Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Exploding the Myth

During Prime Minister's Questions last week, we got a clear example of where politicians go wrong. Many insiders proclaim that 'Punch and Judy' politics are the cause of public disaffection for political proceedings, but that is apocryphal. Indeed, the knockabout shenanigans seen at PMQs are the best part of the Westminster week. The public would never take time out of their day to watch a dry discussion on farming subsidies or European integration, but they might tune in if they thought there might be a few digs at Prescott or one of the other amoral, conscience-less weasels that make up the front benches.

What actually causes the public to find politics so tiresome is the apparent inability to answer a straight question with a straight answer. It’s hardly ground-breaking to label MPs as evasive, but it is nevertheless true and much more dangerous than it is often credited as.

The specific example that played out last week illustrates the frustration, futility and counter-productivity of pursuing the policy of obfuscation.

David Cameron, that baby-faced, fallacious, smug Old Etonian asked Blair, “will the Prime Minister tell us, in plain English: will the House of Commons have a vote on whether Trident is replaced?”. Now, to anyone but a politician there would appear to be three possible answers: yes, no or we haven’t decided yet. However, what we predictably got from Blair was a fudge: “we will of course consult the House fully”.

Cameron’s next question echoed the thoughts of all normal viewers: “It is a simple enough question: the Chancellor wants a vote and the Education Secretary has said there ought to be vote; can we have a vote in the House?”. The question wasn’t “will you waffle on a bit about semi-related stuff please”, it couldn’t have been more specific, so we should assume that the Prime Minister took the opportunity to explain to the country the Government’s policy? Nah.

Blair: “I have already explained that my right hon. Friend .... we believe it is extremely important to have the fullest possible debate on the subject.” So, despite two opportunities to provide a simple answer, Blair declines. Instead, he reverts to his parlour-game of evasion and legalese with the inevitable effect of universal rancour. Blair may have aimed to frustrate Cameron, but he succeeds only in frustrating the viewers and the opinion-formers of the media.

Such is politics that there may occasionally be times when a straight answer would be inappropriate, perhaps in relation to ongoing military operations or legal proceedings but there is no reason for Blair to enrage the viewing electorate on this matter; he’s playing the game for the game’s sake. He could be forgiven if it were a one off, if it were an anomaly, but it isn’t. Refusal to answer a question is de rigueur unfortunately and it is the biggest obstacle to political popularity.

Dear Tony once said he was a "pretty straight kind of guy". It seems he was lying then as well.

Rich Criminal Dies

So, convicted felon and corporate scumbag Kenneth Ley has died of a heart attack. Like Enron, the company he founded and led to bankruptcy, he has collapsed and died. Hopefully, as his heart failed, he felt a sample of the pain he caused the 4000 people that lost their jobs because of his lies.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Tabloids Gone Mad

Every two years the major football tournaments bring, as inevitable as the hubris and desolation of defeat, a tranche of tabloid stories bemoaning the political-correctness-gone-mad that besets local councils and Education Authorities.

Last week we learnt that Cheltenham Borough Council have banned taxi drivers in the area from displaying England flags this summer due to “safety concerns”. No doubt that they were worried al-Qaeda cells had infiltrated the manufacturers to produce flags that released noxious gas when in close proximity to a Magic Tree. But whilst overly officious councillors are an easy target, we’d do well not to get too carried away with the flotilla of similar tales that will become regular red-top reading in the coming weeks.

Prior to Euro 2004, outrage abound when it was revealed that a school in the West Midlands had announced that “England Shirts Are Banned”. Feelings of injustice at the imposition of such an illogical and arbitrary ban were fully understandable; it seems an affront to common sense that children be refused the right to show their support for their own country. The full story however – unreported by many outlets and tagged on the end by most of the remainder – shed a more reasonable light on the matter.

The school in question, Grange School, had been the victim of racist graffiti the previous week and racial tensions were said to be heightened. On that basis, the school took the decision to ban the wearing of all nationalistic clothing for their ‘mufti day’ at the end of term. England shirts weren’t the target, but their inclusion gave the headline writers the chance to make a story out of a insignificance.

When judged in this light, the decision seems perfectly sensible. Why run the risk of exacerbating tensions by highlighting different cultural allegiances? Nothing could more quickly label and partition the varying ethnicity than having each bloc turn up in their national kit. The jingoism and partisanship that is a huge part of the joy of these big tournaments was deemed incongruous in this instance and thus curtailed in the long-term interests of fragile relations.

It could have been handled differently; the school could have used it as an opportunity to discuss similarities between disparate cultures or to have sent out a message that they refused to be intimidated by the graffiti. But these are decisions to be made by the school, in light of local considerations and it’s certainly not worthy of national reporting. This was not totalitarian show of left-wing lunacy, it was a parochial quandary decided with cautious common-sense.

That’s not to say that there aren’t idiotic, blinkered, cowering-from-their-own-shadow officials that deserve to have their pettiness and heavy-handedness brought to light. Administrators aplenty across the country will be rubbing their hands the thought of flexing their muscles in some unnecessary manner but we mustn’t rush to brand every decision maker a liberal loony.

The problem is no one’s got the time to check up on the background of every story, after all that’s the journalist’s job and we’re too busy worrying about the progress of Rooney’s recovery. But if we can at least, upon reading about some council in Warwickshire or wherever that has banned the wearing of hats for fear of offending bald people, countenance the possibility that it may not be entirely as it seems, then these stories will have had the effect of teaching us a valuable lesson about newspapers.

Two Jags, Two Shags, Half a Brain

Our rambling, useless, sex-mad Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott has found himself under further pressure this weekend as colleagues in the Labour Party openly call for his resignation. I imagine, though, that it’s nothing compared to the pressure his diary secretary endured as Prescott collapsed atop her, dripping with post-orgasmic sweat. What Prescott took for breathless fulfillment was more likely desperation as his colossal torso crushed the air out of her. I can only assume it was like being shagged by a wet Ford Fiesta. Only the Ford Fiesta’s probably capable of formulating better housing policy.

While Tony is out of the country, Prescott is currently standing in for the Prime Minister, though Cherie was shocked at how far he was taking it as he slipped in bed alongside her. Though, to be fair to John, he rarely gets the chance to be the best-looking one in a relationship so you can’t really blame him.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Big Brother 7 contestant Nikki, a promo girl from London entered the house yesterday with the stated purpose of "getting noticed by rich and famous men". The saddest thing about the series is the inevitability that she will achieve her tawdry little aim.

It's already mapped out. Even though we've seen but ten minutes of her as I write this, we all know what's going to transpire over the coming weeks.

She'll prance in skimpy outfits, she'll flop her baps out in a show of pseudo-drunkenness and then she'll get evicted for being a bitchy, vacuous toss-rag. It is at this point that she will wolf down the fruits of her 'labour'.

Upon leaving the House she'll sign up to spill the beans on being a metropolitan minx (complete with made-up stories of celebrity liaisons) and the following week she'll appear in Zoo or Nuts magazine with her scabby little tits on show telling us how much she loves lesbianism and outlandish sex (despite not being that keen on either).

On the advice of her PR man (she'll probably plump for Clifford), she'll then be seen falling out of nightclubs for the next couple of weeks. During these paparazzi moments she will inadvertently allow the photographers to photograph up her skirt as she lumbers into a taxi, thus ensuring a front page in the Daily Sport at least.

The following week she hooks up with some middling Premiership player (enticed by kudos of nailing the newest bit of tabloid minge) and together they make an appearance in Hello, declaring their passionate love for each other. Around this time Heat runs pictures of Nikki laden with shopping bags from a footballer-funded spending spree.

So she has made it.

She was a nobody. She was a just above average looking lass with nothing of value to say and now, by virtue of having lived in a house of strangers for a month, she is set for life. The only price she's had to pay is that of her soul. The problem is, she didn't have much a soul in the first place so it's no great hardship to forgo.

Some may say "good luck to her" but I hope she suffers a slow and decidedly painful suffocation as she realises that her dream is a tenth of what she expected. It would be grossly unfair for such a cynical, amoral and contrived ploy produced an outcome that even remotely approached happiness.

P.S If you're wondering what Martin Luther King has to do with this story, well, nothing. But I couldn't bring myself to propagate Nikki's sordid little mission by including a picture of her smug face so I thought I take the opportunity to post a picture of someone a little more worthy of your recognition.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Pete Doherty is a talentless, pretentious, drug-addled twat

After reading today that Pete Doherty had injected himself with heroin and then used the syringe to squirt his blood all over a camera crew, I was inclined to attempt a corruscating demolition of this pathetic annoyance. But this would only serve to satisfy his craving for attention and validate his adolescent, middle-class 'rebellion' (though quite what he's rebelling against is not clear).

His entire raison d'être now seems to be self-promotion by means of outrageous criminal acts. He hasn't produced any decent work, well, ever and it befuddles me that he manages to avoid prison whilst disregarding every court order issued in the most flagrant and public of manners.

He wants people to talk about him, he needs people to talk about him. He's unable to match the likes of Cobain, Gallagher and Lennon on the musical front so he attempts to do so in the field of narcotics and debauchery. But their antics were only tolerated because of the quality of work they were producing. People know the music of those Doherty would so dearly love to be, the vast majority of the public would struggle to name a single Pete Doherty penned song. He is the musical equivalent of Tara Palmer Tomkinson and Jodie Marsh, he's not famous in the way he imagines - as a singer-songwriter that dabbles in drugs - but as a common-or-gardener, worthless, useless, narsassistic smack head with scant regard for anything except himself.

He will never be the working class hero is strives to be, he's just a tabloid version of every son or daughter of the local headteacher that takes drugs and acts in an ostentatiously nihilistic manner in order to distance themselves from the image of their parents.

The sooner he overdoses or is sent to prison, the better. It's tempting to say that he'll only be remembered as a transient embarrassment but I'd like to think that he won't be remembered at all.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Daddy's Girl

Feast your eyes on Jonathan Wayne Goodrum, a 19 year old American who has been arrested for the anal rape of his 1 day old daughter.

Now I can't proclaim to having ever had a good grasp on what motivates paedophiles, but it would stretch even the most emphathetic of people to understand how a guy, flush from watching the love of his life struggle through the agony of childbirth, looks down at the kid and thinks "I could probably squeeze my nob up her arse. And what's more, I'd probably enjoy it".

Obviously, it's perhaps the most heinous crime possible, and the fact that the child was but a day old increases the sense of shock, but is this logical? Is it any lesser crime if the child is a year old or ten years old? Personally, I would rather my dad did me up the bum when I was a day old than when I was ten. Not only would I be much less likely to remember, I also wouldn't have to face the ignominy of going to school the next day and explain away the love-bites on my neck.

The baby girl's mother has also been arrested although her role in proceedings are in doubt. Her mother, however, has no such uncertainty. The local newspaper, The Jackson Sun, reports that she has placed a sign on her front door which reads: "Do not disturb. My daughter is not a rapist." She must be so proud.

Monday, May 15, 2006

"When I get older..."

You may be forgiven for thinking that the photo above shows a before and after for a victim of a raging house fire but, according to the Scottish Executive, you're actually looking at leading-edge morphing technology.

The shot on the right is meant to be an accurate reflection of what the lady on the left will look like at the age of 65; I bet she's hoping this technology's not fool-proof. Unless she gets her face trapped under a red hot iron for a week, it's safe to say she'll probably avoid the fate that this software predicts.

What a waste of time and money. No doubt whoever produced this pathetic excuse for technological advancement was handsomely funded by the public, all to produce a program that does little more that put a bit of a shadow over someone's face. Where's the jowly under-hang, the deep set wrinkles and the blue rinse? Where's the copy of the Daily Mail and the black eye given to her as she was mugged for her pittance of a pension? All we get from the photo above is that she'll at some point develop a strange wispy shadow down the left hand side of her burnt face.

Scottish Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm inexplicably told the BBC that he thought the software would help "Scotland look into the future" but given the horrendous results produced, perhaps this isn't wise. Depression levels amongst the Scots are high enough as it is, the last thing we need is them all fearing they're about to develop a face like a over-used chip pan.

Friday, April 21, 2006

In the Kingdom of the Deaf, the denim-clad man is King

There are times when you see somebody on the TV and know that if they weren’t real, they’d make a brilliant comedy character. The latest of these self-spoofers is the atrociously monikered Daz Sampson, this year’s UK entry into the Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision itself is an easy target for ridicule so I'll sidestep the temptation and focus on Mr Sampson, the sub-Ali G music producer and wannabe rapper that the British public inexplicably chose to represent them.

There is nothing right about Daz Sampson. From the ham-fisted attempt at giving himself a trendy edge by shortening his name to Daz, to the washed-out denim ensemble he struts about the stage in. This is one of the most embarrassing men ever to grace the TV.

But if you think it's bad that a man in his thirties dresses like the ugly brother Bros kept hidden, wait until you hear the song (which you can do by following the link on the right). There are barely enough negative adjectives to do justice to the aural abomination that is ‘Teenage Life’.

I could spend hours bemoaning the offensive high-pitched refrain that recurs throughout or the complete lack of melody elsewhere in the song but it’s the lyrics that tip this ditty into the dire ditch alongside Chico and Lisa Scott Lee. I assume that Daz thought he was sufficiently in touch with the youth (or, yoof, as he would no doubt call them) of today to be able to distil their frustrations and repressed inadequacies into a three minute song. If he did, he does a wonderful job of proving himself wrong with lyrics as mind-crushing as:

Now if you treat the kids fine, together they will shine
Ooh ooh ooh shine
And if you give the kids time, they won't do the crime
Won't do the crime

So that’s solved the problem of teenage delinquency then. Forget ASBOs; all you need to do to prevent youngsters developing criminal tendencies is to give them time. If only we had thought of that earlier we could have saved ourselves a whole lot of nasty bother.

And what, no doubt you are asking, does Daz suggest might be at the root of the fall in classroom respect? Well, he is equally erudite in this respect as well:

Teenage kicks running out what could we do
I still show respect to my boys who made it through
And getting told off Mr T how my life would be
Then giving him a signal
So everyone could see

Brilliant. I don’t think we need worry ourselves that it doesn’t make any sense at all, we probably just don’t understand the kids as well as Daz does.

By the end of the song you’re sure that this has to be a joke. There’s no way this man could have won a national public vote on the basis of this song, it beggars belief. And yet, in a few weeks’ time he’ll be live on stage in front of hundreds of millions as the sole representative of a country that previously believed it had a proud musical heritage.

The secret, at least in part, to his success so far is predictably cynical. Any poster about the song, any stage performance and the video that accompanies sees Daz flanked by 5 young girls dressed in school uniform, complete with knee high socks and a mountain of makeup. It doesn’t require a great deal of insight into the human psyche to know that the reason the video is getting a disproportionate amount of requests on TV is because blokes fancy a gander at the girls, as opposed to them having a fascination with middle-aged men in stone wash jeans and a hoody. Give Daz his dues though, he’s picked a sure-fire gimmick and managed to hoodwink a nation.

We should expect nothing less. Behind the feckless façade, Daz is an extremely successful producer, renowned for releasing horrendous records that people flock to buy. He’s the man behind the remix of “Kung-Fu Fighting” which sold 250,000 copies and the recent radio-annoyance, Call on Me. But it is his most popular single - during his time with hitherto faceless dance duo Uniting Nations - that is the most succinct summation of his latest offering: Out of Touch would have made a very appropriate title for his latest offering.

With this success behind him, why would he want to endure the ridicule of Eurovision, especially with a song as turd-like as this one? The answer is twofold.

Firstly, he seems to be a genuine fan of the competition. He described just being in the qualifying competition as being the “pinnacle of my ten years in the music industry”, though quite why the tawdry tournament inspires such enthusiasm is unclear. Maybe it’s something else only the teenage at heart can understand.

The second reason he seems to have entered Eurovision is colossal ego. Not only does he describe Teenage Life as a “masterpiece”, he has also outlined plans to use his Europe-wide reputation to spread harmony. Interviewed on Richard and Judy the day after winning the British heat, Daz outlined a plan to utilise his massive fame (have you heard of him before?) and travel round the continent educating lesser countries in an attempt to overcome the politicking and bloc voting that is rife on Eurovision night. He is the George Bush of the musak world, attempting to indoctrinate these backward nations so they come to their senses and see the world as he does. He’d better hope they don’t hear it as I do, or it’ll be another rank bottom finish for the U.K.