Charon Report (10): Day Two, Tory Conference

Audio podcast: Charon Report (10): Day Two, Tory Conference

Exhausted from watching BBC News 24 coverage of the collapse of the financial world last night,  and reluctant to borrow any more shares from my local vicar in non-banking sectors to short sell, I decided not to flog up the motorway to listen to David Cameron today but to do it the easy way and wait for The Blue Blog to send me an email.

So, I report to you tonight, from the Boat, a glass of Rioja to my right and a pack of Britain’s finest woodbines to my left. The Blue Blog Email arrived about fifteen minutes ago. David, I was told, “promised that we will do everything possible to help the Government protect our financial security.”  I listened to his unscheduled speech.  He wants to get a couple of things straight – I paraphrase…..  we must not let anger cloud judgment, easy to see why people are pissed off with bankers who come to us to bail them out… will be a day of reckoning…. but not today. Must do everything we can to protect the stability…. and then a huge amount of clapping.  Today is a day for safety, security and protection. Cameron then, perhaps succumbing to omnipotence, told us that he would always do the right thing to protect our future.

All good guff, of course… but it was at this point that I started hunting around The Blue Blog to see if there were any Conservative policies lurking in dark corners.  I could not find any – but I did come across a blog post by George Osborne, written… possibly in a moment of post politico-coital tendresse, shortly after Cameron’s impromptu speech.  A beautifully and sensitively photographed Osborne… looking composed and serious, almost grave…. wrote: “We are in the eye of a global financial storm, and people across Britain will be worried by the events they can see unfolding on the news. We will not allow party politics to get in the way of tackling this crisis. That is why David Cameron has just made a special address to the Conservative Party offering to work with the Government to introduce new powers to save failing banks, protect savings and break the cycle of liquidity drying up by temporarily suspending mark-to-market accounting. Our principle is clear: we must protect the taxpayer where possible and stabilise the system where necessary.”

I could hear Jerusalem in my head, triggering images of our sceptred isle, of the recent summer season, the Henley Regatta, Glyndebourne…. the sounds of the English middle classes clapping at Wimbledon and shouting “Come on Tim!” – and then I realised I was reading what is supposed to be a serious blog.  I made a point of reading both comments – one from a chap called No Display Name…  who started his comment with.. and I quote:

“Sir,
Firstly, congratulations on delivering one of the most effective and honest speeches I have ever heard made by a Politician of any persuasion.  I have been and will remain a life long Conservative but the issue you Sir and Colleagues face is regaining trust.”

This was a man or woman, a lifelong Tory, proud of his party but either to thick to write his or her name or who perhaps does not wish, yet, to be identified as one of the faithful publicly.

I enjoyed the use of the greeting “Sir”…. perhaps the writer recalled the good old days of fagging and the lash…. who knows? but his words appeared on the page to have come from another era in terms of the style of writing. There is a hint of this when the anonymous writer goes on to say “The British are a nation still of famously long suffering but, they possess an inherent, almost in-born sense of fair-play.” I could almost see Tom Brown smiling approvingly. Labour may do the Hovis metaphor well… but you have to hand it to The Tories… their new website and blog is slick…  and the smooth looking photographs of Osborne and Cameron, subtly hinting at efficiency and the demeanour of those born to rule, is more Eton Boating Song than Keith Allen’s song ‘Vindaloo”.

It was at this point that my eye was caught by the words on The Blue Blog… “Show your support Join the Conservative Wall.”  I just had to click the link... and while things are bad under labour (I have always voted Labour)……  I began to feel a shiver down my spine… it was not one of patriotism or new found zeal… it was one of pure horror at what may come to be.

So… on that note, as I don’t need to sit on a train getting pissed on my way back from Birmingham… I shall bid you goodnight and spend a little time with my cellar as the tide comes in.

This is Charon, reporting on Day Two of the Tory Conference, from The Boat.

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Audio podcast: Charon Report (10): Day Two, Tory Conference

Dow Jones -777 points down…. VOLATILE!!…RECORD!!!

I didn’t have much to do tonight so I thought I would go on BBC News 24, waffle a bit, as BBC News 24 have been doing for much of the evening, and try out my new ‘George Osborne Serious’ look.

The US has rejected the $700 billion bail out. I just had to watch BBC News 24.  There was a lot of waffle on News 24 and hushed tones from the autocuties (male and female) and much watching of Dow Jones points falls and heavy breathing.

We had a cameo appearance from George Osborne, looking remarkably relaxed, saying that we needed to ensure that those in the UK earning £12,000 or £20,000 do not subsidise those earning bonuses of £2 million.  Osborne expressed the view, in a wonderfully languid, non-committal, confident, public school way, that Congress would need to reach agreement.  Then we were taken back to the hyperventilating newsreaders to watch some film showing someone standing around waiting to ring the bell to bring an end to trading at the ‘top of the hour’.

Cyclops came on to tell us that he was disappointed, looked serious for a while,  and then we were taken back to listen to some more American pundits.  The BBC cut the US commentator to take us over to David Cameron, looking ever more like the Pilsbury Doughboy, and Cameron, also trying out the new concerned bipartisanly serious look, said that he would work with the government….. and then, I am afraid… I had to check Rioja prices worldwide… and lost interest in what Cameron was saying.

I did flick back to hear that George Bush is disappointed…He said:  “The plan was big… because we have a big problem”….

I wasn’t asked to stay for very long by the BBC…. maybe they realised I shouldn’t really have been on TV tonight… a bit like that wonderful African taxi driver who was wheeled onto News 24 in error and ended up giving us an opinion on intellectual property and Apple.

I bid you goodnight. Gordon Brown is taking ‘decisive action’… and so am I taking ‘decisive action’.  I am going to drink some Rioja… decisively.

PS: Hank Paulson is looking cream krackered.

Charon Report (9): From The Tory Party Conference…

Audio podcast: Charon Report (9) – from The Tory Conference

I report today from Britain’s second City, Birmingham – a city almost unknown outside of its own city limits – to report on the gathering of the Tory faithful.

For two years now Cameron and his band of merry Etonians have been able to sit back and watch as Labour digs itself deeper into the merde and enjoy a 20 point lead over Labour – albeit cut back to nine points after Brown’s speech last week.  Now, even The Sun (in an article written by the great spinmeister Alastair Campbell, is demanding that Cameron shows us the political money – and tells the 4 million + Sun readers what The Tories stand for and how they will run Britain.

As a warm up to the conference, Mayor Boris was able to repay Arnold Schwarzenegger’s insult  describing Boris as ‘fumbling” by telling the faithful “Thank you very much for that welcome. Much more generous than in 2006 when I was physically pelted with pork pies by the press corps or last year when my speaking style was criticised by Arnold Schwarzenegger….. And it was a low moment, my friends, to have my speaking style denounced by a monosyllabic Austrian cyborg.”

David Cameron, concerned about recent Tatler photographs showing a group of young ‘potential’ MPs in designer clothes is reported in The Sun as saying  “Am I completely happy with all that? The Conservative Party has got to demonstrate that it is deadly serious about not being complacent.”

And William Hague has decided that he is like Bruce Willis. The Sun reports “The ex-Tory leader said he could double for the Die Hard actor as he said the Conservatives would be “tougher” on criminals. But not to be outdone … apparently… David Cameron had been likened to a “young John Wayne” in a poll by the Sunday Telegraph yesterday.

So…. so far, nothing of any substance from the Tories… but George Osborne… according to The Telegraph will say (and may already have said, but I was not listening attentively enough as my eye was caught by my picture looming over Osborne in the conference hall) quite a bit.

Mr Osborne, the shadow chancellor, will blame Labour for encouraging people to run up “more than a trillion pounds” of debt, without pausing to consider what would happen when credit dried up. He will vow that the Tories “will make sure that this mess never happens again….  Mr Osborne will warn that “the party is over” and promise to end the country’s “dependence on debt”.

That is all for this first report from Birmingham.

I won’t however, be going to the Lap Dancing Club in Birmgham featured on Guido Fawkes’ blog – a banner over the front door proclaiming” the ROCKET CLUB welcomes the Tories.  There’s nothing conservative about us”.

This is Charon, about to nip off and have a balti, from Birmingham.

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Audio podcast: Charon Report (9) – from The Tory Conference

28 September: Postcard from The Boat

I write, on this day of our lord, from the boat – amused to learn that The Church of England has been accused of being involved in ‘short-selling’ – a wonderful irony after the ludicrous intervention of the two archbishops last week accusing short sellers and  Lloyds TSB et al of being “bank robbers and asset strippers”.  The initial story moved me to dress up in the kit and report from “Lambeth Palace” – but I was moved on by a freelance exorcist. It appears that declared short sellers accounted for only 2% of share sales. Fat Bigot has an amusing (and informative) view on the concept of short-selling for those who are unsure what short-selling is. I have just read it.

There is a degree of schadenfreude in reading the Guardian article.  I quote but a small section: “Jonathan Bartley, co-director of Ekklesia, said: “The archbishops should be extremely careful when attacking City bank robbers for short-selling and speculation. Amongst the billions of pounds that the church currently invests in property and shares are hundreds of millions invested in oil and mining companies.”

This weekend has been most unusual. I met with White Rabbit in “The Pig’s Ear” in Chelsea – a deliberate choice of venue given the way UK PLC seems to be going down the pan.  Also, it has to be said – a very conveniently located establishment to The Boat.  White Rabbit is, as regular readers will know, a barrister, published author and a law blogger who manages to avoid writing about law on his blog. A man after my own heart.  A thoroughly enjoyable evening – despite the problems caused to WR by London’s transport problems this weekend.

The government, in a belated return to socialist principles, has decided to nationalize yet another failed bank. (BBC) This time it is Bradford & Bingley.  As I assume that readers have access to newspapers I shall take soundings on this not from the fourth estate but from the world of the bloggers.

First up… a trip to Guido to see what the commenters are up to over there.  They can usually be relied on to come up with a balanced view: “Love it. All these fukin holier than thou politicians are at it robbing stealing whoring drugs and cash.ohh and eating their own snot live on TV. Stones and glass houses spring to mind.”

And now we go over to Capitalists@Work – a website worth reading every day for a bit of analysis: “The line has to be drawn; this is a small UK lender. There will be no global impact of B&B going bust.”

WebCameron has gone… to be replaced  by the imaginatively (and rather tediously) named “The Blue Blog”.  I am pleased to be able to report, as the Tories gather for their annual conference to hear the wisdom of Cameron,  that today’s entry on THE BLUE BLOG included this fascinating post by someone called Charles Barnwell: ” Something happened this morning that I don’t think has ever happened before. Party conferences are usually about talk. And that moment of reflection set the tone for what’s been a very different conference already. Black Voices Gospel Choir Sang; the council leader told us how Birmingham has become a global city with a local heart; and Karen Brady cheered “Come on you Blues!”

To borrow (and alter slightly)  the aphorism of F.E. Smith, barrister and Lord Chancellor,  “I am better informed….but none the wiser” after reading Mr Barnwell’s fascinating post on The Blue Blog.

Be sure, I shall be going to Birmingham,  for only the second time in fifty years, to bring you a report on what the Tories are saying. It is curious though, that for our second City, there is very little coverage about Birmingham in the national press or television.  I do recall, some years ago, that a soap opera called CrossRoads was set in Birmingham.  I can’t remember watching it that often but I do remember some fat bloke in a beanie hat who was a bit simple called Benny being one of the characters. And who could forget Amy Turtle and Meg Richardson?  I shall log on to Wikipedia and find out more about Birmingham before I go there to report.

RollonFriday.com, normally a place of cheer and amusement, finds itself reporting on redundancies and Minter Ellison lawyers nicking meals this week as the credit-crunch bites.

A short report from The Boat this week – simply because I have had a demanding weekend.  I may well write more later…

As always, best regards

Charon Reports (8): From Lambeth Palace

Audio Podcast: Charon Report 8 – From Lambeth Palace

I report today from outside Lambeth Palace in London, home of The Archbishop of Canterbury.  I used the bridge to cross the river as I didn’t think walking across the river itself would be looked upon that favorably in these circles. Today two of our most senior clerics have been doing their own bit of chasing the money-changers out of the Temple.

Times Business online reported this morning: “Leaders of the Church of England launched fierce attacks on the world’s stock market traders last night, condemning them as bank robbers and asset strippers and calling for a judicial review into Britain’s financial services. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York demanded stronger regulation and an end to speculation and living on debt.”

Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, is reported as saying “The love of money is the root of all evil.” He said: “We have all gone to this temple called money. We have all worshipped at it. No one is guiltless . . . we have all become enslaved.”

Speaking at the Worshipful Company of International Bankers’ annual dinner in London, Sentamu said: “To a bystander like me, those who made £190 million deliberately underselling the shares of HBOS, in spite of a very strong capital base, and drove it into the arms of Lloyds TSB, are clearly bank robbers and asset strippers. We find ourselves in a market system which seems to have taken its rules of trade from Alice in Wonderland.”

As I look about me, at the splendour of Lambeth Palace, when I consider the history of religion in this country, the wealth, the control by the Church in times past over a repressed people I cannot help but marvel that the Banks are being chastised.  Next we will hear that the Archbishop of Canterbury will be instructing brokers not to short any shares if the Church of England holds stock…….  hang on, just a moment…I stand corrected… the studio is telling me through my earpiece that the Archbishop does not want any short selling of shares where the Church has an involvement.

I spoke to a vicar who was about to go into the palace.  I asked him if he was taking some loaves and fishes in for lunch.  He smiled wryly and told me that the sack was full of money.  He had just taken his savings out of a local bank just in case things got worse.  I asked him if he was worried about theft.  He raised his eyes heavenwards and told me… “We have just seen a form of theft on a global scale, perpetrated by banking sinners…. and… it is unlikely that any of the inhabitants in here will steal my money.  We worship a different God in here.”

It was at this point that a young priest walked towards me, a benign smile playing on his lips, his eyes fierce with zeal.  He produced a small bottle and started flicking cold water at me…. and then he said “I command you, unclean spirit, whoever you are, along with all your minions now attacking this servant of God, by the mysteries of the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the descent of the Holy Spirit, by the coming of our Lord for judgment, that you tell me by some sign your name, and the day and hour of your departure. I command you, moreover, to obey me to the letter, I who am a minister of God despite my unworthiness; nor shall you be emboldened to harm in any way this creature of God, or the bystanders, or any of their possessions.”

I left…I got the point…..I felt quite chilly as it happens… I’m still not entirely sure whether the priest had exorcised the demon from me or if I was the demon…

This is Charon, reporting from Lambeth Palace

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Audio Podcast: Charon Report 8 – From Lambeth Palace

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BREAKING NEWS

Grateful to fellow blogger May Contain Nuts for alerting me to story in Guardian revealing that Church of England were into short selling in unbelievable financial markets as well as the general unbelievable stuff they are in to. Wonderfully ironic…. but…. entirely consistent with Church practices going back over centuries.  Bank robbers?

I was rather busy on Friday doing work – and then I had to go to a very demanding wine tasting.  As a result I did not have time to read all the papers on Friday.

Guardian story

24 September: Daily Legal News and podcast

Daily Legal News and podcast up on Insitelaw

During the course of each day (Weekday and some weekends) I will be covering events as they arise with links to law blogger posts and legal news.  The Podcast and outline coverage is on the magazine and comment, as it is published each day,  will be on the Insitelaw blog

If you would like a blog post profiled – please email me (email on Insitelaw blog and magazine

Charon Reports (7): From The Labour Party Conference 2008

Audio podcast: Charon Reports (7) : From The Labour Party Conference 2008

I report tonight from Manchester – a City, I discovered from Google Earth, to be in the North of England. The Labour Party annual smug fest is under way.  Yesterday we had Alistair Darling, Chancellor, telling us things would be fine, provided the government cracked down on bankers running amok with bonuses.  Today, Gordon Brown, not one of life’s natural orators, had his chance to tell us that he was getting on with the job.

If I expected to see back benchers skulking around in togas, daggers hidden, I was disappointed.  i didn’t, however, expect this because the annual conference is not about politics, it is about presentation; an opiate for the faithful who are unlikely to change their voting habits and an opportunity for the party to give the Unions some pride back and make them feel vaguely relevant to the very different world of the 21st century.

As with all my other reports, I could have done it by staying on the boat and dosing myself up with a bit of NeuroBBC… but, today, in the interests of political journalism, I managed to find my way to Manchester.

Gordon Brown managed to remind us that he likes the job, is getting on with the job and is the best person for the job.  I quote from my Reuter’s newsfeed: “I know what I want to do in this job. And I know that the way to deal with tough times is to face them down. Stay true to your beliefs. Understand that all the attacks, all the polls, all the headlines, all the criticism, it’s all worth it, if in doing this job I make life better for one child, one family, one community. Because this job is not about me, it’s about you.”

Well frankly, Gordon, you have to do a bit better than make life better for one family… there are thousands of daytime television viewers out there, soon to be joined by cardboard box carrying investment bankers – who are relying on you to take this country to the promised land.

Gordon then played the “I’m not a Celebrity” card…. so he obviously does not want to be “Out of here”….  In a remarkable use of the English language, pathos and complete speech writing bollocks, Gordon told us “I didn’t come into politics to be a celebrity or thinking I’d always be popular. Perhaps, that’s just as well…..And I didn’t come to London because I wanted to join the establishment, but because I wanted and want to change it. So I’m not going to try to be something I’m not. And if people say I’m too serious, quite honestly there’s a lot to be serious about — I’m serious about doing a serious job for all the people of this country.”

Unfairness
Hinting darkly, possibly, at dastardly deeds – possibly even going back as far as the famous Granita Restaurant shafting…. Gordon said “What angers me and inspires me to act is when people are treated unfairly.”

The Prime Minister, rising to his theme, remembering perhaps those ripping sermons given in The Church of Scotland and going to the heart of his message… thundered…  “First transparency, all transactions need to be transparent and not hidden. Second, sound banking, a requirement to demonstrate that risk can be managed and priced for bad times as well as good. Third, responsibility, no member of a bank’s board should be able to say they did not understand the risks they were running and walk away from them. Fourth, integrity, removing conflicts of interest so that bonuses should not be based on short-term speculative deals but on hard work effort and enterprise. And fifth, global standards and supervision because the flows of capital are global, then supervision can no longer just be national but has to be global.”

It was at this stage of the proceedings that I began to lose the will to live, to understand what it must be like to be Nick Robinson or Andrew Marr who actually try and interview the man.  I persevered.  Brown then started talking about foreign policy – a subtle reminder to David Miliband that the Lord giveth and The Lord can taketh away.  he may as well have been talking about the relief of Mafeking.  It doesn’t matter.  It is all window dressing…. all the real politics is going on behind closed doors.  The men in suits will wait until the standing ovations are over and then there will be resolution one way or another.  I have absolutely no idea why I bothered to report on it. I should have set the washing machine to spin cycle and left the BBC to get on with it.

I did think about wandering around Manchester to see if Wayne Rooney and his wife Colleen were around  but London beckons..

This is Charon, reporting from Manchester

Source: Reuters

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Audio podcast: Charon Reports (7) : From The Labour Party Conference 2008

23 September: Daily Legal News and podcast on Insitelaw

Daily Legal News and Podcast now on Insitelaw.

From today, I plan to provide commentary and analysis of the legal events of the day on the Insitelaw blog – with links to law based posts from UK and other law bloggers.  This will leave me free to run amok on the Charon QC blog without the guilt of having to concern myself overly about the law.  I shall, however, continue to write in Charon on matters of law where I feel it might provide a different insight obtained through necking bottles of Rioja.

22 September: Postcard from The Boat (2)

Having written Postcard from The Boat (1) yesterday – here is Postcard (2).

This morning I chose a different cafe just off The King’s Road.  I have been there many times – the food is good and I can sit outside, smoke, read my papers and, especially if it is cold and slightly drizzly, I am usually on my tod.  This morning, however, in a late climatic rally, the sun was out and so were the weird people.  Some would call them chavs.  Two over nourished female barrage balloons with hair drawn off their faces and held in a pony tail to make themselves look even more over-nourished waddled about and sat down at the tables nearest the cafe door. They were soon joined by a bloke with a moustache wearing Chelsea FC football strip. The Polish waitress took their order, smiling away, but even she found it difficult to maintain her composure when man with moustache farted – a ripper that GAZPROM could probably have sold on the natural gas market.

I’m afraid that I was unable to contain myself and started laughing in a mildly manic way, like a weird guy on the Tube, prompting the barrage balloons to swivel in my direction. I was reading The Observer and, rather than state the obvious and congratulate the man on his remarkable expertise I pointed to an article I was reading, muttered away like Boris Johnson,  and continued reading. I watched out of the corner of my eye as these weird people started eating.  They did not appear to understand cutlery.  Further farting followed… with the odd belch.  It was not a good start to the day.  Thankfully I was only having a coffee. I had to leave. Chelsea is a curious place – more observations on The King’s Road in later postcards.

And now to something vaguely sensible:

I produce, as regular readers will know, an online magazine; a newswire where I focus on news, current events in the law and profile, as best I can, the posts of law bloggers when they write about law. I have revived the Insitelaw blog and plan, each day, rather than use the website, to post articles and commentary on the blog and enjoy an easier life where search engines, filing and the like is all done by WordPress.  So – if you fancy a bit of law and news, a daily legal news podcast and some commentary – please visit Insitelaw. All FREE.  Now the long summer is over I shall be posting most days – probably every weekday. If you would like to write something for Insitelaw (no money in it, I’m afraid) I will be delighted to publish.  My email is on the magazine website and on the blog. Will start posting to blog from tomorrow – only intro stuff on there at the moment.

Insitelaw Magazine | Insitelaw Blog

Drink is the scourge of the drinking classes
I was speaking to White Rabbit yesterday about life, the universe and a plan to have a glass or two when he informed me that Jimmy Bastard’s blog Nevermindthebollix was down.  I checked… it was indeed.  I emailed JB to ask if the Polis had hacked in or if he was planning some cunning developments to the blog.

I received an email back – but his comment on his blog explains all: “In Early September 2008, after imbibing a serious amount of alcohol, enough to kill several Priests, Jimmy clumsily sent his world famous collection of several thousand observations on life as we know it, into cyber space. They remain there to this day. A story not to be missed, a man not to be ignored. Jimmy Bastard still pulls no punches as he relaunches his 3rd blog as he see’s it.”

I have suggested that there may be a government grant to assist in the retrieval of web heritage material and it is to be hoped that Nevermindthebollix is restored to full and rude health soon.

BREAKING NEWS 23.20 Hrs Sunday 22 September: We interrupt the scheduled programmes tonight to announce that shortly after 23.00 hrs GMT tonight, there have been developments in the Nevermindthebollix saga.  We go over now to Ron Knee for the true story

and… it is worth a visit!

Ed of Blawg Review sent me the details of a blog called Feral Strumpet written by Allyson Shaw, ex-pat novelist and poet living in London. In her own words: “This is my blog about loving London. About hating London. About homesick dissonance and the gift of distance. About my wet island home.”  I’ve started to dip in.  Good stuff – and if you want a different take on London have a look at Feral Strumpet

Ed of Blawg Review also notified us all through his blog that the next host of Blawg Review, Peter Black, an aussie academic, is going to be publishing Blawg Review #178 on Twitter as well as on his blog.  Good grief!…  using Twitter for something sensible…. I thought it was only our American and canadian friends who did this.  I’m afraid I abuse Twitter -and do not intend to change my ways.  I shall, however, take a look at Peter Black’s Twittered review.

POLITICIANS… and what has been happening recently

Gordon Brown is in the midst of telling the nation that he is the only man for the job, crushing rebellions, and appearing on The Andrew Marr Show.  Guido was not impressed.  I agree.  Marr was not as his best. Perhaps he thought he was presenting Strictly Come Dancing… who knows?  It was not incisive. Brown rambled through it and escaped unscathed.  The questions were anodyne.  We need Paxo for interviews with Brown. The Official website of The Prime Minister’s Office website has had a makeover. They are at the cutting edge – twitter, Flickr, YouTube videos… the lot.  If you are a GCSE  student, you will find it a useful source of historical research material for your project.   If you are, however, looking for any news, comment, analysis, then the site is not for you.

Fat Bigot has many interesting observations on his blog – but his latest considers the convention that US and UK politicans do not comment on each other’s electioneering. Worth a read – as is his analysis of Credit-crunch and last week’s banking crisis.

Iain Dale has an amusing ascerbic commentary on Sir Alan Sugar’s support of Brown at the Labour Party conference – contrasting it with rather different remarks made by the then Mr Alan Sugar in 1992.

And finally, in this brief political round up… The BBC reports that Gordon Brown is going to be tough with ridiculous City bonuses.  How he is actually going to frame legislation to thwart contractual arrangements is another matter…. but perhaps another rule book can be toirn up and thrown out of the window?  And the increasingly shrill Hazel Blears seems to think that Gordon Brown lacks emotional intelligence, but accepts that women do it differently. The Independent reports: “The tiny but perfectly formed figure of Hazel Blears has collapsed into giggles. I have just suggested that her department’s new “£1bn housing market rescue plan” brings to mind the words “pissing” and “wind”.

“I perhaps wouldn’t have put it so graphically” says the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, 52, when she recovers her composure. “I think that’s probably a male way of putting it. Because women do it differently – we do, trust me on that.”

Well that’s all for this week from The Boat… a long week past, a long week ahead.  I suspect there will be more shocks to come and I suspect also that last week’s record FTSE bounce may well bounce down again before too long.  We shall soon find out.

One for Family lawyers…. although of general appeal, sent in by a very good friend, a female barrister currently living in Australia.

“A man comes home, finds his wife with his friend in bed. He shoots his friend and kills him.

Wife says, ‘If you keep on behaving like this, you’ll lose ALL your friends’

Regards, as always

20 September: Postcard from the Boat (1)

I woke early on the Saturday morning, made a black coffee and started writing.  As the dawn came up I noticed that the Thames was like a mill pond, flat, calm and the chill air still.  It was low tide.  The sun was breaking on the horizon and flared over Battersea bridge.  Unfortunately, I only have a mobile phone camera available at present as my camera and other kit is still in store.  The photograph doesn’t do justice to the beautiful morning but, hopefully, gives you a sense of the scene this morning. The other view is up river.

A trip to breakfast at a cafe on the King’s Road – the usual 7.00 am patois of the builders, scaffolders et al, happily absent.  When I say ‘patois’,  I will give a taste of what I can hear most mornings…. it runs something like this:-

“B***ding hell… Frank… I could murder a F******g egg and chips….” … “Yes…. Dave…. I think I’ll have a F******g egg and chips as well, mate”… and so it goes on.  For the few guys who actually bother to bring a newspaper in with them it is, inevitably, Ingerlands favourite newspaper The Sun. Football is, of course discussed, as is Page Three… punctuated with colourful anglo-saxon and if politics is discussed at all it is in terms of “Bleeding hell…. or   “What has that C**t Brown done now?…. B******d!”… and, my favourite:  “Mind you that tosser Cameron… he ain’t any better.” …. believe me, I do not exaggerate. I have never heard mention of any LiB-Dem politicians at these early morning political round ups.  I enjoy it.  Quite different from and far more amusing than the domestic minutiae and angst I used to have listen to from the middle classes of Chiswick when they took breakfast at my then local cafe.

I’ve started talking to a few of the guys in the morning. At first, in the English way, it was nods of recognition and then, gradually, a “Morning, mate / Guv etc..” and now a chat about what is in the news.  It is a good way to start the day and can be very amusing.  This morning, however, it was good to read the papers without listening to the masterclass in expletives going on around me.

Saturday disappeared in admin… necessary and tedious. I went on to Twitter to see if Infobunny, Geeklawyer and the usual suspects were on – raising the reputation of UK law blogging (of a type) throughout the world – and discovered Google Translate.

Google Translate… we can speak in many tongues nation unto nation!
I have a couple of German friends – both amusing with a sense of the bizarre.  One, fortunately, is in London – so I could not resist a quick email to tell him that I had learned to speak german in only five days : “Guten Abend Hans. Ich schreibe aus meinem Boot nach dem Lernen zu sprechen Deutsch in nur fünf Tagen. Das ist gut … ja?”

I received an email back in German – expressing, shall we say, a degree of bafflement that I had suddenly learned to speak German.  Of course, i was able to translate his German back into English and was able to reply that we British had surprised the Germans on many occasions over the past 100 or so years “Vielen Dank für Ihre E-Mail und zum Schreiben von mir auf Deutsch. Dies wird mir helfen. Sie sagen, Sie sind überrascht – aber warum? British haben wir überrascht, die Deutschen bei vielen Gelegenheiten in den letzten 100 Jahren.”

I have no idea whether Google translate is accurate – or how it works.  I do speak very bad  and limited tourist French, appalling Italian and it seemed, to my limited knowledge of these languages, that Google did a pretty good job of translating what I wanted to say into a form of French or Italian capable of being understood.  The possibilities are endless.  I shall email Prime Minister of Putin in Russian to ask him what his plans are to invade Western Europe and if I need to go short on Gas.

Unfortunately, my deception was rumbled when my friend emailed me back in German to say that he would telephone me to see how good my German accent was.  I did not have the heart to talk English with a Max Mosley style German accent….. so I had to explain that I was going out and may never be able to speak to him again.

It has been an astonishing week. I have covered it in some respects with my Law Review posts and my new toy “Charon Reports”…..

Splitting my postcard into two sections this weekend – more in Part II tomorrow.  Now.. it is time for some vino rosso…

I shall end with this thought… just for lawyers… THANK God/ your own belief structure, if any… Google hasn’t worked out “Google LAW”…. we’ll all be doing a Lehman then.

Buona notte

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Law Review: Sackings, short selling and stupidity…

Last week some thought the world would end when the CERN boys switched on the Large Hadron Collider.  This week it was the turn of the bankers to see what they could do to bring havoc to the world.  The blood ran on Wall St and through financial markets worldwide.  The masters of the universe, with names like “The Gorilla” who once ruled global markets,  find, five days after the horrors of ‘Black Monday’,  a very different financial landscape.  Lehman – gone.  AIG – effectively nationalised. Merrill Lynch – swallowed by Bank of America, Morgan Stanley contemplating selling 49% off to the Chinese,  HBOS – gobbled up by so-called ‘Black Carthorse’ Lloyds TSB and now… even mighty Goldman Sachs is wondering whether they too will be able to ride the storm.

So what is happening in our sector? There is, some say,  going to be plenty of work for litigators and barristers in scapegoat litigation – and certainly this is the view of one practising barrister who commented on my Calm Assessment? post yesterday.

The Lawyer reports: “Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has axed as many as four associates in its real estate group, becoming the first magic circle firm to make redundancies.”

Legal Week reports: “Lloyds TSB has today (18 September) confirmed that there could be legal job losses as a result of its £12.2bn takeover of stricken lender HBOS.”

EDIT: Lawslot, whose blog I have only just come across, has some interesting views on the future of the legal sector – well worth a bookmark and read.

Legal Week, rather cheerily, has a poll: The question they ask is – “Will a major law firm go the way of Lehman?  Naturally, I had to have a look.  As at midday the result is:

Ripping up the rule book?

Short selling has been outlawed for the time being to stop ruthless bankers taking advantage of falling share prices – or even, as some say,  assisting the drop in values by selling short.

Head of Legal, who knows a thing or two having worked as a government lawyer for ten years, has two interesting blog posts:  Short selling now market abuse | The Lloyds TSB – HBOS merger and Competition Law – both worth a read.

And now for a bit of stupidity…. ?

RollonFriday.com has a piece on a US lawyer: “Gabriel Schwartz may only be 29, but he’s already made a bit of a name for himself. He’s founder of the law firm Sandomire & Schwartz, and was recently selected to be a Colorado delegate to the US Republican National Convention. Here’s an interview with the charming fellow. “Less taxes and more war!” – what an arse.”

This guy demonstrates in one short interview why we should be concerned about the bellicose views of some americans – he also manages to demonstrate that having a legal education does not always bring wisdom, common sense, judgement and balance – but, hey… judge for yourself.  The full RollonFriday story and the film is a classic – definitely worth a few minutes of your time. There is also another aspect to the story which may amuse….he seems to have been relieved of up to $120,000 in jewellery and cash after picking up a woman in a hotel bar after a conference. RollonFriday film and story.

AND FINALLY… I am grateful to Carl Gardner, author of the Head of Legal blog, for sending me an email about the Brown Calculator – very definitely worth a go to lighten your budens and raise your spirits.  You just have to use this calculator – very amusing.

So… there we are.  Friday means the weekend is almost upon us.  The sun is shining, the world may look pretty bleak.  I think it may be time for a spot of lunch and a glass of Rioja after two days of abstention from all booze.

Postcard from The Boat will, of course, follow this weekend and I may also publish the next instalment of West London Man – who works in the financial sector and has had a dificult week. .

Walking while you work? – Good idea or bad idea?

You have to hand it to the Americans. In a week when the world is reeling from financial armageddon the New York Times reports on a new fad – walking on a treadmill while you work.

Apparently, TERRI KRIVOSHA, a partner at a Minneapolis law firm, logs three miles each workday on a treadmill without leaving her desk. She finds it easier to exercise while she types than to attend aerobics classes at the crack of dawn.

Frankly – this is not a fad I shall be taking up.  While I am quite happy to wander about the lower deck office on The Boat while talking on the phone, the idea of trying to type, work, concentrate, smoke and drink glasses of Rioja while walking on a treadmill is not one I want to contemplate.  I find that walking is an activity best done without being engaged in too many other activities and I generally do it (a) to get a bit of pleasure wandering around looking at London or (b) to get to a bar or, indeed, a meeting involving the Bar.

Maybe top law firms in The City will pick up on this and set the treadmills to run ‘fast’ ?  Who knows in these times of financial armageddon?

Law Review: Calm assessment?

A quick trawl through The Lawyer, Legal Week and online newspapers threw up some quite interesting information.

The Lawyer kicks off with “The collapse of Lehman, the acquisition of Merrill Lynch and the effective privatisation of AIG has left dozens of lawyers facing life without their once lucrative client relationships.”

This does not trouble some lawyers.  In the same article from The Lawyer – “Back in Manhattan, Latham & Watkins had close ties with both Lehman and AIG. Is the firm troubled? Despite the double blow, at least one Latham partner seemed relaxed.“AIG and Lehman were both significant clients for us but individually we are not concerned about what has happened,” he said.“We had revenues of over $2bn last year and if Lehman represented $20m of that I would be very surprised.”

A quick snapshot from the news section of The Lawyer at lunch today reveals that top law firms and some barrister’s chambers are picking up fallout work from Lehman, AIG, Lloyds-HBOS et al.

Legal Week introduces a fairly obvious warning note: “City firms including Ashurst, Allen & Overy (A&O), Linklaters, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Lovells all sit on Lehman’s UK legal panel, with the bank estimated to spend some £40m in legal fees globally each year.”

PWC confirmed that the Lehman lawyers in London will be paid no later than 30th September – but will the market be able to absorb high rolling lawyers once the current work is complete?  What of the legal teams and advisers, for example, in the Lloyds-HBOS takoever?  Newspapers are suggesting that 40,000 jobs could go with the merger of Lloyds and HBOS – inevitably there will be a knock on effect in terms of lawyers and legal recruitment.

Further down the scale and in other sectors of legal work, what is the picture looking like there? The obvious downturn lies in property, commercial and residential.  John Bolch over at Family Lore reports that divorce work is down, partly because there are fewer marriages but also, inevitably because people will be counting the practical costs of divorce in the current climate.  Recession if it happens – and experts predict that Britain will go into recesiion – will bring an inevitable downturn in legal work across a range of sectors – although specialists in insolvency may well be the benefactors in the coming years.

The impact on legal education?

It won’t be long, I suspect, before law firms start deferring training contract starts and, it must follow, given the present economic climate, that recruitment will be even tighter both for young solicitors and for pupil barristers.  The Law Schools will also have to do a fairly careful SWOT analysis of their expansion and recruitment strategies over the next few years. There was a time when investment in a new building could offset the costs of establishing a new course, should all go wrong – but with property values declining that option is no longer available to cover, running costs and recent  expansion risk.

It will be interesting to see how the big law schools – The College of Law, BPP, Nottingham-Kaplan -  cope with the changing financial landscape.  Traditional universities offering LPC and BVC courses as part of a full service education provision without the same profit imperative may find their numbers dwindling as the big ‘corporate’ law schools eye up their students to feed the gaping jaw of expansion and, in the case of BPP and Kaplan, shareholder needs. If the schools start to cut back on costs, quality will suffer.  Will we see a shakedown in LPC and BVC provision over the next two to three years?

It is too early to give a balanced analysis – there must be more to come, but the shape is beginning to  form and it is not particularly benevolent or encouraging from the sidelines as analysts view it in the wake of “Black Monday”.

Charon Report 6: From the Cabinet War Rooms, London

Audio podcast: Charon Reports 6 – From the Cabinet War Rooms, London

I report, tonight, from The Cabinet War Rooms in London, last used during World War II by Churchill to direct Britain’s War effort against the tyranny of Nazi Germany. Tonight, these War Rooms serve a different purpose.   Tonight, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown, has to face two facts – first that David Cameron’s Tories now lead in the polls with 52 % and, secondly, that FTSE has fallen well below the 5000 mark, closing at 4912. It is inconceivable that the crisis has ended…. there will be more banking failures to come, FTSE may well fall even further…. as Churchill would have said, if he was alive today,…. “This is Gordon’s Brown’s darkest hour.”

We have an unelected prime minister, surely in the death throes of his brief and all too lamentable tenure of the greatest office of state in the land.  Described by one of his own as the worst prime minister since Neville Chamberlain, Brown appears, a mix of Dithering Height and Lear, to be completely unaware of his duty to our nation.  If he was a Tory, it would be a trip to a metaphorical library where a glass of scotch and a loaded revolver would be laid out, tastefully, on a Chippendale side table.  Brown is unlikely to go voluntarily.  His mantra, oft repeated, that he is ‘getting on with the job”,  is just not good enough in these days of chaos, crisis and calamity.

I spent a few minutes on the internet reading political blogs.  I no longer trouble to read Nick Robinson of the BBC – a favourite of George Bush, because he doesn’t seem to know anything or get anything right in recent weeks.  The BBC appears to be spinning faster than a cheap washing machine from Comet on a spin cycle directed by Labour HQ.  Guido Fawkes talks of political and economic meltdown and his band of commenters, ranging from the profane to the proficient, provide a thermometer of opinion on the mood of the country.

Iain Dale of the eponymous Iain Dale’s Diary links to an interesting piece by Tim Montgomerie who has written a fascinating account of the dying days of IDS’s leadership, in which he draws parallels to the situation facing Gordon Brown and his inner team.

How long do we have to wait?  The Richard III of the Labour government, Jack Straw, is overseas telling foreign governments how to run a good justice system – ironic from the the Head of a Ministry of Justice of a government which has managed to do so much to erode civil liberties and make justice just that little bit more difficult to achieve over the past ten years – most recently facing a crisis where criminals may have to be released because barristers won’t work for the pittance being offered by the government.

David Milliband, who to my jaded eye seems to resemble the actor who plays Henry  VIII in the BBC production  The Tudors, has shot his bolt, arguably, and who is to say he would be any good anyway?  He was told to F**k off the other day by the Russian Foreign Minister and appears to have done so.

Well… there we are… this story has a long way to go… as Churchill may have said… this may not be the end for Gordon Brown but it may be the end of the beginning of the end.

This is Charon, reporting from the Cabinet War Rooms near the seat of government in London.

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Audio podcast: Charon Reports 6 – From the Cabinet War Rooms, London

Law Review: Juries, jazzy and jam…

The Independent carried a story today about the dangers  of police officers sitting on juries. The law was reformed five years ago to widen the pool from which jurors could be called to include judges, lawyers, police and others.  I thought at the time that having judges, experienced lawyers and police on juries would, ultimately, not work – despite protestations to the contrary at the time that jurors with judicial or police experience would serve impartially.  I am not a criminal lawyer, but it is interesting when four senior Crown Court judges are critical.  One judge is reported as saying:  “I do think the notion of opening up juries to those actually involved in the legal system is a step too far. When I say the legal system, I include police officers.” Another said: “I think it’s too far to have judges and policemen sit on juries… In a criminal case police in particular are not who you would want on a dispassionate jury.”

With the middle and professional classes keen to avoid jury duty and, from what I have been told, fairly successful at doing so – inevitably, the intellectual ability, impartiality and enthusiasm of some jurors may well be a factor in the efficacy of that jury.

It would be interesting to hear the view of criminal practitioners who read this blog – assuming you have the time, energy or inclination to comment! – or, indeed, the view of readers generally.

So… it is not all bad news for lawyers
The former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, has predicted an explosion of ‘mega-litigation’ in the aftermath of this week’s collapse of Lehman Brothers. Legal Week reports “There is going to be litigation on a scale that we have not seen before,” he told the conference, predicting the emergence of “a new era” for litigation and dispute resolution. Falconer said Lehman-related litigation would follow three stages. First, there would be a series of disputes to determine the exact nature of the liabilities, then there would be a battle to determine how the bank’s remaining assets should be distributed and finally creditors would seek to identify institutions, advisors or regulatory bodies they could blame for their loss.

And it seems that London Lehman lawyers are going to be in work for some ‘months’. The Lawyer

While Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, has been in Vietnam and Pakistan building bridges and telling people how to run a justice system, Maria Eagle, has been busy over at The Ministry of Justice.  Her latest announcement (of several this week) : The law on assisting suicide is to be simplified to increase public understanding and reassure people that it applies as much on the internet as it does off-line, Justice Minister, Maria Eagle said today. Following a review of the Suicide Act 1961, the government has decided to reframe it in new, modern language that will make it easier for individual internet users and internet-based businesses, such as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to understand. UK ISPs already take down any websites under their control when notified that they contain illegal material and are free to restrict access to harmful or tasteless material in accordance with their ‘acceptable use’ policies. Simplifying the law should help them in doing this.

It is pleasing to see that at least some MPs are at their desks instead of skulking in the shadows of The Senate, daggers under their togas, waiting for Julius Brown to pitch up.

It is also pleasing to see that local authorities are taking advantage of their limited understanding of the principles of (a) justice and (b) common sense by misusing legislation. The Telegraph reports that  Covert surveillance was used in a bid to catch independent punt operators collecting customers from undesignated spots along the River Cam in Cambridge. Cambridge City Council mounted two cameras under a pavilion roof to spy on punters and council staff took hundreds of photographs. The use of the cameras was authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). Labour councillor Lewis Herbert said the council was justified in using the cameras, for health and safety reasons.

Clearly, I misunderstood the purpose of the RIPA legislation.  I had understood it to be designed to assist in the war on terror and to deal with the need for covert surveillance of terror suspects.  Ah well….. that’s the problem with modern legislation… so much of it and not always that well crafted.

I shall resist the urge to say anything other than …. this is clearly a stunt with a punt.

And finally….

Is The Stig a High Court judge? Well… anything is possible and certainly, these days, our senior judges are very more closely in touch with daily life than perhaps once they were - but, no… it is unlikely that The Stig is a senior judge.  But…. if The Stig is a high court judge…  these will be his day job robes (without wig) from 1st October when the new look judiciary hits town in non-criminal cases. The learned friends, however, will continue to dress as they have done for centuries… although it has to be said… one does not see many blue and red bags around these days…it is  all stewardess style  suitcases on trolleys these days to cart the kit, laptops and files around.

More legal developments as they unfold….