the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Category: HS2

Wherein I reveal the unsurprising news ‘Debbie McGee factor’ both exists and is alive and well in the British press.


The media backlash over BBC presenters pay is yet another example of the ‘Debbie McGee factor’ at work. If you are unaware of the ‘Debbie McGee factor’ – what it is and the purpose it serves is – don’t be. I made it up for a blog I wrote a while ago, when I made the point that,

As every magician knows, if the audience is paying too close attention to them, then there is every chance that they will spot the sleight of hand or other chicanery they are is engaged in. (For the purposes of this argument all magicians are therefore less than handsome men, and it thereby follows that their assistants are attractive younger females wearing as little as the audience will permit). The purpose of the magician’s assistant is to distract the audiences’ gaze away from the magician and to focus instead on something more appealing. In essence the audience looks the other way, so that the trick can be successfully executed.

Debbie Mcgee was magician Paul Daniels’ assistant/ distraction and performed her role admirably, so admirably in fact that most people didn’t realise she had she was there to distract them.

When I remarked to someone yesterday that I was at a loss to understand the media’s over-reaction to the publication of the list, her response was that it was public – i.e. taxpayers – money and that therefore it was in some unspecified way justified. Which is true, up to a point. The point being the point at which sober reflection intrudes and gives chase to simplistic reaction.

Yes it isn’t fair that the BBC pays a lot to some of it’s employers. But whilst we focus on that, the media ignore the scandal that is the pay awarded to private companies by the government. That’s taxpayer money too, but it is very rarely front page news. This, for example, appeared in the Guardian,

Two private firms have earned more than £500m in taxpayers’ money for carrying out controversial disability benefit assessments.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) paid Atos and Capita £507m for personal independence payment (PIP) tests between 2013 and 2016, despite fierce criticism of their services by MPs.

And this little nugget, on economia with the intriguing headline,

Government paid Big Four more than half a billion pounds

The UK government has paid PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG more than half a billion pounds in fees over the past three years

Oh. And this, from who else? Your favourite and mine,  the reliably hypocritical Daily Mail which fulminated earlier this year that

All aboard the gravy train: Bill for Britain’s high speed rail link advisers is £180MILLION despite not a single piece of track being laid

Whilst gushing yesterday, with the unbridled sycophancy we’ve come to expect,

The look of love: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge can’t keep their eyes off each other as they join artists for a glittering reception in a Berlin ballroom

That would be the grandson of a pensioner who recently trousered an £82 million bonus to help with the refurbishment of her houses. Whose wedding we paid for. Enjoying a another taxpayer funded first class holiday. That one!

These things are related. By all means complain about what the BBC pay it’s staff and the gender bias it reveals, yes but whilst the public are busy being whipped up into wrongeous  indignation they are missing even more egregious abuses of public money. It says something none too edifying about the way in which the media both orchestrates and fuels public resentment over one issue, yet ignores others.

Debbie McGee!


I was going to bet on the outcome of the election…

The one seemingly constant in this election campaign is the way that some politicians have bastardised Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s most widely known saying. During his Inauguration Address as President in 1932 he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

But in 2015, those seeking election both instill and feed a fear. A fear of rising taxes and falling living standards. Of rising unemployment and falling benefits. Of rising demands on the NHS and concern about how it can be afforded. I could go on, but frankly, if you’re reading this, I’d kind of hope you’d agree without me having to do a full list.

But yet, there is enough money here. The UK is the 5th largest economy in the world. It’s not that we haven’t got the money, it’s more the choices we make as how we spend it.

£100 billion on Trident and upwards of £42 billion on HS2?

So, £100 billion on something we never want use, but must have – so we’re told – to act as a deterrent. Mmmm. Good idea that! It’s the same as hiring a bodyguard to be at your side all the time, only for him to go rogue and kill you. Anyone seen ‘Dr.Strangelove’ and theDoomsday Machine. Think it couldn’t happen? Then don’t click here. Or here.

HS2. Works out just over £500 million a mile. (Before it’s fully connected up). I do hope they do Super Advance Tickets on that. What’s that you say? Rail services provide a worse service, while the subsidy we pay to private companies is more than we gave to British Rail. And there’s more? Not for the rail user there isn’t, there’s more, more fares now that the government has reduced the legal obligation on rail companies to offer cheaper tickets.

But we can afford an extra £12 billion of welfare cuts, Oh, that’s not welfare cuts to corporations – estimated to be in the region of £85 billion, but to the already poorest in society. After all, the best time to kick a man is when he’s down.

It’s all about choices. We can choose to be fearful. Or we can choose not to be.

By the way, I was going to bet on the outcome of the election, who’d win or lose which seat, what share of the vote UKIP would get etc so if it was bad news, I’d be marginally up on the deal. But never having used online gambling before, I looked at a few sites and found it all too confusing.

So gave up. And on that note, I’m off to vote.