Gordon Brown and the Bully Hotline

I’ve experienced both school and workplace bullying, and I have no time for people who behave in such a way. I’ve even called a supportline or two in the past. So don’t take what follows as in any way diminishing the anguish that bullying can cause.

I have two points to make on the current scandal, which involves Christine Pratt, the head of the National Bullying Helpline, going public with claims that staff at Number 10 had called her support line about the Prime Minister’s behaviour.

1. These things are supposed to be confidential. By breaching this, she has made it much harder for people to pluck up the courage to call support lines. Not to mention that I strongly doubt that staff at Downing Street will thank her for damaging the government for which they work. They have been betrayed, and used to score political points.

2. That is, of course, assuming that these staff even exist. How does she actually know that the people that called really worked at Number 10? She obviously does not run background checks on people who call, so what is stopping random idiots, and/or the Tory dirty tricks department, calling in and making all sorts of outrageous claims? Unless a real, solid, person comes forward and states that they were bullied by Gordon Brown, this whole business should be considered inadmissible.

We’re supposed to believe that a number of different individuals all chose to call the same helpline, and more than that, that they unnecessarily divulged the sensitive information that they worked at Number 10.

The National Bullying Helpline has this to say about itself on its website:

The National Bullying Helpline is the brainchild of Christine Pratt and her husband David. Christine first set up HR & Diversity Management Ltd in 2002 and realised the enormity of the problem caused to industry by bullying at work, so launched a bullying Helpline. The Helpline was awarded Charity status early 2007 and is the only UK workplace Bullying Helpline Charity in the UK run by qualified CIPD professionals. The Charity is the only Helpline in the UK that addresses bullying in all corners of society.

I’m sorry to say, but The National Bullying Helpline should lose it’s charitable status for its confidence-breaching and naked politicising. There are many other similar helplines that do respect confidentiality, and do so without funnelling money to their husband’s Human Resources company.

The whole thing stinks like a political hit-job just a few weeks before a General Election. Journalists were sent by Conservative operatives to Mrs Pratt makes it obvious that there is a link, and the way that the opposition parties are making hay out of this is distasteful. They’re now calling for an in-depth enquiry, which is clearly an excuse for a fishing expedition to rummage through the inner workings of Downing Street. Gordon Brown is now caught in an intolerable position, having to deny ever-escalating accusations from ghosts, who can have whatever words put into their mouths that Brown’s enemies choose. You can’t defend yourself if you don’t know your accuser.

Disclosure: I’m a Liberal Democrat voter, not a Labour one, and I am far from happy with the way Nick Clegg is handling this.

Anti-poverty company ends poverty. For its CEO.

As a pinko socialist commie I don’t think anyone is worth this much, but it is especially irritating in a government owned company.

The “extraordinary” £1m-a-year salary for the head of a government-owned company set up to combat developing world poverty has been attacked by MPs.

The salary of CDC Group chief executive Richard Laing rose from £383,000 in 2003 to £970,000 in 2007, the Commons Public Accounts committee found.

But the Department for International Development, its 100% shareholder, was not properly consulted, the MPs said. BBC

Also, seriously, get a new name. The Colonial Development Corporation does not put out happy signals.

Did MMOs cause John Darwin to fake his own death?

And the answer to the title question is “No. Probably not”. But MMOs have been drawn into the elaborate web of not very good lies that are the adventures of John Darwin. If you’re not familiar with the John Darwin saga, it is truly a gift that keeps giving. It is a sad example of what happens when two rather stupid people start thinking that they’re a great deal cleverer than they actually are.

Last year I posted about the bizarre way in which he was caught.

Now it has been revealed, for reasons I’m not entirely certain of, that Mr John Darwin was torn from his wife by an MMO! Maybe they’re trying to take their revenge out upon the Google and its internet friends for its role in bringing them to justice. The BBC reports from Anne Darwin’s trial:

Mrs Darwin said her husband turned secretive when he joined an internet role-playing game.

She said: “It was like a virtual world which was played over the internet.

“The people who played it became characters in this world and they had money to buy and sell things and they used to cast spells on each other.

“He became rather cagey when using the headphones and speaking into the computer if I came into the room. It was obvious he was in conversation.”

Mr Darwin later flew out to Kansas in the US to meet a woman, who his wife believes he met while playing the game.

I know I’d totally love to play a game in which “The people who played it became characters in this world and they had money to buy and sell things and they used to cast spells on each other. ” She makes it sound kind of like Tron, but with MAGIC, thus making it extra-awesome.

While he had headphones, there is no mention of him having a microphone. Given that Teamspeak and Vent are a bit confusing to set up properly even for non-idiots, it is possible he was just playing Baldur’s Gate 2, and had a crush on Jaheira. (Hands off, Darwin. She’s mine.)

It’s unclear from the BBC report whether this took place before he faked his own death, or during the period where he was supposed to be dead, but in fact was living next-door to his wife, visiting her via a secret passage, disguised by a false beard. Not knowing when it happened makes it hard to figure out what game they’re talking about. Either WoW or one of the Everquests, I’d guess.

I’ll update when we know more!!!

Update: It seems that Mr Darwin’s online adventures took place after he faked his death in 2002. The trip to Kansas was to visit a lady he met in the game by the name of Kelly Steele. Far from being a femme fatale as I had initially suspected, it seems that she was in fact just one more victim of his bizarre schemes:

Having made contact with Kelly Steele, a mother of three from Kansas, while playing an online role-playing game, Darwin persuaded her to buy a 20-acre ranch in her name using £25,000 he sent her.

He told Mrs Steele, 41, his wife had died of cancer, he had made a fortune on the stock market and had always wanted to be a cowboy.

When he flew to Kansas to see the property he asked Mrs Steele if she knew “some single girls in Kansas who want a rich husband”.

He later demanded his money back and sent Mrs Steele threatening emails which left her in fear of her life. “He is the creepiest, oddest and most frightening man I have ever met,” she said later.

He travelled to Kansas in 2004, probably ruling out World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 , which were both released in the final two months of that year, which makes Everquest the most likely culprit. Dark Ages of Camelot, and Ultima Online are also possibles. I don’t see him as the type to be playing anything more off the beaten track than those three. I could be wrong, of course!


According to local Kansas media it was Everquest. John Darwin played a druid. Bet he wishes he could SOW in real life too.

It turns out the MMO connection was in fact revealed back in December 2007 in the News of the World. I’m surprised it didn’t get mentioned on any of the MMO sites I read, though I applaud all of us for having no idea what the News of the World says about anything.

Update: The Evening Standard is claiming the game Darwin was playing was Asheron’s Call. There are no druids in Asheron’s Call, so I suspect it is talking nonsense.

In which I finally become free of Magdalen Close.

I just handed back the keys to my old flat to the council. After a week of cleaning up the detritus of 5 years of not being terribly tidy, I am overjoyed to see the back of it.

In the time I lived there I had to cope with crack-dealers and prostitutes using my stairwell as a meeting point, and constant screaming and yelling outside my flat. There were mysterious fires, including arson attempts on the chap who lived in the flat downstairs from me. There was also the famous time when someone took an almost impossibly large dump at the bottom of my stairs. Goodbye Magdalen Close. Ain’t missing you at all! I’m amazed I got away from you without being stabbed, shot, or burned alive.

Back in Christmastime 2006, East Anglia was terrorised by a serial killer. Not something that’s supposed to happen in our quiet little bit of the country. His final tally was 5 Ipswich prostitutes. Due to his choice of victims he was known as the Suffolk Ripper, though in fact the Suffolk Strangler would be a far more appropriate title for him, and I shall use that term. While all the crimes took place in Suffolk, the fear definitely spread the few miles north to Norwich. In early December it seemed that every day there was a new grisly discovery, or turn in the investigation.

The killings were spread over November and early December 2006, at an unusually high rate of activity for serial killings. They stopped when Steve Wright was arrested on the 21st of December, but at that point the case could no longer be reported, so as to not prejudice his trial. As a result we don’t actually know very much about what went on, or why the police think Steve Wright is responsible.

Steve Wright’s trial begins today with jury selection, and many of our questions will be answered. He has plead “Not Guilty”.

John Darwin fought the Google, and the Google won.

John Darwin has to be one of the most stupid people ever to attempt to fake his own death. Indeed, the fact he’s still alive is the only thing precluding his receiving a Darwin award for lifetime achievement.

In 2002, after trouble with debt, his canoe was found empty, floating in the sea off Hartlepool. He was declared dead by a coroner in 2003, and his wife received his life-insurance payout. £25,000 and the paying off of their £130,000 mortgage.

His wife, Anne, claims she was not in on the scheme until he turned up on their doorstep, cunningly disguised with a shabby beard. He then moved back in with his wife for a time, before moving next-door into another property they owned. Amazingly, no-one seemed to notice. Perhaps because of further ingenious tactics: “When he went out he would disguise himself sometimes by taking a walking stick and walking with a limp. When it was cold, he would put on a wooly hat and pull his collar upwards.“.

It seems they had quite a lot of property. “The debt had been building up for some time. He kept applying for credit cards and he used to always get me to co-sign the applications but I never ever used the cards. It was our rented properties that caused us the problems. At that time we had about 12 houses scattered around County Durham. They were rental investments but people were slow in paying us.”. Strangely, the idea of selling one of their houses (at a time when house prices were soaring, no less) to cover what was only a few tens of thousands of debt does not seem to have occurred to them.

He created a new identity for himself, imaginatively called “John Jones”, and got his hands on a fake passport through the ruse of applying for one as normal, using his home address. From hereon, he would pop in and out of the country in a search to find a new place to live for he and his wife. Eventually he found such a place, and only 7 weeks ago his wife emigrated to Panama, to start a new life.

OK, your entire plan so far seems to have been calculated to get get yourself caught, and yet in spite of that you’ve managed to get away with it. You’ve got the money, and a new life. What to do next?

A week ago, John Darwin catches a flight back to England, walks into a police station, and claims he has amnesia and doesn’t remember anything of the last five years. He is promptly arrested. It turns out the police were never entirely happy about the whole vanishing thing, and had received some not particularly actionable, but intriguing rumours a few months earlier.

Then this lady, who saw the story on the news, typed “John Anne Panama” into Google, and came up with a picture of them there in 2006, all smiley and not dead, on the website of the “Move to Panama” website. (sadly it’s been taken down now. But wait, what is this in Google’s cache? Though it probably won’t be there for long.) She notified the police, who were dumbfounded.

Anne is contacted by the media, and goes through the routine of being amazed and overjoyed. Their children, who knew nothing about the whole business and thought their dad was dead, are genuinely amazed and overjoyed. And confused, one would imagine. The police have a few words with Anne’s neighbours in Panama, who identify John instantly. Perhaps not caring to discover what cells are like in Panama, Anne Darwin has returned to Britain to find out what they’re like here.

From the start, the whole business sounds utterly unnecessary. They owned twelve properties. Surely they were not so heavily leveraged that they couldn’t have paid their debts off by selling some, given that house prices were rising so fast? John Darwin. You and your wife are extremely stupid and greedy. Only the obliviousness of your neighbours, and the ineptness of the passport office ever let you pretend otherwise. You’re going to prison, and your children are disgusted with your antics.

The power that the internet, and Google in particular, has now for the finding of increasingly disparate information is incredible. Of course, in this case it helped that they were stupid enough to let themselves be photographed and gave their real names. When face recognition technology becomes commonplace, I wonder how many pictures of myself I’ll be able to google up at a moments notice?

It will make a fine TV movie. I wonder if Google would be wiiling to give me funding for it?

Afterthought: There is some suggestion that John Darwin chose to hand himself in in order to drop his wife into legal jeopardy, after she objected to his engaging in constant cybersex with a variety of internet acquaintances. If so, that just makes this entire business even more idiotic than I already thought it was.

David Abrahams and his Manchurian plot to destroy New Labour.

The David Abrahams illegal donation scandal ( and I do not apologise for calling it that. Proxy donating IS illegal, as anyone but a small child or a Labour fundraiser would know.) seems to have quietened down a little for now, as various investigations begin into it. The Prime Minister’s own enquiry is likely to be a whitewash, but the Metropolitan Police enquiry is somewhat more hopeful.

Harriet Harman has managed, somehow, to keep her job. Hereafter known as the Umbrella Thief. Simon Heffer reports in the Telegraph:

It was a Labour Party conference in Brighton a few years ago. It was pouring with rain. I was leaving a restaurant and asked for my coat and umbrella.

The latter was a shockingly expensive, black wooden-handled model, bought deliberately so I would remember not to lose it. Instead, I was given the sort of floral collapsible one sold by Italian street vendors for a quid. I then saw a woman leaving the same restaurant with my umbrella. She protested it was hers. I protested it wasn’t.

I pointed out that a brass collar on the shaft bore my initials. At that moment, a waiter said, “Madam, here is your umbrella”, and handed her the Italian floral job. Flustered, Harriet Harman (for it was she) said that she thought she had borrowed the gamp from her sister who, being called Sarah Jane Harman, had the same initials as me.

Looking at the two brollies, I said I could see how easily she might have confused the two. She failed to appreciate the joke. Am I surprised that she is up to her neck in effluent about dodgy donations? Am I hell.

Clearly she has a taste for the finer things in life, be they Deputy Leaderships, or finely carved umbrellas. Given the closeness of her husband, the Labour Party treasurer Jack Dromey, to the current scandal, she is in danger from two directions. As they say, when it rains, it pours. Jack has been less than forthcoming about his involvement. I suppose he’s only the treasurer, not the finder-outer, or question-asker. Treasure your job while you can, Jack.

Mr Abrahams, showing cunning if not decisiveness or integrity, donated to both Harman and Hilary Benn for the Deputy Leadership campaign, though Mr Benn insisted that Abrahams donate in his own name for a change. Thus Benn has come out of this cleanly. He’s probably practising his Deputy Leader speeches in front of his bathroom mirror as I write. Dad would be proud.

Jon Mendelsohn is certainly doomed. Apart from Greg Palast’s revelations about his appallingly unethical lobbying company before he became Chief Fundraiser for Labour, Abrahams has now revealed that he has thankyou notes for all his various donations via various proxies. The thankyou notes being addressed to Abrahams rather gives the game away. Really thoughtful of him to have saved them all, don’t you think? David Abrahams assures us that he knew it was all above board because nice Mr Mendelsohn knew all about it.

Gordon Brown prides himself on the number of people from outside the Labour party that he’s brought into his Government. That’s lucky, as at the rate they’re going he’s going to need to replace half his cabinet by Christmas. Well done, Mr Abrahams! You’ve destroyed what little credibility New Labour had left. That was, ah, your intention, I assume?

Given that he first came to light trying to trick the Labour party into letting it stand as one of its MPs by hiring a fake family to accompany him, and was found out and cast into ignomy, it is not hard to imagine that he resolved to take his fiendish revenge upon them. Imagining things is fun!

I know, let’s have a poll! They’re always fun too. If you think I’ve missed anyone from the choices you ought to be there, post in comments and I’ll add them in.


Janet Dunn remembers Abrahams’ “gift”.

Janet Dunn, who yesterday claimed to know nothing about having been used as an intermediary for one of David Abrahams’ Labour Party donations, has had a flash of insight, and now remembers the event. I suppose she doesn’t consider it “disgusting” any more, either.

I know I’m always forgetting about having £25,000 put into my bank account, and then passing it along. You can’t be expected to recall such minor financial details. Luckily, she kept records, and checked her bank balance last night, and it all came back to her. Fortunate indeed, considering that the Labour party had obvious proof that she’d paid them with a personal cheque.

I wonder if she is related to Alberto Gonzales?

Vince Cable, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, has made a formal request for the Metropolitan Police (who have jurisdiction over all matters involving Westminster) to investigate the matter.