Monday, October 15, 2007 


Being dragged away once again. Should be back next Monday. Keep it dusty.


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So. Farewell Then. Menzies Campbell.

"Now we really are in the shitter."

Very little overall surprise that Ming Campbell has been unceremoniously forced out as Liberal Democrat leader, jumping before he became the victim of a death of a thousand cuts like Charles Kennedy; more that it has been both so soon and so sudden. There were murmurings at the Liberal Democrat conference, mostly stirred by the media who can think of nothing more boring than a week of actual discussion of new policies when they can challenge an under-performing leader, but it was assumed that there would be something of a more dignified hand-over approaching the changing of the guard in Labour earlier in the year, rather than this brutal and humiliating exit for Ming.

The challenge, more than anything, was two-fold: firstly, Ming simply wasn't Charles Kennedy. The country as a whole would probably have preferred chatshow to stay in the top job regardless of whether he needed to tackle his drinking problem. That he was also seen as being at least partially responsible for Kennedy's demise also didn't help. However hard Ming tried, and he did, with his speech at the conference being decent if rather frightening because most people had never seen Campbell visibly angry and so apparently determined to make the best of it, he simply couldn't be equal to the easy charm and ordinariness that radiated from Kennedy. Secondly, the Lib Dem's three main, easily identifiable, rallying cry policies have all either fallen by the wayside or diminished in value. Iraq is still a disaster, but it's one we're getting out of shortly; student top-up fees have been slightly lightened by the government's reintroduction of grants; and their 50p top-rate of tax on those earning over £100,000 a year has evolved into the more fashionable green taxes.

Add into this mix Cameron's success with the Conservatives, resulting in some floating voters' returning to the Tories, especially, if the polls are to be believed, enthused by the Tories' inheritance tax pledge, and this, rather than Ming's actual leadership are what has left the party in an apparent mess.

Ming's victory back in January last year was itself such a compromise. Simon Hughes had been the victim of an outting by force by the Scum, the Mark Oaten "scandal" had just occurred, while Ming's other main opponents, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne had neither the recognition factor nor the support within the party to stand in the way of the heir apparent. At best Ming was only going to lead the party into the next election and no further: holding onto the gains made under Kennedy once two-party politics was re-established was to be his real challenge, rather than furthering them, impressive victories in a couple of by-elections or not, and even this strategy was undermined by the changes in the political wind and the Lib Dems' actual policies.

The biggest tragedy is perhaps that Campbell, out of all the current "big three" political leaders was by far the most honest, urbane and principled. He needed some prompting from Charles Kennedy before he was totally sold on opposition to the Iraq war, but he soon became associated as the only person in any position of authority that was asking the pertinent questions needed. The term "flawed prospectus" may not have been most passionate denunciation of an illegal conflict that has led to the deaths of so many, but it was Ming's way of landing a blow without opening himself up to any of the easy smears of either being a defeatist, an apologist or an anti-American. Despite his poor performances at prime minister's questions, where he seemed out of his depth to begin with, he improved, and he was always surest when in actual debate, not the mock Punch and Judy version served up on Wednesday lunchtimes. He shined on a recent Question Time, but doing so there was never going to turn the polls his way.

That was perhaps his downfall: he lacked the killer instinct that those who are really successful require. True, Charles Kennedy didn't have it either, but then he was up against Blair and Hague and Blair and Howard, a choice to make any believer in genuine political choice shudder. Again, that also hasn't changed under Brown and Cameron, but some seem convinced enough that it has to demand a change. The obvious successor is Nick Clegg: solid enough at Home Affairs, but one of the "Orange Book" liberals, and nowhere near as genial as either Ming or Kennedy. The Liberal Democrats might gain in the short term, but politics tonight in this country is the poorer for Campbell's unhappy, isolated resignation. The only bright spot is that his tenure came nowhere near to the disaster that was Iain Duncan Smith's of the Tories, and that is very little comfort.

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Usmanov-watch: Playing the victim.

From one revolting end of the Murdoch empire to another, the Alisher Usmanov charm offensive was back on yesterday in one of the most sycophantic, one-sided articles to appear in a so-called newspaper of record. Congratulations have to go to
It was partly in an attempt to curb claims of a shady past that he invited me to his Moscow mansion and agreed to talk for the first time about the circumstances that led to his being imprisoned in 1980. Usmanov runs his empire from the headquarters of Metal-loinvest, his main company, in a lavish building in central Moscow fitted with Italian marble and heavy chandeliers. From there I was driven 30 miles along Rublovka, a road that cuts through a forest of firs to a “billionaires’ row” where Usmanov has a 30-acre estate beside the Moscow river. A 16ft-high metal fence encircles the property.

Usmanov, who never leaves home without a retinue of bodyguards armed with machine-guns, was working in a large, single-storey wooden villa which he has built as a private office next to his palatial house.

Casually dressed in a Lacoste polo shirt, tracksuit bottoms and leather slippers, he was sitting in an armchair, advising a friend on the telephone on how best to clinch a £1m deal. In front of him was a small table and a bell with which to summon staff.

In the next room, his personal adviser on equities was checking the latest share prices on a 30in computer screen.

Sipping tea after his phone call, Usmanov studied the screen with the analyst as they discussed whether to sell a large holding in a Russian bank. A butler delivered frequent messages or passed on one of several mobile phones on which the tycoon fielded further calls.

If you aren't throwing up already having read just that extract, then both Tim and Craig himself
thoroughly fisk and destroy this partial, despicably craven meeting of convenience. Craig incidentally, despite never being served with anything approaching a writ, is described thusly:

Usmanov rejected the charges and threatened to sue Murray “if he can first prove that he is completely sane”.

Usmanov likes playing the victim, that's for sure. A venal bully with the full weight of his fortune and power behind him picking on those who dare to call him on his dubious past, and he's the one who's been wronged.

“I was a victim and when I came out I realised I had one last chance to make a success of my life. I won’t fall so low as to fight those who want to blacken my name. Let their slurs weigh on their conscience. Mine is clean.”

No, he's more than happy to slur his accusers by questioning their sanity while his shysters at Schillings and PR associates as Finsbury PR do the real leg-work. It may be down to last week's Usmanov story in the Sunset Times, about his connections with, err, corruption and fraud, allegations which curiously go unnoted in the interview that this piece of arslikhan inspired, but that doesn't acquit the ST. This is simply lazy, callow journalism from a newspaper that once exposed the Thalidomide scandal. How far away those days seem.

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Scum-watch: A year of knuckledragging.

It's been a whole year since the launching of MyScum, the Sun's witless and frequently racist comment and forum section, and the site has been asking for votes on the "best" of it for the past week. Perhaps they ought to have referred to the MySun section on this very blog first.

Let's have a look at just what passes for topical debate on the Sun's glorified web forum right now:

If you're rather disgusted by the Sun's website own passing of the blame onto "immigrants" (at least they used to blame the blacks, the Irish or whomever that week's folk devil was rather than a homogeneous block of multi-nationals in some cases fleeing oppression) then that's got nothing on some of the actual overt racism and xenophobia going on right now in the forums:

the eastern europeans are a clever lot,and have no feelings for the country they live in..they committ the most crime,they gamble openly on street corners,ive seen about a half a dozen of them the other day with a foldaway table,when the heat is off they open it and play that cheating game where you guess where the dice or stone is under the 3 cups,a few were caught in our local sun day market but only after they had taken hundreds of gullible shoppers,they were finaly arrested.. most are of romany decent or cheaper versions of the gypsies. are they kosavans ,serbs ,bosnians,or rumanian,im not sure,but they are not your average citizen.

Well lets look at the state of our NHS. First of all we have BRITISH citizens being smeared in their own FAECES in numerous NHS wards up and down the country. Now i've read that some patients are pulling out their own f****** teeth as NHS dentists are no longer available. Why do we have this problem when we pay the highest taxes in the world. I'll tell you why...It's because of the NHS WORLD SERVICE where we kindly agree to take care of every immigrant and his dog all in the name of liberalism! Are you prepared to be covered in your own **** with a pair of pliers in your hand so you can yank that wisdom tooth out for the sake of immigrants who want a better life at our expense?

I had the misfortune of going to Harlow,Essex on saturday, I was absolutly amazed at the amount of Eastern Europeans there. Its was like a third world country, had to get out the town can not stand the blighters!

All of the above are just the first posts in the threads. It's worth pointing out that there are some
exceptions, but they tend to be in the minority. Truly a year worth celebrating.

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