Maccabeen there done that

You might think I’ve plumbed the very depths of Channukah-based humour but we’ll see. If you want to be updated when I’m next back, put your email address into the box on the right.

It’s that time of year again; let there be light, oil, latkes and presents. And if you’re having trouble finding decent, why not browse this year’s hot-off-the-press-edition catalogue from GABRIEL FESTIVE INNOVATIONS!

gabriel festive innovations 2014 masthead

Other Channukoid news

JC comparisonAnd on which point…


Parliamentary news

The Penny Drops; or, One Major Cock-up

The Penny Drops; or, One Major Cock-up

Portsmouth MP Penny Mourdaunt had a bet on to try and slip the word ‘cock’ as many times as possible into a speech to the House of Commons, while David Cameron had a similar bet on to try and slip as many stupid policies into a five-year term as Prime Minister.

Gosh, how childish.

But she’s not the only one: Nigel Mills MP (Amber Valley, Con.) was filmed playing ‘Candy Crush’ on his iPad for two and a half hours while he was at a meeting of the Work & Pensions Select Committee. Mills admitted that he “shouldn’t do it […] I shall try not to do it in future.”

He’ll try not to sit in a meeting, get out his iPad, switch it on, select ‘Candy Crush’ and sit playing it for extended periods of time. He’ll make an effort not to do that.

I think it’s heartwarming how committed Nigel Mills is to conquering his demons.

The Sussex trade

badger tribunal caseThe case of University of Sussex v Information Commissioner and Webber (EA/2014/0148) continues apace. Last week Sussex student newspaper The dear old Badger turned me into an infographic [left]; and yesterday they published an article about my Guardian Runner-up Student Reporter of the Year award for uncovering Lapelgate. (Slightly sad to be so old that I get invited to share my war stories with a young cub reporter.)

Interestingly Sussex University itself hasn’t yet found time to report that one of their alumni won a prestigious journalism award like they did when someone won last year. They managed to report someone else winning one though so I guess it must just be an oversight.

Anyway, reading through the legal bundles with which they’ve filled my front room, one gets a pretty rosy picture of how lovely they are. They began every one of their letters over the legal case with the sentence:

The University would again stress its ongoing commitment to the Freedom of Information regime and the openness and transparency that it promotes.

Well, that seems jolly good of them! They sounded almost hurt that I’d made a formal FOI request rather than simply asking them for the information I wanted man-to-man.

freedomofinformation[1]However, this “ongoing commitment” to FOI apparently developed fairly recently (or is just completely contrived; I guess that’s a theoretical possiblity) because in 2012 the University of Sussex made the following submission to a Parliamentary select committee:

On the whole it [the Freedom of Information Act] is not used for the purposes of encouraging transparency […] It can be deliberately used for time-wasting or mischievous questions […] We suggest that the FOIA enquirer should be required to present a specific public-interest rationale for each request, which the receiving body should be able to challenge.

It’s lovely when public authorities are so committed to transparency that they want to retaint for themselves the power to decide whether or not a request for information is worthwhile. “You want to know about our Board’s three-month fully-funded trip to Tahiti? No, I don’t think you need bother your pretty little head with that.”

Lusm transparency.


And a happy new year

Gabrielquotes Plc. wishes all of its readers a joyful winter season, Limmud, new year etc., and we’ll be back presently with more tempting tidbits.

See ya then!


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And then it was November

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, this is your Gabriel speaking. On behalf of all the cabin crew I must apologise for the late publication of this blog, which was caused by the writer discovering that full-time employment is more busy than when one has only 6 hours of lectures per week.

But fear not, because there’s a mine of information below: so pull up an easy chair, light an acid-free pipe and let’s get started!

Sussex uses Asos

Since this blog caters mainly to a trendy lefty crowd, all readers will be familiar with online clothing emporium Asos.

michael_farthing_large[1]Since Michael Farthing of ‘Vice-Chancellor’ fame is very far from being a trendy lefty, he probably isn’t. So he was probably momentarily confused when reading legal advice from his lawyers, Pinsent Masons (Gabrielquotes passim.), with frequent references to “ASOS”.

Turns out though, that in industrial relations speak, ASOS is “action short of strike”, in this case, university staff across the UK refusing to mark assessments in protest against their employment conditions. (Readers will remember last time this was an issue, when Sussex HR director Jane ‘bring me sunshine’ Summerville threatened to dock all pay from all staff who didn’t promise not to join in the boycott, whether or not they actually did join in.)

Pinsent Masons’ guidance, first issued in 2013 but re-published now, goes beyond advising on the law. Freely available online, it provides useful hints on tactics that universities could use to – and I quote – “create … pain for those taking part”. Surely some sort of boiling oil would be effective?

sussex university pinsent masonsMeanwhile, Pinsent Masons, a firm which seems to specialise in expensively helping universities to crack down on students and staff who exercise democratic rights, is also doing what it can to cause me pain, by dumping a massive bundle of documents (pictured) on me just before judges begin to consider our legal battle over the release of Sussex University documents about the pros and cons of their decision to outsource catering services to a company blacklisted by the United Nations for corruption.

This is just like a real court!

This is just like a real court!

Quite literally, the trial continues!

board of deputies yachad debate bingo

Rules: Drink a shot of Palwins* every time one of them is said; two shots if it’s shouted; and three shots if it’s shouted by someone who’s not even supposed to be speaking at the time.

*Palestine wine

Printable version available here!


A change is as good as arrest

tiki-download_file.phpConfusion on Monday evening as the House of Commons was first promised a vote on European Arrest Warrants, then denied it, then given it again slightly, then told just to behave itself and listen to mummy (Theresa May).

Eventually she decided that it wouldn’t be appropriate to let elected politicians vote on that sort of thing, but instead decided to hold a ‘proxy vote’ – a vote on a different question (“That this House agrees Theresa May is both marvellous and important” for example) that she would obligingly treat as a vote on the actual question.

Rumour has it that the Cabinet is going to organise the 2015 general election in a similar way; not actually holding it but treating some other decision-making process as a proxy for the popular will. The National Lottery for example.


North by South West

south-west-trainsFigures released by Network Rail show that this is officially the worst time this decade to be a commuter, with more really useful engines delayed than any time in the last seven years. Personal experience shows this to be true, with South West Trains excusing their poor performance with an increasingly surreal array of explanations, culminating in last week’s “skateboard on the line at Wimbledon”.

Here are some of their other winners…


Cheque this out

Katy Bourne has been busy ‘working’ as Sussex’s Police & Crime Commissioner – and recently announced her latest round of Crime & Disorder Reduction Grants.

PCCs are legally obliged to make these grants, although the law leaves it up to their discretion whether or not they choose to give them an annoying brand name such as ‘The Safer in Sussex Community Fund’ and present them to the public as their own idea. Katy opted for the latter course.

But not all of the organisations who applied got all the funding they asked for. Some pretty laudable initiatives, such as Disability Hate Crime Awareness Day, received thousands of pounds less than requested.

katy bourne giant chequeFortunately, though, Katy did manage to find the cash to spend £2,000 on “merchandise” for her Talk Sussex Engagement Programme (this is what old fashioned politicians might call ‘giving a speech in a town hall’), £1,200 on a new logo for her office (designed by the world’s most expensive four-year-old), £350 on domain names (for comparison, my domain name costs £3 per year) and – screaming ‘value for money’ through every pore – £200 on a giant cheque to present to charities receiving Safer in Sussex grants much smaller than they’d applied for.

Trebles all round!

Five of the best

Roll on, Jumper!
In tonight’s blogisode, the Medieval torturer  was played by Pinsent Masons LLP. The moneysucking vampire was played by Katy Bourne, and the part of the Green Party was edited out to save paper in the script. This was an Gabrielquotes production!
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