The question that dare not be asked

Boris bashing is clearly the new blood sport in Westminster but I fear it is hiding the real issues we should be discussing.  Boris has been castigated for a sentence he let slip to a Select Committee suggesting that the jailed woman – Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – with dual British/Iranian nationality, had been teaching journalism in Iran.  Why did he say this?  Presumably he did not invent it?  Ministers are briefed endlessly on many issues so I am guessing that someone, somewhere told Boris that the lady was doing this.  Whether Boris was wise to let it slip may be another matter but where did the suggestion originate and why is the government clearly taking the line that it was not the case?

Iran is a pretty ghastly place but something must have prompted the state to notice this lady whom we are now to understand was simply holidaying with her family.  Is there some element of truth in what Boris said?  Is it being hushed up in the perfectly reasonable cause  of getting the lady freed and home in Britain?  We may never know but it seems Boris’s enemies are losing no opportunity to knock him.  While thus may be understandable when coming from the Corbynites, it is pretty inexcusable from his own side.

It is also preventing discussion of the real issue.  In this country, teaching about journalism is not a crime and someone doing this would be respected and allowed to get on with it.  However, in Iran it seems this is a criminal activity and that is the real disgrace of this story.  It seems that the lady’s husband understands this and looks to Boris to use his diplomatic sources to work for her release but the socialists and the Remoaners who are deflecting the arguments into Boris bashing are not helping the lady’s cause at all.

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What price a picture?

Auctions of works of art frequently make the headlines for the astonishing price collectors are prepared to pay for a masterpiece.  These are usually paintings or sculptures but photographs have been known to attract large price tickets where the subject was well known or the photographer was a master of the art.

Last Supper
Leonardo da Vinci

Two Sisters
Renoir

However, a new phenomenon has developed in Adderbury.  Our Berry Hill Road lawyer who sought to have two judicial reviews to overturn parish council decisions has taken grave exception to my including his photograph in blogs outlining the decision of the court which found both applications wholly without merit.

He is threatening to claim damages for breach of copyright and is valuing his photograph at £10,000 per day of exposure on this web site.

Given that Leonardo’s Last Supper has been on public display for 519 years, a similar daily value on this masterpiece would make its value some £2 billion so Mr Davies seems to be ranking his visage well above that of the wistful and enigmatic Mona Lisa!

Mandolin & Guitar
Picasso

Now, of course, I can’t show you his picture to allow you to decide whether his estimation of its value is fair and reasonable because I would be breaching his copyright.  However, I can provide you with a link to his business web site where you can inspect his likeness in a friendly video recording.  Tell me what you think. Worth every penny of £10,000 per day?

 

 

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Heading for a rail crash

I am completely baffled to read that a majority of UK electors favour the re-nationalisation of the railways.  I grew up in a country where the trains rarely ran on time and were beset by strikes.  These days, I travel up to London several times per month, using Chiltern Railways from Banbury to Marylebone. I have an old codger’s Rail Card so can get to London and back for £12.00 return if I book early.  Chiltern trains are invariably on time, they are clean, there is free wi-fi, I can always get a seat and usually a table with a power point and the staff are friendly and helpful.  Marylebone is a delightful station, clean and accessible and the tube journey onwards is a lot quicker than trying to catch a taxi.  All-in-all, the travel experience is excellent.  On the rare occasions when a Chiltern train is a few minutes late, it is usually clear that the cause is a late running earlier train run by another rail operating company.

Now I accept that the Chiltern network is very straightforward, running from Marylebone to Birmingham with only a few distracting branch lines so I am sure it is an easier network to manage than more complex ones.  However, it works and works well.  Why change it and  send it back to a state-run monopoly?  Don’t people realise that the state is hopeless at running businesses?  It is subject to political pressures and when the government is a left-leaning one, it will favour the provider over the customer.

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Taxi trials

I know I am going to upset some of my Black cab taxi-driving friends but I smell political opportunism in the decision by Transport for London, aided and abetted by London’s Labour Mayor to withdraw Uber’s licence.  Announcing the decision just before the start of the Labour Party conference gave Sadiq Khan personal media coverage and supported the Corbyn style of nanny knows best.  The reason given by TFL was “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility” in relation to reporting serious criminal offences, obtaining medical certificates and driver background checks.

Uber has also been attacked for its use of zero-hour contracts and I suspect the success of the business in attracting 40,000 drivers in London and 3½ million customers has brought its own share of opposition from the established and monopolistic black cab service.  However, I am pretty sure that most black cab drivers are self-employed and, therefore, on their own zero-hours terms.

At the heart of this issue, surely, is the nature of competition.  Uber has worked in a spectacular manner because it offers a slicker and cheaper service than the traditional and protected black cabs.  Corbyn’s socialism would consign the competitive element to the history books for many areas of the economy including the utilities and the railways.  Sadly, many electors’ memories do not stretch back to the days of a telephone company that would take six months to provide a line or trains that rarely ran on time.

 

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Update on Adderbury Parish Council Judicial Reviews

It has taken a very long time for the Court system to spit out the formal rejection of our Berry Hill Road lawyer’s first Judicial Review.  Now we have copies of the two rejections, I am attaching them at the foot of this blog.  The rest is a repetition of my earlier blog.

Many of you will know that our Berry Hill Road lawyer filed two applications for Judicial Review of Adderbury Parish Council’s decisions concerning the Milton Road land and its related restrictive covenant.  I have just received notification from the Parish Council Proper Officer, Theresa Goss, that both applications have been dismissed.  The judge who considered the applications has refused them and, in a footnote to his decision, has stated his opinion that the application is “totally without merit; as well as now being wholly academic, the claim is in my judgement without any foundation at all“.

Below is a link to the judge’s decision on both Judicial Reviews.   It was always my personal view that this lawyer hoped to bully and intimidate the parish council into changing the restrictive covenant on the Milton Road land to suit the parish council minority group’s desire to abort the intentions of Cherwell District Council and the developers.  I am relieved that his tactics have not worked and I salute the courage of my fellow parish councillors in resisting this legal mumbo jumbo.

The one remaining concern is that the judge made no order for costs which means the parish council (in reality Adderbury Council Tax payers) may be unable to recover its costs from Mr Davies.  There is something wrong with our legal system if a JR application can be dismissed so comprehensively but the body complained about has to bear the costs (more than £5,000) without recourse.  Perhaps Mr Davies will be sufficiently contrite to offer the parish council its costs but I don’t suppose any of us are holding our breath.

Before Mr Davies starts scratching his quill, I make the point that I write as an individual parish councillor and am not attempting to speak for the parish council as a whole.  However, the JR decisions are public documents so I trust Mr Davies will put his quill back in its rack – unless, of course, he needs it to sign a cheque to Adderbury Parish Council for the costs of fighting his “wholly without merit” JRs.

APC JR Decisions

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The People’s Princess 20 years on

We had the twentieth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death this week. Wednesday was one of those days when I had time to read The Daily Telegraph on my tablet and I came across a piece by Philip Johnston that completely chimed with my own thoughts.  I expect most of us have that experience of like minds once in a while and it is something I greatly enjoy.  It is usually Charles Moore whose writing style I favour but Philip Johnston has completely summed up my sadness at the loss of our stiff upper lip.

Here is Philip Johnston’s article as it appeared in The Daily Telegraph.

Call me a cynic, but 20 years on, it’s time to hold

Philip Johnston

back the sea of tears

Since the death of Diana, Britain has become a nation divided by its readiness to emote publicly

It was the smell that struck me first, the cloying, sweet perfume of a million flowers trapped in a sea of Cellophane lapping at the gates of Kensington Palace. The floral shrine that sprang up in the days after the death of Diana was staggering to behold.

We took our children to see it on the Thursday after the crash in Paris, visiting early in the morning before they went to school. It was something they needed to see, a moment in history they would never forget. Nor would I, for that matter. And yet it represented an outpouring of national grief that I found distinctly perturbing and unsettling.

Twenty years ago this week, many of us discovered we lived in a country that had changed in a way we had not realised and did not particularly like. Call us curmudgeons or traditionalists or whatever; but rarely had we felt so out of kilter with our fellow citizens. To witness people weeping openly for someone they had never met and did not know was something I had not seen before, at least not on such a scale and certainly not in Britain.

Suddenly, it became a good thing to display one’s emotions publicly and proudly rather than control them. Britain in mourning at the death of Diana became the antithesis of the stiff upper-lipped, phlegmatic country which we once took pride in being. Such traits, previously considered strengths, were derided as repressed, buttoned-up and fuddy-duddy.

Evidently this was a view held by a lot of people before Aug 31 1997. But it was only in the week after the tragedy in Paris that it became so glaringly apparent. In the intervening two decades, that sense of two nations has intensified. This is just a hunch, but I suspect that people who found the response to Diana’s death mawkish were more likely than not to have voted to leave the EU. We are the sort who find the recent goings-on at the National Trust (to which we belong) mystifying and irritating. We lament the silencing of Big Ben, rarely watch reality TV shows with their whooping audiences and teary wannabe stars and would much prefer it if cricketers shook hands on scoring a century rather than hug one another.

Facebook, Twitter and the rest have become the online delivery systems for this baring of the soul.  We try to avoid public expressions of emotion, not because we don’t feel anything but because we don’t think it necessary to prove that we do. Of course, this may just be me; but I doubt it.

All the anguish and recriminations of that extraordinary week in 1997 are being revived for the 20th anniversary of the tragedy; and, again, the national chasm is opening up. A recent poll suggested that the popularity of the Prince of Wales is declining; tendentious reports have circulated that the Queen might abdicate; the question of Camilla’s title when Charles becomes king is being debated once more. The totemic power of Diana’s death to discombobulate the country seems undiminished.

We all know the circumstances leading to the fateful car trip in Paris and why so many people felt Diana had been hounded to her death by the Press and badly treated by her former husband and the Establishment. Many mothers, like my wife with two sons not much younger than William and Harry, felt deeply for the two princes and still do.

There was anger, partly whipped up by Tony Blair’s “People’s Princess” comments, that the Royal Family preferred not to join the national collapse into sentimentality and wanted to grieve in private. For a few days until the Queen came back from Balmoral to London, the Crown rocked.

The legacy of that week is a country in which it seems everything now must be emoted, and to look askance upon excessive sentimentalism is to evince Blimpish tendencies that are no longer to be tolerated. Anyone in public life who refuses to play along with the new post-Diana dispensation is risking their career. Expressing how they feel matters more than what they have achieved. “Just sum up your emotions as triumph or defeat (delete where applicable) happened” is now the default question of every interviewer.

Facebook, Twitter and the rest have become the online delivery systems for this baring of the soul. Their phenomenal success owes everything to the readiness of millions to talk and write about themselves incessantly in front of the entire nation. Disclosure is de rigueur; social media platforms are gigantic public therapy sessions. Again, I suspect those who felt most baffled by the response to Diana’s death are the least likely to be on Facebook or Twitter vouchsafing their innermost hopes and desires to all and sundry.

And emoting has a dark side. The Director of Public Prosecution’s recent announcement that online abuse will be treated by the police on a par with the face-to-face variety is one consequence of a world in which everyone is encouraged to sound off and the means exist to disseminate their bile easily and anonymously. If we don’t exercise any judgment over saying what we feel then don’t be surprised when people whose views we would rather not hear think they are entitled to the same latitude.

It is now said that people will suffer less from mental health problems if they express their innermost emotions, fears and concerns. But this does not have to be done publicly. Reserve and resilience are positive, not negative, characteristics. They don’t signify insensitivity but proportionality. Arguably, we have become a nation that mourns too readily. Terrible tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire warranted a visit from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition; but the impact is diminished if smaller events are treated in the same way. Question Time in the Commons hardly passes without reference being made, often arbitrarily, to some ghastly incident or other. This never used to happen. We can’t trace it all to that week 20 years ago, but it is as good a starting point as any.

I am open to persuasion that the British were big blubbers in the past. By all accounts, Nelson’s funeral was a lachrymose affair; and young men wearing black armbands wept for Byron. In mid-Victorian England it was said that men cried over the death of little Nell in Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop, though Oscar Wilde remarked that you would need a heart of stone to read it without laughing. Call me an old cynic, but I’m with Oscar.

 

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Davies’s Judicial Reviews dismissed as “totally without merit”

Many of you will know that our Berry Hill Road lawyer filed two applications for Judicial Review of Adderbury Parish Council’s decisions concerning the Milton Road land and its related restrictive covenant.  I have just received notification from the Parish Council Proper Officer, Theresa Goss, that both applications have been dismissed.  The judge who considered the applications has refused them and, in a footnote to his decision, has stated his opinion that the application is “totally without merit; as well as now being wholly academic, the claim is in my judgement without any foundation at all“.

Below is a link to the judge’s decision on JR No 2.  It is clear from this that he has also dismissed JR No1 but the formal notice for JR No 1 is awaited and will be added to this blog when it is available.  It was always my personal view that this lawyer hoped to bully and intimidate the parish council into changing the restrictive covenant on the Milton Road land to suit the parish council minority group’s desire to abort the intentions of Cherwell District Council and the developers.  I am relieved that his tactics have not worked and I salute the courage of my fellow parish councillors in resisting this legal mumbo jumbo.

The one remaining concern is that the judge made no order for costs which means the parish council (in reality Adderbury Council Tax payers) may be unable to recover its costs from Mr Davies.  There is something wrong with our legal system if a JR application can be dismissed so comprehensively but the body complained about has to bear the costs (more than £5,000) without recourse.  Perhaps Mr Davies will be sufficiently contrite to offer the parish councils its costs but I don’t suppose any of us are holding our breath.

Before Mr Davies starts scratching his quill, I make the point that I write as an individual parish councillor and am not attempting to speak for the parish council as a whole.  However, the JR decision is a public document so I trust Mr Davies will put his quill back in its rack.

17_08_09 Davies JR No2 refusal

 

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