I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Faith in human nature wrecked: faith in human nature restored.

Yesterday was something of a rollercoaster. I woke up in the wee small hours with raging toothache and logged on to check out England’s progress in Nagpur. No problems there as Bell and Trott were grinding it out in a manner to make Geoffrey Boycott purr. Next came Twitter and news from all manner of sources that the Hillsborough Justice Collective had released it’s version of ‘He ain’t heavy’ and Reds across the globe were duly urged to shell out 89p to push it to the Christmas number one slot. No problem there either. Click. Done. It’s actually in my headphones as I write and I would be remiss not to urge everyone out there to help to top up the legal fighting fund of the families of the 96.

Next it was the online Guardian and the tawdry tale of the Barclay brothers. Along with the vast majority of planet earth, I hadn’t heard of the Barclay brothers until yesterday morning and what a pair of charmers they are. I had just posted a blog about my next novel ‘The Ghosts of Nu Mung Bha’ which will track the progress of a couple of PTSD riddled vets in waging a revenge war against the top 1% of our Brave New World who are relentlessly bleeding us all dry.

These guys epitomise everything about the hated 1% that will surely mean that one day we will all make like Trotsky and say enough is enough. They own the Telegraph, the Ritz hotel and the Littlewoods catalogue. Guess what. These born and bred Cockneys no longer feel that London is good enough for them: one lives in Monaco and the other lives on the island of Sark in the Channel Isles. Now I wonder why that might be? Maybe the nightlife is a tad more buzzing on Sark that it is in London. Or might it just be down to the fact that they have decided they are just so much more special than the rest of us that it really would be too bitter a pill for them to swallow were they ever to pay a penny of tax. The fact their formative years saw them educated in tax payer funded schools and mended by tax payer funded GPs is neither here nor there to the delightful Barclay brothers. They have heroically ensured that their crafty accountants and lawyers have kept the Ritz hotel from paying any tax whatsoever for seventeen years.

In 2002 they took over Littlewoods and got their clever men in suits to stick their noses into the archives. Ah ha! Great news. Behold. There was a VAT loophole. Goody goody gumdrops. They got all lawyered up and hit the courts. First they bashed Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs into stumping up a £204 million rebate going back to 1970’s. The fact they hadn’t even owned the company back then was of course neither here nor there. Then they returned to court to demand the interest on all that money and the Revenue and Customs duly coughed up a further £262 million. Lovely jubbly. Of course a £466 million windfall care of the British tax payer was plenty enough to give Littlewoods a hell of a shot in the arm in terms of profit. So at least the Revenue and Customs would see of the money back in the form of Corporation Tax. Well actually, no. Of course no. Littlewoods is registered somewhere far from these shores, no doubt in a non descript looking white building sitting back from a quiet road in Bermuda somewhere.

Was £462 million enough for the Barclay Brothers? Of course it wasn’t. Well how could it be? The cost of living on Sark takes some keeping up with you know. So where was the next mountain for their mighty lawyers to climb? Well, is it really fair they are only paid basic interest on the £262 million they were refunded? Of course it isn’t. Fairness and justice demands that they are paid compound interest. And compound interest means a whole fat billion pounds: not a lousy, measly £262 million. So now the Barclay brothers and their merry band of lawyers are now headed for the European Court of Justice to demand that the only way they can be treated fairly is if the British Tax payer hands them an additional £738 million to make up for the fact that a company they didn’t even own at the time had over paid £200 million in VAT.

Take a bloody pause.
A company they never owned over paid £200 million in VAT and the European Court of Justice is now about to demand that we all give this pair of shysters £1 billion in compound interest. Let’s just be properly clear about what a billion quid actually means. It would pay the salaries of 5000 nurses for a year. It would pay a year’s worth of dole to 33,500 of the unemployed people the Barclay Brothers slag off for being wasters and scroungers in the Telegraph. We could give every infantry soldier who has done a tour in Afghanistan a one off Christmas bonus of £50,000. Instead European Court of Justice is about demand that every man, woman and child in Britain coughs up £16.50 to hand over a thousand million quid to a pair of greedy bastards to salt away in their off shore treasure chests. Have you ever wondered what got into people on the snowy streets of St Petersburg back in 1917 when they hung the super-rich from lampposts? Maybe the antics of the Barclay Brothers offer a pretty decent clue.

The European Court of Justice.


One word viewed through two online windows on a dark December morning. The Hillsborough Justice Collective gathering in enough cash for the families of the 96 to keep paying their legal bills – gathering in the cash 89p at a time. And asking respectfully for that same 89p. Not demanding. Not coercing.

Then there is the European Court of Justice absolutely demanding and coercing us all to give £16.50 to a pair of greedy bastards who pride themselves on never paying a penny of tax.


Time to head into work. A cold grey day and the usual tales of woe. A guy from a small town thirty miles up the road comes in for food. He is a single dad with three kids to feed. He lives in a town where once upon a time they had a coal mine and jobs and lives to lead. There is no coal mine now. Time was called on that back in the 80’s. He would love a job. He volunteers to help a local charity six days a week. An appointment letter for the Job Centre got lost in the post. So he missed the appointment and they suspended all his  payments for two months. Do I believe him? Yes I do. Two bloody months, no money, three kids and Christmas a week away. And the Barclay Brothers want a billion quid.  


To be honest by one o’clock my faith in humankind was wearing thin. So much for the spirit of Christmas. Then the bell on the door rang and a spritely pensioner came to the counter and put two £20 notes down with a smile. For the food parcels she said. Keep up the good work she said. And my opinion of the human race went up a notch. Ten minutes later and the bell went again. A couple this time. They told me that they don’t need to buy all that many Christmas presents any more. Instead they like to try to help those who are having a tough time. They gave me and envelope and we chatted for a while. Only when I went back up the stairs did I open the envelope. £200 in twenty pound notes. Unbelievable. Amazing. Humbling.

So it was in the course of a few hours I journeyed from the Hillsborough Justice Collective to the Barclay Brothers to these wonderful people who are so in tune with what being a decent human being is all about.

And all the while the storyline for ‘The Ghosts of Nu Mung Bha’ takes on a little more shape. A little more form. Time to type ‘Sark’ into Google images and see what the place looks like……    

Something like this actually

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