Let’s hear it for Rupe The Beaut!

If you believe The Guardian and BBC, Rupert Murdoch is the devil incarnate, Beelzebub in a Savile Row suit, the man who has dragged journalism to depths below the sewer and whose amorality has utterly corrupted and cowed our honest, toiling and conscientious political classes – regardless of ilk – almost beyond redemption.

That’s, of course, if you believe the two self-appointed bastions of media godliness.

Not wishing to pre-judge the Leveson Inquiry and utterly condemning the phone-hacking scandal, as a journalist – one who has never taken the News International shilling as a staffer – I have a different take on Murdoch and it doesn’t chime with the portrait of unscrupulous double-dealer others would have us believe of him.

MURDOCH: Wrong to rush to judgement

Yes, he’s a tough nut, an ambitious businessman, who has fought, sometimes ruthlessly, to build a global media empire and succeeded. And, oh, how the British establishment hates a winner.

Rupe is also a dyed-in-the-wool newsman, with printing ink flowing through his veins (which is more than can be said of his squirming son, James, tediously spewing corporate-speak to the Leveson inquisitors, who must have found dealing with him akin to nailing jelly to a wall).

I have little doubt, however, that Murdoch Senior told it how it was, to the best of his ability and memory. Nor do I question the veracity that it was a succession of British Prime Ministers – of late: Blair, Brown and Cameron – who courted him and his papers, rather than the reverse.

And let’s look at the positives the Old Man bought to the great British newspaper buyer and TV viewer:-

Despite rampaging printers – who, I can tell you from long experience, held Fleet Street to ransom for decades – he broke their stranglehold with new technology when he set up Fortress Wapping and transformed an industry that was sinking and stinking thanks to bullying union intransigence.

Against all odds – and risking his entire company’s future – in 1989 he created BSkyB (now Sky TV) and gave a telly audience a real, objective alternative to the monopoly of the BBC and its santimonious, Left-liberal agenda. No wonder Auntie has been so vociferous in castigating the News Corp takeover of Sky – they have very real reason to fear its balance, vision and independent approach to reporting news.

Without Murdoch’s millions, The Times (founded in 1788) wouldn’t exist, because it’s a money pit and a British institution would be consigned to the scrapheap of history. It’s doubtful, too, The Sunday Times would exist, either. So little wonder, the pompous Guardian – once a byword for journalistic integrity, but now as biased as the Beeb – is more than a tad chagrined.

And, while The Sun may be too brash for some delicate tastes, 2.6 million buy it each day and it probably reflects popular British sentiment more accurately than anything else on the media market.

So let’s not rush to judgement on Rupe, but take a closer look at those who want to do him down – and ask the question: why?

Who’s cheesed off with the sanctimonious Swiss?

Never knowingly undersold when it comes to hiding their self-serving duplicity beneath a cloak of wholesome neutrality, the Swiss are proving somewhat reluctant on the issue of imposing full sanctions on what many fear is nuclear, hell-bent Iran.

While it’s true the good Alpine burghers have frozen the assets of eight Iranian firms and three individuals, for some unaccountably cheesy reason they are proving obdurate about joining the Free World in taking action against the ayatollahs’ moolah pile, Iran’s central bank.

Despite this being the key to Teheran’s economy and the cash cow behind the march to much-rumoured weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the notoriously secretive Swiss say they will reconsider what to do about this, er, glitch ‘at a later date’.

SWISS EXCUSES: Full of holes, like their cheese?

According to Switzerland’s Economics Ministry, the bank is ‘important for the Iranian economy.’

Well, of course it is! That is exactly why the West wants it shut off to international trade, perhaps on the off chance its funds are used to spark off World War III (and just in case anyone needs reminding which side the goodie-goodie Swiss were on in the last two global conflagrations, it was their own!)

But could this financial foot-dragging be linked to other ‘Sod you, Jurgen, I’m all right’ considerations, like the fact that Switzerland imports Iranian oil – albeit indirectly – and its energy giant, Elektrizitatsgesellschaft Laufenburg, is reportedly involved in a pipeline project to transport fuel from Iran, via Turkey? And, for that matter, that the said, same conglomerate has a contract to bring in more than five billion cubic metres of Iranian gas, valued at 18 million euros?

Ergo, if you thought the sanctimonious Swiss shilly-shallying over imposing sanctions against Iran’s premier bank is like their cheese – full of holes – could anyone blame you?

Is (formerly Gorgeous) George in the duck soup?

Though there’s not a scintilla of doubt over his far-Leftist, quirkily-titled Respect Party’s politics, apparently there’s some debate about George Galloway’s religious affiliations.

In a New Statesman interview of him by Jemima Khan, she says/claims the firebrand, new MP for Bradford West converted to Islam 10 years ago in a ceremony in Kilburn, north London, inferring he hid the secret until now.

The former Gorgeous George, Hamas cheerleader and Iranian Press TV presenter (along with Ken Livingstone) – until the odious channel was banned by Ofcom – is/was thought to be a Catholic, though he favours an Islamic-style beard, Arab scarf draped round his neck and is reported to have had three Muslim wives. Not at the same time, I add.

FRIENDS UNITED: Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad embraces George Galloway - photo courtesy of Uncyclodedia

Meanwhile, as Khan says, ‘There must have been some white constituents in Bradford, who, although natural Labour supporters, preferred to vote for the white Catholic candidate rather than the brown Muslim one representing Labour.

Galloway has denied Khan’s assertion, insisting, according to the Daily Telegraph, ‘The opening paragraph of Jemima Khan’s piece in the New Statesman (referring to an alleged conversion ceremony) is totally untrue. Moreover I told her it was fallacious when she put it to me. I have never attended any such ceremony in Kilburn, Karachi or Kathmandu. It is simply and categorically untrue.’

As the Telegraph points out, there is no shame in being a Muslim. But, skeptics might consider there is a degree of ambiguity about Galloway’s denial, since it appears to fall a tad short of being categorical. Might it not have been easier for him to state emphatically, ‘No, I am not Muslim’ rather than arguing the toss over a conversion ceremony not taking place ‘in Karachi, Kilburn or Kathmandu’?

And one wonders, too, why, during the Bradford West campaigning, Galloway laced his speeches with ‘inshallahs’? Plus – though he denied responsibility for them – why, if only in the interests of transparency and decency, didn’t he vigorously condemn pamphlets distributed among the Islamic electorate, proclaiming, ‘God knows who is a Muslim’ and accusing Labour’s Muslim candidate, Imran Hussain, of drinking alcohol while he, Galloway, ‘never has’?

So, despite the adage, ‘If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,’ apparently it could be mistaken for a Rhode Island Red rooster.

Your invitation to join in the Blog

I was prevailed upon by irresistible external forces to launch this Blog and my sentiments are to manfully update it with as much  diverse copy – facts, opinions, thoughts – of interest to as many readers as I can when I can.

But this needn’t be just My Blog, because it can be yours, too. And, unlike me, you don’t have to be based in Mallorca, but anywhere around the globe. Besides, as you’ll see from the stuff already posted, this Blog isn’t Mallorca-centric, but has an international remit and no limit to the range of subject covered.

You’re naturally free to comment (see comment box below each screed), but there’s more…if you have something to say you feel strongly about, be my guest, climb aboard this Blog’s soapbox and have a rant, too.

Make it legal, libel-free and advert-less, minus racist or X-rated content – because the Moderator is a tough guy to get round – and send your words to me, preferably via Face Book, Linkedin of The Blog itself, and they will be considered for publication. Add your name (or a nom de plume if you prefer) and location (i.e. Spain, UK, USA, etc) not a personal address. But do include legimate email contact details, so that we can verify who you are (it won’t show on the Blog and we guarantee to keep it confidential).

There might be no such thing as a free lunch, but this is a free Blog. So join me on it.

The Robin Williams’ route to giving peace a chance

No names, no pack-drill, but I do find a certain group of showbiz celebs – from gobby pop stars to cringeingly-sincere, hand-wringing screen icons – a tedious bunch of smug do-gooders, overblown with a sense of their own self-importance and, frankly, a bit of a drain on the tear ducts.

I might pay good money to admire their professional talents, but I don’t recall ever voting for any of them or agreeing their status automatically entitles them to the god-given right to thrust their opinions down everyone’s throat, particularly mine.

As you can guess, the majority of this touchy-feely glitterati dress to the liberal-Left, passionately embracing quazi-political agendas, which can broaden by the week. And, unless you want to be branded an anti-social, neo-fascist loony, heaven forefend you disagree with them, because it’s impossible for them to be wrong.

That’s why – even if it’s just on the high altar of free speech, balance and fairness – I was intrigued by what comedian and actor Robin Williams had to say recently. Because, despite his legendary zaniness, his alternative world view deserves an airing, whether or not you endorse his opinions…so over to Robin:-

WILLIAMS: The T-shirt logo says 'I love New York' - in Arabic!

‘I see a lot of people yelling for peace, but I have not heard of a plan for peace,’ Williams began. ‘So, here’s one.

i) ‘The US, Britain, Canada and Australia apologize to the world for our ‘interference’ in their affairs, past and present. You know, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Tojo, Noriega, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, and the rest of those good ‘ole’ boys; we will never ‘interfere’ again.

ii) ‘We will withdraw our troops from all over the world, starting with Germany, South Korea, the Middle East and the Philippines. They don’t want us there. Instead we will station troops at our borders, so no-one sneaks through holes in the fence.

iii) ‘All illegal aliens have 90 days to get their affairs together and leave. We’ll give them a free trip home. After 90 days the remainder will be gathered up and deported immediately, regardless of whom or where they are from. They’re illegal! France will welcome them.

iv) ‘All future visitors will be thoroughly checked and limited to 90 days stay, unless given a special permit. No-one from a terrorist nation will be allowed in. If you don’t like it there, change it yourself and don’t hide here. Asylum would never be available to anyone. We don’t need any more cab drivers or supermarket cashiers.

v) ‘No foreign ‘students’ over age 21. The older ones are the bombers. If they don’t attend classes, they get a D and it’s back home, baby.

vi) ‘The US, Britain, Canada and Australia will make a strong effort to become self-sufficient energy wise. This will include developing non-polluting sources of energy, but will require a temporary drilling of oil in the Alaskan wilderness. The caribou will have to cope for a while.

vii) ‘Offer Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries $10 a barrel for their oil. If they don’t like it, we go someplace else. They can go somewhere else, too, to sell their production (about a week of the wells filling up the storage sites would be enough.)

viii) ‘If there is a famine or other natural catastrophe in the world, we will not ‘interfere’. They can pray to Allah or whomever, for seeds, rain, cement or whatever they need. Besides most of what we give them is stolen or given to the army. The people who need it most get very little, if anything.

ix) ‘Ship the UN Headquarters to an isolated island someplace. We don’t need the spies and fair-weather friends there. Besides, the building would make a good homeless shelter or lock-up for illegal aliens.

x) ‘All Americans must go to charm and beauty school. That way, no one can call us ‘Ugly Americans’ any longer. The Language we speak here is ENGLISH…so learn it or LEAVE.

‘Now, isn’t that a winner of a plan?’

Can’t imagine what the Geldofs, Bonos, ‘Hanoi’ Jane Fondas, Clooneys, Redfords, Redgraves and other celebs with their burning, righteous desire to re-shape the planet according to their will, are going to make of Robin’s rant, but I can guess: for the reasons  stated earlier, they’ll brand him as just another, flag-waving, ultra-redneck loony, who should keep his trap shut.  Freedom of speech R.I.P.

Why sportswriters don’t do War Games

I had to stifle a wry smile during the verbal joust on Sky News last weekend, ahead of the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix, when anchorwoman Anna Botting was politely berating a spokesman for the autocratic Gulf state, asking why they had barred a Sky news crew from the country (to cover the real story of the riots and repression, maybe?).

‘We already have over 400 foreign journalists here,’ replied the kaffiyeh-clad Arab, whose name I didn’t quite get, though it sounded like Sheikh I Been Had a Bad Hair Day.

‘But they’re sports reporters,’ insisted Anna.

‘That makes them journalists,’ shot back the sheikh, whose media training clearly hadn’t included a tutorial on how to deal with uppity, Western, female TV news presenters.

For the record – and speaking from experience – Anna’s rather obscure point was absolutely correct.

ANNA BOTTING: No news is bad news

Way back in the mist of time, in my days as a sports exec on a national daily paper, I remember a sportswriter being despatched to Australia with the Great Britain Rugby League team. As misfortune would have it, their plane – presumably a turbo-prop – landed in Beirut, slap bang in the middle of one of the regular, local, internecine punch-ups.

Keen for a Page One story to justify the headline, ‘GB SPORTS STARS TRAPPED IN WAR ZONE,’ I waited patiently for our man on the battlefront to file a (hopefully) drama-packed account. And when he finally managed to touch base, his normally placid, Lancashire bonhomie betrayed real dread.

‘Bloody ‘ell, Hugh, I can see a tank comin’ round the corner and…bloody ‘ell, it’s just blown a bloody great ‘ole in a block o’ flats,’ he yelled.

‘Jack (not his real name),’ I shouted down the line. ‘Give me everything you’ve got. You’re the only Western journalist there and you’re sitting on a pretty big exclusive. So file as much as you can and don’t hold back.’

Within a half-hour I had five sheaves of copy and, with high expectancy, sat back to read Jack’s tale of war-torn terror.

His story began along the lines, ‘Alex Murphy’s injured knee is causing concern to Great Britain Rugby League bosses, who fear the star half-back may miss the opening Test against the Aussies…’

And so it rambled on until the final paragraph, which reported, ‘The players are hoping for a swift exit from Beirut tomorrow, as there’s a civil war going on.’

So Anna was perfectly in order to point out to the sheikh that there are – to use a sporting metaphor – horses for courses. And, while motor sportswriter may know everything about the aerodynamics of a Ferrari’s mudguard, by the same token the BBC’s John Simpson doesn’t do ladies hockey internationals.

It’s democracy they want, stupid!

Loath as I am to indulge in schadenfreude (‘Liar, liar, pants on fire’ – Ed), I’ve been banging on about this for years…well, at least the last two: so, to paraphrase Private Frazer, the dour Scottish mortician in Dad’s Army, the Euro is doooomed and soon to be as dead of Monty Python’s Norwegian Blue parrot, though not necessarily for the obvious reasons.

The runes looked darkly foreboding well before yesterday’s denouement of Sarkozy in Round Une of the French presidential sweepstake, the collapse of the Dutch Centre-right government and the Czechs passing round the begging bowl.

Now it isn’t just the bone-idle dagos of Club Med+Ireland who won’t bite the German-imposed austerity bullet, after being assured they could spend, spend, spend, because the Euro would keep them in clover for ever. So, I predict it won’t be long before the Brussels bean-counters, hustled in to give the errant Greeks and Italians a sound fiscal shellacking, get tarred, feathered and run out of town.

And still the politicos (especially those of the Teutonic persuasion) and the faceless, nameless, shameless Eurocrats don’t get it. They still think it’s all just about money and markets, which no-one is denying it once was, after that madcap spending frenzy even the classroom dunce knew couldn’t last forever.

FLAGGING: Democracy in the Eurozone

But what the ringmasters of the EU fail to see now is that the people don’t want a European superstate. For better or worse, they want to control their own destinies in their own lands and, most importantly, to wrest back democracy

Because there isn’t any in Euroland, apart from an anonymous gravy-train of MEPs, whose views are steamrollered into dust by a bunch of appointees – i.e. Baroness Cathy Ashton, Europe’s so-called, all-but-anonymous Foreign Minister – many of whom have never even stood for election to a parish council.

As Lenin so succinctly pointed out, ‘It is true that liberty is precious – so precious is must be rationed.’

Well, for liberty read democracy. And for democracy read the will of a people, who no longer want lessons in how to starve from pompous plutocrats and their adjuncts, irrepressibly twisting the screws of austerity harder and longer.

We’ve seen the downtrodden masses rise up against their tyrants in the Arab Spring, though, sadly, there’s every chance they’ll end up swapping one dictatorship for another.

Now we’re witnessing the Euroland Summer, where the people have a real chance of seizing back their right to decide their nations’ fates – and not be condemned to being drones in a far-flung province of a superstate, whose overlords pays lip service to their citizens’ wishes.

PS: If this sounds like a party political broadside from UKIP, my apologies. I have no political affiliations, but Nigel Farage and his headbangers are actually beginning to make real sense.

The writer: From Fleet Street to Fantasy Island

After treading a newspaper career path that became a globe-trotting odyssey – with stints in Canada, America, the Caribbean and Middle East – investigative photo-journalist Hugh Ash became a respected senior executive on several, UK national daily titles in a variety of editing and writing roles.

In 2002, however, Hugh took up the gauntlet of becoming Fleet Street’s Man in Mallorca, a uniquely cosmopolitan island he’d come to know intimately and admire from the days he and his wife, Barbara, bought a holiday pied-a-terre there.

Eight years on a new genre of writing beckoned and, from reporting news, he turned his talents to creating fiction.

Hugh’s novels are pacy, edgy, intriguing crime/espionage thrillers, always packing a surprise twist in their tales, and he uses his adopted island in the sun – its chequered history, fascinating culture and remarkably stoical people – as an absorbing backdrop.

HUGH: Fleet Street’s Man In Mallorca

So far Hugh has produced two, highly-imaginative novels, The Mallorca Assignment and The Mallorca Correspondent, which draws on some of his own, splendidly colourful reporting experiences on the island.

He is now penning the third of his trilogy, The Mallorca Money Changer: a chiller of a story that’s a hard-hitting, factional insight into the murky world of drugs, money-laundering and fraud, all inexorably linked to the tentacles of international terrorism.

Hugh continues to be a photo-journalist in the Balearic Islands and acts as a media consultant.

THE MALLORCA ASSIGNMENT: Hugh’s pacy, edgy thriller

FOOTNOTE: Hugh’s literary representatives are Smart Talent Group  at +44 1843 843318 or +44 1843 844863 and via email at  www.smart-talent-kent.co.uk.   The Mallorca Assignment is available from blurb.com/bookshop and as an ebook download from amazon.co.uk.  For Mallorca residents and visitors, it is available from Blau Press newsagents and other outlets throughout the island, priced 12 Euros.