Sunday, September 30, 2012

Yes, the Political Party Conference season is with us again.   And my heart sinks.   As far as I know, we`ve already had the UKIP one, presumably somewhere in the UK;  the Plaid Cymru one, no doubt somewhere in Wales; the Green Party one, which is doubtless biodegradable and last week the LibDem shindig in Brighton.   And today the Labour Party are limbering up for their turn before the Conservatives bring the curtain down on it all in a week or so`s time.

There are so many irksome things wrong with these `conferences` that it`s difficult to know where to begin, so I`ll just give the one example of the sight yesterday of Ed Milliband, rumoured to be the Labour Party Leader, getting out of a chauffeur driven car in Manchester, not bothering to shut the door as presumably some lackey will do that for him as a claim to fame ("I actually got to shut Ed Milliband`s car door!!"), immediately being pounced on, embraced and greeted by some woman who was every so pleased to see him and then running the gauntlet of an obvious rent-a-crowd of smiling, handshaking tame admirers straight from central casting.

You see, it`s all the falsehood of it all, the daft notion these people have that we are impressed by stunts like that.   Closer to home, the MP for an adjoining constituency writes a column every week in the Kent Messenger (my own constituency MP clearly can`t be bothered) and this week she proposes "What better place to chew the cud than at Party conferences?  Consultation, exchange of information, consideration of differences, creation of common policy and a bit of fun too."

She then complains that she had to shell out £80 as the entrance fee for her party conference - the Conservative one, of course - but this was a bargain because she booked early and suggests that anyone wanting to sign up now would have to pay a lot more.   I imagine her £80 comes from the taxpayer anyway, along with her MP`s salary, her ministerial salary now she has a foot on the greasy pole, her expenses, subsidised everything and all the rest of it.  She complains too that conferences are now attended by fewer party members, more lobbyists and more media and that what`s needed is inclusivity, especially from the younger generation.

She invites anyone who has something to say about all this to "write to me as I will be talking with our party Chairman."   I might just do that and suggest that it`s about time she and her MP chums got back to Parliament after their long, long summer recess and now these pointless fol-de-rols and did the job we pay them to do.   On the other hand, maybe not, for I have come round to the view that what we really need is some kind of benign dictatorship - someone like Joanna Lumley would do nicely.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

So much for my earnest hope that Abu Hamza and his cohorts might be flown out of Heathrow by the end of the week.   He and one other have lodged yet another appeal against extradition to the USA, although I had thought they had now run out of appeals.

It`s worth just considering the `processes` that have been involved here over the years:-

* May 2004 - Hamza arrested in London for allegedly organising military training camp in 

* Oct 2004 - Charged in UK with 15 offences under Terrorism Act;

* Feb 2006 - Hamza found guilty on 11 charges and jailed for seven years;

* Jul 2006 - Given go-ahead to challenge some convictions;

* Nov 2006 - Court of Appeal dismisses case;

* May 2007 - Preliminary extradition hearing;

* Nov 2007 - Hamza loses legal arguments against extradition - Home Secretary to decide;

* Feb 2008 - Home Secretary Jacqui Smith signs extradition order;

* June 2008 - High Court rules extradition decision `unassailable`;

* Jul 2008 - Hamza refused permission to appeal to House of Lords;

* Aug 2008 - European Court of Human Rights rules no extradition until case examined;

* April 2012 - ECHR rules extradition lawful;

* July 2012 - Hamza appeals ECHR decision;

* Sept 2012 - Appeal rejected;  extradition can go ahead;

* 26 Sept 2012 - High Court appeal launched to avoid extradition.

It`s a quite extraordinary chain of events and as I understand it the latest appeal can only consider whether there are any new and compelling reasons to halt the extradition and it remains to be seen whether the judges meeting in open court next Tuesday consider that there are.   If so, then the ball game might continue;  if not then unless there is yet another appeal, the extradition might finally happen.

It`s difficult to see where any `new and compelling evidence not previously heard` can conceivably come from.   Unless, of course, Hamza claims air sickness or that flying in a plane across New York might just be a tad dangerous, thus infringing his human rights and the whole circus starts all over again.  I just hope next Tuesday we might finally see common sense prevail for once, for the ass of the law is in danger of becoming a donkey.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I see that radical cleric Abu Hamza and his dissident chums have finally lost their appeals to stay in this country and stave off extradition to the USA to face terrorism charges.   HM Gov. has welcomed the decision of the European Court of Human Rights and said yesterday  that the extradition should take place `within a matter of weeks.`  Today, however, their timescale has been revised down to `a matter of days.`

That`s better, although I`m genuinely surprised that they weren`t stuck on a plane (military or civil) just as soon as the judgement was released.   After years of prevarication, untold benefits and a bill for legal aid of well over £1million, I would have hoped that some contingency plans had already been worked out so that these malcontents were flown out immediately.   But it seems not and instead we have a Home Office spokesman explaining that `the practicalities of extradition are complex.` Well, they might be but they should have been resolved in advance.

Lets just hope that by the end of the week at the latest, this cargo of undesirables have finally left our shores, never to return.   

Monday, September 24, 2012


It hasn`t taken long for the Barclay`s Premier League to bring us back down to earth from the euphoric weeks of the Olympics and the Paralympics, when we were privileged to witness true sporting competition by true sporting heroes.   And one of the main players in the cultural wasteland of the `best league in the world` is, of course, our old friend John Terry.

Last evening he came to the conclusion that the Football Association`s decision to pursue their hearing into his alleged misconduct, made his continued involvement with the England team `untenable.`   For me, it was one of those moments, like the one when Thatcher left Downing Street for the last time or when, in the not too distant future, Ferguson will finally shuffle away from Old Trafford.   Both lead to feelings of relief, of a burden being lifted and a page being turned.  

And so it is with Terry`s announcement.   Now, as a tough tackling centre back he may still be useful to Chelsea but I have long held the view that, as the captain (twice removed) of our national team, he has lacked the respect, the presence, the unequivocal acceptance of, say, Billy Wright, Jimmy Armfield or the impeccable Bobby Moore.   In short, I have long felt that we could and should have done better for someone to represent the country than the tiresomely troublesome Terry.   

There`s an `independent` FA panel currently looking into whether any action should be taken against Terry following the now infamous incident involving Terry and Anton Ferdinand at Loftus Road almost a year ago, so it would be wrong to comment on that save perhaps for the encouragement of seeing one time Southampton flanker Stuart Ripley as one of the four independent panellists.   After he finished his distinguished playing career, Ripley went back to his studies and qualified as a Solicitor, having completed a first class combined honours degree in Law and French in 2007 - a prime example of ex-footballer makes good.

But Terry`s contention that his retirement from international football is the fault of the FA  is interesting and says much about his mindset.   Surely, whatever his prowess in an England shirt, his string of alleged off-field misdemeanours and all too frequent  controversies made his continued selection for England untenable in themselves. 

There are inevitably those who spring to Terry`s defence;   the apologists, the Stamford Bridge faithful and the sports writers of daily newspapers who are clearly Chelsea supporters.   But I for one will shed no tears at his departure.  It`s  just a pity he didn`t come to the conclusion he now has some time ago.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I don`t know about you but, for the first week back from a holiday, I find myself thinking where I was and what I was doing this time last week.   Not only that but I also find myself   trawling the internet for images of the area I`ve visited and digging out old books I`ve collected over the years.   Some of these are really very old now; for example there`s one in the County Coast Series about `The South Devon and Dorset Coast` which was published in 1910 and another one, `The Heart of the West` by Arthur L Salmon, published in 1922.   You see, it`s not just the places that interest me but also their history and it was in Salmon`s book that I stumbled across a poignant tale.

Now as well as a majestic coastline with picturesque villages, the area of the South Hams also has its charms inland where, nestling beneath the western beacon of Dartmoor, you find places such as Ugborough (pictured above) and the adjoining parish of Harford.   But these two places form the backdrop for the tale.   

John Prideaux, was born in Harford in 1578, the fourth son of John and Agnes Prideaux, who had to provide for a family of twelve.   But young John was very bright and attracted the interest of the wealthy Lady Fowell of the same parish, who sponsored his education through Exeter College, Oxford.   In his younger days, John had set his heart on becoming parish clerk of the larger parish of Ugborough, but he was rejected in favour of another candidate.   A good few years later, he is recorded as confessing, "If I had been chosen as clerk at Ugborough, I would never have been Bishop of Worcester," which he was from 1641 until his death in 1650.

And just for good measure, Harford also produced Thomas Williams, who was Speaker of the House of Commons from January 1563 until his own passing three years later and his burial back in Harford church.   Not bad for a small parish - a hamlet really - whose population even today amounts to just 77.

So, when I ask myself what was I doing at precisely this time last week, I easily recall that I was driving past Ugborough on the A3121, at the spot from where this photo was taken, getting a bit lost as I groped my way back to the order of the A38 en route back to the disorder of the south east and I wondered what great men or women might yet  emerge from the tranquillity of this very green and extremely pleasant part of Devon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Well, I`ve only been back a few days and they`re at it again.   This time the EU Commission chief, some Portuguese guy, has called for the European Union to evolve into "a federation of nation states."   He said he was not calling for a `superstate,` but rather "a democratic federation of nation states that can tackle our common problems through the sharing of sovereignty."  

Sounds very much like a superstate to me along with his other ideas such as a full banking union and yesterday`s announcements by other EU heavyweights about their ideas for a European army - would you believe? - along with tweaking the EU voting system so that anyone who doesn`t agree can effectively been ignored.  No real change there, then, given the EU`s track record of ignoring the results of referenda and carrying on regardless of things such as popular votes.

And in perhaps a more minor key, I see that the EU`s fine of £2,400 on UKIP Leader Nigel Farage has been upheld by the EU Court of Justice. It was in 2010 that the fine was imposed following his rant against the then newly appointed EU President, Herman Van Rompuy, who he described as `having the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low grade bank clerk.` It seems that MEPs have `protection` from prosecution when discussing political or constituency issues, but this legal privilege doesn`t extend to `personal comments.`

So, whilst Farage`s rant may have been amusing (unless you were Rompuy) and whilst delivered in a spirit of free speech nevertheless it probably was a bit  `personal,` he may feel, however, that it was money well spent.  Not sure I would disagree.

Monday, September 17, 2012


......ah well, back to the mayhem.   And amongst the nonsense that seems to dominate the `news,` I see there`s a lot of fuss about Kate Middleton`s exposed boobs, in regard to which I confess, perhaps disloyally, to have absolutely no interest whatsoever.   Similarly, I can do without all the stuff about so-called `celebs,` whose sad lives offer nothing that might contribute to my wellbeing.   

As for politics, well it`s in a bit of limbo at the moment as our leaders prepare themselves for the annual shindigs of their party conferences and, of course, it`s business as usual in Brussels where the unelected and the unaccountable plough on in their fantasy view that everything in their world is just dandy.

So I am forced to turn to the parallel universe of football in an attempt to discover anything of  note and the first disappointment is to see that the top four places in the `best league in the world` are taken by Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal (not necessarily in that order) and that Southampton are firmly anchored at the bottom of the league with nil points from their opening four games.  All sadly predictable.

And then I see something of stunning significance.   It is that my neighbour`s heroes, the Gills of Gillingham, brushing aside their recent defeat at an Industrial Tribunal in Ashford, find themselves at the top of League Two, undefeated in their first six games.   Not only that but their `interesting` manager, Mad Dog Martin Allen, has picked up the Manager of the Month award.

So, with the Saints doing anything other than marching in and the Gills surging onwards and upwards, the tables seem to have been turned here in Snopper Street.  For us Saints fans, things seem to be going from bed to verse, as the art mistress said to the poet, and it says much that even in the unpredictable world of football, I find it difficult to escape the mayhem to which I have now returned.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This is a photo I took just two days ago from high up on the section of the South West Coast Path (SWCP) between Wembury and Newton Ferrers in south Devon.   It shows the estuary of the River Yealm, just before it enters the sea and we were fortunate to be there on a peerless September morning when the clear light, the gentle breeze, the warm sun and the breathless scenery made it possible to truly appreciate the joy of just being.

It was as if all the mayhem going on all around the world belonged to a different place, a different time and it all made me realise once more that all too often our sense of what is really important is so often misplaced.   Now I know I`m among the fortunate ones to have the time, the resources and the good health to escape to places such as this and yet I also know that these are the places I prefer, that suit me, that provide more fulfilment and enjoyment than anything else that might be on offer.

Anyway, the crossing of the River Yealm for coast path walkers is, in keeping with its surroundings, a matter of some uncertainty.   There`s a ferry across to the Noss Mayo side but this `service` is restricted to between April and the end of September and even then between the hours of 10.00 - 12.00 and 1500-1600, although `during fine weather and the school holidays` the hours can stretch between 10.00 and 16.00.   However, the SWCP handbook for the south Devon section says that `you are advised to shout or wave to attract the attention` of the ferryman.   At least it`s cheap and it avoids a 9-mile detour:-

(Click on picture to see the small print!)

And, of course, it`s all part of the beguiling charm and the pace of life that goes with enjoying these simple pleasures.   Ah well, back to the mayhem.............

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Off on our travels again.   This time to Noss Mayo, pictured, on the estuary of the River Yealm, deep in the South Hams of Devon.   It`s an area we have visited so many times but, like Cornwall, we seem to be drawn back there again and again.

We`re looking forward to renewing some of our favourite South West Coast Path walks and discovering some new ones.   Just hope the knees and hips stand the strain!

Anyway, back in a week or so, no doubt with tales of our adventures, which will make a change from my rants about the EU, politics, football and the BBC (speaking of which, BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth is apparently a Noss Mayo-phile - see )

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Archbishop and Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu`s call for Blair and Bush to be called before the International Criminal Court at The Hague is intriguing.   The ICC (not to be confused with the International Cricket Council) is chiefly concerned with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and it is in regard to the latter that Tutu makes his claim, citing the alleged illegality of the Iraq War which gave rise to untold thousands of deaths.

At first glance, his call sounds straightforward enough.   But why limit it to just Blair and Bush, when others in both the US and UK administrations would seem to have been as much involved in the dubious decision making and the liberal interpretation of the law?   Trouble is, the ICC isn`t recognised by the United States, so Bush`s appearance before it is immediately reduced to the realms of wishful thinking.

As for Blair, well we`ve had the whitewashing Hutton and Butler Inquiries and the Chilcot Inquiry is now in cold storage whilst `negotiations` continue about the content of its final report.   Blair himself has, predictably, rubbished Tutu`s call with the kind of dismissive arrogance that we`ve come to expect and, since Blair seems to inhabit a stratospheric world which we mere mortals find difficult to comprehend, it seems unlikely in the extreme that he will also set foot in The Hague.

However, despite all of that, I`m with Des.   For there`s a principle here which suggests that those responsible for events such as Iraq need to be held properly to account for their decisions.   It`s clear that the series of Inquiries we`ve had so far have proven ineffective, partial and successful only in coming up with the answers they were set up to provide.   The problem with Tutu`s statement is that it suggets he might be assuming guilt, always a dangerous assumption.   However, he is right in the sense that there seems to be a case to answer and that a more independent, detached view needs to be taken; and although I know the appearance of the Chuckle Brothers before the ICC ain`t gonna happen, it doesn`t change the conviction that something should.

Monday, September 03, 2012


One of the results of the football transfer window which has just ended is to reinforce the number of foreign players in the game in this country.   The constant influx of foreign players does absolutely nothing to further England`s international cause and forces manager Roy Hodgson still to rely on the tainted Terry, Cole and their ageing chums.   It says much that my own club, Southampton, could if manager Nigel Adkins was so inclined, put out a team with an Argentinian goalkeeper, a back four from Portugal, Holland, Japan and Scotland, a midfield quartet from Uruguay, France, Northern Ireland and Japan and two up front from Zambia and Brazil.

Southampton spent almost £30million on a handful of new players in this transfer window, which might please the fans, but the trouble is that most of the other clubs spent the same, if not more, with the result that you seem to have to spend that much just to stand still.   And all in the mad pursuit of trying to compete with clubs from the great conurbations of the land of which, it has to be admitted, Southampton is not one.  

Now, being in the benevolent hands of billionaire foreign owners - the family of the much lamented Markus Liebherr - and with the club`s affairs managed by an astute Italian ex-banker, the Saints would appear to have few, if any, financial problems and the ambition to take the club forward has been demonstrated by the amount spent in recent weeks. But I just wonder whether, in this process, the club might lose some of its identity with its supporters as the homely, provincial, local family club it has always been and is now in danger of turning into yet another plaything for our foreign friends. 

And the more the greasy pole of  the Premier League is climbed, so a little more of the soul of the club might well disappear in a welter of foreign mercenaries and interests and the mad pursuit of attempting to join the so called `big boys`, from which the only way might well be back down again.   Anyway, given that the Saints now find themselves bottom of the league with nil points after three straight defeats, maybe such mad pursuit need trouble me no more.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


At 11.00pm last night, yet another transfer window was firmly closed and I noted with some astonishment that no less than £490million had been spent by football clubs buying players.   Most of that money was spent by clubs in the Barclay's Premier League and most of it, at least 90% I would guess, spent on foreign players.

The whole thing is reminiscent of a cattle market, with players coming and going, sometimes with little or no prior notice and it`s all supposed to be in the cause of strengthening the club squads.   This might be true in most cases, but too often I hear the phrase `good business` which kind of gives the game away and confirms that the commercial interests of the clubs come way ahead of the personal interests of the players.  There is also the discomfort of hearing the announcements of just how much money has been spent in the transfer window, as if that in itself is a yardstick for success in the chest beating triumphalism of the Premier League.

There are, of course, some players who move happily and willingly to take their places in the highest echelons of the game in this country but there are, sadly, others who are `moved on` with all the disruption to family life that is involved.   A good example is Billy Sharp, bought by Southampton from Doncaster Rovers as recently as last January.   He came to St. Mary`s with a good goal scoring record but also on the back of a family tragedy with the loss of his young son shortly after he was born.

The Saints fans took to Billy not just for the goals he scored but also for the man he was and I for one had hoped that he might have found some life enhancing stability on the south coast.   However, late in last night`s proceedings, he was shipped out to Nottingham Forest where he must try once more to adjust, to settle and forge a new future for himself and his family.   I suppose there`s no room for sentiment in the ruthless results driven business in the `best league in the world (tm)` but sometimes it seems as if some attention by the animal rights activists, if not the Professional Footballers Association, might not come amiss.  

I`m afraid the culture of the livestock market is yet another reason why I am more and more viewing life in the Premier League with some distaste.   It`s not the game itself that I have played, refereed and watched for over half a century that gives me a problem, it`s the grievous bodily harm done to it by rampant commercialism, arrogance and assumed entitlement.