Category Archives: media


Q: What’s the difference between Jimmy Savile and Lord McAlpine?
A: Lord McAlpine is alive to defend himself.

Probably not the only difference.  But had McAlpine not been alive, where would his name be now?

To recap the story as it stands today: McAlpine briefly stood accused of kiddy-fiddling, based apparently on the word of one unreliable witness (“victim”) given credence by a BBC programme.  The witness has now withdrawn the accusation on the basis of mistaken identity leaving no case against him, and the BBC with some serious egg on its face and a director general fallen on his sword.

The original accusation turns out to have been worse-than-flimsy: the police interviewed the “victim”, showed him a picture which he identified as his attacker, and then told him the picture was McAlpine?!!??!   How the **** did that turn into a story worth taking seriously?  The late, great Arthur Miller had the answer, and so do we if we call McAlpine’s accuser “Abigail”.  Though that too would be inaccurate: pointing the finger at one man is not the same as kicking off the whole witch-hunt, and that’s been happening for years (as witness the absurdity of the red tape binding any adult contact with children outside the family context).

As for Savile?  I have absolutely no idea: I never saw him or his TV programmes when he was alive, and I hadn’t even heard of his charity work until the whole kiddy-fiddling story suddenly filled the “news”.  Noone is defending him, and there are hundreds of accusers against him: doesn’t all that put his guilt beyond doubt?  It’s even been suggested his body might be dug up: a witch-hunt has turned into an exorcism!

The sceptic should at least question whether the case against him is proven.  And I can only conclude that the evidence falls short.  Most if not all of it is heavily tainted by compensation: if the powers-that-be had been interested in the truth, the very first thing they needed to do was rule out this expectation of personal financial advantage to his accusers!

And as to why noone is (so far as has been reported) defending him, Miller again has an answer: who wants to share Proctor’s fate?  In the thick of a witch-hunt, even the wronged McAlpine wouldn’t dare say a word against his accuser lest he be reviled as insensitive to a victim.  How much less then would anyone dare question a Savile-accuser’s compensationreward, let alone defend him?

A bastion of privilege?

How quickly they forget!

It’s less than a year since most of our biggest retailers and dairy processors got stung with big fines for fixing the market for milk.  They had manipulated the market to overpay producers and overcharge consumers.  Now they’re doing exactly the same again, as the militant wing of the producers lobby applies pressure to pay them above market rates!

The underlying problem appears to be that most of the media and government always take the producers side.  Indeed, our supermarkets stand more-or-less permanently accused of screwing their suppliers, and have faced one price-fixing investigation after another.  So it’s all the more ironic that the only actual wrongdoing happened when they gave in to pressure from the farming lobby (which included media and indeed government of the day) and overpaid in 2002/3.

So far this time round it looks a lot like a repeat.  Militant farmers blockade someone and issue press releases “we’re being paid less than the cost of production”.  Media parrot the press releases without any questions of the kind they’d ask any normal business (“can’t you reduce those production costs?  For example, keep that range rover a second year before replacing it?”[1]).  Indeed, media go even further: sometime they positively incite further “direct action”, for example in an interview with one of the militants on the PM programme on Saturday.  If you want to listen, it’s near the beginning, but this link is probably only available for a few days now.

Why does this farmers lobby (unlike most trade unions making similar demands) always have the media so firmly on-side?  Could it be because of the association of farmers with landowners: the old aristocracy whose privilege cannot be questioned?  If upstart newcomers benefit, that’s by-the-by, and as for tenant farmers (the ones who really aren’t rich), higher prices will just enable their landlords to charge higher rents, and vice versa, in the medium term.

Who will get fined this time round?  Apart from the long-suffering consumer, of course.  Fortunately I’m a lot richer than I was in 2002/3: milk is one of many things I can easily afford now but had to do without most of the time back then.

[1] Of course not every farmer has a new range rover every year: most of them are busy getting on with the job.  But it’s precisely the kind of production cost that enables them to ‘prove’ they’re making a loss.

Interesting Times

The government’s latest announcements are sounding increasingly like NuLab Lite: government to intervene in markets, to pick winners and losers, to pour other people’s money into selected places.  Selected by whom?  You can be sure the job of administering pots of public money like that will be a magnet for corruption!

  • Taxpayer to pour yet more money into housing (and the debt bubble) by underwriting banks losses on big mortgages.
  • Slush fund for lending to small businesses.

On a more positive note, I expect that they’re taking another leaf out of NuLab’s book, and that some of these announcements will lead to very, very little action.  Let us hope!

But something more interesting is happening.  Instead of the mainstream media cheerleading all these interventions, they’ve united to rubbish them.  Across the political spectrum, we have a remarkable degree of agreement:

Ian Cowie in the Telegraph (political right): You really could not make it up. Government proposals for taxpayers to underwrite looser mortgage lending for first time buyers may help buy-to-let landlords exit the housing market with handsome profits before house prices fall further. But they are unlikely to be of lasting benefit to anyone encouraged to take on excessive debt before interest rates rise from their current historic low and more homebuyers find themselves in negative equity.

Mary Ann Sieghart in the Independent (political centre-left): The one thing missing from today’s housing strategy will be an outright acknowledgment that lower house prices would be a good thing. It’s still too much of a political taboo. But ministers know that it’s exactly what the younger generation need. So do prospective buyers and their parents.

Matt Griffith in the Guardian (political left): While some of the initiatives – notably the government’s pledge to provide insurance for mortgages to new-build properties – are the equivalent of an intergenerational mugging: the state underwrites young people taking on a huge debt for an asset that is clearly overvalued.

Andrew Ellison in the Times (political right): A strange conspiracy maintains the high cost of homes – hence these weird schemes to help the first-time buyer.

James Saft at Reuters: Under the plan both builders and the government would contribute funds to partially indemnify lenders against what I am betting are the inevitable losses. Borrowers, who are almost by definition younger and less well off, will still bear all losses, but will be rewarded with the chance to take out the kind of loan which has proven time and again to be a bad idea.

Wow!  They really are all singing from the same hymn sheet.  Just a shame they took so long to notice the problem!  Evidently this blog was ahead of its time, for example in August 2007:  … the taxpayer money going into this helps inflate the price of anything nice, by lifting the market in general.

Eventually perhaps they’ll put the final pieces of the picture of overpriced housing together:  If chickens can’t come home to roost now for property millionaires and bankers, we’re transferring yet more burden onto the productive economy.  And that’s tilted towards the young (because fewer of them own property) and high-earners (who pay more tax).  That’s precisely the people who will be most welcome in other countries, when the burden of subsidising our fat-cats gets too much for them.   If we drive too many of them out, the economy is basically gone!


I’m sure I can’t be the only one to be heartily fed up with the sheer volume of media coverage of late!

After all the crap we’ve been subjected to, it’ll be practically an anticlimax if nothing happens today!  Bah, Humbug.

Dear Boris

As merely an occasional reader of your words of wisdom, it is serendipitous that I happened to spend the last few days in a household that takes the Telegraph on paper, and that I read your column commenting on the nature of certain elements of the blogosphere.  Not to put too fine a point on it, Here be rather unpleasant nutjobs (and that’s good).

Returning today to my own desk and ‘puter, I revisited your column online.  I see it has attracted (to date) 414 comments, which I confess to not having read.  Neither have I contributed thereunto: indeed, I have excluded myself from commenting on any Telegraph column since they introduced the requirement to create an account, on the grounds that I found their first data protection question too disgracefully ambiguous (do I tick the box to opt in to or out of their spamservices, products and promotions)?

So instead of commenting on your column where there might be some likelihood of at least some junior intern actually reading it and even bringing it to your attention, I’m writing on my own blog.  With a readership thousands of times smaller than yours and no visibility in the mainstream media, I am of course fully cognizant of the futility of so doing.  Outside my areas of professional interest my writing is its own reward: it seeks neither fame nor obscurity, respect nor ridicule; it’ll take what comes.  Such is indeed the human condition (if I may be so pretentious).

Of course you, unlike perhaps one or two duller-witted journalists, don’t need me to tell you that the nutjob elements of which you write represent but a small part of your readership.  Indeed, I am sure that if I were to read those 414 comments I should find among them wit and wisdom aplenty, alongside the nutjobs, and a deadweight of old, oft-repeated arguments.  I might even find among them the very point I should by now have made, had I come to this letter in the frame of mind I found myself in on first reading your column.

The point then is this.  Whereas you rightly welcome the ability of nutjobs to have their say along with everyone else, and recognise that one man’s nutjob is another’s prophet, there is a darker side that may be lost on you.  I don’t mean that the problem has never occurred to you, but rather that you might be a stranger to its full significance.  A man with the effortless self-assurance of an Eton alumnus, the thick skin of a senior politician, and the name-recognition of a major public figure is not a man to let himself be bullied, intimidated, and scared off by the baying of a lunatic fringe (correct me if I’m wrong).

However, your felicitous state is by no means universal, and in other fora it can be all too easy for the lunatics to take over the asylum (excuse my cliché).  I’m not talking about extremist fora such as islamists looking to turn the UK into a caliphate, or nationalists looking to send anyone with a pigmentation “back home”.  Better such people (insofar as they exist outside of strawman arguments) are out in the open than driven underground and given genuine grievances to nourish.  Setting aside the kind of rabble-rousing exemplified by the Daily Mail, what saddens me is to see moderate, mainstream fora taken over to the point where sensible members are driven away.

For example, in a site concerned with very legitimate economic concerns (going back long before “the credit crunch”) I have witnessed such diverse issues as anti-scientific nonsense becoming a ‘party line’ that looks mainstream, and female posters driven away by a misogynous element.  The latter is of course bound up with mainstream reaction against politically correct nonsense (exemplified by Ms Harman) that draws sensible, non-misogynistic posters (of both sexes) to react against certain wimmins issues and leads to a continuum between regular commonsense and the outrageous.

Now of course I wouldn’t for one moment suggest that you can or should seek to silence xenophobes, racists, islamists, misogynists, denialists, creationists, anti-capitalists, or any (other) kind of, shall we say, fringe.  Indeed, I welcome the current government’s efforts towards halting the rapid expansion of its predecessor’s police state.  But I would argue your piece tends towards complacency in essentially dismissing the effect nutjobs can have in excluding contrary, moderate opinion.

We are concerned when one group, whether it be drug dealers, gangs, or merely drunken youth, takes over areas of a city to the exclusion of others.  We should not dismiss similar concerns online!