Playing away

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The jury's out on Jury's Inn

The jury’s out on Jury’s Inn

As if life wasn’t hard enough for Sussex University’s senior managers with their six-figure salaries and expenses running into the tens of thousands, they also have to spend their time on arduous “Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group away days” on which the University has lavished a mere £2,000 over the last couple of years.

A Sussex institution since January 2012, most have been at Brighton’s Jury’s Inn hotel, described by one reviewer on TripAdvisor as “lovely [but] the bar was very expensive, £5 for a flavoured cider.”

Rather tragically, however, three of these so-called away days have been at Bramber House – an occupation by any other name would smell as sweet – and I can’t help thinking that our poor senior managers must be rather miffed and expecting something more opulent for their our money.

Gabrielquotes is fortunate enough to have obtained a leaked recording of miffed managers fantasising at one of these away days, a truly remarkable verbatim record of what goes on behind VCEG’s closed doors:

the farthing's masterplanIn other Sussex news, the “Campus Masterplan” to build accommodation for 3,000 new students and (by coincidence I’m sure) demolish the Students’ Union’s greatest financial asset, East Slope Bar, has been rejected by a planning committee of the local council. Councillors were concerned that the peaceful, communal green campus would become “a dense urban environment”.

Amusingly it is not the first time that these concerns have been aired. A 1981 episode of Yes Minister involved an Oxford don stating, “We can’t expand further: there’d be dormitories everywhere, it would be like Wormwood Scrubs… or the University of Sussex!”

The University has said it will consider appealing – absolutely obsessed with suing people – and that the rejection will not affect their plan to increase student numbers by a third within the next four years.

Just a pity that they’ll now have, erm, nowhere to put them. Still, nice to know they’ve thought this through.

cameron hacking trial response andy coulsonWhen the Labour Party criticised the Prime Minister for trusting Andy ‘PIN number’ Coulson with unfettered access to Downing Street, the Prime Minister responded rather predictably with the traditional line, “I’ll take no lessons on ethics from the party that employed Damian McBride.”

Other famous uses of this line throughout history include:

  • Pharaoh: “I’ll take no lessons on ethics from a man who illegally entered this country in an improvised maritime basket.”
  • Dr Shipman: “I’ll take no lessons on ethics from the society that let me practice medicine.”
  • Binyamin Netanyahu: “I’ll take no lessons on how to conduct peace negotiations from the United Nations!”
  • Michael Farthing: “I’ll take no lessons on how to run a university from academics and students’ unions!”
  • Katy Bour (That’s enough brass necks. -Ed.)



The Duke and Duchess of IKEA Brochures

The Duke and Duchess of IKEA Brochures

The royal family released their annual accounts last week. The Keeper of the Privy Purse (which sounds like someone who collects money from people using public toilets but is in fact the senior royal bookkeeper) reminded us that the monarchy actually only costs the country 56p per person per year: so less than a pack of Pringles.

Big news is that William and Kate have had their royal apartment in Kensington Palace refurbished. It now resembles, an aide told journalists, “an ordinary family home”.

The renovations ran to £4.8million – almost frighteningly ordinary – though even this seems modest compared to Prince Charles’ 10.8 housekeepers (the 0.8 represents the person he had beheaded) and Prince Harry’s return flight to the USA, which despite being on a regular scheduled flight somehow came to £11,000.

The 21st century, eh: you can’t beat it.


C you later

Subtlety: the spy's greatest asset

Subtlety: the spy’s greatest asset

MI6 chief Sir John Sawyers – better known as C – is stepping down after five years in post. According to The Guardian, “Sawyers tried to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding MI6.”

His successor will be drawn from the following shortlist:

  • ███████ ██████████████
  • ████ ████████
  • ███████████ ████████
  • ███ ██████ ███████
  • Andy Coulson
  • ██████ █████████████

Five of the best

And in my penultimate blog post as a graduand…
In tonight’s episode, Oom Pah Pah was performed by Nancy on behalf of Duff, Farth, Mack etc. David Cameron got caught by the short and curlies; and the convict was played by Andy Coulson. The ordinary young couple was played by Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This was an Gabrielquotes production!
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Clearing the moat: Sussex’s expenses scandal

The moat around Falmer House is looking suspicously clean and 519198_cd2266b1[1]it’s no coincidence that this is the week that Sussex has its own expenses scandal.

Gabrielquotes can exclusively reveal that since June 2010, the Univeristy of Sussexpenses has paid out over £50,000 in reimbursements to senior staff for travel, accommodation and so on.

Vice-Chancellor Michael ‘I lusm students’ Farthing opted to receive nearly £7,500 – my total tuition fees over the same period and then some – while Pro-Vice Chancellor Chris Marlin, who does a lot of gruelling foreign travel at public expense, took just shy of £9,000.

The stand-out winner in this game of It’s a Living, however, was Registrar & Secretary John ‘Duck House’ Duffy, who is personally responsible for over half of the entire bill. Here’s what the £25,878.57 he claimed looks like, one dot for each pound of University funding:


Thank goodness we’re not in a recession otherewise such garnishment-of-salary might seem inappropriate.

I had asked for copies of individual expenses claims so we could find out exactly what the money has been going on, but sadly the University forgot to respond to that part of my freedom of information request. A reminder has been sent…

Sussexgate pt.94

Meanwhile, on the subject of Sussex’s freedom of information deficiencies, readers may remember that the Information Commissioner ordered them to release the entire unredacted catering contract, including the bits the University had tried to suppress (which included the financial arrangement and the service standards promised by Chartwells; so basically, erm, the contract).

Sussex: a land of faceless bureaucrats

Sussex: a land of faceless bureaucrats

Well, Sussex was having none of it. They are appealing to the Information Tribunal with lawyers and legal costs and other good uses of public money; so the Information Commissioner and I will be responding in due course, making the case for transparency. Watch this space!

(And oh yes: Sussex missed the deadline to appeal to the Tribunal and had to beg for an extension. Not that missing deadlines is like them at all.)

Finally on this niche subject area, Sussex FOI officer Alice Robertson recently replied to an online request for information as follows:


So she’s presumably not counting:

  • the High Court injunction proceedings in March 2013 against “persons (including students of the University of Sussex) entering or remaining on the campus for the purposes of protest action” – because that couldn’t possibly be characterised as legal action against participants in protests;
  • the County Court possession order obtained in December 2013 against “persons (including students of the University of Sussex) entering or remaining on the campus for the purposes of protest action” – because that couldn’t possibly be characterised as legal action against participants in protests;
  • disciplinary proceedings earlier this year against the Sussex Five for their role in the occupation of Bramber House, for which the University legal bill came to over £60,000 – because that couldn’t possibly be characterised as a disciplinary legal action against participants in protests.

Nothing like transparency, is there, ladies and gentleman; nothing like transparency.

Grab a Pugh

Passports-3_2937718b[1]HM Passport Office has stacks and stacks (pictured) of almost 500,000 unprocessed passport applications which are going to cause Brits to miss their summer holidays. MPs are not happy; and I’m sure none of them have any personal interest in the matter at all.

Home Secretary Theresa May accepts that this amounts to a “backlog” but denies that it is a “crisis”. Passport Office chief executive Paul ‘£104k a year’ Pugh, though, denied that it was even a backlog.

Questioned by MPs last week, he was asked whether he would apologise to the country for cocking up so severely. He said, and this is genuine: “I’d like to say that we, in our organisation, we recognise how important the passport is.”

Reminded that the question was not, “Do you know what a passport is?” but, “Would you like to apologise?” the Yes Minister character continued: “We exepct each year to serve over 5.5m customers, every year, year in year out.”

This wasn’t doing it for the MPs either, so Pugh eventually conceded: “I would like to put on record that we realise the impact it has on individual members of the public when we don’t meet their needs.”

…Nope, that wasn’t an apology either. His next attempt: “I absolutely recognise the anger and distress that people… that some people have suffered.”

After what must have been the Home Affairs Select Committee’s eighth or ninth attept he finally gave in: “In every case where we haven’t met our service standards, we are sorry for that.”

Like trying to get blood out of a stone. Or a passport out of HM Passport Office…

I was in the public gallery for this virtuoso performance and next to me sat a young man from the Home Office who was taking notes. These notes included: “Paul Pugh says there’s no-one better than him who could do the job. Apparently,” and, “Paul Flynn has an excellent voice.” Gripping stuff!


Express permission

Earlier this month, retailer John ‘never knowingly working-class’ Lewis was ordered to pay damages to a Sky News journalist who got fed up with their spam email.

Photo 19-06-2014 10 48 23So last week I plucked up the courage to hit the UNSUBSCRIBE button on the latest in a series of irritating adverts I’ve been receiving from Sophie @ National Express. I suspect that Sophie isn’t a real person, but National Express is definitely a real coach company (although their timetable does contain some particular services which seem to be fictitious) so I thought I might win some mega-bucks when they keep sending me emails anyway.

But sadly it is not to be, because when I unsubscribed this is what I was told:
national-express-spamTaken into account?! I don’t want them to take it into account in their factual matrix, I want them to stop sending me drivel from made-up saleswomen.

Next time I’m catching one of their coaches, their request that I pay for my ticket will be ‘taken into account’, I can guarantee that.
ed miliband gabrielquotes

Labour spitting feathers

The Labour Party announced an inspirational new policy last week on Twitter. Said policy was:

enhanced-buzz-32176-1403183807-14[1]Unfortunately this was almost immediately deleted after Labour bosses noticed that they’d been hacked, although not before various Internet wits had commented on it – such as Guido Fawkes’ advice, “For more information, call 28 28 20.”


Ed Miliband’s lack of leadership ‘heffalump in the room’ say owl leaders

To refresh my memory from my distant childhood I looked up the Winnie the Pooh character ‘Owl’ on Wikipedia. It told me that:

Owl believes that he is the most intelligent animal in the wood, but he is really quite scatterbrained. He often rambles on into long-winded speeches and uses words that his friends do not understand. Though Owl likes to present himself as very knowledgeable, like most of the other characters he does not spell very well.

Now what Labour Party figure does that remind me of…? Here’s A A Milne to tell us himself:

katy in the community

Five of the best

All parties in the case of Gabrielquotes v Sussex
In tonight’s episode, the House of Commons was played by Michael Farthing, Chris Marlin and John Duffy, with contributions from the rest of the cast. HM Passport Office was mismanaged by Paul Pugh and the Home Affairs Select Committee went into attack formation at the command of Keith Vaz MP. The Labour Party’s Owl Policy was formulated by A A Milniband. This was an Gabrielquotes production!
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