The writing on the wall

Submitted by Anon on 18 June, 2003 - 1:00
  • Get out of town!
  • (Not) getting a rise in politics
  • Arise Sir BillÂ… oh, defender of free speech?
  • New TV boss
  • Old TV boss

Get out of town!

In a bout of ultra-parochial huffiness the leaders of Derby and Leicester city councils threatened boycotts of their nearest airport. This was because the airport - located near the speedtracks at Castle Donnington - had been given the name Nottingham East Midlands - apparently at the behest of cut-price airline BMIBaby. Nottingham is further away from the airport. But it is home to Robin Hood and mint sauce with mushy peas and therefore was considered to have greater "brand recognition" than Derby or Leicester.

Those budget airlines do take the p***! Not content with charging disabled passengers to use wheelchairs, and cancelling flights, leaving passengers stranded, etc, Ryanair has been taking Belgian government subsidies to use Charleroi airport, an obscure out-of town airport near Brussels. Such airports - two landing strips, a Nescafé machine and a blocked up women's loo - rely on the budget airlines. Charleroi so much so that Ryanair has had £11m subsidy to use it since 2001. Now the EU has ordered the company to pay back £3m.

(Not) getting a rise in politics

In another turn-up for propriety the European Parliament has voted not to increase its members' pay. MEPs had proposed the increase in exchange for giving up their practice of inflating their travel expenses to boost their incomes. The poor things. Perhaps George Galloway should rethink his chosen latest career move.

The trade union movement was always a good place for labour movement careerists to make some bread. But maybe no longer. Sir Bill Morris was a bit put-out when Tony Woodley tried to block the traditional Gen Sec retirement gift. Was Woodley being a bit of a meany? Surely the TGWU could afford a carriage clock or watch and chain? Not really. Gen Secs usually get to take away their "company cars". But Sir Bill didn't have one to take away, because he was used to being chauffeured in a leased car. And Sir Bill wanted ÂŁ63,000 - enough to buy him a top-of-the-range Jaguar XJR. After a lot of sound and fury, Woodley authorised a mere ÂŁ30,000.

Arise Sir BillÂ… oh, defender of free speech?

There is soon to be another Sir Bill. Microsoft boss and multi-billionaire Bill Gates is to be given an honorary knighthood. It can't be for his services to human rights. Technology sold by Microsoft to the Chinese government was used to censor the internet and resulted in the jailing of its political opponents. In China websites are banned for using words such as "Taiwan", "Tibet", "democracy" and "human rights".
So if the knighthood is not for human rights work, what is it for? Bill Gates' company is currently engaged in negotiating a fat contract to supply software to the NHSÂ…

New TV boss

At least Bill Gates has vowed to give away all his money before he dies. That's not something you'd catch the new boss of Channel Four doing. Luke Johnson's pet hate is "paying tax". Well, he didn't get where he is today by forking out for plebs like us to have heart operations. His rise to dizzy heights of media management came by way of organising parties (while an undergraduate), making over-priced pizzas (taking over PizzaExpress), over-priced offal (taking over the Ivy), and opening nightclubs where "women always come first" (opening cattle markets).

Johnson's speciality is taking over ailing companies and turning them around. Channel Four's output has become dross, leading the way with such fascinating "real life" documentaries as How Clean is Your House? Somehow we don't think Johnson is going to turn the quality of Channel Four's programmes around.

Old TV boss

For a brief time Johnson was employed by Jonathan Aitkin at TV-AM. Aitkin was sent to jail in 1994 after perjuring himself in a libel trial. Aitkin is now a spiritual guru. And the people who he sued for libel, the Guardian, this week published an extract from his book Psalms for People Under Pressure.

Forgiveness is of course a virtue and Aitkin appears to have plenty of it. However this kind of sanctimonious sophism cannot be forgiven.
While in jail Aitkin was subject to further legal action against him. At one point he was due to have his private letters sold off to pay off his debtsÂ… Then he said a prayer, using Psalm 37, and hey presto, he got a top lawyer to do work for him pro bono and a fantastically understanding judge. Psalm 37, says Aitkin, is about how "the Lord will make the justice of your cause shine like the noonday sun".

Call me cynical but I can't help thinking Aitkin's good fortune is more to do with being a member of the ruling class - albeit a slightly disgraced one. There is no such divine intervention for many ordinary people, who really deserve justice yet continue to be banged up for crimes they did not commit.

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