Electricity and Gas Supply Choices

It was round about 4pm and night had virtually fallen over Islington. The rain was coursing down the window panes and your columnist was flat on his back, riffling the leaves of the paper with his snores. The phone went, and in spite of my indignation – who calls at 4pm on a Saturday, when a chap is fast asleep? – I answered it.

It was a mellow Scottish voice, with an undertone of menace. In fact, he sounded bit like Andrew Neil -and he seemed to have something urgent to say about gas. Gas! Quick! An ecstasy of fumbling. Had there been a gas attack? An explosion at a refinery? Another traffic-paralysing leak on the Marylebone Road?

No, it turned out my caller was from British Gas, and he was on a mission. Perhaps it was because I was half-fogged with sleep; perhaps I was just naïve – but I am afraid that I let him talk on.

He had some splendid new rates for electricity, he said, and he wanted to share them with me. Yes, I know I should have been strong. I should have put down the phone as firmly and politely as I could. But he had reminded me of something, an act of folly for which I had never fully atoned.

It was the cricket ball, the one I got at Old Trafford in the summer of 2006. There we were, me and a couple of kids, wandering around during the tea interval when we came to a stand with a pile of lovely new half-red, half-white cricket balls. And behind the cricket balls were some beaming young men and women in red and green uniforms that proclaimed them to be emissaries of npower.

They spotted the kids, and their beams went up a gigawatt. Would the kids like a cricket ball? You betcha, said the kids, and held out their joyful hands.

Hang on a mo, I said; there must be some sort of catch. No, no, said the npower people: no catch at all. It was just a question of giving my name and address, and agreeing, in principle, to change my electricity supply to npower.

Oh I see, I said: you mean, I just fill out the form, and in exchange we get the cricket ball? That’s it, said the young people in blazers.

I looked at the form, and at the back of my mind I detected some kind of trap; but then I looked at the expectant children, and of course I was hooked like a flounder.

There then followed all sorts of unbelievable hassle as we were persuaded to cancel one standing order to British Gas and give to npower the privilege of supplying the juice that fires the Johnson toaster.

By the end of the procedure the cricket ball had been long since lost in the brambles, and more and more letters from npower were landing on the mat; and in the ensuing interrogations I am afraid I could not give a more convincing account of my actions than to say that the npower people had been very nice and persuasive, initially, and that the cricket ball had seemed lovely and shiny in the brief period we had possessed it.

The episode, all in, has not gone down as one of my domestic triumphs. So when I realised that Brian from British Gas was willing to help me make amends, I was all ears. I poured out my heart. I told him about the cricket ball.

He was scandalised. “I don’t know if you can tell from my voice,” said Brian, “that I am actually pretty annoyed that they have done this to you.” Well, I said, it was really my own foolishness, and after all, no very great harm had come of it.

But Brian wasn’t having a word of it. “These guys keep on doing this. They don’t realise that their shareholders are going to get affected by this. There was a thing on Watchdog last week, about how they ring you up.”

Golly, I said. What can we do about it, then? Have you got a better deal? “You have been a customer for a long time,” said Brian in accents of deep emotion. “You have been a good customer and not an inconsiderate customer,” he said.

I preened, as I thought of all those standing order payments, of ever greater magnitude, that we had made over the years to British Gas. “If you were to come back to us, it would make me feel good, and make you feel good, that things that have been wrong have been righted. You have been inconvenienced enough!” he cried, in the tones of one about to launch a war on child poverty.

Hear hear, I said. We had been inconvenienced enough! But what did I have to do to end the inconvenience? It was incredibly simple, said Brian. All I had to do was give a verbal agreement, over the phone, and he would do the rest.

I am afraid at this point I had a spasm of déjà vu. What is the deal? I asked? Why should I go for British Gas? Well, said Brian, “Eon and npower are both German, Scottish power is Spanish, and EDF is 80 per cent owned by the French government. You could even say that British Gas is the patriotic option!”

Brian, I said, I am going to have to call you back, and after 35 minutes I at last succeeded in getting him off the line.

There is a positive side to all this, of course, and that is the real choice that is available at a time when gas and electricity prices have been going through the roof. There are jobs being created for hard-working people like Brian.

The downside is that there are plenty of people out there who are considerably more vulnerable than me, and who are being talked into all kinds of deals at all times of the day or night, and my strong advice to everyone – unless and until you can be bothered to go to one of the energy price comparison websites – is to agree to nothing on the phone and turn down all offers of cricket balls, no matter how shiny.

[Ed: This article was first posted in the Daily Telegraph on 11 November 2008 under the heading:  “Be it npower or British Gas, beware of power companies bearing shiny cricket balls.”

80 thoughts on “Electricity and Gas Supply Choices”

  1. Geez, this gullible chap is London Mayor? (JOKE). I am always be very nice and friendly but say firmly, “I am sorry, I never buy anything over the phone.”

  2. Unfortunately Brian is in effect a pimp for a girl who looks great on the surface but when you begin to peel back the layers becomes increasingly less desireable.

    I’m sure that Brian has the best of intentions but once he has your ‘verbal agreement’ his work is done and he won’t give a hoot if your current supplier is not informed of the change, if your direct debit payments won’t actually cover your energy usage.

    One has to wonder why some things in modern life that should be so simple can be made so complicated.

    Having been with BT since time immemorial we took the plunge and switched to a well known provider of broadband internet who were offering broadband and telephone line rental for the same price BT were charging us for the line rental alone. Sounds great doesn’t it? Indeed the switch appeared easy, the online application was a doddle and after a few days we were happily enjoying the wonders of the internet with our new wireless broadband.
    A happy ending it would have been but first came the news that the broadband provider had not managed to set up the direct debit correctly, they kept assuring us they were investigating and solving the direct debit but eventually on receiving a final demand I had to call them to pay.
    Bad enough but then came the bill for BT who wanted us to pay them for line rental up to January 2009 and gave no indication that we were no longer using them. I duly called to advise the error of their ways. After speaking to at least 7 different people, all who were in the wrong department but assured me they would pass me to someone who could help (one however just hung up)I gave up and sent them an email. I received a lovely response to the email saying that they had been informed that the account had been closed and that they would issue a revised bill etc etc. I took them at their word but I checked my bank account online the other day and to my dissapointment found that they had simply removed the original amount from my account.

    I’ve gone on too much here but I suspect I won’t be the only one. With this article you’ve hit a raw nerve and I imagine the floodgates will not hold against the torrent of abysmal service woes and empty promises of Brians everywhere.

  3. Obviously, one should never agree to anything over the phone. Just go to Energyhelpline or Uswitch websites every few months and check which are the cheapest tariffs. Incidentally, Scottish and Southern is also British, but remember that all the energy companies employ many hard-working British people, and in this economic climate, it’s best to go for the cheapest price. The gas and electricity you receive will be exactly the same, after all!

  4. B-0-R-I-S! did you have to get sucked in?! what hope have lesser mortals like us if the Mayor gets hoodwinked and caught up in this type of selling

    M.

  5. Boris – excellent excellent excellent post!

    Noel, don’t apologise, thankyou for your comment.

    You see you are not unintelligent, dim, stupid or gullible for getting sucked in. You are busy, you are dealing with a more urgent matter in your life, you are ignorant about this and you are trusting the laws of the land to protect you. Mistake.

  6. “The gas and electricity you receive will be exactly the same, after all!”

    Jonathan, really? I always thought that if you paid more for it, you got, like, better gas!

  7. It is hard to hang up on phone sellers sometimes because some of them sound quite desperate. They might be working on commission and be starving…..

  8. This Brian guy sounds a pretty hot salesman, what you could have done was ask to speak to his supervisor and say “There are reasons why I can’t change my supplier and that won’t change, but I just want to say your salesman did a pretty efficient job of convincing me.” You might have made sure Brian is not unemployed any time soon.

    I do this in supermarkets. If you ask to speak to the manager about battery chickens, say “That girl on till 20 is absolutely brilliant, she takes so much trouble and is fantastically efficient”.

    Your comment will go towards her review and she might get a raise… most supermarkets work this way.

  9. “Your comment will go towards her review and she might get a raise… most supermarkets work this way.” (angela)

    In my experience, most telephone sales doesn’t work like that. The more punters you change over the more they pay you. If I was Brian and you asked to speak to my supervisor I’d have made some excuse about them being in a meeting and got rid of you!

  10. You are RUTHLESS.

    Seriously though, supermarkets do and it makes a difference if you praise the staff because they do get better reviews and possibly more money.

  11. … It was around about 4 pm, night had virtually fallen over London, the soft rain was falling outside, Boris was flat on his back in bed, riffling through his paper… Oh, my God… I wonder if Boris was wearing anything in bed at that time?

    I mean… does Boris usually wears boxer-shorts, Y-fronts, briefs, bikinis, jockstraps, thongs, trunks, tank tops, muscle tops or… nothing at all… completely naked… stark naked… hairy all over…. his curly blond hairs shining under the Islington moonlight?

    Sorry, I have to stop right now. I’m feeling very dizzy, faintly…

    ( I’m sure Boris did write that part, but it must has been censored by the webmaster- whoever it is – what a killjoy really.

  12. I’m sorry, after a bottle or two of some rather potent Scottish microbrewery stuff I’m going to make a more substantial comment.

    “I should have put down the phone as firmly and politely as I could.” (Boris)

    Why be polite? Speaking as someone who’s no stanger to the other end of that telephone, do you really think you can do that job for more than a day or two with reptile-thick skin? Another thing, if you think they are being polite about you while you’re ‘on hold’, in between calls or while they’re reviewing the recordings ‘for training purposes’ you’re niave.

    Most of these companies kit you out with a swishy headset, equipped with a mute putton on the chord. In my last telesales job, when the manager wasn’t looking (which was most of the time, not that he’d do anything about if he saw us), we used to regularly sell along the lines of:

    “It’s top of the range Mr Johnson, a very modern slimline design with all of the latest gadgets *PRESS MUTE* ‘It’s a (insert expletive) brick you mug’ *RELEASE MUTE*

    “Last time I had a ***** it broke down”

    “I know they had some problems with that model Mr Johnson, but this is one of our most popular models, we’re getting really good feedback on this handset, and there’s been hardly any returns on it either *PRESS MUTE* ‘It’s a nail too, but just buy it you tosser’ RELEASE MUTE*”

    “I don’t want to make a decision now, I want to see what other deals there are before I decide”

    “This is a good deal Mr Johnson, I promise you, you won’t get a better deal than this and the offer is only valid now. We’re offering you £10 a month off and the new GX Whizbang for free, honestly, this is a really good deal, you won’t find a better deal *PRESS MUTE* Just buy it you ****** ***** *RELEASE MUTE*

    And so it goes on. This is the result of Thatcher’s economic reforms, like it or lump it, it’s happened. A whole generation of would-be trade-unionist coal-miners have been turned into ruthless telesales sharks.

    I’d always suspected this was the plan, and never had a problem with it (telesale is repetative but it’s a damned sight better than being down a bloody coal mine!)

    Hence my surprise this morning when I opened my Telegraph to discover arch-Thatcherite Boris Johnson slagging off the hundreds of thousands of poaching jobs created by privatising the utlilites, and encouraging consumers not to do business with them.

    Wake up Boris, if consumer’s weren’t confused this whole capitalism lark just wouldn’t work. They need ‘Brian’ to call them out of the blue and guide them into the light. It’s how the system works, and by and large it works well, it keeps people out of coal mines and trade unions.

    Was this not the plan?

  13. Just because so many people get down and dirty for the sake of profit, it doesn’t mean we and the Mayor have to do that. It’s good Boris maintains standards of behaviour and has feeling for others, I try to do that, because otherwise the world is just full of unfeeling sharks.

    It’s soul destroying to be ruled by money and it’s soul destroying to ignore the feelings of other people.

    I did a phone selling job once (selling government contracts to the heads of building companies) and sorry to show off, (well not really) I was the only woman in the office and I regularly beat all the men, because I am a motormouth.

    They never beat me once and every weekend I won the bottle of champagne for best sales and all the men absolutely hated my guts.They used to say such nasty things to me, all of which I ignored, and the only thing I did say at the beginning of the week was “Oh good, I don’t have to buy any alcohol this week, because of the bottle on Friday”. I’m particularly good when I promote things I believe in, (like I promote Boris, because I believe he will be good for this country), but it is never ever worth being nasty to people about things. NEVER.

  14. But, Mel, one cannot even be impolite to the latest selling technique – offshore machines. Drives me mad. A call comes in to tell me ‘hooooooot: you have won a cruise’ No I haven’t AND I wouldn’t want one but I can’t even put the phone on mute, swear at an idiot the other end and then hang up once their phone bill has been suitably increased. Getting cross with a machine is just a tad too deranged. grrrr!

  15. Boris’s spokesman says: ” We would like to inform the Mayor of London’s nosy-parker fans who want to know what he usually wears in bed. Well, Boris usually wears a saree ; in bright fuschia colour, fully made-up; using second-hand Estee Lauder’s cosmetics, awfully heavy 24 carat Indian ethnic jewellery, second-hand Estee Lauder’s parfume au Pleasures and nothing else. We will not make any further comments on this matter. Thank you. ”

    With special thanks and heartfelt recommendations from Boris’s office to his regular donators :

    – BEYONCE Second-Hand Cosmetics, Stall no.12, Camden Markets, London.
    – POPPADOM Sarees House, Stall no.28, Camden Markets, London.

  16. Boris probably retires to sleep in a similar way to most men: if it’s put in front of him and he is clearly expected to wear it he will do. That goes for pyjamas, pale blue romper suit, handcuffs, whatever. i think if Marina wanted him to wear a striped bedshirt and hat with a tassel he would, like most husbands who would comply to keep their wife happy. Well ok he might lose the hat, who knows. But if it’s not put in front of him he won’t look too far for anything and will happily sleep in boxers, or without them. That’s my guess. Men don’t like to complicate life. He probably showers like a man too: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Qehxjub5lyo

    Actually I think he’d look very fetching in Superman PJs.

  17. “We have a culture telling us to be far too polite” (Mel)

    One group of people that are both very polite and almost impossible to suck into telesales scams are the Yanks.

    They’ve had it for years. As far as I’m aware they still ‘cold-call’ over the pond, but in my experience, the average Amercian doesn’t let you get control of the call, as a rule they just don’t fall for it.

    Weak salespeople like to dwell in the excuse that Asians are too tightfisted to buy stuff over the blower. The truth is, if you speak fast enough and be extra assertive they’ll fall for it too. However the Yanks won’t, they’re a decade or so ahead, they are conditioned not to listen to a word you say.

    I remember ten years ago when mass consumer telesales first started in the UK. It was rich pickings, it was new to them, it was easy to sell pointless overpriced products merely on the brand names that people associated with prestigious public sector operations.

    It’s harder now, it’s been getting harder ever since it started. The cons and tricks have become more sophisticated, so it still works, it’s ahead of the consumer curve if you like, but the Yanks have still heard it all before.

    It’s amazing just how similar consumers are to each other. The fact of the matter is that they are all human. The right pitch in the right place for the right product will work 95% of the time. Leave one pause too long though, miss out one little piece of patter or otherwise allow them to gain control of the call and you’ll sell zilch.

    Once you get going it’s a buzz. I used to repeat sixty or seventy times a day ‘… we’re just calling to make sure you’re account is set up correctly’. Every so often one of my colleagues would walk behind me on their way back from the coffee machine and whisper in my ear ‘..you mean slammed correctly’ – before cackling – (the idea was to phone them and put extra things on without them really clicking on you’d done it – evein thought you’d told them), and if I let the slightest smirk morph into a snigger and a pause that was it – sale lost, the consumer got a chance to butt in and end the call.

    It did used to be a buzz though, especially at the end of the call when you’d successfully upped their bill by £4 a month and you told them “Well that’s it Mr Johnson, your account is all set up correctly now, thank you for your time.”

    The mugs never stopped to think whether I was making sure it was set up ‘correctly’ from my point if view or theirs. In fact, they invariably used to thank me.

  18. Jaq, you mention Mrs. B.J. Were Boris ever to meet President Sarkozy or Barack Obama, he could do so in the complacent knowledge that he can feel totally proud of his family.

    Mrs. B. is at least as intelligent or more so that Michelle obama and her children are just as beautiful and even more charismatic and humorous looking than Obama’s kids. I am sure Mrs. B. is smart enough to know that whatever daft remarks appear on this website, we are all only joking.

  19. StevenL – what a miserable state of affairs, but thanks for telling us, we should be on our guard more. Trouble is we’re too busy trying to guard ourselves from the banks while we live our lives seemingly in our spare time.

  20. Angela – I think Boris would be proud of Marina whatever she did and I’m sure you’d agree. I don’t know what you mean about humorous looking but my guess is that Boz would seek to keep his children from MSM for all the right reasons. Sadly one cannot do that as US President.

  21. Also, Jaq, Mrs. B. is so much more elegant and dignified than carla Bruni and I am sure she has more entertaining and appropriate conversation too. By humorous, I just meant Boris’s kids look as though they have great senses of humour, particularly the older boy, who has a really wry grin.(sorry to mention this, because i know BJ guards his family privacy).

    This website just attracts people with far out senses of humour, but it is all totally harmless and just clowning around.

  22. Steven! Man oh man! if you believe in karma, which you probably don’t, what sort of fate is awaiting you! Everyone you have ripped off or hurt or treated badly will be lining up to dish out the same.

  23. I totally admire Michelle Obama, she is intelligent, committed and beautiful, also Samantha Cameron and Mrs. B. Carla Bruni, not so much. You can tell how much control someone has over someone else in astrology by how many Saturn aspects they have and Carla Bruni’s Saturn makes at least 8 Saturn aspects to Sarkozy’s planets. He is totally her poodle, also her slave and I hope it will work out well, but astrologically, that is hard to believe.

  24. Angela – forgive me but you have a propensity to declare a complete understanding of the character of people you have never met. I’ve marvelled at the confidence you have in knowing these strangers but perhaps it is all in the stars?

  25. Jaq, not really, because can’t you tell that Michelle Obama is intelligent, committed and beautiful? ditto, Mrs. B. and Samantha Cameron?

    Re. my remarks about Sarkozy and Carla Bruni though, that IS in the stars, so you are entitled to joke if you want. I am just saying that ACCORDING TO THEIR ASTROLOGICAL CHARTS, Sarkozy is totally pussy whipped and under her thumb. Whether they fulfill that in real life is anybody’s guess, but mine is that they do.

    Astrology is very revealing about relationships. It is centuries old and it is based on calculated facts, not prediction as many people believe. If you have a good astrological computer programme, you can assess anyone’s relationship, but it also requires a certain amount of skilled interpretation so you have to study the subject extensively, do courses and so on, which I have done, for 13 years. when I began to learn about it, I didn’t believe it either, and I don’t at all blame people for being sceptical , in fact that is sensible if you don’t know anything about the subject.

    Libras always see both sides of any question…. you are Libra, aren’t you?

  26. Jaq, if you study astrology, you know A LOT about people you have never met if you have the date, time and place of their birth.

  27. But you have to remember, the horoscope is a MAP OF PEOPLE’S POTENTIAL. They don’t necessarily fulfill that potential, as we all have free will, astrology is not in any way saying our lives are predestined. Our potential is predestined but it is up to us to develop that.

  28. Angela I’m confused as to why you thought I was joking.

    (I really do talk like that as I hope Gill will confirm)

  29. Sorry Jaq, I did think you were joking, because when I talk on that subject, the reaction is usually ridicule. People don’t realise astrology is entirely factual, and very complicated, they think it is like reading tea leaves, or being psychic. I should have thought better of you, I am sorry.

    ps. and remember, Jaq, Boris Johnson has got a Mercury/Jupiter eclipse in his horoscope, the sign of a genius. SHOULD HE WISH TO DO SO, he could be the one ray of hope that leads us out of these dark times. I really hope he does want to, but I can understand if he doesn’t/. DC also offers a huge ray of hope.

  30. How can a man wear anything in bed at all, really? He might want to wear a vest in bed in the cold months to keep him warm when he needs to get up during the night or when he gets up in the morning. I just love the feeling of being hugged by his naked body from behind while we are asleep. And his occasional stiffness, you know… Happiness in life are just simple things like that. Life is too short. Sorry if I’m being too graphic here.

    Back to sand-dry politics. Thursday, Nov 13, 2008. Russia is rushing through plans to extend the presidential term to six years, leading to speculation that Vladimir Putin plans to return to the Kremlin as he is thinking Dimitri Medvedev, his comical Russian puppet president is near his use-by-date and should be discarded! Kangaroo law?! Only in communist countries!

    google FAST DEAL MAY SET UP PUTIN AS PRESIDENT FOR 12 YEARS
    ( this is The Times on line ).

  31. Angela – I replied and gave a link but the site ate it. As the topic of the thread seems to have changed I’ll pop by later. Putin as president for 12 years kinda directs ones thinking doesn’t it?

  32. A JOKE FOR EVERYONE FOR THE WEEKEND.

    When speed reading without my glasses and not taking care, sometimes I misread things, to comical effect. I THOUGHT I read the following headline…

    JOHN MAJOR TO PROPOSE TO JENNIFER ANNISTON!

    WHOAA THERE! John Major wants to marry Jen from FRIENDS? That split with Brad must have hit her harder than I thought…..

    OHHH John MAYER!

  33. I hve just received my utilities bills and am quite surprised how I have managed to keep the totals down… still winter is coming…..

  34. The hands of the clock are inching round to 4 pm. on a Saturday afternoon. The Mayor of London gently snoozes, relaxed in the knowledge that he has performed his civic duty for the week. All together now… BOO!

  35. My comment has been censored! Jaq, I think your comment has been censored, too. Just harmless fun, that’s all. No wonder Vicus Scurra complained about this censorship bitterly. Oh well…

  36. Mr Blackwell – mine was a link to a blog on astronomy. Yet they allow comments about Brad Pitt?! What is the world comming to??

  37. A link to an ASTRONOMY blog? Jaq, didn’t you foresee that your comment was going to be destroyed?!!! Ho ho ho !!!

  38. This credit crunch is affecting almost everyone. Come on, admit it that you are not too well off not to be affected by it. To save you some money and to run the risk of being called a gossip-monger, I’m giving you this website address of National Enquirer weekly-magazine. Now, usually it costs you a quid a copy in the supermarkets, but you can read it for free online. And please do not say here that you have never or will never read such gossips-tabloids. Well, National Enquirer had predicted Madonna was going to dump Guy well before it was officially announced. They said the same with Cruise’s marriage…

    You go to NATIONALENQUIRER (DOT) COM

    then search for articles like: OBAMA SEX SCANDAL
    or MICHELLE OBAMA TRASHES LAURA

    Good reading on a rainy day!

  39. In defence of astrology, may I say that in the US, many brokerage firms consult astrologers regarding the movement of the stock market. Financial astrology is very well established in the US, it doesn’t interest me, but has made millions for many brokers.

  40. Dawn, exactly! Reading National Enquirer online save yous money. Why should yous waste your money buying a copy from Tesco, you WERE right, Dawn.

    Google TRAITOR IN A HEADSCARF JASON LEWIS MAIL ON SUNDAY

    (Nov 16, 2008). It’s about a bloody, ugly, stupid old cow spying for the Russian and the Czech communists using her office in the Parliament while working for 2 Labour governments. Her spy codename was Agent Hammer. At one time, she even stood as a Labour parliamentary candidate !

    No wonder Labour and Gay Gordon were quiet and did nothing while the Russian communists were raping Georgia. Now the Russian communists are still occupying Georgia. Labour is not doing anything.

    You know what: Labour = socialism = communism.

  41. Mr Blackwell – astronomy not astrology. Tuh, you just can’t get the staff ;-))

    PS: If she were a pretty Russian spy would that have been ok??

  42. Angela – my horridscope for this week: “No antagonism is more intense than the kind that stems from a relationship that has turned from sweet to sour. And if you want to experience true sorrow, you must first know true love. Our hearts don’t know what it feels like to be empty, unless they have first felt full. Ups mean nothing without downs. Rights are irrelevant without wrongs. Unless you want to live in a world of mediocrity, you have to find a way to relish the contrast between light and shadow. This week may be bitter-sweet”

    Right well this week is cancelled then.

  43. Jaq I wouldn’t worry. To be accurate a horoscope has to be personally calculated to apply to your moment of birth. the date and the place, Horoscopes in papers and magazines only apply to the Sun sign and therefore cannot possibly be totally accurate; they merely give general trends for your Sun sign and that is meaningless really.

  44. I’m fedup with John Sargeant now. He wasn’t funny, just boring and my favourite couple, Lisa and Brendan were in the dance off and Lisa is so lovely (lucky George Clooney) and she was very upset. The Sarge just looks smug and annoying now. He doesn’t practice half as much as the others – they should change the way the voting is calculated and give more power to the judges.

  45. Here’s a name that’s a blast from the past… KEN LIVINGSTONE. When Ken lost to Boris Johnson, he blithely declared they were merely swapping jobs.

    Now Ken would make a fortune as Boris had been doing as a famous media personality, writing books, speaking at dinners, and delighting the public with brilliant articles for the newspapers. Where are the talented articles, the best selling books, the influential editorships on leading broadsheets, the stellar appearances on quiz shows to rival the startling talented, self made, blond haired, Old Etonian Richie Rich…… WE ARE STILL WAITING.

  46. I was re-reading this article and the comments. By an amazing coincidence we had a visitation from the npower girls on Friday. Young, attractive ladies doorstepping everyone on the estate. Quite aggressive they were too. They reminded me of Stormtroopers.

  47. If she were a pretty Russian spy, would that have been ok, you asked? Jaq, to tell you the truth: your question is like to offer meat to a vegetarian. Tuh, you just can’t get the staff ;-)))

  48. Labour Party came in from the cold only after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before then, significant parts of the Labour machine were sullenly sympathetic to the old Soviet system, often parroting its self-serving calls for Western disarmament.

    In some cases, the connections went far deeper. We may never know how many union officials, frontbench spokesmen, ordinary MPs and others were secret sympathisers of Soviet power, frightened victims of KBG bedroom blackmail, or actually in the pay of Warsaw Pact intelligence services.

    The wretched saga of Cynthia Roberts ( ‘ an ugly, stupid old cow ‘, Mr. Blackwell ) reminds us of just how close the links were between Western socialists and the Communist world. Roberts sordidly provided her services to the doomed (!!!) Czech Communist regime, one of the nastiest in all Eastern Europe.

    But what of those who blithely signed up to her group, Labour Action For Peace ( LAP ) ? Tony Benn might perhaps be excused on the usual ground of wide-eyed naivety. But hardened politicos destined for senior rank, such as Gavin Strang, must surely have smelt a whip of brimstone when they associated with this creepy front organisation.

    Much of the Labour Party was then, and remains now, hostile to the traditions and institutions of this country. Today, such people no longer have the Soviet Union as a sort of alternative fatherland ( ?!!! ). But they have not necessarily become British patriots ( like me ! ). Some are infatuated with the European Union. Others instinctively undermine and oppose anything connected with the Establishment. Some devote their energies to political correctness.

    The difference is that in the old days their hostility to this country was obvious, whereas now it is not. ( Too true ).

    ( The Mail on Sunday’s comment, Nov 16 . 2008 )

  49. WORST JOKE OF THE WEEK. (But my neighbour was totally serious.)

    “Why do Stanley and Rachel Johnson wear those unnatural looking wigs?”

    Well, my neighbour is elderly…….. Lovely to have such naturally thick hair anyway.

  50. Orieanna Von Thurn und Taxis hs a point – why do we read the Mail on Sunday? It’s crap. But we still do it. So many things in life are a mystery.

  51. Jaq, can you believe this: Some men are accused of changing under the influence of women – using scented shaving balm, dieting, drinking ‘detox’ tea, listening to ‘relaxing, soothing’ toilet/ bathroom music… and wearing pink colored clothes. Well, Nicolas Sarkozy is reported to have ‘ gone Left ‘ (!!!) under the influence of his flighty Italian missus Carla Bruni !!! Recent example is he has changed his mind under her influence about sending those bogus England-bound asylum seekers back home from Calais. He is not doing it after all. Of course, I’m not talking about unfortunate people. My point is: either Left or Right , rather than swinging both ways like Gay Gordon Brown, isn’t it ?!!!
    —————–
    Angela, this is for you. you must be interested in fashion a great deal as you have commented on Mrss. Obama, Brown, Sarkozy’ clothes and their features…

    Well, Angela, don’t you think Mrs. Obama is ghost-ugly? She seems to be turning herself into Jackie O ? Wearing only plain, simple, no-frills dresses all in bold, harsh colors which do not suit her tan at all in my eyes. And those oh-so-50s-chic pillbox hats and pearly white pearl necklaces ! Mrs. Sakozy and now even Mrs. Brown also jump on the bandwagon, trying desperately turning themselves into Jackie Os ! How awful. Don’t you think, Angela?

    Angela, have you seen that pic of Mrs. Obama on HER election victory night? It was a black and red dress; it looked like red embers rising up from her spare ribs to her busums and red embers rising up from her thighs to her belly button! OMG, she looked ghost-ugly, Angela! It looked like she had a well lit BBQ ready to celebrate HER election victory. Don’t you agree with me, Angela?

    My wife is always telling her friends that she’s very lucky and very proud of me her husband as I have an excellent taste in ladies fashion. Whenever she plans to shop for new clothes, she always takes me along for my advice on what suits her.

  52. I think Michelle Obama is an exceptionally beautiful woman. I love her dress sense. She goes for very strong, clean cut lines, bold colours that suit her, I love the pearls on her. Many people criticised the red and black dress, but I liked it. Visually it was a clever idea to dress the kids in either black or red, and she wore both, but the important thing is, she wears her clothes, they don’t wear her. She has such a strong aura about her and such a warm, vibrant personality, I wouldn’t care if she wore a sack, she is just great. She would look beautiful, strong and intelligent whatever she wore.

  53. It appears that Carla Bruni has a lot of influence over President Sarkozy, and her action over the asylum seekers clearly demonstrated just how much.

    I absolutely agree with Dawn, Michelle Obama is just beautiful and dresses to perfection. Classic simplicity suits her, she does her own thing, but she is so strong and intelligent, it doesn’t matter what she wears.

  54. Mr Blackwell – what can I say??

    The French should indeed dispatch those who seek asylum after passing through perfectly good countries but not to England thank you very much. We’re full.

    i didn’t like Mrs Obama’s dress. An unfortunate choice I thought.

  55. I am not suprised you were sucked in. These people are very good at getting you to agree to change supplier.

    I moved house recently and was unaware they only needed a verbal agreement.

    I phoned up our existing supplier and told them we were moving. Thinking it would be easier to stay with them I asked if we could just continue with them in the new house.

    They said no, it would take approximately a month to transfer from the supplier the previous occupier had.

    We moved in and decided we may as well stay with the new supplier rather than messing about.

    I thought that was the end of it until I received a letter informing me I had changed supplier to the one we had in our old house.
    I couldn’t believe it, because I hadn’t signed anything, so I rang them up and asked why.
    Apparently they took my phone call as a verbal agreement.

    After giving countless gas/electric readings to both suppliers I have finally changed back, although it took about 3 months to get it sorted.

    I could have stayed with my original supplier, but I was not happy with what they had done.

    It appears that these companies have dedicated departments to deal with people who switched suppliers without realising it.
    I spoke to one of their advisers and it was actually quicker and easier to switch back rather than put it through as a “non requested transfer”.

    I’ll know better next time.

  56. Jaq- what can I say??

    ————-

    Dawn and Angela, people say that you can copy a little from your idol and that’s ok, but if you copy everything then you won’t have anything your own at all. Being a professional hairdresser, I always do my wife’s hair for free at the saloon where I work. Once, my wife asked me to give her a Jackie O’s cut. You know what? I just said to her simply: ” There was and always will be only ONE Jackie O, hon’ “. And that’s that.

    She now wears her hair just-over-shoulder-long which complements her full-moon shaped face better.

  57. I don’t think that Michelle Obama copies Jackie O anyway. She likes the Oleg Cassini style, which she wears from time to time, as did Jackie K, but she could hardly look less like Jackie could she?

  58. Telemarketers calling to sell their latest deals are difficult to deal with. A lot of times I won’t even let them finish the call. They may even have a great deal that will save me a lot of money. I think the comparison websites are the way to go. You can take a look at them when you are ready to switch and not a moment sooner.

    Gas prices continue to fall rapidly but all the gas companies haven’t passed on these prices. So when you are ready, make the move. But let it be when you are good and ready, not when you are in the middle of your favorite tv program or dinner with your family.

  59. dear boris, having long been an admirer of your avantt garde style i must thank you on getting rid of red ken that was gr8, but the comment i want to leave is, i have worked for your supplier for a couple of years now, in direct sales, and i was recently placed on capability, searching the net has proved fruitles in finding any sort of representation to help, and quite frankly we are at aloss as to know what to do, about 70% of reps struggle on minimum wage, with promises of rewards to come, and a similar number of team managers also struggle on their wage, speaking as a falklands veteran, with few qualifications, where can i get union representation for constructive dismisal, i was targeted 15 units for this week,which i achieved, but surely after 2.5 years doing the job, (NOT VERY NICE I CAN ASSURE YOU ) surely i should be left to get on with it, and feel safe in my job, not very certain you can help, as i am not someone who applauds trade unions, but where do i go now that the govt(who noone voted for) has got us in the fertilizer? i enjoy the freedom i have and enjoy meeting the people, where we do provide a positive impact on people, i fight as hard as i did in San Carlos water, if you do get back to me cheers, if you don/t als cheers

  60. Dear Steve, I am pretty sure that you cannot enlist the aid of any union in a constructive dismissal case, unless you have been a registered member for a certain number of months. Unless you are already a member of a union, no union will represent you.

    Your very best bet it to go to your local Citizens Advice Bureau. These bureaux are overworked, but they have very qualified people there to help the public; make an appointment as soon as you can.

    Wishing you the very best of luck.

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