Monday, 30 January 2012

A most welcome Antidote


A review of Antidote, Carnaby Street, W1.

The word “antidote” refers to “anything that counteracts or neutalises a harmful or unwanted condition.” Soho’s Antidote restaurant does just such by cheering the soul through the provision of honest, earthy food and drink in a most convivial setting.

Pavement dining at Antidote

On the site of what was a fine dining restaurant named La Trouvaille, Antidote is situated in a buzzy location just off Carnaby Street in Soho. Ably managed by the most personable Guillaume Siard, this is a bistro that gives French dishes an English twist through the input of chef Andy Jones, who previously worked with Richard Corrigan.

The menu is divided into bar snacks, small dishes and grills featuring beef from the Buccleuch Estates. From it, we opted to begin with some most tasty fish croquettes with aioli (£4.50) from a bar snack menu. Next came a superbly tender rolled pig’s cheek with a pepper relish (£6.50) that just melted in the mouth and a chicken chasseur (£9) that was sadly a little bland.

Moving on, we chose to share a baked Vacherin that was well worth a 25-minute wait. Accompanied by charcuterie and sautéed potatoes, this is a winter dish that deservedly is one of the restaurant’s most popular signature dishes.

 Antidote's wine bar

To conclude, we opted to share a rich chocolate mousse and a tarte Tatin (both at £6) with caramel ice cream that was utterly delicious. A selection of French artisan cheeses completed the meal just perfectly.

The extensive wine offering at Antidote, which is also available at retail price to take home, is organic and biodynamic. Focused mainly on wines from the South of France, prices range £20 to £168 a bottle. Amongst them are a floral Domaine Giachino, Rousette de Savoire at £41 a bottle and a zesty Domaine de Veiloux, Les Veilleurs, Cheverny at £39 a bottle. We were lucky enough to try an extensive selection and for any wine connoisseur looking for great wines from independent vintners, Antidote is the perfect spot to enjoy them.

Overall, I’d suggest Antidote is a well-run bistro that truly and most deservedly should become one not to miss.

Antidote, 12a Newburgh Street, London, W1F 7RR. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7287 8488. Website:
http://antidotewinebar.com

Follow Antidote on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/AntidoteWineBar

Monday, 16 January 2012

Brenda’s berth


The case for giving the Queen a new yacht

Today, confidential correspondence concerning an idea for a new Royal Yacht from the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, somehow ended up in The Guardian.

Queen Elizabeth II becomes tearful as she watches the decomissioning of The Royal Yacht Britannia on the 11th December 1997.

In his letter, Mr Gove wrote: "In spite, and perhaps because of the austere times, the celebration should go beyond those of previous jubilees and mark the greater achievement that the diamond anniversary represents.”

"Events such as proms and the party at the palace organised for the diamond jubilee, and street parties, although excellent, are transient.”

"It would be appropriate to do something that will mark the significance of this occasion with fitting ceremony.”

"My suggestion would be a gift from the nation to her majesty; thinking about David Willetts's excellent suggestion of a royal yacht, and something tangible to commemorate this momentous occasion."

Tom Watson, the Labour Party deputy chairman, however, along with others including Deputy PM Nick Clegg, predictably shot down the proposals when he commented:

"Michael Gove has shown he is out of touch with this proposal. When school budgets are being slashed, parents will be wondering how Gove came even to suggest this idea. This is not the time to spend £60m on a yacht."

The Royal Yacht Britannia

The 412ft Royal Yacht Britannia, as well as being the Queen’s “pride and joy,” performed a useful role in terms of taking the best of Britain to the world. It was used for the entertainment of dignitaries and as the travelling home of the Royal family but also acted as a brilliant ambassador for British business. According to an Overseas Trade Board estimate, some £3 billion alone was made for the Exchequer as a result of commercial days on Britannia between 1991 and 1995 alone.

In 1997, John Major’s Conservative government committed itself to replacing the Royal Yacht if re-elected but with Tony Blair’s landslide victory, it was announced that the vessel would be decommissioned without replacement.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s biographer, Gyles Brandreth, in a June 2011 interview for the Daily Mail’s Richard Kay column, commented:

 ‘The Duke told me the Labour government of the late Forties handled the issue of financing the new royal yacht much more effectively than the Conservative government of the Nineties.”

Prince Philip is also said to have told his biographer that he blamed Michael Portillo, the then Secretary of State for Defence, for the failure to replace the Royal Yacht: “When Portillo got involved, he made a complete b******s of it!”

With the benefit of hindsight, even Tony Blair came to regret getting rid of the Royal Yacht. In comments to the Daily Mail’s Robert Hardman, he is said to have remarked:

“I didn’t want to get rid of it… After we’d agreed to get rid of it, I actually went on it and I remember, as I stepped on, thinking: ‘That was such a mistake.’

Roman Abramovich's 533ft yacht Eclipse. Available to rent for £1.25m a week, the boat features 15 cabins for 30 guests and is staffed by a crew of up to 70.

Though many would suggest that the cost of building a new boat is reckless during these times of economic downturn, the benefits of constructing such a boat are plain. This would be a boat that, whether paid for by the public purse or through donations from business and the general public, could be used as a showcase for Britain. It wouldn’t be a pleasure boat of Roman Abramovich proportions, but one that would become a national flagship.

23-year old The Only Way is Essex star Mario Falcone pictured at the 2012 Tullett Prebon London Boat Show at The Excel where he allegedly put down a deposit on a £5.2m Sunseeker yacht. Surely if he can afford that, the Queen deserves something a little better.

With so many great boatbuilders in Britain, it really is time we clubbed together and got Brenda another berth. Better still, let’s ask the Chelsea Football Club owner to lend her one of the five vessels from what are often termed “Abramovich’s Navy.”

Read The Guardian’s coverage of Michael Gove’s suggestion at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jan/15/queen-royal-yacht-diamond-jubilee-gove

For more on The Royal Yacht Britannia, go to: http://www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk

Withers & Wen


The case of a television channel that will do anything to boost ratings

Over the course of the last week, the story of a man named Aaron Withers and a television show called Take Me Out has been the subject of much media coverage. Most of it, to my mind, was simply staged to increase ratings for a show that plainly is failing.

Aaron Withers and Wen Jing Mo on ITV1's Take Me Out with host Paddy McGuiness

Take Me Out, produced by Talback Thames for ITV1 and hosted by “matchmaker” Paddy McGuiness, calls itself an “electrifyingly funny dating show” and plainly is a contemporary take on Cilla Black’s Blind Date. I’ll admit that I’ve never watched it, but here is a show where “sexy single ladies” attempt to seek out their “match made in heaven.” Sadly it’s also a programme better known for featuring an ex of that Twittering football legend Joey Barton as well as a bunch of ruffians who trashed the £4,500,000 Wyelands House near Chepstow in South Wales during filming.

Wyelands House, Pwllmeyric, Chepstow, South Wales, NP16 6LA

Aaron Withers, one of the contestants, however, is the individual on this Saturday evening show who has attracted the most interest. The 32 year old, according to The Mirror, came across as an “inexperienced, unlucky-in-love bachelor” on Take Me Out but in fact was ultimately exposed as a former escort who also had a conviction for assault.

In turn, another contestant named Wen Jing Mo, who was paired with Withers, came forward and stated that he’d “manipulated her into bed” and was “angry” that he hadn’t revealed his past. Sadly for this hypocrite, she was herself exposed as a £200 an hour hooker just days later.

Withers, therefore, I’d argue is the victim in this truly sorry saga. Yes, he is foolish for having thrown himself into the public arena but he did not lie. I asked him four clear questions and here they are along with his honest answers:

MJS: “Did you apply for this show or were you approached?”
AW: “I did an application form and sent it via e-mail and got a reply the following day asking to come to an audition the day after that.”

MJS: “What exactly did they ask you in relation to your background when you applied?”
AW: “They asked me nothing regarding my background as they gave me a CRB form to fill in at my audition.”

MJS: “Did you tell "the whole truth" on any application form that you may have filled out?”
AW: “I told the whole truth on the application form but there were no questions regarding criminal background, they were all personal questions and questions about the type of girl I fancy, go for etc.”

MJS: “If you were approached about doing another TV show of a similar type now, would you consider doing it?”
AW: “I would definitely go on another show if I was approached as I’m sure if the show did approach me they would know who I was due to the media coverage I’ve had and I’d definitely question why they are approaching and that I had a conviction.”

Aaron Withers

In response to the allegations that he “battered” a girl, Withers also points out that she “just got in the way during the scuffle” and that it “calmed down [his] drinking.” In an interview with thisissomerset.co.uk he also added: “I regret what happened and I am sorry.” We all mistakes in life and Withers reveals himself as a man who happily admits his.

Due diligence is something that all of us in the media must perform and Talkback Thames plainly did not do such whilst researching the backgrounds of applicants to this show. The guilty party here is not Aaron Withers but in fact the producers of Take Me Out. They are the ones that should be ashamed of themselves and conclusive proof of this came this very weekend when yet another contestant, Rory Alexander, was exposed as someone who had been convicted of assault.

Appropriately McGuiness is best known for performing a rap on the show that includes the line: “Let the banana see the splits.” He’s right: here, in fact, is a show that is just full to the brim with splitting nonsense. Frankly, I’d rather devour paving stones, wasps and nails than watch a minute of this drivel.

View the official website for Take Me Out at: http://www.itv.com/takemeout


Follow Aaron Withers on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/aaron_withers

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Cornhill’s slickest Door


A review of The Door in Cornhill, EC3V

The main dining area of The Door

I first came to know Cornhill in the late 1990s when I went on several occasions to a church there named St. Michael’s Cornhill with the late Russian icon dealer John Gaze. Presided over by The Rev’d Doctor Peter Mullen, a leading Eurosceptic and regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, this was a place where I met all manner of characters including the novelist Fay Weldon. Here was a church where religion mixed with the arts, politics and finance.

The present church, designed by Sir Christopher Wren between 1670 and 1677, is just one of many fascinating buildings in a street that gives it’s name to one of the traditional divisions of the City. Equally, Cornhill is known for being the site of the first mechanically pumped public water supply in London, constructed in 1582, and the world’s first underground public toilet, which opened in 1855. In more recent times, the street became associated with opticians and the makers of optical apparatus but for me, I’d suggest it is that Bob Cratchit slid down Cornhill 20 times in honour of it being Christmas Eve in Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol that makes it most fascinating.

Appropriately, just before Christmas, I ventured to one of Cornhill’s newest additions, The Door, with my regular dining companion. Here, in a building that formerly was a bank is a restaurant that is absolutely ideal for City slickers.

The Door's bar

Designed by the BGW Group, best known for styling such places as Tom’s Kitchen, The Empress of India and The Bolingbroke, The Door is dominated by a chic oyster bar and a silver corniced ceiling. A formal dining space is classically decorated seats up to 90 covers and, indeed, both Gordon Gekko and Patrick Bateman would feel at ease amongst the straight talking businessmen here.

The menu created by The Door’s executive chef, John Paul Murphy, focuses primarily on cuts of the finest meats from Argentina, America, Australia and the UK. Oysters are sourced from the Maldon Oyster Co. and come from the Blackwater Estuary in Colchester. This combination of the finest seafood and meats certainly proves that the days of excessive “greed is good” style consumption are still with us.

To begin, I started with steamed mussels in a white wine and parsley cream sauce (£8.50) that, to my taste, could have done with having been a little more lively and spiced. The dish was, however, perfectly pleasant. My companion’s carpaccio of beetroot with cod cheeks and toasted pine nuts (£9.50), on the other hand, would have benefitted from not having been fridge cold.

The steaks, themselves, range from a £22 10oz Midwest USDA grass fed rump to a £56 10oz Australian or Chilean Wagyu that comes from animals fed on beer, corn and maize that have been massaged daily. I opted, myself, for a £28 10oz Argentine Black Angus filet that was tender, succulent and tasty. The accompanying “rustic” chips (£3) were excellent as were the superb onion rings (£4).

My friend, meanwhile, opted for grilled lobster tails with roast garlic, lime, chilli and coriander sauce (£25). The portion was generous and perfectly cooked.

To conclude, we opted for a bitter chocolate and raspberry pie and more adventurously for a spinach and pear Pithivier (both at £6.50). The former was definitely more to our liking.

The wine list at The Door is suitably extensive and offers many expensive options that certainly will appeal to any celebrating City boy.  Diners can opt for a 2000 Sassicaia, DOCG Bolgheri at £220 a bottle or a 1995 Chateau Haut Brion Pessac-Leognan Grand Cru Classe at £525.00 but equally for those of lesser means, there is ample choice in the £25 to £50 range.

Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in the 2000 film American Psycho

Misquoting Patrick Bateman: “I’m thinking The Door, wear something fabulous.”

For more on The Parish Church of St. Michael’s Cornhill in the City of London, go to: http://www.st-michaels.org.uk

The Door Oyster Bar & Grill, 33 Cornhill, London, EC3V 3ND. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7929 1378. Website: http://www.thedoor-group.com

Follow The Door on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/TheDoorLondon

Monday, 9 January 2012

Mighty fine journalism


A salute to Mandrake and a call to the Charity Commission

Today, the Daily Telegraph’s “Mandrake” column renewed their coverage of the scandal surrounding Lady Meyer and her charity, Parents and Abducted Children Together (PACT).

Former head of the Press Complaints Commission and ex British Ambassador to the United States Sir Christopher and his wife Lady Meyer at an event organised by Matthew Steeples at Mare Moto, 562 Kings Road, London, SW6 2DZ

I myself made the mistake of becoming involved with PACT a number of years ago after being taken in by Meyer’s story of how her ex-husband abducted her children. Like many others, I gave time and money to this charity believing that it’s privileged founder, the wife of the former ambassador to Washington, did just the same.

As time progressed, though, I became suspicious of the motives of Meyer and her husband Sir Christopher, who happens rather inappropriately to sit on the board of PACT, and ceased to be involved in May 2010.

Exactly a year later, Richard Eden, a superbly tenacious journalist who works on the Daily Telegraph’s “Mandrake” column, published a piece that sadly revealed my misgivings to be true. Eden, simply by analysing the accounts of the charity, found that all but £9,500 of the substantial income 6-figure it received had been paid to the “Chanel-clad” Lady Meyer and one other member of staff. Here, indeed, was a charity that provided an income for an already privileged and wealthy woman who resides in the smart echelons of Cadogan Lane in Belgravia.

Over the coming weeks, Eden and others including The Independent’s Matthew Bell and Janet Street-Porter further delved into this scandal and I myself contacted the Charity Commission to make a complaint about PACT. In response, all I got was a standard letter from a lady named Shirley Banks that simply suggested I direct complaints to the trustees of the very charity I was complaining about. Here, I found, was an organisation who were not bothered by such an appalling state of affairs.

The wife of former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, Cherie Booth QC

Whilst the furore may have died down in the remaining months of 2011, “Mandrake” again showed it’s investigative spirit when it revealed this morning that Cherie Blair was no longer a patron of PACT and that her name had been removed from their website. Others, however, including the novelist Barbara Taylor-Bradford remain and their endorsement of “charity beginning at home” is, to my mind, most disconcerting.

If indeed the Charity Commission wants to show itself to be something other toothless, it should take heed and review the ways that the salaries of those running charities are set.


Read Janet Street-Porter’s piece for The Independent about the “mess that is the giving sector” at: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/janet-street-porter/editoratlarge-the-giving-sector-is-a-mess-ndash-and-thats-being-charitable-2290324.html


Find out more about PACT at: http://www.pact-online.org

View the website of the Charity Commission for England and Wales at: http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Finding a public nightmare

The story of a kiss on a beach in Ibiza and a lady who likes being in the public eye

On Friday, when I read a story in the Evening Standard by Ellen Widdup (@EllenWiddup) about a PR consultant named Julia Cross launching a hunt for a mystery man she met on holiday, I have to say I was cynical.

 Julia Cross

The story basically went thus: Cross, 33, went to Ibiza and met a man named Martin in a nightclub. They subsequently went to a beach and watched the sun rise and then Cross gave “Martin” her telephone number. She returned home to London and whilst waiting for a call “regaled” her friends with the “what ifs” about what had occurred.

Believing she had given the wrong number, Cross and her friends spent the following months searching for a man who lived in Tooting and works in Camden as a software developer. A key and most bizarre detail was that he had been out partying on the night Cross met him wearing a cycling helmet decorated with glow sticks. Between them they started a Facebook group named “Finding Martin” and even went as far as to stalk the pubs of Tooting with the aim of hunting down a man who plainly did not want to be found.

Ever the cynic, I discussed what Widdup called a “viral” story with a female friend. I suggested, after finding this campaign’s Facebook page had just 60 members, that this story was just a publicity stunt to catapult this PR woman into the public eye. My friend, who was more forgiving, believed what Cross claimed could be true but equally thought she had showed herself to be “desperate” and “sad.”

I investigated further on Twitter and found, contrary to Widdup’s article, no Twitter campaign to “Find Martin” but a series of Tweets from Brian Whelan (@brianwhelanhack), an editor for Yahoo!, that suggested that this whole story was an utter fake. Whelan also highlighted a previous story involving Cross and her former boyfriend Nathan from 2009 that had been published in Fabulous magazine. Here, I realised, was a woman who simply loves being in the papers.

After working my way through Whelan’s Tweets, I found the details for Widdup and contacted her directly. I asked her: “What has convinced you that this lady’s story is genuine?”

Most obligingly the journalist sent me a full summary of how she came upon the story and as she requests, I quote it in full:

“With regards to the Finding Martin article, I carried out all the appropriate checks and was in contact with Miss Cross for two weeks before the article was published. I also spoke to friends of Miss Cross who verified her story.

As a freelance journalist of some experience, when I received this viral email to my personal email account I investigated it further to see if it was a story. I was then, and remain, completely convinced this is not a PR stunt.

Furthermore, following the initial publication in the Evening Standard, I have also been in touch with, and verified the identity of, the Martin in question.

I fully understand people's fears that PR firms hold a growing influence on the British media and I share these concerns.”

Subsequently, Martin was found this morning. He does not want to be reunited with Julia Cross as he’s already got a girlfriend. Who on earth can blame him? This ghastly woman has milked the media with her pap for the last 48 hours and no doubt will now go on to do various interviews and “find me a boyfriend” pieces. Cross is a woman who may well have successfully exploited the Daily Mail and Evening Standard but all she’s really achieved is to make a fool of herself.

Today, the “Finding Martin” page has disappeared from Facebook. Perhaps Julia Cross should learn a lesson from this whole experience: “What happens in Ibiza, stays in Ibiza.”

Read the 2009 Fabulous piece about Julia Cross’s fertility at: http://www.fabulousmag.co.uk/fabmag/fabulous/features/519511/fertility-mot.html


Thursday, 5 January 2012

A parking hero


The case of a parking warden fired for failing to issue enough tickets

My run-in with parking wardens back in April 2007 was extensively covered in the media in titles that included the Evening Standard, Daily Mail and Metro. I was even described as “the most persistent person our court has ever encountered” when I went before The Parking & Traffic Appeals Service at New Zealand House in Haymarket, SW1.

An April 2007 Evening Standard piece relating to my dispute with Hammersmith & Fulham Council over one of their parking enforcement operatives stating that: "We only bother towing away the expensive cars."

Today, however, I was delighted to read a piece in the Daily Mail about a parking warden in Kensington & Chelsea who decided to buck the stereotype attached to his profession and behave with decency. For doing such, this poor man got the sack last February.

Former parking warden Hakim Berkani

Hakim Berkani, who has taken his unfair dismissal case to an industrial tribunal, came under “severe pressure” when he repeatedly failed to issue 10 tickets on each shift. After being told to improve on the number he was giving out, Berkani came across an email from Emma Collins, a senior manager at NSL, Kensington & Chelsea’s parking firm, that stated:

“There are a significant number of people issuing at a rate of below 0.9 per hour… We should not be uncomfortable about using the disciplinary process.”

Ultimately what caused Berkani to be fired, though, was when he tipped off a driver who was about to be given a ticket by another warden. For simply preventing someone committing a parking offence before it had happened, this kind man was punished through the loss of his job.

So far, the tribunal has also heard that:

·      One of Berkani’s colleagues was cited as an “excellent example” for issuing 35 tickets in a single shift. This individual was described as generating “good revenue for the Council” and it was suggested that: “Everyone should generate the same revenue as him.”
·      Two of Berkani’s colleagues were reduced to tears for failing to issue  a sufficient number of tickets.
·      Fellow wardens named their company “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.”

Amongst the many parties who have written to the tribunal is The Reverend Canon David Reindorp, of Chelsea Old Church. The Reverend Canon testified that he was “delighted to see [Berkani] giving traffic wardens a good name,” before adding: “I always thought he was an object lesson in how to do a tricky job well."

I wish Mr Berkani all the vey best: Emma Collins and her “team” of thieves are a disgrace and I very much hope that this tribunal rules in Mr Berkani’s favour.

Read the Daily Mail’s coverage of my own experience with parking wardens at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-446632/The-council-bothers-towing-away-expensive-cars.html

The perfect expenseless lunch


A special offer to readers of Da Steeps Speaks from The Rib Room Bar

This morning, parliamentary blogger Guido Fawkes revealed on Twitter that MPs can purchase a lunch of a ribeye steak with hand cut chips, béarnaise sauce and a glass of Merlot for just £10.15 at the House of Commons. "How incredibly swell," was the first thought that entered my mind.

The Rib Room Bar

Meanwhile at Knightsbridge’s Jumeirah Carlton Tower’s The Rib Room Bar, us mere mortals can enjoy an equally civilised meal by head chef Ian Rudge for a similarly reasonable price of just £12.

Until the end of the month, diners at the bar can experience a Casterbridge Aberdeen Angus rib of beef burger that is topped with glazed onions, mustard, Sussex crumble cheese and homemade ketchup with steak fries and a glass of beer or wine for just £12. The offer is available at The Rib Room Bar from Monday to Saturday at lunchtime during January.

Former Tory MP for Gosport Sir Peter Viggers and the £1,645 "Stockholm" duck house he claimed for on his parliamentary expenses

By the end of such a glorious meal, you’ll have no doubt forgotten any desire to put in a claim for that duck house you’d seen earlier at the Harrods sale.

Read Guido Fawkes’ blog at: http://www.order-order.com. Follow Guido on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/guidofawkes

Read the Da Steeps Speaks review of the full menu at The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant at: http://dasteepsspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/11/best-of-british.html

The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant, Jumeirah Carlton Tower, Cadogan Place, London, SW1X 9PY. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7858 7250. Website: http://www.theribroom.co.uk

Follow The Rib Room on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/RibRoomSW1 and follow The Rib Room’s manager, Michele Caggianese, on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/caggianesemiki

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Booming Bentley


Sales of Bentley Motors in China overtake those in the UK for the first time in the brand’s 92-year history

Luxury British carmaker Bentley has seen a surge in demand in 2011, most markedly reporting a near doubling of sales in China.

The £220,000 Bentley Mulsanne

With an overall 37% increase to 7,003 cars, the largest market for Bentley remains the United States, where sales rose 32% to 2,021 vehicles. However, that the brand achieved an amazing 1,839 in the Chinese market represents an overtaking of results for the UK, the brand’s home market, for the first time in its history.

Though UK sales were up 5% to 1,031 vehicles, the growth in international markets is what has really brought the company back into profit and Wolfgang Dureheimer, chief executive of Bentley, commented:

“It has been a tremendously good year for Bentley. The dramatic sales growth reflects a global strength to the brand and a recognition of the quality, craftsmanship and engineering excellence of our cars…. It has been particularly pleasing to see renewed interest in Bentley in established as well as new and emerging markets.”

The £150,000 Bentley GTC Continental

The number of Chinese billionaires grew 82 on last year to 271 whilst the number of millionaires in the country rocketed by 85,000 to 960,000. For such people, at prices starting at £133,200 for the base Bentley Continental and rising to £220,000 for the Bentley Mulsanne, these are handcrafted vehicles that represent the luxury they are now free to desire.

The executives at Bentley today were no doubt thinking: “Recession? What recession?” This fantastic and sadly rare piece of news is one of the few economic successes that Britain should start celebrating.

For more information on Bentley Motors go to: http://www.bentleymotors.com

Slave labour required


A guest post for Da Steeps Speaks by Michael Ezra on a Labour MP and his search for an unpaid intern

Graham Jones, the Labour MP for Hyndburn & Haslingden, has advertised for a “hard-working” intern. The duties include:

·      Drafting policy letters
·      Conducting research
·      Handling telephone queries
·      Routine office tasks

Graham Jones: Labour MP for Hyndburn & Haslingden


Conceptually there is nothing wrong with this.  The tasks are as would be expected of a junior member of staff. But there is one major problem with this advertised job, or, internship, as it is referred to: it is unpaid. The successful candidate will be reimbursed some expenses but no wages.

In a totally free market one might ask what is wrong with this: terms are offered and someone is free to accept them or reject them. If someone does not want to work unpaid then they need not apply.

An 1829 poster advertising slaves for sale

There are a number of problems with this and an important one is that it impinges in a harmful fashion upon social mobility. The only people who can take unpaid work are those that that can afford to work for nothing:  those with other sources of finance to support the luxury of working for nothing. Because many jobs require experienced employees, young people from wealthier families who would find it easier to work unpaid than those from poorer families gain an advantage in the job market because they can afford to gain the experience.

There is another substantial problem: by law there exists a National Minimum Wage (NMW). According to the government, “refusal or wilful neglect to pay the NMW” is a criminal offence and “employers who deliberately fail to pay the NMW may face a potentially unlimited fine.” The National Minimum Wage cannot be evaded by an employer by simply calling someone an intern. It seems to me that the intern that Graham Jones is after would be classified as a worker and the role would be subject to the National Minimum Wage legislation.

It makes a mockery of our legal system if our lawmakers including Members of Parliament do not uphold the laws that they create. It is the role of HM Revenue & Customs to enforce the National Minimum Wage. I suggest they look into the employment practices of Members of Parliament forthwith.

View the blog of Graham Jones, MP for Haslingden & Hyndburn at: http://hhgrahamjones.blogspot.com

View the advertisement to intern for Graham Jones MP at: http://www.w4mpjobs.org/JobDetails.aspx?jobid=32761


Details on HM Revenue & Customs role in enforcing the National Minimum Wage can be viewed at: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/paye/payroll/day-to-day/nmw.htm

Michael Ezra lives in London and also blogs at: http://hurryupharry.org. He can be followed on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/michaelezra

Take it from me, every vote counts


An awards ceremony in honour of the favourites of Twitter

This morning I received notification that I am in the top ten finalists in one category of an awards ceremony named The Tweet Awards.

The Tweet Awards

Goodness knows why @DaSteepsTweets was suggested in the “One person everyone should follow,” but I do wish to thank all 59 of you who voted for me there.

I’d suggest there are several more worthy categories on this list that I’d urge my followers to vote for on this list. These would include:

@ThomasJames124 for “Informative Tweeter of the year”

@stephenfry for “Celebrity Tweeter of the year”

@macmillancancer for “Charity Tweeter of the year”

@I_am_KenBarlow for “Best parody account of the year”

@KathyLette for “Best bio of the year”

Should you wish to vote for me or any other nominee in this competition, please follow the link below. Voting closes this Friday, 6th January.

As Theodore Roosevelt once said: “A vote is life a rifle; its usefulness depends on the character of the user.” Happy voting.

To see who has made the top ten in each category of The Tweet Awards, go to: http://thetweetawards.weebly.com/votes-received.html