Sunday, 30 November 2014

Review of the Week

David Cameron had a busy week. In addition to receiving the Smith Commission report, which is part of the process to appease the Scots, he at least tried to appease the English along the way by promising English Votes for English Laws. In return for this  Scots will apparently get increased control over a range of issues, most particularly some taxes. But they will also continue to receive more money per head than the rest of the country and the right to whinge. All this, by the way, in the week when it became clear that the oil price is going to continue heading south thus entirely destroying what little credibility Scottish independence ever had. So Scotland voted for the status quo and yet gets an even better deal. Maybe England should demand an independence referendum.

And then Dave tried to sort out the whole problem of Europe, immigration and whether or not Britain is going to stay in. It seemed to go pretty well. It's a difficult line to tread because people like me demand he stands up to Europe, Europe tells him to stop being un-European, Labour tell him he shouldn't endanger us all by consulting the British people and the Lib Dems tell him we should wave the white flag, bend over and give Europe everything it wants because its so marvellous.

For some it always felt like an inevitability. Yet there was still shock. As the Grand Jury verdict that a policeman who shot dead an unarmed black teenager would face no charges there was at first silence from the crowd gathered outside the police headquarters in Ferguson, Missouri. Then the anger erupted, first in Ferguson and then around the country. In Ferguson it quickly turned to violence despite the calls for calm from the police, the president and even the victim's family. By Tuesday there were demonstrators taking over Times Square in New York. Racial tension is always just bubbling under the surface in much of America. This week it erupted once again for all to see as the black community suffered what they saw as another egregious injustice at the hands of a system forever slanted away from them.

Michael Brown was an 18 year old who, the police claimed, was shot because he had been reaching for a police officer's gun. Other witnesses claimed that he had had his hands in the air and was surrendering. For four days after the shooting and the initial outpouring of anger, St Louis County Police refused to name the officer who had shot Brown claiming that this was for his safety. The rioting and violence continued until finally the police department named the officer as 28 year old Darren Wilson. After five days the state governor called a state of emergency enabling him to call a curfew and eventually call in the National Guard. But still the violence continued. Only after 10 days and the intervention of the Attorney General to start the legal process that culminated this week did the violence finally come to an end.

Now the Grand Jury has decided that Darren Wilson will not be indicted for the murder. In seeming readiness for this verdict, and no doubt sparking not unreasonable conspiracy theories, the Governor, Jay Nixon, called another state of emergency prior to the announcement this week. To be fair to the Grand Jury, their decision was not an unreasonable one given what they were given to work with. But it was Bob McCulloch, the St Louis County prosecutor, who gamed the system and ensured that the Grand Jury would be able to reach only one verdict. Nobody is saying that Wilson committed an act of premeditated murder, although his claims that his conscience is clear have not gone down well, but surely he committed an act that ought to have been put through due process? American police have shot dead a further 14 teenagers since Michael Brown was killed. America is in tumult again.

Just before this review was published, Darren Wilson announced his resignation 'with immediate effect' from his job as a police officer.

MI5 was just hours away from putting one of the murderers of Lee Rigby under surveillance an inquiry reported this week, but Home Office bureaucracy held up the surveillance. The inquiry, headed by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, found that though there were mistakes and oversights, the murder of Lee Rigby probably could not have been prevented, although it is impossible to know for certain. The security services can only watch a certain number of potential terrorists and Michael Adebowale, though known the SIS and MI5, was not deemed to be a high enough risk to warrant this level of surveillance and intrusion, although this assessment was in the process of changing. Sadly it did not change quickly enough to save Lee Rigby's life, although the nature, suddenness and astonishing brutality of that murder would have made it very difficult to prevent.

The government tried to push some of the blame on to Facebook and other social media sites. Facebook was the site on which Adebowale was said to have first discussed murdering a soldier. Politicians rounded on these companies and said that they ought to take responsibility and not just take down posts that make such references but report them too. But this sounded like a convenient scapegoat. If it is hard for the authorities to distinguish between mere talk and the more dangerous then how much more difficult would it be for social media sites and for them to design software to spot it?

It is, as you may well be aware, less than a month until Christmas. Generally the preparations for this involve making various tasty treats, sending letters to fictitious fat bearded men and radio stations playing certain songs over and over again for a month until we are all so sick of them we don't want to hear them again for another 11 months. Now, it seems, we have a new tradition to enrich the festive season - the annual event known as Black Friday in which large numbers of people queue outside stores from the early hours and then, upon the doors being opened, wrestle one another for the right to purchase alleged bargains which may or may not have been drastically reduced by our not at all cunning and devious retailing sector. I'm all for it. It made for a very entertaining piece of television. It could only be improved by adding some mud into the mix and perhaps some It's a Knockout type obstacles for them to get past before being allowed to purchase flat screen televisions from China. I personally feel a lot more festive after this inspiring event which really brought out the true spirit of Christmas.

The Law Society, the organisation which regulates solicitors in England and Wales, this week withdrew guidelines for solicitors to draw up wills in accordance with Sharia Law. The guidance, which was issued earlier this year, was met with consternation and anger. A society authorised to oversee the law of the land was finding a way to allow a section of society to live by different laws - laws which discriminate against women, children who are born out of wedlock and those who believe in a different or no god. The Law Society, to its credit, recognised that it had made a mistake and withdrew the guidelines which would have given force to some of the more backward and ignorant tenets of this already facile religion. Before I get angry comments or threats to cut off my head, please note that I regard all religion as facile. It's just that Islam and some of its more zealous believers are more idiotic than most. I don't know if that makes it better and don't care.

Glory be and hallelujah, the French have discovered some principles and decided that it might not be a terribly good idea at present to deliver a couple of state of the art helicopter carriers to a proto-megalomaniac bent on reasserting his country's power over Europe and the world. Russia will not now be getting their new warships built by the French for the time being, or at least as long as Russia continues to threaten and otherwise intimidate Ukraine. Perhaps the French felt emboldened to do this despite the potential financial penalties thanks to that EU rebate paid for by Britain. Or maybe they realised that handing over two new ships to Putin would have been like handing over a couple of pocket battleships to Hitler just after he took over parts of Czechoslovakia. Russia, typically, threatened serious consequences for this act of French defiance.

And in other Russian related news this week, they were in Vienna trying to persuade OPEC to cut production of oil so that prices will go back up thus saving them from bankruptcy. It did not go well. The self serving cartel members have decided they would rather hang on to market share and keep the dollars flowing in even if they are getting less for their product. In other words a bit of good old fashioned capitalist competition is working and the greedy bastards are being exposed as greedy bastards to the benefit of the rest of the world which gets to buy their oil at much reduced prices. Maybe they also want to teach the Russians a lesson: how dare they buy up so much of London. That's what Arabs are supposed to do.

Andrew Mitchell, a High Court judge decided this week, is nearly as much of a snob as Emily Thornberry. Okay, I paraphrase a little. You may recall GateGate, the story which just kept on giving in which a recently appointed government Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell, was accused of calling the police officer who let him in and out of Downing Street plebs. Mitchell vehemently denied this, although he did admit calling them motherfuckers. Okay, I paraphrased there too, but he did use the F word in front of these terribly sensitive Metropolitan Police officers. But in a libel case he inadvisedly brought against the Sun Newspaper, the judge found that he did indeed use both the F word and the P word and thus he was left with a massive costs bill to The Sun and a political career in ruins. There will be few tears shed for Mitchell who is said to be a touch intemperate and arrogant with people, even though he had Bob Geldof as a character witness. Perhaps Bob will issue a charity single to help him pay his legal bills.

It seems that the Pope may be a Euro sceptic. On Tuesday he gave a speech to the European parliament in which he berated Europe and its various institutions for its bureaucratic technicalities. He said that Europe had gone from being a place of philosophy and great ideas - much of which the Catholic Church opposed - and is now 'downright harmful' to the peoples of Europe. Of course this being a religious speech it was immediately widely interpreted in a number of different ways according to individual preference. This after all is how religions get started. In a few centuries time this will be a story of how St Francis went into the temple of the legislators, burnt down the building and then they surcharged the evil English protestants whose fault it all was.

Is the Fat Leader of North Korea a bit schizophrenic would we say? Okay, silly question. This was one of those weeks, after trying to play nice for a while with his neighbours and the USA by releasing some prisoners, when he went back to blood curdling (well, they would be if we took them seriously) threats. Why? Well it was only last week that the United Nations issued a resolution which said that the leaders of the North Korean regime should be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. This did not go down well with the Fat Leader and his nearly as well fed cronies. They called Americans cannibals, threatened to test another nuclear bomb and threatened their southern neighbours with bombing the presidential palace if push ever comes to shove. I opined recently on my Video Diary that North Korea and the Fat Leader are like real life Bond villains - a bit far fetched, not very rational but strangely entertaining. This latest message to teach children more lies about how nasty Americans are and threaten their taller Korean compatriots is typical. They are also, if viewed rationally, threatening that if we don't stop being so beastly to them by passing resolutions in faraway New York, that they will blow themselves up with a nuclear bomb. That will show us eh? Come on fattie, get yourself a white cat. And do the laugh, go on.

We also learnt this week that, such is the food shortage in North Korea owing to poor policies, spending so much on the army and the Fat Leader's expanding waistline, that its fishermen have been heading into Japanese waters to steal their squid.

Oh and by the way the People's Republic this week decided, well it wasn't really consulted but almost certainly would have decided if asked, to install The Fat Leader's sister Kim Jo Yong as another one of its many leaders this week. What a fine and talented family they really are. She is at least slim compared to her corpulent, cheese eating brother. Maybe, if it all goes wrong, and if they escape the clutches of the international criminal court, they could form a comedy duo.

While we're talking about evil, rapacious, megalomaniac dictators we should also mention that Robert Mugabe, eternal President of Zimbabwe, has spent $38.4 million on his palaces and travel this year. This despite the fact he is banned from most of the places he would really like to visit. He is currently, in the style of North Korea, engaged in a campaign to install his wife as his successor so that she can continue on her shopping binges.

While the west negotiates with the mad mullahs of Tehran with regard to its designs on Islamic nuclear weapons (why does Allah, who is great apparently, need nukes?) we should remember that the Iranian authorities do not exactly have the full confidence or support of their people. Indeed their people think their rulers are as idiotic and bigoted as the rest of us. Take this young woman's brave and principled act of defiance over the law that women must not dance in public or be seen without a veil covering their hair. And so this woman, we don't know her name, chose to break both acts of facile imbecility dressed up as piety. Good for her. She may not be the greatest of dancers but what she lacks in terpsischorean finesse she more than makes up for in enthusiasm and bravery. Share it with all of your friends.

Apparently modern families are far too busy these days shopping and doing DIY to go to church. Aha! so that's why they were against Sunday trading. The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Reverend Adrian Dorber (how does one become a very reverend, rather than merely a reverend? Do they have to be extra pious or give more boring sermons?)said many people still want quiet reflection but can't find the time. Who knew that churches are for quiet reflection. I've always found that any reflection I do in churches is disturbed by sermonising and hymns. Perhaps they should simply shut up about that god chap and just leave us to quietly reflect that if there is a god he's moving in such mysterious ways he might as well not be a god.

This was the week the first of the trailers for the reboot of Star Wars was released. It was a Twitter phenomenon. The new film directed by J Abrams on a lot here in England when Harrison Ford isn't having doors fall on him is due for release this time next year. The trailers tell us that the force has reawakened, but then it needed to from the torpor and tedium of the unwatchable three prequel films.

I recently took an editorial decision for this weekly review that I would stop reporting the results of all football matches from now on and only mention football and other sports when something big or momentous happens. Thus the end of the Formula One season and a new British champion is worthy of note and celebration. (See below).

But occasionally sport throws up something that has to be included for other reasons. We are accustomed to seeing sportsmen and women being injured. It is part of what they do. When you push yourself to the limit, sometimes you exceed that limit and your body objects. That is the nature of sport. Sometimes you can prepare, do everything by the book and for some reason, a reason nobody can predict, at least not yet, your body or mind is not right and you produce a performance that is poor or below par. We all fall prey to such moments. Even bloggers and writers.

This week, for whatever reason, a bowler in a game of cricket in Australia bowled a perfectly normal bouncer. For whatever reason the batsman at the other end, Phillip Hughes, while attempting a pull shot, missed the ball and it struck him on the neck, compressing an artery which then split and caused bleeding in his brain. He collapsed a few seconds after the blow and never regained consciousness. It had been a freakish accident. The odds against such a thing would be almost impossible to calculate, that the ball evaded his protective helmet and managed to hit him on the neck. Medical assistance was called for immediately but it was probably already too late. He was rushed to hospital. On Thursday morning the cricket world was shocked and appalled to hear that he had passed away.

It goes without saying that this was a shocking, appalling and incredibly sad confluence of events. Phillip Hughes was a talented and well liked man who had played all around the world both with Australia and domestically both at home and here in England. The flag at Lords where he played for a time for Middlesex was lowered in respect. 'If you can meet with triumph and disaster,' wrote Kipling 'and treat those two impostors just the same.'Philip Hughes died doing something he loved doing because for one moment, one trifling moment, he miscalculated. But then we all walk that line every day. No blame attaches, though guilt will inevitably follow and foolish people will seek to apportion blame. Sometimes things just happen. It may not be a very profound philosophy, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Last weekend saw Lewis Hamilton become the first British Formula One driver to become a double world champion in 40 years. In what had started as a tense race in the stunning setting of Abu Dhabi's multi billion venue, Lewis immediately went into the lead against team-mate Nico Rosberg and never looked back. Indeed for much of the race, following Rosberg's mechanical problems, he didn't have to look behind him. He led from start to finish and progressed to the imperious finish he richly deserved. Rosberg too would have been a deserved champion, it was just that Hamilton's serene and mature displays this season, in addition to wins in 55% of all available races would have made any other result a travesty.

Lewis was immediately installed as a joint favourite, with Rory McIlroy, to be this year's BBC Sports' Personality of the Year. In addition he is now even more of a commercial hot property than previously. Could he and girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger become the new Posh and Becks? Do we actually need a new Posh and Becks and would we want one? I'll leave that question rhetorical.

PD James, the crime author, died this week at the ripe old age of 94. Phyllis James was a civil servant who kept putting off her longed for writing career as she continued to look after her ill husband, her children or pursue her career as a civil servant. She finally started writing at the age of 42. The rest is history. She went on to become one of our best loved crime writers using her knowledge of working at the Home Office to get her started.

She created the detective Adam Dalgliesh and followed him through his careers as he ascended his way through The Met to become a Commander. She was always across the latest developments in forensic science and reflected police angst at the findings of the Macpherson Inquiry, which found institutional racism in the Met. And yet her stories would not have looked out of place in an Agatha Christie collection but for the modern references. They were of a type, always concerned murders in enclosed places with a closed list of suspects and were always very middle class involving suspects who were arrogant, conceited and always extremely voluble and articulate. Her style was old fashioned, but hugely successful, perhaps as a consequence. Perhaps it was thanks to her love of the writing of Jane Austen. Towards the end of her career she wrote a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, although it did of course involve a murder mystery.

Best story of the week by far was that of Arthur the stray dog who begged for some food from a group of foreign extreme sports participants and liked the meat ball they gave him so much he followed them for their entire journey through 20 miles of challenging terrain across Ecuador and became such a reliable friend to the group they have decided to take him home with them to Sweden.

Those Swedish meatballs must be pretty good. But I defy anyone to read the story of Arthur and of his happy ending and not end up with a tear in their eye. Let's hope he has a lovely life after he gets out of quarantine. It's a lovely story just a month away from Christmas.

We've all seen newsreaders and TV presenters face and address the wrong camera from time to time. It can happen to the best of them in live television. But with the advent of newsreaders now having to stroll around the set for no very good reason, it was an accident waiting to happen as the BBC's Marine Croxall found out this week. Still she handled it like a trooper, simply talking over a shot of an empty chair and sidling into her seat. Fortunately the first story she had to talk about was a good news one - Lewis Hamilton winning his championship.

Rihanna knows a thing or two about being in pictures and, thanks to her various accounts with the likes of Instagram is known for her selfies too. This week, as a special treat, in addition to pictures of Ri Ri I bring you lessons from Ri Ri in taking pictures.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Cameron Moves on Europe

Before I get started on this post, let me make it absolutely clear, and by this I mean exactly what I say rather than when a politician uses that phrase and it means the opposite. I am a Euro sceptic. If I were prime minister, I would be having a referendum as soon as possible and I would be campaigning to get us out. I think the EU is a ridiculous, dirigiste monstrosity, a spendthrift debacle, a machine for making an entire continent uncompetitive and throwing millions out of work, an undemocratic stitch up by the kind of elitist politician who sneers at people's display of national flags but generally has the good sense not to tweet about it because that would endanger their pet project and the ever generous gravy train.

The real prime minister is today making a speech about Europe. The nature of these things is that he will take a middle line, perhaps veering slightly to one side or the other, and he will please nobody. It's called pragmatism. It's why people like me are never going to be prime minister.

It's often said that Dave should be telling Europe his red lines and setting out for them an agenda, much like Owen Paterson the other day, for Britain to get out of Europe unless we get what we want. What we want can be summed up as we want our country back. We want control of our own borders. We want no more pettifogging interference in things that are no concern of Europe. In short we want to be part of a free trade zone. That is what we thought we were joining. Even then we were sold a pup. Now we want what we were told we were getting rather than a succession of treaties foisted on us by lying politicians who always think they know best, but who usually don't. I present to you the Euro and the calamities it has caused even for those of us who had the good sense to stay out despite the angry denunciations of the same people who now tell us how disastrous it would be if we decided to leave the EU.

History suggests that with Europe the only way to get what we want is to act like the French and keep saying Non until they say Oui. Indeed we would demand they say Yes just to be on the safe side. It worked for Margaret Thatcher because she refused to take Non for an answer and wore them down with sheer bloody mindedness. Dave has to do the same. He is heading slowly and inexorably in that direction and today's speech is a welcome sign of this. He is setting out what he wants and demands and hinting at the possible outcome if he is refused. It's a softly softly approach which is entirely characteristic. It's why many Euro sceptics can become angry and frustrated. But slowly, inexorably, he is coming around to our opinion. He is probably doing so reluctantly, under pressure from his backbenchers but as long as he does we can have no complaints. It just means he is acting democratically. How very un-European.

I and many others doubt sincerely that the prime minister's renegotiation strategy will work. Now he is telling us, obliguely, that if it does he will campaign to get out. Now I think, as preparation for this, Britain should have simply refused to pay that surcharge a couple of weeks ago. But, to be fair, that might have damaged our renegotiation strategy before it all got started. People like me say: so what. But that's because we want to get out. That, I repeat, is why I am not the prime minister. Okay there are a lot of other reasons why I'm not prime minister, not least because I went to a bog standard comprehensive rather than Eton, but that's a whole different argument. To my mind it's high time we had a Brummie as prime minister.

Unlike the Ukippers of this world I am prepared to give David Cameron chance. I am worried by his angry words on that surcharge followed by abject surrender dressed up as victory. But I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. But Dave is slowly painting himself into a corner. There is going to come a time when he has no more room for manoeuvre and has to make plain where he is going on Europe. We are six months from a general election. The EU is about much more than immigration, but this is an issue people understand and are angry about. It explains much of the appeal of Ukip and the panic of Labour and the Tories. Labour, very reluctantly and not very convincingly are finally talking tough on benefits for immigrants but it is empty since they refuse to countenance giving the British people any say on Europe via a referendum. That gun to the head of Europe is the only way to get results but Labour won't even consider it. As so often they have seen a problem and think a few speeches and announcements will resolve it.

Today the prime minister is attempting to address the perfectly reasonable anger of the British people. It is not racist to think that our present open door policy to 500 million people is absurd and reckless. We cannot afford it and we haven't the room for ever increasing numbers. Furthermore it is grossly unfair to hand all the benefits of citizenship in this country to people who have only just arrived.

The parties are finally recognising all of this and talking tough on it. If it were up to me I would simply unilaterally change the rules and tell Europe that that is the way it is going to be. I see no need to negotiate with the best interests of this country. The prime minister is not quite of my way of thinking but he is moving and this speech is a step in the right direction. Time will tell if it will be enough. But if he wants me to be his chief negotiator he can always get in touch.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Death Throes of Fifa

I'm going to write later about the appalling mess that is, or will be, the devolution settlement the three panicked leaders of our 'main' parties have landed us with thanks to their panicked reaction to one opinion poll in the dying weeks of the referendum campaign.

But for now let's just note another organisation that has not learnt that when you are in a hole you should stop digging. Fifa continues to insist that the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 in Russia and Qatar respectively should go ahead. This despite the fact that their own investigation is mired in controversy and disagreement bordering on civil war. This despite the fact that the legal enforcement agencies of various states not mired in corruption like the U.S and UK are starting to take an interest in investigating the goings on in the bidding processes. This despite the fact that there are rumblings that the most powerful and wealthy of the constituents of the Fifa family, UEFA, where the vast majority of the top players are employed, might walk away from the morass of greed, venality and brazen corruption that is Fifa.

But the most astonishing part of this story is that Fifa keeps investigating or actively casting out so many of its officials who are responsible for this mess. Yet they continue to insist that the two consequences of all of this iniquity must go ahead: namely Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022. Presumably they do this because contracts have been signed and the consequences would be catastrophic - for Fifa. It's too late for that now.

How can those two conflicting positions possibly be tenable? The above, ahem, gentlemen, are, it has been announced, under investigation. They are, from the left, Michael D'Hooghe of Belgium, Worawi Makudi of Thailand and Angel Maria Villar Llona of Spain. They are under investigation for alleged breaches of its code of ethics. Their defence will probably be: well everyone else was at it.

This is the modus operandi of Fifa. It is why Sepp Blatter remains in place. It is why this unaccountable money making machine at all of our expenses resists and will continue to resist until resistance is futile. Blatter found that he could do what he wanted provided that he indulged those who take a more relaxed attitude to corruption and feathering your own nest. The rest is history. Fifa as it is presently constituted will eventually be history too. It really is time Uefa put it out of our misery and called a halt to this farce. It is easily within Uefa's power. Our own FA should be talking to like minded associations and making this happen. Walk away and watch this house of cards collapse.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

PMQs 26th November 2014 - The White Van Man Edition

This time last week, when Tory MPs cheered Wallace in the now traditional way as their best hope of staying in government, he adopted his little boy going nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah voice and said 'let's see if they are still cheering next Friday.' They were. Well, we all were. Wallace's good friend Emily Thornberry sent that tweet and all hell broke loose. Wallace, we were told, was more angry than he has ever been. Really? Ever? Surely his big brother must have made him more angry than that during their childhood for him to have been such a Freudian nightmare? Surely he was a little bit angry at himself when he forgot to mention the deficit or when he forgot he is Jewish and ate a bacon sandwich? Surely the daily antics of his shadow cabinet who regard him in much the same way as the rest of us and thus ignore hacks him off a little? Surely he must be a little peeved when he is compared to a cartoon character or cannot do anything about that strange and persistent grey patch in his hair. Surely he must be irritated when he, a great intellectual (apparently) is regarded as a national joke.

But no, Wallace was more angry than he has ever been because his friend and near neighbour in the champagne socialist republic of Islington South tweeted a picture of a white van with some flags of St George in the background. Why? Well she let the cat out of the bag didn't she. Labour doesn't much like people who work for a living in occupations that are non unionised. It's not keen on their fondness for football, beer, flat screen televisions, The Sun Newspaper and the appendages of a modern life. It regards them as vulgarians. It just doesn't like to say so. And to be fair Emily didn't say so. It's just that she didn't need to. But she might have got away with it had not Wallace panicked in classic Gordon Brown style after bigotgate and sacked her for an offence we all suspected but couldn't really prove. We didn't need to prove it.

And so, yes, Tories were still cheering Wallace. He had once again seized defeat from the jaws of victory and this time hadn't even need to chew on anything to make an arse of himself. If you wanted to see how Labour felt about all of this you only had to look at the rows of stony faces. Even Ed Balls was somehow struggling to look his usual smug self. He will probably accuse the Tories of bullying them. Nadhim Zahawi invoked 'his constituent' William Shakespeare (is Mr Zahawi a Dr Who fan - if you need an explanation of that joke please tweet me) and wondered why Labour is so opposed to people who love 'this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.' Dave observed that Labour sneer at people who work hard and love their country and noted how quiet the chamber was as Emily Thornberry was not in the House. She was, he supposed, out taking pictures of peoples' houses.

Shortly after this exchange Labour tried a comeback when Karl Turner tried to get down with the working man and said that whenever he sees a white van he looks to see if it was being driven by a member of his family. It was a nice try. Dave batted it back by telling him that if he supports people who want to get on in life he should cross the chamber and sit on the benches behind him.

Prior to this Wallace had, not surprisingly, decided to steer clear of the subject of by elections, white van men and Rochester and Strood. No doubt last week he had it pencilled in as something he might have alluded to in that same voice I mentioned earlier, which makes him sound so statesmanlike and has won him so much respect and popularity from a nation in search of leadership.

Indeed Wallace started on a subject on which there was a kind of quiet consensus. Winterbourne View was a care home caught out abusing its residents who had learning difficulties. The aim is to move such people into the community, although that, in the view of this blogger, is not necessarily the panacea that politicians seem to think that it is. Still, it sounds good. Wallace wondered if the government was going to set out a timetable for seeing this realised. Dave, probably stung by his failed promises on immigration, declined to do anything he could be sure of delivering.

Wallace then turned to his favourite subject: the NHS. This is because it is about the only subject Labour feels confident of talking about. Quite why is a mystery. Why do people trust Labour more on the NHS than the Tories when it has been in Tory care during its history as much time as it has been in Labour's. Even Mrs Thatcher dared not touch the NHS. Can you spot the difference between the parties on the NHS? Of course Labour and indeed the SNP make all kinds of spurious claims about Tory intentions of privatisation which is supposed to be something dreadful and awful. But why? Nobody thinks the state should be running supermarkets. Pharmacies are private and seem to do a decent job. Dentists too. Many of us go to private health practitioners for things like homeopathy (which is voodoo science) acupuncture (mostly voodoo science) and chiropractors (some evidence to suggest it might work but nobody really knows why). Should they all be nationalised?

Anyway, Wallace claims that there is another encroaching A&E crisis in the NHS. He said the same thing last year. It didn't happen. To ensure it doesn't happen the government will probably pump in extra money in the autumn statement. The NHS is under pressure, but then it always is. The PM pointed out that the NHS needs more money - all the time. It will only get that extra money if the economy is doing well. Which it is. Labour said it wouldn't. Why should anyone trust their predictions on the latest crisis they are predicting?

Wallace asserted that only a Labour government can save the NHS. dave said he was complaining about problems Labour created. Incidentally we are often told that it is impossible to get appointments with GPs in less than a week. My excellent local surgery has same day appointments available. The same has been true of all surgeries I have been registered with. So surely, as so often, it is about local services and proper management. Not necessarily anything to do with money. Don't expect to hear that in the run up to the general election. The NHS is fine. It's not perfect. Generally it does very well in trying circumstances under either Tories or Labour. Infact despite either of them. You won't hear that either.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Lefty Enemies of Free Speech

If you haven't seen it already, then do have a read of Brendan O Neill's piece in the Speccie about what he calls the Stepford Students. In particular have a listen to his debate with Harriet Brown, a feminist agitator and enemy of free speech which, she appears to suggest, is some kind of paternalistic plot to do down wimmin. This is someone who is currently studying at one of our top and most ancient universities. As someone who was interviewed at Christchurch but turned down and so had to head to the LSE instead (actually one of my better moves) I find her closed mindedness rather offensive. That, it seems, is the magic word these days. We must not offend. Heaven forfend that we offend. We must all be protected from offence. Bring back the Lord Chamberlain. Let's have another quango manned and womened by sanctimonious lefties who know what we want, or at least what we should want and will give it to us backed with the force of law. It could be chaired by someone like Emily Thornberry who could ban flags - unless of course they are ethnic flags.

O Neill, who was set to speak against the motion, tells how his debate at Christchurch with Tim Stanley on the issue of abortion was cancelled after an agitprop mob of self righteous and intolerant lefty feminists organised via Facebook. They were going to shout down the debate and so the officials at my would be alma mater backed down. The debate was abandoned. Apparently this mob of offendees were offended by the mere suggestion of such a debate and worried for their fellow students in the same way that a parent might not wish for their five year old to watch a Quentin Tarantino box set or episodes of Game of Thrones.

Oh and of course they claimed, quite vociferously and furiously (just listen to Harriet ranting on endlessly and interrupting her interlocutor ceaselessly - the favourite modus operandi of self righteous lefties) that such a debate was especially offensive since it involved two men talking about something that should not concern them since they lack uteruses. Yes, it seems men are not allowed an opinion, or at least to opine in public, on this most divisive and difficult of issues since we lack female parts. It's the check your privilege argument raising its ugly and facile head once again. It's beyond parody, or ought to be. I expect Harriet would like to ban parody in case it offends her or parodies things that shouldn't be discussed.

Another argument she deployed, if it can justifiably be given such an honorific, was that she was perfectly justified in closing down an argument and preventing it from being discussed because it is one of those issues which are settled and beyond debate. This is another tactic the Left deploy at regular intervals. Not only do they wish to prevent discussion of various issues, they claim, without supporting evidence, that the matter is settled and thus beyond discussion. It's like the earth orbiting the sun, evolution, the laws of thermodynamics, Newtonian physics - all settled science, except of course science is never settled - Newtonian physics after all was modified centuries later by Einstein and Einstein by Bohr. Oh and they try to do it constantly on the issue of global warming, a sure sign that they don't actually have the arguments to support their assertions. Thus they try to protect their assertions by making them sacrosanct.

For the record I am pro choice. I am absolutely of the opinion that a woman must decide and, though it would be polite and morally correct to involve the father, it is ultimately her choice and hers alone. The law has decided that there is a cut off point when the rights of the new human being growing within her become protected. There are arguments at which point this should take place and that is surely right and proper.

But we all have a stake in this. It is a moral issue with medical science having an input. And it is a human issue in which we all have a stake, at least potentially. I believe fervently that women have the right to make that choice and that they should be supported in doing so because nobody would ever argue that it is an easy choice to make. But as a society we have to balance the rights of different people, fathers, mothers and the unborn infant. That is what civilised societies do. They do so through debate. We all have a stake in this debate and all have an equal right to talk about it and state our honestly held opinions. How dare the self righteous feminists, based on an entirely imaginary notion of male domination, try to silence that debate and tell anyone, any human being on this planet, that they have no right to discuss a matter. I do not have female genitalia but I am disgusted that FGM takes places in certain backward parts of the world and indeed in our own country. I am not a woman but I am outraged that women are being forced to get married or having their basic human rights denied based on their gender. This would normally make me a feminist, but you have to wonder. What does a feminist look like? And, since I have a penis, am I even allowed to be one?

Monday, 24 November 2014

Goodbye Gordon, We Won't Miss You and You'll Probably be Back

It seems that Gordon Brown is about to announce that he is standing down as an MP at the last election, although his constituents in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath could be forgiven for thinking that he stood down at the same time as he stood down as PM in May 2010, so seldom as he put in an appearance at Westminster, so long has his sulk been.

Perhaps Brown saw the send off afforded to departing First Minister Alex Salmond last week, a toe curling piece of hypocritical indulgence most politicians engage in at one time or another, and decided he ought to have more of the same - after all they do still seem to like him in the country of his birth for some reason.

Brown, we are told, although typically he is doing his briefing sotto voce through others, wants to go out on a high. A high? What high would that be? Could it be that Gordon has believed the hype and decided that he did indeed ride to the rescue and save the Union. This is of course self deluding nonsense. Yes he made a good speech. Lots of people did, including the man who ought to be the next leader of Scottish Labour, Jim Murphy, but Brown appears to believe that this was all down to him. Scotland was heading for independence and Gordon emerged from his long period of purdah and existential angst, gurned angrily at his people and they saw sense.

But if Gordon genuinely believes that he has the power to turn elections around then why is he departing the scene now? Surely he ought to be clinging on to his seat at a time when Labour are under real threat in Scotland. Now they will have to find another candidate for this supposedly safe seat. They announced recently that any seats without candidates will now be selected centrally as time is running out before the election, meaning this seat will be handed to another ex political adviser, another machine politicians who is clueless about real people and real lives and knows nothing like politics. Someone like Wallace or indeed Gordon Brown, but without the experience and years of backstabbing behind them.

No the greater likelihood is that Brown is running away from an election yet again. Gordon doesn't like elections. He prefers it when he can fix things without the bother of consulting the electorate, any electorate. And, as Fraser Nelson points out here things are getting pretty hairy in Scotland for Labour under a leader generally disliked or regarded as risible and a Labour Party that is detached and Westminster centric. Brown after all sought a career in London using Scottish votes to impose his policies on the English whilst granting devolution to Scotland. He even jumped across to a more amenable constituency when the going got tough and he faced having to fight for his place in parliament. Now with the SNP resurgent he is getting out. No doubt he will graciously accept any offer of a peerage so that he can grandstand in parliament for the rest of his career, or until someone foolishly offer him some sinecure at the EU or some other international unelected post handed out to failed politicians.

When the announcement of his latest surrender comes there will be many who will write admiringly of this appalling man. Yet the fact is he was a disastrous prime minister - by far the worst of the post war prime ministers. And, contrary to the propaganda, he was an appalling chancellor too in addition to being a vainglorious, nasty, backstabbing politician who claims to have a moral compass and yet was all about the win, about vanquishing political enemies and who, despite the sulks and the temper tantrums and the coup that deposed an elected prime minister, had no idea what to do with prime ministerial power once he had it. He just wanted it for its own sake, like a child who sees a toy in a shop window and will not take no for an answer.

Many of the problems currently afflicting Labour and the country can be laid at Brown's door. There is the vast deficit and debt he left as his greatest legacy. There are the ruinously expensive PFI deals he used to shuffle his profligate spending off the books. far from saving the world during the economic crisis of 2007/8 he helped cause it and then made it worse. he vetoed the Barclays takeover of Lehman Brothers which could have stopped catastrophe before it happened. Then he brokered the idiotic deal that saw Lloyds TSB, a well run and profitable bank unsullied by the problems afflicting the rest of the industry, take over HBOS. Lloyds had been a conservatively run, profitable bank relied on by pension funds and investors for a stable and reliable dividend income. Brown ended that. The enlarged bank is still recovering. As usual socialists are very good at spending other people's money.

It was Brown who gave us the absurd tax credits system that is ruinously expensive to run, simply gives people back their money after having run it through several layers of Brown's beloved state, and which has contributed so much to our intractable problems with low paid work and what the present day Labour Party calls the cost of living crisis. Tax credits don't benefit the low paid, they benefit the employers of the low paid who don't have to pay decent wages. They have proven a magnet for the millions of east European migrants who have come to theses shores, the same migrants that Labour told us wouldn't come and prompted Brown famously to call someone a bigot for questioning him about them.

It was Brown who underfunded the armed services and used procurement as a means not of equipping our services well but as a way of getting jobs to Labour's rotten boroughs.

It was Brown who oversaw the vast expansion of the state, Labour's client state, who poured money into the NHS and welfare but saw the former institution killing people through neglect and having to have a programme of 'deep cleans' because basic hygiene was apparently beyond it. It was Brown who oversaw the expansion of the welfare state and Labour's real constituency of a benefit dependent underclass. The Emily Thornberry style despising of the proper working class who drive white vans and read non Labour supporting tabloids was propagated by the Brownite tendency. He has a social conscience but it is a patronising and clueless one.

But most of all it what he did to the British economy and public finances that should serve as his epitaph. This is a man who inherited an economy that was doing well with government finances looking healthy and sustainable. From 2002 onwards, according to the OBR, Brown, despite a booming economy, was running a persistent deficit - he was spending more than he was raising in taxes despite the fact that he had raised taxes stealthily from the moment he entered The Treasury. The government and the country was on a spending binge and Brown was at the core of it. The damage it did is still affecting us all and Labour and Brown are still in denial about it.

Finally it would be salutary to remind ourselves of the blinding hypocrisy of the man and his party. These are a few quotes from Brown prior to or immediately after the 1997 election. I think they sum him up nicely.

'The myth that the solution to every problem is increased spending has been comprehensively dispelled...The level of public spending is no longer the best measure of effectiveness of government action in the public interest.' Labour's manifesto 1997

'We had to curb defence spending to prevent the public finances spiralling out of control.' Gordon Brown to the Chilcot Inquiry.

'Compare the Guardian job ads with the Sunday Times's. There'll be 500,000 extra public sector jobs over the next five years, but not right now.' Gordon Brown to trade unionists, 1997.

'Under Labour Britain's rate of growth will increase...taxes will be as low as possible...savings and investment will be tape will be and productivity will prices will be stabilised.' Gordon Brown during the 1997 election campaign.

'I have nothing to hide. I never have had. In politics I believe you have to be cleaner than clean.' Gordon Brown, 1997

'Your pension is not safe with the Tories.' Gordon Brown, 1997

'I repeat, we have no public spending commitments on Labour's part that will lead to increases in taxes.' Gordon Brown, 1997

'What am I supposed to do with this? Write a thank you letter?' Gordon Brown, on taking power and being told that the economy was in good health.

'The long night of Tory rule is drawing to an end and a systematic pattern of arrogance.' Gordon Brown, 1997

'No one can condone the leak of sensitive budget matters the day before the budget.' Gordon Brown, 1996

'Lies. It's the Conservatives big lie technique. To state a lie, repeat it, spending millions on advertising and posters to promote it, hoping that the bigger the lie and the more often it is repeated, the people will start to believe it.' Gordon Brown, 1996

'The Conservatives will be powerless if we stick to generalised statements which cannot be quoted against us.' Gordon Brown, 1996

'The trick is to convince the public that taxes are not being imposed for their own sake, but to pay for worthwhile services. The deceit will not be punished if it is delicately concealed by assurances rather than expressions of vengeful spite.' Gordon Brown, 1997

'Labour will be a pro-business party. We understand better than the Conservatives what makes for prosperity in the modern world.' Gordon Brown, 1995

'I don't want government to intervene. I want to create an atmosphere where we create skills and pioneer research but leave much to society.' Gordon Brown, 1995

'We're going to create a more entrepreneurial culture. We're going to improve Britain's productivity, research and development.' Gordon Brown, 1995

'We've learned our lessons, we're not returning to old Labour. We're like the Democrats in America rather than European-style socialists.' Gordon Brown, 1995

'Under Labour, there will be no massaging of the figures and no car boot sales of national treasures'. Gordon Brown, 1995

'Middle and lower income Britain are paying very high taxes to pay essentially for economic failure. We would like to see the burden on middle and lower income Britain reduced.' Gordon Brown, 1994

We must judge whether the Tories are honest. Ever since 1979, the Conservatives have given tax cuts with one hand and taken more away with tax increases with the other. They have done enormous damage to people's faith in politicians through making promises for one particular year or period that they can't deliver.' Gordon Brown, 1994

'There will be no taxation without explanation. There will be no lies, no deceit, no irresponsible commitments.' Gordon Brown, 1994

'I want our government to be remembered as wise spenders, not as big spenders.' Gordon Brown, 1994

'The Tories lied about taxation; they're incapable in my view of telling the difference now between truth and falsehood; incapable and unable to tell the truth, or even recognise it.' Gordon Brown, 1993

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Lewis Hamilton: Formula One World Champion

Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton, Formula One World Champion for a second time after an imperious race in Abu Dhabi, which he led from start to finish. It's been a superb season, a season in which Lewis has matured into the driver we all hoped he would be. He is not yet the greatest British driver, but he is heading that way. There is no reason at all why he shouldn't add to this championship and the record 11 wins he has posted just this season. Had the ludicrous double points rule denied him this championship it would have been a travesty, fortunately justice has been done. As it is it has enabled him to win with 384 points making it look much easier than it was.

Review of the Week

As political earthquakes go this was more like a tremor. Sure Ukip has another MP now having had none at all this summer. But the result in Rochester and Strood means that Mark Reckless may well live up to his name. He may well find himself a Ukip MP for only six months. It was a result that could easily be overturned in the less febrile atmosphere of a general election when people are electing a government rather than protesting.

The Tories could take some solace in the figures. Reckless won but with a majority much lower than when he won as a Conservative where as his fellow traitor, Douglas Carswell, managed to increase his already impressive majority. Furthermore Labour were nowhere to be seen, getting only 17% of the vote in a constituency they held until 2010. The narrowness of Ukip's win meant that hopes were high that there would be no more defections. As for the Lib Dems - well, let's not speak ill of the dead.

Reckless was back in Parliament within hours of win to take part in a debate and no doubt rub his former party's leaders noses in it.

And Labour somehow contrived to make a day that should have been a disaster for the Tories into a story about how out of touch they are. It was bad enough that they were nowhere in a seat they held four years ago. But then a shadow cabinet member, Emily Thornberry, went to Rochester in a half arsed way and Tweeted about it in her characteristically smug and snide way. Oh look, she said, a house festooned in England flags. How vulgar! Okay, she didn't quite say that but it was what she meant. Labour reacted in a panic because they had been caught out saying what they really think about working class people. It was a truly beautiful moment only compounded when Wallace was asked what he thought when he saw a man in a white van. 'Respect,' said the Labour leader in a comment that managed to be odd and yet very revealing. What an interesting choice of word for a man who has never had a proper job and yet lives in a mansion in a leafy part of north London near to Ms Thornberry whose house is said to be worth £3 million. Certainly they have little contact with white vans. Does he respect white van men? Does he know they may well read The Sun? Respect? Talk about protesting too much.

Last weekend was the G20 summit. This is a pointless exercise and a fantastically expensive one in which the leaders of the top 20 economies in the world get together taking along a vast cavalcade of officials and bankers, exchange platitudes, make promises they cannot or will not keep and and then pose for one of those official photographs in which they look show that politics really is showbiz for ugly people. Seriously, some of them look like cardboard cutouts.

Politicians of course like these events. It makes them look important and enables them to pose and look important with other leaders. Everyone wants to pose with Barack. He should charge them for it and help cut his country's deficit.

At the end a communique was issued which made a lot of far fetched promises to boost growth and GDP. The only real achievement was to do with that strange little chap situated appropriately on the far right of the picture. Vlad the Botoxed was given a hard time by his fellow leaders thanks to his invasion of Ukraine. Most gave him steely looks. Others told him to get out. And so he did. Vlad left the party early, blaming fatigue and the long flight home. He had taken care to send some warships to Australia to make him look tough. He did not go out and wrestle a crocodile which seemed like an uncharacteristic omission. The world watched him leave and sniggered about it. But we did worry a little that he might invade somewhere in a fit of pique. What would have happened if the world had ganged up on Hitler in this way. But would he have wanted to go to a meeting with all of those inferior races anyway? Vlad probably didn't. I bet he suspected some of them were poofters too.

Once Barack Obama headed home he found himself in a snow storm and a political storm. One was just unseasonably bad weather, the other was very much of his making. Just a couple of weeks ago, after the midterms, the president promised to work with the Republican controlled Congress. This week he was using his executive powers to discomfit his opponents and win his party millions of Hispanic votes in a way that Republicans condemned as unconstitutional. There are said to be 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S, a situation that successive presidents have struggled with to little effect. Now Obama is effectively offering them an amnesty, and the offer of work permits and legality for those who have been in the country for five years. It is a pragmatic response to an intractable problem. It has also infuriated his political opponents, possibly because this is a very difficult measure to oppose. How do you oppose legalising the status of people who have been in the country since the age of 4 and are living a low paid version of the American dream. Republicans can complain about the legality of this all they like but such arcane disputes will have little resonance. Obama may have his legacy.

Meanwhile parts of the United States were hit with devastating snow storms, with Buffalo in northern New York State being hit by 8 feet of snow within a few hours. Such snow falls are by no means unprecedented in northern states of America, but having them in November is highly unusual with frigid arctic air spreading further south than usual and combining with autumnnal rain clouds. As if to confirm this the temperatures are set to return to normal meaning the rapid melting of all of that snow and the potential for floods.

At least 7 people have died in the snow storms this week or as a consequence of them with some suffering heart attacks was they shovelled snow. And, such was the extent of the snowfall, there were worries that roofs could collapse under the weight. Lake effect snow is a well known meteorological phenomenon in this part of the world, but these are storms which have set most unwelcome records.

The following picture of a polar bear cub has nothing whatever to do with that snowstorm. It's entirely gratuitous, but it is one of my favourite pictures of the week. You always have to remind yourselves with polar bears that they may look adorable and beautiful and cute, but they would rip your head off and eat you if you got close enough.

Hundreds of worshippers lined up to pray as usual at the Kehilat Bnei Torah Synagogue on Tuesday when two Palestinians armed with knives and a gun burst through the doors and began attacking indiscriminately anyone they could reach. Five people were killed in the mayhem and the age old impasse between Israelis and Palestinians at a new crisis point in its long, tortuous and bloody history. The attackers, Ghassam Abu Jamal and Uday Abu Jamal, cousins from East Jerusalem the older of whom was a father of three were later killed in a shoot out with police.

This was just the latest in a litany of violence and recrimination in Jerusalem in recent weeks but this was by far the bloodiest and most savage, all the more shocking since it was a part of this riven city that has been accustomed to such acts. World leaders were quick to issue condemnations and to call for calm but the world held its breath to see what would happen next.

A bird flu outbreak in Yorkshire affecting a turkey farm had beef and pork farmers dreaming of a bright Christmas. Six thousand ducks had to be destroyed to control the outbreak. Of course officials and ministers assured the public that there was no risk from eating poultry and perhaps it will be controlled well before Christmas, but public panics of the past and the tendency of the media to go into full hyperbole will have farmers worried.

There was a time when the Labour Party, doughty defenders of the working man even though their leadership have as much in common with the average manual worker as a professor of particle physics has with a turnip farmer, condemned anyone who was against immigration as a racist. Indeed one Labour prime minister once condemned a woman as bigoted for daring to ask about eastern European immigration, a not unreasonable question since Labour had waved the population of Birmingham into the country without so much as a by your leave. Now Labour wish it to be known, coincidentally just six months from a general election, that they intend to be tough on immigration and this has nothing to do with the fact that Wallace was humiliated by the daughter of immigrants on national TV this week.

The best part of this remarkable conversion to thinking the way 80% of the rest of the country thinks however is that Labour have had to think up new slogans to explain their remarkable turnaround. Labour does love a good slogan even if they usually end up as hostages to fortune. This is probably why they adopted one once used by the Tories under Michael Howard in 2005. This slogan was then condemned by Labour as racist. Howard also used to say 'Are you thinking what we are thinking?' during that campaign. Well in Labour's case no they aren't, but they probably will in 10 years time.

The Formula One season comes to an end today with the drivers' championship yet to be decided. In a way of course this illustrates that the rule change of giving double points for the last race in Abu Dhabi has worked. The suspense and intrigue is going right to the wire. And yet it does leave Formula One open to one of those pieces of outrageous gamesmanship or outright cheating to which it is notoriously prone. By rights Lewis Hamilton would by now be as good as champion. The double points rule leaves that open to question. A mistake, a mechanical failure, bad weather or of course bad faith could hand the championship to Nico Rosberg. It's not that he wouldn't be a worthy champion. It's just that the wins tally suggests that Hamilton would be a worthier champion. Had it not been for bad luck with his car and a little bit of Rosberg cheating earlier in the season the championship would now be his. This silly rule may create one of the greatest sporting injustices in history. How very Formula One.

But, by rights, it remains Lewis's to lose. He recently became our most successful ever driver, surpassing Nigel Mansell in race wins. Mansell only won one championship thanks to a catalogue of bad luck. Let's hope that today Lewis confounds the luck and get the second championship his performances this season so richly deserve. He is second on the grid today, so long as he finishes the race in that place of better he will be champion.

Some time ago this weekly review started featuring a weekly picture of Rihanna to satirise the fact that our newspapers feature the lovely Miss Fenty on a regular basis regardless of whether they have anything to write about her. If I am honest this has turned into a feature I enjoy including because Ri Ri has a tendency to wear skimpy outfits and she is gorgeous.

Now it seems that it is de rigeur, when featuring pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge, to refer to her baby bump. Quite why nobody really knows, but a reference to said bump is always made. Kate, we are told, found it hard to hide her bump. Quite why she would want to hide said bump goes unsaid. Indeed, since our press are peculiarly fascinated with it, she may feel she should show it as much as possible and indeed accentuate it, particularly as she owes her station in life to her fecundity and willingness to have two sprogs in quick succession and thus guarantee the succession. Once she's dropped this one she will never again have to have lenses pointed at her belly. They can go back to picturing her knickerless bum again. Frankly I preferred that, but in the meantime will bow to the mob and feature a Kate's bump picture of the week.

30 years ago Bob Geldof was so shocked and appalled by the biblical scenes of death, malnutrition, starving and suffering in Ethiopia he decided to get a few pals together to record a charity record to raise money to help people in that benighted country. Band Aid was born and it became the biggest selling record in history at that time. The following summer the world watched Live Aid. This year they are doing it all over again with the latest pop stars singing the same classic song, this time in aid of those suffering in the Ebola outbreak.

And what of the man whose astonishing and gut wrenching report sparked that outbreak of mass generosity and charity? Michael Buerk, the BBC journalist who made that film, is in Australia - in the latest series of ITV's festival of the inane and desperate, I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, the most dishonestly named TV programme in history. If you were a celebrity rather than a has been you would have no need to put yourself through this torment. Perhaps we should have a charity single for washed up newsreaders and ex pop stars. Have any of the original line up from 1984 ventured into the jungle? This blogger refuses to watch.

If you are a nervous flyer on no account watch the video above. It is a depiction of a day in the skies above Britain as put together by NATS, the organisation that sees over our skies and ensures it all goes smoothly, a task they generally perform superbly. It's rather beautiful when you think about it, a kind of ballet of the skies. Not quite like landing a spacecraft on a comet but right up there, if you'll excuse the pun.

I apologise for the somewhat lacklustre commentary on the video above. It was crying out for a few jokes. This is a reporter being hit on the back of the head whilst delivering a piece to camera live on air for crying out loud. What's not to like? Perhaps the reporter who did the commentary was feeling sympathy for a fellow hack. More likely she just isn't very good at her job which is why she was saddled with this piece of trivia. Frankly skateboarding is a bit old hat these days surely. But skateboarding and then whacking a television reporter on the back of the head for the merriment of the world? That should be made into an Olympic Sport. Incidentally no journalists were hurt during the filming of this incident.

This week's pictures of Rihanna see her with her fellow cast members for the new movie Home. Ri Ri of course is usually known for her model good looks and her singing voice. Home marks an interesting and brave departure, for Home is an animated feature in which Miss Fenty is a voice artist - a true test of acting talent if ever there was one. Here is seen with fellow cast members including Steve Martin and this blog's favourite sitcom actor, the brilliant Jim Parsons.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Labour Voters - This is What Your Party Really Thinks of You

Labour voters, this is what your party thinks of you. Emily Thornberry, the oh so superior Labour shadow minister, was visiting the town Of Rochester when she spotted this house with its display of flags. 'Remarkable!' she said sneeringly in a Tweet and, entirely deservedly, she had opprobrium poured on her. She has tried to excuse herself, but we all know exactly what she meant, because it is a very common attitude amongst Labour's elite. The working man is good for casting his vote and as someone to be pitied and patronised. But really! Just look at it! Euurrggh!

Ms Thornberry subsequently resigned, or was resigned according to who you believe. But that just proves the point doesn't it. There was no resistance, no angry denials. Labour at first didn't know what all the fuss was about, then she apologised, then she resigned or was sacked. She could easily have stuck it out, but Labour had been caught out. This is actually what they all think, although most have the good sense, taste and manners to keep what they think to themselves. And then Ms Thornberry let the cat out of the bag. That is the reason for their fury. The smug metropolitan elite were shown to be a bunch of smug, sneering snobs who nevertheless think they know what their voters want. Except of course they have repeatedly ignored what their voters want which is why they are now panicking and talking about it in a late bout of revisionism.

This is why Labour is out of touch. This is why Labour voters are decamping to Ukip. The party of the working man foists the likes of Emily Thornberry on constituencies. Then, once in a while, she has to leave the environs of Westminster or Islington and go out and see real people, the people her party relies upon to get elected (albeit probably not in Islington) and this is how she sneers at them. So you see its just not just Wallace who is out of touch. It's a symptom of his whole party and particularly those he surrounds himself with. It's no wonder they wanted Alan Johnson to lead them instead. He has an accent and everything. He's self educated. I know! And he had one of those, what do you call them, those job thingies before he became a politician. He probably even likes football instead of pretending to for photo ops. I bet he knows what to do with an England flag without looking sneery, sarcastic or patronising too.


And, typically, Emily Thornberry didn't actually mean any of her expressions of regret. There's a surprise. She has favourited several Tweets telling her it was all a lot of fuss over nothing. What a remarkable tool Twitter has become for exposing what disagreeable, hypocritical, two faced twats so many of our politicians are. Ms Thornberry will not be missed - her one contribution to politics is to expose how utterly out of touch the Hampstead set truly are. Go back to your mansion and prepare for many more years of opposition.