Geeky or Gawky for the Labour Leadership Race?
September 1, 2010

The sun is shining and the sky is blue. High pressure is settling over the UK for the rest of the week so it must be the end of the holidays and the beginning of the new school year!

As Chris left for work with a sprightly spring in her step (joke!), I reflected on the fact that for the first time in many years I had enjoyed a good night’s sleep on the eve of a new school year and that my stomach was not churning!        

If it’s back to school time for teachers, then the politicians will soon be back in Westminster.

Since the end of term, Sam and Dave whilst holidaying in Cornwall were visited by a stork with special delivery package and the PM has been able to engage in a few politician kisses baby photo opportunities, with baby Flo aka Florence Rose Endellion. I don’t think she will thank them for the latter (after her place of birth) in years to come!

Meanwhile Cleggy, who got all excited about looking after the keys to Number 10 and being asked to water the plants, wet the baby’s head with a pint of Brains.

He also met a visiting football FIFA delegation and did his best to back the bid for World Cup 2018, claiming it was, “unbeatable” and that, “it will inspire people in towns and cities across the country,” which is more than we can say for the coalition.   

To be honest FIFA could cut down on their carbon footprint and save a lot of time. Paul the celebrity psychic octopus, formerly of the Weymouth Sea Life Centre but currently living in Germany, has chosen England so it’s a done deal!     

The Labour Leadership race is entering the final furlong. There are five runners but it is fast becoming a two-horse race with Geeky and Gawky battling it out for the finishing line.

Geeky (Ed – left) and Gawky (David) formerly known as Miliband minor and Miliband major are the bookies’ favourites.

Bullish Ed (Balls) has lived up to his name and made a bit of a mess up of the race, too much like a bull in a china shop!

Andy Who (Burnham), has had a pretty good run out, with his sales pitch about  aspirational socialism which will marry the best of Old and New Labour, but  there are too many hurdles for this young unknown who has always been an outsider. He’s one to watch  for the future and his day will come.  

Dear Dianne, a robust filly, has huffed and puffed from the start finding it very heavy going and will look forward to being reunited with her stable mate Portillo and trainer Andrew Neil in the This Week studio.

That old tipster, the Prince of Darkness (aka the Third Man when signing copies of his autobiography up and down the country) seems to have switched horses mid race.

He made Geeky, a slightly more charismatic contender than the rest of the field, an early favourite but his tendency to veer towards the far left has caused a change of heart. He now seems to favour Gawky who has more of an inclination towards a right of centre course.

Gawky is certainly a stayer and more experienced than his opponents but some pundits feel he will need to shed a bit of weight as he carries a bit too much baggage. His healthy, high energy diet will probably see him first past the post provided he avoids any banana skins in the final gallop for home.  

Whoever is paraded around the winner’s paddock in a few weeks time, (I would prefer Geeky but think it will be Gawky) will have their work cut out to mount a serious challenge against the coalition stable’s high flyers.

Interestingly, betting slips (sorry ballot papers) have been sent out to Labour party members on the same day that a former novice, and three times winner of the biggest race of all, has chosen to release his memoirs – A Journey

I hope it doesn’t prove to be too much of a handicap!

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A little bit of needle…..
July 24, 2010

There was quite a bit of needle about this week!

BNP racist (and MEP!) Nick Griffin (seen well to the right…) was rather needled when, at very short notice, his invitation to attend the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace was withdrawn.

Many would say he should never have been invited in the first place but it didn’t matter as boastful claims, on his website, that he would be, “welcomed at Buckingham Palace by Her Majesty the Queen,” and that, “this event shows how far this party (the BNP) has come,” were enough for him to be banned on the grounds of insanity and exploiting the invitation for political purposes.  

Of course, having missed out on the cucumber sandwiches, he was now able to play the victimization card, making capital of what he described as a, “thoroughly unBritish outrage,” which subsequently picked up front page coverage in most of the dailies.

Another Nick, this time Clegg, needled a few of his coalition friends, and turned the air blue on both sides of the house, during PM’s questions.

While the master was away in Washington, playing down the special relationshipCleggy had his first opportunity to stand-in and promptly dropped a brick by referring to the ‘illegal’ invasion of Iraq.

The Speaker of the House and Cleggy’s Tory mates might not have been impressed by this gaffe but at least Jack, the grim reaper, Straw enjoyed a laugh at his expense.  

Apparently Cleggy is rather puzzled why a recent independent survey shows the yellows standing at 13% in the polls whilst his true blue mates are at 44%. I have to take my hat off to DC, he has played this coalition game to perfection!        

There was a bit of sporting needle on Le Tour, when Alberto Contador flouted an unwritten cycling rule by kicking on to build up a lead over his main rival, Luxemburg’s Andy Schleck, who had to stop and perform running repairs on his bike chain.   

It’s ironic, if not down right hypocritical, that in a sporting event renowned for its cheating, through the illegal use of performance enhancing substances, blood transfusions etc, that something as relatively insignificant as this caused such a fuss!  

Surely, if a cycle chain slips or is broken, it is unfortunate for the rider, but should be accepted as part and parcel of the race in a similar way to a Formula 1 car shredding a tyre or developing an engine fault!

Anyway the sporting etiquette of Le Tour was already set in only its second year, 1904, with recorded incidents as diverse as: booby trapping the road with tin tacks, hitching a lift in a passing voiture, the beating up of rival competitors and blackmail!     

Last but not least I’m also feeling a tad needled!

A visit to the local medical centre, yesterday afternoon, to discuss the immunisation requirements, for my VSO posting in Rwanda, led to an impromptu swine flu jab.

Just a little prick sir,” and, “by the way you might have a headache and feel nauseous over the weekend!”

This is to be swiftly followed up with yellow fever on Monday and the first of three rabies injections on Wednesday. I can’t wait!

Back to the Future! Will it be Orange?
July 6, 2010

It’s 25 years since ‘Doc’, Dr Emmett Brown, built his DeLorean time machine and as he said to Marty McFly at the time, “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”   

Yesterday the internet was alive with reports that we had reached the first target date, July 5th 2010, set by Doc in the first Back to the Future movie. It was even backed up with what appeared to be a screenshot of the DeLorean time control panel, taken from the film.

Unfortunately it all turned out to be a hoax and we will have to wait another 5 years to celebrate what is now being called ‘Future Day’. That will be on October 21st 2015, which is where the main characters find themselves when Back to the Future 2 opens. Pencil it in your diary now!         

I wonder what Doc and Marty would have made of the following news stories from July 5th 2010?

‘A Miserable Little Compromise’

Following yesterday’s grand announcement of the electoral reform referendum, Jack Straw rained on Cleggy’s parade by reminding him that just a few short weeks ago, before the election, he had described the proposed AV voting system as ‘a miserable little compromise’. What, Jack the giant slayer asked, had changed his mind? MPs joined in the pantomime by chorusing the answer, ‘POWER!’    

The Times projected that, if the last election had been run according to the AV system, the Lib Dems would have gained 22 seats and Labour 4 with the Tories down by 26. This is why DC is insisting on including constituency changes as part of the package, as it is expected they would off-set the AV effect.    

Ronaldo’s Little Dribbler!

Now we know why Real Madrid  galactica Cristiano Ronaldo was off his game for Portugal at the World Cup. He’s just become a Dad! The Portugal national daily, Diaro de Noticias, has announced that Ronaldo will have ‘exclusive guardianship’ of the child who was apparently conceived through surrogacy, in San Diego, and will be named after his father.

I wonder if Ronaldo junior will dribble as well as Dad!    

 

Stig is top of the Dump!

BBC Worldwide have announced that ‘Top Gear’, presented by Clarkson, Hammond, May and the mystery racing driver Stig has generated more revenue than any other show. This amounts to around £30 million and includes proceeds from  selling the series to foreign broadcasters, an international live tour and a whole range of merchandise including Top Gear Scalextric!   

Perhaps the Stig could road test Doc’s DeLorean, through time and space, in a Back to the Future Top Gear special!  

Back to the Future Education ?

I’m not sure what Doc and Marty would make of education secretary Michael Gove’s announcement that he has scrapped Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme, axing at a single stroke 715 planned rebuilds and refurbishments. Labour might have dug a ‘black hole’ but at least their investment in schools and hospitals helped improve public services, whilst creating jobs and property assets.

Gove, seen above struggling with some big words, has also announced a review of  A levels. This would seem to be a good call.  For too long our public examination system has been kicked around like  a political football. Time and again hard-working students achieving ‘A’ grades have had the wind taken out of their sails, caught between successive governments maintaining standards have gone up whilst top universities and employers claim they have dropped.

I agree it is high time A levels were returned to their ‘gold standard’ status and a full review involving secondary schools, universities and employers needs to be carried out. But I have an uneasy feeling that everything will be tailored to the  needs of Oxbridge, and the already advantaged pupils from their independent ‘feeder schools’.  

I would add I’m not anti Oxbridge. One of my daughters is a Cambridge graduate but she did get there via our local comprehensive school!

Blazing Saddles        

I profess to knowing very little about cycling but I do love the three-week soap-opera which crosses our screens every July, Le Tour! It’s only the third stage today and they haven’t actually reached France, yet the controversy, complaints and protests have already started.

The usual question marks around le dopage, particularly with regard to seven times winner Lance Armstrong, were raised before the event pushed off, in Rotterdam, with the prologue time trial on Saturday. This has been swiftly followed by a series of calamitous crashes in stages one and two, with our very own Mark Cavendish cast as villain of the piece after Sunday’s pile-up. Belgian TV called him the ‘assassin’ whilst the French paper L’Equipe labelled him a ‘pyromaniac’.

I’ve heard of ‘Blazing Saddles’ but that’s going a bit far!   

Will the Future be Orange? 

Could it also be back to the future for Dutch football team?  Holland are forever revered for the total football philosophy that took them to successive World Cup Finals in 1974 and 1978. But everyone’s favourites lost on both occasions, even with the sublime skills of Johan Cruyff and co on display. Will the current crop of talented, but more prosaic, players put the record straight – will the future World Champions be wearing orange? We’ll have a better idea after tonight’s semi final against ‘dark horses’ Uruguay.

Gideon’s Way!
June 23, 2010

George Osborne, the Chancellor formerly known as Gideon, emerged from yesterday’s ‘unavoidable’ Emergency Budget relatively unscathed.

We’ve been so well primed for this ‘tough but fair’ recovery plan that hardly an eyebrow was raised. Timing is everything of course and, realistically, in the glow of yesterday’s summer sunshine, more minds were probably focused on Andy Murray, safely negotiating his way through the first round at Wimbledon, and England’s forthcoming  do or die World Cup match.

The media are generally agreed that this budget is the most severe in living memory, but largely accepting that the bitter pill of savage cuts, in public spending and benefits, and an increase in VAT to 20%, is the consequence of the previous government’s financial mismanagement and something we will have to swallow.

Whilst the Mail described the Chancellor’s performance as ‘Masterful’ and the Telegraph dubbed him ‘Osborne the Enforcer’, the Guardian was rather more prosaic, alerting us to ‘Pain now, more pain later’. Only the good old Mirror voiced its opposition, ‘History will show George Osborne’s Budget was a disaster.’

Perhaps ‘prudence’ would not normally be associated with ex members of  Oxford University’s elite ‘Bullingdon Club’, membership by invitation only and renowned for its wealth and destructive binges.  But will Cameron and Osborne in their new guise as  ‘the dynamic duo’ save the day?

At this stage the jury is out, but those in opposition are saying say the cuts are too much too soon, will restrict growth and result in a dramatic increase in unemployment.  As always the Tories seem to think this is a price worth paying.   

One thing is certain, however, we now have a coalition government in name only, and this is well and truly a Tory budget. 

Nick Clegg, resplendent in his golden tie, and Danny Alexander, becoming increasingly prominent as senior minister to the Treasury, were strategically placed either side of Osborne on the front bench, like two nodding dogs throughout his speech. They are slowly but surely morphing into Tories and it won’t be long before Cleggy becomes, ‘the man with the royal blue tie’.  

This was a master stroke by Cameron and Osborne, for it was the front bench Lib Dems, not the Tories, who bore the brunt of Harriet Harman’s response to the budget as she demanded, “How could they support everything they fought against? How could they let everyone down who voted for them?”

When Harman is on song, as she was yesterday, one wonders why she isn’t standing for the Labour leadership. Her display was confident and passionate, something we haven’t seen from the Labour bench for a while, and she went for the kill in no uncertain terms: “The Lib Dem leaders have sacrificed everything they ever stood for to ride in ministerial cars and to ride on the coat-tails of the Tory Government”.

A lot of Lib Dem backbenchers and voters would say, ‘Amen to that!’ and it will be interesting to see how many MPs break ranks and side with Labour in voting against the budget.

The Emergency Budget will go down in political history, not only in terms of its severity, but as the beginning of the end of this coalition government and more significantly as the point at which the Liberal Democrat Party seized to exist as an entity in its own right.

Just a Form of Income Tax?
June 12, 2010

Five weeks in and the first telling cracks have appeared in the fragile coalition government. The fantasy that the Lib Dems would stick to their principles, drive a hard bargain and keep the Conservatives ‘honest’ is fading fast.  

One of the key electoral pledges, which attracted many young voters to the Lib Dems, was a commitment to abolish university fees by 2016. Now we hear from David Willett’s (there’s a name from the past) ahead of the findings by the Browne Commission, announcing that university tuition fees could rise to as much as £7000 a year and students should just view the increase as “an obligation to pay higher income tax”.

So surprise, surprise! If you’re bright and from a low-income family forget higher education, you’re being priced out of the market and your place can be readily taken by a less able kid from a family that has the means to pay, and has probably already been put through the private education system anyway! Whatever happened to the meritocratic society?    

Cleggy, speaking in his home constituency at Sheffield Hallam University, says he’s not going to be made to feel guilty by the difficult compromises that have to be made in a coalition government! Well, he should be ashamed!

It’s okay because the Lib Dems are being ‘allowed’ to abstain in any Commons vote to increase fees. No! If he and his party are to have any shred of credibility, once the ‘love-in’ is over and we are on our way back to the polls, Clegg should be speaking out loud and clear againt the proposed aspects of Conservative policy his party has campaigned against, and encouraging his MPs to vote against it! Amidst this gross act of betrayal I’m pleased to hear a voice of sanity from, stalwart former Party leader, Menzies Campbell who has already come out and said he will keep his word and vote against any increase.

Cleggy (The Man With The Golden Tie!) should enjoy his fleeting moment in the sun because in the cold reality of day when the coalition founders, which it surely will, the voters he has so readily let down will jump ship and the Lib Dems will find themselves returning for another long stretch in the political wilderness.