John Street’s Diary October 21

Written By: John Street
Published: October 21, 2011 Last modified: October 21, 2011

Another year passes and another UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17) comes by with what seems to be, but can’t be, ever greater frequency. The UN mandated day – it’s not a holiday or anything – was conceived in 1993 by UN General Assembly Resolution 47/196 with what – until the Millennium summit – were laudable if somewhat fuzzy goals. But world leaders pledged at that summit to cut by half the number of people in extreme poverty – living on less than $1 a day – by 2015. This week the UN Development Programme administrator Helen Clark said that goal looks like being achieved, on target and on time. This is despite Ms Clark’s admissio at the G20 in Paris last week that the global economic situation is “grave”. That’s the “good” news. “It’s all because of China’s efforts”, said Ms Clark who said the runaway economy there had lifted millions and millions out of poverty. “We are seeking ways of linking China’s experience with the world,” she said. But before you go out looking for signs of a new Foxconn compound to give  a quick fix, if brutal, solution to the jobs and housing shortage Ms Clark thinks the solution might lie in greater agricultural production.


Voltaire was said to have rejected the last rites – and renouncing Satan – on his death bed because, as he told the priest, he thought it was no time to be start making enemies. There has been much robust coment about the former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, and rightly so, you might say. But we here are a fair minded bunch and – at a certain stage in life – you take your friends where you find them. Blogger and publisher Iain Dale’s website, Dale & Co submitted an FoI request to find out what newspapers and periodicals are purchased for ministers. Among Mr Fox’s regular reading is Tribune, fine man that he is. His erstwhile Cabinet colleague Ken Clarke, somewhat less surprisingly, also gets a regular copy. Gentlemen you are valued readers. As Marx (Groucho) said: “I have my principles and if you don’t like them I have others.”


The judge leading the inquiry into media standards and practices, Lord Leveson, this week held firm to his belief that he does not need the counsel of any tabloid editors or executives – or indeed any bloggers or digital media types – to work out how the mass media in this country goes about its work. The hand-picked panel of experts and great and good should be able to call witnesses as required, he decided, and are sufficiently in touch with the real world. To that end, according to their letters of appointment published on the Inquiry’s website, the assessors will be paid £565 a day for their trouble. The inquiry’s assessors are Sir David Bell, former chairman of the Financial Times, Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, former Ofcom chairman (Lord) David Currie, former Channel 4 political editor Elinor Goodman, former Daily Telegraph political editor George Jones, and former West Midlands Chief Constable Sir Paul Scott-Lee. All undoubtedly distinguished in their respective fields – and day – but perhaps a little lacking in the robust, rough and ready red top experiences acquired at the more popular end of the market.


The immensely wealthy Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly was this week finally stripped of his power to regulate claims farms, or so-called ambulance chasers, after Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell was compelled to explore the minister’s family connections to at least two such companies, Going Legal and Legal Link Introductory Services. The anomaly had been allowed to persist for some time with Mr Djanogly stonewalling any inquiries from MPs about the likely perceptions of conflict of interest. Responsibility for the industry now lies with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.  A reasonable victory for a diligent opposition, one might think, and goes some way to explaining the sense of grievance displayed by Mr Djanogly over Labour’s own “nice little earner” in which visitors to its website are directed to a section that appear to be its own legal services and invited to pursue personal injury claims. They are linked to a Derby firm of solicitors which then pays the party £250 plus VAT for every live lead, or referral. For conveyancing it is a more modest £100.