31st January, 2008

Youths throw stones at HMD event

by Sunny at 3:31 pm    

This is disgusting:

The Holocaust Memorial Day marking the genocides of the 20th century was marred on Sunday when a gang of youths stoned Jewish tourists on a guided tour of London’s East End. A group of 96 visitors looking at sites of Jewish interest were attacked by youths hiding behind a fence in a back street in Whitechapel.

Two were struck by the missiles, an American woman lecturer at London’s Metropolitan University and a Canadian lecturer. The woman had blood pouring from her head and needed hospital treatment.

Stop and search is back!

by Sunny at 3:09 pm    

Well, not that it went away in the first place.

David Cameron yesterday justified his plans for much wider use of police stop and search powers, arguing that concerns he was reintroducing a 1980s-style “sus” law were misplaced because the police were no longer so racist.

Official statistics show that young black and British Asian people are still six times more likely to be stopped by the police than white people.

The Conservatives’ pledge yesterday to scrap the forms used in every “stop and account” revived memories of “sus” laws under which police needed only an officer’s suspicion of illegal intent to stop and search someone. The widespread use of the laws to deal with street crime notoriously sparked the 1981 Brixton riots. [theguardian]

One could argue the police aren’t as racist as before, although victims of the high number of deaths in police custody, who just happen to be over-proportionally black, may disagree.

I think there is an argument to be made in favour of increased stop and search to tackle knife and gun crime, but this is still looking at the symptom (crime) than cause (deprivation). Plus, overwhelmingly white officers are being asked to be suspicious of black kids supposedly carrying knives and brown kids carrying bombs. I’m not sure that some element of racism can be avoided when you’re in that context.

Tories plan ban on Commons jobs for MPs’ children

by Leon at 11:03 am    

In the wake of the Derek Conway affair the Tories are considering banning their MPs from employing their children:

Proposals to ban the children of MPs from being paid out of public funds for working for them are being considered by the Conservatives in the wake of the Derek Conway affair, party sources said last night.
…
The Tories believe his prompt decision to stand down will help draw a line under the matter, after a flurry of damning headlines once again associating the party with “sleaze”. But they are considering extra steps to remove the taint. A Tory source said the leadership would actively look at banning children from being paid from parliamentary allowances. But the leadership believes spouses – such as Conway’s wife, Colette, who is employed as his personal assistant – should be permitted. [Via The Guardian]

It’s a complicated situation, technically there’s nothing wrong with employing family members (how many of us have worked in a family business over the summer holidays?) but it doesn’t look good. It also undermines the Tory claims of meritocracy, shouldn’t it be the best person for the job not the most convenient?

What do you think; are things fine as they are? Do the Tories new ideas go far enough (should they include MPs partners)?

30th January, 2008

Edwards ‘quits’ White House race

by Leon at 3:05 pm    

John Edwards has thrown in the towel in race to become the Democratic candidate for President.

Democrat John Edwards is exiting the race for the White House after failing to win any of the four party nomination contests held so far, officials say.

Members of his team said the former North Carolina senator had decided not to continue to Super Tuesday next week. He lost Iowa’s caucuses, came third in New Hampshire, admitted getting his “butt kicked” in Nevada and came third in his native South Carolina. [Via BBC News]

He’s expected to make a statement at 7pm (our time) tonight but the big question is who will he endorse, Clinton or Obama?

Update: Here’s his speech announcing his departure from the running.

Meddling MPs

by Rumbold at 10:30 am    

A Liberal Democrat MP is proposing that wine should be sold in 125ml glasses, and that there should be statute to enforce this:

“The MP, a Lib Dem health spokesman, said: “In the last few years there has been a deliberate move by many bar and pub companies to phase out the traditional standard size 125ml glass of wine, and only sell the larger 175ml and 250ml size.

“In the latter case this is almost half a pint of wine.” He added: “The result inevitably has been that wine drinkers are less aware of how many units of alcohol they are drinking when they have ‘a few of glasses of wine’. “This is a real concern at a time when the figures show that alcohol related health problems are increasing, including women who drink the majority of wine purchased in bars and pubs.”

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Filed under: Civil liberties
29th January, 2008

The soldier beheading plot – guilty

by Sunny at 1:28 pm    

Four men have pleaded guilty to offences linked to a plot to kidnap and murder a Muslim member of the British armed forces and to supply equipment to terrorists, a court heard today.

Parviz Khan, 37, the ringleader of the group, admitted a series of charges including the beheading plot earlier this month.

The Islamist fanatic intended to capture his victim and behead him “like a pig” in a lock-up garage, Leicester crown court heard. Khan then intended to release the footage of the killing on the internet.

From the Guardian today.

Filed under: Current affairs

Florida will change everything

by Sunny at 8:50 am    

Later today voters in the state of Florida get to choose who they want as US president. Republicans are more important here than Democrats because the Democratic party voided the Floridian vote as punishment for bringing their election date forward. But Democrats can still cast their vote and I suspect Hillary Clinton will do well. This is because the state has lots of Jewish and older voters – both of whom lean towards Clinton than Obama.

The Republican race is going to be very interesting. There is a good chance Mitt Romney will take it for various reasons:
1) Rudy Giuliani, who should be finished after coming third, will split McCain’s pro-Iraq vote. Both are foreign policy hawks.
2) Floridians are not big fans of McCain’s pro-immigration stance.
3) Romney has always positioned himself as stronger on the economy (he’s made millions as a venture capitalist) – cited as the top issue right now.

But despite this it is more likely, going by polls, that McCain will win. I hope not. Florida is the last big election before Super Tuesday and my feeling is that for the Republicans this will narrow it down to a two-horse race. Effectively, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani will have lost all momentum after this. Romney should, after this, become the Republican favourite. He may be Mormon but he rallies the conservative base well for them (where McCain gets a lot of independent voters) and Wall Street likes him. Plus he has become very anti-immigration, which they like.

It’s also good news for Obama because Romney isn’t that well liked among floating/independent voters. Obama is worst off going up against McCain because both have broad appeal. What say you fellow election watchers?

28th January, 2008

The new global politics

by Sunny at 3:11 pm    

Writing in the New York Times magazine, Parag Khanna has an interesting view on the future of global politics.

At best, America’s unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift. The post-cold-war “peace dividend” was never converted into a global liberal order under American leadership. So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing — and losing — in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world’s other superpowers: the European Union and China. This is geopolitics in the 21st century: the new Big Three. Not Russia, an increasingly depopulated expanse run by Gazprom.gov; not an incoherent Islam embroiled in internal wars; and not India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite. The Big Three make the rules — their own rules — without any one of them dominating. And the others are left to choose their suitors in this post-American world.

The more we appreciate the differences among the American, European and Chinese worldviews, the more we will see the planetary stakes of the new global game. Previous eras of balance of power have been among European powers sharing a common culture. The cold war, too, was not truly an “East-West” struggle; it remained essentially a contest over Europe. What we have today, for the first time in history, is a global, multicivilizational, multipolar battle.

The whole article is quite long but I plan to read it soon. I love this kind of crystal ball-gazing. Saying that, it’s hardly a controversial view is it?

Qaradawi and his bloody visa

by Sunny at 10:19 am    

I know right-wingers have no consistent standards when it comes to free speech, but I’m yet to hear a good argument for why Al-Qaradawi, contemptible as his views are, should be denied a visa. After all, if we don’t want to listen to nastiness, we should stop the BNP too right?
Update: Oh, and I agree with Steve too.

27th January, 2008

Islam and Democracy

by Sid (Faisal) at 6:17 pm    

Take three non-Arab countries from the Muslim world and you will find them all in the throes of the long, messy and painful process towards full democratic governance.

For all her faults, Benazir Bhutto as arch symbol of South Asian liberal aristocracy represented the single most popular non-military democratic power base in Pakistan. Her assassination and the subsequent turmoil the country has been thrown into has shown the world that an unpopular military government, even when backed by the mighty Bush, is failing to hold the country together.

Twelve months ago Bangladesh’s army intervened to halt the elections, temporarily they claimed, and turned the lights out on democracy overnight. For the previous fifteen years, power alternated between two venal, incompetent, but nonetheless elected, political dynasties. But the last 12 months have been a difficult and often humiliating crash course in civilian administration for the military Care Taker Government. Thanks to the implacability of the secular constitution and a drastically weakened judiciary to enforce it, the generals, unpopular and clearly out of their depth, would be glad for a way to hand back the power they grabbed.

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26th January, 2008

The Rather Mixed Open Thread

by Clairwil at 2:05 am    

Hello All,

Another week by and it’s been rather a mixed one. Firstly I was saddened to learn of the death of a fantastic and criminally overlooked blogger Alan Edwards.

We are lucky he’s left us such an archive of gems and his ongoing contribution to the world of blogging will be missed by those of us lucky enough to be familiar with his work.

Moving on to slightly more cheerful matters. I had a rather unconventional Burns Night this year in that I couldn’t lay hands on a vegetarian haggis. Instead I feasted on butter bean enchiladas and very nice they were too. Still I did miss my haggis. The minute they reappear I’m getting my traditional meal of Haggis and Tatties. I omit the neeps because as every child knows they are a thread filled, stringy abomination. I didn’t go through the torment of growing up to start munching on stuff I had the good sense to turn my nose up at as a child.

The above clip is Eddi reader singing Ae Fond Kiss by Robert Burns which fact fans may be delighted to learn is the one song guaranteed to make Clairwil cry -even the strongest armour has it’s chinks. It was also written about a woman who lived about two minutes walk from where
I am now and was by all accounts something of a stunner and one of the few women to spurn the advances of the very attractive Burns.

Right. Enough me. Let’s have the usual nonsense below. Anything controversial or serious will incur my wrath and with the mood I’ve been in this week you really don’t want that.

Cheerio

Filed under: Blog
25th January, 2008

Who is Guido working for?

by Leon at 2:04 pm    

Is this what David Cameron meant by new politics?

guido vs hain

Below is an unsolicited email sent yesterday by Guido to political journalists and sundry others, modestly claiming credit for Peter Hain’s resignation. If you can bring yourself to read all the way to the bottom, check the boilerplate legal text in the last three paragraphs. [Via Three Line Whip]

Or is this just one blogger inflating his importance?

Salman and Salman: the case of the two fatwas

by Rumbold at 11:57 am    

When many in the West hear the word fatwa, their minds immediately turn to the infamous one issued against Salman Rushdie. The very word conjures up dark images, but in fact a fatwa is simply a ruling by a mufti on a particular subject, which can range from the important (marriage), to the mundane (types of shoes). Thankfully, some fatwas come along to help put the word in a less scary light:

“A Bollywood actor has had a fatwa issued against him for allowing Madame Tussaud’s in London to make his image in wax. Salman Khan, star of more than 50 movies, unveiled the statue himself last week and described it as an honour. Most Indians would agree, but Mufti Salim Ahmad Qasmi, a Muslim cleric in India, said the statue is illegal according to the Sharia, which forbids depictions of all living creatures, Mohammed in particular.

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How convenient

by Sunny at 9:12 am    

Just when the government has to publish a bill trying to extend the time a person can be detained without being charged to 42 days, Labour ministers start talking up the threat we face from terrorism.

The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said today that the terror threat facing the UK was “higher than it has ever been” as she unveiled new laws to detain terror suspects without trial for up to 42 days.

Under the counter-terrorism bill 2008, published today, the home secretary would be able to sign an order to extend the pre-charge detention period for terror suspects beyond the current 28 days.

Smith said the higher detention limit, which is expected to set her on a collision course with Labour rebels, would only come into force in “clear and exceptional” circumstances.

But this a smokescreen of course. As Liberty’s director Shami Chakrabarti points out on CIF:

The government’s references to extending pre-charge detention use the language of “exceptional” and “reserve power”, but the reality is that the home secretary can activate these powers at any time. There is no need for a public emergency of the type envisaged in the nightmare scenario – indeed, an individual case can be trigger enough.

The new proposals are meant to include parliamentary safeguards, but the home secretary only has to inform Parliament that she has triggered the 42-day limit. Parliament will only be allowed a vote up to 30 days later – and then only if the government is seeking to renew for yet another 30 days. By this time, suspects could have already been held for six weeks. Further, the decision to trigger the 42-day limit cannot be challenged, even if used unlawfully, and the power could not be struck down – does this constitute judicial scrutiny?

The Liberty position is that not only is there no need to extend past 28 days, but the Civil Contigencies Act already makes provisions for emergencies if, in the highly unlikely chance, 2 or 3 9/11s happened on the same day. Liberty’s point is that any extension should first be approved by judges/ministers, while the government is trying to make it so it can detain anyone past 28 days just by shouting “emergency“!

I’m hoping to speak to various campaign groups over the next few weeks to figure out how we can campaign on this issue and increase pressure on Labour MPs to rebel against this bill.

Demonstration against Musharraf, Saturday, London

by Sunny at 2:33 am    

This was sent out by Amnesty International today:

President Musharraf arrives on these shores tomorrow (Friday) and is due to meet Gordon Brown on Monday. And then there are the elections scheduled in Pakistan on 18 February. The likelihood of those elections being free and fair elections looks pretty unlikely at the moment. During the recent State of Emergency, Musharraf dismissed most of the senior judges and replaced them all with his cronies. He’s also been responsible for detaining without trial thousands of lawyers, journalists and human rights activists.

Tomorrow, we’re issuing a press release condemning Musharraf’s actions and stating our belief that Pakistan is on the brink of “political catastrophe”. The press release should be up on the Amnesty site first thing: www.amnesty.org.uk/news/. It goes into more detail about the wide range of human rights violations that are ongoing there and also what we’re calling for.

In the meantime, details of our concerns can be found here.

Then on Saturday (26th January), Amnesty is taking to the streets with a demonstration outside Downing Street. The event is being led by lawyers in support of their colleagues in Pakistan and starts at noon. Feel free to spread the word and do come along if you can.

Filed under: Current affairs
24th January, 2008

George Galloway in London Assembly bid

by Leon at 4:58 pm    

george galloway

In a surprise move George Galloway is seeking election to the London Assembly this May.

George Galloway is to run for the London Assembly in May’s elections as part of a “progressive list”. He promised the group would gather a “broad coalition” of left-wingers who would promote “Old Labour values”.

Mr Galloway, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, has taken the decision amid splits within the anti-war Respect coalition. John Rees, the coalition’s general secretary, said he was sure the party would still “do very well without him”. Mr Galloway denied he had left Respect. [Via BBC News Online]

He denies leaving Respect yet isn’t running under their name? Sounds like Galloway is using the coming elections as a dry run for the creation of a new party. Still if he wins I’m sure at least one Labour MP will be sighing with relief having not relished the thought of facing him in a General Election…

Filed under: Party politics

Peter Hain resigns!

by Leon at 1:52 pm    

Oh dear, this is not a good week for Labour given the problems Ken Livingstone is facing. As the coming Mayoral Election battle heats up, continued problems at national government level means a cabinet level resignation will be damaging.

peter hain

Peter Hain resigned as work and pensions secretary today following the announcement that the Metropolitan police will investigate his failure to declare donations to his deputy leadership campaign worth more than £100,000.

He told Gordon Brown that his position was untenable after the Electoral Commission informed him they were referring him to the Metropolitan police over allegations he broke electoral law.

Hain has always insisted that the failure to declare the donations to his campaign was an accident and sources indicated that he would fight to “clear his name” from the backbenches.

[Via The Guardian]

I’ve lost track of the number of laptops, millions of people’s data lost and donations scandals in recent months…Gordon Brown must be bricking it.

Update: Paul Linford asks what happens next on his excellent blog (Paul, bring back the podcast!).

Filed under: Current affairs

‘Bad News’ from Pakistan

by Sunny at 9:27 am    

Last week the think-tank IPPR published a briefing paper on the situation in Pakistan, which is available here to read for free. I’m assuming its aim is to inform government policy on what should be done, which is timely given that Imran Khan is coming soon (or already here?) and so is Musharraf.

The short document goes against the view, which many seem to have assumed from my last post, that we need Musharraf in Pakistan for democracy to prosper.

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23rd January, 2008

Should the Canadian foreign minister be apologising?

by Rumbold at 7:49 pm    

The Canadian foreign minister has been forced to apologise after including the US and Israel on a list of countries that torture:

“Maxime Bernier said the list, which formed part of a manual on torture awareness given to diplomats, “wrongly includes some of our closest allies”. Mr Bernier insisted the manual was not a policy document and did not convey the official views of his government.

The listing was criticised by the US and Israel, who demanded it be changed. “We find it to be offensive for us to be on the same list with countries like Iran and China. Quite frankly it’s absurd,” said the US ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins.”

I cannot comment on allegations of Israeli torture, but we know that water-boarding happens (or at the very least happened), at Guantanamo Bay. This is different from isolated incidents such as Abu Gharib , which might or might not have been authorised by senior figures. Gitmo is, and has been for some time, an officially-sanctioned and defended camp. Add to that extraordinary rendition, and the only conclusion one can come to is that the US does torture, officially (as opposed to a few bad apples torturing, which any country can have).

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Why I still have a soft spot for Musharraf

by Sunny at 8:30 am    

This weekend Shariq, Zohra, Zahed and I met up with Reza Aslan as he stopped by London on his way to Israel for his next book. He’s great conversation and we all talked at length about the American elections, current affairs and even the situation in Pakistan.

So Shariq says that the west should stop giving financial support to dictators in the Middle East on the basis that if they go then a crazy Islamist regime would take its place. Now, I do think that we should lean on countries that are receiving financial support to be more democratic. But I’m not convinced that they will be overthrown by more democratic goverments. I think we should want to see them eased into democracy and more liberalisation of the media in the way Pakistan has for the last 6-7 years since Musharraf took power. Benazir Bhutto, for all her bluster about democracy, never liberalised the country in the way that he did. As for Nawaz Sharif… forget it!

This article by Karim Sajapour, which compares Pakistan to Iran, sums up my fears perfectly

The army has always been the strongest bulwark in assuring that Pakistan does not go the way of Iran. But while the officer corps may be steadfast defenders of secular rule, the rank and file reflect Pakistani society. In the event of an Islamist political awakening, the army’s allegiances are not guaranteed. In Iran, apart from senior commanders, who were either killed or fled the country, the Shah’s powerful, staunchly secular army switched sides to Khomeini’s revolutionary government virtually overnight.

This is not to suggest than an Islamist awakening in Pakistan is on the horizon, or that Pakistanis must choose between an unpopular autocrat or a Taliban-style government. On the contrary, Pakistan’s liberals are brave to agitate for democracy, the rule of law, and the accountability of Musharraf, whose presidency appears beyond rehabilitation. But they should learn from Iran’s revolution that their means of agitating for political reform must be relevant to the political ends they hope to achieve.

What do others think? Shariq? Is the comparison to Iran relevant in this case?

22nd January, 2008

Terrorism does not change the rules

by Sunny at 5:30 pm    

My article today on Comment is Free says that the Labour government is finally making sensible announcements on terrorism policy, now that Tony Blair has gone.

McNulty declared quite starkly that the (previous) government made a mistake by saying that “the rules of the game had changed”. We have to fight terrorism on the basis of rules and ideas we had built on over centuries, he added. “The new politics is the same as the old politics,” he said.

Consider the significance of what he said: it essentially goes against everything that underpinned Tony Blair’s philosophy. To Blair, 9/11 and 7/7 presented a new state of affairs and thus we had to apparently formulate an extraordinary response. In practice that meant little grumbling about Guantánamo Bay, extraordinary rendition, Belmarsh prison, waterboarding and not to mention the continual slew of anti-terrorism legislation.

Filed under: Civil liberties

Gordon Brown (nearly) nicked my idea

by Sunny at 9:00 am    

As I pointed out earlier, I was asked to pitch ‘an idea to change the world’ at the Fabian Society annual conference this Saturday. The idea was about South Asia and I thought to myself: ‘what one policy would transform our relationship with South Asia (on the cheap) while stabilising the region?‘. Bear in mind, I had 2 min to present the basic idea and argue why Labour should pursue it.

So here was my pitch: Britain should unilaterally suggest that India and Pakistan both be made permanent members of the UN Security Council, with veto powers, in return for signing up to the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.

It would be justified on the basis that India is a growing power that needs representation, while Pakistan is of vital geo-political importance and the only Muslim state with nuclear technology, and thus justifies its importance at the Security Council. Plus, the SC needs to expand anyway since it is grossly unrepresentative of the shifting balance of power.

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21st January, 2008

Is England a nation for whites only?

by Sunny at 12:28 pm    

On the OurKingdom blog, Anthony Barnett today does a very admirable job of taking apart the claim that England is a nation only for white people.

A nation is not a biological entity. Neither nationalism nor patriotism are racisms, even when racists avow them. Nationalism is an attachment to a polity, or would be polity. This is not a biological concept, its members are its citizens whatever their race. Benedict Anderson’s study ‘The Imagined Communities‘ shows why this is so in terms of the original development of nationalism. Perhaps knowing that any attempt to define a nation racially won’t work Gibson tries to use skin colour as if this was a “racialist principle”. But this is ridiculous. Any argument about skin colour soon forces us back to inner purity. We know where this leads.

“Our people will lose this country”, says Gibson. Wrong again. People like you never had it, Mr Gibson, whatever your real name, and will not do so now. The claim that “England is a white nation” is absurd as a concept, false historically, untrue as a description of the present, and will be repudiated as a claim on the future. Even better “biological egalitarianism” is true. Live with it!

20th century fascism, and even more so Nazism, was an imperial belief. It claimed the superiority of a race and set about to cleanse the surrounding parts of the planet. Gibson’s is a defensive fascism, which just asserts that England belongs to those he says are biologically qualified. But the claim is made with force despite the appearance of reason. The call to be strong, to oppose those who smell of weakness, to allege that anyone who does not “stand firm” merely accommodates out of a spineless desire for a quiet life, this is the language of the recruiting sergeant who exploits people’s anxiety with the appeal of potency.

I’ve just copied some of the main bits… but the whole article is quite brilliant. Read it and comment on it there or here.

20th January, 2008

British subject wants to change some British laws

by Rumbold at 6:48 pm    

Shockingly, the Daily Telegraph has revealed that not everybody in the country likes every single one of the laws, and some even want some fairly drastic changes to aspects of some of them. Who has enraged the Daily Telegraph so with their criticism of some of Britain’s laws? Could it be Simon Heffer, who wants to bring back the death penalty? Or those multitude of right-wing columnists who are always calling for the law and the state to be fairer towards drivers? No, it seems that the above are perfectly free to criticise laws that they do not like, without being accused of undermining the very fabric of British civilisation. Nor are said columnists considered to be representative of their people (port-drinking right-wingers). No, the Telegraph’s ire was reserved for those who apparently have no right to suggest changes to British law:

“Dr Hasan, who has been presiding over sharia courts in Britain for more than 25 years, argues that British law would benefit from integrating aspects of Islamic personal law into the civil system, so that divorces could be rubber-stamped in the same way, for example, that Jewish couples who go to the Beth Din court have their divorce recognised in secular courts.

He points out that the Islamic Sharia Council, of which he is the general secretary, is flooded with work. It hears about 50 divorce cases every month, and responds to as many as 10 requests every day by email and phone for a fatwa – a religious verdict on a religious matter.
Dr Hasan, who is also a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain on issues of sharia law, says there is great misunderstanding of the issue in the West.”

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Filed under: British Identity
19th January, 2008

It’s The Open Thread!

by Clairwil at 4:25 pm    

Hello All,
I can’t believe Pickled Politics is here for me to post on. There were times this week at the height of the technical difficulties when I was certain we’d be eaten by some hitherto unknown breed of computer monster. Happily all seems to well….for the moment.

I’ve dredged up a few charming bits and bobs to tickle you this week. Those of you who are feeling a bit unloved should pay a visit to The Automatic Flatterer for a quick ego boost. If you’ve been cursed with more enemies than your stock of insults can handle then The Biblical Curse Generator is just the ticket. Today’s clip is a warning to us all of the dangers of working for a rather frisky 70′s Joan Collins. Be warned boys!

As usual let’s have your links, weekend plans and comments of a trivial nature below. No politics, no serious stuff and no squabbles or I’ll see to it that your pomegranates wither.

Cheerio

Filed under: Blog
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