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31 October, 2008  
London Calling

A Health & Safety moment … Demobbed bankers flee to the law … Controversy of the week – nasty BBC prank on a Satanic Slut … Lord Chief Justice Judge wants to get tough with knifers … Lord Chancellor caught in “criminogenic” trap … That certain “whiffy” English male

imageA long train journey loomed and the fresh baguette with the pizza topping in the shop window looked enticing.

The station was teeming with people and I didn’t fancy the prospect of a salmonella sandwich on the train.

Like Andy from Little Britain, I said “I want that one,” but I added the word “please”.

A weedy assistant from the Crusty Corner, or whatever it was called, started to transfer the tasty morsel from its shelf to the toaster.

Then he dropped it in panic as he looked at the station clock.

“I’m sorry; it’s 14.09”

“So?” I replied, intrigued.

“Times up. I can’t sell it to you. We’ve expired.”


“It was made at 11.07. Three hours have elapsed. You are two minutes late. Health and Safety, I’m afraid.”

“But it’s my health and I’m willing to gamble on it,” I said.

“Sorry. Rules are rules. The company could be fined £20,000. Anyway [and I can’t believe he said this] it’s more than my job’s worth.”

What I had hoped would be my lunch was then cruelly tossed into the bin along with six of its colleagues.

* * *

It must be how bankers feel at the moment.

The lawyers from Linklaters have moved in en masse to Lehman Brothers.

The money men clearly envy the indestructible cockroach qualities of the litigious branch of the legal profession.

“If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em,” seems to be the mood these days.

As shell-shocked bankers scramble to service their massive mortgages, BPP Law School and the College of Law report that student numbers for the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) have gone up by at least 20 percent.

The GDL, for those of you who don’t know, is a one year conversion course that gives history, sports science or television studies graduates the equivalent of a law degree.

The course is expensive (£8,100 at BPP) and is referred to snidely as Law In a Nutshell.

It explains why a lot of young lawyers have never heard of Lord Denning.

imageThe bankers must be desperate because the GDL is followed by one year of the LPC (Legal Practice Course) which costs £11,500 at BPP.

The chief executive of the College of Law, Nigel Savage (seen here), told The Lawyer this week that:

“A great surge in people will mean even more competition for training contracts – especially because firms have kept their vacancy numbers static over the past few years.”

Methuselah Savage said he saw the same thing during the last recession when graduates from other sectors, such as banking and finance, decided to convert to law.

Deborah Dalgleish, head of trainee recruitment at Freshfields said:

“We confidently expect there to be a significant increase in students who decide to apply for training contracts from individuals who would previously have plumped for investment banking.”

Just as well. These days, Freshfields is wary about who it recruits.
Not long ago, Titilayo Olaifa, scored a placement at the magic circle firm on a scheme designed to give people from a disadvantaged background experience in the City.

Olaifa – on her second stint at the firm after work experience in 2005 – stole 11 cheques and wrote them herself, with six of them totalling around £60,000.

Four cheques were recovered but two cheques worth £13,500 were cashed and Titilayo was potted for five months.

* * *

imageThe Undertaker, Gordon Brown (seen here), also seems to have been around forever.

He appears to be enjoying the financial crisis. He wore a grey suit the other day and someone even saw him smile.

People are being urged to save their money but El Gordo is doing exactly the opposite.

The Treasury borrowed £8.1billion in September and £37.6 billion in the first six months of the financial year, according to the figures released last week.

The PM says it’s the only responsible thing to do.

Research from the Centre for Policy Studies shows that government debt is now the equivalent of £75,984 for every household.

If you type “Britain behind other countries” into Google you get 60,200,000 mentions.

* * *

imageThe Prime Minister dived into this weeks’ biggest controversy describing the behaviour of so-called funny men Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand (here and here) as clearly inappropriate and unacceptable.

During a radio show, the pair left pre-recorded messages on Andrew “Manuel” Sachs’ answerphone.

Ross said Brand had “fucked” Sachs’ granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, and they joked that Sachs might kill himself as a result.

Georgina (aka Voluptua) is in a band called Satanic Sluts.

Sachs, who on Fawlty Towers was often bonked on the head by John Cleese, is not happy – but then nor are the 30,000 people who, as of last night had complained to the BBC.

Ross is the highest paid presenter (£18 million for three years) on the Beeb.

When his pay deal was announced, Peter Fincham, BBC One controller, said:

“Jonathan is a uniquely talented broadcaster and is at the very top of his game. He’s one of the defining faces of BBC One.”

The salary comes from the public, who pay a licence fee of £139.50 a year.

imageWossie’s interviewing style is as follows:

“So Humphrey Bogart, I saw Casablanca in which you starred as the club owner, Rick alongside Ingrid Bergman who was special and she’s such a great actress and I must say I liked it but my wife didn’t because she said she’d rather shag me on the staircase at home and we have three hamsters and a pet pig.”

Brand is as funny as a burning orphanage. The title of his best-selling autobiography, My Booky Wook says it all.

And the fallout?

Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of the BBC trust, called the director general, Mark Thompson, back from his Mediterranean holiday to deal with the crisis.

The controller of Radio 2, Lesley Douglas, fell on her sword.

Russell Brand quit his £200,000 a year show and the lovely Ross has been suspended for 12 weeks and will not be paid his £16,000-a-day wages.

Grovels were issued to Manuel and Voluptua (snap).

* * *

The new Lord Chief Justice hit the headlines recently with a refreshing statement of intent.

imageLord Judge, (imagine him at school: “What are you going to be when you grow up Igor?”) ruled that a 12-month sentence handed to a stabber was “significantly unduly lenient”, given the victim’s horrific injuries.

Abdul Jabarkhil lost two-and-a-half pints of blood when he was knifed six times by a 16-year old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, following a late-night row over some chips.

“Let us repeat this message from the court,” said Judge squared (pic).

“Those who carry knives on the streets, and use them to wound and injure, must expect severe punishment.

“No ifs, no buts, no perhaps. We must do what we can to eradicate this dreadful problem of knives being carried and used.”

Sitting with Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Christopher Clarke, the Lord Chief Justice duly tripled the sentence.

* * *

However, this week Shaun Smith, a Recorder at the Leicester Crown Court blasted the Lord Chief Justice’s sentencing guidelines (I’m not clear if they are Igor’s or his predecessor’s).

The rules recommend that where there are no aggravating features such as violence, first-time burglars should be given community service orders.

The judge made his remarks as he was sentencing a 20-year old weasel who stole money from a home while a pregnant mother and her two year old daughter cowered upstairs.

* * *

imageThe Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw (pic), said he is driven nuts by the jargon of penal reformers.

Expressions like “the criminogenic needs of offenders” send him in to orbit. He said:

“I profoundly disagree that we should describe someone’s amoral desire to go thieving as a ‘need’ equivalent to that of victims or the law-abiding public.”

It’s a bit rich coming from someone who for 11 years has been a senior cabinet minister in a government which created a whole industry out of human rights.

Cruelly, The Telegraph pointed out that on its website this month, Mr Straw’s own department referred to “criminogenic support.”

* *

There is a certain type of English male, often a lawyer or an accountant, who is tall and painfully thin and who goes rambling on the weekends.

Our friend enjoys the odd pint of Real Ale, has a threadbare beard and is unfortunately a bit whiffy.

This is because he rides his bike to work and doesn’t shower.

I saw one on the rush hour train last night. There is a section in the front carriage which is set aside for push bikes but it also has spring back seats so people can sit down.

The English are an extraordinary race.

If you bump into them, they say “Sorry.”

Even though the train was packed, the cyclist asked four customers sitting in the spring back seats to get up so he could rest his bike against the wall.

He knew his rights and the passengers meekly complied.

But he wasn’t entirely selfish. Throughout the 26 minute journey not only did the elderly man and the pregnant woman stand; the bike did too.