Why it’s odds on no-one will take the rap for the ‘Horseburger Handicap’ scandal

Pardon the pun, but there’s an unsavoury irony about the skeleton of a monarch, who offered his kingdom for a horse, turning up at a time when equines are practically leaping from supermarket shelves round the corner from the Leicester car park where he was buried.

Not that today’s steeds would have done Richard III an iota of good; certainly not unsaddled and repackaged as ‘beef’ burgers or meatballs.

However, despite my email inbox full of sicko Shergar gags, tempting though it is to indulge in gallows humour, there’s no escaping the sombre truth that we, the public, have been duped. Because, what many trusted purveyors of meat sold us was sometimes little short of minced gee-gee.

The revelations, which surfaced in Ireland a couple of months ago and have since gone viral throughout the EU, lead us to several unwholesome conclusions, principally that we can’t trust the Goliaths of the retail trade, they can’t trust their suppliers and nobody can trust politicians, empowered to police the food industry, but who can’t tell a fillet mignon from a fetlock.

Meanwhile, there’s a blame-game emerging, where everyone involved is passing the buck (again, pardon the pun) to anyone within receiving range of potential liability.

Fending off allegations his department was ‘asleep at the wheel’ (or reins?), Britain’s food minister, Owen Paterson, who prefers riding horses to eating them, blames the EU and the food industry for not doing enough random testing

Meanwhile, supermarket apologists were quick to finger a chain of enigmatic middlemen, dodgy abattoirs in Rumania and an iffy processing plant in France.

Iceland Group boss, Malcolm Walker, though, insists local authorities are the real culprits for foisting cut-price sustenance on schools, hospitals and prisons, leading me to suspect meals-on-wheels is now more akin to having a flutter on the great ‘horseburger handicap’.

The frozen foods tycoon says he wouldn’t eat economy or ‘value’ brands. But with his company registering profits of over £200M last year, Walker can afford the occasional prime cut for Sunday lunch, whereas innumerable families struggling to fill their kiddies’ bellies don’t have that luxury.

Out of necessity, they have to rely on supermarket ‘white’ or ‘own-label’ products. Nonetheless, they don’t deserve to be deceived – even unwittingly – by companies raking in fortunes, who can’t be bothered to find out what really lurks within the contents on their own shelves.

This brouhaha, however, isn’t about horses per se, although it appears a ready-meal lasagne or ‘spag bol’ is just as likely to have been sired by Hi-Ho-Silver as an Aberdeen Angus. So heaven only knows how many Little Bo-Peeps go into a shepherd’s pie.

No, it’s about labelling. Because, unlike a certain brand of wood preservative – which brags its does exactly what it says on the tin – there’s absolutely no guarantee a packet of foodstuffs in a hypermarket chiller isn’t contaminated by something that might have run at Epsom.

GEE WHIZ! How the UK's Sun newspaper saw the horsemeat scandal

GEE-GEE WHIZ! How the UK’s Sun newspaper lampooned the horsemeat scandal

Frankly, I’m gobsmacked at how circuitous, furtive and opaque our food chain actually is and how a dead horse can travel half way round Europe, passing through countless hands, before it’s magically transformed into a cow. Even Paul Daniels would be hard pressed to pull off that trick.

So what most of us would like to know is: why, with all their mega-billions, haven’t the big name brands (like Findus) and the supa-dupa markets, which have destroyed the local high street, done more in-house product testing? And why did the UK government’s Food Standards Agency dispense with the services of 600 inspectors and cede control of what we eat to Brussels, where the odd slice of horsemeat is considered yummy?

Moreover, broader questions cry out to be answered…like why are we forever at the mercy of grubby, greedy big business battalions and where are the consumer watchdogs we deserve?

All but a gilded, filthy rich few have already been scalped by the banks over sub-prime mortgages, LIBOR rate-fixing, Payment Protection Insurance mis-selling and money laundering that see Mexican drug cartel cash funnelled into the pockets of jihadi insurgents.

And that’s in tandem with hugely immoral, creative accountancy ‘schemes’ operated by multinational conglomerates (e.g. Starbucks, Google, Amazon), which have driven a horse and carriage – sorry, no pun intended – through individual nations’ tax laws.

Nor does it end there.

Britain’s NHS – the keystone of a caring, sharing, civilised society – is crumbling under a welter of inane red tape and gross mismanagement, exemplified by scandalously high mortality rates at Mid-Staffordshire Hospital.

Meanwhile, over the wider Eurozone horizon, austerity is the only game in the Club Med town, driving up consumer costs, choking growth and casting an entire generation of kids on the scrapheap of unemployment.

No wonder people of my generation, who worked hard, tried to invest sensibly in a minefield of evermore complex products, strived to educate our children and imagined we’d secured a modestly comfy retirement, feel robbed and so utterly let down.

What irks most is how too many big businesses fudge transparency to the extent we punters can only conclude boardrooms reckon a profitable end apparently justifies any devious means.

And, like the glib, fork-tongued politicos of all hues, no-one is condemned to stand accountable for their excesses and, when the excrement hits the fan, they retreat into blame-game autopilot.

It’s never us, they insist behind masks of righteous indignation cloaked in crocodile tears, as they trouser yet another bumper bonus.

And, as always, hollow promises of ‘lessons will be learned’ are parroted. Only they never are, as – like a line of empty buses, tail to tail – yet another scandal inexorably follows in the wake of a still raging one.

Which is why it’s my gut instinct the horsemeat travesty will be put out to grass and consigned to the knacker’s yard of history.

Of course, supermarket CEOs will vouchsafe to rid themselves of weak, bent links in the food chain and politicians will announce a tsunami of crackdowns to right the wrongs they’ll never admit to making.

But sure as eggs are eggs – and not infested with salmonella – the next scandal, scam or rip-off is just round the proverbial corner.

And, once again, don’t expect any heads to roll. Because those responsible will deny any culpability or accountability for it ever happening.

You can bet your shirt or horseburger on that.

Vicars and tarts: The tables are turned and guess whose side God is on…

I’m indebted to my Portals Press Club colleague and web-trawler, Dave ‘Reports of my demise are slightly exaggerated’ Hammond, for the following, which came from I know not where (so apologies in advance for any plaigiarism, but I thought my blog fans would be amused by it as I am).


Diamond D’s brothel began construction on an expansion of their building to increase their ever-growing business and, in response, the local Baptist church started a campaign to block the business from expanding – with morning, afternoon, and evening prayer sessions at their church.

Work on Diamond D’s progressed right up until the week before the grand re-opening when lightning struck the whorehouse and burned it to the ground.

After the cathouse was incinerated by the lightning strike, the church folks were rather smug in their outlook, bragging about ‘the power of prayer.’

But ‘Big Jugs’ Jill Diamond, the owner/madam, sued the church, the preacher and the entire congregation on the grounds that the church ‘was ultimately responsible for the demise of her building and her business – either through direct or indirect divine actions or means.’

In its reply to the court, the church vehemently and voraciously denied any and all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise.

The crusty old judge read through the plaintiff’s complaint and the defendant’s reply, before noting at the opening hearing, “I don’t know how the hell I’m going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork, that we now have a whorehouse owner who staunchly believes in the power of prayer and an entire church congregation that thinks it’s all bullshit.’

It’s only ‘Hasta la vista, baby’…Hillary deserves to return as Madam President

Rarely do American Secretaries of State leave their mark as indelibly as the man behind the Oval Office desk. Most retire into obscurity and, apart from rare exceptions – perhaps remembered more for ineptitude than diplomacy – few leave a legacy of achievement to match that of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Naturally, no-one can hold public office without detractors and the legion of Hillary-bashers will continue deriding her as, variously, The Wicked Witch of the West Wing, Shrillery, The Bride of Clintonstein and worse.

Unforgiving feminist ultras will also ceaselessly attack her for sticking like a *dingleberry to her philandering hubby, Slick Willy, during a presidency frequently mired by scandal and tales too tall, they’d shame Baron Munchausen.

Somehow, though, both Clintons redeemed themselves and even Bill has reclaimed a measure of affection most thought unimaginable, especially after his outrageous claim that although Monika Lewinsky had sex with him, it wasn’t reciprocal (‘Ah wuz enjoin’ a ci-gar at the time,’ was his laughable excuse).

Hillary, meantime, was said to have only been given the job as US foreign minister by Barack Obama to stop her having a hissy fit after the ugly mud-slinging of the Democratic Party’s joust between the pair for the presidential nomination.

Without any prior diplomatic experience – except as hostess to foreign dignitaries in her eight years as First Lady – she was tipped to be a lame duck and cannon-fodder for the State Department mandarins.

Except, no siree, she wasn’t. In fact, she was anything but. And, though guile, charm, acute perception and hard-nosed determination, she refashioned American foreign policy following the gung-ho era of G ‘Dubya’ Bush – despite Obama making it transparent from Day One of his term the US would no longer be the world’s cop.

If anything, she has consistently outshone and outperformed her aloof Commander In Chief, leaving him exposed as more professorial more presidential, a ditherer not a doer, or – to use grid-iron football parlance – a quarterback who can’t deliver a Hail Mary, killer pass.

So, while Obama pondered, Hillary ploughed on, enduring one of the roughest, toughest rides of any Secretary of State.

Because, in stark contrast to the certainties of a Cold War nuclear stalemate between the West and the communist East, the world has disintegrated into an unpredictable, shifting morass, where – as Mali has just shown – conflict could ignite anywhere almost without warning.

As the old, secular dictatorial order throughout the Middle East tumbled like dominoes in a gale, Hillary gamely sought to maintain US influence on new regimes, mainly as anti-democratic as those they deposed, even if they gained power via the ballot box.

Undeniably, she was slow in confronting the Arab Spring, which overthrew Mubarak in Egypt, hoping against hope – reflecting the aspirations of all freedom-seekers – a tenable, democratic government would ensue, after the bloody sacrifices of the students and middle-classes in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Instead, it heralded the dawn of the repugnant Muslim Brotherhood and is plunging the nation into fresh turmoil.

But, through Hillary, America sub-contracted assistance to the anti-Gaddafi rebels in Libya to Britain and France, and wisely stayed out Syria’s civil war, where there’s every likelihood the opposition will replace Assad’s secular tyranny with Sharia-based despotism.

She also did her damnedest to bring sanity to prevail over the Israel-Palestine impasse. But Muslim Brotherhood cohorts, Hamas, only want to obliterate the Jewish state and fork-tongued Fatah, on the West Bank, can’t get their thick heads round the benefits of a peace dividend.

MADAM PRESIDENT? Hillary would be a shoe-in for the White House in 2016

MADAM PRESIDENT? Hillary would be a shoe-in for the White House in 2016

Meanwhile, Hillary urged Burma’s military to edge its way to democratic reforms, convinced China of the wisdom of distancing itself from the lunatic North Koreans and airbrushed nationalistic Russia off the diplomatic map, except where the pariahs of Syria are concerned.

And throughout all this, she had to deal with a United Nations General Assembly united on only one principle: its vehement hostility to the West (unless they were talking hand-outs).

Hillary also did her best in trying give the purblind Iranians a way to have nuclear power, minus a nuclear bomb, but there’s only so long anyone can be expected bang their head on a mosque wall.

Hence, there was never a more propitious time for her to quit office than now.

The US has all but exited Iraq and Afghanistan is on the back burner in relative diplomatic terms, after she forced Obama to agree to General David Petaeus’s ‘surge’ against the Taliban.

Whatever happens next to a Kabul regime so blighted by corruption, it make Spain’s money-grubbing sleazebags seem like choirboys, is up to her successor, newly-appointed, John Kerry.

Small wonder the former senator says, ‘I’ve got big high heels to fill.’

As an addendum, it’s well known within the Washington Beltway that taking out Osama bin Laden was at Hill’s behest. Again, Mr. President was a pretty passive bystander, not that it will inhibit him from claiming the credit.

So, after flying a million miles in US – and Western – interests, is it goodbye or just hasta la vista, baby for Madam C?

The political runes point to a ‘No’. On the contrary, with three years before the holographic reign of Obama fades away, if her health holds out, Hillary should be a shoe-in as the Democrats choice for the 2016 White House race, even aged 69 – a year younger than Ronald Reagan when he became President.

The world has witnessed Hillary Clinton as the consummate politico-cum-diplomatic high-achiever and the notion of a second Clinton in charge of America is making the Republicans wince.

After the debacle of Mitt Romney’s failure, their anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-tax, anti-immigrant philosophy is an auto wreck. It plays to no-one but the red necks, mainly in the old Confederate South and, as they’ll begrudgingly admit themselves, their antediluvian opinions don’t count for a mess of beans.

As Lloyd Green, former research counsel to the George H.W. Bush campaign, says, ‘Unlike her husband, Hillary is personally disciplined. Unlike Barack Obama, she has demonstrated an ability to connect with beer-track voters across the country.’

But will her gender be an impediment to her landing the ultimate office in the land? Not a bit, say pollsters, who reckon Romney’s lack of appeal to female voters was another reasons for his undoing.

So way to go, Hill, as the Yanks would say.

*Dingleberry: A small ball of excrement that sticks to the wool of a sheep’s backside (Dictionary of Slang)