Sunday, April 30, 2006

Only four weeks to wait ‘til the real contest

As I was on my way to canvass the good people of Matson this morning, I went almost close enough to Cooper’s Hill to see how ready the Cheese Rolling course might be for this year’s contest. There is, it seems, still time to enter. So there’s a solution for your ‘whatever shall I do on late spring UK bank holiday Monday’ dilemma.

I said it was a quiet news day......

About Zero News

To judge from the nine o'clock news on Radio Four this morning, nothing much has happened in the world apart from JK Galbraith dying at the age of 97 and some Briton turning out not to be missing in Australia.

On days like today why don't they cancel news programmes and replace television's News 24 and Sky News with the old potter's wheel? Or, really radical, they could give us some foreign news - but we wouldn't like that now would we?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Cameron and the chauffeur-driven stuff

Our art teacher sometimes complained that a colour was a bit 'bluey-green'. He might have enjoyed this little piece from the Times Online about how blue boy Dave Cameron mightn’t be quite as environmentally sound as he’d have us believe.

“last night the Conservative leader’s carbon-friendly cycling was exposed as nothing more than, well, the photographers captured him confidently pedalling away, a sleek limousine pulled up...... to collect a package...... One 9km car journey and 1.7kg of carbon emissions later, and Mr Cameron was reunited with his documents and clothes for the office.”

“Yesterday Mr Cameron was again out demonstrating his desire to stamp out carbon emissions by extolling the virtues of public transport in Bury. He had arrived by helicopter.”

It’s based on this story from the Daily Mirror under the splendid headline: “Exclusive: Con Yer Bike Cameron” it starts: “David Cameron flaunts his green credentials by cycling to work - but there's a flunky following behind in a gas-guzzling motor carrying his shoes and briefcase.”

As Mr C sometimes says (not entirely convincingly) whilst being savaged by Mr Blair at PMQs: “I love it!”.

Well Said Polly

Polly Toynbee writing in the Guardian about Labour’s likely drubbing in next week’s local elections, in particular at Hammersmith and Fulham, ends: “It's the same for Labour across the land where poor children, old people, those on housing estates, most schools, hospitals and public places have seen galloping improvements, yet the legend of the government fails to reflect it. So to all former Labour voters emailing to swear blind they'll never vote for Blair or Labour or Clarke in the local elections, to all who swear they don't care if Tories win so long as they can punch the PM on the nose next week, just ask yourselves who else you would be punching too.”

And she hits the spot earlier in the piece with: “Overexcited Nick Robinson Black Wednesday talk is out of line. While the economy grows faster than most and public spending still flows.....” Do my regular readers perhaps think I’ve become a little obsessed with the excitable Mr Robinson?

Where do you come from my lovelies?

It's quite interesting* to see how people stumble upon this blog. Many come by following links from comments I've left elsewhere, thru links on other bloogers' sites or thru my posts appearing on Bloggers4Labour. During my hiatus the level of visitors fell but rarely below about ten a day. Many of these came as a result of searches, especially on Google.

My most popular posts found thus are the one in which I mentioned living to be 1,000 years old and another where I discussed Howard Jacobson's article about Richard Dawkin's TV programmes about religion. But at last my blog has made it to number one result on a search. How very exciting*.

* As a character in The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy put it (more or less) - this is clearly a different use of the word, one I'm not familiar with.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It's just as well that I'm not paranoid.....

..... else I might think that Sinister Forces were trying to Stop My Return to the Blogsphere. On Monday the usually splendid (for the price) Blogspot databases wouldn't let me post anything and then yesterday my phone went dead and with it my internet connection.

Howya 'sposed to live without t'internet?

Now I'm not a suspicious sort of cove; I generally subscribe to the 'c*ck-up' rather than the 'conspiracy' theory of life. But there was a bloke up the telegraph pole over the road from us. And that's where our telephone cable goes.

He said it wasn't him and he even checked our connections and waggled the wire. But still silence. I couldn't see if he was wearing a LibDem or a Tory rosette but it could just be a plot to thwart my campaign to win Benhall and the Reddings.....

So it's round to my friend John's house or joining the riffraff at the Library or my evening class college if I need to check my mail, update this blog or leave pithy comments on others. So guess how many updates there'll be.....

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Happy Anzac Day

Anzac Day "marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps." Today is also a public holiday in Italy; the "Festa della Resistenza (Liberation Day) [which] marks the liberation of Italy by the Allies from German occupation in 1945" and someone-special's birthday.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Wise words about the modern media

Guess who said (almost) this today about the difficulties of getting good (or even just non-bad) news published or broadcast by our 21st century media:

“If all that [people] are hearing is bad stories then their perception is likely to be bad.......The way public debate is conducted now, it’s just the way it is – there is never any sense of balance. There is no problem that isn’t a crisis and no difficulty that isn’t a catastrophe - and if it’s not a crisis or a catastrophe it doesn’t exist....”

How very true don’t you think Motty? Oh yes indeed, very much so......

Answers (on postcards only please) to the usual address. No correspondence will be entered into, no prizes will be awarded, ‘for amusement only’. Remember that the value of stuff can go down as well as up. (or you could just leave a comment)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

French Politics (1)

During my two recent holidays in France (which good fortune partly explains my blog's hiatus) I learnt a bit more about the French way of politics. If you’re good I may pass on some of my new wisdom to you over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile I’m indebted to Aunty Marianne at Tomato And Basil Sandwiches for this link which helps to explain the difficulties the French left are having in fielding a candidate for next year’s presidential elections........

Goin back to Euston, Euston, Euston

The new Euston manifesto is attracting much attention in blogs and even some in the press. Will Hutton writes about it today in the Observer. Neatly summing up the problem all lefties must confront he starts marvellously: "To be on the left is to be both temperamentally inclined to dissent and to be passionate about your own utopia, which can never be achieved......Relative peace comes when the right is in power and the left temporarily sinks its survive in office, the left leader must keep utopian factionalism at bay and that means making your followers understand hard realities and tough trade-offs and selling them the ones you make yourself.".

He seems more impressed with the manifesto than Martin Kettle did yesterday in the Guardian: "It isn't difficult to pick holes, including large ones, in the Euston group's work. For something that apparently aims at creating "a fresh political alignment", theirs is a surprisingly loosely drafted document.". Ouch!

Someone damningly wrote that it seemed like a re-birth of the SDP that curious party which seemed such a good idea at the time (when Labour was busy making itself unelectable). It went on to become half of the ill-conceived LibDem party (many of the problems now facing the yellow party stem from this marriage of two ideologically incompatible parties).

Thing is, I'm rather attracted to established political parties. For all their many faults they're admirable places for people interested in the practicalities of politics rather than just the theory.

I asked the splendid PooterGeek (he's one of the authors I think) via his site why Euston rather than a nicer London railway station. He replied that it was "because it was where Norm was adopted by his host family when he arrived in Britain from (what was then) Rhodesia. He was found wandering around the platform with a luggage label tied to his coat. The label said: "Please look after this Marxist. Thank you."" but I think he may have been fibbing and teasing me for saying what a much finer place Paddington is (marmalade sandwiches, bear, Peru geddit?).

The best London terminus is Marylebone. It scores many points for its name alone. But I couldn't mention it on Mr Counnsell's comment box because I'm biased having worked for four years in an office above what was then the ticket office but which is now part of a shop. Most of the world's a shop nowadays, have you been thru an airport recently?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Avance BO!

I happened to be in Biarritz on the day of their quarter final Heineken Cup rugby* match against Sale. Being five middle-aged Britishmen** we were, of course, highly amused by the supporters' signs which read 'Avance BO!' - their team's full name is 'Biarritz Olympique', I'll assume you know, or will be able to guess, what the French word 'avance' means.

Today they play Bath in a semi-final. Bath is one of Gloucester's two great rugby rivals so, when I go there this afternoon, perhaps I'll carry an 'Avance BO!' banner.....

* or rugger if you're posh
**three English, two Scots

Have you heard the news?

No? During my hiatus there's hardly been any of note. So the news media have had to puff up trivia as though it were vital to our very survival. Nick Robinson's ongoing obsession with Tony Blair in general and his relationship with Gordon Brown in particular is symptomatic. It's rather pathetic that the BBC's chief political correspondent, who enjoys the privilege of asking the first question at news conferences, can come up with nothing more interesting than 'when are you going' to direct at our Prime Minister. His predecessor, Andrew Marr, was an intellectual heavyweight equally at home on Radio Four's Start the Week programme as he was on BBC4 TV's regrettably short-lived Talk Show or in the Central Lobby of the Palace of Westminster. No one could accuse Mr Robinson of being an intellectual.

The price we pay for an efficient government is a bored political class and voter apathy. If we want to increase election turnout perhaps we need less stability! My daughter's economics teacher complains that, now that Britain’s economy is under control, his graphs, which used to yo-yo dramatically in the good old days of boom and bust, are now more or less straight lines and he has less to talk about.

No wonder celebrity gossip magazines sell vastly more copies than do political ones. Perhaps that explains Nick Robinson's approach; maybe he's after a job at 'Heat'.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Only one day to go......

.... until Easter Saturday. Enjoy Easter Friday.