Fall of Gordon

Peter Hennessy’s “Prime Ministers – the Job and its Holders” is one of my most well-thumbed reference books. Each post-war PM is treated with care and consideration, with a chapter heading as concise as they are cutting. John Major is the “solo-coalitionist”, Tony Blair introduced by “command and control”.

So what if Hennessy updates his book to include Gordon Brown? What chapter heading then, what treatment given through the window of recent history? “Flawed by design, floored by events”, perhaps?

It was always clear before the relaunched Observer gave up its pages to the newest allegations that Gordon Brown is a man of short-temper and bullying tactics. It’s how he got the job of Prime Minister in the first place; influential blogger Guido Fawkes has been detailing these allegations for years.

That Brown has mental instabilities is not the sole reason behind wanting him to lose the next election. Pick any of the disastrous policies of this Government from 1997 to the present day for more than enough – from the billions wasted on Trident renewal to decrease in civil liberties through the continued scandal of child poverty levels, lack of funding for public transport, and of course the £800bn national debt. Every failure of the Labour “regime” has Brown’s fingerprints all over them.

The “clunking fist” can barely keep a grip on the ramshackle, tumbledown caboose that is the current Government, of which he has been the over-controlling keeper of the purse for too long.

That Downing Street has been in smear mode for most of today should come as no surprise, either. This Government has run a parallel news agenda to the rest of the media since Tony Blair became its leader; there is the news, and there is the New Labour Reality Information Service, and occasionally the latter will force the hand of the former while rarely vice versa.

Brown, as a leader, is finished after the events of this weekend. He has been lucky to have lost so many Blairites from his Cabinet, so as to dampen the blow of any backbench rebellion, but regardless of this quirk of history, the man has very few friends left to rely on. The allegations of bullying have been around for too long for them to be so easily dismissed by Harman and Mandleson; and events from the “election that never was” and the 10p tax shambles prove Brown can not be trusted to make a single decision without flapping around in a haze of indecision.

Were he a good leader with a short-fuse, very little of this mud would stick. But he is far from a good leader. He has dragged this country to about as low as it can possibly get. Nation-changing, life defining general elections rarely come around very often – after 1979, and 1997, this forthcoming 2010 vote is one of those rare moments.

Show Labour that you cannot afford to trust their policies or unreliable leader any more. Use your vote in 2010 to remove them from power.

The picture comes from this entry in Iain Dale’s blog

Do Not Want

Dragged my hungover, sleep deprived body into work on Monday. The Sun tried a surprise sobering-up tactic by printing unexpected shots of Ashley Cole’s baggy underpants on the front page. No need, really, was there? There is the redeeming factor that it was obviously a cold day when the photo was taken, I suppose…

An email arrived from my landlady. Some kind of boiler inspection is forthcoming. Joy of joys; my mood was not dragged from lethargy and clock-watching, and on returning home I slumped into a heap on the sofa rather than deal with the kind of bedroom you’d expect to see photographed by a whistleblower revealing the truth about “Britain’s Worst Laundrette”.

Getting somewhat fed up with Twitter. This may not surprise the thousands of people whose own accounts and feeds lay dormant after initial interest. I have yet to decide on all the reasons why it has become rather tedious, although recent British “memes” related to domestic politics really has turned me completely off. How can UK politics be so tedious? There is numerous examples of “walled garden” activity, of users with little influence in the real world assuming they speak for thousands in the virtual one. I should know; the readership of this blog is not high enough yet for me to claim world-wide audiences even if occasional visitors to arrive from South Korea, Ireland, and…er…the House of Commons.

A topic to return to later, I suspect.

Up until this weekend, whenever pub or workplace conversations turned to “worst football songs ever” – and every month or so, they tend to reach such topics – I would always suggest with the predictability of a cracker joke the uninspiring dross that was the Embrace/Spice Girls/Echo and The Bunnymen disaster from 2006. Oh, Euro2006, will your consequential ripples stop flowing through history?

Anyhoo, turns out this auto-response will have to be updated. For reasons unknown – and it may take time to find any with credibility – a former X-Factor loser has written a stirring anthem for the upcoming Carling Cup match against Man Utd. Now, given that the song is called “Championee” – as a friend points out, the Spanish for “mushroom” – and no team has ever before been prompted to mark the league cup with an official song, you may be getting the slight hint that the finished product is rather second rate.

It’s not even that. It’s barely a Eurovision song, never mind a future terrace chant favourite. Which, with depressing predictability, is exactly what the writers suggest it will become.

So, then, here it is. I am sure all other teams, not least Birmingham and Wolves, are eagerly downloading this in anticipation of the Utd victory…


Plus ça change…

Maybe I should not be so surprised. Word hits the newspapers that the planned Leaders Debates prior to the next UK general election have been “negotiated to death

I dare say this quote was spoken in the same style as a soap opera “baddie”, who having pushed his wife down the stairs assures a worried sibling that “Mummy just slipped.”

Labour didn’t want these debates in the first place. That much was obvious by the very slow reaction – such as it was – from Gordon Brown. His bulldozing interview technique would have killed any spontaneity in the debates anyway, had the audience not been filled by party hacks and ordered not to ask questions.

In the US, Presidential Debates are often stifled by rules and contracts as thick as Whitaker’s Almanack. What a pity the UK version has gone the same way. There is a lot more to do by way of attracting audiences to politics in general, never mind specific television programmes, so although the debates were flawed in theory they could have done some good in practice.

Critics of the Leaders Debates always assumed the UK model wouldn’t fit. “It would be like being caught wanking to ‘Pants Off, Dance Off'”, that sort of thing. My optimism for all things modern, new, and different looked at these televised debates with less cynical eyes; in good hands, all three leaders would have seen their reputations enhanced. David Cameron could have even been shown real-time repeats of his previous answers to assist in stopping his usual trick of contradicting himself mid-programme.

Alas, these events are clearly not likely to happen. If the suits don’t get in the way, either the Champions League or just-as-vital-no-really Eurovision Song Contest are scheduled for the run-up to polling day. Another small glimmer of modernisation in UK politics is extinguished.

….plus c’est la même chose.

bog books, pitbulls, bus stations

With Max Clifford such a big name in PR, why is the general consensus that he is a complete twunt?

Sorry, that is quite beside the point. Just getting it off my chest.

So, now, then, being a bloke, eh? For most tabloids in the 90s, it seemed easy to divide men of a certain age into two groups; the Loaded generation with all the chest-beating (and away fans clobbering) that went with it; or the Homebase loyalty card crew, happy to explain why azaelias and roses need different sized climbing frames. Then before Johnny Vaughn could even consider another career saving comeback, the century changed, and such slapdash divisions appear to have vanished completely.

Well, okay, flicking through Men’s Health gives the impression that the editorial team have found a convienient wormhole to 1996 to fill any leftover double page spreads. “How do you rate in bed?” articles in 2010, I ask? I thought Men’s Health was the magazine to which you upgraded after becoming aware of the beer gut you perfected while reading Nuts.

Anyway, ‘bog books’, then. While bar-flying a few weeks back, the general consensus was that no man ever outgrows the need for – as it was so expertly phrased – “an arm’s reach library”. If you have a significant other, it is obviously best advised not to keep a top shelf classic inbetween the hand-towels. That rule aside, pretty much anything goes, although I must stress that struggling to come to terms with a Polly Toynbee classics whilst otherwise struggling is only for real experts in the ‘behind closed doors’ field.

But yes, as though my magic, a segway from gentlemanly secrets to rightwing pin-up Sarah Palin. Not my particular kind of lady – well, slackjawed rent-a-quotes aren’t my thing, truth be told – but seemingly very fondly thought of amongst American teabaggers.

Go on, click the link. Dare’s you.

Palin has been setting up her Presidency bid since failing so badly in 2008. It’s a non stop rollercoaster for the hockey-mom/pitbull hybrid. I was merely quite bemused by the sight of the walking sloganiser standing behind a podium marked the word “GAYLORD”. Given she was talking to a bunch of teabaggers – go on, click it – I wasn’t surprised to see the BBC move the on-screen caption as far up the image as they could. They wouldn’t have to use any on-screen captions if the same company sponsered the Labour Conference this year…in at least two cases. Maybe three.

The fact that Palin seems to be the only credible voice of the American right fills me with despair. Exactly how she has done this seems to be the result of following the advice that ‘she who rants loudest and dumbest gets the Fox slots at Prime Time’. One only assumes that eventually her brain will run out of words, leaving the next Tea Party convention stuck with Scott Brown running over blacked-up actors with his truck.

No, wait…That sounds like something they’d actually consider doing…

The 20th Century Society are to appeal against Ben “boy” Bradshaw’s decision not to list Preston Bus Station. Not that I want to go on a pro-bus station rant at this present time, I fully support the appeal. The decision to scrap Preston’s iconic bus station in favour of a John Lewis just stinks to high heaven of short-term profit chasing and long-term ignorance. The new station would be smaller than the on in Sunderland. SUNDERLAND! SMALLER THAN! Is there any other reason to give for the retention of the one we’ve got than that?

Academy Awards

It’s that time of year again. Yes, the draw for UEFA 2012 is only 6 days awa…Oh, right, the Oscars. And after months of speculation surrounding the “opening up” of the Academy Awards to more “mainstream” movies than in years past, things haven’t changed to my mind that drastically at all…

Best Film is now open to 10 movies, increased from 5. The smart money will be on Avatar, natch, which suggests Best Director will go to Kathryn Bigelow for Iraqi invasion drama The Hurt Locker. Newspaper copy written right there, without much effort.

Of the others nominated for Best Film, Precious appears to have been far better received in the US than the UK, A Serious Man may well be the best Coen Brothers film not to receive the Oscar for Best Film, and District 9 is the only true “popcorn attractor” to get a nod despite the opening up of the field supposedly was done for that very purpose.

Great news for fans of The Thick Of It will be very pleased to see the film adaption, In The Loop, nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Or as writer Armando Iannucci put it;

Bloomin heck. In The Loop nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Bonk me purple.

Okay, so neither Thick Of It, nor In The Loop, are quite Yes, Minister, but that has a lot to do with the times we live in. Yes, Gordon Brown, you unstable Stalinist walking disaster, I am talking about the likes of you with your sudden pre-election conversion to a pro-Labour voting system.

Anyhoo, the acting awards. Best Actor is probably a defo for George Clooney, whose role in “feelgood film of the moment” Up in the Air has been received in the same swooning fashion as all his recent roles. I must be the only one – or is it because I’m a bloke? – who wonders why Clooney is not treated with the “same old same old” criticism given to Hugh “Bumbling Englishman Out Of Context” Grant?

If you want to put a cheeky fiver on the Actor slot, I’d go for Jeff Bridges. You heard.

Best Actress will probably be Meryl Streep, because the Academy hasn’t awarded her in at least 5 minutes and it’s a kind of Hollywood by-law. If Americans have by-laws. They probably do. It’s the same one, or at least somehow associated, which has helped Helen Mirren receive a nod for a film about being married to Tolstoy. No, wait, sorry, “It’s about marriage, not being married” as I heard her explain to marshmallow-brained Christine on The One Show last week. Adrian seemed to be the only person bar Mirren who had even heard of Tolstoy. Bless. His long-long-long-lost decedent is standing as UKIP candidate for Witney, didn’t you know?

(Tolstoy, not Adrian Chiles. Can you imagine…)

Das weiße Band/The White Ribbon is the runaway (if that’s quite the right word) favourite for Best Film not in the English Language. Being a bit of a geek, I am more interested in the run down of films which didn’t even make the short-list in this category, so in no particular order, and with thanks to Wiki, here is an arbitrary list of films which didn’t make the cut. What is the Internet for – as Stephen Fry would no doubt say – if it is not for suggesting you all go out and find obscure movies in a language you’ve never heard spoken before?

* J’ai tué ma mère / I Killed My Mother [Canada, is an exposé on the complexity of the mother and son bond]
* 梅兰芳 / Méi Lánfāng / Forever Enthralled [China, follows the life of Mei Lanfang, one of China’s premiere opera performers]
* Келін / Kelin [Kazakhstan, ‘Looking like a cross between a goth goddess and a fairy-tale queen, Kelin (Gulsharat Zhubayeva) is about to be married. High in the Altai Mountains, her father bargains with two suitors who are each vying for her hand. Unfortunately, her true love, Mergyen (Kuandyk Kystykbaev), loses out to the richer bachelor, Baktashi (Erzhan Nurymbet). Before losing the competition, however, Mergyen takes a blood oath to eventually claim Kelin for his own’]
* El baile de la victoria / The Dancer and The Thief [Spain, ‘attractively shot, energetic romp, and a likeable genre-bending tale of crime and love among the lost and marginalised of post-Pinochet Chile’]
* Samson and Delilah [Australia, in English and Warlpiri, which as you know is one of the Ngarrkic languages]

All that aside, then, what else? Are these radical and different Academy Awards than usual? Is the likelihood of The Hurt Locker winning anything to be cheered? Will Terry Gilliam be upset at all for the almost total blanking of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, picking up as it does nominations for the “technical awards” of Art Direction, and Best Costume? Are we to be cheered at all by the 4 nominations – count them, FOUR – for Star Trek?

Insofar as these awards mean anything, it at least suggest cinema is someway healthy. Somehow there exists screenwriting and ideas away from franchises and sequels, torture porn and anything “staring” Will Ferrell. Sensible money should be put down this year, surprises seem abundant in the nomination process, but this is no “Heath Ledger” year, this seems to be a set up for someone saying “The Winner is…” without too many gasps at the end…