The Patriot needs YOU!

David Cameron has played the ‘Patriot’ card…. it is our patriotic duty to vote for him… to save the country we love.  Where the F**k did the Laurel & Hardy Institute of Policy come up with this idea?… in a crack den?

Well… all I can say in response… after cracking open the Photoshop to do a very obvious pastiche on Kitchener is quote (slightly modified) the lyrics to the Dad’s Army theme tune…

Who do you think you are kidding Mister Cameron

if you think we’re on the run?

We are the boys who will stop your little game

We are the boys who will make you think again

‘Cause who do you think you are kidding Mister Cameron

If you think Old Labour’s done?

Police exceed their powers…again? Excellent video film

If you have not seen this short film yet – please do have a look.  It is an excellent film… Hat Tip to blogger Old Holborn...who writes: “I am sick to death of being told what the law is by people who have no idea of the law yet are being paid by me to uphold the law.”

Quite…

Watch the film

You may also like to look at this for a statement on your rights as a photographer!

Tories have finally cottoned on that they could lose the election

In a week when prime Minister Gordon Brown has been mocked and ridiculed for his ‘bully boy’ ways and parodied in the Taiwan news - the Tories face the prospect that they could actually lose the election and their change of stance to put the focus squarely on a choice between Cameron and Brown and 6 ‘principles or pledges’ may well reflect that ‘reality’.  It won’t be good breakfast reading for Cameron (or Osbore) that YouGov shows the Tory lead cut to just 2 points.  If that lead is reflected in the polls Labour will be the largest party but with no overall majority.

Gordon Brown on course to win election

Sunday Times: GORDON BROWN is on course to remain prime minister after the general election as a new Sunday Times poll reveals that Labour is now just two points behind the Tories. The YouGov survey places David Cameron’s Conservatives on 37%, as against 35% for Labour — the closest gap between the parties in more than two years. It means Labour is heading for a total of 317 seats, nine short of an overall majority, with the Tories languishing on a total of just 263 MPs. Such an outcome would mean Brown could stay in office and deny Cameron the keys to No 10. The poll result presents the Conservative leader with one of the greatest challenges of his leadership today as he makes the keynote speech to his party’s spring forum.

Perhaps rather more worrying for the Tories is that they appear to be saddled by Osbore – who is not revealing any  talent for ideas or communication. Simon Heffer, writing in The telegraph, puts the boot in with…..

The madness of Little George Osborne

Simon Heffer finds the Shadow Chancellor’s recent bout of lunatic posturing irksome. Heffer writes: “George Osborne is becoming a real problem. He gave a lecture on the economy earlier this week whose message I found incomprehensible. There will be cuts, he said. Good. But Dave Cameron, his boss, said shortly beforehand that there had better not be “swingeing” cuts. When is a cut not a cut? What makes a cut, if it be a cut, swingeing?

Heffer then places the ball in front of the posts, runs up and kicks… “What most annoyed me about Little George, though, was the despairing way in which I heard him announce on Radio 4 on Wednesday that “we” would have to “get” the salaries of bankers “down”. I concede that a couple of banks are largely owned by the taxpayer. However, most aren’t: and none totally is. So why does George feel it is his place, like some member of the Socialist Workers’ Party, to call for bankers to be paid less? Since when was the Conservative Party, should it win power, planning to Sovietise our economy in a fashion that would allow it to control bankers’ pay? And even if it were, what does it think this idiotic and unpleasantly illiberal move would achieve?

While I am no great fan of bankers getting paid vast amounts of money, the realpolitik is that unless every major economy in the world acts in concert on banker’s salaries , bonuses et al – the market will rule and the very high reward structure for banks will have to remain. Political posturing is fun for a while but then the harsh ays of reality kick in.  If Britain a banking sector, let alone one of the most effectrive in the world, we can’t control what the banks do in terms of rewards to the top people who make the money.

Heffer also suggests that Darling would do well to suspend the plan to tax at 50p.  This is a sensible proposal.  Economist will punch each other out of the way to get into a TV studio and claim that taxing at 50p will not raise a great deal of money and will simply cause those who do create wealth to find a more generous tax regime.  Lowering taxes, they say, is the way forward and is likely to raise more tax revenue in the medium term.

I do not relish five years with Gordon Brown as leader.  I do not relish five years with a Labour government which continues to erode civil liberties.  I do not relish five years of a Labour government which permits 20,000 council workers to enter homes without a warrant.

I do relish Labour choosing a new leader, getting rid of tired, dead wood, and trying to build a party to reflect a ‘future fair for all’ and which has a long hard look at geopolitics to see whether we really need to play policeman with America in the future, whether we need to continue, long term, in getting involved in long protracted and expensive military engagements overseas when policy might be better focused and directed on our own defence and relations with Europe and the Commonwealth.  Why… we may even be able to negotiate a sensible solution with Argentina on the Falklands to ensure the islanders are free and all benefit should oil be found?!  Good grief…. that sort of thinking won’t do at all… Sun readers will be coughing into their cornflakes at that idea.

It does seem that the weight of professional world opinion is with Labour in terms of the solution to the deficit and Darling does seem to be getting stronger – hopefully too strong for Brown, should he win, to parachute Ed Balls or any other acolyte into Number 11.

I don’t suppose Brown is vulnerable in his constituency?  Where is Alex Salmond when you need him?!  I suspect the Tory bloggers and twitterers will be a bit quiet this morning while they get their spinning jennies out to cast their ‘silk’ later in the day!

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames

Dear Reader,

I have taken up smoking Marlboro Lites – a health kick thingy to supplement my return to the noble art of Smokedo this weekend. I was rather taken with the knowledge that there are now 1440 references on Google for Smokedo which I invented for myself (and others)  last Spring. Pictured left is a drawing done by a very good artist and friend of mine – Lindsey Goldsmith.  The drawing, which took 15 minutes while the artist was pissed at 3.30 am some years back – captures the very essence of my smoking technique.  I am not usually interested in images of myself – but I treasure this one because it was done at 3.30 am while the artist was roaring. I may well have been over refreshed myself at the time.

It is pleasing to see the return of an old friend of mine to the world of law blogging.  The Fat Bigot has returned to enliven our mornings. FB has a great writing style and his insights into the events of our times are worth reading.

Another law blog ‘Law & Lawyers’ , with serious analysis, which I read each day is by Obiter J – who is a regular commenter on my own blog (pleasingly). Have a look?

And since the law blogging world is getting better why not have a look at a blog written by solicitor Matthew Taylor.  Matthew and I plan to do a number of regular podcasts on general law issues of the week.

Mercifully, there are still of a few of us old lags who continue to write nonsense and cover nonsense. I always enjoy my visits to The White Rabbit – who is  Off to London for the weekend…

When Geeklawyer returns from terrorising High Court judges with his advocacy and tweeting with his ‘harem’ on Twitter - it is quite possible that he, too, will contribute to the more surreal analysis of the legal events of our times.  To be fair, Geeklawyer did much to help our understanding of the Middle East with a post only last week… Wimmin Lawyers allowed to speak in Saudi Arabia It is, perhaps, best that I let Geeklawyer explain his thoughts, rather than extract a passage – they are not always ‘office safe’.

THE THINGS YOU SEE (OR READ ABOUT) WHEN YOU HAVEN’T GOT A GUN…

After reading about people turning up at Tesco and other supermarkets to do their shopping in their pyjamas, I did not for one moment think I would witness  such bizarre behaviour myself.  I should have known better.  I have moved to Battersea… near Battersea Square in fact.  This very morning, but a few moments ago, at 10.30 after  returning from doing some Marlboro smoking and reading of the papers at a cafe on the King’s Road, I went into my local newsagent and saw a a man in a fairly unpleasantly coloured check dressing gown, even more absurdly check coloured bedroom slippers and pyjamas with a yellow baseball cap on.  He was buying newspapers and milk and was very pleased with himself generally – judging by the patronising way he spoke to the sales assistant behind the till in a drawling Sloany accent.  I suspect that he may be  ‘something in the City’.  I resisted the impulse to laugh maniacally like those ‘shouters’ who wander about  pissed in the street do and tried to avoid looking as if I was fascinated by the absurdity of his appearance.  I was standing nearby, waiting to buy more supplies.   I haven’t worn pyjamas for forty-five years – it seems to me to be a tad effete to do so – and marvelled that this man (a) would do so and (b) that he thought he was being ‘cool’ by shopping in them. A grown man, dressed in ‘jim-jams and dressing gown more suited to an eight year old boy at prep school in the fifties’, complete with nerdy bedroom slippers, and wearing a baseball cap, is not a good look. If I was Jeremy Clarkson I’d probably want to deport him… but I am not.

Talking about Jeremy Clarkson – he is right on some things. I read The Sun most mornings before turning to more sensible newspapers.  I do this because I want to see what propaganda is being propagated to millions of potential voters by a newspaper which seems to change political allegiance at the drop of a hat.  Clarkson was moaning about the fact that for every electrical device we rely on – laptops, mobiles, camcorders, iPods etc etc there are many separate chargers which have to be carted about if one goes on holiday or even on a short business trip.  Why can’t they come up a universal charger socket and charger?

The nannies are at it again with proposals to require Cinemas to put warnings and calories on popcorn and other foods sold to fat bastards and obese  e-numbered up children. I lost the will to read more of this in The Times this morning and turned the page to read a satisfyingly pleasing story that house prices have dipped again by 1.5% – the point being that this may aid the ‘fragile recovery’.  One of the good things about the recent recession has been that pub and dinner party talk has not been marred by venal and greedy people boring me  to death with how marvellous they are in having a house that has risen in value by gazillions of pounds.  The recent rises in house property prices was beginning to encourage Justin & Annabel to come out of the cupboard again with talk of house values.

Finally… for my ‘Rant du Jour’:  also in The Sun, was a story about a father being told by a security guard at a shopping complex that he could not take a photograph of his own son who was sitting on a toy train….  because he, the father, might be a paedophile. I accept that stupid people have to have jobs – but I do think it best that if people really want to be stupid they should not be employed as security guards. The father objected, remonstrating that he was the child’s father…at which point stupid man says that the father cannot prove this and calls the police.  PC Plod turns up and he, too, it seems, is rather stupid.  PC Plod, it is reported, tells the father that he isn’t allowed to take photographs of children and says that he can require the photograph to be deleted. The father got a bit heated, at which point PC Idiot decides to threaten the father with arrest fror breach of the peace. Christ on a f*****g bicycle…. how do people like this get into the Police?

I am pretty sure there is no law on photographing one’s own child in public and I know of no law which gives the police power to delete photographs taken in this context. I could be wrong, of course… there are so many new idiotic laws in this country that it is difficult to be certain. I appreciate that society has to protect children from paedophiles – but it is getting to a pretty sorry state of affairs when a father can’t even take a pic of his own kid?  Perhaps I am off beam on this and we do need these laws.  I have a photograph of myself aged five naked in a bath.  My parents took the photograph.  I suspect many readers will have pictures from their childhood taken by loving parents.  I also have a photograph of me aged 8 – toothy, wearing short trousers, grey flannel shirt, striped school tie,  a school cap, eating an ice cream – with a parrot on my shoulder…. which appealed to an ex-lover of mine because she said I looked ‘sweet’.  I am pleased to report now… that I am (a) not sweet and (b) do not look sweet.  Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is closer to my ‘look’ these days and,  some say… with an ‘attitude’  to match!

Guido Fawkes has a good story about a Telegraph hackette writing to David Cameron’s friends – on Facebook etc – to dig for dirt about his school days. Telegraph Digging on Dave’s School-days

Frankly, I hope Cameron did have a great time at school and university.  I could not give a damn what Cameron did then. Most people have a few minor skeletons from those halcyon days.  Half the Labour Cabinet popped up some time ago with tales of drug taking at university – with appropriate statements of retrospective remorse  – but it would be most pleasing if he did have a normal childhood and got wasted at university from time to time.

There will, no doubt, be amusements to comment on in the Sunday papers tomorrow…. so I shall hit the send button on my weekly  ‘postcard’ and wander off to find a pub to enjoy a glass of Rioja at locally and think about what I plan to do next.  I think I shall return to painting soon…. My F***Art section needs a few more entries.

Best, as always

Charon

Law Review: Judges will not be cowed by government, time to rein in the law schools? and an ‘arse from elbow’ guide

Labour government Home Secretaries spend a great deal of time expressing disappointment with the judiciary – largely because because their department and those for whom they are responsible do not comply with the law.  The latest opportunity for a Home Secretary to express disappointment came last week when the Court of Appeal decided to reinstate a judge’s criticism of MI5 in a landmark torture ruling.

While The Lawyer focuses on:  “The Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge has rejected claims that Brick Court’s Jonathan Sumption QC had attempted to interfere with a draft judgment by requesting that a paragraph of the Binyam Mohamed torture ruling be redacted.@ The Times dealt with the rather more meaty issue of why the judges refused to bow to government pressure.

The Times reports: “Today, in the interests of “open justice”, Lord Neuberger and two other top judges decided to reinstate the paragraph, albeit subtly rewritten to make the criticism more narrowly focused on the Binyam Mohamed case. To prevent a continuing censorship row, they also decided to publish the original draft text….The decision brought calls from groups such as Amnesty International, Liberty and Reprieve for a full public inquiry into allegations that UK spy agencies colluded in torture during George W Bush’s “War on Terror”. Ministers were furious. Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, said that he was deeply disappointed by the court’s decision to “criticise the Security Service in this way”.

The government has every right to express disappointment with a particular judgment – although in doing so with an audience prepared to read the judgment of the Court of Appeal it cuts little ice.  It may well appeal, however, in an election year, to voters who are already whipped into a frenzy by coverage in The Sun about ‘killing burglars’ and judges who are ‘too soft’. Unfortunately, the wider public does not read law reports and may, therefore, not fully appreciate why the senior judiciary is at odds with the government on this and other civil liberty issues. The judgment of the Court of Appeal makes interesting reading.

An extract from Lord Nueberger MR judgment:

In these circumstances, the final version of paragraphs 168 to 170 in my judgment of 10th February 2010 is as follows:
“168. Fourthly, it is also germane that the Security Services had made it clear in March 2005, through a report from the Intelligence and Security Committee, that “they operated a culture that respected human rights and that coercive interrogation techniques were alien to the Services’ general ethics, methodology and training” (paragraph 9 of the first judgment), indeed they “denied that [they] knew of any ill-treatment of detainees interviewed by them whilst detained by or on behalf of the [US] Government” (paragraph 44(ii) of the fourth judgment). Yet, in this case, that does not seem to have been true: as the evidence showed, some Security Services officials appear to have a dubious record relating to actual involvement, and frankness about any such involvement, with the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed when he was held at the behest of US officials. I have in mind in particular witness B, but the evidence in this case suggests that it is likely that there were others. The good faith of the Foreign Secretary is not in question, but he prepared the certificates partly, possibly largely, on the basis of information and advice provided by Security Services personnel. Regrettably, but inevitably, this must raise the question whether any statement in the certificates on an issue concerning the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed can be relied on, especially when the issue is whether contemporaneous communications to the Security Services about such mistreatment should be revealed publicly. Not only is there some reason for distrusting such a statement, given that it is based on Security Services’ advice and information, because of previous, albeit general, assurances in 2005, but also the Security Services have an interest in the suppression of such information.
169. My concern on this point is mitigated by the fact that the certificates appear to be supported by communications from the US, most pertinently the CIA letter and what was recorded as having been said by the Secretary of State. The US Government, like any other Government, plainly has an interest in ensuring that it controls the flow of any information which it provides to the SyS on a confidential basis, and the fact that it (and other Governments) may well be motivated in this case by embarrassment is not the point: one is concerned with hard facts, not moral judgements.

170. My conclusion on this half of the balancing exercise is this. While there are strong reasons for scepticism, I accept that the Foreign Secretary genuinely believes, and has some grounds for believing, what he has stated in the three certificates, namely that the flow of information from foreign Government intelligence services to the SyS could be curtailed if the redacted paragraphs are published, because that publication would be regarded by those Governments as an unjustifiable breach of the control principle. The normal reasons for deferring to his views on such an issue are diluted by the fact that there is nothing inherently sensitive in the information in those paragraphs, the very narrow and technical nature of the breach, the fact that the US must have appreciated the risk of intelligence material being disclosed pursuant to the law, the fact that other material apparently subject to the control principle has been revealed in the first judgement without objection, and a concern which arises from the apparent involvement of at least one Security Services agent in the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed. However, it is right to weigh against these factors the fact that the Foreign Secretary’s opinion is reinforced by the CIA letter and the notes of the views of the Secretary of State.”

Government fury as judges attack security services

The Guardian reports: Ministers back MI5 after highly critical verdict on secret service involvement in Binyam Mohamed case.

That the government should react with such ‘fury’ is entirely predictable.  Perhaps this says more about the present government than it does the judiciary? Are we likely to see further clashes with government in the coming years? I suspect so.

Time to rein in the law schools?

Beth Wanonoo argues on the Junior Lawyer’s Division website:

There needs to be a set of principles in place to protect students in this marketplace. A ‘law schools’ charter’ if you will. And the SRA should enforce it…

This is what it should contain:

1. Fees must be proportionate to the amount of cost law schools accrue. If the majority of the course is online, that course must be substantially cheaper than one which is ‘off-line’.

2. Law schools should be incredibly, incredibly, incredibly clear to prospective students about the marketplace. They should encourage frank self-evaluation BEFORE the course starts. It is too much to expect every student to be interviewed, but admission to law schools needs to be looked at in great detail.

3. There should be a league table of legal education providers. The SRA should allow the Law Society to rate each law school along five criteria, with each criteria having between 1 and 5 stars. Those criteria: 1. Teaching 2. Facilities 3. Careers advice 4. Administration 5. Employment (as in percentage of grads with jobs). These should be published on the Law Society’s website annually.

Having the ‘employment’ criteria will mean that law schools will be under pressure to keep their admissions strict or risk their ratios being diluted. We must also have clear statistics of how many graduates are employed as paralegals and as solicitors after one year.

4. The SRA must have a blurb in each law school prospectus or its advertising media, saying something like this “the LPC is the purely academic stage of legal qualification. It is no guarantee of admission to the roll and does not carry any rights of practice.”

If the SRA, or the Law Society, or even the JLD don’t stand up for students, nobody else will. At the moment there is little representation for students and consequently little balance between their position and that of the law schools.

I don’t agree with Ms Wanonoo on the issue of fee pricing. This is best controlled by competition and the market. Central Law Training have entered the market with a cheaper option. Whether students will be attracted by a cut-price option for a course provided through a commercial CPD provider with little direct experience of running courses themselves  (They are teaming up with the University of The West of England) remains to be seen.

I have long felt that the fees for the LPC and BVC are ‘pacy’ – with BPP Law School heading the list – but this is essentially a matter of what the market will bear and regulators may have little appetite for getting involved. Law Schools are now required to brief students about the legal market place and give clear guidance on the the prospects. Her view that law courses carry a ‘health warning’ is not unreasonable to draw attention to the realities in the profession of today.

I do agree with her idea that there should be a league table of Law School providers for the LPC (and for the BVC / BPTC).
The Bar Standards Board is now publishing inspection visit reports and demonstrated only this week they are prepared to carry out robust inspections and be blunt – even if they have little in the way of sanction to correct errant behaviour.

Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law has long argued that the SRA should beef up its procedures for inspecting law schools  providing instruction for the LPC.  I agree.  Students (or law firms) pay high fees for these courses and they are entitled to know (a) that regulators are regulating and (b) that information is made public.

In the ‘arse from their elbow’ department this week…

RollonFriday notes: “It’s been another poor week for law schools. First Nottingham Law School set its students an impossible question, then the College of Law forgot to hand out a multiple choice answer sheet. Not wanting to be left out, the School of Oriental and African Studies then set its law students the most bizarre exam question in living memory……

RoF provides a helpful cut out guide for law school administrators.

There is more law news… but it is early on Saturday morning… and I shall return to law later in the weekend….

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames coming…soon.

The Bar Standards Board report on BPP Law School oversubscription on the BVC

The Bar Standards Board has published a report on the ‘Triggered Visit’ to BPP Law School.

The report states, under ‘The Rationale for The Visit’: “The visit was held to discuss the over recruitment of students by BPP onto the full time and part time course for AY2009-10. An informal ‘fact finding’ meeting was held with members of BPP management on 11 September (right after notification) and a formal meeting, chaired by Nigel Cooper QC, was held on 29 September 2009. Notes of these meetings may be made available separately to relevant committees. The focus of discussion was on the reasons for over recruitment, how it had come about, the nature of infringement of the contract and what might be done to correct the situation – given that the students are of primary concern.”

BPP Law School prides itself as being one of the leading providers of vocational education.  The School is now able to award degrees following approval from the Privy Council.  With such privileges and powers comes responsibility. By oversubscribing on the Bar Vocational Course by a significant amount – the report states the accredited number and the oversubscription: “264 Full Time (318) (at time of visit) /96 Part Time (97) (at time of visit)” – BPP Law School has broken the rules.

I spoke to the Dean and CEO of BPP Law School, Peter Crisp, who told me that the over subscription was ‘inadvertent’. My response to him was that this may well be so, and suggested that he might like to focus his attention on the administration more closely so as to avoid any further inadvertent oversubscriptions in future.

The Bar Standards Board has clearly picked up on this inadvertence with a very strong Condition (Condition 1) which BPP Law School must comply with in future:

“Prior to making any offer for the courses commencing in Sept 2010, BPP must engage the services of an independent statistician or similar expert, (name and CV to be approved by the BSB) to review all available admissions data for the previous 5 years and clarify that in his/her professional opinion the number of offers that BPP wishes to make should not lead to over-recruitment. This certification is to be provided to the BSB before any offers are made, and thereafter the number of offers made by BPP shall not exceed the certified number. This procedure is to be repeated for the courses commencing in September 2011 and September 2012.”

The Bar Standards Board has no power to fine providers – which is fair enough and short of the ‘nuclear’ option of withdrawing accreditation (not merited here) there is little that can be done in terms of penalty.  Given my experience in the past (I founded BPP Law School with Charlie Prior, then CEO of BPP Holdings plc) I am well aware of the inspection process.  The Bar Standards Board is to be commended for what was clearly a rigorous inspection -  even a cursory read of the published report reveals this – and, more importantly, for being prepared to publish their findings.  The BSB plans to publish reports of all inspection visits in future, in line with The Solicitors Regulatory Authority practice  in connection with the Legal Practice Course for solicitors.

BPP earned an additional £793800 for their Bar Vocational Course  (318 enrolled – 264 accredited number of places x BVC fees £14700 (2009) = 793800.

This goes straight to the bottom line. I understand that BPP will have to pay the not insubstantial costs of the inspection visit and they will have incurred additional expenditure in terms of teaching costs, library and IT provision.

Only one other provider (Northumbria University) exceeded the accredited number of places. Other providers will have taken care not to exceed the accredited number of places for fear of being in breach. BPP Law School by breaking the rules, inadvertently or not, have enjoyed a bonus in terms of fee income.  Peter Crisp maintains that the enrolment process in terms of offers to places is not an exact science.  I would dispute this – given that when I ran BPP  Law School we did not break the accredited numbers for the GDL, the LPC or the BVC.  It is difficult to predict numbers but it is not impossible to do so accurately and stay..to coin a phrase from the world of politics… ‘within the rules”.

I am not surprised that the BSB has required BPP to appoint an independent statistician to review all available admissions data for the previous 5 years and clarify that in his/her professional opinion the number of offers that BPP wishes to make should not lead to over-recruitment. BPP made  “620 offers… and 434 acceptances were received by BPP (in April), for 264 validated places.”

This is serious inadvertence. Students are not supposed to make ‘multiple acceptances’. Given that most students who apply for the BVC will get the grades needed to progress, BPP must have been aware that a serious oversubscription problem was heading their way. Interestingly, the Bar Standards Board report states… “During an accreditation meeting in May, there was no mention of the possibility of over-recruitment occurring; in fact, BPP reported that they were ‘working to avoid over-recruitment.’

I accept Peter Crisp’s statement that the oversubscription was inadvertent and not motivated or connected in any way with the sale of BPP Holdings PLC to Apollo last year.  I have no evidence to support any other conclusion.

I take the view, not unreasonably, that BPP Law School has behaved badly on this oversubscription issue.  They have demonstrated that their administration needs to be sorted out on the admissions process and, given that there appears to have been a flurry of activity to reduce numbers by bumping students off the course by seeing if any had paid their fees late

  • Students who had payment problems were sent emails telling them they were not on the course (an action BPP admitted they would not have taken if they had not over-recruited) on the 1/2 September.

There were also reports that BPP were asking students to defer for a year because the Bar Standards Board required them to do so.  This, I am told, was not the case. … The report makes indirect mention of this:

A problem was reported, by some students, regarding the admission process. There are two groups of students who were all, one week before the course was due to start, told they had lost their place on the course due to late payment of fees. The panel was also told that the correspondence merely cited that BPP would love to be able to help, but because of BSB policy regarding numbers, they had to lose their place on the course. It later transpired that most of them had either paid by bank transfer (the money had been floating, unidentified) or were under scholarship from an Inn, so they were subsequently told that they could remain on the course. They students found this very stressful, and felt that the situation could have been dealt with in a much better manner. They were given no warning, or request for payment, but just told they no longer had a place on the course, with no chance to offer an explanation. They have subsequently felt as if the course was organised and tutors allocated without their groups in the equation. This is a cause for concern for the BSB, since the BSB is concerned with a consistent, quality assured experience for students.”

The rest of the report deals with quality assurance and health and safety issues.  BPP Law School is still a good law school. There is no doubt about that.  I had a twitter message from a fellow user of Twitter to indicate that things improved at BPP following the BSB visit and I have also heard or read first hand reports from BPP students confirming that the teaching and provision was good.

BPP Law School hasn’t been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. They have, however, broken the rules.  They have not got away scot-free. It is true that the costs incurred are far less than the profit they made by the oversubscription.  BPP Law School has been given a fairly sharp slap on the wrists by the Bar Standards Board – the requirement to appoint an independent statistician is, in anyone’s money – a pretty scathing comment.

Perhaps the Law School’s new masters – Apollo – would like to start a scholarship fund with the additional profit to pay CASH and fee grants to prospective law students who wish to read for the Bar?  That would be a fair and honourable thing to do – but will BPP do it?

They are now under the gaze of the Bar Standards Board (and an independent statistician!) and they are certainly going to be looked at, rightly, by their competitors, journalists and… of course…. me as a blogger!

Law Review: Farage, Falklands, and King Lear

Listening to Nigel Farage of UKIP being rude about the new barely visible President of Europe (Herman Von Rumpoy) - a pretty poor attempt to do a Dan Hannan and go viral -  I was struck not only by the astonishing ‘crudeness of the  rudeness’  (Rather un-British) but also by the poor quality of the oratory…  As Oscar Wilde observed… “A gentleman is never unintentionally rude”

The Press Association reports: Mr Farage declared: “We were told that when we had a president, we’d see a giant global political figure, a man who would be the political leader for 500 million people, the man that would represent all of us all of us on the world stage, the man whose job was so important that of course you’re paid more than President Obama.”

He continued: “Well, I’m afraid what we got was you… I don’t want to be rude but, really, you have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk and the question I want to ask is: who are you? – I’d never heard of you, nobody in Europe had ever heard of you.”

Mr Farage went on: “I can speak on behalf of the majority of British people in saying that we don’t know you, we don’t want you and the sooner you are put out to grass, the better.”

I have removed Farage’s third finger with Photoshop in the picture above.  It seems he doesn’t need more than two fingers to make his political points. I can see Mr Farage shouting obscenities at opposing football fans and flicking V signs, safe in the knowledge that the Police presence will ensure that there is no ‘physical’ retaliation.  Perhaps Mr Farage could be a consultant for the British Tourist Board?

And now for a bit of Law…

Mercy killers to face the full rigour of criminal law, says DPP

Frances Gibb of The Times writes: “Mercy killers will face the full rigours of the criminal law under guidelines to be announced today by the Director of Public Prosecutions. But people who answer a loved one’s request to assist them in committing suicide are unlikely to be prosecuted, Keir Starmer says.

Writing in The Times today, he makes clear that his final revised policy on assisted suicide reflects the concerns of the 5,000 individuals and groups who responded to his proposals. And he emphasised that the policy did not cover so-called mercy killing, nor murder or manslaughter.”

I did a podcast with Keir Starmer QC late last year where he touched on this and other subjects.

Fortunately, there isn’t time for Gordon Brown to start a war in the Falklands to get his ‘Maggie Moment’ – but the heat is rising on the issue of the Falklands Islands.  The Argentine president, they say, is suffering in the polls and needs to bolster support for her ‘Eva Peron Moment’… The Argentine government, with the full support of the buffoonish Venezuelan president and most of the ‘Americas’ (Not Americas as in Canada and United States – they are excluded from South America’s grand vision of a political power block ) are taking the issue to the United Nations.  HMS York has been sent to the Falklands to stiffen the already potent militarty presence in the islands and there are reports of a submarine skulking in the waters nearby.

Argentina appeals to UN over Falklands oil drilling

The Guardian reports: Buenos Aires moves ahead with sovereignty claim following mobilising of Latin American support against Britain

“Argentina has demanded an immediate cessation of the British drilling for oil and gas that started this week, terming it “the latest illegitimate and unilateral actions by the UK”. The next step would be to table a resolution at the UN general assembly.

The UN has called for talks between Britain and Argentina but has little power to intervene without the backing of the security council, where the UK would be able to veto substantive resolutions.”

Commons accountant held over expenses scandal

The Independent reports: Senior Fees Office official suspected of false accounting in handling of claims

“An official in the House of Commons Fees Office has been arrested as part of the long-running police investigation into MPs’ expenses. Andrew Gibson, a Resources Budget Officer, was well-known to MPs as the man at the desk in the Fees Office who handled their expenses claims. Mr Gibson, along with another suspect who was not an employee of the House, was arrested on suspicion of obtaining money transferred by deception and false accounting, and bailed to appear at a police station in March. Neither has been charged.”

//

‘You ruined my life’, Blair told in fit of rage

The Rawnsley story continues… The Independents reports: ” Gordon Brown told Tony Blair “you ruined my life” in a fierce showdown between the two men shortly before the former Prime Minister agreed to stand down, according to the latest allegations to emerge from a book about New Labour.

The fresh revelations from The End of the Party, by Andrew Rawnsley, document the exchange that saw the tense relationship between the pair reach its lowest ebb. It also suggests that during the confrontation in September 2006, Mr Brown demanded that Mr Blair step down and ensure he be allowed to take over unopposed but that the then Prime Minister retorted that he was unable to deliver on such a pledge.

During their final two-hour confrontation on the issue, the book states that Mr Brown asked Mr Blair: “Who do you think is better than me? Do you think there is anyone who is better than me?” John Reid was “far too rightwing”. Alan Johnson was “a lightweight”. David Miliband was too young. Was Blair saying, Brown demanded, that any of them was “better qualified to become PM?” It adds that Mr Blair later revealed that the exchanges had been “terrible”, saying: “He kept shouting at me that I’d ruined his life.”

Yesterday’s ludicrous performance by Brown at PMQs when he was showing his ‘cuddly’ side by grinning and cosying up to Alastair Darling was risible and as Kirsty Wark said on Newsnight …’Not very Scottish’.  Cameron managed to land one with his… ‘if they get any closer they’ll be kissing’ pre-prepared sound byte…

Guido Fawkes sums it up rather well in The Last Days of Hell

Gordon told GMTV this morning ”I would never engage in divisive or partisan politics.” The spinning is out of control. What would he describe his entire budgets designed to attack the opposition as? What would he describe his maneuvers over many years that finally saw Blair ousted? What would he call what McBride was up to?….Guido has long suspected Darling might be the one to emerge out of the mud and poison surrounding Brown’s government with any semblance of dignity and reputation intact. From his icy put down of McBride with the cutting “I’m still here“, to his description of the Brown/Balls/Wheelan/McBride combo as the “forces of hell”, the ill-treated Chancellor knew exactly what he was doing in keeping the story alive…..

As Guido remarked… ‘No-one believes the lies any more.”

Later today, I shall be covering the very detailed report into BPP Law School’s over subscription on the Bar Vocational Course and the conclusions of the Bar Standards Board panel following the ‘triggered visit’ by the BSB to BPP law School… it makes interesting reading.

But now… it is time for coffee, Marlboros and a read of the tabloids and the broadsheets at a cafe… a piu tarde.

Mr Justice Elephant in the room

‘Choose women, gay and disabled judges over white, middle-class men’

The Times reports: “Women, gays, ethnic minority and disabled applicants for jobs as judges should receive preferential treatment over white men in an attempt to make the judiciary reflect modern Britain, an official report recommended today. The proposals said the “positive action” should apply where two candidates for a judicial appointment are seen to have equal abilities. A report by an Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity said that the judiciary has historically drawn its membership from well educated, middle-class, white, male barristers. It said that despite increasing numbers of women and ethnic minorities in the legal profession, this had been reflected only slowly in appointments to the judiciary.”

This hoary oldchestnut has been around for years.  I recall reading Professor Griffith’s book The Politics of The Judiciary many years ago.  As far as I recall, a central theme ofGriffiths’ book was the judges were ‘white middle class, middle aged and middle minded’.  It is quite possible, after a lifetime of enjoying red wine while reading about law, that I may have added the ‘middle minded’ bit.

I am all for diversity.  But… I am also all for getting the right people in the job and certainly would not wish to see the so-called ‘ethnic lesbian with one leg cliche’  being promoted to the judiciary ahead of better candidates simply to satisfy the needs of those who wish to mould and engineer society. The judicial appointment process has undergone significant change in recent years. Lawyers are coming from a wider cross-section of society.  Solicitors are now being appointed to the bench.  Lord Collins, an experienced law lord – now a Justice of the Supreme Court – is a solicitor. It takes time for changes to filter through. Women are far more numerous in the profession at the entry point than men.  When I was at law school in the mid-1970s the ratio was 90:10 approximately in favour of men.  Now it is 45:55 , possibly more, in favour of women. More students from ethnic minority families are coming into the law.

I am not in favour of any form of ‘positive discrimination’. It doesn’t work – it demeans the individual appointed, it demeans the process of fair appointments.  It may well have been unfairly weighted in the past, but this does not mean we have to counter past unfairness with a different kind of unfairness going forward. Best person for the job…whatever their gender, orientation, race, religion?  A wonderful ideal… but can we pull it off?

Some of the comments in The Times reflect public attitudes. I quote a couple as a taster….

Martin Carter wrote:
So having deceitfully engineered mass immigration and changed the make-up of the country, Straw’s friends now want to change the judicial appointments system to reflect the population.

Presumably the only reason they didn’t call for full-blown Sharia law was that the country isn’t quite ready for that just yet?

Roger HUDSON wrote:
I loathe with a loathing unsurpassed anything that smacks of ‘positive discrimination’ but, looking at some of the lunatic, irresponsible verdicts dished out by ‘white male’ judges, maybe your black, disabled lesbian couldn’t do worse.

Minor problem

I managed to pour tea over my laptop yesterday afternoon.  This was not a ‘homage’ to Gordon Brown’s temper – but an accident.

The laptop appears to be working intermittently.  Perhaps it is drying out? I shall post later, if I manage to fix it!

The Fall of Gordonus Caesar by the sword of Maximus Rawnsley on Newsnight,

Watching former deputy prime minister  Jabba The Hut Prescott last night on Newsnight, blustering away, clearly furious that the Rawnsley ‘Revelations’ were about to assist in the immolation and final burial of Gordonus Caesar’s disastrous period of rule, was a surreal experience.

I started to imagine Andrew Rawnsley, dressed like Maximus in the famous film Gladiator, riding up and down the lines of his sources on Saturday night, the eve of the firestorm , the eve before publication of his book The End of The Party (available on Amazon and all good bookshops) – and exhorting them to ‘Unleash Hell’.

Far from unleashing hell, Rawnsley’s 24 carat sources appear to have done a runner. Jeremius Paxmanus, taking on the role of Cicero, put Maximus Rawnsley under pressure to name his sources… or rather more particularly, to drop Sir Gus O’Donnell, Cabinet Secretary, in the Merdus.

Rawnsley was, of course, as we say in Battersea…. A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupiA precipice in front, wolves behind (between a rock and a hard place)

Rawnsley could not, as an experienced and well regarded journalist, reveal his sources.  Paxmanus knew this. This allowed Jabba The Hut to froth and exclaim… “Rawnsley’s main source Abiit, excessit, evasit, erupitHe has left, absconded, escaped and disappeared.

As I drank my Rioja (Vinum bellum iucunumque est, sed animo corporeque caret – It’s a nice little wine, but it lacks character and depth) and listened to Jabba’s oration,  I was reminded of the maxim Ad captandum vulgusTo appeal to the crowd — often used of politicians who make false or insincere promises appealing to popular interest.

Paxmanus, unable to break Rawnsley on the crucifix of his advocacy, turned to the next obvious line of questioning… money. I was surprised that Paxmanus gave up so quickly… for normally the maxim...Verveces tui similes pro ientaculo mihi appositi suntI have jerks like you for breakfast…would have been most appropriate.

The subject of money, often dear to the hearts of departing failed politicians (come to that,  failed serving politicians as well) inspired Jabba The Prescott to crow to the baying crowd (Daniel Finkelstein, Lord Hattersley and Lord Steel) that Rawnsley had a book to sell.. forgetting that both he and his wife had been coining it in by flogging their ‘memoirs’.

The interview became more surreal when Paxmanus turned to two rather dull politicians from Jurassic Park. Hattersley pronounced and declaimed with the remarkable prescience of a man who achieved little himself in office but who had the wisdom of the ages… I almost expected him to proclaim… Verum et factum convertunturThe true and the made are interchangeable. One can know with certainty only what he have created himself but he didn’t.  He merely said that there were better issues to think about than the anger management problems of a prime minister which he seemed quite prepared to dismiss as par for the political course.

Lord David Steel, enobled for having told his Liberal Party to ‘go home and prepare for government’ tried to reprise the role Of Maximus Aurelius in Gladiator.  I imagined him saying to Maximus Rawnsley… “You have not seen what politics has become. I am dying, Maximus. When a man sees his end… he wants to know there was some purpose to his life. How will the world speak my name in years to come? Will I be known as the philosopher? The warrior? The tyrant…? Or will I be the Leader of the Liberal-Democrats who gave the party back her true self? There was once a dream that was Government. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish… it was so fragile. And I fear that it will not survive the winter.”

Finkelstein dismissed the whole matter of doubt and said that Rawnsley’s account is true – that the Westminster Village has known this for some time – and that, certainly, seems to be the case from even a cursory reading of Private Eye, Guido Fawkes and other political blogs.Politicians don’t, as they used to say in Dad’s Army – like it ‘Up ‘em.’

The spectre of Brown, pictured on the backing set in the Newsnight studio, cast a pall of gloom – a phantasm of doom.

I end with advice for Gordonus Brown, the Labour Caesar who destroyed the vision of a society fair for all, with these words from Horace… Vis consili expers mole ruit sua

- Brute force bereft of wisdom falls to ruin by its own weight. This maxim may also be interpreted ….Discretion is the better part of valor.

The Vox populi shall speak… very soon and I fear that it may not be for Gordonus Brown.

UPDATE: IT JUST GETS WORSE


This from Iain Dale Blog  on Prescott – a must read…

How to Cope With a Bullying Prescott

PS… I will try and find some sensible Labour people to vote for… I have just moved to Battersea and have registered to vote… I shall see if the local Labour MP is vaguely sane, sensible, behaved on expenses etc… do I need to hide behind the sofa on this one?

Law Review: Bullying, skirts, projectile vomiting and torture – a tale of life in modern political Britain.

Gordon Brown hit by fresh bullying allegations

Pressure mounts on cabinet secretary to launch inquiry into claims prime minister abused Downing St staff - The Guardian

Yesterday, being a Sunday and my mood frivolous, I wrote about the Andrew Rawnsley allegations against Gordon Brown.  I also engaged in a bit of nonsense on Twitter with @KerryMP when accused of the ‘mortal sin’ of not reading the newspapers. This was twitter nonsense.  I enjoy @kerryMP tweets – and at least she is out there, engaging with other twitter users.  I was faffing about.
I do, however, feel that the allegations about Gordon Brown’s behaviour are ‘far from silly’ and the intervention yesterday by the CEO of the Bullying National Helpline raises the stakes.  The serious newspapers are all covering the matter.  I continue with my very simple stance.  Denial and spin will not make this story go away.  It will, of course, drop off the headlines but the fact of the matter is that a serious and well regarded journalist, Andrew Rawnsley, who maintains his sources are ‘impeccable’, has made serious allegations about the behaviour of a serving prime minister.  To dismiss these allegations as ‘colourful’ because Rawnsley wants to sell a book – may well be a sensible tactic.  If Rawnsley has got it right, then Brown, has a few questions to answer. We do have a right to know if the man or woman at the top, leading a government, is in control, is reasonably competent to carry out the very demanding work of a prime minister.  There is too much at stake for this simply to be dismissed.  We shall see what happens this week when Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary,  appears before the Justice Committee in the House of Commons.   The Times reports this morning...” A senior government source said ‘The timing for us is dreadful.”

In another bizarre twist, Iain Dale, well known conservative blogger, seems to have got himself into a bit of ‘hot water’ by covering the ‘art works’ of Louis Sidolo who ‘ got in touch with Dale to ask if he could cover his work.  Dale did so and incurred the wrath of the ravening horde. The comments section to the post reveal the extent of that wrath. One of the artworks is pictured left.

Girls, you can take the skirts off

Is not a headline one would have expected to see in The Times on a wet and grey Monday morning.

EQUALITY and human rights law may make it illegal for schools to force girls to wear skirts — because uniforms discriminate against transsexuals. Official guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission warns schools that insisting that girls wear skirts may breach the rights of those who feel compelled to live as boys.The watchdog, which has enforcement powers against public bodies that break equality law, says “requiring pupils to wear gender-specific clothes is potentially unlawful”. The Times

But back to the increasingly bizarre world of politics with this story from The Daily Mail…

Projectile vomiting MP downed so much champagne during drinking contest on official trip friends feared he might die

The Mail reports…

“Two Labour MPs took part in a champagne drinking contest on an official Commons junket to Paris, which led to one of them being violently ill. Left-winger Bill Etherington drank so much that a doctor was called.”

Apparently, Geraldine Smith MP took the sensible course by chucking her champagne into nearby flowerpots.  Etherington did not and ended up…”

in a “confused” state en route to a dinner in a splendid French restaurant. More champagne was guzzled. [He] had consumed a near lethal quantity of alcohol.

‘He was placed at the top table where he babbled incoherently. The event was a dinner for delegates from about 20 countries….The reputation of the British is still damaged by this incident. It was not the idiotic competition or the wild inebriation that left an indelible memory. It was the display of projectile vomiting across the top table.”

Bizarre, indeed.

Rather more serious is the conduct of the British government in relation to torture.  The Times reports this morning…

MI5 may face new torture inquiry

The Times: “AS befits Britain’s most senior spy, Jonathan Evans is noted in Whitehall for being cool under fire. That quality will be tested this week when MI5’s director-general learns whether his service is about to be engulfed by one of the biggest crises in its 100-year history. For the past 10 weeks a senior lawyer in the office of Baroness Scotland, the attorney-general, has been studying the cases of five British men alleged to have been unlawfully detained and tortured in Pakistan with the complicity of MI5. Scotland may rule there is insufficient evidence to call in detectives but if she does refer the cases to the police, it could in effect paralyse the agency that Evans has led since 2007.”

And finally, for this post…from The Telegraph

Judge criticises ‘waste of money’ case after pensioner threatens boys with hammer

A Crown Court case against a pensioner who threatened four boys for climbing trees was a waste of taxpayers’ money, a judge has said.

“Beryl Welch, 61, was charged with affray after scolding four scouts aged 11 to 13 who were clambering up trees at a scout camp next to her garden in Cosgrove, Bucks. After her pleas were ignored and fearing the trees were being vandalised, she got a claw hammer from her house and angrily waved it at the youngsters.

She was arrested after the four scouts, from the 1st Newton Longville Scout Group, claimed she had swung the hammer at them twice, missing one of them by inches. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) charged her following the incident on February 21 last year and bought the case before Northampton Crown Court this week. But following a two-day trial, a jury of six men and six women cleared Mrs Welch of affray and found her guilty of the lesser charge of threatening behaviour. Judge Charles Wide QC gave Mrs Welch a 12-month conditional discharge and criticised the prosecution and the CPS for bringing the case to trial.He told Mrs Welch she would not have to pay any costs because the CPS’s charge of affray was too harsh and the matter could have been heard in a Magistrates’ Court without huge costs to the taxpayer.”

Rawnsley impugns integrity of British Prime Minister and Labour twitter Tzar says – too silly for Brown to deal with?

Andrew Rawnsley – who I always enjoy reading on Sundays – has extracts of his new book The End of The Party in the The Observer today. He makes a number of serious allegations about Gordon Brown – summarised in The New Statesman.

The main five allegations:

1. The cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell – the top civil servant – launched his own investigations into Brown’s bullying of staff. After looking into it, he told the prime minister: “This is no way to get things done”. He took it upon himself to comfort members of staff and tell them not to take it personally.

2. Apparently Brown was consumed by paranoia after the cancelled election in 2007. After hearing about the loss of confidential data discs in November 2007, he grabbed Gavin Kelly, the deputy chief of staff, by the lapels of his jacket, and yelled: “They’re out to get me!”

3. Stewart Wood, a senior adviser on foreign affairs, received verbal abuse when he attempted to brief Brown about a Downing Street reception for European ambassadors. The prime minister reportedly yelled: “Why are you making me meet these fucking people?” before shoving Wood aside.

4. Rawnsley describes an aide cowering in fear that Brown was going to hit him after sharing some bad news while in the car, and writes that “the cream upholstery of the seat-back in front of Brown was flecked with black marks. When having a meltdown the prime minister would habitually stab it with his black marker pen.”

5. The prime minister’s relationship to Alistair Darling is portrayed as tense and troubled. Rawnsley writes that Brown flew into a rage after Darling said in an interview in 2008 that the economic crisis was the worst for 60 years. In a furious phone call, he told the chancellor that the crisis “will be over in six months”.

Gordon Brown refutes these allegationssee The Statesman piece.

There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this.  Rawnsley is not telling the truth and has opened himself to libel proceedings or Brown is not telling the truth?  It may be possible that I have missed something here with this analysis – and some spin doctor will be able to persuade people that both Rawnsley and the prime minister are telling the truth!
So… as I tend to favour the view, for the present (as is my right) that Rawnsley is unlikely to have written and published this material without checking with ‘impeccable sources’ – Brown should sue and have the matter determined by the courts.

He won’t do so, of course.  He will plead, as his Twitter Tzar already has, that he has ‘better’ things to do and will get on with the job.

I am not interested in the hysterical views of bloggers/tweeters/spin doctors – I would just like to see who is telling the truth – because if Brown has done these things it is clear to me, as a Labour voter, that he is not fit to be leader.  I believe that I still enjoy the right, despite being a labour voter, to express my distaste for the behaviour of the prime minister as described by Rawnsley and if it be proved on a ‘balance of probabilities’ that Brown is telling the truth and Rawnsley has libelled Brown – then I will change my view.

Rawnsley has been brave enough to put his reputation on the line – globally.  Is Brown?

And then I had this astonishing exchange with the Twitter Tzar… may have touched a nerve, there…. that’s the trouble with democracy… you can’t always control people or bloggers… and Kerry MP can certainly not control me now… I shall run RIOT!!

Ridiculous!

And then this came along

OK.. I’ve had my fun… orf to do some ironing…as my irony is not up to scratch….  but I still think Brown should sue if he wants me to believe him!

Another fine mess of an idea from The Laurel & Hardy Institute of Fiscal Studies

The Tories are on a roll.  Another ripper of an idea has just entered the astonishing  mind of George Osbore and his team at the Laurel & Hardy Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The BBC reports:

The public could be offered discounted shares in state-owned banks under a “people’s bonus” plan outlined by Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne.

In a Sunday Times interview, Mr Osborne said the measure would be a reward for the £850bn of public money used to prop up failing financial institutions. Young people and those on low incomes would be offered extra discounts.

Labour called the plan an “expensive political gimmick”, while the Lib Dems said it was an attempt to buy votes.

Mr Osborne told the Sunday Times: “The bankers have had their bonuses. We want a people’s bank bonus for the people’s money that was put into these organisations.” It was expected people would be offered shares worth between a few hundred and few thousand pounds at a discount on the market price, the paper reported.

There could be extra discounts for young people, low-income families and parents saving for their children.

Osbore wants people to ‘save’ – what a  marvellous idea to get people who are already over stretched with debt to get into even more debt by buying shares in one of the most volatile shares in the market.

To be fair to Osbore he did say the share offer would only be made when the banks were properly regulated and could not take the kinds of risks that preceded the recession. It could be some time before we see hordes of people pushing prams and wearing tracksuits or impeccably kitted out in Boden or Hackett kit rushing to the Banks to buy the shares.  Given that the shares are only worth about a third of what the government paid for them – the economics are not looking too good.

I’m with Vince Cable on this one….

Encouraging people on low incomes to invest in a volatile share market shows how removed the Tories are from everyday reality
…A young couple on low income is more concerned with putting food on the table than speculating on the stock market.
Vince Cable
Lib Dem Treasury spokesman

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Outsourced and ‘Ghost written’

Dear Reader,

Twitter is awash with social media mavens who think they know more and think better than others.  The fact that many of the social media mavens may be American is inevitable. But the Brit ‘marketers’ are catching up fast with their snakeoil.  They have set themselves up as ‘mavens’ or ‘gurus’. Most of the ones I have come across don’t blog or their blogs are dull, don’t write entertaining tweets and don’t appear to have anything of any value whatsoever in terms of advice.

I am pleased to announce my Merdu du Boeuf award for webfuckery. This award is not given to an individual – it is awarded for a ‘concept’ .  The concept to win this, my first Merde du Boeuf award,  is OUTSOURCING TWEETS… or as the ‘gurus’ call it TWoutsourcing.  My attention was drawn to this ludicrous idea by fellow blogger Peninsulawyer – so Hat Tip to him.  He also tweets.

While I expect busy or cretinous celebrities (sometimes a celebrity may fall into both categories)  to get their memoirs ghostwritten , I really do not see why lawyers get serious law blogs ghostwritten (This is pretty close to fraud for it may mislead the reader about the lawyer’s ability and competence) and I certainly can’t see why anyone would want to pay someone to do their tweets for them – unless, of course, they are going to bore for England about their goddam products.

Oliver Jones is, obviously, an enterprising chap. He has set up  The Legal Marketer to help law firms get work.  He is prepared to tweet for law firms.  His argument is remarkably simple.  He says twitter is no different from an advert whether online or traditional print – so it is perfectly sensible for a law firm to get a ‘professional’ to do their tweeting for them. He does admit that twitter has other, social, uses.  These are are of no interest to law firms who simply wish to market.
I have no problem at all with advertisers – quite the opposite – they sponsor and help pay for the resources that my online magazine Insite Law provides for free.   I have no problem at all with law firms who use twitter simply to market their services. My remedy is simple – I don’t follow them.  If they follow me and I don’t like them or I am feeling capricious,  I block them.  Sometimes, if I am completely roaring on Rioja while tweeting…  I even report them for spam.  I know a lot of lawyers are a bit wet behind the ears when it comes to marketing their firms – but I can’t imagine they are daft enough to let a marketing firm loose on twitter on their behalf – unless, of course, they write all the tweets at a partner’s meeting for the month and send the list of tweets to the ‘guru’ to post at intervals!  Now.. that would be really daft, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some law firms are thinking of doing just that!

Mr Stone may have have succumbed to ‘Twitter selfimportanceitis’… I quote…

I read one tweet where somebody said that if they found out somebody was writing it that they would stop following!

Oh the sacrilege! That person probably thinks that because there is the lack of just one person tweeting, then a message is lost – there may be a brand behind it. Well the computer that you are typing on there… Neither Mr Hewlett or Mr Packard actually crafted it himself and moreover the channel that you use to tell me about your life is making someone some money somewhere so play the game, and be thankful that you tweet because you enjoy it, not because you have to.

I am, indeed, thankful that I tweet because I enjoy it and not because I have to!  Good luck to Mr Jones and the law firms who wish  to twoutsource to him!

Almost inevitably…

Twitter Sparks Its First Libel Action

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kurt Cobain’s widow, singer Courtney Love is at the center of a libel suit due to her angry Tweets against her former fashion designer, Dawn Simorangkir. According to a libel claim lodged by Simorangkir in Los Angeles Superior Court , Love carried out “an obsessive and delusional crusade” of malicious libel against her on Twitter, adding insult on MySpace and other websites.

And talking of libel… I received a tweet  from @IkenCEO a fellow twitter user asking for my view on Carter-Ruck representing the ‘good guys’ for a change with the comment… ‘that’s not on message’!

My own attempt to ‘twoutsource’ my tweets yesterday when I was recovering from overdoing the juice on Friday evening was met with this…

The reference to @DavidWrightMP was to Wright’s ludicrous attempt to say that his twitter account was hijacked when he tweeted about the Tories being scumsucking-pigs. This may well be true – but it irritated Eric Pickles, Conservative Chairman, so much so that he wrote to complain that Wright may have broken the ‘Ministerial Code’.  It also gave the Tory bloggers and tweeters something to get even hotter under the collar about.

Tory bloggers. gawd bless ‘em, are almost wetting themselves with excitement at the prospect of a new Tory era – and they may well get it.  William Hague has, cunningly, been writing in the News of The Screws for two years (Paid / unpaid?) to get in touch with the Conservative Party’s working class side.

The NOTW reports today…

GORDON BROWN is deliberately wrecking the country to sabotage an incoming Tory government, William Hague has claimed.

He accused the Prime Minister of taking Britain to the brink of bankruptcy to leave a mess for his successor. Mr Hague warned that Mr Brown had given up all hope of winning the election and resorted to planting economic booby traps. In an amazing attack, David Cameron’s deputy likened Labour ministers to a retreating army “poisoning the wells” as they fled. He said: “If he had actually planned to leave the country in the worst state possible, he couldn’t have gone about it better.

Good, however, to see that humour and romance are not dead over at Eversheds…. RollonFriday reported on this Email sent to Eversheds staff…

Sent: 12 February 2010 15:32
To: Department staff
Subject: Roses are red…..

Violets are Blue,
I’ve done my timesheets
How about you?

Big Brother Bank Accounts

Guido Fawkes and Ian Parker-Joseph alerted me to the latest brilliant plan from George Osborne – well, I assume he was involved in the ‘plan’, given that he appears to be Shadow Chancellor of The Exchequer.

The plan is simple…. let the taxman have direct access to everyone’s bank accounts so that they can tax you at source. I had a bit of fun with Ian Parker-Joseph yesterday, tweeting that I thought this was a good idea to help struggling companies!  I was in that sort of post-hangover sardonic mood. Ian is a Libertarian – indeed, until recently, Head of the Libertarian Party UK.  He is absolutely right, of course, to say that this is not a great idea.  Guido Fawkes agrees…. “If HMRC has an electronic trojan in your bank account it will move on from deducting from your salary to taking a cut of your eBay sales and tracking all your financial transactions.  Do you want the government controlling your bank account?  That is the ultimate goal of tax collectors the world over since before even the Doomsday Book…”

Given the way MPs behaved when they tried to suppress Freedom of Information requests on their expenses – it is, perhaps, likely that Osbore and others at The Laurel & Hardy Institute of Fiscal Studies will have ‘second thoughts’ should they be elected in May.

Well… the gulls are shrieking, the cormorants are diving for eels… and it is time now, for me, to sit outside a cafe on the King’s Road – at the World’s End end – and drink black coffee, smoke some Marlboros and read the papers.

Have a good week..

Best, as always

Charon

Saturday hangover….

Although the sun is shining, I may have overdone the juice after clearing rubbish and completing my move from kent to London yesterday…  tea with toast is improving things… I shall go and read the papers at a nearby cafe and plan my next blog posts.  I gather that Labour is relying on the ‘submerged optimism’ of British voters… whatever Orwell speak that is?

Cameron is clearly relying on being ‘cool’… I don’t think I have seen anything quite as bizarre in a political photograph for some time.  I wonder if he may have worn a Che Guevara T-shirt when he was at Eton?

The photograph, by the way, is an official Conservative pic by Andrew Parsons… so no photoshop tamfoollery going on here from me…

I shall write my Postcard from the Staterooms later!

Thankfully.. not all Tories are like Sir Nicholas Winterton MP

I return from a most enjoyable trip to find that Sir Nicholas Winterton MP has managed to make himself look a bit foolish. I do hope he did not mean to appear snobbish – but he certainly managed to get himself into a mess when talking to the BBC about travelling First Class on trains.

Here is a selection of his ‘observations’ from the interview…

Winterton was arguing that MPs needed to travel first class on trains and it was right that the public purse should pay for it. The BBC reports: Sir Nicholas kept on talking about the “status of a MP” and it intrigued me that he seemed to be saying politicians were somehow different than others.

The interviewer asked him what he meant.

He said people travelling on the significantly cheaper standard tickets had “a different outlook on life”. And he added, “If I was in standard class, I would not do work because people would be looking over your shoulder the entire time.”

When I asked him whether he thought standard-class passengers behaved differently from those with first class tickets, Sir Nicholas replied: “Yes, I do. They are a totally different type of people. There are lots of children, there is noise, there is activity.”

An unfortunate interview for Winterton… hardly likely to endear him to the tax payers who pay for his First Class travel. For the record… Winterton did NOT say the words in the captioned pic above.  I just fancied taking the piss in my usual Standard Class way.

Law Review: Judges baffle juries

Courts overhaul planned to help juries baffled by judges

A fascinating piece in The Times this morning by Frances Gibb…

Two thirds of jurors do not understand what judges tell them about the law when they retire to consider their verdicts, according to a ground-breaking study into the secrets of the jury room. The findings will trigger an overhaul of the courts.

The investigation found that jurors frequently used the internet to read about trials on which they were sitting, risking miscarriages of justice. In 2008, juries in three Crown Court trials had to be discharged because they used the internet inappropriately.

The study, to be published today by the Ministry of Justice, found that:

• all-white juries do not discriminate against black defendants;

• juries convict more often than they acquit in rape cases;

• men sitting on juries are less likely than women to listen to arguments and change their minds;

• conviction rates in Crown Courts varied from 53 per cent to 69 per cent.

Read more….

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, did point out some time ago that he had concerns about the fact that many younger people who would serve on juries in the future were used to learning and receiving information through computers and the internet rather than listening and that the Courts, barristers and judges may well have to adapt to take account of that fact.

OUT-LAW had an interesting piece in their online magazine yesterday: MPs, Lords question human rights compatibility of Digital Economy

“The Government must provide more detail on exactly how alleged copyright infringers will be cut off from the internet before a file-sharing disconnection law is passed, according to a parliamentary committee. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has said that the Government must make the Digital Economy Bill more detailed to allow Parliament to scrutinise it properly. It said it could not rule on whether the proposed law was compatible with human rights law until those details were provided.

The Government claims that the controversial Bill complies with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act. The Committee has said that not only will Parliament need more detail before the Committee can decide on that issue, but that the Government must better demonstrate that even the notification system it proposes in relation to alleged infringers is a proportionate response…..

People often forget that lawyers do a great deal of work for free…. from the biggest City law firms to smaller practices and individual barristers.  The Times has a useful piece on How to . . . make pro bono work for you

UPDATE: This from the  comment section is worth following up!

Sackerson

I have had a little swipe at this and certain other related topical matters. Having been on a murder jury myself, I’d advise His Ludship and MiniJust to steer clear.

http://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.com/2010/02/advance-of-totalitarian-ideals.html