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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Supporting the Conservative Party

humanrights[1]I’ve given this week’s blog post the title of ‘supporting the Conservative Party’ because I’m going to do what I can, in the next few paragraphs, to undermine and vilify the Conservative Party. This is a technique I borrowed from their decision to announce plans to strip away human rights protections in the UK in a document entitled Protecting Human Rights in the UK.

The Tories, in turn, borrowed the misleading-title technique from North Korea (“The People’s Democratic Republic of Korea”) and North Korea borrowed it from a small furniture shop in Romford purporting to be a ‘World of Leather’.

Essentially, the Tories’ new policy is a way of ministers whining, “It’s so unfair!” while still looking a bit grown-up. Schoolchildren want to abolish the school rules, rich people want to eliminate the tax system, and ministers want to exterminate human rights.

To start with, they’re proposing a “minimum threshold of seriousness” before people can complain of a human rights violation. Now hold on a minute: the government says it is going to refuse to let people take legal action against it if it, the government, doesn’t deem the case to be serious enough.”

The Iron Maiden: 'serious' or just banter?

The Iron Maiden: ‘serious’ or just banter?

“You’ve only lost one finger!” they might say. “I don’t think we need to waste a judge’s time with that!”

Or, “We might have threatened to shoot your entire family unless you dropped your legal case, but that’s just horseplay. Hardly serious.”

Their second proposal is to stop judges deciding on what the European Convention on Human Rights means: it’s almost as if they feel entitled to interpret the law or something!

In case it’s not clear, these proposals are disastrous, repugnant to anyone who believes in democracy and – if implemented – would lead to Britain having to withdraw from the Council of Europe and join Europe’s last remaining dictatorship, Belarus, as pariah states.

Still, on the plus side, it means that the Conservatives will win back six or seven votes from UKIP so it’s probs worth it.


Reckless behaviour

1309723026[1]The Conservatives suffered a serious setback last weekend, fortunately, when Mark Reckless MP (pictured far-right) resigned his seat and defected to UKIP, telling reporters that he wanted to spend less time with immigrants.

The former Tory politician shot to fame last December when he questioned Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in perilous detail about the handling of information leaked by Edward Snowden:

Mr Reckless: Isn’t it true that you entrusted all that confidential data to FedEx when they transported it to the USA?
Alan Rusbridger: Yes.
Mr Reckless: I’ve used FedEx before! (I’m a man of the people you see.) When you send things by FedEx they’re not under your control. You lost control, didn’t you!
Alan Rusbridger: No, Mr Reckless, I did not lose control.
[light tittering from committee staff]
Mr Reckless: You behaved completely irresponsibly and with no regard to the consequences of your actions, didn’t you!
Alan Rusbridger: No, I did not behave completely irresponsibly and with no regard to the consequences of my actions, Mr Reckless.
[committee suspended while everyone gets the laughter out of their systems]

Who wouldn't want to see this in the nude?

Who wouldn’t want to see this in the nude?

But Tory MPs resigning from Parliament are like skunks boarding Noah’s ark: they come in twos. Step up Brooks Newmark MP (pictured left), who resigned as Minister for Civil Society last week, partly because he has no idea what that means, and partly because he was found to have ‘sexted’ an explicit image of himself to a charming lady he barely knew, who – completely unpredictably – turned out to be an undercover journalist.

Rumour has it that he also sent nude selfies to the Queen, who replied by snarling and hissing at him.

Going, going, gone, stuffed, sold online

Wireless optical mouse

Wireless optical mouse

During a slow period in the office last week, a colleague and I searched eBay for items of taxidermy, ie. stuffed animals. (There was a specific reason for this, although admittedly not a very good one.)

We found it surprisingly disturbing. Or, if we’d have thought about it in advance, unsurprisingly disturbing. Take, for example, the tasteful piece pictured on the right: “mounted mouse on a skeletal hand”. Bids start at £50, no doubt so cheap because the article is “used”.

Now that’s really worrying. What does ‘used’ mean in the context of a stuffed animal? Was it marked ‘used’ because it had previously been, erm, a mouse, or had the taxidermed incarnation itself been used for some Satanic ritual?

Other bargains available for the wily nature-lover included a rat in an Aladdin costume (complete with Persian rug) for £39.50, marketed by a company called My Pest Friends.

Or, for those who aren’t into the weird stuff, how about a “quirky funny adult sexy” tableu of two rats, one reclining in bed lasciviously and the other holding a copy of The Times? (Fortunately this one was marked ‘brand new’.) “PLEASE make sure you like the faces before you buy!” says the item description, “But this is a great gift! You think they have everything? Bet they haven’t got one of these!”

Yep, that sounds like a safe bet. Does anyone have a birthday coming up?


TorySoc shock

The Young Tory of the Year Competition

The Young Tory of the Year Competition

The University College London Conservative Society has been reprimanded by student leaders after it was found to be pursuing a campaign of stereotyped anti-Semitic and Islamophobic intimidation against members.

“The Conservative Party should be focusing on humiliating the poor and needy,” admitted shamed TorySoc president Albert Catheter-Furnace, “rather than groups like the Jews  who are wealthy and want to take over the world (so who are really just like us).”

Tory party approval ratings have plummeted in recent days as the public reacted with anger to what  some described as a “p***poor attack on the poor”.

“What we needed to hear from David Cameron,” said one of the public, “was a clear message that poverty will not be tolerated and that the poor will lose their citizenship and freedom of speech.”

The chair of the Jewish Leadership Council joined in the clamour of criticism of UCL’s TorySoc. “Any more of these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” he warned, “and well see to it that the Conservatives lose the next ‘election’.”

The saga continues (until May 2015).


Five of the bestest

Three years of credits:
In tonight’s blogisode, the life model was played by Brooks Newmark and the Queen was played by Lizzie Windsor (who purrformed her role beautifully). The Jewish Chronicle was edited by Stephen Pollard and the designers of the iPhone 6 should fear for their Steve Jobs. The UCL Conservative Students’ Society was more ghastly than the previous one. This was an Gabrielquotes production!
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