At the End of the Day


Two people who were probably holding their breath today in anticipation of the autopsy on Christopher Shale were James Forsyth (the Spectator columnist who wrote the piece about him in today’s Dacre Mail) and the person who showed him Shale’s secret strategy document.

However, if they are upset (and you’d have to be a bit of an arse not to be) then it seems likely they can breathe again: most people who knew Shale say he was not the suicidal type. In turn, colleagues say he was aware of the MoS article and not terribly concerned by it. Further, it seems there was a history of early heart attacks in his family.

The slightly puzzling part of the whole affair is why the 75 year old organiser of Glastonbury Michael Eavis should’ve been prepared to say that the death “had suicidal circumstances”. He has a long experience of dealing with the media, and so one suspects he was fairly sure of what he thought were the facts.

Either way, Forsyth’s piece was the usual Dacre/Barclay brothers fare: get the Coalition at all costs, and do anything you can to show what a Horlicks Camerlot is making of everything. I would’ve thought it wasn’t necessary to publish leaked documents in order to demonstrate that – just reporting on what the Government does most weeks would be more than sufficient.

The rather unpleasant phrase Forsyth used about Shale’s  strategy document – ‘classic evidence of Cameroon Tory self-loathing’ – is the sort of gratuitous psycho-bollocks that can so easily come back to haunt those who write such drivel. There but for the grace of God go all scriveners: but some deserve the poisoned arrows of fate more than others. Cue death of James Forsyth, and shoals of letters to me from Mail devotees.

The Observer, meanwhile, surpassed itself in attempting to bring everything back to Newscorp perfidy. It noted that Shale’s family home was ‘a short drive from the homes of Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, and Elizabeth Murdoch, a board director of News Corp’. Nobody wants to see Murdoch in rags more than I, but this was overdoing it a bit. Cue revelation in tomorrow’s Guardian that Becky and Liz were seen behaving suspiciously around the VIP portaloos early this morning.

These days, just the words ‘dead in toilet’ are suggestive of drugs. Given that Christopher Shales expired at the Glastonbury festival, I must confess this was my first thought…..especially as rumours have been around for some time that several powerful media Tories of a West Oxford persuasion are fond of tooting the talcum of a weekend.

We’ll know more tomorrow. But it looks like nothing more than a medical, genetically-inherited tragedy.


For a few minutes off and on this evening, I’ve been thinking that there might be a glimmer of hope in the bank exposure v debtors v EU nutters stand-off. I read in the Wall St Journal that the top 3 French banks have proposed a plan to reinvest half the proceeds from maturing Greek government bonds into new Greek long-term bonds, provided they can be free to invest 20% of the totals  in ultra-safe (ho-ho) French gilts.

It’s an ingenious idea, in that it offers Athens a sort of 30% haircut devolving into a 50% haircut, but without anything concrete that the debt ratings agencies could call a default. And necessity is the mother of invention, as without such a plan, the French banks would be in one mother of a mess. Further, as this is the banks’ own idea (allegedly) there is no element of compulsion for Trickey Trichet at the ECB to get uptight about.

But it may not even be this simple. I’m told that anything you agree to which could be construed as ‘not in your interests’ can be regarded as compulsion by the ratings agencies. Given not being able to do this might sink the banks, I’d call the deal compelling rather than compulsion….but what do I know?

Anyway, buying 30 year bonds in Greece might also be classed as evidence of insanity. Plus, of course, this is only more can-kicking: the plans for Greece assume economic growth (yeh, right) and selling unsaleable assets in double-quick time. A year down the road, the Greeks will simply owe more, the banks will have only partly deleveraged, the repayments will be behind schedule again….and because of that, the bond yields will be a thousand per cent or something equally potty.

Neverthless, an important principle has been established: that some debt forgiveness is in order, of around 30% , for Greece. All we need now is some global reality about 70% forgiveness for everyone, and we’ll be out of the woods.