Thursday, March 29, 2007

10 Years

I have blogged about this before (see Do not insult the King of Thailand). At the time I thought that the Swiss man who insulted the king by defacing his picture could face up to 15 years in jail. It transpires that the maximum sentence is in fact 75 years. He has just been sentenced to 20 years in prison reduced to 10 for confessing. A very high price to pay for something which I guess we would assume one could do without it being an imprisonable offence. The only problem is that he had lived in Thailand for 10 years so he could hardly fail to know the situation with regard to insulting the King

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Coppell signs

According to the Guardian this morning Steve Coppell has signed a new contract with Reading. He is unusual in the footballing world in that he will normally only sign a one year contract. The fact that he has this time around agreed to sign a two year contract is a testament to what Coppell has built at Reading (as their most successful manager ever) and I assume to the working relationship which he has with John Madejski. This guy is already a Reading legend and I expect to see more boring "feet on the ground" interviews over the next two seasons alongside the success that Reading fans have now become accustomed to.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Could Miliband beat Brown?

I think he could - if and obviously only if he has the guts to stand. I will admit that I have a vested interest in this as I placed a bet of £20 at odds of about 11.5 to 1 on Betfair some time ago. Is it possible that I could make money on all three leadership elections since the last general election? I had a bet on Cameron very soon after polling day and made over £100. I made some poor choices on the Lib Dem leadership election but once it became clear which way the wind was blowing I was able to turn a potential £25 loss into a £9 gain.

So will Miliband run or not? According to this piece in this mornings Observer he could be persuaded to run by Tony Blair. I cannot see what the downside would be for him running. He may feel that he has an agreement with Brown but if he has ambitions of his own then he may be far better to run now. If he fails to run and Brown becomes Prime Minister and loses the subsequent General Election, Labour could be out of power for a decade or more and Milibands chance could have gone forever. If he runs I think he has a good chance of winning particularly given Browns poll ratings head to head with Cameron and even if he does not win I think he will make a good showing and Brown will not be able to exclude him from the Cabinet which is where he is now!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Royal Bank of Scotland threatens staff

The Royal Bank of Scotland Group has threatened its staff with disciplinary action if they do not have their primary bank account with the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Apparently this affects some 14,000 of their staff and the union is taking legal advice. I cannot believe that such a term in a persons employment contract could be legal. If it is then a whole host of people in different lines of employment could find themselves under similar threat. Perhaps employees of the BBC should be banned from watching ITV or Sky. Employees at the Newbury Weekly News would not be allowed to purchase the Guardian. Employees at Tescos could not shop elsewhere. BT employees should be prevented from having a Vodafone mobile.

I understand that this behaviour is considered ok in the US where I read of a case of a guy who was sacked from a sports vehicle retailer for owning a Harley Davidson because they sold a different brand of motorcycle. Do we want to go down this road in the UK? I sincerely hope not.

As I understand it most banks offer their staff preferential rate on a whole host of financial products. Perhaps the bank might be better off writing to the 14,000 employees and reminding them of the benefits or perks of banking with the Royal Bank of Scotland as a member of staff instead of threatening them. I have contacted my local branch and complained about the way in which they are treating their staff and I hope many others will do the same

Friday, March 23, 2007


Has anyone come across the Wikileaks site?

According to their FAQ they estimate that they will go live in March 2007. Should be interesting as they claim that they have received over 1.2 million documents so far!

According to their blurb on the home page they are "developing an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their own governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact; this means our interface is identical to Wikipedia and usable by non-technical people."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

£10 Prize

I am offering a £10 donation to the local Liberal Democrat party that comes up with the most witty or amusing reason as to why I should transfer my membership to their local party.

Why should I do this you ask?

About 5 years ago I moved house. My new home was approximately 100 yard across the border in the Wokingham Constituency. I asked to remain a member of Newbury local party. So far so good. Now there have been a huge number of boundary changes and so all members have been relocated to their geographically correct local party. Mind you I only found out about this anecdotally.

I found this approach a little strange given that I had previously made a direct request to remain part of Newbury and I raised a thread on Lib Dem Voice to ask about the issue. It transpires that the English Party took a decision to revert every member to the local party where they reside. All previous opt-outs, forms signed, etc became invalid. I was also told that I could get a form and then get the executive of the Newbury local party to agree to re-accept me.

I then wondered whether or not this meant that I could in effect apply to any local party. I was directed to the Q&A which comes with the form and states as follows

"Q9. Can someone join a local party that they have never been a member of before and for which they have no qualifying address? A. Only with the approval of the executive of the local party they wish to join and the executive of the regional party containing that local party."

As it appears (that with their agreement) I can join any local party I decide to have a bit of fun and offer a donation to the wittiest reason as to why I should join a particular local party

I am now extending this competition via this blog.

Local parties who have made bids so far funny or otherwise (either on Lib Dem Voice or directly) are as follows :

Ayrshire & Arran
Reading East

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

150 to be prosecuted

According to the Bangkok Post Thaksin Shinawatra is amongst 150 people who are facing the prospect of prosecution for corruption. The Assets Scrutiny Committee has produced a list which includes the Thaksin cabinet which approved the digit lottery in July 2003 and current and former senior government officials.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Home Office Watch

I just got around to looking at this site. Home Office Watch is a Liberal Democrat site and is being run by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Team.
Latest quote from the site is as follows :
Mr. Clegg: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what databases are controlled by his Department and its agencies; and what percentage of the data in each database he estimates is inaccurate or out of date.
John Reid: The information requested is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
as they go on to say
So: they don’t really know how many databases they have, and they don’t really know how accurate they are. And they expect us to trust them to run the National Identity Register, potentially the most complex citizen database in the world?
Thanks, but no thanks.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The real nasty party

Hat tip to Ryan Cullen for pointing out an interview by Nick Griffin in the Lincolnshire Echo.

Some selective points from this interview will suffice to illustrate why this man and his party should be opposed at all costs. VK is the journalist and NG is Nick Griffin


VK: Our problem in Lincoln is mostly car traffic, because we don't have big lorries travelling through the city. So, have you got any ideas for reducing rush hour congestion?

NG: On policies like that, once you get into the minute detail, there has to be a fair degree of consensus between the parties. You can have minor tweaking, such as allowing more flexi-time - which would at least help. But then you come back to the big, overall picture, which is where we become politically incorrect, and that's that the native population of these islands, the Scots, Irish and Welsh, is in slow decline.

Foreign footballers

VK: When you said about people in need, what about footballers? Lincoln is obviously quite a proud footballing city. There would be a huge number of Lincoln City fans, and Boston United fans, asked to vote for a BNP candidate in Lincoln City Council. But obviously foreign players are quite a big part of that. Would they be allowed over to work?

NG: BNP policy would go far further than that. We wouldn't allow any football team to have anyone who wasn't born, or hadn't been living for a period of time, in their own area. So Manchester United couldn't come here and steal really good players. We'd totally localise football. Big money has ruined football.


VK: I did want to ask you about that. The local BNP group have called a meeting because a church in Lincoln is being converted into a mosque. Do you have a particular opinion on that? Why are the BNP involved?

NG: We have a particular opinion on it, for a number of reasons. Firstly, everywhere this is done in the country it acts as a magnet and a boost to further Islamification. Secondly. no-one locally ever wants these things. But they are bulldozed through by the local council and so on, but that's not local democracy. The wishes of local people should be paramount in decisions such as this.

VK: How do you know people living in Boultham Park Road don't want the mosque there? Instead of a derelict church building?

NG: Because we know from good experience, and the petitions we have had up and down the county. It’s an extremely hot issue. People simply do not want mosques in their area.

VK: Are you convinced that is all people?

NG: Yes, yes. The only person that wants a mosque is sometimes a vicar, whose church is totally empty - who thinks its just another version of God and it would do rather nicely if it became a mosque. No ordinary people want mosques in their own areas. Partly because it's just a symbol of something very strange and very foreign. Secondly, they have read enough of the tabloid newspapers to have an idea of what Islam is about, and to have grave concerns about it. And they see it as part of a creeping colonisation of their area. The natural reaction of a non-brainwashed population is to react against colonisation.

VK: You talk about brainwashing, but do you think the people who are opposed to Islam might only be thinking about extremists? Rather than realising that the majority of Muslims practice in a peaceful way?

Muslims don't understand Koran

NG: The majority of Muslims follow the Koran. They practice in a peaceful way until there is enough of them to get their way by force. And then they switch to using force. It's in the Koran. It's nothing extreme. It's simply what the Koran tells you to do. And what historically they do do.

VK: Just to be completely clear, you think all Muslims practice in a peaceful way until they are strong enough together to turn to extremism?

NG: The majority of Muslims don't really understand what's in the Koran. Traditionally it's in Arabic. None of them read Arabic. And most of them don't have any translation, they don't actually know what is in it. But once they do know what is in it, knowing perfectly well the theories in the Koran, which repeatedly tell Muslims that it's their job to Islamify the world. They do it by persuasion if they can, by force if they can't. But they don't start to use force until they get to ten per cent of the population. At which stage they are encouraged by Allah to use force to impose their views and their religion on their non-Muslim neighbours. It's just in the Koran. It's just the nature of the beast.

VK: So you think the conversion of a derelict church is imposing Islam on people who live in Lincoln? Even though we are talking about a corrugated iron, listed, building that can't be pulled down, but has fallen into disrepair? Which is now going to be used, once again, for worship. Which was its original purpose?

NG: No, it's original purpose was to be used for Christian worship, not to be used for the Islamification of another part of this country.

VK: If everybody who lives in that street goes to that meeting and says, yes, they are fully behind the conversion of that building - will you then change your mind?

NG: No, we will continue to oppose it, if we had councillors elected. We would continue to oppose it. But, obviously, if they turn out to be the only place in Britain where the natives actually welcome this thing, well, that would be odd. But we will respect their wishes and carry on trying to persuade them they are wrong.


VK: Do you have a particular perspective on homosexuality? We have a thriving gay community in Lincoln.

NG: Our position on homosexuality is that it is something that happens, it's not the norm for society. We believe in a stronger Clause 28 so we will put homosexuality back in the closet. What people do in their own homes, and so on, is entirely their own affair. We've got no problem or interest in that. But it shouldn't be presented as normal. It shouldn't be taught to children in schools, particularly primary school children, which is the latest insanity. The homosexual community, well, they can either vote for us or not, but in the end, the present legal system in this country won't last for much longer. They will have a choice between our position of pushing them gently but firmly back in the closet or the fundamentalist Islamic position which is to stone them to death. In the end they will have a choice like that.

Perverse and repulsive

VK: I have a quote here. I don't know if it is rightly attributed to you. It was written in 1999 and I'm sure you have had it quoted back at you many times: 'TV footage of dozens of gay demonstrators flaunting their perversions in front of the world's journalists showed just why so many people find these creatures repulsive.' Is that rightly attributed?

NG: It's an accurate quote, yes.

VK: It's an accurate quote?

NG: Yes

VK: Do you still stand by those terms? The gay community would probably be unimpressed.

NG: Well, as I say, we respect their right to do whatever they want and they must also respect the fact that there are millions of ordinary people, particularly people with young kids and so on, who find what they do, when they do it in public, repulsive.

Civil partnerships

VK: What do you think about civil partnerships?

NG: I think they are entirely wrong. They undermine the value of marriage and marriage is the best way to bring up kids. One man, one woman, bringing up children. Married couples stay together longer because they have more commitment. Since that is good for society, things which are divided are bad for society, so civil partnerships are something we put in the politically correct litter bin with the rest of it.

VK: But if you take away civil partnerships, it doesn't mean gay people will get married? They won't suddenly stop being gay?

NG: No, but it's also a matter of tax and so on. The tax breaks should be for married, heterosexual couples - not for anybody else.

VK: But gay people still have to pay the same taxes as everybody else so why shouldn't they have the same benefit?

NG: Because they are not the ones rearing kids. They are not the ones helping to bring on the next generation. They are not the ones making the sacrifice for the next generation. For the next generation to be at it should rely, or be able to rely, on decent, stable family backgrounds. We have to discriminate in favour of the family and that means discriminating against people such homosexual couples who are ruining families.

Gay adoption

VK: But what do you think about homosexual adoption?

NG: It shouldn't be allowed.

VK: What about the 4,000 children who are waiting to be adopted in this country? Some of them will never be adopted.

NG: There's an enormous shortage of kids for adoption in this country, such that people are having to go to third world nurseries for kids.

VK; There is not a shortage of kids for adoption. NG: There is. VK: There are 4,000 children awaiting adoption. The British Association for Fostering and Adoption has been pleading for more people to adopt British children, because so many people think it is easier to adopt abroad. There is a shortage of people willing to adopt children. There will be some children who won't be adopted. Now, do you think it is better for them to be adopted by gay couples, or be left on the waiting list, which would be the case?

NG: They are better on the waiting list than being adopted by a gay couple.

At this point the tape ends. Nick Griffin then expresses his view that gay adoption is also wrong because incidences of paedophilia are more common among gay people. They are less likely to be prosecuted, he says, because of political correctness. The fact that paedophilia is more common among gay people is a scientific, not a criminal? Fact he says, but he honestly cannot remember where he heard it.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Leeds attempt to put together buy back for Elland Road

Apparently Leeds are attempting to persuade Leeds City Council to help them buy back Elland Road and the Thorp Arch training ground. They are currently paying £1.5m a year in rent to some British Virgin Islands company called Teak Commercial. Ownership of this company is not known.

There is a buy back option for £13m on the stadium and £5m on Thorp Arch. The club have approached the city council asking them to provide a mortgage so that both properties can be repurchased. The Council would then take a charge over the properties and the club would then be able to proceed with some further redevelopment activities at the Elland Road site.

Initial indications are that the council has rebuffed this initial approach although the door may be open for further discussion particularly as some of the rumours suggest that the sum asked for was in the region of £25m some £7m more than the cost of the buy back.

The council may also come under pressure as a similar deal was done in December 2005 when councillors agreed a £9m loan to Yorkshire County Cricket Club to enable it to purchase its Headingley stadium!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Americanisation of football

Or should that be the Americanization of soccer?

Apparently The Football League is to consider a proposal to scrap draws and decide drawn matches by a penalty shoot out. The team that wins the shoot out would then receive two points and the team that loses the shoot out would receive one point.

Frankly I think this is barking mad. A draw can be a perfectly fair result of a hard fought match between two teams – to award an extra point based on a shoot out seems to be pandering to the concept that there has to be a winner of every match. Obviously in a cup competition only one team can proceed to the next round but in a league competition a draw is fine – the winner will eventually become clear at the end of the season.

For once I agree with Arsene Wenger who was quoted as saying "The draw is part of the culture of the game and I would not like that to disappear."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Banned blog

Apparently my blog is banned in China. I have not a clue why that should be as I cannot recall blogging about China at all except for one piece about the Great Wall of China

Hat tip to Peter Black for the link.

If anyone wants to see whether or not their own site is banned in China then go to the They have opened a website in China and route your url request on through to their server in China. The server in China opens the url and the result is sent back.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Death by Indifference!

According to The Guardian yesterday and also according to the BBC online a campaign by Mencap on the issue of neglect of patients with a learning disability has forced the health secretary Patricia Hewitt to agree to an independent inquiry. The Mencap report (Death by Indifference) highlights six cases where people with learning disabilities were allowed to die because of a lack of proper care.

Mencap is also seeking confirmation that the long promised confidential inquiry into premature deaths of people with a learning disability will be carried out although I have seen nothing in the statements from the government to indicate that they have agreed to proceed with this.

According to the Guardian "Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, said she was shocked by the evidence that patients who had speech difficulties were denied appropriate pain relief and left to die unnecessarily"

Frankly I am shocked that she is shocked.

The evidence that there is a very real problem which needs to be tackled urgently has been out there for some considerable time.

I wrote a piece on this blog (People with learning disabilities abused by NHS) back in July 2006. That piece was specifically triggered by a report by the Healthcare Commission and Commission for Social Care Inspection there was "widespread institutional abuse of 200 people with learning disabilities living at a treatment centre in Falmouth and in 46 houses around Cornwall". This was reported on in detail at the time in the Guardian here.

I also highlighted two cases that I knew of :

(1) In Reading a cancer patient with a learning disability was left in severe pain for days on end because the staff at the hospital could not work out how to deal with her or communicate with her.

(2) In Dartford a patient was repeatedly denied the physiotherapy which she needed because she had autism. The same patient ended up staying in hospital for the best part of three months whilst Social Services and the Health Authority argued over who was to provide funding for aspects of her treatment. By the time she was discharged she could no longer walk and indeed still cannot walk - all because she did not get the treatment she needed when she needed it.

The Mencap report also mentions the Cornwall case and another one in Sutton & Merton and goes on to highlight the fact that in September 2006 the Disability Rights Commission conducted a formal investigation into physical health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities . The investigation showed that people with a learning disability were less likely to receive the healthcare they need.

The Mencap report also highlights that in 2001 the Valuing People report acknowledged that ‘health outcomes for people with learning disabilities fall short when compared with outcomes for the non-disabled population’, and identified solutions – including the need for a confidential inquiry in to premature deaths, annual health checks and staff training. The White Paper ‘Our health, Our care, Our say’ admitted that people with learning disabilities face inequalities and that ‘the NHS has historically not served such people well’.
So Patricia Hewitt why are you shocked?

This cannot be news to you and if it is then you should be looking for alternative employment.

Why has it taken so long for the government to wake up to the fact that there is a very real problem faced by those with a learning disability who try to access the NHS services which we all take for granted?

If this was happening in Romania or Panorama did an investigative piece on it there would be a national outcry.

So lets have these inquiries and let us make sure that the lessons are learnt and applied across the NHS as whole. However, Patricia Hewitt should send out and immediate message to the whole of the NHS that this sort of treatment is not acceptable and that the government expects to deliver the same standard of care to all patients regardless of whether or not they have a particular disability.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Wonderful site called Chairmans Comment

There is a wonderful site called "Chairmans Comment" which is subtitled "The senile ramblings of Ken Bates" The site posts up the utterances of Chairman Ken particularly as printed in the Leeds match day programme. The latest offering is reproduced below. If anyone can actually understand what the message is other than "we are screwed" then please do let me know.

The Forward Sports Fund is a fund incorporated in the Cayman Islands.

The Fund’s UK representative is Ken Bates but the Fund is administered from Switzerland.

In January 2005, Mr Bates was approached by Leslie Grayling and John Owen and was informed that Adulant Force Limited, the ultimate holding company of Leeds United Association Football Club Limited was within days of going into liquidation.The Revenue was owed £1.2m that had to be paid by January 12.

It was agreed between Bates, Grayling and Owen that a New Co (LUFC) would be set up to acquire Adulant Force Ltd. FSF would hold 51 per cent of the equity of LUFC, with Grayling/Owen holding 26 per cent. The remainder of the equity (21 per cent) would be placed with investors to be introduced by Grayling / Owen. To date, no investors have been introduced.

Bates’ lawyer Mark Taylor, Gerald Krasner and Melvyn Levi of ‘the Yorkshire Consortium’ met on 17 January 2005 at Mark Taylor’s offices in London. The initial proposal was that LUFC would buy the whole of Adulant Force Limited for a nominal consideration but would make up to £5m available for future working capital for LUAFC, including the payment of the Revenue which was fundamental.

It was discovered that a change of control prior to May 2005 would trigger a payment of £5m by LUAFC to the Trustees of a bond previously issued by Leeds United plc. The requirement to make such payment would scupper the deal and so it was agreed that:
i) LUFC would purchase 50 per cent of Adulant Forces
ii) LUFC would purchase 50 per cent of LUAFC
iii) LUFC would gain board control of both Adulant Force and LUAFC
iv) LUFC would be granted a call option over the remaining 50 per cent of Adulant Force)

LUFC would procure a loan of £5m available to LUAFC.

There were loans due from Adulant Force Ltd to members of the Consortium as follows: Levi and Simon Morris were both paid sums in excess of £200,000 with the balance of the loans being discharged by the issue of secured loan notes. Loan notes were issued to Morris for in excess of £2m and Levi for £1,439,734. A loan note was also issued to David Richmond, who did not receive any payment on completion.

Since issue, the notes in favour of Morris and Richmond have been redeemed.

The 50 per cent shareholding in Adulant Force Limited was acquired for £81,000 in cash and £2m unsecured loan notes payable to £1m two years after issue and to £1m when the Club returns to the Premier League.

LUFC, via Mr Bates, took control of the Board on 21 January 2005. It was apparent from the outset that further injections of loans/equity would be required. Many millions of pounds were immediately made available to LUAFC by discounting future receipts such as Premier League revenues and transfer fee entitlement, Cash flows showed that the Club would need cash injections of £4.4m by August 2005 and a further £2.5m by September 2005.

In May 2005, LUFC exercised the call option in respect of the remaining 50 per cent of Adulant Force Limited. Melvyn Levi claimed that the option had been incorrectly exercised.

As a result of the failure of the Yorkshire Consortium to complete the option both Grayling and Owen refused to support the rights issue though both said they would have done if the option had been completed.

In such circumstances FSF felt unable to take up its rights. The Yorkshire Consortium has now received advice from leading counsel, which advises that the Trustees should not have opposed the exercise of the option. Despite this advice, no move was made by the Trustees to complete the option.

The real reason why the consortium refused to honour its obligations arises out of a dispute between Mr Levi and Mr Bates. He led most of the negotiations with Bates. During negotiations it was suggested that Levi may retain his position as a director of the club following the “Bates” takeover. However, the whole board felt his behaviour was such that he was an inappropriate person to have on the board.

Negotiations took place but at this time Robert Weston appeared on the scene. It appears that Weston may have acted as banker to Levi although Levi always claimed the funds invested in Leeds were his own.Weston saw the option as a way to gain advantage from Leeds. He made various demands but ended up demanding a payment of £250,000 plus 10 per cent of LUAFC to complete the option.

Without the injection of funds that were to be raised by the rights issue, LUAFC would have a negative balance of £2.453m as at the end of September.LUFC had no funds and Adulant Force’s only asset was its shares in LUAFC.

In the circumstances, the board of LUAFC decided to approach FSF to invite them to invest directly in the Club. FSF had already lent LUAFC £4.4m. It therefore had a major interest in seeing the Company survive. FSF offered to subscribe for 2.5m shares at a par (one pound each) and convert £2.m of FSF’s loan to equity.

The directors of all the Companies involved genuinely believe that the placing of the shares was the only realistic way to raise the required funding. If the YC had not delayed the completion of the option the LUFC rights issue could have been completed which would have raised more than adequate funds, to provide for both LUAFC and LUFC and a direct placing with FSF would not have been necessary.

The Advice of Leading Counsel was taken and he confirmed that the Directors had acted correctly.The issue of shares to FSF has diluted the shareholdings of LUFC and Adulant Force to about 6 per cent. That 3 per cent holding was the only asset of LUFC and it had no prospect of raising funds elsewhere.

The name of the Company was changed to Roman’s Heavies (RHL) on 2 December 2005 and Mr Bates and Jayne McGuinness resigned in the Spring of 2006.

Taylor met with insolvency practitioners to decide the best way to liquidate RHL. The liquidation was made when Levi presented his own petition to wind up the Company.The Company went into liquidation on 23 August 2006 with Astor its biggest creditor

The Official Receiver investigated the insolvency and said there was nothing adverse to report to the DTL.BKL were appointed as liquidators and are close to finalising the liquidation.It must be stressed that if the consortium had honoured the option then the rights issue would have proceeded. In trying to be greedy the consortium shot themselves in the foot.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Leeds win

It has been a long time since I have been able to use those two words together. This follows yesterdays 1-0 victory over Luton and was precisely one month since they had last registered three points. Sadly, fate conspired against them and Southend and Hull both won. The good news was that Luton were dragged into the relegation zone as a result of this result. I wonder if Kevin Nickolls is so keen to rejoin Luton now? Also Barnsley lost and QPR only picked up a point so the bottom of the table has tightened up again with six teams split by four points.

Fascinating piece in the Observer which hardly mentions the football but has some great quotes a few of which are worth repeating here

"If you closed your eyes just for a moment and forgot all about the reality of the league table, the financial meltdown, the off-field bickering, life at Elland Road did not look as crummy as all that. An angelic looking blonde girl with pig tails played tag with her Leeds-shirted brother around Billy Bremner's statue. The queue to get into the club shop that has a sale on was healthy. A couple merrily scoffed their pre-match chips underneath the bronze plaque commemorating Bremner, Don Revie, and the FA Cup won by the old team of legend. There was, believe it or not, a buzz around the place."

"Considering this season has been the story of 42 players, three managers, one volatile chairman, thousands of lost supporters and endless tales of woe, is it any wonder the club sit bottom of the table?"

Sorry I make it four managers but only just!

"Think about it for a moment. Some 42 players have pulled on the shirt for Leeds this season. That is almost enough for four separate teams. There has been a constant stream of loaned journeymen, the latest being yesterday's debutant, Lubomir Michalik, the Slovak who joined from Bolton. It is hardly the blueprint for success. Leeds haven't won successive league games all season."

"Surveying the wreckage of this ailing club, it pays to look at the bigger picture and remind yourself not just that it is six years since they were in the semi-finals of the Champions League with a team of internationals. But also, Leeds have won the English title more recently than Liverpool. Leeds were the team to last conquer the game in this country with an English manager in Howard Wilkinson."

"Now there are nine games to go. Nine games to somehow avoid the drop and prevent the worst nightmare in the history of Leeds United. They have never before sunk as low as English football's third tier. It starts for them at Leicester on Tuesday, followed by a trip on Saturday to Southend, who are one place and one point above them."

The rest of the season promises to be very stressful whatever the eventual outcome. Now would be a very good time to string together back to back wins for the first time and given the position of next Saturdays opponents three in a row would be even better.

Reports from the BBC here and the report from The Observer is here

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Romans at Silbury

According to the BBC here evidence has been found of a Roman settlement at Silbury Hill in Wiltshire.

The 130ft Neolithic mound near Avebury is thought to have been created some 5,o00 ago. Experts are carrying out a project to stabilise the hill and during this work evidence has been found that leads English Heritage to believe that there was a Roman community at Silbury Hill about 2,000 years ago.

Picture by NVM Digital.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The great global warming swindle?

Did anyone see the program "The Great Global Warming Swindle" on Channel 4 last night? I did not but listening to the radio this morning I wish I had. It seems to run counter to everything we have been led to believe about global warming and in particular the causes.
I have had a look at their website and if I understand what they are saying correctly then there would appear to be a fundamental dispute about the facts with regard to the warmest periods in the history of our planet. If you believe Al Gore then we are already in uncharted territory, if you believe the makers of this film then we have been here before and we are not the cause of the problem. Indeed they seem to be saying that natural events such as volcanic eruptions and solar activity.
Food for thought but even if you accept that global warming is not man made we cannot continue to abuse the planet in the way in which we currently do and we cannot continue to use up the natural resources of the planet at such a rate without paying the price in the future.
Update : for a great precis of the programme see Tom Papworth on Liberal Polemic

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Common sense prevails

So the House of Commons has finally voted in favour of reforming the upper chamber. The 80% elected 20% appointed option was the one that was expected to come out on top so I was delighted that whereas that option got a majority of 38 the option of 100% elected got an even bigger majority of 113.

The only thing that stuns me is that in this day and age 224 Member of Parliament could oppose the concept of a wholly elected chamber in the first place. Does anyone know where we can see a list of who voted against?

In some parts of the world I should imagine we must be a bit of a laughing stock but at least at long last this is a step in the right direction. MP’s also voted for the remaining 92 hereditary peers to be removed. Another no brainer. As far as I can tell they were not offered a vote on the retention of Bishops and Archbishops but they too should be removed from the second chamber.

I assume that the government will now push forward with this option. There is obviously a long way to go yet.

Doubtless the Lords will reject these proposals out of hand.

The major political parties need to get together and agree the details of how a wholly elected second chamber might work. This needs to address the mechanics of electing a second chamber and just as importantly what the role and powers of that second chamber should be. Proposals then need to be included in election manifestos for the next general election thereby weakening the ability of the Lords to oppose such proposals.

Before we get too excited it looks like it could be at least 2010 or 2011 before the Lords is finally killed off and replaced with an elected chamber.

Oh the joys of living in a modern democracy

Monday, March 05, 2007

The state of the NHS

More stories about the problems in the Health Service. Whoever takes over from Tony Blair is going to have their work cut out turning the situation round and convincing the public that they are serious about improving and protecting the NHS before the next general election.
This story from last weeks New Statesman is about West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust which is apparently one of the most indebted in the country and as part of its cost cutting measures it has decided to abolish antenatal classes.
First they told partners that they would no longer be able to attend the classes and now pregnant women themselves have been told that the service has been removed. Apparently teenage mothers and women expecting twins will continue to be provided with a preparatory course.
According to the New Statesman "The West Hertfordshire Trust, which runs four hospitals, says the removal of antenatal classes is only a temporary suspension. " Oh good so long as those women can hang on for a few months longer they should be fine!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Not fit to wear the shirt

It is tempting to argue that most if not all of the Leeds players are not fit to wear the shirt but whilst it would be tempting to do so I for one will not do that whilst they continue to strive to avoid relegation.

Yesterday they went down 3-2 to Sheffield Wednesday through some pathetic defending but at least they had the spirit to keep on battling and fought back from 3-0 down.

I feel sorry for Dennis Wise what with players who tell the opposition what your team is going to be and Captains who don't want to play for the club. He wants everyone to get behind the players and would rather they had a go at him than at the players and was quoted as saying "They have got to be disappointed with the position we're in, but have a go at me, don't put my players under more pressure."

Fair enough but why should we lay off Nicholls? He is clearly not fit to wear the shirt. Billy Bremner must be turning in his grave to see a Captain of this great club give up in such an obvious way in the middle of a relegation battle. He signed a contract, he accepted the captaincy and he should be leading the fight. Instead of which he has asked to leave Elland Road and return to Luton. Still at least we now know that he won't lead the fight or can't lead the fight. He didn't even have the bottle to put in the request himself before anyone else got involved. Dennis Wise had already had a phone call from Newell the day before.

Best idea from the message boards on this topic is as follows : If we go down then Dennis Wise should name Nicholls in the last team of the season, at home. Then let the Elland Road crowd deal with him. The Romans had the right idea!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Freedom of Information under threat

I must have missed this but the government has made proposals to make it easier for public authorities to refuse Freedom of Information requests on cost grounds. The effect of these proposals would be to severely restrict the amount of information that could be obtained under the Act.

I only realised this when reading this weeks edition of the New Statesman. The opening lines of their leader article this week read as follows "Information is power, and any government's attitude about sharing information with the people actually says a great deal about how it views power itself, and how it views the relationship between itself and the people who elected it." These words were spoken by Tony Blair back in 1996 when in opposition.

If what he said was true then why now is his government seeking to backtrack on its commitment to freedom of information and seeking to restrict the publics right to freedom of information granted under the Freedom of Information Act passed by his own government? If you want to read more about the issues go here to the Campaign for Freedom of Information.