Friday, July 15, 2011


To start at the end this is my 600 th Tilting at Windmills blog. Hence it seems a good place as any to say goodbye, for now. I have enjoyed my time tilting at the numerous windmills out there but for the next couple of months I have to tilt at others in real life.

My Gibraltar Viewpoint column will still appear on a weekly basis and Looking to the Left updated as and when my features appear in The Morning Star. You will find the links on the right hand of this page.

For now I leave you with Richard ‘Stinker’ Murdoch. He was born in 1907 and died in 1990 during which period he became a household name as a radio comedian as well as a film and TV actor.

He went to Charterhouse School, where a ‘Stinker’ almost certainly existed in the dorm. Whilst at Pembroke College, Cambridge he joined the Footlights. His big radio break came with the BBC comedy programme Band Wagon that ran from 1938 to 1940. He was part of a double act with Arthur Askey and it is from there he acquired his ‘Stinker’ handle. During World War II he served in the RAF.

Amongst his many roles he appeared with Kenneth Horne in BBC Radio’s Much Binding In The Marsh (1944-54), The Men from the Ministry (1962 – 77) and even appeared in the first TV series of Blackadder. His final TV appearance came a few months after his death in an episode of Rumpole of the Bailey where he played Uncle Tom, the senior briefless barrister in chambers.

When I rejoin you the name “Stinker” may have been added to two other members of that clan. Richard would have been appalled, like the rest of us, by the antics of Rupert and James but whilst he was a loveable, much admired character they certainly are not.

See you soon!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I am sure that many readers have been glued to their seats in front of the TV in recent days as the revelations about Murdoch’s iffy empire poured in and his bid for BSkyB unravelled.

However one man actually made me fall out of my seat. He was Andy Hayman who incredibly was a former Met assistant commissioner and was in overall charge of the 2006 investigation.

He was up before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee and one of the MPs, Lorraine Fullbrook, described him as a “dodgy geezer”. Which is ironic as the chairman of the committee, the senior Labour MP Keith Vaz, has had his collar felt numerous times by the House of Commons authorities. As of yet Hayman is as straight as a dye till he’s ever found to be bent as a cork screw.

Hayman’s problem is he is a Cockney. Well many of us were born in the “Smoke” but few of us sound like extras playing small time crooks in an episode of Arthur Daley’s Minder.

Within months of leaving the force Hayman took a job with The Times, one of Murdoch’s upmarket organs. Not only did he see nothing wrong with this given the fact the Met have been investigating News International one has to wonder how if Hayman “can’t talk proper” he manages to write.

He told the committee his boyhood dream was to be either a journalist or a copper. A dream for him, a nightmare for both professions!

He also admitted he had enjoyed dinners with News International staff despite conducting an investigation into their behaviour although he wasn’t quite sure when the dinners took place. “It could look bad,” he admitted, “It does look bad.”

Hayman even had the nerve to mock the former Labour Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s complaints about phone-hacking saying he’d eat his words if the claims were true. I would have thought the verbally challenged Hayman and Prescott had much in common and as Prescott’s claims have been shown to be true we all await Plod of the Yard’s paper eating feat. I guess we have to wait for him to extract his ‘daisy roots’ from his mouth first.

There are allegations that police officers had been bribed and all those appearing before the Committee were asked if they had accepted any iffy cash. The previous two officers replied firmly they had not. Hayman lost his cool: “Good God!” he yelled, “I'm not letting her get away with it! I can’t believe you asked that!” She, the doughty Lorraine Fullbrook had, and his response suggested this man doth protest too much!

Having watched Hayman before the committee it would be easy to image him as a DI down the local nick. What is as shocking as the Murdoch revelations is that Plod of the Yard was one of the Met’s most senior officers. Pot Pourri! As Del Boy would say!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Viewers of British television of a certain age will remember well Lance Corporal Jones in the BBC comedy series about the Home Guard – Dad’s Army. One of his catchphrases was “Don’t Panic!” which he shouted repeatedly whilst doing just that.

Jones would have felt at home in Almaraz in Cáceres last Friday when the nuclear alarm was broadcast over loudspeakers. The town is close to a nuclear power station which the Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear (CSN) says has two reactors.

One of the reactors is currently out of use as it is being refuelled. The CSN stated the other reactor is fully operational with no problems in its security. It is investigating why the warning system to alert people that there has been a technical breakdown had been activated and whether it was intentional.

The Dirección General de Protección Civil which is part of the Ministry of the Interior has sent officials to study the cause of the activation of the loud speaker alarm. Apparently the system can only be activated manually and it is not yet known whether that was deliberate, human error or an electrical fault.

Mayor Sabina Hernández she would be unhappy to learn that the sounding of the alarm had been an act of sabotage. She added the alarm had caused widespread panic in Almaraz and a large number of people had to be treated at the health centre for shock.

She has called in the Guardia Civil to track down the culprit or culprits. If caught Lance Corporal Jones other catchphrase “They don’t like it up ‘em” would seem to suggest a suitable punishment.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


If an opinion poll published by El País on Sunday is correct then PSOE have a mountain to climb to win the general election whoever leads the party. The soundings indicate the Partido Popular have an over 14 per cent lead as Spaniards react with anger to the high levels of unemployment and the financial crisis.

The poll by Metroscopia says 44.7 per cent of those questioned intend to vote for Mariano Rajoy’s PP. PSOE currently led by the prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero with Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba waiting to take over, limps behind on 30.4.

These finds give the PP a 0.5 per cent increase in support over the last month. However in the real life elections – municipal and regional – on May 22 the PP’s lead was just over 10 per cent.

At the last general election in 2008 PSOE had a lead over the PP of 3.6 per cent. This gave Zapatero his second mandate and second victory over Rajoy. Rajoy may be third time lucky but Zapatero will remain undefeated as he will have left the political stage by then.

However the Spain of 2012 will be very different from that in 2008. The economy no longer has the highest growth in the Euro zone. The property bubble has truly burst and unemployment stands at a massive 21 per cent – double the European average. Hence it is no surprise that support for PSOE has tumbled by 13.3 per cent whilst the PP have seen a 4.6 per cent growth.

Perhaps the most depressing fact for PSOE is there seems to be no Rubalcaba bounce in the offing. On July 9 the current first vice president of the government and hard line minister of the interior officially is anointed as the successor to Zapatero. His likely accession has been known for two months but support for PSOE has dropped by 1.3 per cent over that period. In addition 88 per cent of Spaniards believe the PP will form the next government.

Rubalcaba is famous for his hangdog look and the poll readings are likely to add another crease to his face. The fact that he has gone unchallenged to the top job is probably because all the other heavyweights know the writing is on the wall. They don’t want to go down in history as the candidate who led PSOE to a historically heavy defeat. Mind you if Rubalcaba can pull off a miracle recovery...