The spin-out of QinetiQ cost the taxpayer dearly - and 14 people their lives.
Yesterday’s report into the pretty horrific state of affairs that led to the loss of 14 RAF servicemen when their Nimrod aircraft was lost flagged up major failings at the MoD, BAE Systems and QinetiQ.
QinetiQ is an interesting company - it was formely the Government’s research arm, which was ’spun-out’ and unleashed on the market. Yet many of those involved in the spin-out process were also the people who bought up the shares, and now stand to make a tidy profit.
Why is this relevant? Well today QinetiQ’s chief executive, Graham Love, has resigned - in response to the damming report published yesterday by Charles Haddon-Cave (read the full text - PDF).
Some may admire his decision to fall on his sword after four years at the helm. But consider this - Love paid £108,000 for his stake in the company - and it is now worth £18m. That’s an increase of more than 16,666% in just the three years. Call me a cynic, but you have to ask whether the shares were properly valued at sale.
So while the relatives are left to mourn loved ones lost in a shambolic attempt to pursue “efficencies” (read cutting-corners and hoping nobody notices) Love walks away a very rich man. Indeed, to rub salt in the wound the company’s statement today is, as Iain Martin points out, “breathtakingly complacent” and barely registers any sentiment of regret.
I believe in the market - but some situations are just not compatable with a profit motive. When it comes to the safety and security of our armed forces, there is simply no room for risk-taking in search of cost cutting. “Efficency” is about performing a process quicker and cheaper, but not undermining the outcome. Clearly here the profit motive of BAE and QinetiQ did undermine the process itself, and lives were lost as a result.
Both Love’s huge profit and the Nimrod crash should be reflected on the whole private-sector-providing-public-services agenda, or else it will not just be taxpayer money that is lost.
Oh, and for a final, gut-wrenching twist, Love’s replacement is the former chief executive DeLaRue - a company who, literally, print money.
The exoneration of Lord Rennard because the rules didn’t define ‘main residence’ takes the piss out of voters, out of grass roots political activists and of our entire system of Government.
The past few months have been pretty remarkable in British Politics. Those of us on the grass roots have been left looking like idiots as some of our superiors in Westminster were exposed as nothing other than cash-hungry gits happy to fleece the taxpayer for any number of luxuries. From building property empires to moat cleaning and in some cases just scams to pay themselves more, it has been a dark period.
Recently, the ‘Legg Letter’s have been in the news, with many in Westminster squealed that this is a retrospective attempt to change the rules. While I would argue that the rule that all expenses must be incurred “wholly, necessarily, and exclusively” for the performance of parliamentary duties is pretty clear, I can see the point that if the authorities gave the go-ahead to incur the cost, it’s pretty bad to then turn round months later to ask for the cash back.
While the Legg letters may be a case to argue, thes ruling on Lord Rennard is certainly not. Frankly, it gives the impression that Westminster is packed to the brim with utter morons.
Ask anyone on the street where their ‘main residence’ is and most people will say it’s where they live (for us mere mortals with only one property). For those with two or more properties, they will probably answer where they regard as home - usually where they spend the most time, or their families reside. It’s not that a difficult concept, really.
Unfortunately it seems for our unelected lawmakers in the House of Lords, it is causing some bother.
Responding to a complaint into Lord Rennard’s expenses claims, (made by the Sunlight Centre) the House of Lords Clerk of the Parliaments’ Office ruled there was no case to answer. Why?
In “the absence of any definition of main address in the current guidance to the House of Lords’ Members Expenses Scheme, I have come to the conclusion that I should not uphold the complaint.”
I cannot describe how angry this makes me. On the doorstep, we are trying hard to convince voters that while some politicians may have broken the rules, as a cause politics remains a noble one. I would find it difficult to go out on the doorstep and look people in the eye if I didn’t genuinely believe that.
Frankly this kind of loophole-exploiting, idiot-card playing crap takes the piss. It takes the piss out of the voters, out of grass roots political activists and of our entire system of Government.
If you need someone to define what your main residence is for you, I honestly have no issue in saying you are probably not in any way qualified to be scrutinising laws that affect millions of people.
The House of Lords clerk has displayed exactly the kind of spinelessness that the Fees office did when approving expenses claims for moat cleaning, ignored flipping of second homes and failed to question so many dubious claims in any way.
Sadly, as yet I have yet to hear a single elected (or indeed unelected) member of either house of Parliament say so.
So it falls to us - the public, the activists, the party members - to shout until something changes.
As I was about to switch the laptop off last night, a story was breaking about how the Guardian had been gagged from reporting Parliament. Not something that had been said in Parliament - but a question that had been put down and is due to be answered later this week.
The full Guardian story is here, but the amazing paragraph is:
“Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.
The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.”
The injunction was obtained by Carter-Ruck, a firm which many readers of Private Eye will be familiar with for their similarly restrictive injunctions obtained on behalf of clients.
Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.
The question pertains to this report - which apparently Carter Ruck are now trying to supress. Get it while it’s hot! Linky. It discusses how the oil company Trafigura tried to cover up pollution in Africa.
Quite how it can be in the public interest to stop a national newspaper discussing Parliament is beyond me. Particularly when the subject of the entirely justified question is the illegal dumping of toxic waste. This goes far beyond paparazzi intrustion of celebrities or gossip mongering, this is an issue which is absolutely in the global public interest to have out in the open.
There can be no doubt now that our libel laws need changing - and quickly. The interesting dimension about this case is the online element - the more tweets, blogs and social media messages about the case, the harder it is to argue the material is not already in the public domain - a significant aspect of the court’s deliberations when considering a gagging injunction.
I hope this blog adds to the weight upon the court to release the Guardian - and I hope that the other media outlets see fit to report the gagging as soon as possible. It is a travesty that in the Today programme headlines the story was not even aluded to.
Who gives a carter-fuck? This is our democracy and it isnt anyones to gag.
This week will be my first Conservative conference - indeed my first conference at all. Not quite sure what to expect, but I think it’s fair to say that the affair will be a whole lot more positive than last week’s Labour conference.
Before I head over I’m shooting the Cribs at leeds academy, which should be good as it’s the first time I’ll have seen them since Johnny Marr joined.
But tomorrow morning things kick off, and I’m looking forward to being at the thick of the policy debate in the party, and to seeing first hand how we begin to put our manifesto for government to the country.
As preparation for conference, I drank quite a lot of corona last night while watching ‘The Filth and the Fury’ - a really good film, and an excellent reminder why people in positions of responsibility - particularly MPs and Councillors - should largely keep the fuck out of cultural events. If I have that argument at confernece, I’ll try to remember not to swear.
So anyway, if I don’t blog for the next week, you know where I am. If you want to follow me on twitter, I’ll be tweeting throughout the week. I’m at twitter.com/nickpickles !
Labour have today publishied their campaign document “A Choice for Britain” - and in it is a brilliant example of attention to detail in marketing photography.
Not only are the two girls on the middle row so depressed the appear close to punching someone, but there is no way the guy on the back row is the same age as the boy happily waving his hand in the air. Maybe he’s been held down a few years?!
Then there’s the child on the back row so eager to be in the photo they’re trying to sleep/be sick/hide and the diversity consideration is impressive too. Exactly the same numbers of boys and girls (I’m guessing the anonymous head is a boy) and they have 5 different racial groups represented.
Then again, quite why one child is waving, the girl on the middle row is giving a very lacklustre power-fist and the girl at the back right appears to be mid ‘woop-woop’. Also, it does look like the guy on the back row is throwing a paper aircraft.
And finally, what is the kid at the front working on?! I dont remember maths lessons in my day involving cartoons. And having said that, if you peer below the armpit of the child on the right of the front row, the girl definitely isnt reading the same as everyone else.
If these are the faces of Labour education, something has gone seriously wrong somewhere.
Gordon Brown, his friends would have us believe, is really a barrel of laughs - if only the media would stop portraying him as otherwise.
In an interview with Newsnight last night, Peter Mandleson again pursued the idea that Gordon Brown isnt unpopular - it’s just that people haven’t got to know him. In listing off GB’s qualities, Mandleson used a rather interesting phrase “He’s a bit of a steamroller” (About 29.30 on Newsnight 30/9/09)
Well, it seams Gordon has taken this idea to heart! Appearing on Sky News, Gordon was clearly in steamroller mood - such was his desire to get away from the interview. Thought I’m not sure how Mandy would describe Gordon attempting to make Adam Boulton’s head explode simply by staring *really hard* at it. Steamrollers also lack manners, as far as I can tell the PM doesn’t say “thank you” to Boulton. But then, as expected, he steamrollers off, with his microphone still attached.
And, just when you think it can’t get any better, the always helpfull Boutlon trys to tell the PM that he needs to stay where he is, as his next interview will take place in the same place. Brown simply responds “no, no” and viewers are left with Boulton’s face cracking up. Once a steamroller, always a steamroller eh?!
Also worth noting that’s the second Sky reporter in 2 days who was visibly moved to gurn on-camera at Gordon’s behaviour. You can see the clip here on GuidoTV. (I think the hammer-horror sound effects might not have been on the live broadcast mind!)