ONE topic of conversation that is rarely heard being discussed at the bar of your local pub, is institutional corruption – backhanders, bribes, dodgy contracts.
Sure, now and again Bob the brickie might rail against those filthy rich city bankers and dealers and their multi-million pound bonuses. But the corruption that drip feeds through every department of government, of local authorities, the NHS, the charitable industry especially, right down to everyday business and commerce? Never.
It’s a strange, very British syndrome.
We variously tut-tut or sigh when reading or hearing about it in third world African, Asian and South American dictatorships (or even first world ones, like Silvio Berlusconi’s Italian premiership), but here in England? In ‘Great’ Britain?
Begone scoundrel, for suggesting such impropriety! We behave properly, we have rules and regulations, we … we are British, damn your doubting eyes!
If you hadn’t noticed, there was never a full accounting of the nefarious dealings of disgraced Savile Town councillor Abdul Patel and his allies in the Muslim Mosque Burial Committee.
No matter whose pockets those hundreds of thousands of pounds eventually lined – and continue to do so – they were never made accountable to HMRC or the Charities Commission. Not that we know, at least.
Kirklees Council wasted a public fortune but focused all of its efforts on covering officers’ backs, laying the blame on unnamed former employees, and working overtime to conceal both the cost and the truth.
The vaunted Freedom of Information Act? I’ve tried it with Kirklees and they’ve wriggled out of it every time. Same with the Big Lottery Fund and the fake public groups running out of Savile Town Community Centre.
For regular readers of this column that’s not news.
Some years ago I reported suspicions to Kirklees of a rogue officer who was regularly awarding contracts to a Dewsbury company who may or may not have been backhanding him, but were certainly entertaining him royally with lavish corporate hospitality.
It got buried deeper than one of Abdul Patel’s clients. I suspect that at best he might have been given a quiet word, to keep things a bit more neat and tidy.
A friend of mine tendered for a contract with another West Yorkshire council and phoned up minutes after deadline to be told by a junior employee he’d got it. You can imagine his surprise to find that he didn’t, but at least in that instance someone paid with their job.
I’ve cost The Press a fortune over the years, not just because by reporting inconvenient truths we’ve put both the political establishment and its officer class’s noses out of joint.
As I write there are a number of Kirklees councillors furious that The Press now carries the council’s statutory public notice advertising.
No matter that it ‘only’ took us 14 years to be allowed to bid for the contract, or that it saves council taxpayers a small fortune.
Those Labour councillors are good at spending other people’s money and no price would be too high to damage this newspaper or, more specifically, Lockwood. The problem is, they’re stupid enough to open their mouths in public and must think everyone in their little social cliques shares their spite.
I can promise you they’ll smile though and say ‘hello Danny’ when I next bump into them in town. And just so they’ll know I know, I’ll wink back at them!
I’ve hurt us in other areas too because I won’t pay backhanders – sorry, ‘offer incentives’ – to advertising and media agencies. No, I won’t take them out for a boozy lunch. Call me proud, call me daft, but we play a straight bat here.
I RAISE this subject in light of the Tories being accused of a £1bn bribe of Ulster’s Democratic Unionist Party MPs, to prop up Theresa May’s ailing government.
Of course it is, but the Labour MPs howling in complaint have some nerve, given that the loudest of them are bought and paid for by Marxist trades union bosses.
When it comes to cronyism, Labour has few peers – pun intended. The Kinnock family should have their own entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.
I loved the tale my favourite columnist Rod Liddle wrote recently, about a Guardian journalist, Sophie Heawood, writing that she couldn’t wait to see the Daily Mail’s three million readers all dead.
Liddle tried to get Max Mosley’s supposedly independent media watchdog Impress to comment on that outrageous view. The fact that it wouldn’t might possibly be influenced by Impress being run by Heawood’s brother Jonathan.
The corruption isn’t just financial, it’s endemic throughout Britain’s ‘liberal’ society.
Can you imagine if any non-loony left writer wrote that they wanted to witness the genocide of anyone based on their race, religion, colour or sexuality – let alone because of the newspaper they read? Their feet wouldn’t touch the ground.
The political logic of May’s DUP bribe apart, what angers me is knowing the bulk of that billion quid will not revive Northern Ireland’s creaking infrastructure, but will disappear into the pockets of politicians’ friends and families, signed off for fantasy projects that never see fruition.
The province has a long and seemingly unashamed history of corruption. The Mafia-style code of omerta (silence) that ruled during the Troubles has evolved seamlessly into public life, and Sinn Fein are every bit as bad as the DUP and others.
That’s not me saying it by the way, that’s a senior Ulster policeman and politician.
There, like here, there are obvious reasons the back channel funding, the favours and the blatant thieving stays almost completely invisible – because everyone involved has the ultimate motive not to incriminate themselves. Why put your head above the parapet, because it will only get shot off – and change nothing.
It’s only rare schmucks like me who make an occasional noise. I’d love to tell you it’s motivated entirely by noble integrity, but it might just be that I’ve never been invited inside the tent. It’s possible there could be a smidging of jealousy at play!
Just once, back in my Reporter days, the master of a local freemason’s lodge made modest overtones about whether I was interested. It was never destined to go far – half the officers within Dewsbury CID nearly broke their necks tripping over their little pinnies. They hadn’t enough black balls for me!
And as for those city bankers? At least they’re paying a huge chunk of it back in taxes. Oh that all of public life was so transparent.
MENTION of graft and bribery and someone will be rubbing their hands with glee right now at news that Kirklees Council has been given a quarter of a million quid to carry out a feasibility study on a possible £110m link road joining the M1 near Ossett with the M62 at Brighouse.
If I had a pound for every time that’s been suggested since I came into newspapers 40 years ago, I’d be living in the Caribbean now.
Want me to let you in on a secret? It won’t happen in my lifetime. Or my kids’. But there will be a few drinks quaffed on making sure that £250k goes through the motions of explaining exactly why it can’t or won’t.
And if it does? Then, as ever, I’ll gladly bare my backside on the town hall steps...
I MAY publish a rugby league newspaper (League Weekly, every Monday from all discerning news outlets) but I do not consider myself a rugby snob. I enjoy a good game of Union and, indeed, played it for several years.
The operative word there is ‘good’. That third All Blacks-Lions Test last Saturday was fast, hard, passionate, brutal, tense – pick an adjective, any adjective. But not good. As ‘rugby’ goes it was tripe.
Blokes on £500,000 basic salaries who can’t catch, keep hold of or even reliably kick a ball. Castleford Tigers fans see more rugby in three sets of possession than Lions fans saw in three test matches.
SO FAREWELL Andy Murray, the Scottish Wimbledon failure, unlike last year’s British Wimbledon champion.
Johanna Konta is struggling against Venus Williams as I write, so we may not get to witness the angst of her unadopted Australian birthland just yet. I just really hope one of the world’s great sportsmen, Roger Federer, gets another win.