Kick Up The Tabloids


So he we are, three months after the Lockerbie bomber was released by the Scottish Government on compassionate grounds to return to Libya as he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer and had a life expectancy of less than three months. And guess what? Three months later, he’s still alive. Personally, however, I do think the decision to release al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds was the correct one to take, just as I believe the life sentence he was handing by the court in The Hague was correct. It was the decision to house him in Greenock Prison which provided him with the legal loophole he needed. Few people would could argue against a life sentence, with a recommended minimum term of twenty-seven years, for the murder of 270 innocent people. However, to condemn anyone to life in Greenock, either inside or outside prison, is a violation of their most basic human rights, no matter how heinous their crime.

At this autumn’s SNP conference, Alex Salmond not only backed up Kenny McAskill’s decision but compared his Justice Secretary to Ghandi. A strange comparison, and also a somewhat disturbing one. The idea of Kenny McAskill squatting on the floor of the Scottish Parliament dressed only in a loin-cloth would doubtless cause his fellow MSP’s sleepless nights at best. Furthermore, I saw Richard Attenborough’s excellent film on the life of the Mahatma in the cinema. I can’t recall there being a scene in which Ghandi was arrested for drunk-and-disorderly at Wembley Stadium.

Nonetheless, crime must be seen to be punished. Similarly, people should not be seen to benefit from corruption. How fitting it was, then, to see disgraced ex-Speaker Michael Martin being punished for his previous indiscretions by being given a life sentence to the House of Lords. No doubt his first action in the Lords was to fill in his expenses form.

Meanwhile, Sir Christopher Kelly has made a number of recommendations about MP’s expenses. The most contentious amongst these is that MP’s will no longer be able to employ their wives, or other family members. The smarter members will already have noticed the obvious loophole in this, namely that they can simply employ one another’s wives. Or, alternatively, they can engage in the age-old parliamentary tradition of shagging their secretaries, which Kelly appears to condone through omitting to mention it.

It is, of course, not certain that the Government will act on Kelly’s recommendations. He is, after all, merely advising them. Like Professor David Nutt who was sacked for issuing expert advice on drugs, which contradicted the government. It seems somewhat obtuse to appoint “experts”, and then base your policy on your previous ill-informed judgement. To then sack the “expert” when he points out that all expert knowledge contradicts the government’s ill-informed policies strikes me as being the action of someone who was off-their-face at the time. Besides, if you are to appoint a guy called Nutt to be in charge of your drugs policy unit, you do have to expect some of his findings to be slightly off-the-wall. My favourite statement of Prof Nutt was that more people died show jumping than taking ecstasy. And it has to be pointed out, no-one who takes ecstasy has ever killed anyone but themselves as a result. Whereas, some chinless son of the shire in charge of a horse is a potentially lethal weapon. Whether or not this will lead to a fad for going clubbing on horseback, or for the county set to starting taking E is anyone’s guess.

I thought I had taken too many drugs when I saw Nick Griffin on Question Time and found myself agreeing with him. Not, I hasten to add, on any of his policies or views on immigration. But in his claim that if he were alive today, Churchill would be in the BNP. Hard to argue against that, really. OK, Churchill may have won World War II but he was a nasty racist bigot.

Which leads us seamlessly onto swine, and thence to swine flu. The Scottish Government has also launched its Swine Flu vaccination programme. Unsurprisingly, Swine Flu Minister Nicola Sturgeon was present at the event and the papers duly recorded this. However, for weeks afterwards you couldn’t open a paper or turn on the TV news without witnessing a smiling Nicola sitting next to some member of the public receiving their immunisation shot. This raises three important points. Firstly, surely as Deputy First Minister as well as Health Secretary, the woman surely has much more pressing business to attend to. Secondly, does she have so little faith in our health care professionals that she feels compelled to attend each vaccination in person. Thirdly, could this not dissuade the public from coming forward to get their jabs? Many people are not too keen on getting injections in the first place, but who would want to get a swine flu jab with Nicola Sturgeon and several camera crews looking on. ?

It could be, of course, that Nicola really is too busy to attend all these photo opportunities in person and instead sends her stand-in and lookalike, Jeanette Krankie. I think we should be told.