Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Private Eye

I've just put this letter in the post. Wonder if I'll get a reply?

119 Highgrove Street
Tel: **** *** ****
30th October 2013
Division of Ophthalmology
Royal Berkshire Foundation NHS Trust
London Road

Ref: MAB/SD/1089888

Dear Waiting List

How the devil are you? It’s been such a long time and no hear. Nearly two years in fact.

I would love to see you again. However, I have this dodgy right eye which you told me required right cataract extraction and intraocular lens insertion so probably won’t be able to. But then you already knew that didn’t you?

I hope you have something exciting planned to celebrate this anniversary. I was hoping to watch ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ in 3D this Christmas but I’m not holding my breath. At least I’m saving money on buying 3D glasses.

Yours Sincerely

Warren Swaine

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Copper-Bottomed Shits List

We all know that some decisions are difficult difficult lemon difficult, but others are quite easy when you see instant political advantage and a modicum of morals are not necessary.... just follow the whips.

This is a list of the 78 Labour MPs who in 2003 voted against an amendment that declared the reasons for the war against Iraq as 'unproven' but voted against humanitarian action against Syria in any shape or form because they felt they didn't have enough evidence to proceed.

Bob Ainsworth, Douglas Alexander, Adrian Bailey, Margaret Beckett, Hilary Benn, David Blunkett, Kevin Brennan, Nick Brown, Russell Brown, Chris Bryant, Andrew Burnham, Alan Campbell, Vernon Coaker, Ann Coffey, Yvette Cooper, Jon Cruddas, Tony Cunningham, Alistair Darling, Wayne David, Geraint Davies, John Denham, Jim Dowd, Angela Eagle, Maria Eagle, Louise Ellman, Frank Field, Caroline Flint, Mike Gapes, Barry Gardiner, Paul Goggins, Harriet Harman, Tom Harris, John Healey, Mark Hendrick, Stephen Hepburn, George Howarth, Huw Irranca-Davies, Alan Johnson, Helen Jones, Kevan Jones, Tessa Jowell, Gerald Kaufman, David Lammy, Christopher Leslie, Ivan Lewis, Ian Lucas, John Mann, Gordon Marsden, Stephen McCabe, Michael Meacher, Andrew Miller, George Mudie, Jim Murphy, Paul Murphy, Sandra Osborne, Nick Raynsford, Geoffrey Robinson, Frank Roy, Chris Ruane, Barry Sheerman, James Sheridan, Andrew Smith, Jack Straw, Graham Stringer, Gisela Stuart, Gerry Sutcliffe, Mark Tami, Gareth Thomas, Stephen Timms, Derek Twigg, Stephen Twigg, Keith Vaz, Tom Watson, Dave Watts, Alan Whitehead, David Winnick, Rosie Winterton, David Wright.

Now I have a lot of time for MPs of all parties of both sides of the debate who voted with their consciences and principles.

However, the above list falls accurately and neatly into the copper-bottomed shits category.


I've now got the full list of Labour MPs from Hansard and amended the above list and figures. The following Members, whilst they voted in 2003, are not recorded as turning up to vote this time.

Hazel Blears, Ben Bradshaw, Gordon Brown, Ann Clwyd, Ian Davidson, Peter Hain, David Hanson, Siobhain McDonagh, Meg Munn, Dawn Primarolo, John Spellar.

Has anyone actually seen Gordon Brown recently?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition

Fear not Gibraltarians... the UK still has more comfy chairs:

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Care Scare Bunch

Remember this?

"Councillors were faced with the information that the old Civic Centre was riddled with asbestos, resulting in no-go areas where maintenance and repairs cannot be carried out without the use of costly measures to protect against the deadly white dust. It has leaky roofs and dodgy air conditioning which has to be constantly policed to guard against legionella bacteria."

That was officers' justification in 2006 for an urgent move out of the Civic which, if you believed their original reports, had to be completed by the end of 2010 or it would be armageddon in the town centre.

You may recognise some of these elements if you happened to be sitting in that pile of rubble listening to the Arthur Clark Care Home debate. It was like groundhog day in terms of self-justification by the lead councillor. Woo asbestos! Woo expensive refurbishment! Woo new regulations!

But was it really Rachel Eden speaking? I doubt it. She was simply parroting her officer briefing. It's a well worn officer tactic which can be condensed into: "Won't somebody please think of the children" (or in this case the elderly). If you go against their advice, you are a very bad person and bad things will happen and it will be your fault.

This tactic was used liberally during the debates on the Civic relocation with both Tories and Labour using officer scare stories to justify their attacks on the Lib Dem group who had the temerity to question the officer advice (as it turned out quite correctly). Questioning officer advice was equated with questioning their integrity. It is not the same thing at all and a deliberately disingenuous argument.

The underlying problem is that if you don't keep a close eye on the officers they will try to pull the wool over your eyes. I've seen plenty of examples where not all the options were presented in an effort to ensure certain outcomes and in some cases where facts were deliberately withheld. I'm not saying this was necessarily true in this case, but there seemed to be a familiar pattern being played out.

Officers are not necessarily doing it for bad reasons but to ensure their preferred outcome. They view elected members as an irritant to the good running of the council. This can be articulated in the words of one officer who said to me quite bluntly: "How dare [councillors] try to tell [officers] how to do their jobs? What do they know about [running a council department]?"

The normal way is to give the lead councillor what is referred to unofficially as a '$h!t' sandwich. Officers will prepare three or more options in response to a proposal or request for a report. One of them clearly will be their preferred option (and is usually easy to spot). To ensure it is selected they surround it with options to give you a gentle nudge in the right direction. That's the sandwich!

Uncharacteristically, I do have some sympathy for Cllr Eden. It is true that you sometimes have tough decisions to make and you can't always take the popular path. Even so, there was enough reasonable doubt in the thoroughness of the options to warrant sending the officers back to explore other avenues. The fact that a decision needed to be made as a matter of urgency rather than as a general policy decision about council run care homes leads me to believe that the closure was already worked into next year's council budget.

The cynic in me knew that all the protests against the Arthur Clark closure were in vain but I'm pleased to see so many turn out to see the political process in play but don't be fooled by the change from a Cabinet to Committee decision making structure. It's a step in the right direction but it is not being done for the good of local democracy. It is a mechanism to tie the opposition into unpopular decision making and it's a tactic Tony Page has deployed with monotonous regularity over the years.

The truth is that Council decisions are not made in full council or committee. They are made at Labour General Committee and group meetings. When the Cabinet made decisions the responsibility for those decisions was clear cut. In the neue politik opposition parties will have to learn quickly that a failure to speak at committee will be used as an indicator of acquiescence -  even when in practice opposing a predetermined decision by the party in power is futile.

The bottom line is that the decision to close Arthur Clark was made weeks ago in a Labour meeting. Don't kid yourself that it was made in any other way.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Union Eyes

Today Len McCluskey got immediate feedback from a member after his speech at the "People's Assembly" (sic): "I have cancelled my direct debit. Please remove me as a member."

I've been a proud union member since 1989 but after 24 years of union membership including a stint as union rep at Fujitsu I am no longer a member of Unite. I just couldn't stomach the hypocrisy any longer.

I'm no sitting on the side-lines member. I helped organise strike action against changes to pensions, unfair redundancies and poorer working conditions. I'm proud of the fight my union made on behalf of its members at Fujitsu Services. We got concessions and showed why unions are still relevant in the workplace.

The role of unions sticking up for the rights of workers against avaricious corporations and unfair practices is exactly why they should and do exist and it's why although never being a Labour member I have supported and stood up for the right of working people to be organised and represented.

Yet during my 24 years of membership I've seen my union support the Iraq war, bankroll a party that for 13 years refused to roll back anti-trade union laws, voted for Ed Miliband against the overwhelming support of the parliamentary and local membership of the Labour party...

... I somehow managed to live with it...

...but today Len McCluskey went too far. Wot a wanker.

Note: Less than 10% of Unite members voted for Len McCluskey in the leadership election. I didn't. I voted for Jerry Hicks. Politically we're miles apart but at least Jerry Hicks is an honest union man and not a steaming hypocrite like McCluskey,

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The ScrewBlu-Ray Discs

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
C.S. Lewis

This describes so many things... but especially Guardian readers!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Tears Are Not Enough...

I've posted a temporary tribute page for Gary Biddles for those of us old enough to remember

HP Sauce

If anyone is unaware of the need to prevent abuse of the libel system by corporations, here is a letter I received from HP's solicitors in 1995 following a gag printed in issue 16 of Up The Arse!

Dear Sir

Our Client: Hewlett-Packard Ltd

Our above client has instructed us in connection with the enclosed spoof advertisement, which appeared in issue 16 of your publication.

Our client objects most strongly to this "advertisement". It ridicules our client and its products and thus amount to a serious libel. It also slanders our client's goods by its slurs on the qualities and performance of Hewlett Packard products and infringes our client's copyright by reproducing a photograph of a Hewlett-Packard computer without our client's authority.

Furthermore, by printing three of our client's registered trade marks the "advertisement" constitutes a flagrant trade mark infringement. The trade marks in question are as follows:

MarkRegistration Number
HEWLETT - PACKARD1076830 779296
"hp roundel"1076832

We have advised our client of the legal remedies which would be available to it should it become necessary to pursue these matters. These would include substantial damages and costs. We have advised also that the trade mark infringements constitute criminal offences, in respect of which a criminal prosecution of your editor would be well founded.

Having said this, it may be that you were not aware of the "advertisement's" legal implications and although we must reserve our client's rights, this possibility will be taken into account in considering whether further action is warranted. Such action definitely will be taken, however, if there is any repetition of this item or anything like it.



The joke we published didn't I believe pass the "moron in a hurry" test!

Nostalgia fans will not need reminding that 32Mb was 4 times the average PC memory size in 1995.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Maggie Maggie Maggie OUT! OUT! OUT!

As it seems obligatory to post one's personal Thatcher memories at the moment, here goes:

I don't have one!

Despite having nailed my colours to the Liberal mast from the age of 11, the nearest I got to politics before 2008 was running the PA for the Student Union's General Meetings.

As to be expected, a callow youth from the Socialist Workers' Party (ironically neither a socialist or a worker) got up to speak in favour of a motion in support of the miners' strike. He had a habit of finishing sentences of polemic with a barked 'Thatcher' so on this occasion I fed the mike into the delay unit and waited.

On cue he finished with a particularly bile filled "Thatcher" which for some reason appeared to echo around the Ents Hall bouncing from speaker to speaker to the amusement of all.

Er, that's it.

To be fair, twenty years ago this would undoubtedly have been a completely different commentary and without a visceral dislike of 'Thatcherism' engendered in me at the time I'd probably have a completely different outlook on politics. In that respect the whole UK for better or worse has been shaped by one woman, which if we're telling home truths undoubtedly is what upset so many men.

However, it's amusing to see the most right wing Labour party since their formation passing around twenty three year old campfire stories of the great She-wolf in an effort to scare the children. It's almost as if Labour's 13 years in power with a large Parliamentary majority and the ability to reverse all that they supposedly hated about Thatcherism had never happened.

I'm not the first to say it but New Labour are the true standard bearers of Maggie's legacy. Don't forget it.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Progressively Stupid

Now this blog is back [for the moment at any rate!] to plain old ranting, time to get something off my chest!

I guess regular followers won't need any hint of just how much I hate The Guardian and its condescending army of higher rate tax payers who know better than everyone else what is good for them.

Sure the right wing press are terrible, but given that Lib Dem voters read the Daily Mail more than any other paper, it goes without saying that most readers of the right wing press understand that a large bucket of salt is required and view them as exercises in provocative humour rather than as newspapers.

This doesn't seem to apply to The Guardian, a paper, and also whose readers, take themselves so seriously as the 'champion of the poor'.

Yes, there's nothing that the poor like more than having people with second homes in Tuscany, union leaders with £133,000 a year salaries and brats who went through University living off their parents whilst substituting student politics for real life lecturing everyone on what's best for us.

Growing up on a council estate on income support and now trying to dig myself out of debt after 3 years unemployment I think gives me a little more understanding of the subject than people who think that Nigel Slater's trout fishcakes really does help the poor with some tasty food ideas to make with their left overs.

Anyway, this week Teh Grauniad has outdone itself in contradictory whining.

First we had the bleeding heart progressives lecturing us that a change to Universal Credit's monthly payments, where the rent element is paid direct to the claimant will result in arrears, evictions and downright poverty because every 'progressive' knows that the poor cannot be trusted to budget on a monthly basis.

Second we had the bleeding heart progressives lecturing us that giving 'the poor' vouchers which can only be spent on food and essentials is an attack on their dignity and it's disgusting that the state thinks that the poor cannot be, er, trusted to budget. Hang on.

Third we had the bleeding heart progressives running an an editorial "In praise of… halloumi" which as an exercise in self-parody was a towering effort of satire.

Perhaps they should ask themselves why amongst the poor that readership of the Guardian and Observer is astonishingly low?

Perhaps it's because the patronising load of codswallop served up as 'being on your side' doesn't resonant with us.

And in my universe, TV cooks would not be able to use any ingredient that couldn't get from their local Londis. That's the real world.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

That Twas The Tweak That Twas

My vigilant reader may notice I've made a few tweaks to this site.

Nothing has been deleted... and there is a madness in my method!

On the otherhand, muckspReading is a satirical site, has never been affiliated with any party and will continue its 10 year mission to keep throwing punches about local and national current affairs when there is fun to be had.

Friday, 15 March 2013

75 Years...

HMS Belfast C35
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of her launch, here's a picture of HMS Belfast all guns blazing on the Royal Navy Far East Deployment in 1959.

Friday, 8 March 2013

About Time

I know this might disappoint some, but I welcome the appointment of Helena Morrissey as the chair of the independent inquiry into the Lib Dems' processes & complaints procedures. I think it's only fair that I allow due process to take its course so depending on how things pan out I may be making some tweaks to this site ;-)

The Lib Dems have nothing to fear from the truth. It's the trying to hide things that causes the damage.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Mean and Moody...

Taken by me in 2007 at Reading University