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This ‘word’ – it’s actually more of an interjection – was used by Kirsty Wark on Wednesday night’s Newsnight programme on BBC in response to Jacob Rees-Mogg‘s assertion that Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross is a lightweight.

It was a wonderfully Scottish response as this is the preferred – instinctive – Scottish equivalent to saying “Ouch!” when someone has said something particularly harsh.

Not that Rees-Mogg is in any position to talk. He wouldn’t recognise a lightweight when he saw one in his bathroom mirror.

Outbreak of Sycophancy

I see some USian actress has got herself engaged to a bloke who lives in a big house in London.

I don’t really see the need for it to take up over half of the Six O’Clock BBC News bulletin, though, nor the obsequious interview, nor the programme at 19.30 punting Panorama to 22.45.

On a less sour note, check out our Dimitris’s* goal from Saturday.

What a belter.

*I suppose I’ll need to go along with everybody else’s “Froxy” from now on.

BBC Bias

I see Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has been sniping at the BBC.

Well, sniping isn’t quite the word. Threatening would be nearer the mark.

If you recall before the last General Election I predicted this sort of thing would happen if the Tories were to win office. The only surprise is it’s taken this long for them to get round to it. Too busy demonising the unemployed and telling lies about the mess they inherited (the UK economy was growing in May 2010 when they took over. They immediately set that into spectacular reverse.)

In any case what have they to complain about? I rarely hear much criticism of the government or its policies on the BBC news. It might not be 100% suppportive. But it’s not supposed to be.

I read over the weekend that during the last government Gordon Brown was seen on the BBC twice as much as David Cameron – aka Mr Irresponsible. At the moment it’s four appearances for Cameron against every one for Ed Miliband. As I remember a similar ratio applied during John Major’s time as PM. (Now there’s the return of the undead.)

Whenever there’s a Tory government the letters BBC might as well stand for Bend over Backwards to the Conservatives.

Poppy Watch 2013

First spotting of the season, BBC Scotland News on Friday 18/10/13. Just shy of one week less than a month before Armistice Day.

At the SNP Conference, Alex Salmond addressing the devotees – complete with poppy.

The next news item featured a farmer or something (he was in the great outdoors, whatever) who sported a poppy in his lapel. I wonder if the BBC supplied it to him.

Curiously the presenters in the studio were sans poppies. Give it time.

Market Forces Ding-Dong

There has been a lot of outrage expressed (some of it probably confected) over the campaign by some to have the song Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead get to number 1 in the download charts this week.

Isn’t this one of those examples of the law of unintended consequences?

For the irony here is that it is those who were/are the most avid acolytes of the “Blessed Margaret” as they saw/see Mrs Thatcher who are the ones most loudly decrying the situation. (And make no mistake: we have been subject to a concerted effort to portray her as some sort of secular saint – it was hours before I heard any sort of countervailing opinion on the BBC News on TV or radio on Monday and on Tuesday Matthew Amroliwala persistently tried to force Douglas Alexander to agree that her legacy was entirely beneficial.)

Notwithstanding the point that using the song in this way is arguably sexist – there is no male equivalent to witch that carries the same degree of derogatoriness – wasn’t her attachment to market forces well documented enough and isn’t this the perfect example of those same market forces?

To assert the primacy of “the market” and then to say that a choice people make under its auspices is wrong or reprehensible is hypocritical at best. You cannot be both for the untrammelled workings of a market and at the same time complain about any of its manifestations – except from a position of intellectual bankruptcy.

If you claim that some choices ought to be limited or should not be made then you admit that markets need to be constrained. You have lost the pass, conceded the game.

The question is then of where to draw the line, not of having no line at all.

We Are Deceased

It is customary not to speak ill of the dead – or at least those of recent demise.

However, in some cases it would be rank hypocrisy to follow that tradition. Today is such a day. (Only it’s not so much speaking ill as speaking the truth.)

Frankly, I was sickened by what I can only describe as an outpouring of smarm on the BBC News attendant on the announcement of Margaret Thatcher’s death. She may have been the longest serving but she was also the most contentious and divisive Prime Minister in recent British history. The second part of that assessment has been getting brushed over.

All this was after what can only be described as an ongoing softening-up process by the hagiographic treatment of Government papers relating to her premiership released under the thirty year rule. My previous thoughts on those are in some of the posts here and on Thatcher’s legacy here.

And I had to laugh when some Tory sycophant said she paved the way for Britain’s economic recovery. She it was who dismantled financial regulation, who encouraged not only “me”-ism but greed, short-termism and the pursuit of profit above all else. In many people’s eyes she turned selfishness into a virtue. As a result she set in train the conditions that made the banking crash of 2008 not only possible but inevitable. How can anyone in today’s economic circumstances mention “Britain’s economic recovery” with a straight face?

And this wasn’t the worst. The worst was she demolished that society which she said didn’t exist. The Britain I grew up in was a more caring, more compassionate place than the one she has bequeathed us. A symptom of that was the selling off of the social housing stock without any provision being made for – indeed a ban on – its replacement. The result was a continuing boom in house prices and, latterly, of private rentals making it all but impossible for young couples to buy a starter home or to rent at reasonable rates. Any present crisis of homelessness is directly traceable to that decision. I do not blame anyone for taking advantage of the opportunity to buy “their” council house, it made absolute financial sense for many who did so, but in effect it licensed the stealing of public assets for private profit – as was the selling off of nationalised industries.

Another commenter said private companies now compete to provide us with these sorts of services. Well they don’t. I have one electricity line, one gas pipe, one telephone line coming into my house. In what sense are they competing to connect me to their services? It’s utter bilge.

And I’ve not noticed any benefit to the consumer on the bottom line. Quite the reverse. But that, of course was always the object.

The country is now run for the sole benefit of profiteers and exploiters. All that can be laid at the door of

Margaret Hilda Thatcher (née Roberts,) 13/10/1925-8/4/2013. So; it goes.

Falklands Invasion Shock

I’ve been hearing all day on the news about Margaret Thatcher’s “shock” on being told of the intelligence about the imminent Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.

Why is this being presented/spun as being to her credit? She is said not to have believed that the Argentines would invade. Yet this is despite the fact that she must have had advisers who had warned her of the possibility.

It was only some months after the war, during the Franks inquiry, that she said the things being quoted. She certainly professes shock. But then she had to. She also told the inquiry that immediately after the invasion no-one knew whether Britain could retake the islands. “We did not know – we did not know,” she said.

May I provide a translation? “I’m afraid for my job here. If I don’t wriggle out of this I’ll have to resign.”

Never forget that it was her Government’s decision, for reasons of economy, to withdraw prematurely the Antarctic Survey ship HMS Endurance that sent the signal to the Argentines that Britain was no longer interested in its southern domains and gave them cause to believe the Falklands were theirs for the taking (and keeping.)

Many people at the time (some, like the good lady, still to this day) saw this as Thatcher engineering the conflict. If she is innocent of this charge and that act was simple incompetence then she was – and is – still culpable. I well remember David Owen, Foreign Secretary in the previous Labour Government, saying in a television interview that they had at one time despatched a nuclear submarine to the South Atlantic to warn the Argentines off – a fact which must have been in the minds of Civil Servants in Thatcher’s time.

I also remember Mrs Thatcher quoting the Franks Report in her contribution to the Parliamentary debate following its publication that, “No-one could have foreseen that the Argentines would attack at that time and on that day.”

As I said at the time to whoever would listen: I cannot foresee the exact time and day that it will rain again; but I do know that it will.

A New Iraq?

The lead story on the lunchtime BBC news today (18/2/12) concerned Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. There followed some guy (from the Armed Services Institute?) talking about the ramifications of that on the likes of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc as regards proliferation.

The second story on the guardian‘s front page was headlined US believes strike on Iran is inevitable later this year.

Looks like Cowdenbeath are a banker for the Division 2 title this year, then. (With a side order of Armageddon.)

Seriously, though. What are these guys on? Remember Mr Irresponsible during the 2010 General Election campaign? It seems now like that was a prediction rather than an idle slip of the tongue.

How can I put this?

Iran poses no threat whatsoever to the UK. Still less does it pose a threat to the US. I’ll give you it may be a (possible) threat to Israel but its posture there may be rhetorical rather than real. However, there is no way it could invade either the UK or US; nor could it overthrow their governments.

And if it is in the process of acquiring nuclear weapons why might that be?

It has seen its neighbour, Iraq, attacked, on the flimsiest of pretexts, mainly by the US and the UK – and thereafter thoroughly destabilised. It does not want the same happening to it. It knows Israel has nuclear weapons almost certainly targeted on it; it also knows North Korea has such a “deterrent” and is treated more carefully as a result. In its mind developing nuclear weapons might be a rational response to its current circumstances. We (the UK, along with the US) have a history of interfering with the region that goes back a long way. If I were them I wouldn’t trust us either.

The ratcheting up of the Iranian situation reminds me of the run-up to the (second) Iraq war. Drip by drip of increasingly ludicrous assertions. (A much heightened version of this sort of thing was evident in the German press in the summer of 1939.)

I don’t much go for the idea that we could be the bad guys but, in the absence of any attack by Iran on us (or, at a push, Israel) that would be the case here; as it was in Iraq.

Moreover, and again as with Iraq, it would be thoroughly counterproductive.

The ramifications of an attack on Iran would only confirm the idea that the “West” sees Muslims as a whole as targets and though it would take time might make recent terrorist attacks seem like a garden party. Any occupation of Iran would make our involvement in Iraq seem like a picnic and Vietnam a cakewalk.

Do we really want that?

It’s Ma Ba’ an’ Ah’m Goin’ Hame

The above is a Scottish phrase – well West of Scotland really – much used in childhood, which means more or less that things have not turned out to my liking and I’m in a huff, the rest of you can do what you like but you can’t play any more because it was my ball you were playing with and I’m taking it home with me now.

This seems to me to paraphrase what the UK Prime Minister, Mr Irresponsible, aka David Cameron, has done vis-a-vis the rest of the EU. The only differences are it wasn’t his ball and he might have gone home, but the rest haven’t.

Whatever “protections” he sought for British financial institutions* he quite plainly has not got. Moreover he will now have little influence – as he will not be involved in the discussions – over any steps taken in the future in these matters, thereby making it more likely that the situation he professes to avoid will actually come about. Brilliant!

And why does the BBC news keep referring to his veto? It wasn’t a veto. He has not stopped the other 26 members of the EU from creating a new treaty. Indeed by the BBC’s own accounts they seem keen to go on without him (and us.)

He has also thrown a very large bone to the anti-EU elements within his party, who, far from being satisfied, have now tasted blood, and will go for the jugular. UK politics will, as in the John Major era, be mired in endless argument over the EU.

(The people’s response in any subsequent referendum they secure may not quite go the way they want either. Given that the Tories have been banging on for so long about how bad the economic prospects are right now – a self-fulfilling prophesy by-the-by – what possible sense would it make to sever our connections to our biggest export market?)

[*The very organisations to a large extent responsible for the mess several European economies are in.

Who lent money to those countries who are now so heavily in debt?
Aren’t those debt holders in part culpable for the ensuing difficulties?
Is it not the responsibility of a prudent lender to make sure there is a good prospect of the debtor paying the money back?

They seem to think they are on a one-way trip to profit and they should receive all their money in full.
Well, they should take a good part of the hit. They helped to create the hole the world economy is in.]

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