Archive for the 'Scandal' Category


The affairs of state. How the personal can become very political indeed

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

Love him or loathe him, Alex Salmond is one of the towering political figures of the age.  He has taken the cause of Scottish independence from a fringe idea to one of the great themes of Scottish and indeed British politics.  With a ready wit and an unsurpassable sense of his own importance, he has assembled an army of Nats on and offline, all straining to be unyoked from the United Kingdom.

This last week, Scottish politics has been convulsed by allegations of sexual misconduct against him.  These allegations, which Alex Salmond vehemently denies, have led to him taking legal action against the Scottish government that the party he led for so long runs and resigning from that party in order that he might clear his name.

To be clear, Alex Salmond has every right to assert his innocence and he must be presumed innocent unless proven otherwise.  It is easy to understand why he might feel aggrieved that the complaints are being investigated in the full glare of publicity, with his name being dragged through the mud in the meantime.  But this story potentially matters.

For this particular incident has echoes of the politics of a former age, also involving a nationalist movement. In the 1880s, Westminster politics were overshadowed by another nationalist figure: Charles Stewart Parnell. He was instrumental in pushing the cause of Irish Home Rule to the centre of British politics. As a result of his efforts, the Irish Parliamentary Party were kingmakers.

The Liberal party split as a consequence and Parnell worked closely with Gladstone to construct a form of Home Rule that could command broad support in Ireland and was acceptable to the rest of the country. The outlines of a potentially lasting settlement were visible.

This came crashing down when he was cited as co-respondent in a divorce case. The ensuing scandal made him unacceptable both to the Catholic church that formed a central support of Irish nationalism and the non-conformists who comprised much of the Liberal party.

The Irish Parliamentary Party split, with supporters and opponents of Parnell feuding. With the loss of his talents, the cause of Irish nationalism was set back a generation. By the time it re-emerged, attitudes on all sides had hardened.Ireland lives with the consequences of that to this day.

As even Nicola Sturgeon would probably accept, Alex Salmond is still by some way the most prominent nationalist politician of the age. The Parnell precedent shows the potential impact on the cause of a long-running squalid sideshow.

We have already seen Alex Salmond launch a crowdfunding campaign for his legal fees to demonstrate that he has popular support, and the risk of factions forming looks substantial. So the stakes are potentially high.

Right now, it’s far from clear that this is going to come to anything.  Alex Salmond’s innocence may be quickly established beyond all doubt.  This is something for a watching brief, no more at present.

If this went somewhere, what might it mean?  The cause of Scottish independence is too well-entrenched now to disappear indefinitely.  Even if the SNP’s formidable discipline were to break down and we were to see an outbreak of savage infighting, its ideas would remain, seeking new political outlets.  It might, however, take time for those new political outlets to emerge, just as it did at the beginning of the 20th century in relation to the politics of Irish Home Rule.  In that time, the political landscape might change dramatically.

The politics swirling round another individual are similarly important.  Jeremy Corbyn has unleashed a new interest in unabashed and updated social democratic policies.  He has enthused a new generation with retail socialism.  In the process, however, he has also attracted a torrent of hostility from those who are repelled by the numerous unsavoury connections that he has made and his questionable actions over the years: his approval ratings, never good, are once again abysmal. 

He is getting in the way of the social democratic intifada that he claims to seek to lead.  But no other figure inspires anything like the same level of loyalty on the left.  He is both indispensable to Labour and a huge impediment.  How this is resolved may change the course of future British politics.

They say that great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people.  Sometimes, however, people and events can have effects that change the course of history.  When a person is so important to a cause, the impact of that person being laid low can be profound.  However regrettable it might be, there are far more small minds than great minds.  So it follows that people, and their personal attributes, can sometimes really matter.

Alastair Meeks


What now for Damian Green?

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

The morning after the night before and the big question surely is what is Damian Green going to do now?

That it is clear that he did not go voluntarily and that many of his parliamentary colleagues believe that it was wrong for him to be pushed out based on the way the police have acted all adds to the potential difficulties ahead.

The Tweets above just about sum up the potential issues. He’s a remainer, knows a lot of what has been going on in government over the past two years and, of course, could feel betrayed by his former close friend from his Oxford days, the prime minister Mrs May.

My guess is that always felt that that relationship would save him in the end. That it hasn’t really does open Pandora’s Box.

It looks as though he is not going to go quietly that has the potential to cause many problems for the government and Mrs May.

Mike Smithson


It’s not easy being Green but he’s expected to be cleared on Wednesday

Monday, December 11th, 2017

Mrs May’s week looks to keep on getting better.

Robert Peston reports

I am told by three well-placed sources that Theresa May’s deputy, the First Secretary of State Damian Green, will be informed on Wednesday by the Cabinet Office and his boss the PM that he does not need to resign – following allegations from former police officers that in 2008 there was porn on his House of Commons computer and from the journalist and academic Kate Maltby that he behaved inappropriately with her.

According to several members of the government, no other women have presented evidence against Green.

And the police testimony does not prove beyond all doubt that it was Green himself who was watching the porn on the parliamentary equipment – which should not have used in this way.

For the past several weeks the senior Cabinet Office civil servant Sue Gray has been examining whether Green breached the ministerial code of conduct and failed to meet the standards of his office.

“It looks as though he’ll be ok” said an authoritative source.

“Damian won’t have to resign” said another. “The confirmation is expected on Wednesday”.

The prime minister will be deeply relieved that arguably her most important and loyal colleague will remain in his post.

Her defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon chose to quit because he felt his historic conduct with women was not becoming of a minister with responsibility for the military.

Some Brexiteers in the cabinet and the Commons may be disappointed that Green is expected to keep his job – because he was an ardent Remainer and argues in Cabinet for a softer Brexit than they want.

This will be great news for Mrs May who is probably having her best week as Prime Minister, where in the Commons today she was praised from all wings of the Tory party, Tories as diverse as Ken Clarke, Anna Soubry, and Iain Duncan Smith praised her Brexit deal to date, it represents a good start for her going into to 2018

As I, and others too, have noted, losing Damian Green would not only have been very symbolic but very damaging to Mrs May and her government.




Nick Robinson says the “very widespread expectation in Westminster is that Damian Green will resign in the next few days”

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

After her best week as PM, it might be back to the status quo for Mrs May.

The Sunday Times are reporting that

A male associate of Damian Green has approached the Cabinet Office inquiry into the conduct of the deputy prime minister and spoken in support of the woman who had accused the politician of sexual misconduct.

The man, who works in a sensitive position and does not want to be named, has talked to Sue Gray, the civil servant leading the investigation that could end Green’s ministerial career.

The Sunday Times understands that the man spoke to Gray, director-general of the propriety and ethics team in the Cabinet Office, after becoming uncomfortable with anonymous attacks on Kate Maltby, a journalist and academic. She had accused Green of making inappropriate advances.

After Maltby made her disclosures in The Times, she was accused publicly by a “Tory source” of being “desperate to be well known” and warned to be “more careful the next time she’s asked to write a piece trashing a decent man”.

The Sunday Times understands that Gray is examining whether Green or his aides had any involvement in the criticism of Maltby, who is 30 years his junior. She declined to comment this weekend.

It is looking like death by a thousand cuts for Damian Green, and supports Nick Robinson’s view, which was expressed before this latest story on Damian Green broke. I suspect Mrs May will take a very dim view if turns out that Damian Green or his aides were involved in the attacks on Kate Maltby after she made her allegations.

The past few days probably represent Mrs May’s best week in politics since she became Prime Minister losing Damian Green will take the gloss of that and impact the way the government operates if she loses her long time friend. The other question is will David Davis quit in protest if Damian Green quits?

Looking for a new First Secretary of State and Brexit Secretary will complicate Phase II of the Brexit talks will present Mrs May with real challenges, and with a few articles this morning suggesting the Brexiteers aren’t happy with the deal so far and it could lead to a leadership challenge, without Damian Green at her side she might be vulnerable to such a challenge.

Ladbrokes make Damian Green 4/6 as the next cabinet minster to exit the cabinet, having backed him at 3/1 I’m not looking to up, the potential dead heat rules make the 4/6 look very unappealing, David Davis is second favourite at 3/1, such odds are unappealing for the same reasons.



The Porn Legacy: Theresa May’s aides want Damian Green to quit

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

How The Porn Legacy & The Porn Ultimatum could have an impact on Brexit

The Sunday Times report

Theresa May’s senior aides want Damian Green to quit to spare the prime minister the pain of sacking him or the embarrassment of clearing him of wrongdoing.

Government sources say senior figures in Downing Street — including the chief of staff, Gavin Barwell — want Green to “do the decent thing” and “fall on his sword” over claims he propositioned a young Tory activist and that pornography was found on his computers during a police raid on his Commons office in 2008.

Insiders say Green’s fate is likely to be decided this week when Sue Gray — the head of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office — is expected to rule on allegations by Kate Maltby that Green sent her a suggestive text message and touched her knee in a bar, and claims by former police officers that he misused his Commons computer.

May’s aides say she is in a difficult position because Sir Michael Fallon, the former defence secretary, was forced to resign for touching a journalist’s knee and making suggestive remarks within earshot of a fellow cabinet minister.

“The bar is set very low,” one aide remarked. “It’s very difficult to see how Damian doesn’t clear it, but this is very difficult for Theresa.”….

….There is also concern that May would be put in an invidious position if Green was cleared, allowed to keep his job and then faced further claims of a sexual nature. “What happens if someone else comes forward?” one aide asked.

If Mrs May’s Chief of Staff thinks it’s time for the whisky and the revolver for Damian Green then Damian Green really should be worried. For those of us betting on who and when the cabinet minister goes, which also brings us to David Davis.

The Brexit Secretary has issued a porn ultimatum and threatened to resign if Damian Green is unfairly forced out, Paddy Power have Damian Green and David Davis 8/11 and 6/1 as next out the cabinet, whereas with Ladbrokes they are evens and 4/1, I’m sitting this one out because the dead heat rules makes either option very unattractive.

But if David Davis does quit then Mrs May will need a new Brexit Secretary, with less than 16 months to go until we Brexit, a new Brexit Secretary will struggle with the role and embed themselves into the role well at a critical stage in the Brexit talks.

Without her university friend Damian Green as her First Secretary of State it is very easy to see how Mrs May’s struggles as Prime Minister get worse, coupled with a political ingénue of a Brexit Secretary facing up against Michel Barnier we can see the EU27 gaining an advantage.

As Stephen Bush notes ‘David Davis fighting for the godgiven right to look at pornography on company time and not get sacked. Truly, he is a giant among pygmies.’

Fans of the Chaos Theory and Butterfly Effect will be amused that one man’s reported computer use a decade ago or alleged inappropriate behaviour could impact the type of Brexit we get.



Westminster watershed. The sex abuse scandal could lead to far reaching change.

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Don Brind, who first began working at the Palace of Westminster in the 1970s and is still there gives his perspective

When I first heard rumours of media naming and shaming it looked as though this would be Labour story. A lobbyist friend named a couple of Labour MPs who were said to be “lawyering up”.

In the event it has been allegations about top Tories that have made the running. The most serious allegation, however, has been Bex Bailey’s revelation that she was raped at a Labour party event and was discouraged by a senior party figure from making a complaint lest it “harmed her career”.

While it’s generally true that these scandals have the potential to harm the party in power it’s clear that Jeremy Corbyn is as determined as Theresa May to force through change.

I went along to the BBC on Sunday for the Andrew Marr show in my role as a bag carrier for Dawn Butler the Shadow Women and Equalities minister. She was very forthright. She priased Bex Bailey for her bravery but said “a woman shouldn’t need to be brave to get justice”. The two Tory women on the programme Home Secretary Amber Rudd and former minister Anna Soubry were equally impressive.

The main reason I am confident that radical change will happen is that there is cross party cooperation between Tory and Labour women MPs. It’s also significant that getting for half of the PLP – 45% — are women.

Getting it right at Westminster is important because sexual violence and abuse is widespread in society. In the world of work women’s vulnerability is increased by the growth of the gig economy and zero hours contracts and the decline of trade unionism especially in the private sector.

It is also a serious problem in schools, which was the subject of a Commons debate last week  which got virtually no coverage. It was led by the Tory chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, Maria Miller, who said “Two in three girls under the age of 21 have experienced sexual harassment according to the Girlguiding “Girls’ Attitudes Survey”.

“ In our evidence sessions, colleagues heard about children grabbing breasts, pinging bras, lifting skirts and bottom pinching—all those things are a routine part of daily life for schoolgirls in this country today.

“In 2015, a BBC freedom of information request that was sent to all UK police forces found that more than 5,500 alleged sex crimes, 4,000 sexual assaults and 600 rapes had been reported in UK schools in the previous three years, with at least one in five offences being conducted by children on children.”
She said sex and relationship education is now compulsory in law but the Education Secretary Justine Greening – who is also Women and Equalities minister — has yet to issue the necessary statutory guidance to schools.

Maria Miller said “One year on, very little has changed for children in our schools, other than that they now perhaps feel more confident about speaking out and not being ridiculed. Schools already have clear responsibilities to keep our children safe, but those 7,866 reported cases of abuse in 2016 suggest that the way in which schools are handling this problem does not work.

“If we can change things here in a matter of days, why can we not do the same thing for children?”

Don Brind


The PB Cynic’s Dictionary especially complied for the times

Monday, November 6th, 2017

Sexual harassment: Boorish behaviour, unwanted by the target. Not to be confused with flirtation or courtship. Often perpetrated by people who have not recently looked in a mirror or who have forgotten their age or marital status.

Code of Conduct: Having some manners.

Witch-hunt: The process of making grown-ups accountable for their behaviour.

Addiction: Bad behaviour turned into an “illness”.

A clinic: A place where “addicts” go to, to hide from the media.

Abuse of power: Bullying. Soon to be classified as an “addiction

Inappropriate: Very popular word covering –

(1) Breaches of social etiquette, such as using fish knives to eat steaks.
(2) Language mistakes e.g. the use of “disinterested” to mean “uninterested”.
(3) Behaviour previously described as “wrong” or “illegal” or “criminal”.

Wrong: Description of behaviour which is either illegal or known by a majority to fall below widely accepted standards of decency. Implies responsibility by the person doing it. Now in high danger of falling into disuse.

Banter: Amusing social interaction between friends and/or colleagues. Not to be confused with bad or offensive language, which becomes “banter” when someone complains about it.

Apology: (1) A short form of words by which a person says sorry for behaviour which is “wrong” (see above). Traditionally starts with the 1st person singular and ends with the word “sorry”. In danger of falling into disuse.

(2) A long form of words by which someone appears to apologise while not in fact doing so. The non-apology apology requires focus on the victim’s reaction while also implying that it is both overegged and may not have happened.
There are many variations of this. Industries where bad behaviour is widespread are fond of adding to their apologies (variant no. (2)) a lengthy reference to all the good people in the industry; see Banking, Parliament, the Police, Journalism.

The time for apologies is over (©Bob Diamond): The time when apologies (see “Apology (1))” should start.

Shame: No known contemporary definition. Last heard of in the 1960’s.

An inquiry: A process by which an embarrassing story disappears from public view.

A report: What a person who had nothing to with the original events has to present to Parliament and/or the media many years later. See the Savile Inquiry Report.

Recommendations: What you find, if you read that far, in the Appendices to a report.

Working group: A group of people unable to avoid being tasked with the responsibility of coming up with suggestions as to how recommendations might be implemented.

The long grass: Where recommendations usually end up. See also “Inquiry

Lack of resources: The best reason yet invented for not implementing any difficult recommendations.

Lessons learned: Lessons which are never learned by those who need to learn them.

Whistleblowing: Something which is frequently talked about but rarely done. The equivalent of an “extreme sport” in some professions e.g. medicine, politics, finance.

The internet: An efficient way of disseminating porn and cat videos.

Over to you, now………