Hazel Blears verses Andrew Neil. I think one of my favourite quotes has to be ;

I didn’t give you that answer because you didn’t tell me you were going to ask me….

Interesting, too, that Blears talks and acts in the manner of many of the Blairite/social democratic wing of Labour bruised and bitter by the more left-wing Ed Milliband’s leadership success…

2 Big 2 Fail

So, how did we all feel about Match of the Day 2, then?

Six footie seasons ago, the BBC launched its ‘laid back’ version of ancient highlights programme Match of the Day. Professional Baggie Adrian Chiles – the archetypal ‘mate down the pub’ – made the programme his own. Not as ‘gentleman’s club’ as the older MOTD long ago became, the BBC Two version soon grew into vital viewing. If “Goals on Sunday” had the devil’s share of viewing figures, MOTD2 took most of the workplace banter.

Chiles’ well publicised sidestep to ITV left vacant the most prized sofa spot in sports presenting. Almost all available presenters would eventually be linked to the post. (Except Manish, obviously. Never Manish.)

The spot would go to Colin Murray, the enthusiastic Norn Iron “Fighting Talk” chair for Radio 5 Live and former Europa League anchor for Five. The reaction was, largely, popular. Formerly a Radio 1 DJ, Murray was known and respected for a wide sporting knowledge with wit and humour. MOTD2 seemed to have chosen well. Its first episode was shaky, with animated sections and faux-archive camera effects being criticised for being ‘gimmicks’. Murray was still himself, though, and for all the skills required to front highlights programming, he was doing okay. He is not “the mate down the pub”, more “bloke you talk to in the queue at the work canteen”, and that was enough to keep the faith.

Yesterday, however, the patience given to him by many viewers finally snapped. Having forgiven him for the ‘pulling matches out of a paper bag’ stunt, those who were ready to give one last chance flicked over to “Top Gun” or the paused “300” on the other side. His crime? A contrived ‘wine tasting’ segment with David Ginola and Lee Dixon, the latter looking utterly bemused while the former wore the same weary expression from the moment Murray tried to poke fun at his pronunciation of the word ‘pitch’. (It lead to a dud joke about ‘peaches’, the kind of humour which died when ‘Allo ‘Allo was cancelled).

It’s not as though the ‘wine tasting’ of itself was enough to lose patience. Murray’s take on MOTD2 has been to introduce too much forced banter and jokes, in the same way of the poor souls left floating around the sinking “Mock The Week”. Having moulded “Fighting Talk” into a gem of a show, vital listening for anyone about to set off for the match, hopes were high for how much Murray magic would transfer to the screen. Given the nature of the show – its time slot means many viewers would rather just have the footie to watch before heading to a work night sleep – anything delaying the action seems irritating. Chiles wasn’t exactly without banter and humour, he was able to balance the want of the viewer with the constraints of the format. The BBC cannot afford much more than extended highlights, and with the licence fee being frozen for 2 years there’s not much left for any live football coming to Auntie in the foreseeable. A show like MOTD2 shouldn’t be a straight-faced newsreel, Sky Sports News without the rolling newsfeed, it should neither appear as though two different programmes are fighting for prominence. MOTD2 is not “Something for the Weekend”.

With Chiles gone, and Murray unlikely to be transferred so early in the season, the producers have a choice. They could slowly transform the programme, stage by stage, into refreshed ‘highlights with quirks’ in the hope of persuading doubters to come round to the idea. Or they undo the damage with a sudden reversal to “Chiles mode”. Whichever happens, one fact remains very central. SKY are eager to claim as much football rights as they legally can; a damaged “Match of the Day” brand reduces any opportunity for the BBC to argue the case for keeping hold of even basic highlights packages.

Fail on Sunday

Yesterday, the Labour leadership election was won by Ed Miliband. The analysis of how he won will go on for most of the weekend; statistically Labour members and MPs voted for his brother David; his push over the winning line came from mammoth Union support. Due to the electoral method used – where the three elements combine – his win will inevitably be questioned for its marginality. On everything from the bank bailout and 10p tax rate abolition to membership of the euro and Trident renewal, the responsibility of governance and opposition falls on Ed’s shoulders. He has a fixed-term parliament to shape and define Labour as effective and distinctive.

His policies and past records are legitimate points of debate, of course, nothing wrong here. What should not be questioned is Ed’s lifestyle. But guess where Ed has been criticised for his relationship with Justine Thornton? Where his very modern relationship is described on the day after his success with sly digs and arched eyebrows?

That’ll be the Mail on Sunday.

I’d much rather have ‘Red Ed’ digs than this sort of sniggering snobbish ‘commentary’. At least the articles on his political views are based on policy. The Mail has often been seen to ‘outdo’ itself; this idiotic article is one of its most offensive.

Brothers in arms

So, then, Ken Livingston beating Oona King. Does this point to the way in which Labour votes have gone for their Leadership election? If not an absolute repeat of the post-1979 reaction to an election defeat, 2010 appears to have all the characteristics of a party in opposition needing solace. When the Labour Party are shaken by events, they tend to shunt to the Left.

The debates leading to today’s announcement – confirming the victory of a Miliband from social democratic stock, one less so than the other – shaped the direction Labour will take along the path to the 2015 general election. Neither Miliband are as ideological as the pre-announcement media would paint, and regardless the secret of electoral success after Margaret Thatcher has been distancing of ideology from the voting public. John Major – the ‘solo coalitionist’ in Peter Hennessy’s detailed study of Prime Ministerial history – could not have won the 1992 election as a ‘typical’ Tory. In 1997, Tony Blair would stride through the jibes – “I’m Tory, Plan B”, “Tory Tony” – to secure a landslide victory as a Labour PM albeit not as a Labour man.

David Miliband is the Blairite Continuity Candidate, whose leadership skills have been brought into doubt following two scuffed opportunities to depose Gordon Brown. His leadership would not detach the Labour Party from its recent history or some of the policy decisions from the past which remain today. For every nod to progressive policy announcements – the LibDem favoured ”mansion tax” for example – Dave would happily subscribe to the spend now, pay back later mantra of both Blair and Brown. He has told plenty of leadership hustings that ‘state knows best’, his only nod to something vaguely socialist. Where the Coalition try to cut down the size, shape and cost of central Government, David would walk right back in and press ‘reverse’. ‘Nanny state’ philosophy, such as it is, would not disappear under the older Miliband. His campaign video starts with spiel of assured management speak which reeks of Blair’s televangelist style;

New Labour did fantastic things for the country, never let anyone take that away. But what counts is Next Labour. Listening, passionate, engaged, committed, thoughtful, radical, decisive: Labour. That’s what this election campaign is all about.

His younger brother, broadly speaking, is ‘of the left’, perhaps acknowledging that no Labour leader has been celebrated by its membership as being quite Left ‘enough’. He is the ‘change’ candidate, whose campaign video is 90 seconds of breathless undoing of the reputation of Labour’s time in office. Talk of creating ‘good jobs’, whatever they are, of reshaping foreign policy by ‘values’, seems disconcertingly vague. It’s worked, though, his echoing Gordon Brown tapping in to the concerns of a Labour membership tired of small ‘c’ values pervading economic and social arguments. Lord knows Ed needs someone else to write his script, if this from his campaign video is any guide;

I am the candidate most willing to turn the page in this Leadership election. I think that is an important voice and I am an important voice in that contest. I think where Labour politics needs to go, it needs to show people that we can create good jobs and good wages for people because we have too many people who are struggling and working harder and longer for less in this country….

Ickle Miliband got to the Living Wage pledge before his brother, has hinted with fellow left-leaning candidate Ed Balls that the 10p tax rate abolition was disastrous for the core Labour voter, and will doubtlessly continue to support the Coalition’s plan to increase income allowance to £10,000. His brother has given no similar assurances.

Both Milibands know the shadow of Labour’s time in office will be hard to shift. The gap between rich and poor was widened not narrowed. Child poverty was focused upon but not resolved at anything like the rate envisaged or necessary. State Knows Best target cultures turned police officers into admin staff chasing spreadsheets. “There’s no money left”, the parting shot from Liam Byrne, remains a sick punchline to their economic joke. David and Ed will both take their Party and potentially the country away from this reputation; Dave to the centre ground with continuing flavours of Blairite and by extension Thatcherite economic medicine: Ed with a Brownite, socialist flavour.

It was possible for Blair to win with Labour in 1997 by topping off the long reinvention process initiated by Neil Kinnock and John Smith. Now the Miliband brothers have a fixed-term parliament to undergo similar amount of renewal. The time for misunderstanding the Coalition is done, now the long walk back into power begins.


The Polaris Music Prize is the Canadian version of our Mercury Award, celebrating an album for its merit rather than sales (or, you know, that’s how the blurb will always have it).

This year, the Quebecois Karkwa beat, amongst others, Caribou and Broken Social Scene for the top prize. Coming across as a folksy French-tongued Radiohead, Karkwa have a solid back-catalogue in subtlety in the manner of both British Sea Power and newcomers Hares.

They can be found at their MySpace page –

Labouring the Point

Traditionalists within Labour, and those malcontents on the Left generally, like to recycle their slogans. Having labelled one prominent politician a “betrayer” of traditional supporters, a closet-Conservative, of being too fond of Thatcherite economic policies, they have now moved onto using the same language for another.

Tony Blair, who took an axe to Clause IV on his way to repositioning Labour as a European style social democratic party before the 1997 landslide election victory, would never be left-wing enough for every Labour voter. Blair was a Labour leader but not a Labour man, whose attempts to re vigour Britain’s political landscape for good was ultimately thwarted by the inherent conservatism within and without the political establishment. Nick Clegg is now suffering the same brickbats, labelled a betrayer and a turncoat, as much from the same disgruntled left-leaning voices who mocked Blair. It is, if you will, a case of ‘same difference’. Clegg has made a brave step, a leap far beyond that which Blair took, and doubtlessly there are many who feel that the trust they put into the Liberal Democrats has somehow been thrown away.

When Blair took to the country for his first election as PM, in 2001, he did so amongst the clutter and bother of disgruntled supporters who tried their hands at launching splinter groups in electoral opposition to ‘New’ Labour. They all failed – Socialist Labour Party and Socialist Alliance almost immediately, George Galloway’s Respect ultimately fell to internecine warring. His re-positioning of Labour, much like Clegg’s leap of faith within the Coalition, was an uneasy act for activists and councillors. When Gordon Brown told the party’s Conference “we are best when we are Labour”, he spoke with the socialist voice he would use throughout his own Premiership. Little wonder Lord Mandleson is speaking out against Ed Milliband’s bid for Labour’s leadership. Wrapping Labour values in conservative clothing has proven to be the winning formula for Blair and future followers of Blairism. Ickle Ed’s socialism would not.

Clegg’s Conference speech today, his first as Deputy Prime Minister, settled some nerves. The Coalition agreement has already made real many LibDem election manifesto pledges – higher income allowances, banker’s levy, changes to corporation tax, reforms to the voting system, possible good news on Trident renewal, end of ID Cards, scrapping Section 44, reform of the National DNA database. I blogged some time ago against the VAT increase, a move I still feel is regrettable. It will be difficult, these 5 years of fixed term governance. Clegg will have much harder rides, as the Cleggmania which followed the leadership debates gave his and the Liberal Democrats similar levels of expectation that Blair received in his landslide year. Coalitions are alien to Britain, which seems to be the sticking point for Labour and leftists; how can two opposing forces come together? How can political parties not be tribalist? Clegg is not one of “us”, he must be one of “them”.

I don’t pretend that the Coalition will make choices which run counter to my liberalism, or the ideas of the Liberal Democrats. I just feel far more strongly against the traditional he-said-she-said stick to your guns tribalist nonsense streaming from Labour since the election. Nothing done from their side which suggests they understand why they lost the election, nor how the Coalition has managed to agree to its terms and policies. The real opportunity from this Coalition is less of the same red/blue nonsense which Clegg campaigned against during the election. As he told the Party Conference this afternoon, if nerves are held, the LibDems won’t just talk about change, we’d be the agents of change.

If you wanted the country to be different, you put faith in the Party that was different. That party has not changed. I just hope that the two sides can fulfill the early promise of these past 4 months. I fear Labour are set for the ugliest campaigning in British politics. Their acting like a bitter divorcee should do for their credibility. New politics? Yes. But Blair found it impossible to take the country down that route. Will Clegg, similarly maligned by the same anti-Blair lefties, suffer the same fate?

Bikini Black Special : The Bikini Method

Taken from their forthcoming album, “Physioterrorists”, this slice of electro goodness from Bikini Black Special is them at their most hypnotic and caustic, how self-help audiobooks might sound in a world in which false advertising is outlawed…

Seek out more of the sharp BBS sound at

Dressed by YouTube

It has been vintage year for the viral video, cyberspace’s modern take on You’ve Been Framed. With so many hits wrapping themselves around the internet like so many fashionably knotted scarves, it’s easy to forget that many web video phenomena live mayfly existences. From auto-tuned news to Russian easy listening, it’s all being going on down YouTube way…

One fantastic example doing the rounds at the moment tweeks the memory of people of a certain age who recall both Nathan Barley and the Charlie Brooker penned TVGoHome listings for fictional sit-com Cunt, which accurately predicted the direction of youthful fashion trends; however hard people try to look different, eventually looks converge into parades of the identical.

By way of social commentary far more important than it first seems, the video below not only rehabilitates use of the word “Dickhead” as a credible swearword but strikes at the Hoxton look raging across the country with sharp satire. The synth-pop sideswipe is more than a mere fun song to pass the time, sealing in time as it does evidence of fashion’s continued ability to magnetise enough people towards a given look and style almost without trying. Far from being a negative judgement on those individuals within the video – although its end does strike at particular examples outside the main stereotype – my take on “Dickhead” is it having more comment on the fashion ‘industry’. Is one question to take from this video why so many more blokes feature than women? Are these lads of the 90s forced – or being forced – to maintain a youthful image?

Being a man of a certain age does not exclude me from some of the choices available on the High Street. I do question if it’s worth stepping outside looking like an Auton after an all-night orgy at Topman. New takes on the t-shirt-and-jeans combo are timeless; I cannot fathom the thinking behind lenseless specs unless such choices are so layered in self-referential irony as to be unfathomable to everyone but the wearer. Those in the industry may point out the Catch-22 situation in which they operate – distinctive names on our High Streets need to make a profit, which comes from selling what is popular, just not necessarily what is distinct.

In addition to ridiculing the ‘ubiquitous individuality’, “Dickhead” happens to be a damn fine tune, a rare treat indeed. While many attempts at viral vids and memes die before they make it onto your average News Feed. For being relevant, sharp and funny, “Dickhead” deserves its status as an internet classic. Social scientists should be referencing this just as teenagers appear to be referencing testcards….

Holy smoke

His congregation numbers 50. His ‘church’, such as it appears to be one, is called the “Dove World Outreach Centre”. That sounds more furry than fury to these ears at least. He is Terry Jones, a Pastor and current international media focus for his wheeze – “International Burn a Koran Day”.

It should not be right that searching for the word “Qur’an” – I prefer that spelling – returns dozens of results for Pastor Jones and his unbelievably successful promotional drive for the most leaden-footed act of symbolism since the 1990 Eurovision Song Contest. Seriously, give that a YouTube drive, every arms-around-the-new-Europe anthem will have you craving the return of communism before the voting starts.

Pastor Jones is not standing down from his plan to mark the 11th September anniversary with a Qur’an Bonfire, with bouncy castles, clowns and Pin A Beard on the Infadel competitions to boot. It is certainly clever marketing – only by creating another Waco would this religious fringe loon have gathered further attention. Probably more support too: when Sarah Palin advises you to think twice about an idea, that idea is doomed.

Frankly, I have little time for most religious books and teachings. I have been led to understand that the word of whichever deity is being followed lives in the heart and mind; the idea of collating the teachings in book form occurred for less benign reasons than ease of reference. Thousands of students from times past and present will tear up the more tedious bits from Kings or Acts for joint material without FOX News knocking their schedules into an outraged hat. There may be somebody right now – right at the moment your eyes fall upon these words – using a torn page from Little Book Of Zen to snort whichever hybrid legal-high/washing powder has arrived in the post.

I almost wish Jones well. His publicity trick has worked. People feel aggrieved and irate, as though the books prepared for turning into ash are the only symbols of the Islamic faith. This entire event is fed by ignorance, on both sides of the argument. Islamic extremists use their cherry-picked cuckoo-bananas version of their faith to justify mass murder, while right-wing nutjobs who only just qualify as “Christians” blather from their pretend churches on the purity of their own specific thought processes. To have garnered so much attention for what, basically, cheapens all sides of the argument is one pretty impressive feat.

It was always going to take something to beat the hysteria around the “Ground Zero Mosque) – which is neither a mosque, nor at Ground Zero. Well, smack my mouth and call me kafir, here’s one just round the corner. If the word and teachings of a particular faith really do exist in more forms than just the written word, then both Jones and the crowds against him are partaking in utter wastes of effort. Symbolism is not a one-way argument.

Wide Awake Clubs

So the curtain falls, all woolly and soft, sewn together with silly string and tabloid newspaper. GMTV started its life as the sedate and sensible successor to TVAM, which had made the transition from the very same starting point to pretty much where GMTV would end a generation-or-so later. As this clip shows, there wasn’t a whiff of a sofa or Fiona Phillips’ surgical questioning techniques – “So, Corrs, where did you first meet?” – when the second breakfast television franchise launched…

Breakfast telly in the UK has been a story of limited successes and so many failures. GMTV ended up copying the TVAM sofa-and-slebs model, because it works for the bleary eyed mothers and students who watched. BBC Breakfast has steered towards the format having been diluted from blue desks and stirring opening titles to sofas and magazine format tie-ins.

Channel 4 would find its gold with The Big Breakfast – although only for its middle period before its erratic demise. Four initially launched Channel 4 Daily, a magazine programme which today looks like a cross between EuroNews and The Day Today. Its attempt to become a ‘moving newspaper’ has been mimicked and copied since, ambitious though it was to adopt the sound of a broadsheet Sunday in daily broadcasting. It even included a segment where specially commissioned pieces of modern art would be discussed between presenters in the hope that viewers would do the same. No wonder it didn’t quite have the staying power of its hyperactive successor…

GMTV finally found its feet, in slippers and treading on marshmallow. Cosy and simple, nevertheless vital for politicians, soap actors and pop stars. It was turned effortlessly into This Morning for the dawn brigade, successful enough to be copied despite becoming no different from its predecessor.

The Big Breakfast changed the shape and character of morning telly – although its summer roadshows had been borrowed wholesale from Radio One, its popularity peak was based purely on presenters rather than content. It was successful and its blueprints was copied by others with nothing like the same results. Nobody remembers RI:SE, just as viewers probably have put the BBs own relaunch attempts firmly to the back of their minds – Paul Tomkinson and Donna Air, folks, how could we abandon them so much like used tissues?!.

For the replacement to GMTV, the bosses at ITV have effectively asked the presenters of a latter day Nationwide to front a 21st century TVAM. Adrian Chiles, the chummy friend-down-the-pub hoiked from Match of the Day 2 where he was West Brom’s representative on earth, will take the role of Eamonn Holmes. His partner will be Christine Bleakley, the current squeeze for Frank Lampard (when he isn’t….oh wait, injunction, yeah…) will tone her gloss and tan down enough for the commuter crowd viewers. They have ‘chemistry’, we are told, which is telly speak for ‘they act like a married couple who only get enough sex with other partners’.

Some elements of the breakfast telly agenda seem outdated – why stick with newspaper reviews with readership falling? A summary of popular blog lead stories could alter the sticky relationship between bloggers and TV bosses. Regional output is woefully misused, a few tie-ins with their regional radio stations could lift the BBC Breakfast programming into something distinctive and relevant to viewers. Much to the chagrin of digital radio manufacturers, the majority of the population choose car radios to wake up properly with breakfast DJs.

Saturday children’s shows – Live and Kicking, Going Live – were seen as no longer being fit for the schedules. Their brand of entertainment and music can’t be reinvented, it would be seen as a retrograde step. I can see morning telly going the same way, with the new Daybreak being the last of its kind. Morning schedules will meld and assimilate, the BBC should look at saving money with a full BBC One/News link with help from their radio colleagues. Where we find ourselves in the 21st century is Chiles and Bleakley as the last incarnation of Bough and Scott, to glance at before running off to the bus with toast in mouth and bus-stop in view…