31 December 2006

New Year's Honours

Oh dear, another year, another New Year's honours list with the usual depressing smattering of undeserving celebs. Why does Rod Stewart need or deserve a CBE? It is hardly as if he has been slaving away in anonymity for all these years and now is acheiving the recognition he deserves. Neither has he been doing important work for the country on a meagre publicly funded wage, for which this gong now goes some way to compensate him. No, he is a rich and famous pop star who lives a glamourous lifestyle for which, no doubt, many envy him. Isn't that enough?

But from the sublime to the ridiculous. The Queen is giving her own granddaughter an MBE.... perhaps it was Secret Santa this year up at Balmoral and Her Maj couldn't think of what to get for Zara. It's all very Scandanavian bicycling monarchy, call-me-Tony, let's all have a big hug, Nu-Labour - I know, but for Christ's sake - make her a Duchess or something to save her from the embarrassment of having the smallest medal around the table the next time she meets up with the family.

13 December 2006

Flat to Rent

This is from my friend Lorna:
I have a flat to rent in Putney from 23/24 December 2006 (or a few days before). It is in a new development and so it has never been lived in (and has new furniture).

The development is about a ten minute walk from the Putney train and tube stations and although it does not have a river view, it is only a few minutes from the river.

It is a fourth floor (of five - if I remember correctly) two bed flat with two bathrooms (one en suite), a car parking space and three balconies (one going off each bedroom and one going off the living room).

I don't have any pictures and it may not be available to view until the week beginning 16 December but I believe a show flat has just opened at the development (The Radial), which is at the following website:

I will be renting it out through an agent but I thought it was worth trying to let it privately as well. I have been quoted between £1750 and £1850 per month by the agents but if anyone wants to take it privately, I will let it for £1650.
Tel: 07815 108960

Ignorant Politicians

I am currently stuck in Bermuda - I had hoped to leave last night, but I cannot leave until tomorrow night, so when I get home on Friday I will have been away from the twins for 10 nights - I hope they still remember me...
However, the relative peace of the last few afternoons have allowed me to watch a bit of internet TV on 18 Doughty Street. Generally, I thought it was excellent - although to a certain extent, I think it would work just as well on radio (I have it on in the background) - although I am sure the lure of appearing visually is a factor in attracting the broad range of guests appearing on the various shows - and it is also fun to see what all these people look like.
My heckles were raised at one point when Iain Dale was asking Jo Swinson, a Libdem MP (and their shadow Sec. of State for Scotland), about her being the youngest member of Parliament. She became an MP at the tender age of 25 or 26... she said that it was important to "ask lots of questions" such as what is a statutory instrument. I find it depressing that anyone should seek to become a member of the legislature without a working knowledge of one of two principal types of legislation.
Is this simply a clear example of how paying relatively low salaries to MPs attracts a low calibre of person? I assume that young Jo never previously earned more than about half her current salary before becomming an MP (and for a 24/25 year old, £30k is not a bad wage, so I don't mean that in an insulting way), and so is delighted with her current wedge.
After reading out my email, Iain Dale said he thought her admission was "refreshing". I find it odd that someone who (according to her website) has been involved in politics since 1997 could know so little about the process.

10 December 2006

Prats and Prejudice

Thanks to a comment from "Davkeh" on Iain Dale's Diary I have found the bizarre and pathetic site "Hate My Tory" which is a real website, connected to bona fide Labour supporters.

The site is dedicated to rating how much you hate individual Tories. Really sad. I disagree with many lefties, but hate? I am even friends with some of them. It seems that it is easier to whip up hate than deal with arguments.

So I suggest if you agree with me, you should email the administrators of the site, who advertise their email address as "admin AT hatemytory DOT com", which I guess is an attempt to avoid getting lots of spam to that address, which is, for your ease of reference: admin@hatemytory.com.


Last night in New York. We were taken to dinner by my friend Ed Emerson, who said he had found this blog. So, Ed, many thanks for a great dinner...

We ate at Lever House, on 53rd Street just off Park Avenue, which was fantastic.

Anyway, I promised Ed that I do not blog about my friends, so that's it.

Except this - the view from our room as dawn broke over Manhattan.

05 December 2006

Who killed Litvinenko?

I am sitting in my hotel room high above the streets of Manhattan, overlooking Central Park, back in New York for the first time in over four years. For much of the past four years I have, accidentally, become a student of Russia and Russian politics and I have been itching to blog on this topic, but being rather busy lately, I have not managed to do so, but here goes...
The demonisation of Putin and the current Russian administration has become so widespread it is no scandal when a British cabinet minister basically accuses the Russian government - supposedly a "friendly" state - of orchestrating a murder of a British citizen on British soil.
Little comment has been made of the fact that Britain has been offering political asylum to some rather dubious characters. Leaving aside the Chelski factor, the most high profile refugee is Boris Berezovsky, an oligarch who made a fortune from buying State-owned assets at knock down prices from the Yeltsin regime. How did he do it? He had the bright idea of publishing Yelstin's autobiography which gave him a "legitimate" reason to visit the Kremlin on a regular basis and hand over large amounts of cash to the President on the pretext that sales were booming and the contents of the suitcase were simply royalties.
What would the reaction of the British public be if, say the cash for honours scandal was a hundred times worse - instead of cash to the Labour Party, it went straight to Blair, and instead of giving out honours, he had given away to Lord Levy - or whoever - something the British hold dear - e.g. the Post Office - or worse, all Rural sub-post offices (but profitable ones...) - and then David Cameron got into power, tried to bring Lord Levy to justice, but he was given political asylum by France. We'd be pretty hacked off, I imagine.
So Britain has effectively invited Russia to deal with its miscreants in London, since half of them have been allowed to move there. The simple solution would be to deport the whole lot of them and allow Russia to decide what it wants to do with them. This would, in the long run, also make the Premiership a lot more interesting.
Second point is, the whole radiation plot looks like someone wanted the world to assume that the Russian state was responsible for Litvinenko. Maybe he wasn't really supposed to die, maybe he was supposed to point the finger at Putin and then recover? Or maybe he had fallen out with some other powerful Russian interests who wanted him dead. If the Russian state wanted to murder someone my guess is that they would make it look like a gangland killing - bang - unless they wanted to take responsibility a la Trotsky, which clearly they don't.
As for the polonium-105, I have continued to travel quite happily with British Airways (and no, I am not boycotting it over the cross fiasco either), but continue to follow my usual practice when travelling by any form of public transport of not licking any surfaces. So far I have not transformed into the Ready Brek kid...