Monday, May 18, 2020


Photo: Mark Harrison

The United Kingdom is in tight lockdown. However, whilst the nation inches towards struggle street, are the Queen's ministers secretly being 'groomed' in the sacred salons of Westminster'



Following the Covid-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised against all “non-essential” travel.  The pub, the clubs, and even - God forbid - the hairdresser came under BoJo's it's a no-no 'thingy me bob'. 

A week later the whole country was ordered into a lockdown described as  so ‘hair' tight it even covered hairdressers.  

It seemed to many that hairdressers should not have been placed out of bounds. If the country were to die from a thousand cuts economically... this was a cut too deep. 

Yes there was anger. Confusion even... Why were some among the flock allowed to work and others not?

Nevertheless barbers were on "the list".  And weary citizens, frightened out of their liberties, somewhat greying at the sides, surrendered freedoms and slavishly followed the pied-piping mantra: "STAY HOME" "PROTECT THE NHS" "SAVE LIVES"

Only not everyone did... Rule breakers were hassled by school monitors, in the form of thought police. Whilst others, nuanced in their phrasing, in that public-school way, were... "economical" with the, err, "truth".

TheBigRetort 'razors' concerns.

Why is it - after months of lockdown - that this cabal of the 'heads' of the UK government have a perfect short-back-and-sides? Whilst the PM remains his characteristically shambolic self.

The following list includes those ministers I suspect have been touched by the scissors... during lockdown. 

The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP

23 March 2020: Lockdown begins.

Did the secretary of state's hairdresser use surgical scissors on those sideburns? 
15 May...nearly two months later? Borderline.

The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP
18 March 2020
 Did the foreign secretary avoid non-essential travel 
to a hair salon'? Note the neat sideburns.

Nearly two months later, 7 May 2020

The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP
30 March 2020
 Did the minister for housing stay indoors, 
or travel 40 miles... for a haircut?
Recent snap. Or should that be 'snip'?

The Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP

28 March 2020
Did the business secretary trade his honour for that neat cut?

One rule for them, another for us?

"It brings a whole new meaning to 'lock' down. But the 
modelling used is rigorous; and is based on the assumption 
that these may not be quite so 'right honourable' persons after all." [Professor Neil Ferguson.]  

"It may come as a surprise that social distancing may not  hold true for some members of my cabinet - outed by the quite splendid The Big Retort. But whilst I was   hospitalised they  have apparently brazenly Big Brotherhooded the nation - with fear and uncertainty and thinly-disguised glee - into self-imprisonment; into snitching on neighbours, and who appear themselves to have broken the ban.  Leaving the rest of the flock, not only with locks down to their ankles but chained to their homes. It's quite Stasi-like... and seems  less west more 'East' minster.
[Prime Minister Boris Johnson.]

"I blame China."
[Donald J Trump, President of Trump Towers.]

A WORD OF WARNING FROM THE EDITOR. Whilst some may claim that the above represents proof that ministers have been breaking the law. After all they have regularly presented themselves on television and in the print media without a hair out of place. I'm not so sure. Trump-like, I'm just asking. It 's just a small sample with hair growth over only two months. Perhaps the ministers have been cutting their own hair. Perhaps they married hairdressers - who knows? I'm just asking.

However, if not...?

In a scandal known as "Lockgate"; you the people are invited to point the finger at the Groomed of Westminster: 

Do you know who's been shearing all the prime minister’s sheeple?

Do you know who has been doing the grooming inside the heart of Parliament?

If you do know the Demon Barber of Westminster, or have others to add to the snip list, then please leave a comment... TheBigRetort.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Covid Patient One

The search for the identity of the first person to come into contact with Covid-19 is fruitless... at least for journalists with a "patient zero" in mind.  TheBigRetort

A Canadian who died in 1984 was believed to be the first person to introduce AIDS into America and the wider world. But it later transpired that he was not patient zero. Earlier cases dated back to the '70s - by which time the victim's reputation was tarnished beyond the grave.

Similarly the search to find the Covid-19 patient zero lies in that same world. It's in this tiny devastating domain - where the occupants speak a language few can interpret - where another patient zero will be found. And whilst it seems possible that the outbreak of Covid-19 may have silently taken place before it made its appearance in a seafood market in Wuhan, it will not be any journalist who tracks down patient zero.

That's because any person deemed to be misidentified 'the first' should actually be labeled "Patient One".

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Skripal Assassins and Street View Blocking

[Image from Daily Mail.]

Could a blocked 2016 Google Street View of the Skripal home lead to doorstep assassins? TheBigRetort

A click on Google Street View records a picture of the Sergei Skripal home captured in April 2009. 

But when you use the Google viewer and turn around to leave the house - and proceed down the street - the image capture flashes forward... to 2016.

The property can only be viewed in the 2016 capture at a distance... before jumping back to 2009 as the viewer approaches the house, and a closer view of the property.

Attempts to reverse the process and turn back towards the house jump from 2016 back... to 2009. So it isn't actually possible to get that close to the property at the time Skripal was living there.

But why did Street View not film that portion of the street in 2016 – whilst filming the rest? Instead, the driver seems to have done a quick U-turn.

Apparently some sensitive areas are removed from Street View by the authorities. And Street View does knit together various footage over the years. But are we expected to believe that the Skripal section of road has not been filmed again... in nine years?

Or... is the 2016 close-up of the house being blocked?

Does something in the capture contain evidence that may record the assassins in action - at the door?

Only time - and further nearby CCTV footage perhaps? - may tell.


See to view the 2009 image. Before Skripal lived at the property. And which jumps forward to 2016... But only when you are a distance away from it. And after Skripal moved into the house.


Monday, March 12, 2018


Your intrepid investigative reporter reveals the source of Doddy's Dosh and his missing millions. It was during the Christmas period of 1980/81 at Birmingham's Alexandra theatre. The panto was Dick Whittington. The Big Retort encountered that master of merriment then simply Mister Ken Dodd playing Idle Jack. Also in the cast was Jeffrey Holland, who had recently climbed to fame as Spike in the hit BBC tv comedy series Hi-de- Hi. And of course, somewhat further down the celebrity line-up - in the various guises of Dream People, Sailors, and Moroccan Guards - yours truly. TheBigRetort looks back on the king of comedy's licence to print the millions that the tax man never got his hands on... and reveals where it eventually ended up. 

The panto was a sell-out over its 6 week season. With matinees, the money going in and out of the cash tills was, I reckon,  in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds. However what the tax man didn't know is that an equal amount of money was being secreted out of the stage door into Doddy's jag from the lucrative and not so secret franchise that he was allowed to exploit during each sell-out performance.  Known as Ken's kickback, it was allowed by the company which looked the other way due to the magnitude of its star. 

In addition to his ample wage packet, Dodd, the undisputed star of the show, used direct selling marketing of the paraphernalia surrounding his Diddy Men creations. This franchise amounted to tens of thousands of pounds. 

“Could you ger us a pint, Kid. An' get one for yourself,” he said.

Between acts Doddy liked a pint to quench his thirst. However, because he was so famous, Ken couldn't simply walk into the nearby pub without causing a bit if a sensation.  I used to go for his bevvy regularly. Once off stage I used to pop into the pub in my costume, which caused a bit of a stir. Pints in hand, I would return to the theatre and see Ken sat in his dressing room reading one of the  many books on comedy that he regularly devoured. Or, more usually, counting out the spoils of his Diddy Men franchise. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, tickling sticks, colouring books, dolls of Doddy - you name it - Ken flogged the lot to a legion of fans... and raked in a veritable fortune. 

Ken retained two women who would stand in the foyer taking in thousands of pounds during the interval when the kids were all fired up on Doddy and his jam-butty mines.

Over the run of the show, whenever I would return with his pint, I would regularly see wads of cash stuffed into bags which would later go in the boot of his nearby Jag.

Doing the maths, I reckon Old Ken, who was then in his fifties, was probably pulling in about two thousand quid a day minimum - six days a week. 

And with matinees the takings would leap to phenomenal levels. 

Ken's stipend never went to the production company which looked the other way. They knew that this wasn't really Dick Whittington, but the Ken Dodd Show. 

Dodd was without doubt one of the most thrilling entertainers on the stage and had so much onstage charisma that he could light a city with it. 

However, the mask of comedy slipped on one occasion during that drive back to Liverpool.

The Lift to Knotty Ash

The trains weren't running out of Birmingham. I couldn't get home. However a former Bluebell dancer and singer was also appearing alongside Doddy under the stage name Sybie Jones. “Anne” (her real name) was also Ken's girlfriend. They seemed really close. They had been together for a couple of years. A really nice woman, Anne was then in her late thirties. She came in for a bit of stick due to her being cast in the pantomime as the Fairy of the Bells. But as nice as the fairy in the production she was, Anne was ten times nicer off the stage too... 

When she heard that I couldn't get home for Christmas, she would have none of it... and ordered Ken to give me a lift. 

I didn't hold out much hope because, whilst they lived in the other direction of the M62, my home was closer to the centre and out of their way.

There were also two Kens, the lightning-fast comedian, and the more staid and conservative loner.  

Ken like most stars I had met, was naturally protective of his privacy... and Anne his great and loving protector. However, to my great surprise and relief, Doddy said: “Annie says you need a lift. Ok, kid!” (He used to call me Kid as I was in my early twenties.)

Immediately after the curtain came down the colouring books and tickling sticks had been sold and the cash was firmly in the boot of Ken's Jag. Anne was behind the wheel. Ken had recently been banned from driving due to drink-driving. However, before we headed for the motorway he had arranged to stop off for midnight mass at a nearby church.

No matter where Doddy was appearing he did this every year and it was set-in-stone. Unfortunately lovely Anne got lost in Birmingham's then notorious one-way traffic system and with every turn of the wheel gone was the comic genius - and in his place was a very dark and moody Ken.

And as the clock ticked, and that midnight Christmas mass looked ever doubtful, Ken started to criticise Anne's driving. The king of quaint colloquialisms turned the air blue with four-letter invective

Finally, having enough of this, Anne slammed her foot on the brake. Nearly sending Ken through the windscreen, she stormed off in tears telling him to drive and giving a few expletives back.

Doddy looked at me; What's up with her – daft cow!”

He jumped in the driver's seat and took off after Anne, telling her to get back in the f-ing car. People looking on in amazement mouthing: 'Isn't that..?.'

Coaxed back, Anne remonstrated. She told him he couldn't drive: "You're banned!"

Ken would have none if it... He was headed for midnight mass and nothing was going to stop him.

Unfortunately as he steered this way and that through the city centre he was getting even more lost, and with mounting tight-lipped anger the devil had emerged.

Suddenly Doddy pulled up alongside this man, wound the window down and said “'Scuse me mate, do you know where the church is?”

This guy looks in the window and started to say. “Ermm... ermmm.'  His eyes went wide. He started to stutter: '”Hold on hold you you''re you're - Oh my god. You're you're... you're... hold on..”

--With that Ken floored the accelerator: 'Forget it!”he said. Leaving the man staring open mouthed and thinking.. I'm sure that was Ken Dodd.

When we finally arrived at the church we were late. Ken was really, as he might put it "discomknockerated". 

We rushed into the congregation. 

The Priest was in full flow and blessing his flock. However... murmurs were going all around the church “Doddy!” “It's Doddy!”

The priest, seeing Ken Dodd, stopped making the sign of the cross and rushed down the aisle.  The king of the Diddy Men had blessed one little church with his royal “plumtiousness”.

Doddy knelt. He placed his tongue out, and took holy communion. Ken, who had turned the air in the car blue, now looked as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. He looked incredibly serene. And what was that? There was a halo around his head. It was from the flickering candles. A true master, he had somehow managed to find the limes, even in church. 

Ken Dodd was upstaging God! 

During the journey back to Liverpool, Ken started to have a bit go at my naive ambitions about acting. Anne told him off. But Doddy explained: 'You have to work hard if you want to make a success. That's all I'm saying, kid. It's the non-stop honing of your craft, falling down and' pickin' yerself up, that's the main thing. And even then you have to be lucky. Do that, Kid, and you're set.”

So said the man who had an instinctive timing and stage presence that electrified millions. I wasn't about to disagree.

The drive back to Knotty Ash should have taken just under two and a half hours. However, even though it was in the opposite direction, Doddy, who must have been absolutely knackered after his gargantuan performance and the drive, dropped me near my house. “Toxteth...hmmm OK” he had demurred.

I waived as they headed back to Knotty Ash after telling me where to meet on Boxing Day for the lift back to the show.

It was early morning. As I knocked at my mum's door she was waiting up for me.

"Ken Dodd just dropped me off,” I said chuffed.
"Yeas, sure,” she said. 

She was supposed to say 'Did he?' Then I could respond: 'No Doddy.' 

Mum wasn't falling for that one, "Ken Dodd... in Toxteth?"

But, anyway...

As for that dosh in the back of his car.... where did it end up?

Before his death Ken's house was raided in a search for his missing millions. Three hundred and thirty six thousand pounds was found in a suitcase. The rest was apparently secreted in 20 offshore accounts. 

But TheBigRetort can reveal where Doddy's millions lay buried... in a jam-butty mine in Knotty Ash. 

Kenneth Arthur Dodd OBE was born 8th November 1927. He died on the 11th March 2018, the undisputed King of Comedy. 

How tattyfilarious.

Copyright (c) TheBigRetort

Monday, February 12, 2018


Dear Eamon

The “arguments” as you term them (in your article link above) are mainly one sided. They (council leaseholders) end up in the Land Tribunal due to the ALMOs (like yours) directing the leaseholder there. Leaseholders appear as litigants in person – which means the ALMO expensive legal teams, at the taxpayer expense, can run legal rings around them.

Right to Buy leases do contain adequate restrictions. “At all times during the term to comply at his own expense with all the requirements of any legislation relating to the prevention or extinction of fires...” [5th Schedule, Para 12.] 

 However, it is not, as you infer, a requirement under the Fire Safety Order 2005 to introduce “interlinked” devices into private dwellings. More conveniently connected to the communal areas that your membership controls – and at a growing cost to leaseholders. 

You simply wish to rewrite lease law in order to allow this increased and unnecessary control - not just over the communal spaces but the interior of the flats too. It is true that there is a history of leaseholders refusing access. But, actually, there is also a similar history of council “tenants” refusing access to overzealous council representatives and what they perceive as their constant interference and with it a flagrant breach of the obligation for “peaceful enjoyment”.

Buy-to-let landlords do pay for “essential” fire safety works. So why suggest otherwise?

There is also adequate provision under the Fire Safety Order 2005 for buy-to-let landlords that ensures they undertake their duties on tenant safety. That's why they are also forced to provide an annual gas safety certificate. So what additional requirement would you place in a lease: and why?

The Fire Safety Order 2005 itself was introduced - over a decade ago – so why has your membership not already implemented its so-called recommendations?

Your membership is simply subsidising its Decent Homes programmes via a doctrine of overspend on home improvements and now fire safety. In reality, it is a free ride taken on the back of tragedy. However it is by slyly introducing these charges on leaseholders that also offers your membership the opportunity to increase the size of its own pay or pension package.

Legal action, or the threat of it, is the card to trump all cards. 

However, you are remarkably mute on the fact that the “new” fire resistant doors introduced by some of your members have actually catastrophically failed. That £1000 doors... possibly hundreds of thousands of pounds (of taxpayers money?) has seemingly been squandered in overpriced and defective installations, and solely in an effort to recoup the cost of your members' mistakes. That is why you now target the leaseholder cash cow. [See Lewisham Homes Board Minutes, 20 Jan 2018, Para 4.9 for 'latent defects' and 'front entrance doors' 'not installed to the required standard'.]

But how many ALMOs out there have simply tried to brush items like the door scandal under the welcome mat? Surely Lewisham Homes is not the only one? But then... what's another grand shoved on to the service charge of another beleaguered and unsuspecting leaseholder! It is after all only (his/her) money.

LEASEHOLDER MONEY-SAVING ANNOUNCEMENT: "Closer fitted” doors only become a requirement IF you change the door to a new door - so don't believe Eamon. (Government guidelines state that closers on flat entrance doors are not actually needed.)

But once you convince the leaseholder otherwise... you can then demand fire-resistant door hinges, fire-resistant locks, fire resistant transoms, fire-resistant door frames, and an anti-arson letterboxes – suddenly it's not a door it's PANDORA.

Little wonder that leaseholders quite rightly quiver when your freeholder shadow falls over the communal threshold that hasn't been maintained within its five-year cycle. (But then... no other parts of the property usually have either.)

Neither are your freeholders NOT pursuing leaseholders for charges simply to ease getting the works done, as you claim. They are not chasing leaseholders because they know that they have NO LEGAL RIGHT TO DO SO. Having undertaken much of these defective and sometimes unnecessary works your members, having failed with the leaseholder, will simply pass the inflated cost over to the public purse – along with that 10% management fee added. What a joke!

You boldly state that the 'financial burden falls on others' but neglect to mention that this is due to the incompetence of your membership. And it is they who place the financial burden on the leaseholder and tax payer.

“Of course, leaseholders should have the right to be consulted and receive assurances on value for money, but they cannot be allowed to put the safety of others at risk for commercial and financial gain.“

How very imperious. Your ALMOs do what they have always done – IGNORE leaseholder objections, and then introduce the changes anyway. Thereby, amazingly, creating a surplus in your accounts. A surplus which you have mugged off the leaseholder who has to sell or remortgage to survive the onslaught.

The misplaced virtue shown is that you have the temerity to suggest that it is the buy-to-let landlord - with all the statutes and regulations currently in place - who '...cannot be allowed to put the safety of others at risk for commercial and financial gain'.

THE KETTLE IS BUSY DARKENNING THE POT... I note in the accounts of one of your members that the auditor suggests that they don't record a profit but record it as a... “surplus”? No doubt eventually shown in the bloated salaries of your 'not for profit' members..

On the subject of Airbnb... a council tower block cannot simply “double up” as a hotel. There are rules and regulations in place that prevent this and it is only due to your members not enforcing these that the issue exists. The following paragraph contained in most if not all council leases may assist:

“Not to permit or suffer to be done in or on the Demised Premises any act of which may be or become a nuisance or inconvenience to the Lessors or any other lessee tenant or occupier of any of the flats/Maisonettes or to the occupier or owner of any adjoining or neighbouring property' [5th Schedule 16 (I).]

A pretty restrictive covenant wouldn't you agree?

If not then how about this one: “Not to use the Demised Premises for any trade or profession or business whatsoever but to keep the Demised premises as private residential premises for occupation by one household only. [17. ] In other words... no Airbnb!

You also ask: “Leaseholders in council-owned blocks are not required to abide by the same rules and as a result you can now have two flats on the 15th floor of a tower block, where the tenanted flat has had 10 boiler services in the past decade and the leasehold flat has not had any checks on the boiler over the same period. How can that be right when health and safety of all residents is the freeholder’s number one priority?”

WRONGGGGG. Councils do not sell properties - in the main they sell long leases. That way they retain control over their portfolio and also gradually increase their coffers when lease lengths decrease. However the leaseholder and or tenants are expected to abide by the same rules both under the terms of the lease and the many forms of legislation that govern them. Health and Safety being but one. The Landlord and Tenant Act another. In fact, your members have not maintained the gas safety certificates in their own bloated portfolios: and this is partly due to the fact that they are far too large for them to manage, or that tenants do not trust them.

A clock that stands still is sure to be right once in twelve hours. On that you are partly right. Right in that to buy a council property was a dream to many. But be honest, Eamon. Ask yourself why so many council tenants that bought under the right to buy quickly sold up - at a bloated open market rate - and then placed as much distance as possible between themselves and your ALMO brotherhood, and sisters. Do explain though where the buy-to-let landlord can 'maximise income and minimise outgoings' after any of the above. To say nothing of the recent changes in tax law on buy-to-let, which prevents them making a “surplus”.

A surplus is the disguised profit your membership makes from leaseholders.  

Added to which the impositions placed by ALMO managers like yourself, so called 'not for profit' organisations - a fact which is contradicted by accounts reading “surplus” instead of profit - also prevents this. Put simply, for the small landlord (and not the ALMO) it is the reverse: income is minimised, whilst outgoings are maximised. A trend that looks likely to continue. 

Finally, purpose-built council flats do not always need wall-to-wall carpets due to the adequate soundproofing – so why blame the leaseholder for not having shag pile ? 

The moral in the tale is that ALMO chief executives (like yourself), in towers made of plastic, should not throw Molotov cocktails.

In my humble opinion.





Photo: Mark Harrison The United Kingdom is in tight lockdown. However, whilst the nation inches towards struggle street, are th...