Tag Archives: BBC Question Time

Digby Jones and Love My Lotto

Digby Jones There’s an old old joke which last night’s Question Time made me think of:

A man moves to a village in Wales and gets talking to an old man from the village.
He asks the old man what his name is, but the old man gets very irate at this point and says:
– See that line of houses over there? I built them all, but do they call me Jones the house builder? Do they hell!
– See those railway lines over there? I laid them all, but do they call me Jones the engineer? Do they hell!
– See those bridges over that river? I built them all, but do they call me Jones the bridge builder? Do they hell!
– But, a long long time ago, I shagged ONE sheep…

As ever when watching Question Time I was doing some casual online research about the speakers, especially where I didn’t know them very well, and I had been fortunate enough never previously to have encountered the most stereotypical roaring Tory boar, Sir Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham.
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Let’s talk about scroungers, gentlemen

The lineup on BBC Question Time tonight was Digby Jones, Alan Duncan, Emma Boon, Phil Redmond, Sadiq Khan.

Digby Jones was revealed in 2010 as “the most expensive member of the House of Lords in the West Midlands”

An analysis of his expenses claims shows that Lord Jones of Birmingham charged taxpayers £574.12 in allowances – for every day he attended Parliament. … The latest expenses figures show that Lord Jones claimed £24,687 for the period between April 2008 and March 2009, and attended the House of Lords 43 times, costing taxpayers £574.12 per appearance. (Birmingham Post, 18th February 2010)

“Digby, Lord Jones of Birmingham” was being paid a Ministerial salary of £108,253 per year between June 2007 and October 2008.

Jones read Law at University College London in the 1970s, paid for by the British taxpayer, and worked for twenty years at Edge Ellison, according to the biography on his website more in a business capacity than as a lawyer. For six years he was Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) between 1st January 2000 and 30th June 2006 and was knighted in 2005. His knighthood has not yet been withdrawn. CBI describes itself as the UK’s “premier business lobbying organisation” – fixing politicians for industry from its offices in Beijing, Brussels, New Delhi and Washington DC.

There’s also iSoft….

For six years Jones was a non-executive director and then advisor for the NHS IT contractor iSoft (between 2000 and 2006). A memorandum (by Ian Griffiths and Simon Bowers, The Guardian) submitted to the Commons Select Committee on Public Accounts in April 2007 with regard to some major irregularities in iSoft’s annual audit, notes that although Digby Jones, when a non-executive director at iSoft, had attended the audit committee and had instructed iSoft’s lawyers to inform the Guardian in the course of their investigation that

“He [Sir Digby Jones] is satisfied that there was no confusion over the matter internally, but there was an error in preparation of the draft minutes”

it turned out that a £30 million shortfall, attributed to a drafting error, was no such:

In October 2006 iSoft conceded the original minutes seen by The Guardian were entirely accurate. Continue reading

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Filed under Benefits, In The Media, Poverty

Douglas Alexander and Scottish independence

In May 2011, the SNP won a majority in the Scottish Parliament – a victory that was unprecedented for both party and Parliament.

Douglas Alexander, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, believes (Independent, 22nd January) this victory came about partly because of a renewed Scottish nationalism but primarily because:

In contrast, Scottish Labour failed to recognise the changed environment that, ironically, it had help to create. [Pretty sure Doug means “had helped” not “had help”, though it certainly did have help from SNP, Scottish LibDem, Scottish Greens, and the Scottish Socialist Party] The party was left singing the old hymns and warning of the risks of Thatcherism at a time when these songs were increasingly unfamiliar to a new audience with no personal knowledge of the tunes. In truth, Scottish Labour never felt it needed to be New Labour because arguably that process of modernisation was not needed to defeat the Tories in Scotland, but this complacency, in time, left us vulnerable to attack from a different direction from more nimble opponents.

There are much simpler answers why the Scots tended to vote SNP this time. Part of it may have been due to fed-upness with Labour (which I’ll deal with later), partly it may have been the Westminster brigade arriving in Scotland in April 2011 on a rescue mission, but mostly, I think, it was just that the Liberal Democrats had put a Tory UK government in. Voting for the LibDems was seen as voting Tory, and Scots don’t vote Tory. (Well, not many, and those that do, vote for the real Tory party.)
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David Dimbleby was a member of the Bullingdon Club

David Dimbleby has chaired Question Time since 1994. From the age of 7 until he graduated from Oxford in the early 1960s, he spent his young life in an all-male world of privilege: he went to the Glengorse School in Sussex and to Charterhouse School in Surrey: he went to Christ Church, Oxford, where he was President of the Christ Church JCR, editor of the student magazine, Isis – and a member of the Bullingdon Club, the exclusive society for getting very drunk and riotous for the very wealthy or very aristocratic. From Dimbleby’s background – his great-grandfather Frederick William Dimbleby was one of the Late Victorian press barons – he seems to have got in by the “very wealthy” clause. Whatever he smashed in his student rampages, one may suppose his family paid for it. He acts like a member of the Bullingdon Club. It’s a good thing he’s sober.

On Thursday 12th January 2012, the first Question Time of the year was in London, and kicked off with a question about high-speed rail and then moved into Scottish independence – as with Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister, on the panel, the BBC had evidently guessed it would.

In response to a question from a woman in the audience: “Who would be worse off if the marriage breaks up, England or Scotland?” David Dimbleby gave Kelvin MacKenzie the first response – and let him run except when MacKenzie claimed something so wrong (he said Scottish Labour MPs gave Labour UK governments their majority: Dimbleby politely corrected him). Dimbleby let Kelvin MacKenzie run til he was done: including two brief conversations between Dimbleby and Mackenzie, he allowed the former editor of the The Sun two minutes and 49 seconds to speak and to finish what he was saying.


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Filed under In The Media, Scottish Politics