Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Back to school

Moves are underway to teach students the basic meaning of contract. Understandable disquiet at the rise in tuition fees has of late been cast as an example of broken promises by the LibsDems. Whilst the party did indeed oppose a rise in tuition fees before the election, this was based on an understanding that it could or would be the sole party of government. Since the LibDems did not become the sole party of government - and students supporting them did not expect them to be either - then their current support for the rise in tuition fees does not constitute a broken promise.

Or, put in the simple language so beloved by academics and Sir Humphreys alike: Opposition to a rise in tuition fees was predicated upon the eventuality of the LibDems becoming the sole party of government. The subsequent formation of a coalition with the Conservatives superseded the guarantees extended prior to the election. etc etc

(More on this as it breaks...)

Monday, 29 November 2010

Taking a leak

Information is power. How often have we heard that? If it's true, then leaks are power diluted. But whose power, and whose information are we talking about here? When is it acceptable for information to enter the public domain, and when not? Is it, frankly, all about perception?

Today, we ask a taxing but, some might say, pertinent question: When is a leak not a leak? Or rather, when is your information my information, my information your information?

Here are one or two examples that'll help guide us through this informational conundrum...

Discretion - "Not in front of the children." Timeless! This occurs when couples discuss who they're shagging on the side. It could be a case of: "I only slept with Doris when I discovered you were screwing your personal trainer, darling." It makes sense to keep these discussions out of earshot of interested parties - if only because they won't stay interested for long, and might start testing the waters themselves.

Marketing - Never tick the box that says: "Yes I'd like my personal information to be distributed to affiliate companies." It'll simply encourage those companies to contact you by phone, Internet or junk mail.

Social Networking - Yep. It's not a good idea to sign up to websites that record personal data (though, hundreds of millions of gullible fools do precisely that). We know this data might be turned to all kinds of unscrupulous ends, like, contacting you by phone, Internet or junk mail. This data might also be passed on to "government agencies" that'll use them for their own, clearly, benign purposes.

Kiss and Tell - When is it okay for information to be out in the public domain, courtesy of someone who slept with someone famous? When, of course, it relates to a celeb, a pop star, footballer, or even, God forbid, a politician! Information like this, concerning public figures - or public bodies for that matter! - has to be revealed, if only to counter the twisted, manipulative garbage that PRs put out about their clients' own perfect, charitable and pristine lives (Malaria, racketeering etc. notwithstanding).

Information designed to mislead and manipulate (cf. kiss and tell, above) - Examples? A politician claims to be giving something back to society, when he's actually taking backhanders. Or a starlet presents a semblance of purity and chastity, when in fact she's shagging her crack dealer. However this kind of misinformation hardly ever occurs in reality because, as we know, ALL public figures are beautiful, benign, sublime, radically gorgeous individuals who only achieve success through hard work, good deeds, clean living and a heartfelt desire to help others (shallowness, vulgarity, ruthlessness, tax avoidance, suspect expenses claims, serious drugs and alcohol misuse notwithstanding).

Databases - Government of the people by the people for the people should never lose sight of the need to control the information of the people by the government for the government. What's the point of government otherwise?

Taking the piss - This occurs when those not authorised to control certain types of information leak that information to those not authorised to be a party to it (i.e. the people). We all know the saying, don't we boys and girls? "Those who can, do. Those who can't... leak?"

Don't we?

Friday, 26 November 2010

Where's the money gone (part two)?

(Today, another wealthy and, arguably, cautious investor offers his take on "the squeezed middle")

"Where's your money gone, where's your money gone?
Where's the taxes gone, where's your money gone?

far far off-shore!

where's your bailout gone, where's your bailout gone?
Where's the payout done, where's your bailout gone?

far far off-shore!
far far off-shore!

Last night I heard my mama singing this song
boooooogie, Chirpy Chirpy Cheap Cheap
woke up this morning and my money was gone
boooooogie, Chirpy Chirpy Cheap Steal

Where's your money gone? Where's your money gone?
Where's the payout done, great big payout done,
Where's your money gone? Where's your money gone?

far far off-shore!
far far off-shore!"

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Where's the money gone?

(A wealthy investor offers in-depth analysis of the crisis facing the Eurozone)

"The Eurozone's connected to the bail-out loan,
The bail-out loan's connected to the debt grown,
The debt grown's connected to the cash flown,
The cash flown's connected to the bubble blown,
The bubble blown's connected to the home loan,
The home loan's connected to the credit sewn,
The credit sewn's connected to the bank clone,
The bank clone's connected to the greed tone,
Oh, hear the word of the Lord!

Dem loans, dem loans gonna walk aroun'
Dem loans, dem loans, gonna walk aroun'
Dem loans, dem loans, gonna walk aroun'
Oh, hear the word of the Lord."

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Monarchy accused of "classing-down"

First, Charles married above his station when he hooked up with a member of the "real aristocracy" back in the eighties. Now young William, second in line to the thrown, has been accused of "classing-down" after announcing his engagement to a builder's daughter. And in line with this change in royal circumstances, some commentators think the family, known as The Firm, is about to re-write the etiquette book by issuing a new set of guidelines more in touch with modern Britain. If indeed this story is true, here's what we reckon new guide to social protocol will look like:-

From now on it will be acceptable to:-

- Carry on a conversation with Her Majesty whilst tucking into a KFC Bargain Bucket.

- Lick the plate clean after a particularly tasty full English breakfast

- Belch loudly after a meal, wipe your hands on the tablecloth, then shout "lovely jubbly."

- Use a fish knife to cut your bread roll in half

- Break wind in the company of Her Majesty, say "pardon" then fall about laughing hysterically

- Ask senior royals what they thought of Katie Price's latest book, then wax lyrical about her "gi-normous funbags".

- Ask Her Majesty which perfume she's wearing, then follow this up with "Is it Victoria Beckham by any chance?"

- Keep tomatoes in the Royal fridges

- Chop asparagus into little pieces with a knife and fork, then shovel it into your gob with a large spoon

- Decline an offer to ride with the hounds because it means you'll miss "Snog, Marry, Avoid" on BBC3

- Refer to the wedding arrangements as "cushty".

- Ask her Majesty whether she saw the Millwall / QPR match the other day and refer to Millwall's defence as being a f***ing disgrace.

- Bring a packet of cocktail sausages to a royal picnic and say "get your choppers around that, love".

- At royal table, bemoan the fact that "her indoors" is shagging the aerobics instructor

- At Christmas time, give Her Majesty a pair of furry dice for her "new motor".

One thing however will remain strictly unacceptable, or so it seems:-

- Use of the royal "we", when discussing matters lavatorial. For example: "We have just been to the royal toilet and dumped a load. We tried flushing it down three times but the bastard still won't disappear." Alternatively: "One should steer clear of toilet for at least fifteen minutes, Your Majesty. We believe that's how long it'll take for the stench to clear. It's pretty ugly in there, we can tell you." Or alternatively: "Pardon us for taking so long in the toilet, Your Majesty. We think we're suffering the after effects of last night's vindaloo, if you catch our drift."

(The writer is the editor of a famous etiquette book)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Irish Play (Acts Two, Three and Four Recurring.)

"Hello. I'm an esteemed professor of economics and no "wall-flower" when it comes to offering the UK Gov. advice. Yesterday I published an article in the Guardian Newspaper suggesting inflation is good for us - meaning, it's good for the UK economy. It's my belief that in these troubled times, when talk is of austerity, of cutting housing benefit, of controlling inflation etc etc, we should be doing the opposite. We should actually be encouraging prices - that is, property prices and rental prices - to rise. We shouldn't be tightening our belts. No! We should be encouraging growth, encouraging expansion... even if that means, encouraging inflation.

"That argument, my argument, was made quite persuasively, I believe. And many commended the points I made. But now, I would like to offer the same advice to the European Union. Because surely the same arguments apply to it as the UK government - or US government for that matter. Here we go:-

"The news from the Irish Republic, indeed the news from Europe, is looking increasingly gloomy. House prices have nosedived and the banks are saddled with crippling debt. The Irish government has, until now, resisted pressure from the European Union for a multibillion-euro bailout. Prospects for an emergency package of help - part bankrolled by Britain - are moving ever closer, and negotiations between finance ministers from the 16-nation eurozone are tense.

"But here's what we should do: Let the ECB printing presses roll! Let the quantitative wheeze generate some quantitative ease! Instead of bailing out Ireland, why not let the ECB step in and buy those mortgage backed securities and those loans the Irish, or, for that matter, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Greek banks took onto their balance sheets in those heady days we called the Roaring Noughties?

"Isn't about time the ECB set up a bank to purchase the mortgages of the "zombie households", those mortgage defaulters, that run the length and breadth of the European Union? Isn't it time the ECB let inflation run wild? 10% should do it for now. That way the eurozone could inflate its debt away and avoid a lot of this austerity nonsense everyone's talking about. Euro-quantitative easing would add stimulus to the Euro economy - which would be positive for house prices - and those mortgages wouldn't be quite the "zombies" we originally thought they were. Then everybody would be happy. And more important, no bailout would be necessary."

"You know, it's easier than you think to achieve this - Euro-willing!

"And here's a thought: If you want to know what the future looks like, why not simply look at the past? You see, the past is essentially a series of bubbles. History teaches that. History has taught us that. We economists know the way to limit the damage caused by the last bubble (i.e. the last bubble that burst) is - yep, you guessed it - to magic up another, another bubble. Or, you could look at it this way: It's a bit like relationships really. Relationships? I hear you ask. Yes relationships! One thing we all know when it comes to relationships is, the best way to get over an ex is the next. That's how we move on in life. Right?

"So, let's move on!

What I'm basically saying is this: Think not too hard on the last bubble that burst. Think more about the next, the next bubble we can create. And if there's one thing that we economists are good at, it's - you guessed it - blowing bubbles, forever blowing bubbles.

"So let's all sing together - the economists' favorite song:-

I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune's always hiding,
I've looked everywhere,
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The wealth of nations

Britain's biggest banks (or what's left of them) are considering a revolutionary new idea: Cutting the bonus pool. They are concerned taxpayers, who bailed them out in 2008, will object to large pay awards when they're having to tighten their own belts. One senior banker announced today:-

"It is probably true we are thinking about having a large lunch in the City, where it is not inconceivable that the subject of bonuses may arise, if only in passing. We are aware certain somewhat envious, and may I say, odious individuals, are incapable of grasping what the banking sector has delivered in recent years. These people believe that just because on one occasion the nation had to pay back all the money that had till then flowed into Treasury coffers, this represents poor value for money."

"Oh yes, they may well acknowledge the enormous tax revenues the banking sector generated over the past decade. Yes, they may well accept that my wife, Lady Banks, spent hundreds of thousands of pounds propping up the retail sector with her generous purchases of diamonds, of new kitchens and of designer clothing.

"But then they have the temerity to insinuate that senior bankers like myself and my hard-working staff have squirreled away many millions, nay billions of pounds in off-shore bank accounts, never to be seen again. They even claim that such nest-eggs were the product of the very credit derivatives deals that almost bankrupted Britain in the first place, and therefore should've been paid back when the banking system collapsed."

"But what kind of nonsense is this?

"If Britain is to retain it's number one banking slot, and if we are to incentivise future generations to follow the entrepreneurial lead set by myself - especially when said generations will leave academia saddled with debt - and if we are to revive the economy by allowing billions, should I say, trillions of virtual cyber-pounds and cyber-dollars to slosh around the financial markets once again, then surely we must continue waving these inordinately large sums in front of the deserving greedy, so they too can pursue the age old tradition much loved by all financial centres - namely, get rich quick and sod the consequences.

"So now, if you will, let me quote two historical characters who've had much to offer on the subject - that's if you won't take my word for it: First, that great economist Adam Smith who knew all there was to know about incentives: "Greed is good. And the good should grab all they can." Never a truer thing were said in my reckoning. And if that doesn't convince you, then what about the wise words of that other great Scottish writer, George Orwell (Eric Blair): "All men are created greedy, but some are greedier than others."

"So I say to you earnestly: Sod off and leave our bonuses alone. For if you don't, we'll sod off and take all our shiny buildings in Canary Wharf, and all our houses in Holland Park, all our private schools, our Porsches, our Ferraris, and all our foreign villas, and decamp to Beijing, Hong Kong or Taiwan where they are quite frankly desperate to invest in the kind of casino derivatives that brought the West to its knees in those heady and, may I say, exciting days back in 2008. At least over there they won't object to our paying ourselves massive bonuses. And why should they? For it is not their taxpayers that shall be bailing us out next time!"

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Sixty thousand characters in search of an author

"Listen, the point is this: We students don't care the last government massively increased the number of University places and introduced tuition fees at the same time. And so what if it meant anyone could potentially go to Uni and do Mickey Mouse courses like "David Beckham Studies", "The Literature of Jordan (aka Katie Price), "Equestrian Behaviorology", "The Phenomenology of Big Brother (part-funded by Endemon Productions), or "The Aetiology of Strictly Come Dancing". It's not our problem if this policy drained funding from dinosaur subjects like Astral-Physics, (In)Humanities, so-called English Literature, Law (which doesn't mean anything to most people) or History (which is all subjective anyway). We don't even give a damn this policy created a funding gap this Conservative-led government had to bridge, especially in times of economic hardship (whatever that actually means!)

"No! What really pisses us off is Nick Clegg, and the fact he reneged on his promises, before and during the general election, that he would get rid of tuition fees and not increase them. So what, if he and the LibDamns wouldn't have got into government in the first place had he not done a deal with the Tories? So what, if the last government which commissioned the Browne Report would have acted in line with the report's findings as well (had it got back in)?

"No! It's the complete and utter lies and hypocrisy that utterly disgusts us. Some of us students, like, actually voted for the LimDamns, even though we thought they wouldn't get into government anyway. But we assumed that, had they got in, then they would have implemented everything they said they would, in the same way that, if Father Christmas was really Father Christmas, he would actually come down the chimney and deliver us all the X-Boxes and IPads we students need simply to get by.

"Doesn't turncoat Clegg, like, realise that if we students can't afford our IPods, IPads, Nintendos, X-Boxes, Blackberries, or, for that matter, our cannabis and ecstasy - i.e. those little things that help us to get through the hardships of student life - then we'll have no alternative but to go out onto the streets and protest - which is something we haven't done for years? Like, student life would be sooo boring if we were so strapped we couldn't spend all day chatting to our mates on Facebook. It's our right to Twitter and post on YouTube at the same time as smoking grass. And anyway it's like really cold out on the streets and we wouldn't want to protest for long because we think protesting's like soooo last season.

"But, Mr. Clegg, you leave us with no alternative, because you lied to us. You lied to us, even though most of us didn't believe you anyway because you're a politician. And what really hurts is, you lied to us when we weren't bothered you were lying to us, because we thought you'd never get into power anyway. And now that you lied to us and you actually have got into power, you leave us with no alternative but to be confused, disheartened, displaced, bereft of identity... searching, searching for something. (For the first time in decades).

"So please, Mr. Clegg... please can you lie to us some more so we can conduct more protests this winter? The thing is, we don't want to go out onto those cold, icy streets. How're we going to summon up the energy (to protest again and again and again), unless you give us the fuel we need? Now we have the bit between our teeth, it would really help, it really would, if you could, like, make us more angry... or, at least, give us the wherewithal to make people think we're angry.

So, please, please, please, Mr. Clegg. Please can you lie to us some more?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Fallen Guardian

The Guardian Newspaper is never afraid to hold the government to account. Day after day, it fights for the less well-off in our society. It delivers insight, it offers original, incisive commentary. It is the scourge of "the establishment". And yet, it cannot hide its own devotion to another kind of establishment - one that'll outlive these here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians and their advisers. We're talking the world of the glamorous jet-setters we call celebs - and the establishments they frequent... such as The Ivy.

November 4: In its second-rate "Style and Culture" rag, G2, the Guardian devotes four gruesomely fawning pages to a restaurant that means little to the dispossessed, the poor, the humble, the meek, the weak and the disadvantaged on whose behalf Polly Toynbee tirelessly campaigns. The article venerates "Ivy" celebrities and the "Ivy" lifestyles that, throughout the last decade (and throughout the decadence), were synonymous with the gulf that emerged between the haves and the have-nots, the rich and the poor.

If the article counts as campaigning journalism, then the Ivy is a refuge for the starving masses... Here's what the celebs are saying about the Guardian's favorite restaurant (apparently):-

Kevin Spacey - I only go there when I haven't seen Bill (Clinton) for a while. These days, Bill is hard to please when it comes to London eating establishments. But there's a special place in his heart for the Ivy. Especially when John (Cleese) is there, doing his funny walks and being abusive to the waiters.

Ricky Gervais - I know what you're going to say. I'm that short fat ugly pathetic cynical little bloke that should hate jumped up celeb haunts like the Ivy. But in all honesty and in all actual fact, I can't get enough of the place. And who wouldn't, when on any given evening you can chew the breeze with Ruby Wax, Piers Morgan, Michael Winner, Lily Allen, Robert Mugabe, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Saddam Hussein, Ant and Dec, Val Kilmer, Angelina Jolie, George Best, Roger Moore, Herman Van Rompuy, Edward and Mrs Simpson and the Queen Mother to name but a few. I'm no name dropper, but it's hard not to be mesmerised by all the people I said I'd never be mesmerised by. Isn't it?

Piers Morgan - I'm no name dropper. But I tell you one thing: I haven't enough fingers on my dirty little hands to count the number of famous people I've hung out with at the Ivy. One of the best occasions was when Jeremy Paxman asked me in all honesty whether I was a grubby, social-climbing, back-stabbing little creep who'd sell his own Grandmother for fifteen minutes of fame. I responded - rather wittily, I have to say - by telling Jezza that if he didn't take back what he said, I wouldn't let him partake in the Dom Perignon 1959 that I had ordered for all present. At which point he admitted that I was a man of style and substance. And then, Jezz and I, along with Beyonce, Simon Cowell, Sean Penn, Sophie Raworth, Michael Winner, Kylie Minogue and Mother Theresa of Calcutta all proceeded to drink our way through five bottles of Chateau Petrus and ten bottles of Puligny-Montrachet, whilst extolling the virtues of consumer capitalism.

Jordan - Now, I'm no name dropper. But when you've arrived like I has, you can't help noticing that loads of famous blokes all just want to be your friend. And I always say: It's not because I'm at the Ivy that all these blokes want to get into my knockers, but it doesn't half help. Some famous writer bloke called Martin Amis once came up to me when I was sitting on table three, which is the best table of all, and asked me whether he could deconstruct my boobs in his next novel, whatever that's supposed to mean. Well, I was still going out with Pete Andre at the time and Pete offered to punch this writer's lights out, until he was physically restrained by Kevin Spacey, who's apparently an actor or something.

Marty (Amis) - Far be it from me to drop names, to name-drop. For, what's in a name? A celeb by any other name is just as sweet. And Jordan meant nothing. But I was put up to this unholy act by Mick (Jagger), Tom (Cruise), Bob (Mugabe), Robbie Coltrane, Nigella Lawson, Victoria (of Beckham fame) and Anne Widdecombe - all of whom sat at table, the table, my table. And it wasn't a "tabula rasa", I can tell you. I, Mart, I'd eaten five kilos of asparagus. Yes, five whole bloody kilos. The cabbage-pee-stench that was raping the urinal as I exorcised my bladder, it made me strong, it emboldened... me. And then Mart had a vision: Mart was fucked if he didn't have the courage to ask Jordan if he could fondle her titties. Call it preparation for the next oeuvre - the oeuvre about titties. Call it what you like. Call it the fame and glamour that is the Ivy. Now that ain't name dropping. That's... that's ball-dropping. Mart's a ball-dropper. Ivy league. Ivy... League. My restaurant. It's balls.