Thursday, November 29, 2012

Our Legal Affairs Correspondent writes..

After weeks of anxious waiting, Snopper was relieved to learn the outcome today of the Inquiry into any possible damaging effects his blog might have had on his world-wide audience.   The Inquiry was conducted by an eminent Barrister bearing a remarkable resemblance to Elvis Costello and heard from three or four witnesses who claimed to have been the subject of less than complimentary remarks made by Snopper over the five years he has been boring us all to death with his mindless ramblings.  But as these witnesses were, in the main, suffering from delusions of adequacy, their evidence was not able to be taken seriously.

Among those whose balance of mind is reportedly undisturbed and so declined to contribute to the Inquiry were `Sir` Alex Ferguson, Tony Pulis, Harry Redknapp, Arsene Wenger, Big Sam Allardyce, Rupert Lowe, Anne Widdecombe,  the entire Chelsea Football Club, quite a number of sitting MPs, the whole of the EU along with others who had felt the sharp edge of Snopper`s biting criticism over the years.

In the end, the Inquiry fell short of recommending the setting up of an independent body - OFFSNOP if you will - to deal with any complaints that might in future be received, but given the level of disinterest in Snopper`s rants, it was felt such a move would simply add to bureaucracy being given a bad name.

Snopper refused to be interviewed but in a statement said: "I feel vindicated, so I`ll just keep calm and carry on boring people to death with yet more mindless ramblings and at the end of the day draw a line in the sand and come to terms with the fact that it`s a game of two halves.  To be fair."

After which I felt it futile to comment further, so I`ll leave it for Snopper to post this  honest unbiased report into one of the least significant journalistic episodes of recent times.   Nurse!!!........

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Recent days have given us yet another insight into the qualities required of a Premier League manager.   Let`s begin with Mr. Redknapp, just installed as the manager of hapless Queens Park Rangers.   Now a few months ago when he was having his days in court on charges of tax evasion, he confessed on oath to be `the most disorganised person in the world, I can`t write, can`t spell, don`t know what an e-mail is and can`t work a computer.`   So, admirable qualifications to be the saviour of Loftus Road and collect a reported £3million a year with a bonus of another £1million if he saves them from relegation.

Next, Rafa Benitez, lately of Liverpool and now installed as the Interim Manager at Chelsea - surely the most toxic outfit in football - following the sacking of Champions League winning Roberto Di Matteo.   The Chelsea faithful didn`t like Di Matteo`s sacking and they certainly didn`t like Benitez`s appointment.  They made their feelings very clear with a collection of banners and placards but also with boos, catcalls and choice language when Benitez appeared.  His response?  "When the fans are singing in the stands, I don`t understand what they say.  I never heard it as I was concentrating on the pitch."   So, the admirable joint qualifications of denial and selective hearing should help him settle in nicely.

We have now also been blessed with the wisdom and experience of West Ham manager Big Sam Allardyce following the Hammers fans being heard to have repeatedly shouted anti-semitic chants, along with sustained hissing and references to Adolf Hitler, all directed at Tottenham supporters during the game at White Hart Lane on Sunday. But not by  Big Sam it seems.  His initial response?   "I didn`t hear it.  I can`t condemn it.......I don`t want to be a political animal.  I`m here to talk about football, not what the fans are saying or singing."   Of course, Big Sam, we understand.

Now these three examples have appeared in just the last couple of days.   Mercifully we have so far been spared the visual impairment displayed by Arsene Wenger each time one of his players launches an assault on an opponent, the Caledonian mumblings of Ferguson and the ranting of Tony Pulis.   But taking just the aforementioned three examples at face value, one can but draw the conclusion that the ideal Premier League manager should  be totally disorganised, seriously illiterate, hard of hearing and in almost complete denial of the realities which surround him.  Seems to work, but then in the Alice-in-Wonderland parallel universe of the Premier League, why should anyone be surprised? 

Monday, November 26, 2012


To Southampton to collect my eldest granddaughter from her history studies.   I left her to decide a venue for lunch, which was a choice between the Boathouse at Hythe and the Cowherds off the Avenue just down the road from the University.  It was a close run thing but the Cowherds just edged it, as they seemed to have more `traditional` dishes rather than a load of foreign stuff.   

I was under some instructions to make sure she `had a good feed, `cos you know what students are like,` so it was a bit of a surprise when she was unable to munch her way through a particularly scrumptious dessert, billed as `Lemon Meringue Sundae - creamy lemon posset, vanilla ice cream, crushed meringue and whipped cream.`   I managed mine though, no problem.

We then went to my boyhood village of Hythe on the western shore of Southampton Water to leave some flowers on my Mum`s resting place, then took Sarah back to where she is sharing a house close to the University and, of course, made sure she was `OK.`   It`s what Grandads do...... I am very thankful and fortunate to be able to do it.   Even the three hour plus drive home made it all worth it and I look forward to doing it all again.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Look at a coin of the realm and most of them bear the inscription `FID DEF.`  It literally means `Defender of the Faith` and signifies the fact that Her Majesty the Queen is the supreme ruler of the Church of England, thus outranking the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Now not for the first time in these pages I reveal my attitude towards religion, which whilst engagingly simple is also entirely practical.   For example, my uncertainties are such that I have developed the philosophy that if, when my clogs are finally popped, I get up there and discover it was all true after all, then I`ll be the first to apologise for harbouring any doubts.   

But moreover I have long held the conviction that, even if I have no quarrel with Him/Her Upstairs (and hopefully the feeling may be mutual) I really do have a problem with His/Her representatives down here.  All of which conspires to restrict my visits to church to the holy trinity of weddings, baptisms and funerals.  In short, I find the whole business to be a puzzlement, which has grown even more so with the recent shenanigans at the Church of England`s General Synod.

You see, I find it curious that an organisation with a woman as its supreme ruler can actually conspire to prevent women becoming bishops.   It took long enough for them to allow women to become priests and it looks as if there will be yet another long delay before common sense finally prevails and women bishops are `allowed.`   Surely if any other organisation behaved like that they would find the equal opportunities legislation coming down on them like there was no tomorrow.

But never mind what I think about it, I wonder how the Queen feels about it, as she is charged with defensoring the fidei - to be fair, she looks pretty glum as she faces FID DEF on the coin - but it ain`t no way to run a railroad, especially one that seems to be falling off the tracks and plunging  into even deeper irrelevance. And wouldn`t it be the ultimate irony if Him Upstairs turned out to be Her?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


This is Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and the Weald, who when the Conservative votes were weighed at the last General Election, found herself following the forgettable Ann Widdecombe, who had called it a day in politics and retired to a life of celebrity tv, pantomime and a mercifully fruitless pursuit of sainthood.

So, Mrs. Grant was one of the `new intake` of MPs in 2010 but she`s a smart lady and her undoubted talents, having been spotted early on in her political career (possibly as early as when she joined the Labour Party a mere eight years ago in 2004) have led to her being appointed just two months ago to the dual role of Under Secretary of State for Justice and Under Secretary of State for Women and Equalities.  

Now Mrs. Grant has a very smart family home in a posh bit of the Surrey commuter belt but because she represents  the Maidstone constituency in Kent she is allowed to claim for a posh apartment in London as a `second home.`   And she does, to the absolute maximum amount permitted by the rules of £1666 a month - to the maximum of £20,000 a year.   Moreover, Mrs. Grant`s husband works as her Parliamentary Assistant at a reported salary of another £20,000 a year.   All this on top of her salaries as a Minister and an MP and all the trappings, privileges and freebies of `office` which MPs enjoy.  They really don`t  seem able to resist any gravy train that rolls towards them laden with cash and tips on how to milk a feeble system for guarding taxpayers money.

Of course, Mrs. Grant is not alone in this liberal interpretation of the rules governing MPs expenses.   And of course, as Mrs. Grant and countless other MPs have confirmed, what they are claiming is `within the rules,` so to that extent there can presumably be no criticism of the claims being made.

But one is drawn to conclusions which include the obvious need for the rules to be clarified and tightened up yet again and for MPs perhaps to have a little more guidance with regard to the spirit of the rules rather than just the letter of them.   Especially if you`re a Minister responsible for Justice?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

They don`t come around very often.  In fact, I can hardly remember a day quite like yesterday - maybe it`s never happened before - but even if it has then yesterday was another day to savour, to live long in the memory; a day I will tell my grandchildren about and recall a perfect day.

And the reason for all of this?   Well, it began with my dearly beloved Saints overcoming the frenetic hopelessness of Queens Park Rangers to secure their first away win in the Premier League this season.   Surely a corner turned.

And there was much dancing in the rest of Snopper Street as next door`s rampaging Gills secured  a 2-1  victory over Morecambe at fortress Priestfield to put them seven points clear at the top of their division.   Deaf Mike`s Ebbsfleet also won 2-1 away at Macclesfield to haul themselves still further up the Conference league table, but it was left, once again, to our street`s pacy flanker Scott (Buzzin` Six Pack Gay Icon) Wagstaff to sprinkle a little of his stardust onto proceedings at both Turf Moor, Burnley and Brunton Park in faraway Carlisle.  

You see, Waggy has been on loan at Leyton Orient these past few weeks and his time there has clearly left its mark to inspire the O`s to travel all that way oop north and come away with a convincing 4-1 win.   Meanwhile, now back at Charlton for their trip to Burnley, his looming presence on the bench was enough to inspire the starting eleven to a 1-0 win.

So, good results all round for our neighbourhood watch but what made the day so very special were other results that lifted our spirits still further.   Manchester United getting stuffed by the Canaries of Norwich, Portsmouth losing at their Krapp Nottarf weakhold to Doncaster Rovers and even the serially disingenuous Chelsea losing away at the Hawthorns to the much improved Baggies.   And I`m sure Lou Reed won`t mind me pinching a couple of lines from his lyrics to celebrate.......

.........such a perfect day;  weekenders on our own.   It`s such fun.
           such a perfect day:  you made me forget myself.   I thought I was someone else.  
           Someone good.............

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Thursday`s elections for the first ever Police and Crime Commissioners have thrown up some interesting issues.   I suppose the first is the small `turnout` of voters, averaging about 15-18% with at least one Polling Station attracting absolutely no voters at all.   

Now the politicians who dreamt up this crackpot event are quick to insist that those who have been `elected` do have a legitimate democratic mandate for office.   Well, I guess they would say that wouldn`t they?   Despite their insistence on at least 50% turnouts for Union strike ballots.  But the reality seems to be that the electorate were not necessarily put off by the dank November weather or even by some widespread ignorance about the candidates;  but more by their innate belief that politics should play no part in running a police force.   

That may, of course, be a naive notion, since the Police Authorities, who have had the job until now, have comprised majority membership based on party political nominees from local authorities.   But it seems the blatant politicisation involved with these elections has caused genuine resentment, so much so that the low turnout can largely be seen as a pretty hefty backlash against what was felt to be a misguided attempt to foist an unpopular idea onto an unwilling electorate.

To that extent, therefore, the vast majority who declined to cast their votes actually turned their supposed indifference into a considerable political statement of itself.   So bully for them.

I suppose the `review` by the Electoral Commission into what went wrong might again suggest, however timidly, that the experience of these elections might result in compulsory voting being put back on the agenda.   If so, I won`t have a problem with that, provided there is always an option to vote for `None of the Above.`   This is not to be flippant about the important democratic right to vote but simply to reflect that democracy itself must surely allow voters, who are not enamoured with any of the candidates or any of the policies they espouse, to have the option of rejecting them all and making a statement to that effect on the ballot paper.   Seems fair enough?   But for all of that, any future voting arrangement that will prevent the John Prescotts of this world being elected to anything ever again, gets my vote.

Another `claim` made by the Coalition Government was that the new Commissioners would in effect be a much cheaper option than the Police Authorities.   However, they overlook the probability that the Commissioners will require support, accommodation and all the usual trappings of `office.`   Moreover.....and this is where the whole thing descends into farce.....the Commissioners, whose job it will be to `oversee` the Chief Constables, will themselves be overseen by non-elected appointees who will make up the Police and Crime Panels who will themselves doubtless require some kind of `support.`  

So the whole thing is of doubtful democratic value, unlikely to be of economic benefit (especially after the £100million cost of the elections) and has succeeded only in alienating the majority of the electorate.   Apart from that, it was a beezer wheeze.

Friday, November 16, 2012


The joys of Spring and Summer are becoming a distant memory as the dark evenings have arrived and Winter loometh once again.   And it seems to me that ever since we came home from our magical October week in Cornwall, we have been confronted with a series of obstacles before we can look forward to revisiting that granite kingdom in the far south west.

First we had the rampant commercialism of Halloween, then the crash bang absurdity of  Bonfire Night, Christmas is revving up, when we will all be celebrating the true meaning of Santa`s birthday, then along will come New Year before the endurance test that is the long misery of January and February.   As a signed up member of the SAD club, I`ve been counting the days to the shortest day, when the winter solstice tips the balance of power once more towards the sun (`only`35 days to go) and by then some of the obstacles will have been overcome.  

In the meantime, Mrs. Snopper is pouring over brochures and internet pages in a determined attempt to `source` venues for our visits next year. We`ve already secured a week in the timeless tranquillity of the Roseland but there are other uncharted areas of this sceptred isle for us to explore.  

It just all seems a long time to have to wait, but at least this evening will see another of the hurdles overcome when the embarrassment of the BBC Children in Need extravaganza is over and done with for another year. (I`m all for supporting children`s charities but I don`t like being harangued about it.)  

Ah, but that`s another, altogether different set of obstacles which also includes the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (surely  Rickie Lambert Southampton`s Goal Machine can`t be overlooked again.)  Anyway, I`m off to switch on my light box, if you`ll pardon the expression.   

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


This is Tim Davie, Acting Director of the BBC, arriving to start work yesterday morning.   There are a couple of things to note about his persona - the absence of a tie and the carrying of the obligatory coffee container which signifies his inclusion into the world of designer, modern, up-to-date, cool executiveness.  Cue Lord Reith spinning yet again.

Any road up, Tim has issued statements saying he`s getting a grip of the chain of command in the higher echelons of the BBC, so good for him.   However, I notice that, as things stand, as well as an Acting Director General, there seems also to be an Acting Head of Something, along with a Deputy, who supervises an Acting Head of Something Else with another Deputy who then supervises the Acting Newsnight Editor. No wonder we`re confused.  Nurse!!

I honestly can`t keep up with all the titles of all the whizzo executives involved but  there`s no doubt that the structure, lines of communication and chain of command are ripe for major surgery.   Now I like ironies and one I`ve spotted today is the fact that it was the BBC, of course, who in the good old days commissioned Monty Python and his Flying Circus and one of their sketches was the Gas Cooker Sketch, starring a seemingly endless line of Gas Board officials, none of whom were actually able to fix the offending cooker or, if they were, succeeded only in creating the kind of mayhem of which the BBC in its current state would be proud.   Here it is:-  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

It`s been an extraordinary few weeks for the BBC, what with the Jimmy Savile business and the journalistic cock-ups over the Newsnight fiasco and now the resignation of Director-General George Entwistle after just two months in the job.

Now you will be relieved to know that I refuse to go on about those issues here as, once again, the media are obsessed with them in preference to what must surely be more important matters facing our world today, not least of course the appalling allegations of child abuse which started it all off.   But what these issues  do is to expose the BBC for the organisation it truly is and has been for far too long - London-centric, inclined towards the left, pro-Europe, overstaffed, over ambitious and adept at squandering licence-payers` money on unnecessary extravagances such as the OTT staffing and presentation of the American Presidential elections.   It`s either a miracle or a complete accident that the BBC produces gems such as BBC Four and Radio Four.

I`m not holding my breath but I do hold the slim hope that, out of all the mayhem currently surrounding the BBC, what will be recognised is the major power failure of the hierarchy - the bloated, overpaid layer upon layer of `management` and that the time has come for a root and branch review of what the BBC is, how it`s financed, how it`s structured, what its priorities must be and how best to improve its accountability to those of us who have no choice but to pay for it.

As they say, it`s indeed an ill wind that blows no good.......

Friday, November 09, 2012


Some years ago, the cost of building the Dartford Crossing on the M25 section between Kent and Essex had been recouped from the tolls on vehicles making the journey.   When the Queen Elizabeth Bridge was first commissioned, a promise was made that, once the cost had been met, then the tolls would be withdrawn and drivers could look forward to using the crossing free of charge.   Sounded fair enough.   Didn`t happen of course.   Yet another Government promise biting the dust.

Over the years, the tolls have increased and so too has the volume of traffic to the extent that long delays are now caused primarily due to the `mechanics` of collecting the tolls at toll booths.   Now, in a flash of inspired thinking the Government has decided not only to increase the tolls yet again but also to introduce a system of collecting tolls by means of `vehicle registration identification.`   This will require tolls to be paid in advance, either using shops, the internet or mobile phones and if you don`t pay up then watch out for a hefty fine of up to £180.

Ministers insist that this new arrangement, scheduled to start in 2014, is the only way to speed up the traffic flow and that the imposition of fines is the only way to ensure that tolls are collected.   So what if, like me, you don`t use a mobile phone?   What happens if you don`t have internet access or find it difficult to get to a shop?   There must be thousands who will be inconvenienced by these proposals and who may give up using the crossing altogether - maybe that`s the Government`s cunning plan?

So here`s another simplistic Snopper-esque solution - if the Government are so concerned  to reduce the traffic snarl-ups and reduce journey time, then just do away with the tolls anyway, which will have the combined effects of keeping the traffic moving, keeping drivers happy and, most important of all, keeping the promise we were given all those years ago.   Too simple, I know, especially for a Government who can`t resist another great rip off when they see one.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I see they`re going to unveil a statue of `Sir` Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford to mark his 26 years as Manchester United manager.   At first glance, marking 26 years seems an odd number but, as is well known, 26 is indeed unique and deserves to be remembered.   Now, in all the limitless world of number-land,  26 is the only number that lies between a squared number (5x5) and a cubed number (3x3x3.)  So it`s special.

I`m sure the powers that be at Old Trafford were well aware of this when they decided on the statue wheeze.....either that or Ferguson might at last be on his way and give us something to celebrate?   Anyway, they should be careful, for the experience of statues in my own club has been more than a little chequered.   Shortly after his sad passing it was decided to erect a statue to Southampton stalwart Ted Bates.  

The first one which was revealed (pictured above) bore little resemblance to the Ted Bates we all knew and admired.   Instead, it turned out to be a very fair representation of Jimmy Krankie and thus attracted some well deserved ridicule.  So a second one (pictured left) was commissioned and does Ted Bates well, standing outside the main entrance to St. Mary`a Stadium.  

So I hope Manchester United don`t suffer the same problems but then there really is only one image that captures the restraint and dignity of  the knight of the realm that is Ferguson and on which the statue must surely be based.  It`s this one:-

Or perhaps Ferguson, in a sneak preview, has caught a glimpse of what his statue looks like and is offering his considered critique?   And maybe we`ll finally discover what became of the Jimmy Krankie statue after all.

Monday, November 05, 2012


In 10 days time, we`ll be having the elections for the first ever Police and Crime Commissioners and this evening we had the first in a series of `discussions` on local tv featuring the candidates who have put themselves forward for the job here in deepest Kent.

Not a good start.   The were all more concerned with putting down their opponents with accusations flying about concerning the alleged `independence` of the candidates, all of whom, it seems despite protestations to the contrary, have either some direct or indirect connection with assorted political parties.  So much for keeping politics out of policing.  We heard nothing about the role they might play, the priorities they might attach, what qualifications they think they might possess and, to paraphrase the wonderful Mrs, Merton, what it is that is attracting them to the job with a salary of up to £100,000 a year.

But at least it provides some light relief from the endless prattle that is the election for the President of the USA.   If anything sums up the American psyche in the current world climate it is the money driven electoral paranoia of a nation more concerned with razzmatazz, show biz and celebrity than ever it is with the consequences for the rest of the world of whoever might be `elected.`

As with the Crime Commissioner campaign I`ll be heartily glad when it`s all over and done with.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


Well, at least the now former MP for Rotherham, Dennis McShame, has resigned and paid back the money he admits to have swindled over his expenses.   The amounts involved and the reasons behind this fiddle are now well documented but perhaps the most worrisome aspect of this case revolves around `parliamentary privilege.`

Now some months ago, the police were investigating McShame`s expenses claims but in July the investigation ended because of our old friend parliamentary privilege.  I had always thought and agreed with the notion that parliamentary privilege was there to ensure and protect free speech in parliament, not to provide a bolt hole for MPs who had indulged in criminal activities.

However, it seems that the letters written by the former Labour minister to the Committee on Standards, in which he openly admitted fiddling his expenses, are not admissable as evidence as they are protected by parliamentary privilege and thus cannot be used to prosecute McShame.   Now the Clerk of the Journals, one Liam Laurence Smith, has admitted that people will find this situation `surprising` but goes on to suggest that the privilege exists so that parliament can function effectively.

I`m not sure he can be taken seriously if he is claiming that MPs who not only commit acts that would lead to criminal proceedings outside parliament but also confess in writing to doing so, should be protected in this way.   It`s nonsense, of course, and time the whole business of parliamentary privilege was changed so that continued freedom of speech is ensured but clear abuses of the system which seek to thwart otherwise legitimate police investigations cannot happen.

Back in April this year, the then Leader of the House, Sir George Young, when introducing a Government consultation paper on "how to prevent the possible misuse" of these privileges, said that "the connotation of the word `privilege` is unfortunate in its suggestion of special treatment for Members of Parliament."   He wasn`t wrong. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012


Last night`s vote in the Commons could have been encouraging for Europhobes like me but I think we all know that however much David Cameron might jump up and down in his corner of the EU budget `negotiations,` in the end the remote, self-serving, undemocratic Brussels machine will simply do what it wants to do anyway.   So, what to do about it?

Well, I guess like many other of my simplistic solutions, this one might be too much for our elected representatives, but I suggest we might start amending the cheques we send to Brussels each week, month or whatever it is that accommodates the £28,000 we hand over to the EU each and every minute.   What we might do is start sending cheques that reflect only what we are prepared to send, such as either reflecting a `modest` cut, a staus quo payment or one which is increased by no more than the 2% rate of inflation.   The Brussels machine will kick and scream, threaten us with all kinds of reprisals but what could possibly be worse than what we have now, where we pour £billions into the EU black hole with no control over what they do with it?   

After all, their financial incompetence is such that their own auditors have still not signed off the EU accounts for more years than even they can remember.   And, as the turmoil in Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal continues, as profligacy and unaccountability rules and as democracy takes yet another step backwards, I reflect on the madness of the EU even being seriously considered for the Nobel Peace Prize.   That`s one kind of madness.

The other is, of course, the tragedy that is Afghanistan and the growing number of our military personnel being killed by those masquerading as Afghan Police - 11 so far this year and with the total of our losses in this hapless cause now well over 400, it really is time for this madness to end as well.   

I suggest we`ve kept calm for too long and the time has come, with these and other madnesses the world throws at us, to say enough is enough.