Law Review: Commission on a UK Bill of Rights …..and a mixed bag of law news

Commission on a UK Bill of Rights launched

The Ministry of Justice announced today that an independent Commission to investigate the case for a UK Bill of Rights has been launched today by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke.

The Guardian responded to this news with: Move for British bill of rights faces deadlock: “Government commission exploring the case for a British bill of rights is divided between human rights act supporters and critics”

The analysis in The Guardian is interesting – but I do wonder why we actually need this review.  As the Commission is unlikely to report for some time (2012?) we will have to wait to see if anything of real value comes of this.

Adam Wagner in The UK Human Rights blog has this to say….

Who are the Bill of Rights Commission “human rights experts”?

I am hoping to do a quick podcast with Adam Wagner soon to look at this and other topical human rights issues.

Lawyers…Have you joined Shpoonkle?!!!

Will it only be a matter of time before UK lawyers…. hyperventilating with excitement from the opportunities offered by twitter and other social meedja… get into Shpoonkle?

A New York Law School student has founded Shpoonkle, a playfully named website that allows attorneys and law firms to bid on legal requests submitted by clients. The service is free for now, but attorneys may be charged membership fees in the future.

Fortunately… a fellow blogger I respect has a strong view…

“On his New York criminal defense blog Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield said, “Any lawyer who signs up for this service should be immediately disbarred, then tarred and feathered, then publicly humiliated.” Calling the site the “eBay of lawyering,” Greenfield argues the service will lower the integrity of the legal profession.

RollonFriday.com…College of Law admits low recruitment qualifications

In an unguarded moment, the director of business development at the College of Law has admitted that only 60% of the institution’s students have a 2:1. So that means the CoL taking large numbers of students who don’t have the widely recognised minimum requirement for a training contract at the end of the course.

Read the full post….

The law schools are going to have to consider their position on taking on students who have no realistic prospect of being employed in the present market.  They won’t enjoy doing so.  This story is not going to go away.

LSB lacks understanding, judgement and willingness to listen, says Bar Council

An excellent article from Legal Futures

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has shown a lack of understanding and judgement, and an unwillingness to listen to the approved regulators, the Bar Council has claimed.

In a move that will fuel questions about the current role of the LSB, the Bar Council also expressed surprise at plans to increase LSB staff costs at a time of public sector cuts – saying it should take a “Big Society” approach to its work – and also questioned whether the board is overextending its remit….

Read the full article…

I will be doing a podcast with the Chair of The Bar Standards Board, Baroness Deech, in April - and regulation of the legal profession and legal education will be among the topics to be discussed.

The draft libel reform bill is a good thing

David Allen Green, writing in the New Statesman….

The draft libel reform bill, published two days ago, has had a mixed reception. Those in favour of libel reform have broadly welcomed it, though some do not think it goes far enough; and many established libel practitioners have sought to minimise the draft bill’s importance and novelty. Some libel veterans even say it will make no difference: it is almost as if they are discouraging the government from taking the draft bill forward at all.

However, as a practising media defence lawyer, I would say that there is a lot of good in the draft bill, and that if it were to pass into legislation in its present form it would make a marked difference to the nature of libel litigation. That is not to say that the draft bill could not be improved; but it is to say that it is misconceived and illiberal to dismiss the bill completely.

I am sure we will find time to discuss this bill in the Without Prejudice podcast this coming Thursday.

University threatens MP with libel case over Gaddafi criticism

Index on Censorship has a good report….

This is a rather interesting libel action… in the early stages. It is curious that a University, a public body, is suing an MP who was critical about their links with Libya?  The LSE took a lot of criticism last week about their ‘ties’ with Libya.  The Director of the school resigned – honourably.  David Allen Green’s firm Preiskel is acting… as this twitter post indicates.  Ironic in a week when the government is keen to reform the libel laws to stop institutions and people suppressing reasonable and public interest  criticism by using our libel laws?

Preiskel Preiskel & Co LLP 

by DavidAllenGreen
We are instructed to defend Robert Halfon MP against libel threat by Liverpool John Moores University re criticism of Libyan commercial ties

It is not all bad news for lawyers and laws schools… The Daily Mail reports: 

Oxford graduate who sued college for after it ‘failed to prepare her for exams’ loses bid for £100,000 damages

Charon goes to a restaurant run by East European border guards?

I wrote this ‘restaurant review’ pastiche three years ago and remembered it while I  was tweeting about bloggers being sued for doing dodgy reviews with @BillfromBendigo in the wake of Duncan Bannatyne’s complaints about one of his hotels getting a poor review ( which I wrote about yesterday).

I thought I’d dig it out again…. I remember the restaurant which inspired it…. to this day! As it happens, I did three real restaurant reviews for LawandMore some years back.  Enjoyed doing them.

 

A Bar & Dining Room
Somewhere in London
Meal for two with wine: £90
Nil points

 


“Have you booked?” asked the black silk shirted Maitre D’ guarding the entrance. The abruptness of the greeting took me by surprise.

“I have not booked. Do you have a table?” Blackshirt’s eyes narrowed as he flicked open the diary. The page had one entry. Blackshirt looked up, eyes darting. “How many of you are there?” It may seem to the casual observer that I suffer from dissociative identity disorder, but I was alone. I heard Sir Alec Guinness in the recess of my mind: “Charon” he said, “Use the Force….”

“I am one.”

The Maitre D’ surveyed the dining room. It was that sort of place… Not a restaurant, but a Bar and Dining Room. It was 12.30. Only two tables were occupied. “Do you smoke?” Blackshirt snapped.

“For England.” I replied.

I was escorted to a table in the corner of the room – a table for two. An East European border guard, dressed as a waitress, appeared with a menu. I selected a bottle of Claret and asked for two espressos and a glass of tap water, no ice. “You want espresso?” the waitress asked, unsmiling. “Now?”

“Yes please.” I watched her walk towards the bar. Well it was more of a march… more Red Square than Sandhurst. I was not invited to taste the wine when it arrived.

The menu was fairly typical of many gastros – a mix of “Confu**tion cooking” with a bit of thai/vietnamese nonsense thrown in. I enjoy reading Anthony Bourdain… but his books, do on occasion, get into the wrong hands… and so it was, today. Couscous and polenta featured heavily. One day I am sure that I will find a gastro pub with a dish called “Irish tagine”.

A couple were seated at a table nearby – both late twenties, both City professionals. I know this because they managed to tell me, indirectly, by relating events to each other of their successes during the week. They talked at each other; he admiring himself repeatedly in the mirrors lining the walls on our side of the restaurant. They obviously knew each other well – at least one assumes so, because, later, declining the offer of pudding, they started eating each other.

I have no idea why nutters on trains, tubes, buses and restaurants gravitate towards me – but it happend again today. The East European border guard escorted another customer to the adjacent table – a man in his early sixties, blazered, highly polished Oxford shoes, grey trousers, Turnbull & Asser shirt, silk tie and a traditional ‘British’ haircut. One could almost smell the George Trumper cologne.

“Good day to you.”

“And to you.” I replied.

“Writer?” the man asked, pointing at my laptop. I learned long ago not to answer that question.

“Just doing a bit of surfing.”

“Surfing Eh?…. yes… I used to surf when I was a junior partner with X&Y in Hong Kong…. on trips to Australia…. tied up a few M&A deals, I can tell you… out there…. those were the days…”

God in heaven. I know I drank a bottle of cider in Church once when I was at Prep school… but I had no idea, then, that I would continue to be punished for that sin nearly 40 odd years later on Easter Sunday 2007… in the form of a retired City lawyer, from the days of Tai Pan, sitting at the next table.

“Really…? good stuff.. ” I replied, affably, but with what I hoped was the correct tone to indicate that I wished ‘to be alone’. It was too late to pretend I was Bulgarian and could not speak English.

So there I was… a couple of young professionals, but a few tables away, talking at each other and Mr Drone, to my right.

“Been to Church?”

I was looking intently at my laptop screen. The words appeared to come from above. I looked at the ceiling. I looked at my bottle of Claret. I had only had one glass.

“The Vicar had a few of us back for a glass of sherry after the service”

“Really…?”

“Yes… quite a few actually. Have to splice the mainbrace after sitting through all that without being able to charge fees at the end of it! ” a statement which provoked so much laughter from the speaker that I was concerned I may have to do a Heimlich manoeuvre on him.

“Oh Yes… Vicar did us a good sermon today…”

Mr Drone told me at length that he would have been in New York to advise on a merger but the US firm had ‘cocked up’ on timing… adding that he liked to take on important cases on a consultancy basis from time to time…

“Ah….”

I drained my glass, re-filled and lit a cigarette.

“Smoker Eh?…yes… used to smoke until the Doc said to me ‘My dear chap, unless you pack in the gaspers now you won’t be able to get it up when you are 65′.” Another burst of self satisfied laughter, gave me the opportunity to wave at the waitress and explain to the gentleman seated at the next table that I needed to concentrate on my work. He made a curious signal, tapping his finger against his nose and said “Got it…Roger… mustn’t stop a chap from his work “

“You are ready with your orders?”

I smiled at the waitress, trying not to look as if I had something to declare, and ordered a main course. I justified my lack of a first course, when questioned, by explaining that I may have a pudding. She seemed satisfied with my explanation and marched off.

It takes a rare talent to cook roast lamb badly, but only inhalation of super strength cannabis would suggest beetroot risotto and chilli jam is a sensible, or even suitable, accompaniment to lamb. The waitress looked at my plate, barely touched. The lemon meringue pie had the merit of being bought in. The wine was more than drinkable and, after negotiating my release without the aid of the Foreign Office, I returned to familiar surroundings.

Random musing while drinking Rioja – Cameron employs *Patriots* to advise him on business!

I was amused by the recent edition of Private Eye (15 October) which began…

DAVID “We’re all in this together” Cameron has chosen a patriotic bunch to sit on his “business council”

The Eye article then stated that Martin Sorrell of advertising group WPP has moved his company offshore to avoid tax. Paul Walsh of drinks company Diageo has threatened to do the same. … and, of course, Sir Philip Green…giver of advice to governments on cuts and waste, has arrangements with his wife in Monaco.
All this is, of course, within the rules…. but it is ironic when the mantra of the day is “We’re all in it together”…. when, so obviously, we are not quite ALL in it together.  There are, of course, many millionaires in the current Cabinet..and it would appear a fair few millionaires or potential millionaires (when their books come out) in the Shadow Cabinet.

I don’t have any problem with businessmen and women making money – they are the lifeblood of our country – and the small businesses do also add up to employ a substantial number of people.  I just wish they would call a spade a spade.  I believe that a fair few entrepreneurs like Alan Sugar and Duncan Bannatyne (who I have been a bit caustic about recently on another matter which has, thankfully, blown over) prefer to stay here!  Full marks to them.

I hope the private sector can mop up the public sector redundancies.  There will be a fair number of talented people – so there are genuine opportunities to attract good talent?

Charon Reports: On The Square – London observations

Two young men, early thirties – probably Tories, in Camclegg chic suiting sans tie and hair by Geo.F.Trumper,  walked by as I was having a glass of wine and an espresso at the Riviera cafe in Battersea Square at lunch today. I was at Table 14 – where I often sit.  It gives me a good view of the comings and goings should The Times or The Sun not have sufficient to hold my interest.  One of the men went into the cafe bar.  The other stood outside.  The glass at the cafe bar is reflective and this young man made good use of its properties.  As David Blunkett said of Lord Mandelson today -  “He fell in love with himself at an early age” would be a most apt aphorism to describe the young man’s admiration of himself.  I have seen more preening from the young women who stride by in their dance leotards from The Royal Academy of Dance but 100 yards up the road.

I moved to Battersea in February. I am right on the river.  In fact, I could almost ‘tombstone’ into the Thames if I was as spirited as the 75 year old Major whose antics I read about in The Sun this morning.  The ex-Major, at the age of 75,  decided to jump off a 40ft cliff into the sea for amusement.  Unfortunately he ‘hurt his bits’ after a bellyflop and had to be rescued and flown to hospital. A spokesman for HM Coastguard remarked “You’d think he would have known better”.  Full marks, Major – you get my vote. Bravo!

I digress, as I often do.  I like Battersea - rather more colourful and eclectic than Chelsea where I lived on a boat near Battersea bridge for five months before escaping to the Medway last year.  Battersea Square is a bit of a misnomer:  It is more of a triangle. A dry cleaner, a Lebanese cafe, a hairdresser (Metamorphosis by name) a cool bar and an Indian restaurant, wonderfully named  The Battersea Rickshaw, make up one part of the triangle.  The Riviera cafe and a road leading down to a private school makes up another and the third side of the triangle is a road leading to a place called Wandsworth and the territories of the middle class professionals in Putney, if one walks far enough and the Thames footpath.  In summer the Square is packed with a mix of people.  Trees are many and the stylish lampposts are festooned with flowers in various shades of pink in brown baskets. Thomas’s school is down the cobbled lane.  4x4s proceed one after the other – mostly Audis, Range Rover, Lexus, with the occasional Porsche 4×4 – otherwise it is estate Audis and Mercs.  Few normal cars seem to be deployed to deliver the sometimes precocious children to their lessons.

On some mornings, the Mothers, having delivered their children, meet for a Latte or Cappucino. If you are into ‘Yummy Mummies or MILFS (and I am not) – you would get neck ache.   I have excellent hearing, developed over 25+ years of teaching law and  trying to discern the signals of intelligent life in tutorials where sometimes, it has to be said, the students were a bit like Ingerland in the Worldcup – not very good and underprepared, hungover or simply not up to it.   No… I am joking.  I had a great deal of pleasure teaching law students who were all pretty good and some particularly talented.  I just fancied a curmudgeonly digression.

I was having coffee the other morning when a group of women met at a nearby table, having delivered their little darlings to the care of the teaching staff. They obviously knew each other through the school.  They didn’t come across as a group of old friends.  I didn’t detect any Sex and The City frisson either.   It surprised me how competitive they all were – and much of it done with a rictus smile.  Without generalising overly – there is a big difference in the style of conversations where men meet other men and women met women.  The women tend to listen more and wait their turn.  The bollocks quotient is also rather lower, I have found, with groups of women.  Nevertheless, on this particular morning – the blood was running, the competition was GAME ON as they vied to outdo each other on their forthcoming holidays – abroad, naturally – and I discovered that ‘James‘ had both an iPhone and a new iPad and ‘simply couldn’t live without it’.  There was a very brief discussion on local ‘hice’ prices – ineluctably. When the conversation of the women turned to politics – Cameron will be relieved to note that newly Tory Battersea is firm.  I’m afraid to say that the conversation was fairly ‘right wing’ – much talk of asylum seekers, ‘prison should be harsh’,  public servants have had it too good for too long, Labour is a ‘disgrace for spending all our (husband’s) money and hanging of chavs should be brought back as a recreational activity .  OK… I exaggerate on the latter.  They did not say that.  I was, however,  expecting Paul D’Acre, Editor of The Daily Mail to pitch up as the guest speaker at the gathering.

The days are varied in The Square – but there are some constants. A group of businessmen – who are extremely amusing – meet regularly for coffee – each with their iPads or laptops and talk. Sometimes one of them does most of the talking.  I know who he is, but do not know him  – a friendly  guy and he can be very funny. It is a bit difficult to not hear, given the proximity of tables.  It is a great place – not achingly trendy, not achingly pleased with itself – quite the opposite – it is a very friendly welcoming place.  I shall stay until Christmas.  Then I shall escape and go somewhere else.

Well… there we are… just fancied writing  a few observations on another part of London I like.  Man cannot live by Law alone.

Charon reports… from the front line…from Oldgitstan..

I rose today at 3.30 am, as I do every day.  It was dark outside. The sun here does not dare venture out much before 7.00. There was an eerie silence…always a sign that something is about to kick off.  When I went to bed last night…. Iain Dale and Yasmin Alibai-Brown were sparring on BBC News 24.  I had to agree with Iain Dale’s assessment of that minor skirmish… it was 1-1

BUT… this morning… it was different… there was blood on  the walls….

The Ranting Penguin came through first on my dongle… I knew then…. that this was but the start of a very, very,  hard day in British politics…

Things are so bad in South Wales that even the Chief Constable cannot go down to his local Tesco to buy Coco Pops without fear of an attack by the Oldgitsban.. a  ‘proscribed’ group of elderly people who terrorise supermarkets on a Saturday and monitor the internet… when they could shop during the week….. just to annoy the middle classes who have to shop on Saturdays because of their own duties working for banks, estate agencies and…some say… law firms, the ‘meedjahuddin’ and advertising agencies.

I do not know who the Ranting Penguin is… all I know is… that when I see a feed from the blog… things are going to kick off and it is time for me to get the ‘kit’ on….

I read this story in The Telegraph… keeping an eye out for roaming gangs of Oldgitsban.…it is well known that this group of elderly insurgents rise early….get up at unusual hours… and are monitoring ‘communications’ on Twitter and in the blogs… I am grateful for their efforts… these people, without thought of reward… watch our liberties…watch our rights…

Being an ‘embedded reporter’…. I do have to take instructions from the military… but… I can tell you… on this occasion… as I got out my laptop….even the local Brigadier was happy for me to report on what must be the STORY OF THE FIRST COUPLE OF HOURS OF SUNDAY MORNING BEFORE ANDREW MARR COMFORTS US ALL WITH HIS GROUND BREAKING PAP SHOW… The Andrew Marr Show – possibly the most trailed (advertised) show on the BBC?

I almost wept, as I saw the reports in the MAIL ON SUNDAY… about Tony Blair asking..

‘Find me some obviously sick children’

Some things are just so bad… that it is difficult for even a hardened blogger to report… and it is at times like this that I am glad we have the the Mail on Sunday to dig deep… as a ‘tribute’ to them… it is best that I let them take up the story…and let you…. decide on the ‘realpolitik’ of the matter…

BUT… it got worse… Gordon Brown had a secret stash of money…. the records being kept in an old exercise book.. and Brown seemed to spend a lot of time scheming to become prime minister… a position which he has held with exquisite lack of success, earning the soubriquet of being Britain’s worst prime minister…and he didn’t even start a f**king war…

The MAIL on SUNDAY… has the story

This is Charon…reporting from the front line…. I’m only sorry that there is no SNOW… I would have enjoyed doing the weather forecast and helping the people of Britain understand just how BAD…snow is… anyway… have a laugh… if you can…. as you read the latest revelations from Peter Watt, former (and very pissed off) General-Secretary of the Labour Party.

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Transparency declaration: Charon has voted Labour for nearly 30 years. This does not make him a war criminal.

Podcast 101: Charon Reports on the Geert Wilders affair…

Charon Reports on the Geert Wilders affair…

Today I am talking to Carl Gardner, barrister, writer, ex government lawyer and author of the Head of Legal blog about the (possibly)  unlawful exclusion of Geert Wilders.

Wilders has been excluded under regulations 19(1) and 21 of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, which faithfully copy out and implement the requirements of article 27 of Directive 2004/38 on the rights of EU citizens to move freely.

Listen to the podcast report with Carl Gardner

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UPDATE 14TH FEBRUARY

BBC Any Questions Radio 4: David Davies MP speaks on Free Speech issue – says Government wrong to ban Wilders.
(At about 28 minutes in to the 50 minute programme)

No sign, as far as I can see (yet) of Liberty response. Will continue to look.  If anyone finds a response before I do – please put comment in and I’ll publicise Liberty response.

Podcast version for iTunes

Podcast 99: Bonfire of more vanities…Charon reports…

Listen to Podcast 99: Bonfire of more vanities…Charon reports…

Yesterday the Select Committee in The Commons grilled the HBOS and RBS mob and ran amok to great effect; illiciting expressions of ‘profound and unreserved regret’…. with one exquisitely groomed and suave titled banker saying that he could not ‘be more sorry’.  All this is well covered by the BBC and others and I referred to it yesterday.

Today, Prime Minister’s Questions was a cross between Richard III and a Brian Rix Farce. Gordon Brown shuffled to his feet in a manner, to me at least, as if he was reprising Olivier’s introduction to Richard III… “And now is the winter of my discontent made gloriously worse by this ex Chairman of HBOS…”

The saga began when The Daily Mail alleged that Sir James Crosby (adviser to Gordon Brown and knighted by Brown for services to Banking) when head of HBOS, sacked senior manager Paul Moore for raising concerns the bank was open to too much risk.  The BBC reports ” Sir James, who led HBOS from 2001 to 2006, said there was “no substance to the allegations” But Paul Moore said he stood “firmly and confidently” behind his allegations against Sir James.”

With absolutely no ministerial contact whatsoever, apparently,  between Downing Street and The Financial services Authority this morning, Sir James Crosby threw himself onto his sword and resigned as deputy chairman of City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) – conveniently, before Prime Minister’s Questions at 12.00 today.

The BBC’s Maven of Mavens on Economic Matters, Robert Peston, said that he “understood that Sir James had stood down to protect the FSA from controversy.”

The BBC  report states: “The Treasury told the BBC it was Sir James’ personal decision to resign from the FSA”  This of course, is almost guaranteed to send the slavering hacks into a frenzy of “But was he pushed?” speculation and so it proved today on the BBC’s Daily Politics show presided over by Andrew Neil.

David Cameron, fresh out of the oven as Pillsbury Doughboy incarnate, launched into the Prime Mentalist with the fervour of a hunstman on Boxing Day trying to find a fox to slaughter;  accusing the Prime Minister of incompetence, lack of judgement, failing to get his facts right and, noting that the Banking mobsters had apologised, for not having the decency to do likewise for mismanaging Britain. All good stuff… allowing sundry front benchers from both sides to nod wisely, laugh, roar, nod their heads vigorously or, in Harriet Harman’s case do her Nigella Lawson impersonation and smile seductively, but meaninglessly.

The story became even more amusing when it was discovered that Sir James Crosby had been Chairman of HBOS and Deputy Chairman of the Financial Services Authority for some time at the same time, prompting Andrew Neil to the inevitable comment that this was tantamount to putting the lunatics in charge of the asylum.  There was much huffing and puffing by Hazel Blears and the Chairman of the Tory Party, Eric Pickles – with Pickles even asking Andrew Neil if he knew about the conflict of interest and had complained about it at the time.  Farcical, really, but ineluctably British… and hey.. look on the bright side…. if these banking mobsters had pulled this stunt in China they would probably be shot at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.

Finally… let’s go over to the Maven of Mavens, Robert Peston on why Sir James Crosby resigned…


I can barely wait for more revelations and developments on this sorry saga – but turning now to another form of vanity – the vanity of The Home Secretary and her expenses claim.  Well… it all turns out that she has done absolutely nothing wrong, everything is above board, the complaint has not been upheld and Chief Political pundit from the BBC Nick Robinson hyperventilated on the Daily Politics show  today that the truth of the matter is…. that she was telling the truth and has not broken the law… so there we are… another storm in a second home tea cup.  She is, therefore, fully entitled to continue to be a hapless Home Secretary and spend the next year of her time as Britain’s worst Home secretary in recent years – an opinion I am still entitled to hold even under this government, until Team Brown face the flaming torches of the electorate when Brown has no option but to call an election.

And finally, if you haven’t already seen this and want a laugh… have a look at this excellent nonsense from The Onion…Sony Releases New Stupid Piece of Shit That Doesn’t Fucking Work..

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Listen to Podcast 99: Bonfire of more vanities…Charon reports…

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UPDATE 11th February 7.30 pm

Email from David Cameron (To all who signed up for the original WebCameron)

Dear Charon,

This morning we learnt that Sir James Crosby had resigned from his position as Deputy Chairman of the City watchdog – the Financial Services Authority. This was because of an allegation made about his time as Chief Executive of HBOS. A former employee claims Sir James Crosby sacked him for saying that the bank was taking on too much risk.

Why is all this so important? For three reasons. First, because it raises questions about Gordon Brown’s judgement. Sir James Crosby is one of his trusted economic advisers and the man he put in place to oversee the regulation of our banks. The turn of events now shows Gordon Brown’s misjudgement in putting him in such an important role.

Second, it raises questions about Gordon Brown’s character. In the House of Commons today, I asked the Prime Minister to apologise for getting this judgement call wrong. But, as ever, he refused. Be it for claiming to end boom or bust, failing to regulate our banks, or now this, the Prime Minister is simply unable to admit when he’s got things wrong – so I don’t believe he can be the man to put things right.

And third, it raises questions about the way this Government works. The immediate events leading up to Sir James Crosby’s resignation are still not clear. Was it his decision? Or was he pushed in order to make life easier for the Government? Whatever happened, I suspect this will not be the last of the resignations we see to save this Government’s political skin.


Snapshot 23 January: To err is human and other matters….

Charon Reports Podcast version: To err is human and other matters

There is a certain irony that two men holding high political office, one from the UK and one from the US, should suffer from  minor memory loss. The Independent reports this morning:

“Mr Straw came in for criticism for failing to declare a £3,000 donation for four years. The committee said it was “surprised and disappointed” that someone as experienced as Mr Straw had broken the rules. He accepted the gift from Canatxx Energy in 2004 to pay for a dinner to celebrate his 25 years as MP for Blackburn. The committee said Mr Straw was “negligent” and should have known better because as Home Secretary, he had brought in a 2001 law to reform the rules on political funding. The gift was only declared formally last month, following allegations that it might have raised a conflict of interest because the company sought planning permission near Mr Straw’s constituency.”

In the United States, awaiting confirmation by the Senate, is US Treasury Secretary designate Timothy Geithner who, it would appear, forgot to pay some $34,000 in taxes between 2001 and 2004. President Obama stated that this was “embarrassing” but added that Geithner’s “innocent mistake” shouldn’t keep him from taking the helm of the new administration’s urgent efforts to revive the economy.

Prime Mentalist Gordon Brown, our revered leader who is leading Britain PLC on a long march to financial ruin, has been criticised by fresh faced Mr Pilsbury lookalike David Cameron.

“Britain risks bankruptcy and a humiliating bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because of Gordon Brown’s borrowing, David Cameron said yesterday….. If we continue on Labour’s path of fiscal irresponsibility, at some point – and it could be very soon – the money will simply run out.”

The man who would be King went on to insist he was not predicting a date by which the Government would “end up back at the IMF”. But he added: “What I am saying is that we are running the risk of those things happening and those are risks that no government should responsibly run.” The Independent 23 January 2009

But it is not all doom and gloom. Following the removal of restrictions on short selling of Bank stocks (It appears the Chancellor was only given a few hours notice by the FSA and was ‘furious’)… “one of London’s most successful hedge funds has made £12m in just four days by betting on a fall in the Barclays share price, a move that will heighten the controversy over so-called short-selling strategies. Lansdowne Partners, which also profited from the fall in the share price of Northern Rock at the height of its problems, sold Barclays shares last Friday – when the bank lost almost a quarter of its value in frenzied trading – and bought them back again on Wednesday after they had fallen by almost £1.” The Guardian

Well… there we are.  The weekend is almost upon us.  Have a good one.

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Charon Reports Podcast version: To err is human and other matters

State of the nation…

Charon reports: State of the nation – podcast version

The Lawyer is keeping a running tally of job losses and redundancies in the legal sector. For some time now we have seen redundancy consultation notices being issued by small to medium sized and then larger law firms.  On 8th January, Clifford Chance the world’s largest law firm announced the redundancy consultation period for up to 80 of their London office lawyers and, yesterday Allen & Overy,  another magic circle firm,  announced the likely redundancy of up to 10 lawyers from their Hong Kong office. This morning, Dentons have announced plans to make up to 80 of their staff redundant.

Yesterday, The Lawyer reported: “Leeds-based firm Fox Hayes has gone into administration a month after the departure of its commercial and private client teams for Lupton Fawcett.”

Our European neighbours take the view that: “… Britain’s economy is about to suffer its most vicious slump since 1946, shrinking by a drastic 2.8 per cent this year, Brussels warned yesterday, as fears over the scale of the recession mounted despite the new banking bailout. In a dire assessment that threatens to leave Alistair Darling red-faced at a meeting of European Union finance ministers today, Brussels predicted that the UK would suffer the worst recession of any large European economy. (Source: Times Business)

Yesterday, RBS shares plummeted.  Times Business note: “RBS, worth £75 billion only two years ago, is now valued at £4.5 billion, even though it received £32 billion from taxpayers and shareholders less than three months ago. “

The restrictions on short selling of bank stock were lifted on 16th January. Short selling of bank stocks seems to have happened as predicted.  Where did short sellers get the stock to shortsell.  Cynics have suggested from the government.  Capitalists@Work, a leading finance blog, made the very pertinent comment… ” Ending the short-selling ban has not worked, as predicted. Bailing-out the banks without suspending the shares has not worked, again. The government has repeated the same mistakes it made in October.”

CityUnslicker, one of the Capitalists@Work blog authors, in reply to a comment on the blog wrote: ” RBS balance sheet is £1.6 trillion. If we take this on and there is say a 20% loss – £320 billion. Then add Barc, LBG, not to mention HSBC. There are assets as well as losses; but if we put these on the government sheet today the UK then I see a sovereign default within a few days in the current febrile atmosphere. We need some space, why oh why did they not suspend bank shares this morning…”

OK… I think the point is fairly clear and I need go no further  in laying the foundation for my main point.

It is not unreasonable to suppose that there will be further, possibly significant, redundancies in the legal sector.  It is possible that other law firms may fail and go into administration.  There have been rumours for some time that a set of Chambers is facing severe cashflow problems.

Yet the law schools continue to report enthusiastic application for places and will, no doubt, be more than happy to take students on to courses this coming September and report increased profits for shareholders (where applicable) and for university funds where there are no shareholders or trustees to satisfy.  Clearly, I am failing to understand some basic law of finance or supply and demand.  It would seem, to my untutored eye, that demand for lawyers is decreasing – for otherwise there would be no redundancies being announced, no three day weeks, no closures and no bankruptcies.  These redundancies, unless again I am failing to understand another law of finance, mean that the supply of lawyers (in this case, experienced lawyers) will increase.

Given that law firms are cutting back on recruitment it is almost certainly the case that students passing out of the law schools after their LPC (and BVC in the case of the Bar)  may not get a post and those fortunate enough in the last year to get a traineeship may find they are not taken on when their training contract is completed.  This will, ineluctably, add to the supply of trained (but not experienced) lawyers chasing jobs.

Given that no-one seems to have a clue how long or how deep this recession is going to be – let alone the Governor of The Bank of England, The Prime ‘Mentalist’ or The Chancellor of The Exchequer….  why do students and law schools think it is a great idea to train as a lawyer now (at fairly significant expense) when the reality is that it will take some time before the excess supply of experienced and recently qualified lawyers  is absorbed by a resurgent legal profession when we finally do start to see the green shoots?

The cynical argument that law firms will continue to recruit cheap labour in the form of trainees, rather than more expensive trained and experienced lawyers, doesn’t really hold water for a sector driven by quality demands. And who is to say that the whole earnings structure for lawyers will not face revaluation (similar to house price ‘corrections’) and assistants and partners will be prpeared to work for less just to hold onto their positions in a febrile and possibly deflationary market.

I think I need to go on a ‘finance and economics  for dummies’ course so that I can learn how the impossible can be achieved by the law schools. for they, alone in the sector, seem to have cracked the problem of boom and bust.  Or is it just one big Ponzi-Madoff?

I claim no expertise in this area and welcome comment, rant, vilification, groups of people with flaming torches standing outside hurling abuse late at night. Over to you.

***

Charon reports: State of the nation – podcast version

Charon Reports: On Twitter – Are you going to put some skin in the game?…

“Twitter is becoming ever-more powerful. You can tell when businesses, brands and governments start putting skin in the game.” so says Mitch Joel in a post on Six Pixels of Separation entitled Why you need to be looking at Twitter.

Today, as Winter tightens its grip on credit-crunched and completely financially knackered Britain, I get my podcasting kit and WWII helmet out and trawl the world to report on Twitter… the social media phenomenon for ‘staying connected in real time’.

There are, fortunately, a fair number of articles on Twitter, written by social media experts, pundits and self proclaimed smart asses out there on what we used to call the information super highway… relieving me of the awesome responsibility of having to add to the growing list of of pundits telling you WHY YOU MUST USE TWITTER!  I’ll put a brief list of these articles at the end if I am still sober enough when I finish this report to remember to do so.

My review of TWITTER! is going to be quite different. It is a personal statement about my *journey* for self discovery and improvement and how I used TWITTER! to rebuild my shattered life…. OK…OK… it isn’t – but I am going to review Twitter as I see it, pulling no punches, stepping up to the plate…. to tell it straight.

So… where do I start? I’m on Twitter. Why? – I answer that in an interview which I shall refer to again as I close this piece.

Bob Ambrogi, US lawyer, Tweeter and serious blogger,  gave a very good reality check on Twitter and it is a pleasure to quote it here: “Tweets are trees falling in the forest. What matters is who hears them.”

He’s got a point and it is a good one because there is a fantastic amount of output out there and it is very easy to get buried in a mass of information, noise, comment, social chit  chat and spam. The basic idea is that Twitter is a real time communication tool, enabling you to receive information from those you *follow*, provide information to your *followers* and *Block* those you don’t want to follow you (You may not be that keen to have @FBIAgentElliotNess following you).

AND..there are pleasures to be had, as the wine kicks in, to *unfollow* people by deleting them from your list of *followers*.  Be warned however.  I tried to *unfollow* some spammers and ended up unfollowing some people I wanted to follow…  so I had to re-follow them.  This, a bottle of red in, is not as easy as it sounds. Anyway… I hope the ‘lucid’ explanation I have provided above gives you a taste of what Twitter is and does!  Frankly – it’s easy – get on to Twitter and try it out.

Let me give you a taste of Twitter by extracting examples from the people (*Tweeps* or Twitterati?) I follow… in no particular order of importance or ranking.

First up, to illustrate the PR and marketing benefit of Twitter,  is a serial twitterer, fuelled, some say,  by fantastic quantities of Seattle coffee, who pumps out Tweets with the enthusiasm of a  50 Cal machine gunner on an Apache helicopterKevin O’Keefe author of the Real Lawyers have blogs blog.

Next… we have the excellent list put together by JDTwit – a list of lawyer bloggers, mainly from the US – but a few Brits have managed to get off their arses to get on the list. An astonishing 561 lawyer / legal sector twitterers are on that list as at 1.00 pm GMT today.  This list must surely be a first point of contact if you want to follow lawyers.

The other day I found myself being followed by a firearms expert and instructor. This is not something that happens to me every day… so, of course, I had to follow back – and I am glad I did. Joel Rosenberg knows what he is talking about and is a Twitterer who *engages* in debate, repartee and even the nonsense I come up with on Twitter. He has, only recently, outed me as being the man in the  ‘Batman’ outfit in Sheffield. .

Before we turn to the social side of Twitter and to avoid this report turning into a complete and utter monster of a post – let me say that the Canadians are also pretty active.  There are several I follow – most notably Steve Matthews, the founder of Stem Legal and a ‘fun loving librarian’ and Connie Crosby, who describes herself as a “Guerilla Librarian’ – which I liked.

Talking of Librarians and Info/IT specialists… there are quite a few on Twitter.  There is iOverlord, who appears to spend much of his leisure time drinking, going to gigs or football matches and then tweeting about being mildly hungover the next day!  There is Jim Milles Director of the Law Library, Professor of Law University at Buffalo Law School who can be relied on to provide a sardonic twist, and, back in the UK – Jaffne, littlestar19,and stupidgirl_no1.  I shall return, for the reasons given below, to uber-librarian @infobunny.

On the Information side – although Nick is a bit baffled by the amount of time some of us waste on Twitter – no article on Twitter could be complete without mention of leading UK legal information doyen and guru, Nick Holmes – author of the Binary Law blog and founder of InfoLaw.

Stephen Fry is on Twitter – big time. A serial Tweeter, Stephen Fry kept us all informed on a recent filming trip to Africa and, most recently, has provided a snapshot of his trip to New York – complete with photographs.

There are so many different uses for Twitter, so I end with one of my favourite uses of Twitter: Social chit chat, a bit of mildly drunken posting and interaction with fellow bloggers and tweeters.  Each to his own.. or.. her own.  Let me give you a flavour of… or for our American friends *flavor*….

I’m interested in discovering more about the US legal system. Twitter and Blawg Review provides a good jumping on point.

I spend a fair bit of time late at night exchanging tweets with US lawyers… @Scottgreenfield (Simple Justice blog), @gideonstrumpet (A Public Defender blog) , @colinsamuels (Infamy or Praise – three time Blawg Review winner)  and these screen shots will give you an idea of the import of matters discussed.  (These attorneys tend to use their excellent blogs for the serious stuff  so I have given blog links to each, rather than twitter links.)

And… so finally to the purely social, at times surreal, side of Twitter.

You really have to see this for yourself – but I’ll do my best to give you an idea of how surreal.  Some UK blawgers are not terribly serious about writing legal content on their blogs and this is, possibly, intensified when they escape for a moment from the onerous burden of being lawyers or librarians to tweet.

We have uber-librarian @infobunny, prolific twitterer, Blip DJ and, most recently, founder of #TeamNun who conjured up an extraordinary Twitter meme about bumsandgin.  Basically, she has persuaded a group of possibly otherwise sensible twitterers to provide pictures of their bums while clasping a bottle of gin in the right or left hand. These pictures may be viewed in a truly remarkable video produced by @emargee… a must see if you want to know what these guys are on!

Participants in this video who  I follow include @infobunny, @Jaffne, @rah_rah, @ManxStef.

@johnbolch - a frequent user of Twitter and author of Family Lore is… curiously… not involved in the bumsandgin project!  I, too, have declined to take a photograph of my arse – but maybe on another occasion!

Curiously… the scourge of the blawgosphere and Twitter.. GEEKLAWYER… is not revealing his gin and bum – despite being *buff*…. but he makes up for this by getting on the train to go to Yorkshire for the weekend on the wrong day, by writing astonishingly direct stuff on his blog, and by writing legal opinions while consuming industrial quntities of mead and tweeting at the same time. A one off….. his head?

Something for Christmas on TWITTER!!!… of course. @Infobunny has been busy with her Pirate Christmas Advent Calendar. I look every day and I don’t ever celebrate Christmas.


And… finally… as we say in the news  world.  Why do I *Tweet*? I answered this question in an interview  with an obscure US television channel only this morning.  I am an existentialist.  I tweet, therefore I am.

Watch the movie interview?

Apologies to those I have left out – but…. I just have to go now and have a glass of red!….Hope this helps to put your thoughts on TWITTER!!! into some form of perspective… Have a good one.

Ciao.


UPDATE
This post replaced the advertised edition of Postcard from The Boat.  Charon is now sitting in state at his desk on Das Boot drinking a bit of cheapo Italian wine and reading the News of the Screws and other quality UK newspapers…

Charon also regrets that he is unable to remember where all those articles written by Pundits about Twitter are.  I’m sure you’ll find them… on Twitter… or Google… should you be minded to do so.
***
Update posted by Dr Charon MD…. Charon’s cousin from New York – an expert in all things medical.

Charon Reports 13: The People’s Banks….

Audio podcast: Charon reports (13) – The People’s banks…

I report today from the steps of The Treasury in London. The British people woke this morning to find that Gordon Brown has finally managed to push forward a socialist plan to control the banks.  We, you…..are now shareholders in a number of major banks and the Labour government is calling the shots on pay, bonuses and dividends.

On my way here, wearing a baseball cap I knocked up at a local print shop, I popped into my local RBS branch.  I don’t suppose the manager there was that happy when I asked if all his staff had arrived at work that morning on time and if he had enough money in the safe to satisfy his customer shareholders, British taxpayers.

I did let him know that it was unlikely he would be attending the leaving party for CEO Fred Goodwin who was quitting with immediate effect – without a severance payoff – because there would not be a leaving party. I also suggested that he might like to audit the biscuits as tighter controls on expenditure would have to looked at.   I thought I might also nip off down the road to see how the local HBOS manager was doing now that HBOS chief executive Andy Hornby and chairman Lord Dennis Stevenson said they would stand down from their posts.But then I thought better of the idea.  It seems likely that we, the people of Britain, will be shareholders in these stricken banks for some time to come, perhaps even for ever, so I could fit this in at my leisure.

It is likely that shares of banks who take the Cyclops shilling will find their share price depressed for a while – but the markets do seem to be coping with the news in a vaguely rational manner so far.  BBC News 24 autocuties, male and female, seem to be coping without hyperventilating and scratching around for something to say.   It could, of course, be a dead cat bounce….. who knows?  Even some of the pundits haven’t got a clue and I certainly don’t have a clue.

So…. they’ve sorted the Banks?  Insurance companies next, I suspect. Any laws on short selling of shares in the insurance sector?  I think I’d quite like to have a barbecue tonight….. or an early bonfire night…. Bonfire of The Vanities… anyone?

***

Audio podcast: Charon reports (13) – The People’s banks…

Charon Reports (11): A man with a plan…

Audio podcast: Charon Report (11) – A man with a plan

I glanced around the conference hall. The faithful were waiting, the zeal clear in their eyes, for soon their leader would lead them through the parted waves of financial meltdown to safety, security and power. He would speak to them of government from which they had been excluded for over ten long years.

To be honest, as I have no newspaper readers to pander to and please, no proprietor, a hidden menacing figure in the background, to satisfy – I found the speech slick, well presented in a serious and grave way, but lacking in depth, in substance, in detail.  The gentlemen of the press seemed satisfied and a cursory reading of today’s efforts from the Fourth Estate, summarised so helpfully in The Evening Standard, ranged from “Yesterday we got the measure of the man…. he evinced a gravitas that belies his youth…. a Prime Minister in waiting – Telegraph” to the wonderfully surreal comment from the Guardian “Often the Tory project has seemed soft and empty.  Yesterday he encased it in a glassy sphere: hard, bright and clear; though the fear of a void at the centre remains.”

All very good… but what did our friends from the Tabloids have to say?… that is what I wanted to hear as I listened to builders saying eff this, eff that, I’ll have an effing fried egg on some effing toast when I had breakfast this morning.  The Tabloids did not disappoint.  The Sun headline, showing Cameron mocked up as Bob The Builder…. “Can we fix it… Yes we Cam”. I groaned.  I lit a cigarette (I was complying with the laws of our law ridden isle by sitting outside), sipped my espresso and wandered if Brown could survive his own party’s efforts, let alone the seemingly inevitable final drive to Downing Street now being mounted by the almost teutonically efficient Tory panzer divisions from Central Office.

My favourite quote from his speech, picked up by everyone, as intended by the Tory PR machine, was “I’m a man with a plan – not a miracle cure.” I also enjoyed the fact that Cameron, dressed in blue, and his wife, dressed in green, mirrored the colours of the new time for a change Tory logo.  The only thing missing was the goddam tree.  Slick?… Yes… subtle…No?…. effective?  I suspect so.

I couldn’t see the point in reporting on the speech itself – so I went off to a bar to talk to some people of other things…. I was a man with a plan as I waved goodbye to the Tory faithful and made my way back to London from Britain’s second city, a city it is unlikely that I shall have cause to visit again in my lifetime.  The interesting thing is, that I didn’t see anything of Birmingham, so I have no idea how it has changed since I was last there many years ago.

This is Charon, a man with a plan, reporting on Cameron’s greatest speech ever, from The Boat.

***

Audio podcast: Charon Report (11) – A man with a plan

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.

***

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

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.

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

Charon Report 5: Financial meltdown?

Audio podcast: Charon Report 5 – Financial Meltdown?

I talk to you today from Lehman Brothers in New York. The 158 year old bank, once the fourth largest in The United States, has been put to the sword by Hank Paulson The US Treasury Secretary.  This was a case of the bank who liked to say ‘Yes’ to pretty well everything going – a bank whose  time on Wall Street ended when the US Government said ‘No’. This was a bank with a taste for sub-prime debt, a bank which, seemingly, failed to anticipate the US housing crash, whose complex mathematical models now stand as dust in a landscape strewn with bankers filing out of the building carrying their possessions, not in Louis Vuitton cases, but in austerity carboard boxes – perhaps a metaphor for what faces them as they complete with 25,000 others for jobs in a rapidly contracting banking sector.

Others far better qualified than me will bring you news of the reasons for this catastrophic failure of investment banking crushed on the wheel of the ultimate principle of capitalism:  “You can’t buck the market.”

I’m in New York  to improve my carbon footprint... it was just looking too good, too ‘Green’ and almost verging on idealogically pure.  My completely pointless trip over here, to report on something I could easily have done from a caff in Hoxton, is a metaphor for excess, to contrast the fortunes of a 158 year old US bank with the soaring fortune and fortunes of the greatest living Englishman, artist Damien Hirst, who has just flogged off two years of work for over £70 million quid; trousering most of that because Sotheby’s, perhaps bizarrely, waived their commission fee and Hirst decided not to line the pockets of rapacious art dealers and galleries as is the custom in the art world,  by selling to the people of the world direct.

It was Hirst’s attempt to ‘democratise the sale of his artwork…. a rather peculiar claim given the truly astonishing price tags flying around at the auction last night…. a pickled tiger shark, estimated at £6m, went under the hammer in a feeding frenzy of telephone bidding for £9m. While on the flight over here, drinking a bit of medium paced Rioja and inspired by a cartoon in The Independent, I knocked up an idea in Photoshop for an artwork as a ‘homage’ to the greatest living englishman….  a banker pickled in formaldehyde… I shall call it “Run Banker, Run Monday 15th September 2008″.  The only difficulties I foresee are finding a shed to build it and finding a banker willing to be pickled for posterity.

Legal news is still a bit thin on the ground – although it is only two weeks to go before the start of the legal year and it is all change for the judiciary.  The big question is… will they be parading for their annual walk in public in the robes and full wigs of a bygone era or will they be sporting their new Star Trek style robes sans wigs, so capably modelled by the Lord Chief Justice earlier in the year? We shall see…. I may have to make a phonecall to the Ministry of Justice to see if Jack “The Lad” Chancellor can shed any light on the matter.

This is Charon, reporting from New York.

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Audio podcast: Charon Report 5 – Financial Meltdown?

Charon Report 4: The Great British Airlift 2008

Audio Podcast: Charon Reports 4 – The Great British Airlift 2008.

Here I am in the cabin of an XL airliner on the Costa del Sol, favourite holiday destination for thousands of British holiday makers. As you can see, the cabin of the aircraft is empty.  It is empty because the aircraft has been grounded – the airline company has gone tits up.

Earlier I spoke to one family from Southend-on-Sea who told me that they had saved up their dole money for six months to come out here and now they can’t get home because the government lost their data and the giro hasn’t arrived in their bank account.  One family I also spoke to, whose children were sitting on the floor crying, told me that “it was a bloody disgrace that Gordon Brown had failed to support the airline company” and that they would be voting BNP at the next election.

The airport terminal looks more like a United Nations refugee camp full to the gunnels with disconsolate and very angry Brits, some of whom have been binge drinking for hours on cheap lager and sangria.  A group of Millwall FC supporters on a sponsored hooliganising weekend told me that they will riot in the streets of Benidorm if the British government doesn’t act immediately to get them back to ‘Blighty’.

Frankly, with a good percentage of these stranded tourists, the country would benefit considerably if the Spanish authorities could be persuaded to intern them, but that, for the present, seems unlikely.  I have just heard through the earpiece that our American friends have five very large aircraft at the airport now under the command of the CIA  and that the US Government is quite happy to fly stranded Brits to a secret destination in Europe for further questioning as the CIA has just discovered that Taleban are a bit thin on the ground in Benidorm. David Milliband, the Foreign Secretary, is considering the implications behind this offer and is expected to make a statement, live on television, shortly.

It seems that this crisis is on a scale not seen since Dunkirk, except this time it will be an armada of aircraft operated by airlines which have not been closed down by the banks instead of small ships.    Fortunately I was not so daft as to actually holiday out here and will be on board one of the CIA aircraft fairly soon in what President Bush is now calling “Operation Brit Bailout Part III” in what is believed to be a reference to the occasions twice, in the last century, when the Yanks had to bail the Brits out during World War I and World War II.

This is Charon, reporting from Benidorm.

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Audio Podcast: Charon Reports 4 – The Great British Airlift 2008.

Charon Reports 3: A good week for lawyers?…

Audio podcast: Charon Reports 3 – A good week for lawyers?…

At 8.30 this morning I happened to be writing at my desk on the lower deck of the boat. I looked out of the window and saw that The Thames was still where it should have been.  The scientists at CERN had switched the Large Hadron Collider on and, it would seem,  the planet had not been eaten and estate agents still run around in those irritating Minis decorated in horse racing colours.

I speak, as ever, from Chancery Lane in London to ask and answer the question “Has it been a good week for lawyers?” Pleasingly, for otherwise I would have little to report on after an unbroken spell of “Yes” answers… the answer is “NO”.

First we had an announcement, reported in Legal Week, that lawyers have not been invited to give advice to Mayor Boris, and then…  the information that England has quite enough lawyers and that lawyers have missed out on a place on the recommended list of shortage occupations presented to the Home Office yesterday by a Migration Advisory Committee.

Apparently there is, however, a chronic shortage of sheep shearers in Britain and they are on this list – so if there are any sheep shearers out there who want to be lawyers ultimately, or lawyers thinking of re-qualifying as a sheep shearer – there may be opportunities for you.  Get on with your application if you want to come to Britain. Come over, shear a few sheep for a while and wait for the upturn when you’ll be well placed to take advantage of the short term thinking of law firms who work on the principle of sack everyone apart from ‘core partners’ during bad times and then scrabble like buggery to hire suitably qualified people when the good times roll again.

Obviously, this migration issue only applies to overseas non EU lawyers.  For those of you who are EU or UK lawyers – there are, at least, opportunities in sheep shearing.  I don’t think that BPP Law School or The College of Law have any plans to start running sheep shearing courses – but keep Googling just in case.

So… back to Boris.  Boris doesn’t seem to want lawyers to advise him.  Legal Week covered this story and I quote from their report: “Vincent Keavney, a securitisation partner at Baker & McKenzie, commented: “It is disappointing given the importance of the legal industry to the City not to have an active solicitor on the board. The profession is a huge exporter in national terms and for London in particular and I do not think that can be ignored.”

Unfortunately, Mr Kearney… I’ve got bad news…. Boris has ignored it.   In the same vein, with a hint of waspishness to my ear, we have Nayeem Syed, general counsel of entertainment company Eros International, claiming that the traditional advisory role of a lawyer made them ideal candidates for such groups.

“It is very important in these kind of ventures to have a diverse range of opinions,” he said. “Lawyers are known advisers and can bring the ability to be concise and to be able to understand, analyse and give real advice.”

The trouble is, I suspect, and not wishing to be a bearer of bad tidings, but there aren’t that many lawyers who know their arse from their elbow when it comes to wider issues in London…. largely because lawyers seem to spend a disproportionate part of their lives working rather than living life in London so are probably singularly well qualified to be the least qualified people in London to actually give advice of a cultural, literary or imaginative nature on London.  Maybe Boris is saying what should have been said years ago by politicians…. life isn’t all about regulation and drafting rules, regulations, contracts and getting people out of difficulty. People don’t want lawyers hanging around at non-law meetings, their monstrous egos waiting for a moment to drain half an hour from the lives of those present. Live with it… or get out more.

So there we are… just a quick report today from Chancery lane.  I’m off to sort out my work – life balance with a glass of wine.

This is Charon, reporting from a non too vibrant Chancery Lane.

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Audio podcast: Charon Reports 3 – A good week for lawyers?…