Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Archive for the ‘Dinosaur’ Category

MODERN TIMES: the Dinosaur column

In Dinosaur on January 10, 2018 at 1:15 pm

dinosaurAll change on the  railways:

Under this pie-eyed privatised system we now have for the railways, the franchise to run the Gloucester to Cardiff line via Lydney is now up for renewal. And Arriva trains (who’ve held the franchise for much of the time since privatisation) are bowing out.

I don’t know why. It just seems like a case of “goodbye, it’s been good to know you.” So, very soon, we’ll have another company running our trains – and looking at the choice of those in the bidding, it doesn’t look good.

When privatisation was introduced (by John Major in a moment of muddled thinking), the franchise for our local line was won by a cowboy outfit called the West & Wales Railway.  It suffered from a shortage of rolling stock and an inability to keep to its timetables. It wasn’t  surprising when it was  sent packing.

At that time Arriva was running trains in the north of England – and was, it seems, making a similar hash of things. They, too, lost their franchise, but were offered our cluster of routes as a kind of consolation prize.

Then the Arriva group was taken over by Deutsche Bahn (the German state railway company) and efficiency improved – though we were still saddled with antiquated rolling stock on our line. But we’ve grown used to them – and things aren’t likely to get any better when the new franchisee takes over, I fear. It’s a case of same old system, whether we like it or not.


Not everyone in this neck of the woods knows that  Arriva also own a few bus companies here and there. For example they run the city services up in Wakefield, and also around North Wales – and no doubt elsewhere.

But this Autumn Arriva bus crews came out on strike, in protest against a meagre pay offer. It seems the company is making quite a profit – but wants to keep most of it to itself.

According to one source,  Arriva’s transport operations are profitable enough to send some £26 million a year (on average) back to Germany. Which I’m sure will do nicely  for Deutsche Bahn!


It’s now over 21 years since I started writing this column for the Clarion. Ah, I remember it well!

But why should the Clarion take on a dinosaur to write a comment column, however erudite it may be?  Well, you could say it was a sign of the times.

Back then “New Labour” was  in power. It was indeed the flavour of the month for many.  But there were others  who weren’t  so happy.  It wasn’t just a matter of nostalgia; it was more a sense of betrayal. It was a feeling that much of New Labour’s policy was merely Thatcherism dressed up in new clothes.

Tony Blair (remember him?) Scoffed at his critics. He dismissed them, and called the “dinosaurs”.  So when the Clarion was launched with the muffled sound of trumpets it was decided that this new  paper should have its own dinosaur.

Now of course it’s Blairism aka “New Labour” that’s sunk almost without trace.  It may well be that dinosaurs are coming back into fashion. Let’s hope so!


MODERN TIMES: the Dinosaur column

In Dinosaur, Uncategorized on November 7, 2017 at 6:06 am

dinosaurThe Rees-Mogg view on Foodbanks

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the old Etonian MP for North East Somerset, recently voiced his views on Food Banks,

His opinion wasn’t exactly the kind of outright denunciation that we’ve heard from other Tory leaders in the past. Indeedy, he found that the growing use of Food was “rather uplifting”.  After all, he mused, they showed what a “good, compassionate society we are”.

After all, said Rees-Mogg in a radio interview, “I don’t think the state can do everything that it tries.”

Well, it might if it tried. But a Tory-run state doesn’t even try.  It may be quite ruthless in making cuts, but it doesn’t even try to make provision for the growing number of people stuck on or below the poverty level. Under the Tory Government poverty has increased steadily.

But Rees-Mogg denies that. He declares that the increase in the use of food banks has come about because more people in need now know that they’re there. Before Labour “had refused to tell them”.

Eh?  What kind of blinkered world does Rees-Mogg live in?  No wonder he’s the favourite amongst Tory Party members to be the next Party leader.

What me? Party leader?

Another MP who may be touted (or not) as next Tory Party leader is our own Mark Harper.  When asked by the Citizen whether he might throw his hat into the ring, he denied any such thought.

It seems that his name was included in a list of possible contenders published in the Sun newspaper.  But Harper declared in the Citizen that he was focusing on supporting the Prime Minister in “delivering a successful Brexit and making improvements here at home” (sic).

That’s a good boy, Mark. I wouldn’t get ideas above your station if I were you.

Ours not to reason why:

I’m indebted to Terry Haines, Co-op Party member and one-time mayor of Gloucester, for this letter which appeared in a recent issue of The Forester.

“Meeting a respected community leader, who had canvassed with me for a “Remain” vote, I asked: “Voted yet?”

“Yes, OUT, the council didn’t collect my bin last week”.

Another pensioner colleague voted “Out”, annoyed her surgery had re-arranged an appointment.

Earlier I was vehemently told by a “Leave” voter, proudly polishing his new BMW in a street where 40 per cent of the cars were German: “listen mate, the Germans will always want our cars.”

I canvassed many old and poor people epitomised by the “Alf Garnett “diatribe: “I’ve lived under 19 different prime ministers and been poor under every single one.”

This solid “Leave” vote was surprised to find we were in the EU the next week. They were suffering from the 15 per cent rise in retail prices and the losses in the emigrant services they need from their NHS and caring services. Many thought we would be back to the Empire and its imported riches.

Should our country be subjected to such fickleness?”

Indeed, Terry. Indeed.

Cost of Yorkley Court:

It was revealed last month that the cost of evicting those who occupied Yorkley Court amounted to a staggering £150,000.  So now we know where the money went in this whole shoddy business.  The biggest amount was the cost of the overblown police presence at the site, with legal costs also adding to the total sum.

And what was gained by this eviction?  As I see it, nothing at all. But in my opinion. We lost a praise-worthy initiative from a group of eco-farmers (following in the footsteps of the 17th Century “diggers”)



MODERN TIMES: the Dinosaur column

In Dinosaur, Uncategorized on September 22, 2017 at 12:56 pm

dinosaurPOINT TAKEN:

I’ve received a response from one of the quartet of former Labour councillors who’d chosen to resign from the party and sit on the district council as “Independent Labour”.

Bill Osborne puts a somewhat different viewpoint from what seemed to have been agreed by his colleagues.  He tells me that his resignation was in fact motivated more by his suspension from the Labour Party (at national level) which deprived him of his vote in the second leadership election  – when Jeremy Corbyn was confirmed as party leader.

Bill described this as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.  He also makes the point that the only reason that Labour’s NEC could provide for his suspension was that a comment Bill had made on social media “might have caused offence”.

Which, perhaps, casts a rather different light on Bill’s decision to leave Labour’s ranks. Personally, I take his point!

It’s an opt out:

I’ve always been a fan of the 1950s film, Passport to Pimlico, in which a plucky community in central London decides to opt out and declare itself independent – facing the full wrath of bureaucracy as a result.

It might not be on the same scale, but I was drawn to a piece in the Citizen the other week.  Dr. William Riches, from Newnham, has decided to declare his home an “independent republic”  His wife, Judith, has been declared president, and his children and grandchildren  are citizens.

When the UK finally leaves the EU anyone visiting his home by the Severn, Middlewatch, will have to make sure that they have their passports with them – plus a visa.  And Dr. Riches  and his family will then formally apply for entry to the European Union.

Dr. Riches (a retired university lecturer) is a much-travelled Europhile, and has worked in America, Canada and Northern Ireland.  He’s no “Little Englander”, and sees the world on a different scale than many of those who backed Brexit.  Good luck to him, I say.

Applying for European citizenship?

Of course there are other ways to make the point that you want to remain part of Europe. The kind of “hard Brexit” advocated by many enthusiasts, who believe that we can just go it alone, is bound to create mass upheaval. There are those Brits who’d chosen to make their homes in mainland Europe – as well as  those Europeans who’d chosen to make the UK their home.  Now all this is about to be torn apart.

But a new initiative is now being launched, to try to allow Brits to retain their European citizenship (as shown ou our current passports).  At present we all have “the right to move and reside freely within the territory of Member States under objective conditions of freedom and dignity.”

A new initiative is being launched to allow UK resident citizens to maintain these rights.  So, for more details, email

Go on, give it a try!


MODERN TIMES: the Dinosaur column

In Dinosaur, Uncategorized on April 25, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Saving our Forest way of life:

dinosaurMany old timers in the Forest regret the passing of the “old ways”. Patterns of life have certainly changed over the past fifty years or so.  Mining is now a thing of the past – apart from a scattering of free miners, and even they are fading away.

And we’re losing that thick, sometimes impenetrable, “Vorest” accent, swamped as we are by outside influences. Basically the population is changing as once settled communities are affected by the arrival of incomers in our midst.

Whether this is a good thing or bad depends on your point of view. Me, I couldn’t possibly comment.

But I was interested to see in the local press that attempts had been made to raise money from the heritage lottery to save the distinctive Forest dialect for future generations.

It’s in danger of being lost completely, say those behind the bid.  They aim to make use of oral history recordings (both of the spoken and written word). Attempts will be made to introduce youngsters in the Dean to old patterns of employment – such as ochre mining and “ship badgering” (in other words tending the free-range Forest sheep).

As an old dinosaur I wish them luck. But I must confess to a certain degree of skepticism. We’re all caught up in the forces of change, whether we like it or not. The population of the Forest is changing, patterns of employment, too, are not what they used to be. The best we can hope for is to build up a bank of memories for generations to come. To let them know what our “Land between two rivers” used to be like.

Mark Harper has his say:

I read one of Mark Harper’s contributions to the Citizen the other week with a little bit of interest. Only a little, mind. He is, after all still our MP even if he has been consigned to the backbenches in the Commons.

Now he’s out of government he does seem to be scrabbling around for something relevant to say. He skirts cautiously round the subject of Brexit, before lighting on the High Speed Rail Act which will it seems generate “new jobs and economic growth”.  The trouble is that none of it really affects the Forest of Dean. And it’s somewhat overblown anyway. Our own railway connections will remain exactly the same, apart from some dubious connections in the Bristol direction from Severn Tunnel Junction.

He then lights on the Government’s Bus Services Bill, which will help local authorities improve bus services. Oh yeah? Who’re you kidding? With Stagecoach now running the lion’s share of bus services in and out of the Forest?  I don’t think so.

Then Mark seems to run out of things to say. He rather limply tells us that “the Government is getting on with the day-to-day job of running the country, as well as delivering Brexit.” Yes, that’s what many of us are afraid of.


Tory Mark Harper MP will be forever linked with the betrayal of what we hold dear and in common: our Forest!

But to be fair to Mark he does go on to tell us about his constituency, with people contacting him “email, phone or in writing.”  He adds that “in addition to this I have continued to attend local events, visit businesses and meet local residents around the constituency.” Well, that’s what he’s paid for.


All in all I got the impression that Harper, now he’s no longer involved in Government circles, is casting around to find things to say to his constituents.  But never mind. At least some would say he’s trying. Others might add that he’s very trying.


The Good Life? Or not so good.

It seems that after trying vegetarianism we’re now being encouraged to go the whole hog (if that’s the right way to put it) and go Vegan. Veganism is the “smart way to save the planet” we’re told.

Humph. A recent item in one paper I read said this isn’t necessarily so.  It doesn’t take into account the air miles that our vegetables travel before they arrive in our shopping bags. Or unless we have our own allotments, how growing them devastates rain forests or other natural climatic regions. Not only that but those who go in for those trendy veggie boxes are more likely to throw away half the contents.

So, let’s think about our culinary habits, eh?


MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur, Uncategorized on April 24, 2017 at 12:12 pm

So, what’s a “clean break”?

dinosaurTheresa May, our new “iron lady” Prime Minister, has declared that she’s aiming for a “clean break” from the European Union when we have to surrender our membership and leave (by the back door maybe?).

A “clean” break?  When it comes to an exit of this sort there’s no such thing as a “clean” break. Mark my words, it’s going to be messy for an awful lot of people.  We’ve been members of the European Union for a long time now. Many folk were born into it. Whether we liked it or not we grew up as Europeans. We may have grumbled about the EU but many folk moved to mainland Europe, made their homes there, whilst other Europeans moved here. Now, it seems, according to May’s dictat, they’ll no longer be a right of automatic entry to this country for our fellow Europeans on the other side of the channel.    Or, perhaps, no right to stay here if some petty bureaucrat decides otherwise.

If May wants to take it to her “logical” conclusion, she should cancel the Eurostar and fill in the Channel Tunnel. That would help to make a clean break. It wouldn’t have kept the Normans out of course (don’t forget, they were Europeans), or indeed previous waves of Europeans who came here to settle. But who cares these days?

Meanwhile there are plenty of folk both sides of the Channel who’re now working to re-define their nationalities to their best advantage. All because May has decided to make a “clean break”.

Scots wha-hey?

And what of our Scottish neighbours, where the voters decided by a clear majority that they wanted to remain part of Europe?  Scotland has a clear, historically-based sense of separate nationhood, and they don’t want to be bulldosed into a “clean break” with the EU, thank you very much.

What the Scots would be happy to accept it seems would be some kind of “associate status” with the EU – rather similar to that enjoyed by our friends in Norway.  But Theresa May has made it clear that she wants nothing to do with that.

So, if you live in Scotland, where do you go from here?  Hold another referendum?  In which case would May accept a result in favour of Scottish independence?  I wouldn’t know, but then I’m only an old Dinosaur, who enjoys his trips north of the border. Whenever I can. But it’s worth mulling over.

Crossing the river:

I’m afraid I never managed to cross the Severn by way of the old ferry.  It ceased to run in the 1960s – the day before the gleaming new bridge that replaced it was royally opened.

And so the ferry became the stuff of legend, whilst the bridge became something to wonder over.  It was a thing of beauty – and it only cost half a crown (two shillings and sixpence in old money) to motor across.

This was fine – for all except nostalgic thrill seekers who looked back the days of the old ferry.  But then came the craze for privatising everything in sight, and the bridge was franchised out to a French company. Inevitably the cost of crossing started to go up, and up. Not only that, when the new bridge (which bypasses us in the Forest altogether) was built, they threatened to close it down.

It’s now well over six quid. But here’s some good news. It seems the franchise is due to run out in 2018 when it should revert to public ownership. And the estimated cost to cross should fall to three pounds.  I don’t know how this compares to two shillings and sixpence in old money, but it could be worse.

Of course some years back all bridge tolls in Scotland were scrapped completely. But then they’ve never suffered from a Tory government.


DINOSAUR: Grammar Schools? Back to the past!

In Dinosaur, Uncategorized on November 18, 2016 at 1:59 pm

dinosaurI confess that when I was merely a fledgling dinosaur I was sent packing to a grammar school.  Well, back in those days it was something which we had no control over.

Under the “tripartite system”, brought in after the war, schools were divided into three difference types that were meant, theoretically, to suit children’s particular set of abilities. Basically, at the age of 11 years, youngsters were tested to see which kind of school suited their particular talents. Well, that was the theory anyway.

The choice was between the grammar schools, or the secondary modern and the technical high schools. But as the technical schools were to say the least in short supply, it usually boiled down to a choice between the grammar and the secondary modern – and basically if you didn’t gain a grammar school place you were deemed to have “failed”, and were packed off to the nearest secondary modern.

So there I was, my satchel on my back, heading for a small West Country grammar school – but completely unaware of those who were destined for the local secondary modern school. As far as I could see they just didn’t exist.  The set-up basically created a system of social division.

My kids on the other hand went to comprehensive school.  They attended their neighbourhood “comp”, mingling with those from the local community and benefited from a sense of social integration.

Then some bright spark of a politician came up with the notion of what became known as “parental choice”. In other words they, the parents, could send their children to any school within the local education area that they wanted to.  As a result we now had a structure based on social fragmentation.

Goodness knows how we’d describe the system we’ve got now. Me, I’m lost for words. To make matters worse, the Tories (well, some of them) now think it’s a good idea to bring back the grammar schools – a notion that should have been buried decades ago.

Bang to rights!

I’ve been a follower of the radio soap, “The Archers” on and off for as long as I can remember. Its catchy signature tune always evokes a sense of rural cosiness in the community of Ambridge where everyone knows their place.

But occasionally a plot line crops up that shakes the foundations of the old order. The example of Helen Titchmarsh (nee Archer) and her knife attack on her controlling, scheming husband Rob has had millions gripped over many weeks, with Helen in custody and the wicked Rob recovering – and scheming.

Last month we had the grand finale. The trial. With Rob still making plans for his future, the two of them have their time in court. And finally, in an hour long episode, the jury argues its way to a conclusion. She’s not guilty. No doubt there were cheers from millions of listeners glued to their wireless sets.

I thought the conflicting opinions of the members of the jury were particularly well handled – particularly the emerging views of the self-appointed “chairman” who, it’s finally revealed, has a very dim view of women and feels they’re capable of all sorts, in order to keep men in their place. Gradually, however, a more rational set of opinions emerges – and Helen is found not guilty.

No doubt the verdict gained the applause of all those listeners who support women’s rights.  And that’s how it should be. And congratulations to the Archers’ script writers for their handling of this particular story line!

Just curious:

Being a curious sort of dinosaur, a number of questions have crossed my mind recently. For example, in the great purge by Labour’s head office, how many members of the party have been expelled or suspended?  And how many of these found themselves unable to vote in the leadership elections as a result?  Not only that, but how many would have cast their vote for Jeremy Corbyn, and how many for Owen Smith?

Just wondering, you understand


MODERN TIMES: the Dinosaur column

In Dinosaur, Uncategorized on October 4, 2016 at 12:16 pm
dinosaurBecoming a Corbynista
It doesn’t take much to transform a plodding old dinosaur into a raving “Corbynista”.  An attempted Parliamentary coup is just the ticket. For that was what the vote of “no confidence” in Jeremy effectively was.
After all, you don’t suddenly decide to take a vote on the spur of the moment. No siree. This was a case of secret meetings in Parliamentary committee rooms (though no longer smoke filled these days). How many were involved in setting it all up is difficult to say – but once the plot was hatched, it was time to get the bandwagon rolling.
Why this time was chosen I haven’t the faintest idea. Or whether any thought was given to such folk as the the Party members out in the sticks, and their reaction. But then if you live in a Westminster bubble, cocooned  from your membership back at constituency level then maybe you don’t.
As this is being written, the matter is far from resolved. It will probably have moved on apace by the time this issue of the Clarion appears in print.  In which case all these words should be regarded as a merely an initial reaction. Watch this space, as they say!
Challenging times, post-brexit:
It seems to be all change, following the result of the EU referendum. Cameron has taken his bat home – and, incredible though it may seem, so has Nigel Farage. One might think that he’d be happy basking in his achievement of being on the winning side when it came to the vote. But no.
Farage claims he wants to relax, and get his life back. Take a holiday, perhaps. Prop up a few bars with the odd pint in his hand. According to the Daily Express though, one factor in his resignation was the death threats that he’d received during the campaign.
Death threats, I’m sure, can be scary. At the very least they’re unsettling and unpleasant.  But in the longer term, it’ll be interesting to see what impact his resignation will have on Ukip nationally. Will any contest for the leadership lead to fall out?  Will the Ukip momentum stutter and grind to a halt?  Or even slip into reverse gear?  Already one  councillor here in the Forest has resigned from Ukip, prophesying that more will follow.
Ukip has had a chequered  history since it was founded several decades ago. After all, the one point that united its disparate membership was opposition to the EU. In its early years, it faced competition from the better-funded “Referendum Party” set up by James Goldsmith.  Later, just when it was getting going,  it suffered a split  in its ranks. Those were the Robert Kilroy-Silk years – when he failed to get his own way he walked out, forming a new party called “Veritas”, taking some of Ukip’s membership with him.
Now, without Farage at the helm, where will it be going next?  Mind you, it isn’t the first time he’s resigned – but I assume  that this time he means it.!
Threat to our buses:
The Forest’s doughty bus campaigner, Sue Dubois, is continuing her campaign to save the Dean’s network of bus services from being decimated.
One of the problems, of course, is that the bulk of them are run by that monolithic company Stagecoach – whose watch word is profit, and more of it. But the planned cuts in this case actually come from the County Council, that dishes out the odd subsidy.
Councillors (all no doubt with cars at their disposal) have come up with proposals to axe evening and weekend services in our neck of the woods. Under threat is the number 23, Gloucester, Lydney, Coleford route, the number 30, Gloucester, Cinderford, Coleford, and the 24, Gloucester, Mitcheldean to Joys Green bus. Other local shopping services are under threat.
Bus users are being given a number of options, all of which come under the general heading of “which cuts do you prefer?” In other words, leaving the council to decide who’re really going to be the losers when it comes to dishing out the subsidies.

MODERN TIMES: the Dinosaur column

In Dinosaur on July 30, 2016 at 8:34 pm


I’m not a supporter of the notion of elected mayors wielding political power. And I‘m more than happy that we don’t have any of that nonsense in the Forest or in Gloucester.

As I see it, mayors are there to fill purely ceremonial roles. Chairing council meetings, wearing their chain of office, opening fetes or meeting visiting dignitaries – that sort of thing.

But having laid my cards on the table, I was glad that the Labour candidate in Bristol had successfully defeated the previous “independent”. Marvin Rees beat red-trousered George Ferguson by a big majority, and Bristolians can now rest easy in their beds.

Ferguson could be described as a controversial figure. Apart from schemes for trying to sort out the city’s traffic congestion, I think his two decisions that stirred up most controversy were the “metrobus scheme” and the sale of Avonmouth and Royal Portbury docks – thus disposing of important assets to the city.

It was the metrobus scheme that created the most active opposition, when his route ploughed through woodland and allotments (many of which had been worked for generations). Protestors took to the trees to block the route. It’s worth adding that Ferguson always claimed “green” credentials. In this instance he had a funny way of showing it.


We’re now on the brink of the referendum on membership of the European Union and the sound and fury via the media has reached fever pitch. Politicians have put their case for “in” or “out” (well, some sort of parody of their case, anyway), while the turmoil increased around them.

One would think that public interest in the Forest and across the Wye would have been rising as a result – but I have to confess that I haven’t noticed much sign of it. How many doorstep chats have you had on the topic? How many arguments have you heard in the stores or pubs? And how many leaflets have popped through your door so far?

Having said that, the debate did hit Lydney briefly back on May 21st. with a short foray outside the Co-op by the “Leave” campaign, but it didn’t seem to have disturbed the Saturday shoppers much – if at all.

If it wasn’t for the newspapers and the telly, I reckon we’d have all stayed in the dark about it. Mind you, if you’d tried to follow the media debate you were probably not much wiser.


There are still quite a few folk in the Forest who skim through the Citizen every day (though not, of course, across the other side of the Wye). And I’m sure that those Forest readers will have noticed a few changes in the paper.

For starters it’s no longer owned by the Daily Mail group. Instead it’s been snapped up by the Daily Mirror.

The Citizen has a long history, going back to 1876, though its roots are even earlier than this. Under the old Daily Mail regime it was very much a local “establishment” kind of paper, casting a rosy hue over the city of Gloucester and beyond into the Forest and over to Stroud. All was well with its world, and the city was always moving forward, with new shopping opportunities and businesses springing up like Spring blossom. It was enough to make many readers somewhat cynical.

Now that the Mirror has taken over at the helm, it doesn’t have that same gloss. There’s a new occasional edginess to it. There’s been a piece on sleeping rough in the city, for example, and mention of unemployment figures. And, if I may say so, I think it’s all the better for it.

Oh, and one other thing if I may mention it. It’s no longer published from Gloucester. Its new home is in Cheltenham, where its sister paper, the Echo, is produced.


MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on May 3, 2016 at 4:39 pm

A surreptitious sharpening of knives:

dinosaurThere are those in the Parliamentary Labour Party who refuse to accept the fact that Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party fair and square. They act as though their exclusive little club had been invaded by an uncouth outsider and go out of their way to make it difficult for Labour to function as a cohesive opposition in the Commons.

Few of them, though, go so far as to advocate openly outright rebellion. They prefer to throw their toys out of their play pen. Or sit in the corner and sulk. But it seems there are those who are ready to plot a coup in the party.

An interesting, if somewhat incoherent, piece appeared in the Daily Telegraph in early March by one Tom Harris, an unreformed and unrepentant Blairite.  He’s all for mounting a coup to oust the “selfie-loving Corbynite radicals” (sic). And he’s nominated  deputy leader Tom Watson to lead the rebellion against Jeremy Corbyn.

Why Tom Watson, I hear you ask?  Well, according to Harris , it was Watson who master-minded the plot that got rid of Blair and replaced him with Gordon Brown. A politician capable of achieving that should have no difficulty in master-minding a coup against Corbyn. Well that seems to be the logic behind this rather rambling article aired in the Telegraph.

I must say that I was completely unaware of such a plot to get rid of Blair – but us dinosaurs do tend to be a bit naïve. We just don’t live in the world of plots and counter-plots .

Of course there’s no evidence to suggest that Tom Watson has the slightest inclination to attempt such an act. And such fanciful  notions don’t take into account the reaction of  Labour’s membership. But then, of course, the Blairites never did.

Remember the BNP?

Remember the British National Party?  The far right, racist party that seemed to be making such an impact a decade or so ago?  Then it imploded and seemed to disappear from the scene.

Well it seems it’s still with us, just about. It’s putting up the odd candidate or two – including one in the contest for London mayor. Its slogan seems to be “don’t vote for a Muslim Mayor!”

But an interesting news item recently revealed that the party had come into some money. £180,000 had been left to the BNP by two members who had died and left the money in their wills.

The organisation “Hope Not Hate” has accused the BNP of gaining money through “coffin chasing”.

Life in the fast lane.

The name of Adrian Beecroft  isn’t perhaps very well-known – unless you’re in the heady world of hedge fund banking and the like.

He’s currently part of the financial set up that controls Wonga. But before that he was “chief investment officer” for a venture capital financial outfit called Apex.

One of his acquisitions was that of the supermarket chain, Somerfield. Somerfield, it seemed, had run into difficulty after it took over KwikSave. Merging the two concerns had cost more than had been bargained for.

Mr. Beecroft was able to acquire Somerfield in 2005 – and then, in 2009, it sold it on to the Co-operative Group at a handsome profit.  Apex did very well out of it, the Co-op did less so. Now many of the Co-op’s former Somerfield stores have been sold on (like the one in Chepstow, for example), in order to finance its growth in the smaller convenience store sector.

Incidentally, Mr Beecroft has donated more than £500,000 to the Tory Party since 2006.


MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on March 9, 2016 at 1:31 pm

The dwindling world of local newspapers

dinosaurWhat’s been happening in the world of local newspapers? Once they were the lifeblood of their communities. The means whereby folk found out what was going on, or kept in touch. They were the local heartbeat.

But sadly no more. Over the past few years they have been going down like ninepins. Many long established papers have folded, others have been sold on. Some local dailies have even found themselves relegated to weekly publication.

There’s one simple reason. They’re no longer as profitable as they used to be. Once they could be a licence to print money. Advertising poured into their columns. But no more. That precious revenue is going elsewhere – and some like the Daily Mail group (which owned amongst many other titles, the Gloucester Citizen), started to cut back. There were rumours that the Citizen was to be put up for sale. But then finally three years ago it passed to consortium called “Local World”, in which the Daily Mail still kept an interest.


But cutbacks have been made. Local news coverage has been pruned, to the point that the Forest now only has a couple or so pages of coverage once a week. Local columnists have all but disappeared.

In more confident times, the Citizen had taken over our own local weekly, the Forester – once a broadsheet owned by the Bright family. Later, as profits started to shrink, it was sold on, to the Tindle group (which owns our weekly freebie, the Review).

Now, though, more change seems to be afoot in the consortium that controls Local World. As we on the Clarion slowly go to press the news is that the Trinity Mirror group is to buy (possibly) a controlling interest in the Local World group.

Well, at least it isn’t Rupert Murdoch.

A special prize for dictators?

Who’d have thought it? A small news item caught my eye which stated that this year’s “Confucius Prize” (described as China’s equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize) has been awarded to… wait for it … Robert Mugabe.

I just wondered what the qualifications were to win what I presume is regarded as such a prestigious award? Longevity, perhaps? I’m sure Confucius would have had something pithy to say about it.

Tough being rich:

What is it with money for some people? That inner drive to accumulate more and more millions despite the fact that you end up with far more than you could ever spend in one lifetime?

Something like one per cent of the population now have more dosh than most of the rest of us put together. Yes, I know, most of us would like a bit more cash to ensure the security of a decent home, enough to spend on food, clothing, and what I believe are called utilities. With, of course, some extra for such things as holidays or leisure activities. But most of us don’t really hanker after the millions that pour into the coffers of the uber-rich. Do we?

But it seems that even these multi-millionaires have their problems. Call it conscience, if you like. Many have become aware of their privileged position and have become troubled by it.

Well, fear not. There are now psychologists who are only too happy to offer therapy, counselling, and the whole package, to help such people get over their guilt. (Or as it’s now labelled, “wealth fatigue syndrome”). At a price naturally.

Of course there’s one simple solution to the problem. Give all your surplus millions away. Try indulging in a bit of wealth re-distribution. I expect there are plenty of accountants willing to help out, and I’m sure the wealthy can afford the fees.

Meanwhile I can rest assured knowing that whatever problems I may have, at least I don’t suffer from “wealth fatigue syndrome”. If only.