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.

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