Patrick Ward

Britain's recession - the cuts out of the bag

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

The current bickering between the three major parties about cuts in public spending started with accusations being tossed between them over who was going to make the cuts and who wasn't. But now consensus has been reached.

The argument between all three parties has now shifted to abstract discussions of semantics: Peter Mandelson says the Tories will bring "savage cuts" and the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg boasted of his own preference for "savage cuts" at his party conference. The Tories, meanwhile, have been openly bragging to their rich friends about what they will do to reduce spending.

House of benefits

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

Our increasingly poverty-stricken MPs are having an apparently tough time keeping up with debt repayments.

It has emerged that 52 MPs owe £10,018 in overpaid salaries and allowances, just under half of which has been waited on for over six months.

Meanwhile, freedom of information requests last month revealed that MPs owe £138,046 in unpaid catering and entertainment bills in the House of Commons.

The taxpayer already subsidises food and drink in the Commons to the tune of £6.1 million a year, so as not to dent the meagre £64,000 member's basic salary. More than half of all MPs, 329 of them, have unpaid bills - averaging £419 each.

Trident - going nuclear for disarmament

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

Foreign secretary David Miliband wrote in the Guardian last month on the impending UN security council meeting on nuclear disarmament.

"Get it right, and we will increase global security, pave the way for a world without nuclear weapons and improve access to affordable, safe and dependable energy - vital to tackle climate change," he said.

"Get it wrong, and we face the spread of nuclear weapons and the chilling prospect of nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists."

This couldn't be the same David Miliband who has voted consistently to replace Britain's fleet of Trident nuclear submarines, most recently priced at around £97 billion, could it?

Police: old Bill, new problems

Issue section: 
Author: 

The front pages of the evening papers on 1 April reported a battle being waged by brave police against rampaging hordes of anarchists in the City of London. They were soon eating their words.

Alongside the death of Ian Tomlinson, last month's publication of police log entries from the day exposed the level of brutality meted out. "I punched him in the jaw and he moved backwards," wrote one officer, while another hit protesters with "shield strikes both flat and angled" and "open palm strikes...and fist strikes as well".

Duchess on the retreat

Issue section: 
Author: 

Sarah Ferguson donated ten days of her life to visit and sort out Manchester's Northern Moor housing estate for ITV's The Duchess on the Estate.

"Young people go out with their mobile telephones and their knives now. I've noticed a lot more violence. I've noticed bad language," she reported. "I inspire people to get on and do things by rallying the troops. I'm an enabler."

Locals, however, were less than thankful. One resident of 25 years told the media it made the estate look like "the worst area in Britain to live... It's a very, very, very safe and lovely area for families with children."

L****** Vampire Killers

Issue section: 
Author: 

Oddly enough, this magazine didn't review the Matthew Horne and James Corden film, Lesbian Vampire Killers.

But lad-mag Nuts gave it four stars, suggesting just how hilarious a story about women infecting each other with lesbianism (to the detriment of men, of course) might be.

Tesco and several other major retailers were less than happy to feature the DVD on their family-friendly shelves without some cosmetic alterations.

There may be plenty of reasons why offence would be taken against a "comedy" about a bloody male rampage of violence against semi-naked women.

Wartime boom

Issue section: 
Author: 

There is at least one area of the economy doing well.

Taxpayers have given some £148 million over the past three years to mercenary groups such as former Tory minister Malcolm Rifkind's ArmorGroup (the market leader, now part of the G4S security company).

Firms were awarded £42 million for 2008-9 for their work in Afghanistan - double the amount allocated to "security" work in Iraq during the same period.

Fund-raising the dead

Issue section: 
Author: 

If nothing else, Labour is unlikely to suffer embarrassment from dodgy donations this year.

In the first three months of 2009 the party only received £254,000 from individuals, compared to the Conservatives' £2.98 million. Not only that, but of the six individuals who donated more than £10,000 to Labour, only two are actually alive. Four of the top donations came in the form of bequests from deceased Labour supporters, with only one living individual donating more than the dead.

Between July and September last year Labour received £7.6 million from individual donors. This fell to £3.2 million for October to December.

Policing the police

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

The Territorial Support Group (TSG) - the "public order" section of the London Metropolitan police - has been accused of 159 assaults over the past year.

The 730-strong TSG has also received more than 547 complaints regarding their conduct during the same period - 29 percent of which were for assaults, including, disturbingly, sexual assault. Despite the complaints, no officer has been disciplined for their behaviour.

Pots and kettles

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

Voters in the European elections were urged to punish the "greedy Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem MPs" by UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage. Perhaps they will. But Farage's message might have come across a little better had he not admitted during his election campaign that he was claiming vast sums of money himself.

Asked at a meeting of the Foreign Press Association how much he had claimed since becoming an MEP in 1999, Farage (annual salary: £64,000) replied, "It's a vast sum… I don't know what the total amount is but - oh lor - it must be pushing £2 million."

Unabashed, UKIP later released election material claiming that Westminster MPs had "ripped off taxpayers".

The party leader - who employs his wife to work in his office out of his taxpayer-funded allowance - said that he was "entirely happy that the money had been used for the best causes".

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Patrick Ward