Of conspiracies, incompetence, lavatory cisterns and Alistair Darling

There’s a comment threader at the Daily Telegraph called Chelyabinsk. He’s very keen on Scottish Independence, and is ingenious at turning every discussion/column about leek nurture or tooth decay into a rallying cry for Caledonian Freedom. There’s another one called Shakespeare, who poses as an unhinged europhile batting off everyone’s wailing about the EU going to hell in a bucket. That is, I think it’s a pose. Sometimes you never quite know. Our own dear Erika, for example, has an admiration spectrum that ranges from Vladimir Putin to Mahmood Ahmadinnejhad. I think it’s really Quentin Letts horsing around, but she may be real: it’s a funny old world.

Out of a blue sky three weeks ago, Chelyabinsk appended himself to one of my Telegraph threads and – referring to me as The Slug – made some passing swipe about me being “a promoter of superficial conspiracy theories”. I’m relaxed about being thought superficial, because deep down I am; but ‘conspiracy theorist’ is rapidly turning into the new ‘extreme Right blogger’ as the slur of choice among the Establishment.

As I’ve written many times before, I’m only interested in what sounds like conspiracy fact. There are conspiracies everywhere, but 99.9% of them are designed to disguise or re-brand a cockup. And 99.9% of conspiracy theories are, in turn, just that: an assemblage of random facts made to look like some kind of plan.

I could trace DNA back a thousand years, for example, and ‘prove’ that there is a Hun gene incapable of seeing a frontier post without wanting to drive a tank through it. They emigrated to America in droves after the First World War, infected their genes, and led to the interfering American Way between 1949 and today. Now they’re teaming up to create The Grossdeutsche-Amerikanischer Bund….look at all the joint investments and Bourse takeovers they’ve tried to of late…look at the joint plan to push Greece out of polite society.

That’s all bollocks of course, because neither events nor genes nor people operate like that. I do happen to think it very likely that there has been a rather silly hubris-fuelled plan hatched by the White House and Geithner to enlist American and German banking in a half-baked conspiracy to ‘amputate and cauterise’ Greece, with a chosen date of close of play before a long weekend, Friday March 23rd. But I think this because three people in three different theatres of global finance talked about dates and clandestine meetings with a degree of authority; because I know from an absolutely rock-solid Washington source that Geithner was incandescent for months about “the EU’s inability to find its ass in the dark”; because he arranged a covert dollar/euro swap in December with the ECB’s Mario Draghi to ‘fulfil his side of the bargain’; and because an alarming number of these players on both sides of the Atlantic used to work for Goldman Sachs.

One puts together the motive afterwards: Barry wants to be re-elected, the Fed doesn’t want its banking system to melt down, and yes, the Aegean seabed is a geologist’s wet dream, and the US wants nice cosy bases there with the minimum of fuss. Most conspiracy theories are put together the other way round.

In an average month, I receive around twenty emails alerting me to conspiratorial vendettas involving The Zionists (I get that one so many times, in my mind they’ve turned into a sort of kosher reggae band, Moishe & the Zionists), Jack Straw, Alex Ferguson, Nicolas Sarkozy’s American genetic connections, and Prince Edward among many others. Almost none of them check out, and the ones that do remain theory – nothing more.

But there are real examples. The day after DSK got banged up in New York, I got an email from somebody very big in that town saying ‘this is a  fit-up’. So it proved, and I gained thousands of new readers by having the inside track on some of it. But again, motive appeared later…and even then, remained bafflingly unclear. My best bet today is that Strauss-Kahn knew his phone was being hacked by the Elysee, so a caper was conceived to nick it. (It has never reappeared). Part of that was to distract him with Nafissatou Diallo (her movements just prior to the event defy explanation) and there are very clear phone records linking the Sofitel to the Elysee. But the Elysee cocked up and then lucked in: I think it was all done on the hoof in the end. The possible role of Christine Lagarde and Tim Geithner in the saga remain intriguing, but nothing more in my view. (You can decide for yourself by going to the dedicated pages here).

Sexual corruption in the social care system unquestionably exists. I spent five grubby and frustrating months delving into it, and that in turn led to helping in a tiny way to unearth the cover-up at Stafford Hospital, plus the scandal of psychotherapists’ fees paid by bent social workers to get small people into their clutches. There are major centres of it in Plymouth, Liverpool and Bristol, and it is driven by the obsessive compulsion of a few senior people. In one or two cases, it is linked to an adoption racket. In one specific instance, there was clear evidence of police involvement in it.

But the actual scale of it is minute in the greater scheme of things. I believe it exists, because I witnessed police surveillance, saw leaked documents, spoke to widows, and understand the bizarre cunning of the motivated serial paedophile mind. The problem is that every dysfunctional single mum believes she is the victim of a paedophile conspiracy to take their kids away – whereas the truth is, they are almost all gullible baby machines whom nobody in authority quite knows how to handle. I know, trust me: between 2006 and 2009 I spoke to most of them.

The main hat-tip on that subject must go to Christopher Booker, who has been a tower of strength against the controlling instincts of the Harmanite social care and Secret Family Courts disgrace. But with Christopher too, you will find all his pieces contain an avalanche of disturbing facts and statistics, all calmly presented and then rounded off with immaculately controlled indignation. He and Andrew Gilligan are, I think, about as good as it gets when it comes to ‘injustice journalism’.

For years, the British Establishment in its myriad forms dismissed Hackgate as conspiracy theory. I took an interest in early 2010 because I overheard two pissed celebs railing about it in The Groucho Club. I can’t say who they were, but I’d imagine some of you can guess. The point is, until then I’d never heard of Hackgate. I thought of Rupert Murdoch as a piece of multinational anti-matter, but that was merely a spur to action.The idea at that stage of the Prime Minister being implicated I would’ve regarded as ludicrous. But by December of that year, it was obvious he had either blundered into, conceived, or at the very least exploited part of what was going on.

Until one sees, hears, finds or reads something compelling and real that checks out, following conspiracy theories is a mug’s game – unless you want to make a business out of it. If you do, it’s a very lucrative one involving massive paperback sales and millions of site hits. If you don’t, then there are a million cock-ups not yet covered up every day to keep any genuinely concerned hack or blogger happy.

One such is the design of contemporary ‘conservationist’ water closet loo system. I realise we are perilously close to sewer journalism here, but I can maintain my silence no longer.

Up until about fifteen years ago, lavatory systems came in various hull designs, but the principle was the same: a very simple lever and returnable ballcock system that worked every time. Somehow since then, the Green maniacs have turned the elegant simplicity of ballcocks into duo-flush plunger bollocks.

Do not get the wrong impression: I am (genuinely) a believer that water will, within thirty years, become the most pressured natural resource of all. Failing inclement weather or the lack of suitable ground, I will always urinate in the garden. You save gallons – literally – of water every week. But we all – even James Bond – need to daefecate sooner or later, and this is where the cistern ‘designers’ have screwed things up bigtime. Or rather, unscrewed all the important bits.

On buying our French house fourteen years ago, we installed two of these new conservation lavs. When you do the same, one or more of the following will happen: (1) the woefully inadequate small plunger mechanism atop the inner tower will break (2) the  inner tower itself will shear in any one of a dozen places where cheap plastic has been used (3) an inexplicable Outer Limits effect will turn the long and short flushes the other way round (4) the tower goes down, but refuses to come back up again, and (5) the refill gets out of sync, thus wasting whole reservoirs of water as the loo continues to flush long after one’s business is finished.

We’ve since unwisely purchased another one for our UK dwelling. We are having exactly the same problems with it.

In short, the Greens have a reasonable idea that winds up creating more infill rubbish and water loss than ever existed before they had it. Just like computers and the paperless office, if you follow.

Sometimes progress is progress, and sometimes it is the work of dweebs who should never be allowed out during the hours of daylight. These people write mobile phone manuals and decide the features to include. They compile the ticket tariff systems for rail companies. They design the structure of denationalised industries. They specify and procure weapons systems for our game squaddies. And occasionally, they make it to Number Eleven and design tax relief systems nobody can understand.

My very first usable source as a blogger worked in the Treasury. Now retired, this delightful and amusing former client from my advertising days said on one occasion, “Gordon sends down scribbles of diagrams and flow charts and rationales. We have a team working day and night to decipher them”. Brown and far too many like him equate complexity with intelligence. The near ubiquity of impenetrable things in the contemporary world demonstrates very clearly that they have this one completely arse about face.

A propos of not very much before closing, the Slog’s Treasury mole had me in stitches the week after Northern Rock added a ‘y’ to its name. A trio of Sir Humphreys walked into Alistair Darling’s office, and the exchange went roughly like this:

H’s: Chancellor, we need to talk to you about Northern Rock.

AD: I’ve got a mortgage with them.

H’s: That’s nice Chancellor. Actually, the situation there is rather grave. I’m afraid the bank is basically insolvent. It doesn’t have the funds to meet even a fraction of withdrawals. We fear the news will leak quite soon.

AD: Oh. What do you normally do under these circumstances?

(SFX coughing)

H’s: Well Chancellor, as this hasn’t happened on quite this scale since 1760, I’m afraid there isn’t much of a precedent.

There was more, but it would be too cruel an exercise to repeat it here. However, I sincerely hope that this snippet has cheered you up a little as we segue from the pleasant intoxicated uplands of Sunday towards the stark valley of reality, and plunge into the cold stream of sobriety called Monday.