The day I sat in Tony Blair’s chair and sacked Gordon Brown by Piers Morgan

Drinking Buddies or More?

Perhaps you are wondering why there is little attention to the story that Piers Morgan has lied about his involvement in Voicemail Hacking?

Perhaps you are wondering why you should be interested in the story.

Perhaps this article from 2008 will give an idea of the sort of influence that Mr Morgan once had on the UK Government. Here are a selection of some of the more cringing moments:

The article starts out with

Genius, tax thief, visionary, bottler… pundits describe Gordon Brown as any and all of these things. But Piers Morgan has dined, drunk, debated and gossiped with him for more than a decade … and in this article written for GQ he reveals what the Prime Minister is truly like.

On Gordon

I have spent more than a decade dining with Gordon Brown, arguing, joking, drinking and gossiping with him, and even discussing the finer points of microeconomics with him (very micro in my case).

So I would say I am in a better position than most to tell you what he is really like.

Some character trait facts first: he’s not a big drinker, has never taken drugs, doesn’t swear much but likes his footie.

He’s polite, even beguiling, to women, jokey with blokes, loyal to friends and family, and he can be surprisingly kind and sensitive.

He is much more charming off camera than on, and funnier too. I’ve not met many people who tell anecdotes like Gordon.

On the other hand, I’ve witnessed him be fiery, dogmatic, impatient, bored and ruthless to political enemies. Just ask the quivering carcasses of those who crossed him, such as Alan Milburn, Charles Clarke or David Blunkett.

On Blair

I remember sitting in Blair’s office after he came to power and him telling me: “Gordon’s incredibly important to this government. He has enormous political and intellectual depth. He really is one of the cleverest people in politics in a very long time.

On Gordon and Budgets

One of the trickier exercises for me as an editor was Budget day, mainly because I knew Gordon would call me after finishing his speech to ask what I thought of his announcements.

And that was, for an intellectual numbskull, a bit like Albert Einstein phoning to ask what I thought of his theory of relativity. “Piers, it’s Gordon, what did you think?” he would say.

“Well, Gordon,” I would stammer. “I thought your initiative on the escalator tax was most prudent.”

He’d grunt his appreciation and embark on an absurdly detailed analysis of his own budget and how it would directly help my readers.

By the end of our conversation, I’d say something pathetic like: “That all sounds brilliant, Gordon, congratulations”

And I would then limply return to my computer screen and prepare a front-page headline saying something deeply critical, such as: “BROWN’S A GENIUS!”

Fortunately, the Financial Times usually came to a similar conclusion. So did most of Gordon’s Cabinet colleagues, thus affording him more power than any Chancellor in recent times.

On Dinner Parties

I think I get invited along to his dinner parties as some sort of court jester, to wind up other guests and generally be as provocative as I can.

His Modesty

I suppose the point of this story, other than shamelessly boasting that I have the ability to affect the mood of one of the country’s most powerful men, is that Gordon is not a robot. He’s human.

On being at Ross Kemp’s 40th Birthday bash ( I wonder if his Ross’s wife was there?)

When I was sacked from the Daily Mirror, I never heard a word from him. When I bumped into him a few months later at the actor Ross Kemp’s 40th birthday party, he looked embarrassed.

“Ah, Piers, how are you? I tried calling you but you must have changed your number.”

I was in no hurry to dampen his awkwardness. “No, no, it’s the same one as always, Gordon. In fact, your wife got through on it OK.”

On the election that never was

Gordon made a brilliant start as Prime Minister but was severely knocked by the will-he-won’t-he Election farce. I urged him to go for it, but caution got the better of him. The debacle gave David Cameron a huge boost.

So here we have a man who was, allegedly, aware of all the hacking with a big influence on Gordon Brown. No surprise Gordon got us into such a woeful economic mess with friends and advisors like that.

The day I sat in Tony Blair’s chair and sacked Gordon Brown by Piers Morgan | Mail Online.

Rory Stewart: Afghanistan is not a threat to us?

In this talk for TED the Tory MP Rory Stewart attacks all of the arguments for staying in Afghanistan. It’s time to end the war, he says.

Well worth listening to. His destruction of the “This year is decisive” approach in Afghanistan is both entertaining but in many ways an extremely sad reflection on the poor progress we have made in Afghanistan.

Soldier shot in Afghanistan as MoD names two

Always and Forever

Sadly I missed the announcements on Friday of the deaths of two further British Soldiers in Afghanistan. And then today we have the further sad news of the death of a third soldier. The BBC has this:

A British soldier from 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment has been killed in Afghanistan, the MoD has said.

The announcement came shortly after two other soldiers, who died in separate incidents on Thursday, were named as Corporal Lloyd Newell and Craftsman Andrew Found.

The latest casualty was killed on Saturday when he was shot on patrol. His next-of-kin have been informed.

The total number of service personnel killed in Afghanistan stands at 374.

Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lt Col Tim Purbrick, said the soldier who was killed on Saturday was part of the protective cordon guarding a meeting between the Afghan National Army and people who had recently reoccupied the Haji Tor Aga Kalay area in the Nahr-e Saraj District.

He said insurgents with “engaged them with small arms fire during which he was fatally wounded. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

On the deaths of the soldiers on Friday the BBC has this

Craftsman Andrew Found (l) and Corporal Lloyd Newell were killed on the same day in Afghanistan

Corporal Lloyd Newell, a member of the Parachute Regiment, was killed by small arms fire in Helmand Province on Thursday.

Craftsman Andrew Found, 27, from Whitby, Yorkshire, was a member of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, he died in an explosion while trying to rescue a vehicle.

‘Man of integrity’

Cpl Newell was married with a nine-week-old daughter. The MoD said it would not be releasing details of his age or where he was from “because of the nature of his work”.

An MoD spokesman said the paratrooper “was a man of integrity and principle”.

“He was a natural and talented soldier who loved his work and the military lifestyle.

“He personified the great British Paratrooper – selfless, humble, cheerful and utterly reliable. He did his duty, relishing discomfort as a personal test, and always acting in the greater interests of the team.”

‘Laughter and love’

Craftsman Andrew Found, of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, serving with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, was killed by a bomb in the Gereshk Valley area of Helmand.

A father-of-two, his wife Samantha said: “You’re my husband, my best friend and are my world. I cannot explain my pain and the hole you have left in all our lives.

“You are the best husband anyone could have wished for; a great dad, friend and you have touched the hearts of many in your life.

“You loved your job, your family and friends and always loved a good joke. You always made me smile. I will love you always and forever. You were my rock and my hero and always will be. I love you so much.”

The couple had a son, Jaxson. Craftsman Found also had another son, Michael, from a previous relationship.

His parents Jennifer and Alan Found, and his brother Simon, said: “Even though we are all in pain now, we will remember the fun, the laughter and all the love he brought to all the people he knew and loved.”

Another sad week for our Armed Forces in Afghanistan. My thoughts are with all the families and friends of the three soldiers.

BBC News – Soldier shot in Afghanistan as MoD names two.

Help for Heroes Raises £100 Million for our Wounded Servicemen and Women


Way back in September 2007  I blogged about the appeal for a Vital Therapy centre for Soldiers even before the actual launch of the appeal. At the time I said

The head of the army Sir Richard Dannatt is having to appeal for funds for Headley Court rehabilitation centre near Ashtead, Surrey.

What do they need this money for.
Just simple facilities that should be available to our returning wounded soldiers.

The Help for Heroes appeal is to build a full-size rehabilitation pool and re-equip the antiquated gym at the centre, where currently 180 servicemen and women are being treated as in-patients.

At present, severely disabled service personnel, many of them amputees, endure a two-and a half-hour round trip to a public pool for vital cardiovascular exercise.

Once there, they must swim alongside the paying public in what is often a very private form of therapy.

The public should not have to be asked to fund this sort of centre, it should be adequately funded by the government as part of their Covenant to our Armed Services. It is their duty to support the armed forces particularly when they have been injured during the course of their service.

Only last week I blogged on another appeal by Sir Richard for the people of this country and in particular the government to get behind our soldiers.

It is time this government accepted it responsibility and Honoured the Covenant.

Now nearly 4 years on Help for Heroes has reached the landmark of having raised £100 million for our Armed Forces. This a an amazing achievement in such a short time. Please help by donating via the website or the link in the sidebar.

Help for Heroes Raises £100 Million for our Wounded Servicemen and Women.

Two further deaths in Helmand Province

Always and Forever

Sadly over the weekend there were two further deaths in Afghanistan.

Royal Marine killed in Helmand province

It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence must announce that a Royal Marine from 42 Commando Royal Marines was killed in Afghanistan today, Sunday 5 June 2011.

The Royal Marine was fatally wounded by small arms fire while on a joint patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj (South) district of Helmand province.

Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick, said:

“It is with great sadness that I have to announce the death of a Royal Marine from 42 Commando Royal Marines.

“He was on a joint patrol to meet local people and to disrupt insurgent activity in the Adensee area of Nahr-e Saraj district in Helmand province when he was fatally wounded by small arms fire this morning.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

Next of kin have been informed and have requested a period of grace before further details are released.

Soldier from 1 RIFLES killed in Helmand

It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must announce that a soldier from 1st Battalion The Rifles (1 RIFLES) was killed in Afghanistan yesterday, Sunday 5 June 2011.

The soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device while on a patrol in the Haji Kareen area of the Nahr-e Saraj (South) district of Helmand province.

Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick, said:

“It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of the death of a soldier from 1st Battalion The Rifles in the Haji Kareen area of the Nahr-e Saraj district in Helmand province.

“The soldier was part of a foot patrol, supporting an Afghan National Security Forces operation to clear one of the last remaining insurgent safe havens in central Helmand, when he was fatally wounded by an improvised explosive device.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

Next of kin have been informed and have requested a period of grace before further details are released.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of the two soldiers at this sad time.

Ministry of Defence | Defence News | Military Operations | Royal Marine killed in Helmand province.

‘Perfect’ Highland soldier killed on patrol in Afghanistan is named

Corporal Michael John Pike
Corporal Michael John Pike

Sad to report that the soldier killed on Friday 3rd June was from Huntly in Aberdeenshire.

Father-of-two Corporal Michael John Pike, 26, of 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, died on Friday. His commanding officer described him as

“the perfect example of a Highland soldier- loyal and fiercely courageous”.

He added

“The loss of Corporal Mike Pike has been felt deeply by all ranks of the Battalion. He was an enormously popular, charismatic and engaging character; a natural leader in every way. As a junior commander he was entirely dedicated to his soldiers, leading from the front with every step and they would follow him anywhere.

“A natural practical joker, his innate sense of fun was a constant source of amusement and relief for the whole Platoon. He was marked out by his constant wry smile whether leading his company from the front at PT or pushing his section on when under pressure; simply unflappable.

“As one of the brightest stars in the Battalion, he had already been earmarked for having potential for the very highest promotion. Whether as a commander or as a friend he was the perfect role model.

“As a soldier, he was one of the most professional I have known, and he was the very epitome of a Highland soldier: fierce in battle, compassionate to all and unswervingly loyal to his friends – a code he lived by to the very end.

“Our thoughts and prayers are entirely for his family, and especially Ida, Joshua and Evelynn in Germany; above all else he was a deeply loving and caring family man. His loss has left a hole in the Battalion, in his company and especially his platoon. However, I have a strong suspicion that he would not want us to dwell on his loss, I suspect that he would simply put his kit on, make a joke about it and carry on in the same dedicated, professional manner.”

My thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.

BBC News – ‘Perfect’ Highland soldier killed on patrol in Afghanistan is named.”

UK soldier killed on patrol in Afghanistan

Always and Forever

The BBC reports on the death of a Scottish soldier in Afghanistan.

A UK soldier has been killed while on a security patrol in Afghanistan.

The soldier was from The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland and died on Friday.

The soldier came under fire from rifles and rocket propelled grenades in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand province. Next of kin have been informed.

This latest death brings the number of British military deaths in operations in Afghanistan since 2001 to 369.

Army spokesman Lt Col Tim Purbrick said the soldier was on patrol with the Afghan National Police when his unit was attacked.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends,” he said.

My thoughts are with his family and friends on this sad day.

BBC News – UK soldier killed on patrol in Afghanistan.

Jimmie Buchan – Scottish Fish

Jimmy Buchan at Tower Bridge

Good to see local celebrity from Trawlerman, Jimmie Buchan, taking his campaign to promote Scottish Fish to the heart of London.

I love Scottish fish but as 80% of it disappears abroad we miss much of the best of it. Strangely whilst we are on holiday in France this year we are likely to see more of it than is available in Aberdeen.

STV reports

Jimmy Buchan, star of television series Trawlermen, docked the Amity 2 next to Tower Bridge as part of the protest against discarding fish at seas.

The Peterhead boat eventually made its way up the River Thames after travelling 450 miles, on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Buchan is raising money for the charity The Fishermen’s Mission which fights poverty and despair in fishing communities by providing help to their families.

The charity is a support system to the 13,000 men and women work in deep sea fishing. At sea, they face death and injury on a daily basis and on land, many face insecurity and debt. The aim of The Fishermen’s Mission is to help the lives for the 50,000 retired fishermen and their dependants as there is no respite from hardship once the fishing’s over.

Mr Buchan is promoting his new book Trawlerman about life at sea, which he calls “the tougest job in Britain”. He is also showing his support for the Scottish fishing fleet.

The skipper said: “What I always say to people is what kind of fish do you really want? What we can produce is wild cod, a great Scottish fish.

“But when you are buying fish in the supermarket do you check if it is from a sustainable source? That’s the kind of things we are starting to lead with in Scotland.

“Our haddock is now MSC accredited and we are hoping that our langoustines will be the same this year. So we are starting to tick the boxes that are important to the consumer.

Mr Buchan’s arrival in London co-insides with a campaign by the celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who is in Brussels trying to persuade the European Parliament  to change the rules on quotas and discards – throwing back fish which is illegal to catch.

Mr Buchan will be berthed next to Tower Bridge for four days and during that time his trawler will be open to the public . He is also hosting a barbeque for 30 top London chefs to try to persuade them to buy Scottish fish.

You can link to Jimmy Buchan on Facebook here.

Skipper of Trawlermen fame takes fishing fight to London | Aberdeen and North | STV News.

Tesco mistake leads to beer rush

 

 

 

Tesco managed to misprice an offer on beer last night and were selling cases for about 30p a bottle. One or two may have passed our door as the end of exams were celebrated last night.

Tesco may like to now come and deal with the clean-up operation and supply some hangover cures as well for the afflicted.

BBC News – Tesco mistake leads to beer rush.

Two Royal Marines killed in Helmand

 

Always and Forever

Sadly it seems that Afghanistan has taken a further toll on our Forces. The MOD reports:

It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must announce that two Royal Marines from 42 Commando Royal Marines were killed in Afghanistan yesterday, Friday 27 May 2011.

The Marines were killed by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) while on a joint Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operation to clear parts of the Loy Mandeh area of the Nad-e Ali (North) District of Helmand Province.

Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Major Rolf Kurth, said:

“It is my sad duty to inform you of the death of two Royal Marines from 42 Commando Royal Marines in the Loy Mandeh area of the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand Province.

“The two Royal Marines were on patrol, disrupting insurgent activity when they were killed by an explosion caused by an IED. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends in their time of grief.”

Next of kin have been informed and have asked for a period of grace before further details are released.

My thoughts are with their family and friends at this sad time.

I had hoped it would be a while before I had to blog about the deaths of our Armed Forces in Afghanistan but sadly it seems not. I can only hope it will be a while before I have to again.

Ministry of Defence | Defence News | Military Operations | Two Royal Marines killed in Helmand.