Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Some Observations 16

Well it's been quite a few days of frenetic activity here in the searing heat at Blog HQ and ever since Chris Grayling unexpectedly decided to give the 'Save Probation' campaign  a super-charged boost last Thursday. I say unexpected because I'm sure it wasn't his intention, and he really ought to take a leaf out of our book when we tell clients to 'think before acting'. I've always felt that anyone could benefit from ETS courses.

But Chris Grayling wasn't the only one to lose his cool in the heat last week and as the nation experiences what is beginning to look suspiciously like summer. There was also Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of the ridiculous and expensive Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, getting very hot under the collar trying to tell us that increasing MP's salaries would be a 'good deal for taxpayers'. 

Clearly not a politician and completely out of touch with the realities of life in austerity Britain, he got quite angry when he was repeatedly disabused of the notion that paying MP's more money would be felt to be a popular move by anyone. For me the final straw was hearing that part of his justification included the removal of free evening meals at the Palace of Westminster. You mean having heavily-subsidised restaurants is not enough, the cheeky beggars don't even pay?!  

Of course we had to endure the final insult of hearing a lot of smug-looking MP's magnanimously saying they wouldn't take the increase, whilst supremely confident in the knowledge it will almost certainly be paid automatically after the next General Election. Their sticky little fingers nowhere near the decision since the expenses scandal, but still a case of the Establishment looking after itself of course. Nice one Sir Ian! 

With all the excitement caused by Chris Grayling's own goal last week, many Napo members are wondering when the union is going to start seriously putting the boot in? In reality they are still in the process of recovering from turmoil at the top, but Ian Lawrence is now firmly ensconced as General Secretary and I hear that a replacement media voice for Harry Fletcher takes up post on 5th August.

Unlike Harry, Tania Bassett is a seasoned probation officer of over 11 years and has considerable union experience having been Chair of the West Mercia branch of Napo. Many will feel that her arrival on the scene is not a moment too soon. Here she is featured talking about the pensions action in 2011. Meanwhile, nominations are due to close later today in respect of elections for National Chair.

For all sorts of unfortunate reasons, the previous splitting of the post has been an unmitigated disaster at a time when clarity of message and leadership was vital, but hopefully the situation will be rectified very soon. It will be noted that the court case involving one of the previous co-chairs has recently been resolved.        

I know it's old news now, but ever since the story first broke I've been meaning to pass comment on the now infamous Charles Saatchi restaurant assault story involving his wife Nigella Lawson. There are two points that really stood out right from the beginning, firstly that Domestic Violence is prevalent in all sectors of society and secondly that Lord Saatchi came out with virtually all the classic responses that are very familiar to probation officers everywhere.

You know the sort of thing, it was a playful tiff; I just held her to get her attention; I've never done this before; I abhor violence; I've been on the receiving end; I only accepted a police caution to stop further comment etc etc. It's all very recognisable stuff and much to Lord Saatchi's clear displeasure, Nigella's continuing silence on the matter says it all really. In this case the 'playful tiff' looks like ending in an extremely fast mutual divorce settlement.    

That's all for today I think, but I'd like to say a big thank you to all the readers who are regularly pushing this blog over 1,000 hits a day and who are increasingly writing to me with information and general snippets both to help feed this monster and to assist the campaign to save our profession and public service. Keep it up guys! 


  1. hammer in the north17 July 2013 at 13:58

    Your link to the article involving the former Napo chair Lisa Robinson explained how she was found not guilty of an assault upon a rail employee. What readers may not be aware of is a prior incident on a train run by the same network, when Mrs Robinson, husband and 4 yr old child were abused by a crowd of males returning from a football match. Mrs Robinson insisted to rail staff that Police be called. When they refused she prevented the train from moving on, by standing on the track. The Police were called and the males dealt with. Her actions in part led to her being named one of the 100 "Women of the year" in The Guardian. It appears the allegation of assault by Mrs Robinson on a railway employee may have been a vindictive set up.

    1. This is a helpful counterweight to an unfortunate series of events. I am assuming Ian Lawrence, Napo's general secretary, was accurately quoted in the article when he commented: “So far we have had no contact with her.” Not much sign of empathy or care in those words, eh. Whereas when she stopped the train Lisa was feted at the AGM.

    2. How interesting!

    3. Hammer in the North - thanks for that - I hadn't realised it was the same person - the link is here:-

  2. With no wish to detract from the trauma of domestic violence for victims, dealing with the fallout must be so much easier when you are, like Nigella, of independent financial means. No need to bother with refuges, social services, crisis loans etc. She was able to move out of the 14 million marital home into a 10,000 per week Mayfair flat. Lots of money helps with outcomes.

    1. Of course access to money takes away one less worry. Probably resulting in more time to lament on her husband and his actions.

  3. Yes, wherever she went for refuge - it is what it is, a safe place - and she is what she is, the victim of domestic abuse! Lets not kid ourselves that the fabric of a building or the quality of the food on the table makes any real difference to Nigella, her children or all those others seeking a safe place..