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I get that some restrictions on who can claim benefits are inevitable. I may not be keen on every single rule, or the systems that enforce them, but I accept that having rules is a necessary evil.
But it does seem excessive – in my humble opinion – that the government has withdrawn benefits from Debbie Balandis, 40, of Glasgow, on the grounds that they think she’s in a romantic relationship with a corner shop.
Tax officials were suspicious when they saw that the bank statements of this single mother showed payments being made to a bank account which bore the legend “Martin McColl”. Assuming him to be a hitherto undisclosed boyfriend (because who wouldn’t?), HMRC naturally did the sensible thing and immediately cut off Ms Balandis’ only source of income.
What would have been far less sensible, so I entirely appreciate why they didn’t do it, would have been to venture the fifteen or sixteen seconds necessary to the task of Googling the words ‘Martin McColl’ and quickly establishing that is, in fact, a chain of high street shops, rather than a Glaswegian hottie who makes his living by having a series of short-term affairs with single mothers on benefits.
Here’s the HMRC position on the whole matter:
The media have been quick to portray this story as ‘yet another failure by David Cameron’s welfare reforms’ but to them I say this: strong message here
David Cameron doesn’t need to be respected for the quality of his welfare reforms. He’s so over that. He’s so over it because he already has all the legacy that anybody could want: it’s a legacy that, actually, Martin McColl would do well to sell, and that is David Cameron-themed chocolate.
Somerset-based “artisan” company Choc on Choc attributes its recent success to the extreme popularity of David Cameron-themed confectionary. Yes, really. So much so, in fact, that they’re now planning to expand their Parliamentary range of sweets and other foodstuffs (‘ParliaMINTary’, shurely? -Ed.) to include the following:
- Chief Walnut Whip
- Iain Duncan Donuts
- Secretary of State for Health Foods
- Justine Greenbeans
- Liz Truffles
- Patrick Big MacLoughlin
- Stephen Crabbsticks
- Chancellor of the Dutch Cheese of Lancaster
- …and, of course, Cabinet pudding
Sadly they’ve not been making chocolate mosques, though, so they’re still not eligible to win Bake-Off.
Jekyll and Hyde
Private Eye picked up this blog’s exposé of Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley semi-lawfully appointing a sitting local councillor to his team by virtue of incorporating him as a company.
So how excited will the Eye be to know that I’ve managed to obtain a copy of the confidential private personal dairy kept by our esteemed Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner, Surrey Partnership Ltd.!
And thus we present…
Shiraz Mirza Surrey Partnership Ltd*
Kevin comes into my office and complains that I’ve had a pile of dirty mugs sitting in the corner for more than a fortnight. “That wasn’t me,” I explain, “Shiraz used those mugs.”
“But you are Shiraz!” he replies. But then he remembers.
I wake up very groggy: slept terribly. Sharing a house with Shiraz really is trying. I’m a very important Partnership with very important work to do every morning – and I really do resent having to cope with the aftermath of Shiraz having eaten all that cheese last night.
I find myself leaving the Kingston-upon-Thames Borough Council chamber. I have no memory of having gone in, but I daresay Shiraz had his reasons. I rush back to
work contract over at Surrey. I don’t need to worry about speeding tickets because the car isn’t, strictly speaking, registered to me.
Trouble. Shiraz is questioned by tax officers who’d read that outrageous Private Eye piece – and he tries to palm the blame off on me! “All of that income went to Surrey Partnership,” he tells them, “nothing to do with me.”
In revenge I get the words ‘I am an idiot’ tattooed on his face… though sadly this backfires on me somewhat.
Kevin comes into my office and complains that I’ve been killing MPs again. “I can’t keep shielding you from the police,” he says.
“I think this would be a good moment for me to become Shiraz…” I mutter.
A Farthing for your thoughts
Following Sussex Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing’s resignation under suspicious circumstances last month, the uni has started recruting his erstwhile successor by circulating a survey to staff and students:
Text boxes asked for students’ views on Education and scholarship (“No, none of that”), Income generation (“Miserly and yet somehow still willing to accept £280,000 salary”) and Compelling personal qualities (“Must be vindictive egomaniac willing to trample over free speech in order to get own way”).
The shop who hated me
Meanwhile at Sussex, activity is apace to open the new University ‘shop’ in Brighton city centre. Oh, hadn’t you heard about this? Yes, since last summer’s “pop-up shop” was such a
waste of money success, Registrar John Duffer has decided to establish a permanent presence there.
The proposal document seen by Gabrielquotes notes that “The window display will convey key University messages throughout the year”.
Oh yes, and there’s just one more detail I noticed in the paperwork I glanced over:
The first two years of opreation, excluding staffing costs, will cost £42,000. And there was no evidence of any value-for-money assessment having been carried out.
What do you call a man with a car on his head?
When Mark Palmer-Edgcumbe told councillors in Whitechapel that he wanted to open a museum all about “the social history of women”, they couldn’t wait to give him permission and get the project off the ground.
But over the course of the development, Mark finally reached a decision that he’d been wrestling with for some time:
A more interesting angle was from the perspective of the victims of Jack the Ripper.
And thus the only-slightly-sensationalist museum opened.
But then they hired a PR agent, Joshua Walker, who seemed to misunderstand his role. He was engaged to promote the public image of the museum, but he took to Twitter promoting the public image of Jack the Ripper:
Oh dear, oh dear. Poor, much-maligned Jack the Ripper. He’s always getting the rap for sexually abusing five women before mutilating and killing them and dumping their bodies in the gutter; whereas in fact, all he did – all he did – was mutilate and kill them and dump their bodies in the gutter. Someone should crowd-fund a defamation lawsuit for the poor guy.
There are other people, throughout history, of course, who’ve unfairly had their reputations savaged by a hostile public. David Cameron has been accused of abusing a dead pig, whereas all he’s actually done is destroy access to justice and the British welfare state. Pope Benedict XVI, of whom it was often claimed he was in the Hitler Youth, actually merely presided over an institution that discriminated against the LGBTQ community and spent decades silencing allegations of sexual abuse.
And, of course, Stalin is often accused of having run a red light in Bracknell in 1957, and we all know how great a guy he really was.
So seriously, people: lay off Jack the Ripper. It’s never good to speak ill of the dead, especially those who can’t defend themselves because we don’t know who they were in the first place.
Last week Gabrielquotes ran a story on an academy in Yorkshire that had told parents their children would face punishment if they (ie. the parents) said nasty things about the school on social media. Punishments could include being banned from going on future enrichment visits (ie. school trips).
Following that blog post, I was fairly surprised to receive an email from Sir John Townsley (pictured), headmaster and knight of the realm:
Thank you for your comments about The Morley Academy.
I do want to mention your mistake regarding the photograph used. It is not actually a photograph of any of the buildings at the academy but is in fact a photograph of the Worker’s Monument in North Korea.
On a separate note and having followed your blog for some time I wondered if you might do us the honour of speaking at our Prize Giving ceremony in January. The theme of the evening is “Social media in the 21st century: friend of democracy or sanctuary of the bully?”
What do you think? We could do it via Face Time.
Sir John Townsley
To be fair, he has great banter. I’ll give him that. So as a special treat, I graced him with a reply:
Dear Sir John
I do apologise for my error regarding the photo: on reflection, the clear sky and presence of greenery in the lower left-hand corner should have indicated to me that the location could not be anywhere within a 50-mile radius of Huddersfield.
Thank you also for your very kind invitation. I will be spending part of January on an enrichment visit to Guantanamo Bay, so if you could confirm the date of your ceremony, I can check whether or not I will be able to participate.
A man in Swansea has been jailed for 14 months for perverting the course of justice, after spending two years pretending to be in a coma in order to avoid a fraud trial.
Alan Knight and his wife Helen were eventually caught after CCTV footage emerged of the couple visiting Legoland, an activity which is apparently statistically improbable for a man in a coma.
Coma man Alan Knight joins a long line of individuals who have pretended to be comatose in order to avoid being held accountable for their actions: Gordon Brown… well that’s about it actually.
One of the best
- The Jewish News: My esteemed Board of Deputies colleague’s one-state solution – someone you know (Gabriel Webber) and someone you know of (Roslyn Pine) went head-to-head over the future of Israel; one of them won. Printable version available here.