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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Built to Last

Today, David Cameron is set to launch his statement of Conservative principles, or something like that.

I like to think that he has drawn his inspiration from popular music songs. For example, "Built to Last", the main slogan of the document, is clearly derived from the lyrics to "West End Girls" by the Pet Shop Boys: "Built to last in every nation from Lake Geneva to the Finland Station".

Meanwhile, "We're in this Together", a favourite phrase of Cameron which is also contained in his statement of principles today, was a hit for champagne lefties Simply Red in 1996.

Good job, that Dave hasn't been listening to "Sorted for E's and Whizz" by Pulp.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Down on the Street wiv da kidz

There's a new organisation being promoted, called the "1824 Collective". This is not, as I first thought, about the year in which the Anglo-Dutch Agreement was signed, but is instead "about young artists and young people across London coming together to make their voices heard."

The collective has even produced a song, featuring such artists as Baby Chan, Baraka, Corrisse, Haze, J2K, JXXX, Lavish, L-Man and LST.

Because, of course, it is much easier for the young people to identify with such names, rather than anyone with a sensible name like, er, Menzies or Lembit.

More or less irritating than Chris Martin of Coldplay?

Bono and the popular rock combo U2 have been honoured in Chile by Amnesty International secretary general Irene Khan. She said that "their leadership in linking music to the struggle for human rights and human dignity worldwide has been groundbreaking and unwavering."

Absolutely. And to show just how groundbreaking U2's contribution has been, here is a segment of the lyrics to one of their biggest singles, Discotheque.

Boom cha, boom cha
I can't get it, I can't, it's not enough
Boom cha, boom cha
I can't get it, I can't, it's not enough
Boom cha, boom cha
I can't get it, I can't, it's not enough
Boom cha, boom cha
Boom cha, boom cha

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Cheek by Jowell

There have been calls for Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell to explain her involvement in the alleged misbehaviour of her second husband. Italian officials say David Mills was paid to give false evidence in court for Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Mr Mills admits writing a letter to his accountants where he appears to be describing a payment, but claims he was inventing a scenario to get tax advice.

I have no idea whether she is guilty. But, judging by the photograph, she has got legs like tree trunks.

If you cut one of them off, you could count the rings to see how old she really is!

Ruth Kelly Talks Gibberish

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly was on BBC1's Sunday AM show this morning, being interviewed by Andrew Marr. In his first question, Marr asked whether the new Education Bill would lead to more selection in schools, or less.

Kelly replied, "Well what we're doing is making the framework, within which schools operate, more robust - and I think that's a perfectly reasonable thing and a good thing to do."

What's that supposed to mean?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Tess and Ulrika trade insults

Tess Daly is known to some as the northern lass who replaced Cat Deeley for a while on SMTV:Live, as it went downhill after Ant and Dec left. More recently, she has become even more famous as the wife of television and radio personality Vernon Kay and as Bruce Forsyth's bit of glamour on Strictly Come Dancing. And now she is fronting a singalong rip-off of the latter show on Just the Two of Us, or something like that.

But it seems that Ulrika Jonsson has labelled Tess as "rubbish". OK, she may not be great, but at least Tess's baby was born within wedlock and she doesn't go around with unsuitable nerdy blokes who beat her up!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Fanciable MPs

I see that Sky News has compiled a list of the most fanciable MPs. Top of the pile is Labour MP for Don Valley, Caroline Flint. Mikey has long considered Ms Flint to be one of the few Labour MPs who comes across well on Question Time, and wonders why she has not been promoted to the Cabinet, especially when you consider that those women (and men, for that matter) who are in the Cabinet are largely feeble.

Come on, Mr Blair! When you at last carry out your reshuffle, you know what to do with Caroline!

Well Done to the Police!

There's been a lot of fuss in the news about a teenage waster who who has been fined £80 for using a four letter word that was overheard by a "lady policeman" (as Shadow Home Secreatry David Davis would describe her).

It seems that this foul-mouthed youngster was talking to a group of friends who were using bicycles in a skateboarding area of a Kent park. The use of swear words, as well as being extremely unpleasant and, in some cases, intimidating, is an offence under the Public Order Act, so the police officer should be commended for tackling this incident of anti-social behaviour. Now the immature offender is whining about how unfairly he thinks he has been treated.

Ah, diddums! Looks like he was caught in the act, fair and square. If he is as grown up as he thinks he is, he should face up to his misdemeanour like a man, not moan like a spoilt and petulant baby. And who knows? Maybe the whole story is even worse? It may be that the stupid boy in question was involved in various other aspects of intolerable behaviour, but the swearing offence was the easiest to pin on him. In particular, how do we know that he hadn't been smoking illegal drugs? Had he been defacing other people's property with graffiti tags? Had he indulged in the violent craze of "happy slapping"? And can we be certain that he hadn't been attacking defenceless old ladies, or would have done so had he been given half a chance?

He should consider himself lucky that he received only a Fixed Penalty Notice for £80.

Incidentally, the picture is not of the teenager in question, but is another random loser.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Winter Olympics Shocker

You've got to feel sorry for Laura Bush, America's First Lady. A few days ago, she was in Turin for the Winter Olympics when she was "greeted" by her old friend Cherie Blair. Now, somehow Mrs Bush seems to act with just a bit more self-control than Mrs Blair, who looks like she is trying to devour the US President's wife.

Never mind. I'm sure Cherie managed to acquire some lovely new clothes while she was there.

I think his brother Ed is better

"Communities" Minister David Miliband is apparently going to give a speech today about a "new phase" in the partnership between the state and voluntary sector. Yeah, whatever.

Some people think that Miliband could be Prime Minister. Really?

Miliband and his wife have an adopted child, which (given their looks) thankfully means that they don't have to reproduce themselves.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Political Animal

In Jeremy Paxman's book, "The Political Animal", one of the MPs he profiles is Derek Conway. He is portrayed as somebody who loves the political game and was devastated to have been defeated at the 1997 General Election. Determined to return to the House of Commons, Conway tried hard to get selected as a candidate in a winnable constituency, and he was eventually successful in Old Bexley and Sidcup, replacing Sir Edward Heath in 2001.

Ever since then, he has had a high media profile and often quoted as a "senior Conservative", although he is actually much younger than he looks. But what does he speak about? How his party's policies will make life better for people? Why the Labour Government isn't very good? No. Well, at least, if he has then I haven't heard him. Instead, all he seems to do is plot and slag off other people in his own party. He briefed against Iain Duncan Smith (seen partly as an unsuccessful attempt to get him replaced by his mate David Davis) and the "Notting Hill set" (in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent them from thwarting the leadership ambitions of his mate David Davis).

Now, he has appeared on GMTV's Sunday Programme today (actually - like most of the guests on this programme - his bit was recorded on Friday because 6am on a Sunday is ridculously early when nobody is watching) to "warn" David Cameron of the alleged unease at his party's reforms.

Does David Davis not realise what damage has been done to him by having such a sour and negative person acting on his behalf? You would have thought that Conway's constituents would deserve better, although having had Heath for the previous half a century may have clouded their view on what to expect from their Member of Parliament. But, in fairness, they probably approve of Conway - he received a swing of 7.2% in his favour at last year's General Election. Despite what they may say, voters probably like the plotting and backbiting just as much as the MPs!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Alternative Prime Minister

Chancellor Gordon Brown is going to great lengths in an attempt to shed his dour image, so that he may one day be considered acceptable to be Prime Minister. He has already started wearing a pink tie instead of his usual red one (he can now safely do this as there are no longer questions about his sexuality). But now he has gone even further and dressed up like Biggles in an attempt to appeal to the plane-piloting community.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Bad Week for Liberty?

"I'm a libertarian," declares Labour MP for Vauxhall Kate Hoey in today's Telegraph. This in a week that has brought controversial decisions on ID cards and smoking, not to mention "glorification". Ms Hoey voted against all these proposals, which once again raises the question of whether she would be in the Labour Party if it were not for the fact that the residents of Vauxhall are unlikely to vote for any other political party.

I have already posted on the smoking issue a few days ago. The ID cards issue is very worrying. Groups such as Liberty have been campaigning on this subject for years. Supporters of ID cards often make the spurious claim that "if you've done nothing wrong, then you've got nothing to fear." The trouble is that, despite the undoubted truth of their arguments, too many previous civil liberties campaigners have given the impression by their demeanour that they very much do have something to fear, for good reason. So it is great that the current Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, has put the case against ID cards (and, more pertinently, the associated database) with such reason and persuasiveness. Although not quite enough to convince sufficient MPs.

The government's insistence on the incorporation of the vague term "glorification" into law is just an outrageous piece of dangerous point-scoring, and is a deflection from what would really enable our country to protect itself better from terrorists. A more productive course of action would be to revoke the enshrining into law of the European Convention of Human Rights. This piece of legislation offers scarce security for decent people in this country, and is supported only by the likes of Cherie Blair's legal chums and, er, Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Giant Chicken Warning

There's a worrying story on Sky News this morning about the spread of bird flu. Even more alarming is the size of the chicken in their photograph!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Up in Smoke

So, smoking will be banned in all pubs and clubs from summer next year. I can't help thinking that this ban is the wrong way round, and revolves around what you define as a "public" place. I consider a "public house" and (especially) a club as a privately owned place, to which the public may have access at the discretion of the owner. And going to such an establishment is a choice. Far better for such establishments to have separate smoking and non-smoking rooms so that both tastes can be catered for - if that is what the owner wishes.

Conversely, smoking will still be allowed in truly public places that you can't easily avoid, such as bus shelters and, yes, the pavement. This is an area where you don't have choice and these are genuinely "public" places. Just because the areas are "outside" doesn't mean that the exposure to others' smoke isn't unpleasant at times.

And such a move has unintended consequences. Abolishing the distinction between smoking and non-smoking areas on trains, for example, has increased the likelihood that a non-smoking passenger finds himself or herself sitting next to a smelly wino or builder with an overpowering stench of stale smoke.

OK, so you are less likely to die from a smoking-related disease, but, even if you currently avoid pubs and clubs, you are more likely to encounter smokers in the street. So hardly an improvement in quality of life in that situation.

But one good thing...the ban will make most of the scenes in Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps look outdated and redundant.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Gordon Loses It

So, the Liberal Democrats have won the Dunfermline by-election, thereby reducing Labour's parliamentary majority to 64. This is rather humiliating for the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who lives in the constituency and played a major role in the Labour campaign. Hee hee.

Maybe Hilary Benn has a chance to be the next Labour leader after all?

Meanwhile, the Conservative candidate Carrie Ruxton received a decline in her party's share of the vote. She must be used to this. She is the same Carrie Ruxton who received a negative swing of 7.1% when she failed to win the Liberal Democrat seat of Northavon at the 2001 General Election.

However, the lessons for the victorious Liberal Democrats are clear: the voters seem to love their sleazy shenanigans of recent weeks. So come on Ming & co - more scandals please!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Try Something New Today

In my time, I've been to many supermarkets and all too frequently the checkout operative has been grumpy and unfriendly. Over the last couple of years, however, I've noticed that some (notably in Sainsbury's - or J Sainsbury plc as I still like to say) have greeted me with a smiley "Hello", doubtless on instruction from the store management. This is progress, and helps to make the shopping experience altogether more pleasant.

But, judging by recent experience, things may be going too far. On two occasions in the past fortnight, the checkout staff at a local branch of Sainsbury's have tried to indulge in personal conversation throughout the time that I'm packing my bags. "Had a good day? What are you doing tonight? What do you think of the football? What do you do?" And they go on in this fashion, but I'm trying to concentrate on packing up my crumpets and swiss rolls, and the store is too noisy for me to comprehend what the operator is saying in his or her common accent.

I'm sure that they are trying to be friendly, albeit on instruction from their managers. But this isn't like having your hair cut! I just want to pay for my goods, not disclose aspects of my life to a store operative! This is not progress in my view, but an unwanted invasion of my privacy. And basically I'm just far too stuck up to want to think about how to carry on a pointless conversation with an oik.

I'm tempted to go to Tesco more often, but I'm still haunted by the murder of a customer at my local store by some friends of the checkout operator there.

Maybe Waitrose is the answer, but I'm not sure I'm sufficiently upmarket to go there.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Scrap the Synod!

I have long argued that the General Synod of the Church of England should be abolished. All it seems to do is create division and act with busybodying self-justification.

An example is its recent resolution calling for disinvestment from companies whose products are used by the Israeli Government in the occupied territories. I'm no particular fan of Israel, but at the same time I can never really understand why so many people seem to hate the Jews more than many other groups of people. And even if the Synod's motives are admirable, I don't know what it would expect to achieve by such a policy.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey criticises this decision in today's Times newspaper. He advocates a more balanced approach that would make the General Synod "begin to look credible". Is he coming round to my point of view?

Anthony King was young once

Further to my last post, this is how the Radio Times used to do it. Specifically, it is the billing for BBC Radio's coverage of the 1966 General Election. I don't know what the Light Programme was playing, as it was over a decade before the Village People fetched up, I mean arrived on the scene.

Other listings magazines are available

Until 1991, the only way to find out in advance what was going to be on BBC television and radio was to buy the Radio Times. Of course, the magazine is still going, and it is better than the other listings magazines, which always put EastEnders or Coronation Street on the cover every week.

But it is sad that the language in the Radio Times listings has deteriorated. Recently, the billing for Question Time described "David Dimbleby and his panel of worthies". In the new issue, the listing for Top Gear Winter Olympics states that "the team fetch up in Norway". Who ever uses the term "fetch up"? It sounds like a vomiting action. Or maybe a deviant sexual practice. In any case, shouldn't it be "fetches up" if it is to be grammatical?

At this rate, soon the words will be in textspeak.

Not 'Arf!

I see that the rules for chart eligibility for singles are about to change. In future, download singles will additionally qualify for the week before physical CDs are available in the shops. This should increase the likelihood of singles climbing within the chart, which has been the exception rather than the rule in recent years.

One such exception is the current Number One by the late Notorious BIG, which climbed to the top spot from number two. Last week, I note that it sold fewer physical copies (just over 14,000) than any other number one since records began in 1969. In fact, the number two song by Chris Brown sold considerably more CDs, but was not so popular on download. Even so, there is a good chance that the charts could become more exciting with this rule change. It's just a pity that hardly anyone will notice, as the Radio 1 chart show format is hopelessly diluted with showbiz features and inane drivel. If the BBC is going to cut staff to make savings, it should start by scrapping all the superfluous employees on that programme, and just concentrate on the countdown!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Not Quite Dr Johnson

Good to see that International Development Secretary Hilary Benn has been voted the "Politicians' Politician" at the Channel 4 Political Awards. Mr Benn is probably the most likeable member of the Cabinet; he always appears reasonable and makes his points with courtesy and charm.

But can you remember anything that he has actually ever said? Well, who'd have thought it? I have discovered that there is a website with Hilary's most memorable quotes! My favourite is "We have very little time to help left".

Egg on her Face

Poor old Ruth Kelly has been attacked by mad protesters this morning. If the DfES had not specifically denied last week that she was pregnant, she might have been spared on compassionate/health grounds.

Now, Mikey obviously does not condone throwing eggs. Ruth Kelly has claimed that "this is just one of those things that comes with being a politician." Er...no, Ruth. I don't recall that great politician Winston Churchill ever being pelted with eggs. Maybe, Ruth, it could just be one of those things that comes with being CRAP?

Friday, February 03, 2006

This is Hardcore

British Newspapers today have defended their reasons for not printing the Danish cartoons that have caused a stir among some Muslims (even though the target of the "humour" is clearly the inadequate losers who blow themselves - and innocent bystanders - up, not Muslims as a whole). But before they get too high on their metaphorical horses, let us not forget that The Times printed the same joke (albeit in an article, not a drawing) six months ago in a piece by Julie Burchill.

Meanwhile, this is rather amusing (hat-tip to Guido), especially if you like rave music (and who doesn't?)....put your hands in the air! And wave them like you just don't care, etc...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

No More Black Type

So, Smash Hits magazine is to close. I bought ver Hits regularly in the early to mid 1980s, back when it covered the whole spectrum of chart music, from indie to dance to pop. And it established its own "writing" "style", which has partly influenced me ever since. Of course, it went steadily downhill when it concentrated increasingly on celebrities and boybands, alienating the male readers and those with an age in double figures. And it never recovered from having two disastrous editors, in Kate Thornton and Emma Jones.

Sir Clifford of Richard will no doubt be sad.