31 October 2008

Snatch Land Rover Links

  • Five million down

  • Men of iron

  • A dose of reality

  • A question of negligence

  • Plus ├ža change …

  • How many more times?

  • Holding to ransom

  • No celbrations yet

  • Minister defends Snatch

  • Stupid, malign fools

  • Inquest fatigue?

  • It definitely saved my life

  • It does not end there

  • A breach of human rights

  • The last "hello"

  • Five years on

  • Shooting the messenger?

  • More coffins for the troops

  • They didn't have to die

  • Without further details ...

  • No one to blame!

  • Costing lives

  • Another day, another inquest

  • A lack of focus

  • A dangerous "puff"

  • Lesson to learn

  • Death trap failed to protect soldier

  • Another Vector?

  • The spectator sees more of the game

  • All because the generals prefer their shiny toys

  • What a difference a year makes

  • How we got it wrong

  • A humourless post

  • These men should be dead

  • Imagine this was a Snatch

  • We are not wrong

  • The battle of Basra

  • Alright - I did tell you so

  • It was a Snatch!

  • The road to defeat

  • Are they insane?

  • A purely imaginary world

  • Run out of town

  • Ignore the good news

  • Counter-insurgency in the House

  • Some quiet pride

  • Flawed choices

  • A collective failure

  • And so to Gerald

  • Getting away with it

  • Reflected glory

  • Going backwards

  • Where were you?

  • Two soldiers lightly hurt

  • A retreat from politics

  • Muppets half hour

  • Squandered lives

  • Cost-effective defence

  • God is on our side

  • Adding to the confusion

  • Of course we do care

  • The lies of Lord Drayson

  • The great debate

  • Jan tomorrow

  • The mean streets of Basra

  • The wickedness of the Beeb

  • Coffins on wheels

  • The greatest enemy

  • The ministers must lie

  • Mobility and protection

  • Canaries down the mine

  • The wheels on the truck go round...

  • How Blair is killing our soldiers

  • The dog that didn't bark

  • Shape up or get out

  • Are we a nation of mummy's boys?
  • 15 October 2008

    The law is the law …

    Our honourable and esteemed Members of Parliament have for many years laboured under the delusion that they produce laws. For sure they may, with the assistance of their clerks and printers, churn out pieces of paper with words on them. Those may bear impressive titles, like "Act of Parliament", or "Statutory Instrument", but they are not laws.

    Some people – too many – take these pieces of paper seriously. "The law is the law and must be obeyed," they parrot, especially when it comes to things like speed limits and other irritations.

    Down at the cutting face, though, that never used to be the case. As a young public health inspector, working for a large city local authority – one of a large team - there was only one law: my law. On my patch, a small slice of the Council area, I made the law. Furthermore, I was policeman, judge, jury and executioner. In truth, there was only one primary law: "Don't mess with North".

    That one superior law, however, did not stop me or my fellow inspectors making subsidiary laws, each to apply in our own patches – "districts" we called them – as occasion demanded.

    At times, our law-making was quite prodigious, aided considerably by a highly reputable firm of law stationers. At a not insubstantial cost to our employer, and thus the good ratepayers for whom we toiled, this long-established company produced for us pads of extremely impressive forms. These were "Notices" – always with a capital.

    With space at the top to type in the name of our employer, each proclaimed in bold capitals, "Take Notice" adding, "… that the aforementioned local authority does hereby require you …". There was space for the recipient's address, and then a large space in which we could insert our specific "requirements". The Notice was finished by the addition of a date by which said "requirements" should be completed, with the usual signature block and all the rest.

    If anyone ever asked by what authority we issued such edicts – and very few did – we would tell them they stemmed from the Local Authority (Consolidated Powers) Act 1938. This Act was later amended and updated to become the "73 Act", to reflect local government reorganisation. Do not bother to look it up on Google though. It does not exist. It never existed. In the office, the "Notice" was known by its short title: "Section 3 of the 1938 Bluff Act".

    Most times, it worked. For a whole variety of minor aggravations, where a request or a friendly warning had been disregarded, out came the "big stick". People usually came into line. Some had smart lawyers and refused to comply. We had our ways of dealing with that.

    One such came about in an unusual way – even for us. There was this restaurant, a small one in the university area. Dirty, it was – very dirty – and I wanted to close it down. The law – the stuff which came from Westminster – allowed me to do that, but I had to serve the official closure notice on the owner of the premises, otherwise it was not valid.

    This business, however, was not operated by the owner, but a tenant. He would not enlighten me as to who the owner was. That presented a problem: through some peculiar defect in the law (since remedied), I had no statutory power to demand that information. So off went a Section 3 Notice to the "occupier", demanding the owner's name and address. This one did have a smart lawyer. I got a tart letter back by return, refusing the information.

    I did have the option of prosecuting the restaurant operator, for offences under the food hygiene laws. But that was a mug's game. When I say "one" in respect of the restaurant operator, the operation was owned by a syndicate. This was the immigrant fraternity and they often played that game. You would set up the prosecution and they would dissolve the syndicate, close the premises for half a day, reform the syndicate – same people, different order on the documents – and re-commence trading. Back to square one.

    Okaaaay. So I went back and did a reinspection – a thorough one, in the middle of their lunch trade, their busiest and most profitable time. And when I say thorough, I mean thorough. To do that, of course, I needed to remove all the kit from the cupboards, all the food from the shelves, all the contents of the refrigerators, the cutlery from the drawers, the crockery, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. How else could I inspect them? Out it all came, tossed none too gently into the centre of the kitchen floor, conveniently visible from the dining area.

    Offering them friendly "advice" on how to clean up the mess, I left them to it, only to return the next day, and the next, and the next … On my day off, a fellow inspector helped me out and, just in case they thought they would get a break over the weekend, I did a Saturday evening inspection. It really was quite amazing how quickly they came into line. The restaurant is still there, trading under the same name. It's quite a nice little operation now.

    As for the "real" law – the stuff from Westminster - that was optional. If we said it was law, it was law. If we said it wasn't, it was ignored.

    Take the "nail brush law". The Food Hygiene Regulations required of every wash basin in every food premises that they were equipped with soap, towel and nail brush. A boffin in the public health labs had done some work on nail brushes though. He had found that, in the warm atmosphere of a kitchen, after a few uses, the germ growth was so horrendous that you had to nail them down to stop them going walkies. That's why we called them nail brushes.

    Thus, the word went out to discourage their use. If we saw them, we binned them and told people accordingly. Never mind the law – our job was public health, to protect the public.

    Mind you, the law is the law … On the few occasions that we prosecuted food operations – and it was invariably the last resort, sometimes after years of warnings – we did everything to make them stick. While you could get them for dirty floors walls and ceilings, they only had four walls, and one each ceiling and floor – six offences. Add two or three missing nail brushes and that nicely padded out the charge sheet. It was only a few hundred quid extra fine, but it added to the pain.

    Eventually, they did change the law. But not before we had a prosecution and got the Mags to impose maximum fines for some missing brushes. It was quite fun telling the punter that, had he been a few weeks later, he would have got away with it.

    Prosecutions, though, were only for the small guys. They got hurt, and if that was our intention – then hurt there must be. There is no point in pussy-footing about. If the guy is a public menace and won't listen, then you have to take him out.

    Corporates, though – they were different. You could take them to court. A gang of my fellow inspectors, in different local authorities, tried it. The corporates would put up their smart lawyers, forcing us to match them out of our budget with expensive barristers. Even if you got top whack on fines – and £20,000 was a big fine in those days – they would shrug, sign off a corporate cheque and walk out of the court smiling. They paid their lawyers more.

    I had one on my patch – a big-name branded hotel and restaurant, dead smart and stuck-up. It was a pain. They knew exactly how far they could go. Not good, but not bad enough to make a prosecution stick. You'd send them a Notice - a proper one - requiring works. They would do some of them.

    A small independent – they would do the work straight away. Some of them had to struggle to afford it, but two or three visits later and you could sign them off. Not this lot. It took as many as ten or twelve visits to cajole them into completing the works, by which time you were back on a new inspection cycle, starting all over again.

    They were messing me about. They knew it. I knew it. They thought they knew the law and they did – Westminster law. But they didn't know my law. The only law you don't break: "don't mess with North". I did the rope trick. This was not the Indian rope trick. Just rope – give them enough rope and they'll hang themselves. Instead of the three-month cycle, I left it six months in the hope that they would get complacent in my absence and get bad enough to nick.

    You can't do that these days, incidentally. Inspection cycles are set by EU law, and if you miss one, there is holy war. But that's another story.

    On the appointed day, I went into the kitchen. It wasn't good, but not as bad as I had hoped for. Fortunately, the Gods were smiling on me that day. Unbeknown to the chef, the walk-in cold store had broken down overnight. Stacked with meat and other perishables, they had gone off. As I approached the store, I could smell it.

    Food in a commercial food premises, unless it is specifically marked to the contrary and segregated, is deemed food "exposed for sale". And "exposing" rotting food for sale is an offence. By this time the meat was rotting – high as a kite.

    Furthermore, if such food was present – unfit food – I had the power to seize it and take it before the Mags to get it condemned. That was Westminster law and I was quite happy to use it when it suited me. The hotel management offered to "surrender" the food, but I wasn't having that. This had to hurt. I was going to make it so, in a way they would not forget.

    Our department had its own "condemned food" truck. We offered a service to local food producers, taking away their waste, disposing of it under supervision to stop foraging in the tips. It had painted on the side, in very large, prominent letters, "condemned food".

    I got on the 'phone and whistled up the truck. But, instead of going to the loading bay round the back, discretely, I had it park in the front. We put it in the guest drop-off bay right opposite the front door. Then I got my lads, two of them, kitted up in white coats, hats, boots – all the gear – to go through reception, through the ever-so posh restaurant and into the kitchen. By then, it was lunch time. The place was full of diners, the expense account crowd and all the rest.

    At our leisure, we carried the trays of rotting meat, one at a time, through the crowded restaurant, through reception and into the truck, in full sight of the diners. It took us a long time.

    To cut a long story short – there was much more merriment before we had finished - I met the operations director of the hotel some long time later. By then, I had changed sides and was working for the company. He told me I had shaved 20 percent off the turnover of the hotel that month, and it had taken over a year to recover. In fact, by the time the word got out, it never really did recover. The company eventually sold the hotel. But, I never had any more bother with it. They learned about North's law the hard way.

    That, also – with the others – was an example of result-based regulation. The name of the game was to keep operations safe. We did what it takes to keep them that way and protect the public. We were good at it, and the law – Westminster law – was only one very small part of our toolkit.

    In its own way – using a similar approach – that is what the Bank of England used to do in order to keep the financial system sound. I know this as I have spoken to some "old timers". The businesses and the objectives might have been different. But I recognised the techniques and strategies. More to the point, I recognised the philosophy. It was the same.

    And if it sounds like we were a law unto ourselves, we weren't really. The punters just had to believe that. There were all sorts of checks and balances to make sure we didn't go off the rails and get too big for our boots. They didn't always work, and the system was far from perfect. But it was much, much better that what we have now.

    That is the subject for another post.


    13 October 2008

    "A disaster waiting to happen"

    The financial crisis in which we are presently engulfed was a "disaster waiting to happen". This is the final chapter in an inevitable, but wholly avoidable disaster that involves primarily a complete breakdown in the structure of our law, and its enforcement. In short, what we are experiencing is a major regulatory failure, possibly the most serious and expensive in the history of mankind.

    Yet the words in the title were uttered by myself, over ten years ago, in respect of a completely different regulatory disaster. I expressed them to Sheriff Principal Graham Cox in Motherwell Sheriff Court in April 1998. That was my expert view of the meat product manufacturing operation run by Scottish butcher John Barr in Wishaw (pictured), Lanarkshire, and its condition prior to 21 people being killed and 400 infected from an outbreak of E coli O157:H7 over December 1996 and January 1997

    The reason the operation killed so many people is exactly the same reason our banks and our economy is in meltdown: bad law and dangerously poor enforcement - in this current case the one created at global level transmitted to us via EU law, the other via the Financial Services Authority, itself an EU construct.

    Therefore, to understand why we are in this mess, right now, it is extremely instructive to explore what happened in that unremarkable little Central Scottish town of Wishaw all those years ago.

    Bear with me on this one. This is going to be a long story and, before we embark on it, you need a little background. First of all, you might ask, who is this Richard North, a lowly blogger, to deliver such a robust opinion, and by what right does he make such an assertion?

    Well, blogger I might be now – and many other things besides – but it wasn't always so. Before I walked away from a challenging and exciting profession – in disgust (for reasons I will explain later) – I was the leading food safety expert in the country.

    I can say that without false modesty – false modesty itself being a form of vanity. In my (albeit very narrow) field, I was the best. (I even have an award for it, "The Foodtech Achievement Award 1999" for my "outstanding contribution to food hygiene and safety" – the only award I will ever get. I still have the engraved plaque. I'm quite proud of it.)

    And that's why I was called to give expert testimony in one of the most important and controversial Fatal Accident Inquiries Scotland had had for many years.

    One of my specialist areas (more accurately, sub-specialism) was enforcement standards. Having worked in law enforcement in the public sector, I had moved over to the private, as a consultant. There I had, on behalf of my clients, been on the receiving end of enforcement action all over the country. This had given me a unique overview of enforcement standards.

    In my opinion, they were poor – dangerously so. Inspectors – or environmental health officers, as they chose to call themselves - simply were not doing their jobs at all well. They were neither protecting the public, nor indeed the traders, who also suffer massively from food poisoning outbreaks. Many, like John Barr, lose their businesses.

    Over term, I had become increasingly voluble about what amounted to a massive regulatory failure. In the business – and this might sound odd – we needed good regulation, properly applied. The logic is unassailable. If you have an operation which is doing its bit, spending the money on maintaining "backroom" standards, and the operation down the road is not, it has an unfair competitive advantage.

    My 1996, my profile on this issue was extremely high. By then, I had been working with Christopher Booker for four years, feeding his column, and we had been running a campaign through The Sunday Telegraph and The Daily Mail on the "hygiene police", and "mad officials".

    Our line was based on the premise, "the sledgehammer to miss the nut". We did not oppose regulation, or officials - per se. The objects of our ire were bad law and poor, or inadequate enforcement.

    Thus, when the John Barr outbreak happened, I was more than a little interested. I had just completed my PhD which, to a very great extent, dealt with enforcement and food poisoning investigation procedures. I wrote about the outbreak extensively in the national press – and elsewhere – forming the opinion that, as much as anything else, it had been a regulatory failure.

    The point, which I was to make to Sheriff Cox, was that – in the main – food poisoning outbreaks are preventable. They are not Acts of God, or accidents. In commercial premises, they invariably arise from a chain of events which, from an oversight of the premises, are detectable. A skilled inspector can, from observation, identify these issues, take remedial action and thereby prevent disease.

    That was the real point. That is what we, as a profession – whether public or private sector – were there for. We were there to prevent disease, to protect the public. Furthermore, that was the purpose of the regulations – a tool to help us achieve that desirable object.

    In respect of John Barr, I was appointed by the lead law firm representing the bulk of the victims, working with an astute solicitor by the name of Paul Santoni. My task, at the Inquiry, was to give expert evidence which would help the Sheriff determine the cause of the deaths of 21 people.

    Having seen the detailed plans of the operation and all the technical evidence of the case, the facts were clear to me. As I was subsequently quoted in the media recording my evidence:

    …when the Wishaw butchers started in a small way the working layout had been adequate. But as the business grew the layout was no longer adequate and there was a very real and unavoidable risk of cross-contamination from raw meats to cooked meat products. His report was further quoted as saying, "It's nothing short of a minor miracle there had not been a food poisoning outbreak earlier."
    In our book, Scared to Death, we tell the story in detail – in Chapter 6, headed "Officials can kill". I've pasted the whole excerpt, which repeats some of the detail, but it's a good read:

    The most famous thing that ever happened in the drab former coal-and-steel town of Wishaw, near Motherwell in the Clyde valley, took place in late November 1996. A group of pensioners gathered in a church hall for lunch, to eat stewed steak and puff pastry supplied by the award-winning local butcher, John Barr and Sons. Afterwards many fell desperately ill, until eventually 21 died. Many more had suffered permanent damage to their health, particularly affecting their kidneys.

    The cause of the infection was soon identified as E.coli O157.H7, the strain identified since 1982 as potentially lethal and now responsible for the worst E. coli outbreak the world had ever experienced. The source of the infection was tracked down to John Barr's shop.

    When Barr was told this by Graham Bryceland, the chief EHO of North Lanarkshire council – until now, he claimed, he had never heard of E. coli - he agreed to stop selling cooked meats. But Bryceland took no further action and only days later Barr supplied more than 100 guests at an 18th birthday party at a nearby bar with 300 slices of turkey, ham and other cooked meats. Again some of the guests soon fell ill. When Bryceland was informed, he summoned Barr out of a service at the local Catholic church for an angry interview at the council offices, but failed to record what was said.

    A year later, when in total 200 people around Wishaw had been confirmed as suffering from E. coli poisoning, with hundreds more suspected, Barr faced trial, charged with the "culpable, wilful and reckless supply" of contaminated meat to the birthday party.

    Because Bryceland had failed to keep a record of his interviews with Barr, and because there was a dispute about their earlier agreement over cooked meat, a large part of the prosecution case collapsed. Four charges were dropped, and Barr was cleared of any personal blame. On two remaining charges, relating to hygiene and the sale of contaminated meat, his company was in January 1998 found guilty and fined £2,500.

    Three months later, however, a new drama began. Under Scottish law, a Fatal Accident Inquiry had to be held into the first E. coli outbreak, because 20 people had died. Its purpose was to establish the cause of death; to determine whether any precautions might have been taken to prevent the deaths; and to identify any system defects which caused or contributed to them.

    In April 1998 the inquiry opened, under Sheriff Graham Cox. The Motherwell courtroom was packed with a dozen legal teams, several led by QCs. Seated behind batteries of laptops, most represented public bodies, whose prime concern was to defend their own role in the events surrounding the outbreak. Centre stage were the lawyers for Bryceland and North Lanarkshire district council.

    The one exception was a local Wishaw solicitor, Paul Santoni, representing the family of one of the pensioners who died. To act as his chief expert witness, he had called in Dr Richard North, not unknown in the area since the role he had played in the Lanark Blue case three years earlier.

    What had particularly caught their attention was the role played in the story by the local EHOs, who, after the tragedy occurred, seemed to have found it only too easy to identify 134 serious hygiene faults in Barr's premises and procedures, any one of which might have contributed to the fatal outbreak. But if all these faults were now so obvious, why had North Lanarkshire's health officials not spotted them before the event, during what were meant to be their regular inspections?

    Certainly most of the deficiencies were so glaring that an experienced hygiene expert should have picked them up immediately. As one of the most dangerous of the bugs which can damage human health, E. coli O157 had in recent years become increasingly common in raw meat, not least because of the stress imposed on animals by the concentration of the slaughterhouse industry into fewer and larger units under the EC's "hygiene" directive, 91/497/EC.

    The design of Barr's premises ensured a high risk that cooked meats might be contaminated by raw meat. No procedures were in place to ensure that they were cooked sufficiently to eliminate E. coli. Cleaning procedures were woefully deficient. The catalogue of failings was endless. Yet what came over in the courtroom was a picture of hopeless incompetence, as the various officials sent out to inspect Barr's shop from North Lanarkshire's gleaming council headquarters dominating the centre of Motherwell limply admitted that they had failed to notice any of these points.

    The last full inspection of Barr's premises had been carried out 10 months before the disaster took place by a Mr Proctor, a 23-year old EHO not long out of college. Not only had he failed to identify any of these deficiencies; he had even recommended that Barr no longer need the six-monthly inspections required for "high risk premises". The state of the shop was so satisfactory, the young official had advised, that in future it would only need inspecting once a year.

    As Santoni and North gradually teased this chilling story out of the increasingly discomfited EHOs, the lessons it conveyed were not lost on Sheriff Cox. When his report appeared in mid-August, they formed the central thread of his conclusions. He identified the council's incompetence as a major system failure which had played a crucial part in bringing the disaster about. He contrasted the inexperience of the young EHOs sent to inspect Barr's shop with the much more experienced inspectors sent in to investigate afterwards, asking why Bryceland had allowed such a risky operation to be inspected by people without appropriate knowledge.

    But he went on to point out that, "having obtained an honours degree in environmental studies, Mr Proctor should have been capable of carrying out an inspection which would have revealed the apparent hazards in Barr's premises". Even if the shop had remained on a six-monthly inspection rota, the sheriff witheringly argued, this still probably would have made no difference, because of the unprofessional way in which inspections were being carried out.

    The real significance of Cox's report was that he did not just confine his findings to underlining the failings of one team of EHOs. His criticisms went much wider, not least in emphasising on how the whole purpose of arming EHOs with such draconian powers under the Food Safety Act had been to put them in the front line, by giving them the prime responsibility for ensuring that food sold to the public was safe.

    There had long been a tendency, the sheriff went on, to lay all the blame for breakdowns in hygiene just on the businesses which produced and sold the food. Certainly, he agreed, Barr should be held liable for his own part in the tragedy. But ultimately, he said, if public officials are to set themselves up as experts in hygiene, then both businesses and the public have the right to expect them to do their job properly.

    If there was a major failure, as here in Lanarkshire, the inspectors must equally share the blame. Cox said he was far from impressed by the attempts the officials had made throughout the inquiry to shuffle off any responsibility and to place all the blame on an incompetent butcher, who had every right to expect competent advice from those paid to be the official "experts".
    With that, I hope, you can tell where I am coming from, and my direction of travel. At Motherwell that August, we got what amounted to a landmark judgement. For the first time in recorded history, we got an official verdict which stated that the officials – the regulators – were culpable for their [in]actions.

    When disaster strikes in situations where they have a statutory powers directed at preventing those disasters, they too bear some responsibility when they fail properly to exercise those powers.

  • Other posts on the financial crisis here.


    11 October 2008

    Courageous journalism

    Those are not words we often use in the same sentence on this blog but fear not: this posting is not about British journalists but about an extremely brave Russian (well, half Chechnyan) lady who spoke this evening at the Pushkin House.

    Natalya Estemirova is a journalist and a human rights activist who lives in Grozny among the rubble and the severely traumatized people - the ones who have survived the carnage, the bombing, the shelling, the random killings, the kidnappings, the tortures. She does what she can to help them by building up structures that will aid individuals and their families.

    Above all, she tries to tell the truth of what has been happening in that country and what is happening in the surrounding Caucasian autonomous republics: Ingushetiya, Dagestan, North Ossetia and, more recently, South Ossetia. The world does not really want to know though, at least, some parts of it are more interested than people in Russia who, according to Ms Estemirova, simply do not want to hear on the rare occasion stories and evidence do get through to them. It is all too difficult.

    Natalya Estemirova's great friend, Anna Politkovskaya, was murdered just over two years ago, on October 7, 2006 (coincidentally President Prime Minister Putin's birthday) but she is detemined to continue the good work. Last year she was awarded the first Anna Politkovskaya prize by a rather odd organization called Raw in War (Reach All Women in War).

    Some of its work is entirely admirable but its trustees and patrons seem to be the usual assortment of rent-a-quote celebrities, almost entirely from the left and its founder Mariana Katzarova spent more time talking about the war lords in power in Afghanistan because of NATO, who prevent the development of proper democracy and human rights (of which there was such a lot before the NATO invasion) and comparing the West to Russia than on the troubles of the Caucasus.

    Ms Estemirova's stories were moving and harrowing. For someone who has supped full of horrors she is remarkably cheerful and determined though full of fury when she talks about President Prime Minister Putin, his protege President Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's dictator in all but name, and the bloody rule of some of the military commandants.

    At the same time she also told of the young conscripts, whose lives are very hard and who often try to help the civilians they have to deal with, particularly the children. There was even one commandant who, in a difficult area, did his best to ensure that food came in to the civilians and various problems were sorted out. He asked Estemirova that his story not be published because as soon as his chiefs hear about it they will move him. Eventually, his tour came to an end and so did the relative peace of the area over which he had held sway.

    Journalists love to talk about themselves and each other and present each other with various awards. This year the Anna Politkovskaya award was presented by Jon Snow to Malai Joya, the young Afghanistani MP who has been suspended for vociferous criticism of the tribal elders. She is not a journalist but a woman whose courage and human rights activity deserves commendation.

    The question is how did Jon Snow feel when stood in the Frontline Club between these two incredibly brave ladies, one of whom risks her life to bring important stories into the open. Did he even stop for a moment and ask himself why it is that he cannot report with honesty, decency and seriousness in the easy world in which he lives?


    05 October 2008

    The financial crisis - links

    Below are links to our recent posts on the financial crisis, listed in chronological order, starting with the piece on 27 September:

  • Therein lies your problem

  • A puzzling development

  • Playing with fire

  • The contagion spreads

  • In Europe but not ruled by …

  • This is one we missed

  • Doomed?

  • The elephant emerges

  • The smoking gun

  • We get what we deserve

  • No shortage of warnings

  • A dark and dirty game

  • The heart of the crisis

  • The elephant dives for cover

  • They really do not know?

  • Sauve qui peut

  • Beware of Greeks …

  • The House approves

  • Sucking the life out of politics

  • What is worse than scum?

  • The story so far

  • Blood on the floor

  • Seventy percent of the crisis

  • Oh Shit!

  • And double shit…

  • Happy days are here again (not!)

  • An air of unreality

  • Panic takes over

  • Finger in the dyke

  • Wall Street blues

  • The love that dare not speak its name

  • Spluttering?

  • Practically irrelevant

  • Groping…

  • Except …

  • The truth will out … but not here

  • What they actually agreed

  • Joining the dots

  • God help us!

  • Neelie 1 – Ireland 0

  • A crisis of enormous proportions

  • Now there's a thing

  • Something smells

  • The politics of denial

  • It ain't working yet

  • A fascinating insight

  • Questions in Parliament

  • Children at play

  • Hic sunt dracones

  • Follow me!

  • The driver quits the train

  • The blind will not see

  • Unfair to Tories!

  • They've known it all along!

  • The end of civilisation as we know it

  • A delicious rant

  • Cracks beginning to show?

  • A failure of regulation?

  • Mad Bank Disease

  • It ain't going to work

  • It is all soooo complicated

  • Bureaucratic Spongiform Encephalopathy

  • The law is the law

  • Do they read the blog?

  • We will keep adding to this list as the story develops, or visit our main site for the latest posts, and our forum where the issues are expertly discussed.