Goldsmith to the right of me, Goldsmith to the left of me, Goldsmith’s in front of me, I marched into the interview…

The interview was the strangest I have ever had, which would you pick The Guardian, The Telegraph or The Morning Star...?

All this discussion of Zac Goldsmith, and his apparent lack of desire to pay the UK Taxman and Lord Goldsmith and his apparent uncertainty as to the legality of the war in Iraq, has reminded me of my visit to Goldsmith’s College 20 years ago.

It was my second choice University, but as I was very keen to study History in London I arrived at the interview in good time.

I was taken by a very large lady to a chair, placed outside the office of the Professor I was due to see for my interview.

After about 10 minutes the previous person, as I thought, came out of the interview room and said that I should go in.

Behind the desk all I could see was a copy of The Times and a rising plume of pipe smoke coming up from behind it.  Thinking this would end fairly soon I just waited patiently.

After a few more minutes of pipe smoke and page turning I noticed that there were three newspapers neatly place, pointing at the candidate’s chair.  They were The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Morning Star.

I divined after a few more minutes that the Professor behind the paper was not intending to stop reading his paper so I decided to pick up one of the newspapers sitting in front of me.

Having never seen a copy, let alone read a copy, of the The Morning Star before I picked it up and started reading. 

After a few seconds at last came the first evidence that the man on the other side of the table even recognised my existence.  He grunted, ‘why did you pick that one?’

I responded with the answer that I had never seen it before, let alone read it so I thought I would take the opportunity.

‘Hmmm,’ he said, ‘we’ll offer you two Cs, will that be OK?’ I responded it would and for the next 30 minutes we just chatted about politics, and why I had joined the SDP, not the Liberal Party.

As I didn’t take the place up I never discovered what the offer would have been if I had taken The Guardian or The Telegraph.

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Sir Humphrey’s guide to Britain scrapped by the Foreign Office for being ‘dated’…

The Foreign Office has ditched Sir Humphrey's guide to Britain as part of a modernisation programme...

Perhaps with the threat of being shipped out of Whitehall to the regions, to save money, the Foreign Office has decided to drag its image of Britain into the modern age. 

The official book, The United Kingdom: 100 Questions Answered, used in UK embassies abroad, to explain Britain to the world is now considered too out of date to be useful. Some of the top questions the book asks are: ‘What is Cockney rhyming slang?’ and ‘Why do the British like drinking tea’!

The book claims: “Britain’s most popular ‘fast food’ has got to be fish and chips… curry — a spicy dish with meat, fish and vegetables — is now the most popular meal”.

According to the Telegraph, the book admits “British humour” is often a source of “mystification for other nations”, the book suggests: “It may be loosely defined as an attitude of mind which is readily responsive to the incongruous and ridiculous.”

Other concepts explained are the difference between “tea time” and “high tea” and the rules of darts which involves “short, weighted steel darts thrown at a circular dartboard numbered in sections”.

The FCO has decided to phase the book out as, although it had been helpful in the past, they ‘recognise that parts of it are a little dated and Sir Humphreyesque.’

No wonder we have such international influence with this level of self-awareness!

The Scottish Lib Dems should now close any discussion on supporting an Independence Referendum – no one wants it!

Alex Salmond's plans for a referendum and 20 MPs would appear to be in tatters...

The recent discussion within the Scottish Liberal Democrats concerning the possible policy change to support a referendum on Scottish independence seems now to be dead, following a poll released in The Telegraph today.

Although some had suggested, apparently for tactical reasons, that the party should entertain the idea Scottish voters, according to the poll, reject independence and narrowly reject the idea of holding a referendum, preferring Scotland’s politicians to focus on more pressing matters, faced by the country.

63% wanted the Scottish Government to focus on tackling unemployment and only 29% back independence, a fall in support from last year and those opposed have increased to 57%.

Alex Salmond’s objective of trying to win 20 MPs would also appear to be in tatters as the SNP’s support has also dropped again.

All this suggests that any prospect of the Lib Dems supporting a referendum, now that the voters appear to be disenchanted with the false panacea of independence, may well dissipate.

15 years of the National Lottery – but did you hear about the Starship Enterprise centre or the dinosaur farm…?

Lottery Funding has been requested for many 'original' ideas, including a Starship Enterprise centre...

The National Lottery is 15 years old this week, and no doubt people will be celebrating with a purchase of ticket to win the jackpot.  As we all know money from the lottery goes to ‘good causes’ but have there been many requests for less ‘good causes’ over the years?

According to The Telegraph some of the most extreme examples of requests for cash were:

  • Funding for young people to learn how to time travel.
  • Money to buy a new toaster.
  • Funding to make automatic ice cube dispensers.
  • One man wanted money to build a replica of Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise (I don’t know which version) so that lonely people could meet in a “safe” environment.
  • A man requested £500 to do up his Ford Capri.
  • A woman wanted money to double glaze her home.
  • One optimist wanted funding to run a dinosaur farm.

The lottery, like other aspects of public life, has clearly allowed new ways for people to express themselves openly.

Remember ‘Talks about Talks?’ Now there is a Conservative Council with a ‘Scrutiny Panel that Scrutinises Scrutiny!’

County Hall Truro

Making sure a council is efficient is fine, but having a panel that scrutinises the scrutiny panels seems a bit excessive!

Having been a councillor for four years in Cornwall, I know that councils, and their officers have some very strange ideas about using time.

But, today, it has been revealed, in The Telepgraph, that Conservative controlled Wealden District Council, has ‘set up a scrutiny panel to scrutinise its scrutiny panels.’

There is a point in all local government where you feel a power shift, if unchecked, from the early enthusiasm of newly elected political councillors to the dead hand of the town hall bureaucrats gaining the upper hand.

Scrutiny is an important part of local government, to make sure that they are spending money properly and reviewing decisions but this is surely an absurd level of bureaucracy designed to keep councillors busy, rather than productive.

A spokesman for the Taxpayers Alliance said; “Whilst it may be well-intentioned the council appear to have wrapped themselves up in knots and ended up in an absurd situation.

“By all means they should review their procedures but there’s no reason why a separate committee to scrutinize the scrutiny panel should be any better than the original body itself.

“Local residents would probably prefer they were asked how the council was run instead of adding this extra layer of bureaucracy.”

I’ve stooped to quoting the Taxpayers Alliance! My apologies. But an entertaining story criticising a Tory Council in The Telepgraph, nonetheless.