Saturday, 7 November 2009


This week as we mourned millions of our best young men who died in the fight for freedom, the country that was one of the reasons for going to war signed us up to a new dictatorship. One which the country we fought against - and the others who abandoned us to our fate - now rule. It is also, with bitter irony, the celebration of the day the Berlin Wall came down and the people of Eastern Europe, after half a century of rule by outsiders, celebrated a brief freedom. As we face international bankruptcy, we and they have become the playthings of a bureaucracy so corrupt and incompetent that for twelve years it has been unable to get its own accounts past an accountant. It is also a week of mourning when we commemorate and commend the work of Guy Fawkes who tried to rid us of the men who sold out Britain.

The timing of the six hundred people I employ who are seeking a rise is to say the least agley since they are now largely redundant. A large number of them have already been caught fiddling their expenses and out of town allowances. Businessmen and local politicians have gone to prison for lesser frauds.There was no need. I pay them a decent salary, far more than similar organisations in other countries. They have a third of the year on paid holiday and the company runs just as efficiently in their absence.Other companies we deal with all over the world invite them to stay and I pay their travel expenses. Much of the time they are in work is spent in small groups worrying over trifles and complaining about their pay. I was foolish to allow them to set house rules governing expenses but, having employed them, I felt I could trust them to do the right thing by the firm.

None of them had any experience of the job when I took them on. Most were content to follow the example of senior workers who were frankly not the role models one would have chosen. None the less they seek parity with doctors and senior civil servants. I am not sure about civil servants but I am here to tell you that my doctors earn every penny.............WHICH IS MORE THAN CAN BE SAID FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT.

A quarrelsome lot, they are currently embroiled in a brawl that put the mess in Mesopotamia. In less than a century, in a heady mixture of dishonesty and incompetence, they have managed the impossible in uniting the most disparate group of quarrelsome tribes in the desire to wipe us out.

We invaded Iraq with no clear idea what we were going to do with it when we had conquered. Having smashed all its instruments of government and reduced it to a battlefield of warring sects, we moved on and invaded Afghanistan, where we soon defeated a ruling body which we had put in place to replace its corrupt rulers. The
excuse for the quagmire we created there, was the search for the hundred members of Al-Qaeda,who we discovered had moved to Pakistan.

Undeterred, we lost some of our finest youth supporting an enthusiastically corrupt government against the one we created. We also created a dubious army and, in order to give the country a police force, hurled gold coins at the heads of warlords - who had prospered under the Taliban - to recruit a police force of luckless tribesmen whom they paid a pittance.

The obvious next move is to invade Pakistan. Let us hope we remember that Pakistan differs in one respect from the other artificial countries we created. It has the atom bomb.

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The BBC is broadcasting a series of dramatisations of books it believes are neglected classics. With most of them you can see why. But I wonder why we neglect the man who beyond peradventure was the greatest novelist of the twentieth century.

Howard Spring, Britain’s best-selling author in the Sixties, was born in abject poverty in Cardiff in the late 19th century. It is interesting how many of his books are about a poor boy -or girl - who becomes rich and moves to Cornwall but the description closest to his own childhood occurs in what I believe is his greatest work “Fame Is The Spur”.

He wrote 14 novels, three plays, three children’s books, a volume of literary criticism and, between 1939 and 1946, three semi-autobiographical memoirs. Like another Cardiff giant, Ivor Novello, and the dazzling writer Gwyn Thomas, he is totally ignored in Wales for the purely political reasons which led it, in his lifetime, to vilify Dylan Thomas. To a country that supposedly values culture and scholarship, it is nothing short of a national disgrace and encourages those who believe the core value of the Celt is hypocrisy. The truth is that Establishment Wales is a Palace of Mediocrity, a closed society to which no one in his right mind would wish to belong.


I was a little worried before seeing the skin specialist this week when I was asked to confirm my colour. The idea of a colour-blind skin specialist did not fill me with confidence. However, she turned out to be a stunning redhead who told me I was suffering from a friendly cancer on my back
I thought of the response of Evelyn Waugh when he was told that surgeons had removed a benevolent tumour from Randolph Churchill.

“The only benevolent scrap in his body and they have removed it.”


Poor Ernie Marples has been coming in for some stick in the 50th birthday celebrations for the M1 which he opened as Transport Minister.

He had a finely honed sense of publicity. When he became engaged, he invited a selection of his elderly constituents in Wallasey to a wine and cheese party in his office there. Always the gourmet, he brought up from London by train and taxi two cases of a very fine Premier Cru St Emillion. It was not improved by the journey nor were the guests universally impressed.

I was there for the Mirror, which he had thoughtfully tipped off. One voter more disgruntled than the rest told me: “The bugger won't leave me alone. Every Christmas he sends me a plum pudding, some potted meat (it was actually Fortnum pate) and a bottle of wine. I hate pudding and I am a teetotaller but he takes no bloody notice.

“And,”continued the disgruntled constituent, “this year it got lost in the post and I didn't get it till June.”

Ernie was Postmaster General at the time.


Al Gore, the former US vice president, could become the world's first carbon billionaire after investing heavily in green energy companies. Last year Mr Gore's venture capital firm loaned a small California firm $75m to develop energy-saving technology. The company, Silver Spring Networks, produces hardware and software to make the electricity grid more efficient. The deal appeared to pay off in a big way last week, when the Energy Department announced $3.4 billion in smart grid grants, the New York Times reports. Of the total, more than $560 million went to utilities with which Silver Spring has contracts. Few people have been as vocal about the urgency of global warming and the need to reinvent the way the world produces and consumes energy as Mr Gore. And few have put as much money behind their advocacy and are as well positioned to profit from this green transformation, if and when it comes. Critics, mostly on the political right and among global warming sceptics, say Mr Gore is poised to become the world's first "carbon billionaire", profiteering from government policies he supports that would direct billions of dollars to the business ventures he has invested in.