August 16 2012


False prospectus

The Milford Mercury's front page carries a story under the headline "Businessman ordered to stop 'unfair trading' "
This concerns the case of one David John Hanford who runs a group of companies which practices aggressive sales techniques in order to get unsuspecting customers to sign up for maintenance contracts on their homes.
Following a series of complaints from members of the public, PCC's trading standards department took Mr Hanford to court in Swansea where the judge made an order prohibiting further breaches of consumer protection legislation with the threat of contempt of court proceedings if Mr Hanford fails to comply.
The council is to be congratulated on this outcome because I know that several of my constituents were targeted by this scammer and when I reported the matter it became clear that officers were aware of what was going on and were taking active steps to bring him to book.
According to Mercury, the complaints were that Mr Hanford had made "false claims or inferences" in order to lure people into signing up for his services.
Cllr Ken Rowlands, cabinet member for environmental and regulatory services told the paper that "he urged members of the public to be wary" of such businesses.
Old Grumpy heartily agrees (Shaky foundations) (25 July).

The power of suppress

Last week, I wrote about the Western Telegraph's interest in my story about Cllr David Wildman's efforts on behalf of Byron Frayling at last May's elections (Faulty memory).
What was interesting was that Mr Frayling's opponent at the election, Cllr David Bryan, was a long-time colleague of Cllr Wildman's in the IPG.
Why a leading member of the IPG should be assisting the opponent of one of his fellow party members is something of a mystery.
Unfortunately, the Western Telegraph opted not to print the story though a sanitised version did make a brief appearance on page eight of its sister paper the Milford Mercury.
In the newspaper business there is something called an ERHP (early right-hand page) which is where editors place important stories.
The reason for this is that it is these pages (1, 3, 5 and 7) which readers see first when they open the paper.
Because of their prominence, businesses are usually willing to pay over the odds to have their adverts on these pages.
So to park something on page eight is the newspaper equivalent of hiding it from view.
To put the story in the Mercury with a circulation of 5,000 (almost exclusively in the IPG-zone of Milford Haven) rather that the WT circulation 20,000+ (largely in the IPG heart lands) rather looks like burying bad news.
As Lord Northcliffe said: "The power of the press is very great, but not so great as the powers of suppress".
I am told the reason for this lack of coverage was shortage of space, though I notice that recent editions have found room for those two shameless publicity seekers Cllrs Jacob Williams (a silly-season story, complete with pic, about lifeguards picking up dog poo on Saunderfoot beach) and Tessa Hodgson (a press puff + pic about a bus service for Cosheston).
And only this week the paper devoted the best part of half-a-page (5) to a story about a diver whose dentures had been recovered from 50 feet of water after being lost overboard off Nabs Head.
That's a story to get your teeth into.

Teething troubles

Lost dentures remind me of events back in the dreadful winter of 1962 when I was a young student at the University of Keele.
A few of us had been for a night out in the Potteries and as we trudged through the snow on our way down the long drive that led to the university campus, Roger Simpson was sick over the railings that ran alongside the road.
Roger was a very good prop forward who later played for Glamorgan Wanderers and like all self respecting front row forwards of the era before the advent of gum shields, he was missing a couple of front teeth.
It was only when we had progressed about a hundred yards down the road that Roger noticed that his gnashers were missing.
We retraced our steps to where we thought the loss had taken place but the dentures couldn't be found.
Roger removed one of his shoe laces and tied it to the railings to indicate the location and we all went home intending to resume the search in the morning.
Unfortunately there was further snow overnight and when we returned all trace of the previous evening's events had been obliterated.
The snow lay on the ground for a further month and when it eventually thawed, Roger went back to the spot marked by the shoe lace and there smiling up at him from the grass were his two front teeth.

Spending wisely?

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed Cllr David Bryan's question on the cost of the Goodie bags handed out to all councillors after the election (24 July).
During the recent public audit inspection Grumpette turned up an invoice from CarpeDeeM, a company based in Cwmbran, whose name appears to be derived from Carpe Diem, which translated means: "seize the day".
Ah! the benefits of a classical education.
Not that there is anything remotely classical, or classy, about the products supplied by this company whose publicity blurb promises "marketing, printing and design solutions".
Among the items listed in the £3,000+ invoice are 600 "anti-stress baseballs" at £0.96p each and 600 "bendy pencils" at £0.52p a throw.
I'm not convinced that this money wouldn't have been better spent on school books or home helps, but who am I to say?

Chief Executive's dilemma

Although I am very suspicious of people who lust after power, I have to admit there are situations where seizing control is justified.
For instance, when I take my grandchildren out for trip, I take charge because I am older and wiser than they are, though they would probably disagree with the second bit.
This gives rise to what I call the Chief Executive's dilemma - what do you do when you know what is the right course of action and others don't understand the complexities of the situation.
This is especially difficult when those who don't know have the voting power to embark on a course of action that you know will lead to disaster.
Suppose I have been invited to take part in a high-rollers' bridge game which requires me to put up a £10,000 stake.
Not having a penny to my name, I persuade 10 rich local businessmen, none of whom has ever played bridge, to bankroll me for £1,000 each.
I should stress this is a thought experiment, so there is no need for reality to intrude.
They agree, but only on condition that the group will be organised on democratic lines.
Because of my superior bridge-playing abilities I will be the Chief Executive, but I will have to get their agreement before playing every card.
Remember, this is a thought experiment.
Things go well and, when the final hand is dealt, our consortium is in a winning position.


 Spades  K,Q,10,9,7,5,4,
 Hearts  5
 Diamonds  4,2
 Clubs  6,5,3


 Spades  A,J,8,6
 Hearts  A,J,3
 Diamonds  A,5
 Clubs  K,7,4,3

I have to make 10 tricks from these combined hands with spades as trumps and the money's ours.
The left hand opponent (LHO) leads the King of Hearts (indicating that they also hold the Queen).
Good bridge players always count their tricks and in this case seven trumps plus two aces = nine - one less than required.
A first glance the best chance of a tenth trick lies with the King of Clubs, but that requires the Ace to be with the RHO - an even money chance.
But I have a better idea and when it comes round to my turn to play (declarer) I suggest putting on the three.
Unfortunately one of my backers has been reading a book on bridge for beginners and points out that if I play the Ace, I can trump the other two Hearts and avoid losing any tricks in the suit. Several of the others murmur their agreement, which is not surprising because he is perfectly right.
However, I KNOW that the winning strategy is to play the three, but how am I to explain this to my committee - after all, it's their 10 grand on the line.
And how am I going to tell them that my master plan actually involves losing two tricks in Hearts.
The winning line involves technical manoeuvres such as a throw-in play, loser on loser, and a ruff and discard, none of which are easy to explain to non-bridge players.
So, I resort to a little white lie.
"If I play the three, when my LHO leads another Heart away from the Queen, I will make both the Ace and the Jack", I say.
Ah! they sigh in unison, we hadn't thought of that, and they all vote for the three to be played.
And we all lived happily ever after.
Of course, had I been totally truthful, what I should have said is "if" not "when" LHO leads another heart and I might also have added that being a good player and seeing dummy only had one heart to start with he was not likely to do anything so foolish.
But that might have put them off voting for the winning line.
Unfortunately, real life isn't like a game of bridge.
Bridge is a closed system where the options, though various, are limited by the fact that there are four suits, each comprising 13 cards - 52 in all.
So there are provable right answers.
Real life is rather more complicated which is why, in a democracy, it is important that, no matter how sure those in power are that they are right, a full and frank disclosure of all the pros and cons is essential.
It is not sufficient just to win the vote - you must also win the argument.
PS I will be interested to hear from any non-bridge players who can see how playing the three of hearts leads to almost certain success.

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