John Reid: my own little lovepuppy
I know I promised a return to quality on this place, but this is going to be more like Popbitch. Sorry...
Politico spot: John Reid coming out of the Cavendish Square exit of the Oxford Street branch of John Lewis c.4pm this afternoon, arm in arm with a brunette in her thirties. Was this his daughter, or is he following the precedent of his predecessor (but one) as Home Secretary and getting an inappropriate bit on the side?
Ha! Take that, Guido! I can do unsubstantiated rumour as well as the next man - and this isn't even "recycled Westminster gossip" (copyright David Miliband), but my own, all-original gossip, made from 100% never-before-used scarce natural resources and destined for a landfill near you early next year to be pecked at by seagulls (until they get bored, which seagulls are often wont to do, the demanding brutes) before its excavation in a couple of millennia by confused-looking simian archaeologists from a post-apocalypic world which even a rag-wearing Charlton Heston can do nothing to save.
Like the intrepid reporter I am, I would have asked about the precise nature of his relationship with his much younger female companion but, having caught his eye and been glared at until I felt my very soul begin to wither, I noticed the presence of his two eight-foot bodyguards and thought rather better of it.
Before I knew it he had disappeared into his gleaming ministerial Jaguar, left with the engine running outside Cafe Nero on Old Cavendish Street in a flagrant violation of our dear PM Tony Cameron's latest green wheeze, and sped off, his minders in tow in a battered old estate. Not literally in tow, though, that would make the subtlety of an unmarked escort vanish rather rapidly. Not that it was an Escort, mind - I think it was probably a Vauxhall Astra, but know nothing about cars, so can't be certain...
They continued to glare at me through the windows as they went past. Did they recognise the internet's very own Nosemonkey from my MI5 file (which almost certainly exists if they're serious about keeping track of potential dissidents), are Reid and his burly cronies simply sociopaths who despise the mere public nearly as much as the eeeevil terrorists hate our decadent western freedom and democracy, or is the Home Secretary's passion destined not for his charming ladyfriend, but for the scruffy, hungover bloke who was gazing at him from a street corner while smoking a yellowed roll-up with trembling hand?
It could just work - I can be Walter Matthau, staying up late, drinking, having fun; my little Johnny (and he really is little, like a wee Scots Napoleon - only without the sense of style) will be Jack Lemmon, tidying up my mess, making a fuss, then locking me up indefinitely in Belmarsh before deportation for a quick spot of
viciously unrelenting torture gentle interrogation in a Libyan re-education facility that somehow doesn't appear on any maps.
Pug-faced bald authoritarian John Reid and "Internet Website Master" Nosemonkey (copyright BBC London News) - a match made in heaven.
From across the pond, here's what's going to happen if you forget your ID card, assuming our dear government are allowed to have their way...
The French Presidential race - a quick summary
France's next president could be decided today as the Socialists vote in a three-way primary for their candidate to take on Chirac's expected conservative successor, Nicholas Sarkozy.
The front-runner for the socialists (on 49% - via) is currently thought to be Ségolène Royal - who would become France's first female president if she gets all the way to the top - although being a bit of a moderate there is the possibility that the extreme left of the party may launch a last-minute counter-offensive to avoid the risk of having a female Blair in charge.
If Royal doesn't get the nomination today thanks to left-wing stubbornness (remember the last Presidential election, when the socialists were beaten to the final round by Jean Marie Le Pen's fascists, giving the washed-up Chirac a free run to another term?), then Sarkozy is a shoe-in. Assuming, of course, that barking idiot Chirac doesn't decide to go for a third term in office.
Still, if she does win the nomination, according to the latest polls she'd be in by far the best position to take on Sarkozy, steadily gaining ground on him over the last couple of months. The two most likely candidates are currently neck and neck - meaning that the run-up to the election itself at the end of April is likely to be an intriguing one. Whoever wins, it should mark a major shift in the make up of European politics.
Time to start getting to grips with the issues, methinks... Anyone know of any good English language sites on French domestic politics?
State Opening of Parliament today - a good day to bury bad news, so keep your eyes peeled.
Already, we have: UK unemployment at seven year high - see the Office for National Statistics for the full report.
Oh, there was also a handy "web chat" with the civil servant in charge of ID cards published late last night on the 10 Downing Street site. Lots of quality astroturfing, plus the priceless gem:
"ID Cards will reduce the threat of the Surveillance Society and help safeguard civil liberties"Keep an eye on The Government Says today, chaps...
Update: Talking of ID Cards - sign this. (via)
European Parliament welcomes the puns
According to today's EU Politix press review, it is looking increasingly likely that the next president of the European Parliament will be the centre-right EPP group's leader.
(Yep, that's the same group that David Cameron promised the tories he'd pull out of. At some point. Even though practically none of the Tories' MEPs want to leave it because it's huge and gives them leverage to affect EU politics.)
Thanks to the EPP's success in promoting their boy, the headlines about any prevarication or lack of progress on any issues whatsoever in the European Parliament are going to get very tedious over the 30 months he's likely to be in office. For why? His name: Hans-Gert Pöttering.
In other words, we can expect umpteen headline variations on the likes of "European Parliament Pöttering Around Aimlessly" and "Harry Pöttering and the International Trade Dispute of Fire" over the next couple of years.
What japes, eh? Foreigners having funny names that sound like English words that mean other things and stuff - hilarious...
(Sorry - I promised that I'd stop doing stupid posts on here, didn't I?)
On the day of the Royal Premiere of Casino Royale (not the cult classic with Peter Sellers and Orson Welles, obviously), I've been jumping on the Bond bandwaggon over at my movie blog. So go on - pop along and leave a comment and join in the discussion of the merits of the various 007s, and it'll impress my dear employers. Ta!
Extraordinary rendition update
For those still following the extraordinary rendition story, the secret CIA flights allegedly transporting prisioners from The War Against Terror, attention should be turned to Poland, where - according to the EU Observer - "a three day trip to Warsaw produced only vague, contradictory information from low-ranking officials". Added into the mix are missing flight records, and great little snippets like
"former Szymanow airport boss Jerzy Kos told Mr Fava that a suspect flight by Boeing 737 N313 on 22 September 2003 never landed at the airport, while a government official, Marek Pasionek, said the flight could not be inspected after it had landed at Szymanow 'because it was dark.'"As this is all in the midst of Polish local elections, and the rest of the world still seems focussed on what's going to be the new UK/US Iraq policy following the Republicans' poor showing in the US midterms, there doesn't seem to be too much attention being focussed on these rendition investigations at the moment.
But, with only a few weeks to go and despite more than 60 hearings and hundreds of hours of investigations - as well as admissions from the US that these flights exist that directly contradict statements from various European government heads that they had no knowledge that such flights were using their airports - so far not a single piece of evidence of wrongdoing has been found, even though co-operation with such flights would be in direct contravention of umpteen treaty obligations to ensure that due legal process is followed when transferring prisoners from one's own country to another.
If something smells a bit fishy, it's because it most certainly is. This Polish situation looks like it could well be only the most obvious example of Europe-wide collusion in a practice derided by the UN's 1992 Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances as
"an offence to human dignity. It is condemned as a denial of the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and as a grave and flagrant violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights... a violation of the rules of international law guaranteeing, inter alia, the right to recognition as a person before the law, the right to liberty and security of the person"
Most importantly, of course, under Article 17.1,
"Acts constituting enforced disappearance shall be considered a continuing offence as long as the perpetrators continue to conceal the fate and the whereabouts of persons who have disappeared and these facts remain unclarified"
The situation in the UK also remains unclarified. However, were anyone to be able to discover any collusion between the British government and the CIA in the flights known to have used British airports, from the wording of the 1992 UN Declaration it would seem to place our dear overlords in definite breach of international law - whether the prisoners on board those flights went on to be tortured or not...Update:
A very different take on this story has just appeared at Spiked
, which seems to claim that the EU is using Poland as a scapegoat and is about to withdraw the country's voting rights (something which, erm... is impossible without ejecting the country from the Union - I'd have expected a professor of international relations, even one from the University of Westminster, to have known that...)
in an attempt to make it look like anyone cares. But, let's face it, Spiked is hardly known for its insightful, impartial analysis...