Regular readers will be aware that I’m not a great fan of politicians generally. However, there are the odd one or two who somehow manage, against all the odds, to stick to their principles and hold firm in the face of our deluded political system, and it is they who have my respect and (in some cases) even grudging admiration.
Michael Foot, whose death at the age of 96 was announced today, was one such who fell into that latter category. A left-wing politician of the old school, who – unlike today’s rabble – was an idealist and a principled man, Foot was one of those rare politicians who did genuinely manage to stick to those principles, right until the end of his long and eventful life.
Like a lot of Labour politicians and commentators of his generation, Foot came from a relatively privileged background. Born into a Liberal and non-conformist family at Plymouth in July 1913, politics were almost a part of his genetic make up; his father was twice elected MP for a Cornish constituency, his three brothers were all involved in Liberal politics, and Foot himself became a Socialist during his time studying at Oxford.
The importance of those Socialist beliefs were forcefully brought home to him after his graduation when he spent some time working as a shipping clerk in Liverpool; an experience which exposed him to the realities of contemporary poverty and the social inequalities that were part of many ordinary people’s everyday lives. It was here, in 1934, that he joined the Labour Party and determined he would stand for Parliament.
Oh dear. Some silly tabloid journalist had to go ask John Lydon what he thought of the Arctic Monkeys. That was never going to end well. Under the deeply original (not) headline “It’s the Arctic punkies”, Lydon is quoted thusly:
“Oh don’t be silly. That’s not a band. That’s a showbiz construct. A mockery. Alex Turner just turns on the computer and types in ‘punk’ and it goes ‘ping’. I see no gut-wrenching soul-searching going on there”
Hmmm. I know full well that Lydon is a classic contrarian, that his brand of punk has never been about principles, and that he’s probably entirely right about the Arctic Monkeys (full disclosure: I’d rather chew my own foot off than listen to any of their albums…) – but this from the man who sold what little soul he had left – after Malcolm McClaren had finished with it, obviously – to a butter company, of all things? Not very punk, really – however you choose to define that concept.
You can tell it’s almost full-blown election season again.
For months, the newspapers have been full of the usual pre-election political squabbling over policy matters (and, this time round, there’s the added bonus of accusations of Prime Ministerial bullying) and the trashing of what little is left of any given opposing Honourable Person’s reputation, all undertaken in the desperate hope of just edging past one’s opponents in the polls.
Unsurprisingly, the inevitable satire campaign has been up and running for quite a while too, giving those of us of a more politically cynical persuasion some well-deserved amusement, particularly at the expense of the Tories and the incompetence of their election propaganda goons.
But then, yesterday, when the postman arrived, I finally knew that the campaign was officially beginning in earnest: the first set of election-related political literature dropped onto my doormat with the morning post.
Here we go again, I thought, and immediately reached for my laptop…
For a change, it is the Tories who have been quickest off the mark, producing a shiny, brightly-coloured, determinedly upbeat fold-out leaflet and an attempt at a fiercely self-important local newsletter; both featuring multiple images of an equally shiny, brightly-coloured and determinedly upbeat-looking thirtysomething identikit Tory blonde who insists she is “working hard” and “fighting” for “a change for the better” in the local area. Or something.
Britain doesn’t have much in the way of a progressive mainstream media, and part of what little we do have is currently under threat. Russian businessman and current owner of the rather unpleasant London Evening Standard, Alexander Lebedev is currently in talks to buy out The Independent, which has been struggling financially for a while now.
And as if that wasn’t worrying enough, it seems that Lebedev plans to replace the Indy’s current editor Roger Alton (whose style, admittedly, hasn’t been particularly popular with many readers) with the controversial ex-editor of Radio 4’s Today programme, Rod Liddle.
If you’ve never encountered Liddle, count yourself lucky; he’s not the most pleasant of people – and he would be, in my view (and that of many others) just about the worst possible choice to edit the Indy, which is well-known for its progressive stance on many controversial issues.
Why? Well, there’s the racism for a start – and, despite the fact he seems to think he’s being clever and witty, this is racism of the most ignorant, lazy kind (as evidenced here and here). Either he really doesn’t get how offensive he’s being, or he’s attempting to be controversial for the sake of being controversial, which isn’t particularly clever, witty or grown-up either.
So, who have we got this time round then?
There’s the rather strange Stephen, the youngest of the Billion Baldwins; Jordan’s cage-fighting transvestite red-top magnet of a boyfriend Alex Reid (who looks as if he’s fought one too many cages in his time); Jordan’s ex and boyband warbler Dane Bowers (who apparently had a punch-up with Reid at Jordan’s New Year party – tabloid trashtastic, Channel 4!); Dynasty and Bad Girls legend Stephanie Beacham (god knows what she’s doing in there, she’s far too classy for this!); and worryingly thong-obsessed singer and actor Sisqo (please god this doesn’t mean The Thong Song is about to be re-released…).
Then there’s some strangely-named bloke called Basshunter who apparently had a hit single a couple of years ago; ex-Hollywood madam (and almost certainly recipient of some Pete Burns-esque ‘facial adjustments’, if her pics are anything to go by) Heidi Fleiss; glamour model and WAG Nicola T (who?); feisty British rapper Lady Sovereign (who once had a decent career ahead of her – what happened?); Katia Ivanova (famous for… er… dating Ron Wood from the Stones for about five minutes); and, last but not least, ex-football hard man, tough-guy actor and notorious nutcracker, Vinnie Jones.
Good grief. What can you say about that shower of celebrities (I use the latter term in its loosest possible sense, of course)? I mean, I know we’ve been stupified into compliance by too much Christmas food and bad telly (and it was really bad festive telly), but is there any sort of an excuse for this? Really?
Oh really? I wouldn’t have guessed this from tonight’s performance:
“I am not a not Nazi and never have been. I am the most loathed man in Britain in the eyes of Britain’s Nazis. They loathe me because I have brought the British National Party from being, frankly, an anti-Semitic and racist organisation into being the only political party which, in the clashes between Israel and Gaza, stood full square behind Israel’s right to deal with Hamas terrorists”
And so most of the country falls off its collective chair in hysterics. We just don’t believe you, Nick. Particularly not when you make additionally silly comments like this:
“I regard the BBC as part of a thoroughly unpleasant, ultra-leftist establishment which, as we have seen here tonight, doesn’t even want the English to be recognised as an existing people”
Oh, yeah, all that and those highly deniable KKK links, Nicky boy…
My god, that was car-crash TV. Nick Griffin’s debut (and hopefully final) appearance on Question Time was one of the most evasive, offensive, incompetent and downright funny televisual performances of all time. And not in a so-bad-it’s-good way. For a start, the man is clearly not as intelligent as he thinks he is; he’s incapable of giving a direct answer to a direct question – and is in no way good enough an orator to have the charismatic authority he thinks he has, although he has the necessary sense of self-delusion, as evidenced by his comments to the media afterwards:
I’m wondering if it is really true. I’m wondering if this really is victory – because no-one seems quite sure either way yet.
After all the campaigning and letter-writing and protesting, and after the government’s controversial decision on the matter, the ‘announcement’ that BAA will not be submitting plans for the third runway at Heathrow before the 2010 general election slipped out with barely a whimper last week in an article in The Sunday Times.
As one of the thousands of people who live under the Heathrow flightpath and who have been involved in the various local campaigns against the third runway, I should be dancing in the streets and cracking open the cooking champagne as a result of this apparently new decision, but, if anything, it’s left me feeling even more confused than before.
The final decision on the third runway was always going to be a complex and controversial one. Any financial and economic benefits of its development had to be weighed against the impact of a new runway on the lives of the communities in the immediate vicinity and under the wider flightpath of the airport. Or at least that was the theory, anyway.
Of course, when major projects like this are in the planning stages, the agencies involved (whether of big business, government, or – in this case – both) will always make lots of colourful and seemingly sincere noise about how they intend to listen to and take on board the views of ordinary people, particularly those who live locally to the development, and about how this type of consultation is an essential aspect of their decision-making process.
A good day to bury bad news again?
The saga of Trafigura, Carter-Ruck, The Guardian, Twitter Power and an indignant government, which broke messily all over the internet yesterday morning – well, that quite neatly eclipsed the latest installment in the MP’s expenses scandal, which had been rumbling on apace for most of Monday, and looked to be building up a good head of steam towards another day of revelations and unseemly bickering in Westminster.
We certainly got the revelations, and plenty of unseemly bickering at Westminster and beyond, just not on the subject of expenses; which slightly annoyed me, considering that I had started Tuesday morning with the aim of writing another ranty blog on MP’s expenses high on my ever-expanding To Do list for the day.
“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy.
Time was always flexible in the hands of the late Douglas Adams. Well known for his intimate distrust of deadlines (“I love the whooshing noise they make as they fly by”, as he famously once said) and his spectacular bouts of writer’s block, he was thus an incorrigible procrastinator of the first order when it came to writing, and, on occasion, apparently had to be locked into a hotel room in order to complete the final draft of whichever novel he was writing at the time, only to be let out at intervals by his publisher for ‘supervised’ walks in case he should try to make a run for it!
He was, however, also a complete and utter genius. And I’m not the only one who reckons so; not by a factor of at least 15 million worldwide – as wildly improbable as that may sound (and, after that, anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem, as Trillian so wisely puts it). His books are held in great affection by people of all ages, all across the galaxy, and have now been translated into more than thirty languages (presumably not including Vogon, as they lack all sense of poetry).
The story of how this rather tall, very funny and, sadly, now equally late genius came to write the cult classic Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy novels, which celebrated their thirtieth anniversary on October 12th, is (unsurprisingly) equally unreliable time-wise. There are several versions of the moment inspiration struck, some which are more true than others. To a given value of true, of course.
UPDATE: THERE WILL NOW BE HIGHLIGHTS OF UKRAINE V ENGLAND ON BBC1 TONIGHT (SATURDAY 10TH OCTOBER) – TUNE IN TO MATCH OF THE DAY AT 10.15PM.
An Occasional Series of Short(ish) Rants and Ramblings about the Beautiful Game
Honestly. Who’d be an England fan? I ask (yet again) in all seriousness, as the latest installment in the long-running soap opera of supporting the national team rolls into town again late tomorrow afternoon. Or rather it doesn’t. Because, unless you are one of the (approximately) one million England fans who a) is prepared to actually fork out up to fifteen quid to watch the game on a tiny monitor, and b) has a fast enough internet connection, or c) is mad enough to pay the ticket prices demanded by the ‘selected’ Odeon cinemas who are showing the game, you won’t be watching the Ukraine v England World Cup qualifying match tomorrow; not even in the pub, which fact alone is enough to make me weep into my pint – if I wasn’t actually drinking a cup of tea instead.
For a change, this isn’t Sky depriving your average England fan of her fix of qualifying matches and friendlies, despite the oft-bemoaned fact that their sports packages (plus the equipment, plus installation…) are financially out reach for many. Tempting as it may be (and tempting as it always is), this is not an anti-Murdoch rant – for a change, ol’Rupey-baby isn’t responsible for this particular balls-up.