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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Lifestyle: Charity begins at home...legalised fleecing of the good-natured British public

Lifestyle: It is about time that charities got their act together and instead of lining their own pockets with big salaries and perks, actually used the public’s money primarily for the purpose it was intended.  And isn't it time the Charity Commission did its job and stopped the legalised fleecing of the good-natured British public.

Personally I have stopped making contributions to certain charity organisations, which appear to serve the people who work for them, rather than for the purpose intended. Executives of some of our biggest charities earn twice the salary of our Prime Minister, with an unhealthy concern about their own substantial pension nests.

The latest charity to disgrace itself is the League Against Cruel Sports. As reported in The Times, it has used donations, including a large bequest from a supporter, on substantial pay increases for staff and foreign travel for various executives, including its respected vice-president Bill Oddie. It is a shame that an organisation with good intentions is embroiled in accusations of bad financial management and poor judgement.

It is not the only charity to attract bad publicity over the years. Frankly, I have tired of seeing television advertisements tugging on my heart-strings for donations for deserving causes, when the organisations themselves are sitting in plush offices on piles of cash.

I don’t expect people to work for nothing (although many volunteers do), but the charity sector has become a magnet for fat cats more interested in the personal rewards it offers. The Charity Commission needs to use whatever power it has to regulate the sector and check where the public’s money is really being spent.


Celebrity: Vernon Kay and his sex texts...the brain in his pants

Celebrity:  He can’t even put it down to youthful indiscretion, because at 41 the TV presenter Vernon Kay should know better than send even more sex texts to a glamour model.  Six years ago his marriage to Tess Daly nearly came to an end over texts to the same model. What an idiot he must be to think that the tabloids would not be contacted again.

Vernon Kay, the brain in his pants

Tess Daly is main host on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and regularly spoke of her strong marriage. She was devastated when the media splashed reports of his sex texts with model Rhian. Although the twosome never actually met, the texts between them suggested had they done so it would not have been just to share a cocktail or two.

Six years ago it nearly lost him his marriage and both he and Tess have worked hard to present a united front. Alas, it seems he has allowed the brain in his pants to put his marriage in the firing line again and one wonders if his wife will gloss over the hurt and humiliation this time round.

As for Rhian, she has been busy planning her own wedding for next year and is probably saving real hard. It’s unfortunate she confided to “a source” who felt the urge to spill the beans to The Sun. The poor girl, all this publicity must be so embarrassing for her.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Lifestyle: Evans above! New-Look Top Gear proving not to be fun, fun, fun.....

Lifestyle: The BBC had no choice but to fire Jeremy Clarkson after he smacked a producer in the gob. It was a decision bosses made through gritted teeth because with him in the driving seat Top Gear was one of its biggest exports across the world. With Chris Evans now in charge, filming of the new-look Top Gear is underway, but proving not to be, in the words of the Beach Boys, fun, fun, fun.

Chris Evans - not having fun, fun, fun making Top Gear

Chris Evans fronted some of the most inventive TV programmes during the 90s, including Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast, Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush and TFI Friday, the latter attracting big name stars in a frantic, raucous setting. He sold his production company and is probably one of the few presenters worth more than the many high-profile stars he features on his Radio 2 Breakfast Show.

He is a serious control freak and the pressure of producing a hit show following the departure of Jeremy Clarkson has caused major tantrums in the production office, with the show’s transmission date still up in the air. The fact that Evans is a big star in the UK, but unknown elsewhere, has worried BBC chiefs who hired Matt Le Blanc, the Friends actor, as a co-presenter. Apparently this was done behind Evans back, despite his eminent position on the show. 

Le Blanc has been involved in controversial scenes when he undertook a car stunt very close to the Cenotaph in London, erected in memory of the war dead, which caused outrage. The American actor may have been unaware of the monument’s significance but the show’s producers must have known. If they did know, then their judgement was, to say the least, questionable and if they didn’t, then their ignorance is sad. This particular segment will not be shown when the show eventually broadcasts. 

Several people associated with the show have resigned or lost their jobs because of bad judgement and Evan’s behaviour, but he has now had to accept a new executive overseer, Claire Pizey, who has the experience and respect not to accept any tears or tantrums from the show’s main star. It is likely he would go before her.

Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson and his cohorts was always going to be a gamble regardless of who was involved, but the negativity surrounding the new production before it hits our screens suggests that critics have already sharpened their pencils and their barbs. It isn’t looking good for Chris, but hey, he has surprised people in the past.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Politics: For George Osborne, it could be a life-changer, but not in a positive way

Politics: What I find shocking about the whole debacle over the proposed cuts for the disabled, is that for the individuals involved, some of the most vulnerable in our society, the reduction in payments would have been devastating, but for the government the £1.4 billion saving represents just a piddling amount compared to the billions of pounds it spends annually. For George Osborne, it could also be a life-changer but not in a positive way.

Iain Duncan Smith - his department produced proposals
Now, I actually think that the whole welfare system is a mess, wasteful and abused. But what kind of society do we live in when a very rich Chancellor can smugly remove much-needed money from disabled people, at the same time reducing taxes for the moderately better off and even more for the serious rich. 
 Oh, how George Osborne must have laughed when he agreed the measure with his well-paid team at the Treasury, presumably while eating his top-of-the-free-range beef burger, washed down with a glass or two of finest claret. “That will show them we are all in it together!”
The man should be ashamed and because of Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation, it has been exposed as a nasty, mean-spirited, proposal worthy of the enemies of Robin Hood. Fortunately, the move to rob the poor to pay the rich has now been cancelled, but it has raised questions about this government’s whole attitude towards welfare and its lack of empathy for those who need it most. How handy to use the Welfare budget as a contingency fund to balance the books!
While we should be grateful to Iain Duncan Smith for drawing attention to the government’s contempt for the vulnerable, his road to Damascus moment has the whiff of something more than his concern for social justice.
 As the minister in charge, it was his department who made the money-saving proposals in the first place and previous ones, like the Bedroom Tax, which he was deliriously happy to support and defend. If he felt so strongly about the cuts, then surely he should have made his concerns known well before this latest budget? Perhaps a threat of resignation a couple of years ago might have saved thousands of people from heart-break.
He maintains his resignation has nothing to do with his position within the LEAVE Europe campaign and we must take him at his word. For a man who has served as leader of the Conservative party it must have taken a lot of guts to resign from the cabinet and in doing so push the knife into Chancellor George Osborne AND the Prime Minister. 

 Meanwhile, could Mr Cameron and friends cut out the mantra about being the "One Nation" party. It sounds rehearsed and so insincere under the circumstances. 

Thursday, 17 March 2016

USA Election 2016: Donald Trump, the snake oil salesman

USA Election 2016: Donald Trump reminds me of the snake oil salesman who promises a cure for all ailments, fully aware he can never deliver on his claims, but with the self-belief of the confidence trickster that he can get away with it.

Donald Trump - all the talents of a Snake Oil Salesman

For those of us outside the USA, it is a frightening thought that the Presidency, the most powerful office in the world, is within his reach. You have to admire his chutzpah though!

But, how could such a man, who utters drivel every time he opens his mouth, be in this position? When the journey started he was seen as a novelty act, the joker in the pack, the self-promoter who was in the race as a precursor to his next TV show.

At first his success was attributed to his television fame, his celebrity a magnet for the underclass initially drawn to his rallies. But, the more he has opened his gob this rich bigot with the demeanour of a bullying thug has increased his appeal and widened his base. To the horror of the Republican elite he is now likely to go up against Hillary Clinton for the Oval Office.

 Of course, as I write this the media are preparing to expand on the many allegations against him and the establishment are drawing lots to decide who will lace his tea with arsenic which, amongst other things, would make his hair fall out. (I have no evidence of the latter, but stranger things have happened!). 

The money is on Mrs Clinton winning the final battle, but if Trump is the Republican candidate, then questions will remain as to how a country like the United States has created an environment of such dissatisfaction that a man like him can go so far up the political ladder. When all the ballyhoo is over, will President Clinton be able to reach out to his supporters and who the hell are they?

And say he did win the whole shebang? Well, that’s democracy in action, but not as we know it.