-funded expenses and facilities is an area the public are understandably concerned about. The MPs’ expenses scandal was a disinfecting burst of sunshine into some pretty dingy corners of Westminster and led to a welcome clear-out of some representatives of the people who saw the rules merely as recommendations.

One element of the rules which is long-standing and extremely clear is that MPs’ Parliamentary resources (staff time, computers etc) is explicitly and solely for use in their Parliamentary duties. As the Members’ Handbook puts it:

“These facilities and services are provided in order to assist Members in their parliamentary work. They should be used appropriately, in such a way as to ensure that the reputation of the House is not put at risk. They should not be used for party political campaigning or private business activity.

Apparently not all Members are so keen on this rule.

Last Wednesday, the following email was sent out by Julian Bell, researcher for Virendra Sharma MP, apparently to all members of their constituency Labour Party:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: BELL, Julian <BELLJG@parliament.uk>
Date: 28 March 2012 13:48
Subject: Dr Onkar Sahota’s GLA Campaign Launch – This Saturday 7 untill 10 pm at the Dominion Centre, The Green, Southall, UB2 4BQ
To: XXXXXX@XXXXXXX.XXX

Dear Member,

The Mayoral and GLA campaign has now entered the legal short stage and there are only 36 days to polling day on 3rd May. With their budget for millionaires and a Tory Councillor being suspended for a racist blog they really are the same old Tories. Tory Mayor Boris Johnson and Tory Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes are no different and there will be no better chance than now to kick them out of office.

In order to do just that and to launch Dr Onkar Sahota’s campaign for Ealing and Hillingdon we are holding a campaign launch and fundraising meeting this Saturday 31st March at 7 pm at the Dominion Centre, The Green, Southall, UB2 4BQ. Please come along and give Onkar your support. Bring along other Party members and enjoy an evening of politics, food, drink and socialising. Don’t forget to bring your cheque book.

Best wishes,
Steve Pound MP
John McDonnell MP
Virendra Sharma MP
Cllr Julian Bell
Cllr Mo Khursheed
 —-

As you can see, it is from a Parliamentary email account, written by a Parliamentary researcher and yet is a highly partisan invitation to a party political election campaign event, which doubles as a party fundraiser. There can be no doubt this is a breach of the very clear rules of the House of Commons.I’ve always thought the MPs’ expenses scandal was unlikely to be the last we would see of MPs abusing their position – but I didn’t necessarily expect it to start again so soon. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is unlikely to be very pleased about this, I suspect.

Fallout from the Blond bombshell

Posted on March 16, 2012

Following Wednesday’s exclusive release of letters from one of Phillip Blond’s donors, NESTA, the organisation’s Head of Media Relations, Jan Singleton, has been in touch with an interesting update. She tells me that following the final letter:

Respublica offered to make significant improvements to their reports. This means that the only payment NESTA made was for revised reports that met the standards set out in the original contract. One report did not meet those standards and was not paid for.

Yes, that’s right  – even after a wholesale rewrite of the reports that had taken well beyond their deadlines to produce in the first place, Phillip Blond’s ResPublica still couldn’t get all of them up to scratch.

The question is now how long ResPublica can survive as it becomes increasingly clear that the Emperor is stark naked. Alienating existing and would-be donors is not exactly the way to give yourself a stable footing for the future (or as Blond would say in his normal manner: “to causally generate a foundational dynamic for the upcoming time-flow”).

Certainly NESTA have been put off after having their fingers so badly burned. As Jan Singleton puts it:

…we currently don’t have any plans work with Respublica in the future.

Quite.

EXCLUSIVE LEAK: Phillip Blond donor dissects ResPublica’s unpublishable and inadequate work

Posted on March 14, 2012

Last year, this blog exclusively revealed the financial troubles being faced by the notorious ResPublica think tank, run by Phillip Blond, the self-proclaimed guru of Red Toryism and supposed architect of the Big Society concept. As the story was picked up by the national press, a bizarre picture emerged of an organisation in a state of deranged chaos – staff locked out due to unpaid rent, company-funded Regency chairs decorated with 80s-style soft-porn and all sorts of other oddities.

All this raised the question that if Phillip Blond can’t run his own little empire, why on earth should anyone think his ideas of how to run Britain should be considered for even a second?

In a new exclusive, I can reveal that it’s not just Blond’s financial management that has proved dubious. The supposedly “academic” work his outfit has produced is grievously lacking – even according to one of his own major donors.

Two letters have been leaked to me that were sent to Blond by Stian Westlake, Executive Director of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. NESTA – an endowment fund formed of taxpayers’ money – was a ResPublica donor, having signed a contract to fund a series of six reports on a characteristically Blondian unfocused range of topics, from Lombardy Capitalism to the use of social capital to combat obesity, The money involved was sizeable –  at least £200,000 flowed from NESTA to ResPublica, which is a private company owned by Blond himself.

The first letter, sent to terminate NESTA’s contract with ResPublica, reveals a shocking story of woefully inadequate research being produced by Phillip Blond’s think tank. The full documents are below, but here are some choice quotes, detailing the lateness of the work:

…you then failed to deliver any of the five remaining reports and associated events by the respective milestone dates set out in the Agreement. The second report, due on 15 November 2009, was finally submitted 12 months late in November 2010.

its overall inadequacy:

…despite the extremely generous extensions of time given by NESTA to enable you to complete the reports, none of the reports are of a sufficient quality to be published by NESTA or satisfactory in terms of content or thoroughness… there are some positive elements in the reports, but each of them has significant weaknesses which mean that they are not suitable for publication, fit for our purposes or satisfactory to us as required by the Agreement.

and many specific failings, which the letter lays out in excruciating detail:

…poorly structured……contains no account of sources or bibliography……contains a large number of typos…

…lack of originality…

…poorly thought through…

…several of the recommendations appear either too vague to be useful…or questionable…

…unsubstantiated recommendation…

…vague or difficult to act on…

In short, the letter is a detailed and brutally honest dissection of the lightweight nature of Phillip Blond and his operation – written by one of his own donors. What people have long suspected – that Blond is essentially all long words, and philosophical pretensions, but no practical use – is illustrated by NESTA’s unfortunate experience.

It is hard to see anyone now being willing to hand over cash to ResPublica, or to give Phillip Blond any influence over public policy, given the mounting evidence that he has little clue what to do with either.

There are questions here for NESTA, too. Remarkably, the second letter shows that having already paid ResPublica over £128,000 before deciding to terminate their Agreement with such an incompetent outfit, NESTA still decided to pay a further £85,714.50 of taxpayers’ money, which they were not contractually obliged to, in order “to remain on amicable terms”. In what way is this a justifiable “commercial decision”? What value did taxpayers get from this wholesale handover of their money in return for apparently unpublishable work?

Here are the leaked letters in full:

NESTA ResPublica Phillip Blond Letter 1//

NESTA ResPublica Phillip Blond Letter 2

EXCLUSIVE: TFL 2012 staff trained on where Wembley and Stratford are

Posted on March 01, 2012

Giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on 24th January, Jeremy Hunt said that:

There is a huge amount of work going on, right down to training Tube drivers to make sure that we make Tube passengers feel particularly welcome in this special period for London

I was intrigued at what kind of training was being given to Transport for London staff – possibly “striking is a pain in the backside” would be a good start? So I made a Freedom of Information request to find out the details of the course.

Almost a week later than the legal deadline, and accompanied by a threatening note claiming that I’m not allowed to publish the information they’ve sent me (which I’m ignoring for obvious reasons centred around the words “freedom” and “information”), they’ve responded.

Given that the 9,600 people they are training all work on the London Underground, I was slightly surprised to say the least that part of the course is a Powerpoint presentation (screenshot below) teaching staff where in London the Olympic venues actually are.

Shouldn’t the staff for London’s transport system already know where, err, Stratford and Wembley are located?

 

Maude or Grayling to replace Ken Clarke…say Ken’s own civil servants

Posted on February 20, 2012

Understandably, there’s a lot of speculation over the future of certain Cabinet Ministers at the moment. The strongest argument against predictions of Andrew Lansley’s impending departure is the claim that David Cameron wants to avoid a reshuffle in the foreseeable future.

However, it seems that it’s not only those on the outside of Government who think one might be coming.

Two of this blog’s readers were out for a curry last week and found themselves next to a very loud table who, it soon became clear, were staffers from the Private Offices of Ken Clarke and his fellow Justice Minister, Crispin Blunt.

The civil servants in question were nattering away about the internal politics of the Coalition, so my correspondents decided to talk loudly about politics, SpAds and other Westminstery topics in order to give them a subtle message that people could hear them.

They carried on regardless, and it’s interesting to learn that the prime topic of conversation from Ken Clarke’s aides was who is going to replace him as Secretary of State for Justice.

I’m told by my man with the tikka masala that the civil servants’ top tips for the MoJ job were Francis Maude and Chris Grayling. Ones to watch…particularly if you’re Ken Clarke.