Friday, 24 April 2009

Keep it up Darling!

IT’S been a big week in Parliament with the Chancellor announcing the budget for next year. And all in all it’s pretty good. The government says it’s pulling out all the stops to protect 500,000 jobs. Redundancy pay is going up by £30 a week. And people who have been out of work for a year will get extra support. There’s also going to be more help for parents with disabled kids and old people who struggle to pay their fuel bills. The £20 on child tax credits is good, too – but that still barely covers more than the basic living costs. There also was good news for the environment with a whopping £525 MILLION being spent on “renewables” – so we can power our TVs and kettles without boiling the planet. Even the predicted price rises on booze and ciggies weren’t so bad – pints are up by a penny and fags by 7p a pack. Even in a recession that’s just about affordable.
But we need the government to follow through on their promises. They’ve said that by January all unemployed under 25s will get a job or training. And they have promised 54,000 new sixth-form places. These are great offers – but they’ve got to turn it into action – and fast. David Cameron wasn’t wrong when he said that the economy is in a mess – anyone can see that. Will it go far enough? £1.7 billion is being invested in the job centre network – but this is no good if we don’t have enough jobs to go round. And with more companies going under each week, things look bleak. Overall, the recovery plan looks good, although not as good as Sport stunna Kelly McGregor (left). But I won’t celebrate till it actually makes a difference. Let’s hope Gordon’s boys can pull it off – we really need this to work.
RUMOURS are rife of strange goings on in Buckingham Palace. Officers of the elite Royal Protection Group have now been accused of sleeping on duty and trading drugs and hardcore porn. And in Buckingham Palace there are claims they’ve been sitting on the Queen’s throne in comical poses. What the HRH is that all about? The claims came out in a court case over a bobby who’s accused of conning his colleagues out of some dosh. And with public confidence in the cops at an all-time low it’s really not what they need. Those at the top better get things straightened out because policing, at the minute, is looking less like The Bill and more like Police Academy.
HOW do you make a book a best-seller? Easy. Give it to Barack Obama when hundreds of cameras are watching. And that’s just what socialist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez did at the Americas summit this week. Chirpy Chavez hopped up from his seat, wandered over to Barack, shook hands and gave him a copy of Open Veins Of Latin America, a left-wing history of the continent. This got picked up by the press and next thing, BAM! The book shot from No 54,295 on the Amazon book sales charts all the way up to No 2. And while the book flew up the charts faster than an eagle on Red Bull, US-Venezuela relations also took a lift. You see, the good old U.S. of A. have never really seen eye-to-eye with their neighbours Down South. Things were especially tense between Chavez and Bush. The two basically hated each other and would have been more likely to exchange fists than gifts. Hopefully Hugo’s idea of a present to the new President will help smooth things out a bit. There is one slight hitch though. The book is in, er, Spanish. So let’s hope it’s got nice pictures. Hasta La Vista, Senor El Presidente
UH-OH! There’s been another folder fudge-up outside Downing Street. This week’s blunder came from government minister Hazel Blears. She wandered out of Downing Street with the press happily snapping away. She looked very professional and composed but there was just one tiny schoolgirl error—she was holding confidential documents outlining flash Gordon’s new plans for MPs expenses, outside her folder in full view of the cameras. Sound familiar? It’s exactly what bumbling bobby Bob Quick did with top secret documents on terrorists raids just the other week. Luckily for Hazel, and for the government, the plans had been publicly announced before the journos noticed just how much the photos revealed. But it’s another valuable lesson to MPs, cops and anyone else wondering around with confidential documents – put them in a folder, but not a clear one as Housing Minister Caroline Flint did the same day. Of course, even then you are not safe – Culture Secretary Andy Burnham did everything right on Monday until he left his restricted documents on a train – whoops! Maybe I should do that. If I want to tell everyone where I’m going on holiday and who with I’ll carry the tickets in a see-through folder marked SECRET – and, hey presto, it’ll be front page news tomorrow.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Tackle these daft frogs

I HOPE you didn’t try getting the ferry to France this week because the English Channel was shut. A fleet of French fisherman got themselves all wound up about their fishing quotas. British fishermen would have signed a petition and marched round Westminster waving their tackle in the air.
But that’s not good enough for the French. They had to block off the ferry ports with their boats and bring everything to a seaborne standstill. It was utter chaos with thousands of lorries en route to France parked all the way along the M20 in Kent. Passengers were stranded on both sides of the Channel and no-one was getting anywhere. If the French fishing folk have genuine grievances about their livelihood, then fair enough. But crippling everyone’s trade, tourism and reputation wasn’t brilliant, was it? So let’s hope the situation gets sorted before the French run out of cider, we run out of onions and Daily Sport babe Gemma Massey has to dress up like Vera Lynn and fly across to sing about Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover.
THE government want to take benefits off alcoholics on the dole until they get treatment. Whoever came up with that idea must have been pretty sozzled himself. Firstly, there are too few alcohol treatment services as it is and many of them have stupendous waiting lists. Also, causes of alcoholism include poverty, unemployment and the threat of having your house repossessed. Cutting off people’s benefits isn’t going to take them out of alcoholism, it’s going to push them further into it. And what about partners and children of alcoholics? They need the benefit money for life’s little luxuries, like heating and food. Cutting benefits of parents with a drink problem is like telling their kids “just in case you’re not already suffering enough, we’re going to make sure you freeze and starve as well.”
EVEN though Parliament’s not been sitting for two weeks, the bitching just hasn’t stopped. Latest in the “Hall of Shame” is talk of “smear campaigns” and “obscene messages.” Basically, a fella called Damian McBride who works for Flash Gordon Brown sent some e-mails to his mate Labour blogger Derek Draper. The e-mails contained ideas for rumours about top Tories. Another blogger by name of Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, got hold of the e-mails. The papers found out and bang! It’s front page news. Smear campaigns aren’t my idea of good politics. They involve petty personal swipes and nothing about policies. As a victim of such rubbish myself, I can tell you they really suck – and the people responsible for them have no place in public life or the media. McBride has rightly got the sack and Gordon is trying to apologise for the whole mess. But I offer a warning. The Tories better be careful about taking the “moral high ground,” crying crocodile tears and demanding apologies. In the past they’ve been happy enough to use smear tactics and did not apologise. They should quieten down over this grubby affair before their less-than-glorious past comes back to haunt them.
MORE shocking footage of police tactics at the G20 summit shows a stroppy sergeant battering a female protester who was swearing at him. It’s obvious from the video she was giving the copper a lot of verbal. But that’s no excuse for what the bumbling bobby did next, smacking the woman in the face then beating her round the legs with his baton. All this is on top of the sorry story of that poor bloke who died of a heart attack after being pushed over by the police. Sure, they’ve a tough job to do. But individual officers need to act professionally and with restraint. That’s what they’re trained to do. Such violence is never justified, whether it’s by out-of-control anarchists or out-of-control cops. All the footage is now with the so-called Independent Police Complaints Commission. It doesn’t have a great record when it comes to fairness but let’s hope there’s enough public pressure this time for a genuine investigation.

Friday, 3 April 2009


SO big man Barack turned up in London from the US this week —and did you see what he brought with him? Five hundred staff, a flipping huge chopper (by which I mean a big helicopter) and the coolest car going. That’s travelling in style. President Obama not only had political advisers along, he also had people to do his hair and 200 security guards. He even brought a surgeon, other medical staff and several drivers to take him round in his one-of-a-kind Chrysler known as “The Beast”. It comes with some pretty funky features that certainly aren’t standard. These include bullet-proof glass, oxygen cylinders and even a tear-gas cannon. Watch and weep. I envy him. When I drive myself down to Parliament every week, I’m lucky if I get a hitchhiker for company and a packet of Wotsits for lunch. And while Barack’s got a mobile hospital, if I feel off-colour I have to take a couple of Aspirin and take a snooze in a motorway service station.
Still, I’m not complaining. I don’t get chased by terrorists, and don’t spend every day of my life listening to other world leaders telling me everything’s my fault and asked if could I lend them a couple of billion dollars. The fact Mr O visited the UK as his first presidential port of call is good for Anglo-American relations. But when you’ve got friends as swanky as the Obamas, next time Gordy goes West, he’d better not turn up in a Ford Cortina and with a bad haircut.
AS I predicted in last week’s Daily Sport, it went mental in London during the G20 summit. That was a conference of heads of state from around the world. They came to figure out what to do about the collapsing global economy. Lots of peaceful protesters were understandably annoyed at bankers and they tried to make their point. Sadly, the usual “rent-a-mob” was also out in force. These loopy anarchists attacked police and smashed property. They turned a legitimate protest into a mini-riot. By trashing public property they cost the taxpayer tons of cash— despite having no clear cause or demands, apart from just being angry about everything. I’m all in favour of protesting but the most effective way is to say what you want, express yourself clearly and make a big noise about it… Don’t go about destroying public property and beating up bobbies who, after all, are just doing their job. Fair play to the protesters who stood up for real issues like poverty and climate change. But shame on the handful who took it upon themselves to commit mindless violence. If that’s their idea of democracy, they’re living in the wrong country.
NOW, be honest. Have you ever watched an “adult film”? Of course you have. But I bet that fact never showed up on the front page of every newspaper. So pity our Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, whose husband was exposed for having a butchers at blue movies while she was away on business. The story came out because they’d claimed the cost of the videos on Parliamentary expenses. Is it a scandal? Oh come on! The expenses thing was obviously just a careless mistake— the blue movies were buried in part of a general television bill or something. So, for once, leave Citizen Smith alone. And as for you, Mr Smith, next time order it through the Daily Sport, mate—and DON’T claim it on expenses.
THINGS have been tense recently between North Korea and South Korea. While they share a name, they’re totally separate countries. North Korea is a communist dictatorship, while South Korea is a democratic free market. Now Communist North Korea, which has atom bombs, is planning a big “missile test”. That’s the political equivalent of taking your willy out and shaking it about in front of your neighbours. To make things worse, there’s been arguing and scrapping along their border for months. That’s why tensions were high when, on Wednesday, the Korean rivals played against each other in a football World Cup qualifier. This match could have ended with a very bad nuclear bang. Amazingly, the Northerners went South and had a nice time. The South won 1-0 but the threatened trouble didn’t arise. I’m relieved it went well. As we know, football rivalries can drive a wedge between people. It’s one reason Argentina and England aren’t best pals. But they can also bring nations together. Hopefully, this Korean derby can be a turning point in relations. After all, if they don’t have a fight over football, the rest must surely be a breeze.