Saudi Arabia admits murder, Grant Thornton CEO leaving because she underpaid herself, Brexit marches, 1975 referendum, a royal of colour?

21 October 2018

After three weeks of claiming he’d walked out of the building, Saudi Arabia has now admitted that Jamal Khashoggi was killed in their consulate in Istanbul in a fist fight with fifteen thugs who were interrogating him about the paperwork he was collecting for his forthcoming marriage (well it could happen anywhere, couldn’t it?);  and that his body had been removed by “a local collaborator” in, according to the Turks, a number of small plastic bags.  We are now waiting for the Saudis to say he unfortunately fell into a document shredder as he died.

Trump’s first reaction was that the fist-fight explanation was “credible” (if “unacceptable”) and Eric, apparently one of his sons, later insisted in a TV interview that US-Saudi relations are too commercially and strategically important to allow the mere murder of a journalist to put them at risk.  I don’t know which I find more shocking, the murder of a reporter or defending a murder on the grounds that money is more important.

Over here, Sacha Romanovitch, UK Chief Executive of Grant Thornton, one of the major accountancy firms, will be stepping down before the end of the year having apparently upset quite a few people.  She had, for example, capped her own salary at 20 times the firm’s average pay, something that led her detractors to describe as the result of her having a “socialist agenda”, which is apparently considered a Bad Thing by the greedy self-centred people around her.

What a terrible pity.  I’d rather she’d tied her salary to the median rather than the average but the principle’s obviously right and she was obviously looking for a possible way out of the rapidly growing gulf between those who sail on it in huge ‘yachts’ and the increasing number of those who drown in it.

There were two Brexit marches in Britain yesterday:  London came to a standstill as an estimated 700,000 marched through London demanding a “people’s vote” while, in Harrogate, Nigel Farage’s gang of some 1,200 people met for a beer and a fag.  Having been on the anti-Iraq war protest march in 2003, I think that calling the London one a ‘march’ might be over-dramatising it – we had more of a dawdle with plenty of time to chat with other similarly outraged dawdlers.

Some of us believe “the will of the people” was quite clearly expressed in a referendum on 5 June 1975 when two out of every three voters wanted to stay in what later became known as the EU.  The 2016 referendum, in which leavers just squeaked a tiny majority, has therefore already set the precedent for a second referendum so it’s clearly nonsense to claim it wouldn’t be right to hold another one.  But if they do, let’s make sure this time that any campaigner who tells lies, or paints lies on the sides of buses, will be banished to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.

During his Michael Quinlan lecture this week, John Major, the Conservative former prime minister, gave a thoughtful and balanced commentary on Brexit from his uniquely informed and objective perspective (nobody to answer to, nothing to gain or lose and no axes to grind) and concluded that “after weighing its frustrations and opportunities, there is no doubt in my own mind that our decision is a colossal misjudgment that will diminish both the UK and the EU. It will damage our national and personal wealth, and may seriously hamper our future security. It may even, over time, break up our United Kingdom.”

Isn’t it funny how you can hear people’s voices even when you’re just reading what they said?  The use of the word “colossal” immediately identifies the speaker here.

When Judy heard that Harry and Megan are expecting a baby next year, her immediate response was “Wouldn’t it be lovely if it’s black” (pause) “but they’d have to pension off Prince Philip first”.

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