Revealed for posterity: the real me

BLOG Nic

MUCH of my life has been a story of two distinct sides… personal and professional.

Childhood sexual abuse, two battles with cancer; the death of my best friend and later my father; more failed relationships than you care to shake a stick at; bankruptcy; the suicide of a family member; the loss of two of my children; the repossession of my home; discovering one wife was enjoying sex with another man; becoming a single parent, an unprovoked assault that almost took my life anyway; and finally a nervous breakdown in 2013.

Set against that backdrop there is a star-spangled career in journalism with a raft of awards and recognition at the highest level, the chance to meet many stellar people, an honorary doctorate in written journalism and an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons praising my investigative skills. And latterly the writing and editing of six diverse books of fact, fiction and poetry.

So while my personal life has been a rollercoaster of pain, my professional life as a writer, editor and publisher has been my rock.

But last week, my personal and professional personas collided in a metaphorical train wreck, just as a seven week pro-bono publishing venture reached its conclusion – ie the book was published!

I won’t bore readers with a blow-by-blow account, but in a nutshell:

I handed over the final manuscript of a book to a trusted friend for e-publication, then 36 hours after publication that same person took the book down from its publishing platform, blaming me for her actions.

I still find myself reeling from what happened.

Naturally, many knives were drawn against me as the responsible editor and publisher. But what really hurt is what then followed… a quite sinister campaign of lies, innuendo, disinformation and blame. And at the back of this an ongoing smear against my honesty and my character.

In the words of my great friend Sara Salyers:

“Whispered accusations behind the back of the accused, rather than a clear and evidenced case are a sure sign that a speculative and inauthentic profile is being constructed in the shadows from which it cannot be challenged because it is protected from the light of day.”

I have no intention of rallying against those whispers, but I do wish all my professional clients and colleagues to know who I really am.

My real friends and colleagues over the past 40 years know me well. This is what a few of them have written… this is the real me:

I first met Nic when we worked together for the YTS scheme in the mid-1980s; training teenagers to get employment. Nic had a teaching role. He was married and the loving father of a young family.

Over the years some may have assumed that Nic’s easy-going personality was a weakness, but this was not the case. Perhaps some were jealous of Nic’s character and may have felt inadequate. Perhaps because of this, they tried to make Nic look bad to make themselves look better.

Nic has admitted to faults but has always been a family man and wanted to be there as a father for his children. Everyone makes mistakes but many do not admit to them publicly in social media. Nic is a good and kind man.

JA (known Nic for 32 years)

 

I met Nic in the summer of 2016 through Momentum and his blogs. We went on to meet and become friends. Nic is a very decent, honest and genuine human being, which is very rare nowadays.

AA (known Nic for 18 months)

 

Nic is a great editor and it was one of my life pleasures to work with him. When I was having deep work-related problems, he was the first person I turned to. At work he was inspirational, and out-of-work he is a great family man who adores his children.

Nic and his wife Gill became close personal friends of my husband Alex and me and we have stayed at each other’s houses many times.

AB (known Nic for 7 years)

 

I’ve known Nic for five years, meeting him as the father of one of my son’s best friends, and now we are friends in our own right. Nic has many qualities that I admire, which include being thoughtful, caring, loving, and a very talented writer. Nic is a kind and loving father to Nathan, who in return is growing into a very polite and thoughtful young man.  I’d like to say not a day goes by without him thinking of all of his kids, but it’s probably more likely to be not an hour. 

CB (known Nic for 5 years)

 

I have known Nic first as a work colleague and then as a friend.

Nic is a compassionate and very fair man who has endured much in his life. What Nic has come through would have crippled most other people. The fact that he has come through it with such little resentment and such a sunny disposition says it all.

I am so proud that I am a friend of his and in my eyes he is a hero.

KB (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I have known Nic personally for many years through our common love of Brighton and Hove Albion FC. In short Nic is a fantastic guy, gentle and compassionate and extremely funny. I hope it all works out for him.

AB (known Nic for 14 years)

 

Nic and I met at college when we were both still teenagers and have kept in touch ever since. We both have great pride in swapping news about how our respective children have grown and developed.

Nic has always had a funny and quirky personality. I can still remember him reading his election speech at Poly with his pants on the outside of his trousers and a knotted hanky on his head. The memory of it still makes me laugh.

Nic does not suffer fools but neither does he exhibit any rash or violent temper.

Nic is now, as he was at 19, a caring, honest, considerate and sensitive man, passionately opposed to social injustice and whose deep and abiding love for his children is absolutely apparent.

I am proud to be his friend.

JB (known Nic for 42 years)

 

Nic gave me my first job in journalism in 2007. I can without hesitation say he is the best editor I could have wished for.

Over the years Nic and I became friends and I have found him to be someone I could rely on if I had a problem as he always made time for his friends and staff even when he was busy or in difficulty himself. 

As for Nathan, I just don’t know how Nic managed to bring up a child on his own while working full-time as a newspaper editor.

CB (known Nic for 11 years)

 

I worked alongside Nic for six months and he is one of the most earnest, helpful and trustworthy colleagues I have ever known. Gregarious, kind and immensely talented, he commands results using a fair and approachable management style. His sunny nature and sharp wit lit up the newsroom and it was both a pleasure and delight to work alongside him.

SC (known Nic for 6 years)

 

Nic is an outstanding editor, teacher and friend. I worked for him for two years between 2008 and 2010. I feel very privileged to have been part of his editorial team. His enthusiasm is infectious and it encouraged me to unearth some great stories and push myself to new limits. Nic will always be someone I continue to turn to for help and advice.

AF (known Nic for 10 years)

 

I met and worked for Nic between 1998 and 1999. I got to know him and his then partner Alvilde on a personal and friendly basis.

Nic is a unique editor who gave confidence and inspiration to many aspiring journalists. More than that, he is a lovely guy.

PF (known Nic for 20 years)

 

I have known Nic for around 13 years, via our mutual love of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. In all this time, I have seen his devotion to Nathan, often in the face of great difficulty, to be unswerving, with the soul of a man who loves his son dearly. He is a genuinely lovely man, full of wit, passion and care.

IH (known Nic for 14 years)

 

Nic is a wonderful mentor and teacher and an editor I would willingly move hundreds of miles to work for him again. He is also a warm and compassionate human being and an amazing father to his lovely son Nathan. In a nutshell: he is just amazing.

LH (known Nic for 8 years)

 

I have known Nic for 11 years. We met when he did pro bono PR work for my former band Tiny Tin Lady. I have stayed at Nic’s house many times over the ensuing years and he has become my soul-mate.

Nic is an awesome father to Nathan and a lovely human being. He is one of my best friends in the world.

HH (known Nic for 11 years)

 

I consider myself to be a very good judge of character. This opinion of myself has come about through many years of observing the consequences of my decisions based on the judgements I make. Mostly I have been right, and my awareness of other people has enabled me to almost instantly know if someone is going to be trouble, or enjoys harming other people, or is lying to me or trying to manipulate me in any way.

Nic is a sensitive, kind and intelligent man, who wants to live in a world that values peacefulness, equality and compassion.

AI (known Nic for 18 months)

 

I first met Nic while working for NWN Media. I think it was probably our passion for football that got us talking (he is B&HAFC and me it’s Chester).

It was always a pleasure to chat with him as a happy bloke who never seemed to have a problem with anyone or anything. He hid the agony of his family problems well.

Subsequently we have become good friends with a shared love of music and footy. He has always been kind even in his darkest hours and even appreciated my bad jokes.

Even though Nic lives some miles away I consider him a close friend and would happily welcome him to my home or holiday home in mid Wales, where I spend a lot of time with my wife and extended family of foster children and pets. I hope he finds the inner strength and peace that he deserves.

JL (known Nic for 12 years)

 

I first worked with Nic in 1993. I also met Dilla – this was before they had their two daughters. Our paths crossed again at The Scotsman in 1996. We became good friends and I socialised with both Nic and Dilla over the following year. I visited their home in Haddington and saw at first hand his wonderful parenting of Rhia and Shannon.

I can say in all honesty that Nic is a kind, funny and a very gentle man.

VM (known Nic for 25 years)

 

I need to thank Nic for his support over the last three years – he is a star! I’ve come to value his kindness, honesty, and integrity greatly.

SM (known Nic for 8 years)

 

Nic is my husband and the love of my life so maybe I’m biased! He’s thoughtful, a bit wacky sometimes, he talks in his sleep and when he’s not quoting from Dylan songs or talking at ghosts, he’s talking lovingly about his family, those that live with him and those that are absent. He’s kind, caring and hugs those he loves as often as he can. He’s intelligent, knows what is happening in the world and refuses to read the Daily Mail. So I think that makes him fairly awesome.

GO (known Nic for 6 years)

 

I have only known Nic a short time through our mutual socialist beliefs and membership of the local Momentum branch.

I have to say, I believe Nic to be a thoughtful, caring and gentle soul who wants a just, equal, and caring society.

ER (known Nic for 18 months)

 

Nic is insightful and generous. His passion for social issues and concern for his fellow man permeates every aspect of his work and personality. Nic is a breath of fresh air.

It is for these reasons that I consider him to be one of the best bosses I have ever had and also a very dear friend.

RR (known Nic for 6 years)

 

I first met Nic in 1996 when he was working for The Scotsman. We had a lot in common and quickly became friends.

I got to know him, Dilla and the girls, visiting them in Haddington and going to stay with them in Galloway a couple of times in 1999.

Nic was a proud and loving father and his girls obviously adored him. Everything about his politics and his core values and his behaviour as a dad was of a peace, committed, brave and loving.

No one is without faults and all of us hurt those we love as a result – all of us without exception.

And from bitter personal experience I can attest to the fact that whispered accusations behind the back of the accused, rather than a clear and evidenced case are a sure sign that a speculative and inauthentic profile is being constructed in the shadows from which it cannot be challenged because it is protected from the light of day.

Much love to a brave, brilliant and loving friend.

SS (known Nic for 22 years)

 

Meeting and working for Nic between 2008 and 2010 gave me a strength and inner-belief that few could ever manage. I will never forget his presence in the newsroom, his advice or guidance, all of which are worth more than gold.

He is a lovely man and I am a better person for having known him.

MT (known Nic for 10 years)

 

I worked for Nic for over five years, first as a trainee and then on to chief reporter. He taught me everything I know.

Not only a great journalist and editor Nic is the most compassionate manager I have ever worked for. After being diagnosed with cancer he was a massive support to me, treating me like a friend rather than an employee or a ‘number’.

I am very proud and grateful to have been a member of his team and to class him as a true friend.

NT (known Nic for 10 years)

 

I have come to know Nic through his writings and ultimately as a valued friend.    

It is impossible to read Nic’s accounts of his life and of his struggles to gain access to his children, without being deeply moved.   

Nic has a tremendous insight into self, probably more than anyone I know.  Unlike so many of us humans, he can reflect and admit to his weaknesses and imperfections.  

Nic is a valued friend and is a kind, caring and above all honest man. 

SW (known Nic for 3 years)

 

I have known Nic for over 30 years and met him at a particular difficult time for him, health wise. I was a nurse, working at an oncology hospital in Cardiff, and Nic was a patient receiving radiotherapy due to him having a malignant tumour removed from his shoulder area. I would redress his wound each day, and spend a long time talking and listening to a brave, intelligent man.

I gained great insight into a man who was determined to get well and restart his life and career. I saw how he worried about other patients and how one young girl became a great friend to him and he looked out for her throughout his time at the hospital. They remained friends up until her untimely death through cancer. Again this hit Nic hard as he loved her like a younger sister he has never forgotten her and has even made time to meet her family many years later.

I for one class Nic as a caring passionate friend and know our friendship will never be lost. When you meet Nic and talk to him you know him only as a gentleman who wants the best for other people before himself. A selfless man who deserves better than what has happened to him these past years.

AY (known Nic for 31 years)

 

Advertisements

Brief encounter – the murder of Diana

diana and dodi

IT was a wet February in 1997 and I was ensconced in a four star hotel in Islington, tasked with bringing home what could be the biggest newspaper story of the decade.

My job as Chief Investigative Reporter for the Scottish national daily The Scotsman was to gather information from Harrods owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, about an alleged conspiracy involving his business rival Tiny Rowland and a senior Conservative government minister.

It was an enjoyable and wholly productive three days of interviews with the gregarious and at times incomprehensible Mr Al Fayed, his PA Michael Cole and head of security John MacNamara – a former Scotland Yard senior detective.

The daily routine was purposeful: breakfast at my hotel, a taxi ride across London to Knightsbridge, an escalator to Mr Al Fayed’s office on the fifth floor of the Harrods department store, a coffee and croissant with Michael Cole and up to three hours of talking, questioning and sifting through reams of documents and photographs.

On Wednesday 12 February, I arrived as usual at 10am in the reception area outside the office and boardroom.

I was greeted cheerily as usual by Mr Cole. But on this morning he asked me if I minded waiting in an ante-room for half an hour as his boss was expecting a personal visit from Princess Diana.

I was shown into the room and given the usual coffee and croissant plus copies of the day’s national newspapers to browse at my leisure.

After 10 minutes waiting, I suddenly needed a quick loo break so quietly made my way to the now familiar private washroom.

Upon my return to my isolated coffee and partly eaten croissant, I stopped suddenly as the most recognisable woman in the world walked by, accompanied by Mr Cole and an as yet unknown young Middle Eastern man.

Diana turned briefly and smiled at me.

It was a memorable brief encounter.

But a tragic event some six and a half months later undoubtedly made it more memorable.

Later that day, I caught my return train to Edinburgh and The Scotsman offices at North Bridge.

Upon my arrival I was introduced to our new editor Martin Clarke, who had taken up his position while I was away in London.

My first meeting with him was also memorable, but for very different reasons.

I was brusquely told that our investigation into the conspiracy surrounding Tiny Rowland had been spiked for ‘political reasons’. I was also told I was ‘wasting my and the newspaper’s time’, not to ask any more questions and to ‘get on with some proper reporting’.

The months passed and on 31 August 1997, two events coincided: it was my final day working for The Scotsman and ironically Princess Diana, 36,  her lover (Mohamed Al Fayed’s son) Dodi Fayed, 42, and driver Henri Paul were killed in a horror car crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris.

My reaction to the deaths at the time was the same as it is now: they were murdered.

But it was only 10 years later at a judicial inquest, following a three year inquiry into their deaths and possible murder, that my own brief encounter came back to haunt me.

The inquest, under Lord Justice Scott Baker, heard on at least six occasions that at the time of his romance with Diana in the summer of 1997, Dodi Fayed was engaged to an American model, Kelly Fisher. Dodi had bought a house in Malibu for Fisher and himself with money from his father.

The inquiry also heard heart surgeon Hasnat Khan give his first detailed account of his two-year relationship with Diana, during which he says he often stayed at Kensington Palace and met the princess’s sons.

He described how the princess broke up with him after she got back from a holiday with Mohammed Al Fayed and his family.

The inquest dismissed reports that Dodi and Diana were in a relationship prior to that summer and therefore any talk of an impending engagement in August 1997 – and possible motive for their murder – were subsequently rubbished.

Something I knew then and now to be untrue.

The Inquest jury returned a majority verdict that Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were unlawfully killed due to the gross negligence of their driver, Henri Paul, and the paparazzi.

But I am still left with the haunting question: if that was the case, what were Diana and Dodi doing making a personal visit to Mohamed Al Fayed on 12 February 1997?

Mr Al Fayed later claimed that a plot to kill Diana was kicked into high gear as soon as British authorities found out from the CIA that Dodi had picked out a $215,000 star-shaped diamond ring for his future bride.

“The only reason my son and Diana were in Paris that night was so that he could personally collect the ring and propose to her,” he said.

“I spoke to Dodi and he was so excited and happy. Diana was too. They deserved a lifetime’s love together, and this beautiful ring was to put a seal on that,” he added.

“Diana believed all her married life that she was under surveillance by British and foreign intelligence agencies who reported back to her husband Prince Charles and the British establishment,” said Laurie Mayer, Mr Al Fayed’s press spokesman.

“She had every reason to think they intercepted her phone calls. The call she made to Lucia on the afternoon of her death could have alerted them she really was going to marry Dodi and that he, a practising Muslim and the son of a man who helped bring down the British government, would be stepfather to Prince William and Prince Harry.”

Mr Al Fayed also wanted – and got – files on two photographers, a Frenchman and a Dutchman.

“These men know what went on that evening,” said John McNamara.

“They filmed the motorbike we know was blocking the exit road, forcing the Mercedes to take the tunnel. That could show the license plate of that bike and another one we believe shot into the tunnel behind the white Fiat Uno.

“The Fiat Uno was waiting at the mouth of the tunnel. There was a collision and since then the bikes and the Fiat have vanished.

“Immediately after the crash, the photographers sent their pictures round the world. Some of those wired to an agency in North London had vital frames showing the vehicles we cannot now trace.

“The agency was broken into just hours after the crash and neither we, nor the police, believe it was an ordinary burglary.

“Many photographs show Diana lying in the rear seat of the Mercedes, one arm flung across Dodi and her legs buckled up under, have been seen across the world. Some have even been published in Europe. But none has shown the bikes or the car.”

Just one of far too many unanswered questions over the death of the People’s Princess.

 

Stars for a minute

skysports-brighton-and-hove-albion-dale-stephens-championship-football_3816005

HOW narrow is the dividing line between being a professional footballer, seeking the best salary for your ability, and being a self-seeking prima donna?

That line has been firmly tested over the past couple of months.

First we had the one man strike at West Ham by their star play maker Dimitri Payet, demanding he be sold for a mega million fee.

Then we had striker Chris Martin do much the same at Fulham, although on this occasion he simply wanted to return to his parent club Derby County.

And then we saw striker Ross McCormack conduct a one man training strike at Aston Villa. His actions forced Villa manager Steve Bruce to publically reveal that the Scot had been dropped from the first team squad for “continually missing training”.

But these examples are not a new capitalist madness in the beautiful game we all love.

Back in 1998, Dutch striker Pierre van Hooijdonk staged a very public one player strike, claiming Nottingham Forest had made “broken promises” to sell him if he helped them earn promotion from Division One.

And more recently in September 2011, during a Champions League clash with Bayern Munich, Argentine star Carlos Tevez ignored Roberto Mancini’s orders and refused to come on as a substitute for Manchester City.

Crazy eh!

So how refreshing is it that one of our own stars has the dignity and professionalism to show others how to behave.

The transfer speculation surrounding Dale Stephens dominated the Albion’s close-season.

The Seagulls turned down several bids of up to £8million from Premier League side Burnley for the midfield star.

Then as the transfer window closed, Stephens took to Twitter to explain that although he had been “reluctant” to submit a transfer request, he wanted an opportunity to play in the top flight.

“I’m 27 and recognised this could by my final opportunity to do so, which is why I feel disappointed my chance was taken away,” he posted.

Many Albion fans feared that Stephens might sulk, rebel or simply refuse to train as a result of his rejected transfer.

But how wrong they were.

Since last August, Stephens has proved to be one of our key players. His work ethic is exemplary and his importance to the team is pivotal.

Small wonder that the Albion have not lost a game this season, when Stephens has been in the team.

On 22 October, after scoring the winner for the Albion against Wigan, he underlined his professionalism saying: “I enjoy playing for this club and enjoy playing for this manager and I remain fully committed until the end of the season.”

But Dale Stephens’ situation opens up a reality for many professional footballers, and maybe casts some light on the actions of Payet, Martin and McCormack.

It has always been the case that the career of a professional footballer is short.

For while many may sign for a club as a schoolboy, their proper career doesn’t usually take off until they turn 20. And for most it is all over by the time they reach 35 – Inigo Calderon, Bobby Zamora and Gordon Greer are good recent cases in point.

So what do they do for the next 30 years of a normal working life?

Some stay with the club in an executive or coaching capacity (Guy Butters and Paul Watson) and some take up TV or radio punditry (Adam Virgo), but for others the future is less clearly defined.

For all players the onus is to earn as much as they can, while playing at their top level, to pay for a lengthy retirement.

Last season, average Championship earnings were £6,235 a week (£324,250 a year) while in the Premier League first-team average salaries were around £1.7 million.

Meanwhile, the average basic pay in League One was £69,500 and £40,350 in League Two – not much more than the national average.

That means top-flight players earned over five times as much as Championship players, almost 25 times as much as League One players, and around 42 times as much as League Two players.

Small wonder that players like Dale Stephens want to play in the Premier League before age and declining fitness determines that their career is over.

Thirty years ago, a top-flight footballer earned on average £25,000 per year, or just two-and-a-half times as much as the average household income of £9,788.

By 1995-96, a top-flight player earned six-and-a-half times as much as an ordinary family, and by 10 years ago it was more than 20 times as much, or £686,000 versus £33,000 per year.

Now it’s more than 40 times as much.

So spare a thought for my boyhood Albion heroes of the late 1960s.

Charlie Livesey was already a star with Chelsea when he joined the Albion in 1965. He was the Dale Stephens type dynamo of that era.

At the time the average weekly wage for a footballer in the third tier was just £20.

In his four years with the Albion, Livesey made 146 appearances, scoring 37 goals, before being released aged just 31, in April 1969.

He finished his career at Crawley Town then returned to the East End of London where he became a humble painter and decorator. Charlie died in 2005, aged 67.

Nobby Lawton was a similar midfielder – ironically born in Newton Heath, Manchester, just a few miles from where Dale Stephens later grew up.

He began his football career as an amateur with Manchester United. Following the Munich air disaster in 1958, he gave up his job with a local coal merchant to sign professional forms.

By the time he signed for the Albion from Preston North End in 1967, aged 27, wages had climbed to £30 a week.

Lawton was Livesey’s natural replacement at the heart of midfield and scored 14 goals in 112 appearances before dropping down to the Fourth Division to play for Lincoln City in 1970, and retiring two years later, aged 32. He returned to Newton Heath in 1977 to work for an export packaging firm.

Nobby Lawton died in April 2006, aged just 66.

Today, while Dale Stephens will hope for a much longer and healthier life, his career expectation is the same as it was for Charlie Livesey and Nobby Lawton, all those years ago.

It’s a long retirement.

 

Into the gutter with the Daily Mail

Daily Mail

THERE are only a few things in life I really hate, and one of them is the Daily Mail.

It is a poisonous rag which cloaks itself in the clothes of middle class decency while demeaning everything which is good.

And, as a journalist, I find its pretence at factual reporting frightening.

Its so-called news reeks of innuendo and loaded propaganda.

And its agenda is unwavering: preserve Conservative Britain from the rabid threat of Marxism, the Labour Party, Comrade Corbyn, trade unions, the unemployed and working people.

There are many reasons to despise the Daily Mail… its casual attitude towards the truth which it pretends to be both seeking; the way that minorities are ridiculed and blamed; how it randomly chooses which causes to back and which to dump; the way in which “outsiders”, such as recent immigrants are demonised and its gutter trawling for so-called “dirt” on anyone who stands in its way.

My own dealings with the Mail as a journalist were rather more obscure.

I would like to take you back to 1997.

I was at the pinnacle of my career working as the Chief Investigative Reporter for The Scotsman.

A whole world away from the Daily Mail.

In three years, I had broken a series of major exclusive investigations. Among the highlights were the dumping of millions of tons of munitions in the Irish Sea, the deadly legacy of the Dounreay experimental nuclear plant in Northern Scotland and a probable link between pesticides and BSE.

I had also been honoured with two back-to-back awards as Scottish Journalist of the Year and was in line for a third.

I loved my job and the collegiate atmosphere I worked in. I honestly believed I would spend the rest of my working life at North Bridge, with no aspirations other than to continue in my role.

But all that changed when in December 1996, our newspaper was surprisingly bought out by property billionaires and close friends of Margaret Thatcher: the Barclay Brothers.

With the new owners came a new Editor-in-Chief, the infamous Andrew Neil.

There was a corporate intake of breath as we all wondered for the future.

That intake turned into something approaching choking when our much loved editor, Jim Seaton, was placed on ‘gardening leave’ awaiting early retirement and a new editor Martin Clarke was announced.

We all winced… Clarke had trained under Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail and he was well known as a Rottweiler in the newsroom.

Clarke’s editorial demeanour attracted a range of tributes from former colleagues: “vile”, “offensive”, “appalling”, “obsessive”, “childlike” and “foul-mouthed” being among the less flattering.

Like Dacre, whose briefings were called “the vagina monologues” for their reliance on one particular expletive, Clarke went one better.

“He would start by saying, ‘You’re all a fucking disgrace and one of you is going to be fucking sacked this week,” and the terrible thing was, one of us usually was,” said Alexandra Blair, The Times educational correspondent, who worked for him for a year and a half at The Scotsman.

Another reporter who worked under Clarke said: “He once said to me: ‘You’ve got to go and shout at the bastards or they won’t respect you.'”

My stay under Clarke’s editorship was brief… just six months.

I moved on after being told to follow his own loaded agenda, which included one weird instruction to prove that wild deer being pursued by hounds are “no more stressed than a cow in a slaughterhouse”!

The final straw came in a bleak week, which began by Clarke blanking me at a press awards lunch after I had been highly commended as reporter of the year and finished by him standing over me at 10pm on a fourth rewrite of a story, berating my journalism as “fucking bollocks”.

I introduce a clipping of a piece written by Rob Brown in June 1997.

“Senior writers and sub-editors now find themselves being showered with expletives by their new editor Martin Clarke, whose lexicon of abuse is fairly extensive.

“Several executives have resigned in disgust. They included the picture editor Paul Dodds, who quit after being ordered to get better pictures from his “f***in’ monkeys”.

“Also out is associate editor Lesley Riddoch, who suddenly found her articles being repeatedly spiked.

“One of the journalists who has quit in disgust said: “I have worked for some brutal editors in my time, but Martin Clarke behaves like a feudal squire and treats his staff like serfs. Change was certainly needed at The Scotsman, but not this. He is running amok, creating a totally demoralised and demotivated staff.”

“But, put it to Clarke that he is pursuing a monstrous form of macho management and he professes his innocence with almost schoolboyish sense of hurt.

“Clarke, 32, says the complaints are emanating from only a couple of “malcontents”. Some people, he says, are driven by “personal pique because they never got a job they wanted”. Nic Outterside, head of the paper’s investigative unit, left last week. Clarke says the unit was disbanded because it was “a crock of shit”.

“Others, according to Clarke, have become “malcontents” simply because they cannot stand the new pace in the newsroom.

“I demand a greater level of working than perhaps some people are used to here and I can be robust at times, like all editors,” he says.

“Clarke confirms that he drew up a five-and-a-half page document a few weeks after he took charge recommending that a number of senior Scotsman staffers should be removed from their posts. This “operation review” leaked from the editor’s office into the newsroom, where it was seen as a sinister hit list. Clarke admits to some regrets about that.

“Of course it was bloody unfortunate, but you don’t expect to work in a place where such illegal activities take place. It was stolen from my computer. I’ve worked in some pretty rough newspapers, but nowhere where people are that underhand.”

At the time of writing this blog, Clarke is tipped to succeed Paul Dacre as the next editor of the Daily Mail.

And the art of being underhand is surely what the Mail is all about.

 

The tax exile millionaires who fund the Tory Party

Pounds

FOUR filthy-rich tax exiles and hedge fund managers are part of a shadowy cabal of multi-millionaire donors to the Conservative Party.

Their millions are the life blood behind the Tories and directs their fiscal policy to protect the super-rich at the expense of the rest of us.

And their millions are behind Mrs May’s snap General Election campaign.

In the 10 years to November 2016, the Tory Party received a staggering £247,426,722 in personal donations from some of the richest people in the world.

Top of these was a single donation of £2,990,582 in November 2001 from tax exile Lord Irvine Laidlaw.

Hedge fund manager Sir Michael Hintze was a short way behind with a donation of £1,503,500 in March 2014 and fellow hedge fund manager Sir Stanley Fink gave £1,080,500 in February 2009.

But they were all outdone by another tax exile David Rowland whose four single donations in 2009-10 totalled a staggering £3,774,000.

Small wonder that the Tories do not want regulation of the financial sector.

These figures only include those submitted to the Electoral Commission. We have no way of knowing whether these millionaires may or may not have also donated through other associated companies or agencies.

And until the Electoral Commission’s year-end figures are published, we have no way of knowing just how much they have donated this year.

Lord Irvine Laidlaw is a former Conservative member of the House of Lords and has long been one of the largest financial backers of the Tory Party.

Laidlaw was made a life peer as Baron Laidlaw of Rothiemay in 2004.

In 2008 he was described by The Guardian as a “Monaco-based tax exile”.

He was widely criticised in the press for failing to become UK tax resident despite being appointed to the House of Lords.

The BBC said that, in a letter seen by them, Laidlaw “cites a variety of personal reasons” for non-compliance.

Criticism by Baron Dennis Stevenson, chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, on assurances given to the Commission by Laidlaw to become a UK tax resident by April 2004, were followed by Laidlaw taking leave of absence from the House of Lords.

In 2010 following the enactment of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 he stepped down from his seat in the House of Lords to maintain his non-domiciled status and so be able to avoid paying UK residents’ taxes.

Sir Michael Hintze is a British-Australian businessman, steeped in the financial services industry having worked for Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.

In 1999 he launched his own hedge fund company, CQS and has been cited as one of the highest paid people in the City of London.

In 2013, Hintze’s CQS received awards for the “Best Hedge Fund Manager Overall,” “Best Hedge Fund Manager in Credit,” and “Best Multi-Hedge Fund Manager” at the Financial News Awards for Excellence in Institutional Hedge Fund Management.

In 2006, at the time of the Cash for Peerages allegations Hintze voluntarily revealed he was one of the previously anonymous patrons who had made loans to the Conservative Party.

His known loans and donations to the party total around £4million.

In the five months to September 2011 he donated £31,000, enough to grant him membership of the Conservative Treasurers’ Group, the second highest rung on the party’s donor’s ladder, which allows its members access to senior Conservative figures through a series of lunches, receptions and campaign launches.

In October 2011, it was revealed that Adam Werritty, a close friend and business associate of then Secretary of State for Defence Dr Liam Fox MP, was provided with a free desk by Hintze at CQS’s London base as part of his £29,000 donation to Fox’s charity Atlantic Bridge.

Hintze also supplied a private jet for Fox and Werritty to fly from the United States to London in May 2011.

These disclosures led to the resignation of Liam Fox and the dismissal of Hintze’s then-charity adviser, Oliver Hylton

Sir Stanley Fink is another hedge fund manager and the former CEO and deputy chairman of the Man Group.

He has been described as the “godfather” of the UK hedge fund industry and has been credited with building the Man Group up to its current status as a FTSE 100 company and the largest listed hedge fund company in the world.

In September 2008, he came out of retirement to act as the chief executive of International Standard Asset Management (ISAM) in a partnership with Lord Levy.

In January 2009 he was appointed co-treasurer of the Conservative Party.

On 18 January 2011, he was made a life peer, taking the title of Baron Fink of Northwood.

After the resignation of Peter Cruddas over a cash-for-access controversy, Lord Fink returned to the position of treasurer of the Conservative Party. Fink previously donated £2.62milllion to the Tories.

In February 2015 Fink was accused by Labour leader Ed Miliband as having undertaken “tax avoidance activities”.

He responded by stating that he had indeed avoided tax but stated “everyone does tax avoidance at some level”.

David Rowland is a UK property developer who has made a fortune in banking.

In 2009, Kaupthing Bank, affected by the global liquidity squeeze was divided into two entities, a ‘good, healthy’ bank and a ‘bad’ bank.

David Rowland and his son Jonathan, via their investment company Blackfish Capital, acquired and recapitalized the former and now manage the assets, on behalf of the interbank creditors, of the latter.

In the year before the 2010 General Election, Rowland donated £2.8million to the Conservative Party, making him the party’s major donor.

In 2010 he was announced as being the next Treasurer of the Conservative Party.

But following public criticism of his former status as a tax exile, Rowland resigned before taking the position.

Rowland had lived in Guernsey, but returned to full United Kingdom residency in order to make more donations to the Conservatives.

But these four millionaire donors are just the tip of a much darker side of the financing of the Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party’s close links with the hedge fund industry, coincides with research which shows that around half of the wealthiest fund managers in Britain have given money to the Tory party.

The based on public disclosures, finds that of the 59 wealthiest asset managers, 27 had made a combined £19million in donations to the Conservatives, with £10million flowing into Tory coffers since the 2010 general election alone.

Labour has previously drawn attention to the government’s abolition in 2013 of a stamp duty reserve tax on investment funds, which it described as an effective £145million “hedge fund tax cut”.

Labour claimed the hedge fund loophole had cost the country £100million a year over a five year period, and others have put the figure higher.

A similar analysis in the Financial Times found that the number of City backers for the Tories doubled during the last parliament compared with the period 2005 to 2010.

The FT found that 35% of all party funding comes from eight of the top 20 donors.

The eight are all from a City background and donated £12.2million to the Conservatives.

The Conservative Party’s top 10 funders:

1 Michael Farmer

Hedge fund: RK Capital Management

Worth: £150million

Total donation: £6,556,092

2 Sir Michael Hintze

Hedge fund: CQS

Worth: £1,055million

Total donation: 3,221,027

3 Lord Fink

Hedge fund: ISAM

Worth: £130million

Total donation: £3,172,007

4 Chris Rokos

Hedge fund: Brevan Howard

Worth: £230million

Total donation: £1,344,850

5 Andrew Law

Hedge fund: Caxton Associates

Worth: £350million

Total donation: £1,226,411

6 Sir Paul Ruddock

Hedge fund: Lansdowne Partners

Worth: £300million

Total donation: £818,783

7 David Harding

Hedge fund: Winton Capital

Worth: £750million

Total donation: £593,765

8 Hugh Sloane

Hedge fund: Sloane Robinson

Worth: £185million

Total donation: £533,500

9 Sir John and Peter Beckwith

Hedge fund: RiverCrest Capital

Worth: £350million

Total donation: £520,996

10 Alexander Knaster

Hedge fund: Pamplona Capital Management

Worth: £1,266million

Total donation: £400,000

 

Towns called malice – the legacy of Thatcher

Darton blog

I WAS born into a middle class Tory voting household and to my eternal shame joined the Conservative Party at age 16.

I guess my father’s right wing doctrines influenced my own, and as a teenager and college student I followed those politics quite radically.

At 21 years old, against a left wing university backwash, I was Yorkshire vice-chairman of the Federation of Conservatives Students. I was a radical Tory, brushed shoulders with Michael Portillo, shared a whisky with former PM Ted Heath and fought hard in Thatcher’s election victory of 1979.

That remains the eternal shame of my youth.

But life is a great leveller and educator, and chalk face experiences over 38 years changed all that… it changed me as a person, socially, spiritually and politically.

In the year Thatcher was first elected, a more socially aware friend of mine warned: “There will be war in three years!”

How right she was!

In 1982 we were at war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, ostensibly to liberate islanders loyal to the British Crown, but in reality because we had discovered huge reserves of oil in the South Atlantic a few years earlier.

And with Thatcher’s ratings in the opinion polls falling, there was a nothing like a bit of jingoism and nationalistic war fervour to boost Tory ratings.

But it was what I discovered years later as a newspaper journalist, which cast the Falklands War in a new light.

Not only was our prized battleship cruiser HMS Sheffield sunk while carrying nuclear depth charges, but against all international treaties to keep the South Atlantic nuclear free, Thatcher had deployed a British nuclear-armed submarine into the area.

The orders were clear: if the Argentines sunk another of our flagships, a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Cordoba was to be considered.

Just think for a minute where that might have led in 1982, at the height of the Cold War. Thatcher was prepared to risk a global Armageddon to secure her political ends.

But it was at home, where my opinions of Thatcher and her politics changed me forever.

My real education began in the early 1980s as a secondary school teacher in the South Yorkshire pit village of Darton – the home of Woolley Colliery, where NUM leader Arthur Scargill began his working life.

I lived in the village for four years among miners and their families, and many of my pupils were the sons and daughters of miners. Most of the boys were destined to become miners, and many of the girls would get jobs in businesses dependent on mining.

I played cricket each weekend with miners. My neighbours were miners. I went to football matches at Oakwell with miners. And I bought my first house from a miner.

The sound of the local pit hooter and the rattle of coal trucks woke me early each morning and the coal dust got into my clothes and my life.

But what struck me then, and has stayed with me ever since, was the sense of community and friendship which imbued every aspect of life in that village.

Life was vibrant!

If one of my charges misbehaved at school, I could be sure his or her parents would know about it, and he or she would be disciplined at home.

If I was ever ill in bed, a neighbour would knock at the door and ask if I needed any groceries or would leave a casserole of stew.

If the snow was deep we would all help clear each-others’ drives or pathways.

If anyone had a party in the street, the whole street would be invited, no exceptions. And those parties were real parties with Yorkshire beer, pies, gravy, chips and puddings.

And if my girlfriend had to walk home late at night, I wouldn’t fear for her safety.

It was a time of the greatest friendship and community I have ever known.

I moved away for misled career aspirations in 1983.

One year later, Thatcher’s brutal decision to crush the trade union movement at any cost, laid waste to this community and countless more like them.

They were never to recover.

For those not familiar with this time and place, watch the BBC TV boxed set Our Friends in the North to gain a little perspective.

All that was wonderful was lost forever due to capitalist greed and Thatcher’s need for unbridled power.

We had a nation divided against itself where the rich got richer while the rest fought for the scraps.

A whole street’s belief in Sunday’s roast beef

Gets dashed against the Co-op

To either cut down on beer or the kids new gear

It’s a big decision in a town called malice.

(Paul Weller)

My politics changed fast.

In 1988 I was in hospital in Cardiff undergoing surgery for a lung cancer.

It was a time of personal trauma, but also the making of new friendships.

Many of these friends were former miners from the South Wales valleys. Most were suffering from lung cancer due to a lifetime working among coal dust.

But it was their tales of how Thatcher crushed the miners’ strike that will always stay with me.

Some blamed Scargill for getting some of the NUM tactics wrong, but it was Thatcher they blamed for the decimation of their lives and families.

I learned how she used MI5 and the Met Police, and every dirty trick imaginable, to tarnish the personal reputations of the striking miners, even down to the conspiratorial murder of a taxi driver.

When I had fully recovered from the cancer in the mid-1990s, I travelled back to my old village near Barnsley to see how things had changed.

What met me was post-apocalyptic.

All vestiges of coal mining had gone, the shops had steel shutters on their windows, litter blew around the main street and pale youths gathered on corners with eyes that seemed devoid of hope.

The ghost of a steam train – echoes down my track

It’s at the moment bound for nowhere –

Just going round and round

Playground kids and creaking swings –

Lost laughter in the breeze

I could go on for hours and I probably will –

But I’d sooner put some joy back

In this town called malice.

(Paul Weller)

But time passes, and surely with two decades of government promises of better lives and Tony Blair’s “Things Can Only Get Better”, that despair I witnessed in 1997, must have changed.

So last weekend I returned to Darton once again, for the first time in 20 years.

In the distance the old pit heads have been replaced by rolling grassland, trees and green parkland.

To a passer-by it is picturesque… but this is nature’s illusion to mask the reality.

On the main A637 a small single business park is all that has replaced a mining industry that employed thousands in Barnsley alone.

And as I strolled round the decaying remains of the village and community I once loved, everywhere I looked brought tears to my eyes.

Long gone was Steve White the butchers, Broadheads the ironmongers, Henrietta’s dress shop, the local newsagents, the greengrocer and the launderette – a community meeting place for the miners’ wives.

Below uncleaned windows and blackened limestone walls they have been replaced with a Chinese takeaway, a tanning studio, an exotic pet store, a charity shop and boarded-up facades.

Cars and buses pass by quickly, rarely stopping on their way to somewhere else.

Only the elderly trundle along the pavement, past shops where there is nothing left to buy; walking small dogs and faces waxing grey and etched in lines of worry.

It reminded me of scenes I also witnessed in Northumberland (where my paternal grandfather and great grandfather were both miners) where three generations of families have been unemployed since 1984.

Their former pit communities have crumbled into decay, with all manner of social problems: derelict housing, rotting schools, drug dependency, street crime, high rates of teenage suicide and homelessness.

The villages remain, with three buses a day to their nearest towns and any chance of a better life, the lasting memory to Thatcher.

Thatcher’s true legacy lies in the coal dust of the communities she destroyed and the lasting fear of nuclear war.

And 38 years of Tory government (including Tony Blair’s New Labour Toryism) has ensured that the decay and legacy continues.

But the reality is there is an alternative.

That is the terrifying truth that the media, government and big business work so hard to conceal.

It the past two years, Jeremy Corbyn has woken us all to that truth and shown that alternative way forward… for the many and not the few.

  • No more forgotten communities
  • No more decay
  • No more unemployment
  • No more homelessness
  • No more scapegoating the poor
  • No more rough sleepers
  • No more fear of war

We can change the future for everyone on 8 June.

This is a journey we can all go on together, all of us. We can include everyone and fear no one.

I am voting Labour.

 

Trolls, bullies and stalkers incorporated

stalker

I HAVE been a published writer and hard-hitting investigative journalist for more than 30 years.

Over those years I have received letters of complaint and criticism when my words have struck a raw nerve – as a journalist it comes with the territory.

And it was always good to shine a light on the criticism and give the reader the right of reply.

But times have changed.

And technology now allows the trolls and stalkers to stay in the darkness.

I was active on the Telecom Gold internet in 1988 – long before the World Wide Web was born. Since the Millennium, I have been a member of almost every social media group imaginable, and for the past four years have written my own blog… the one you are reading now!

As a magazine and newspaper editor and writer, my name is well known; and if you search you will find me.

But internet trolls and weirdos have finally forced me underground – the anonymous keyboard filth who threaten, demean, bully, harass and follow.

Some 13 years ago, I had my first taste of these vermin through a football club website – one guy from Cardiff even threatened to drive 300 miles to “find” me! I laughed it off as football banter… at the time I knew no better.

Then four years ago the reality of these anonymous people hit home.

In May 2013, after I published my personal thoughts about the killers of Private Lee Rigby and the Islamophobia which followed his murder, I feared for my life.

Within an hour of my words hitting social media, I faced scores of threatening messages from far right Britain First and BNP extremists. Some had even hacked my Facebook account and downloaded photos of my children. More than a dozen people (including women) made death threats against me and my family, and one man threatened to find out which school my then 11 year-old son, attended… “it would be easy to find him,” he taunted.

So I closed down all my social media accounts, and by lucky coincidence we moved house and area two weeks later!

In the meantime I suffered a nervous breakdown.

I promised to take extra care with my social media activity in the future and re-entered the world of the internet in September 2013, when I began this blog.

So I wrote, campaigned, exposed and wrote some more.

Then it all came back with a vengeance early in 2016, while I was campaigning for the liberation of Palestine… and this time it was sinister and at the same time disgusting.

Over a number of weeks I was being trolled by Zionist Israelis with private messages and public postings of the most vile paedophile and sexual nature I will not repeat.

I managed to find out the identities of two of these trolls (one 35 year-old man and a 22 year-old woman) both based in Tel Aviv.

I reacted by publicly naming them, blocking them and withdrawing from some social media sites.

Although I must state here, that Facebook was toothless in dealing with these twisted bullies and perverts.

Over the ensuing 15 months I still fell victim to the occasional troll, but I had learned how to deal with them.

How wrong I was!

Three weeks ago, I began a daily writing campaign, through this blog, to support Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

My posts were being widely read (one had over 25,000 hits) and shared via Facebook, Twitter and other means.

And I received the occasional disagreeable comment from some readers.

But then it happened…

Three individual weirdos managed to find out my phone number (which is ex-directory) via Facebook and my other social media activity and the calls and text messages began.

I am still hanging up my phone and deleting texts as I write this.

It doesn’t frighten me, but some things in life are more important.

I will always stay true to my political beliefs, which are ingrained deep within me, and will continue to write my blog.

But today, I deleted my Facebook account – which I have maintained for 10 years – and am clearing my social media footprint.

I have had enough!

I am a writer AND a fighter, but family, peace, music and love are much more important.