Friday, 31 July 2009

Members must get down 'n' dirty

OK, all you townies, listen up. Every year, at around this time, there’s something called the Country Land and Business Association Game Fair. I went along in a lovely little motorhome thanks to the wonderful Caravan Club, with my fellow campers Jimbo and Baz. The Game Fair is the biggest country fair in Europe. It has all sorts of stands featuring hunting, shooting, fishing, falconry, farming, shepherding . . . and all those other things people get up to in deserted rural places. Aside from enjoying the rural experience, the Game Fair is also about protecting people’s rural rights. Things like the hunting ban are a lot more complex than they first look. In fact, I’m against the ban because the research shows it actually stands to increase animal suffering. But there are all sorts of other issues at stake. Animal welfare, people’s jobs and the protection of our environment all rest on the choices made by politicians. Unfortunately, a lot of MPs are happy to blabber on about rural things. But they don’t bother to get out there and talk to the country folk who know the effect these badly thought out decisions can have. Sitting in London making laws about the countryside without actually listening to country people, is like giving Daily Sport babe Gemma Massey advice on bras to wear without ever having seen her boobs — it just doesn’t work!
YOU may have heard some talk about me and my very good friend, Katie Green . You’ll know her, she’s the nice model who lost her job for being too fat. Well, it’s ridiculous. She’s not fat. She’s 5ft 10 ins and a perfect 12. If she was any thinner, you’d be able to employ her as a garden rake. That’s why we’re running a campaign to “give a big zero to size zero”. It’s bonkers for the fashion industry to make girls believe that looking like a skeleton is cool or fetching, but that’s what some of them do. We’re hoping this campaign will get that message across. You can sign up to on the website which is So go on! It’ll only take you a minute, and anyway, the pics on it are definitely worth a butchers.
THE good folk of Norwich were left without an MP after Labour’s Ian Gibson was effectively (and pretty unfairly!) booted out of Parliament over the expenses business. So party bosses, MPs and campaigners flooded in from all over the country in the weeks leading up to the by-election. Cameron’s Tories came out on top with a plucky young lady called Chloe Smith who thrashed all the other contenders (not literally with a stick, though). So the Conservatives have got themselves an extra seat and a little boost in the run-up to the General Election. They must be feeling pretty good about themselves right now. But it’d be a dangerous time to get complacent. Every party knows a week is a long time in politics and the General Election probably won’t be until May 2010, almost a year away. You never know what could happen between now and then. Gordon Brown could enter the Big Brother house to reconnect with the public, the Tories might make George Galloway their leader in retaliation and my local pub landlord, Richard Bell, could become Prime Minister. If all those things do happen, I’ll throw a party down at the Three Stags and Tory Dave can serve the beers.
HANDS up if you’ve ever heard of Erich Honecker. He was the dictatorial twit who ran East Germany when it was its own little communist country from 1945-1989. Erich wasn’t a particularly nice chap. But he did have some very cool stuff, including a great big propeller-driven plane so he could visit his commie buddies. It had been sitting abandoned since communism collapsed at the end of the 1980s. But this week Honecker One has come back into use — as a luxury hotel. A Dutch fella found it somewhere in East Germany, bought it and shipped it to Holland. There he ripped out the insides and put in a posh bedroom, a sauna and a hot tub. Now he’s charging couples to come and stay in it. The cockpit has been left intact, but that’s dangerous. Anyone might be able to fly off with the whole hotel – and then it’d be “chocs away” and “Auf wiedersehen,” pet!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

No,it's not a holiday,ok!

ON July 21st, two important events occurred in the Parliamentary calendar. Firstly,my jocular office jester, Basil, turned 21. Secondly – and not because of this—MPs left Westminster to spend the next few months in their constituencies. Unfortunately, many journalists haven’t a clue what a “Parliamentary recess” is. Some reported that 647 MPs were “going on holiday!” I got quite excited and thought they knew something I didn’t – like a big MP trip to Ibiza… but then I realised that these ill-informed scribblers thought that summer recess was a holiday. In fact, summer recess is all about MPs spending time with our constituents — the people we’re elected to represent. Normally, our work is split between dealing with problems “on the ground” in our constituencies and raising issues with the government at Westminster. “Recess” is time dedicated mainly to our constituencies. It’s all about visiting nursing homes, opening summer fetes, dealing with blocked drains, meeting hospital bosses, , tackling refuse problems and dealing with all the other stuff people want MPs to fix. This leaves some, but in fairness, not all, reporters who hang around the Palace of Westminster at a loss. And it causes MPs to ask one obvious question: What do Parliamentary journalists do over the summer? Go on holiday? Surely not…
HRH Queen Elizabeth invited me over to her place—or “palace” to be precise— the other day, for tea and a sandwich. I turned up eagerly . . . together with 5,000 other people. It was a right royal honour to be there, especially rubbing shoulders with the likes of Prince Charles and his rather charming other ’alf, Camilla. As I stood there, I remembered an argument I’d once had with someone who basically hates the royal family. She made fun of my support for this fine institution. When I pointed out that she’d been there more often than I had, she said: “I’m, fighting the system from the inside.” How? Did she intend to bankrupt them by drinking all their tea? Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, the Queen’s doing a marvellous job and long may she reign. After that, Charlie will be a cracking king. And as for those pesky republicans—to use a quaint old phrase —“off with their heads!”
SIXTY-FOUR years after the war ended, it turns out the “bomb-proof” bunker from which Churchill led Britain’s forces is not bomb-proof at all! As headcase Hitler crept around under thousands of tonnes of concrete in his secure Berlin dug-out, Winston’s bunker in London’s Cabinet War rooms offered about as much protection as a camouflaged camper van. The revelation comes from a letter that goes on display to the public for the first time next month. It reveals that Churchill was pretty hacked off to find he was at risk from German bombs. But Britain’s bulldog premier still chose to stay in London. Perhaps that’s why he smoked all those cigars — there was so much smoke coming out of the vents, that the Germans thought they’d already scored a direct hit!
OH I do like to be beside the seaside. Hats off to Thanet Council in Kent whose plucky councillors are helping to boost tourism in Margate by bringing back the town’s saucy seaside past with a sexy burlesque show. They’re shelling out £30,000 to entertain visitors and “hark back to those saucy seaside postcards of the 1950s”. Some people say it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. But if the councillors can help tourism in these tough economic times, then what’s the harm? As an added boost, Thanet could team up with Daily Sport stunna Siobhan Fisk. She’d bring in so many visitors eager to buy those postcards, that their top
shelves will be as bare as her’s.

Friday, 17 July 2009

We're losing Afghan war

THERE’S nothing funny about the war in Afghanistan. As still more British troops are lost and injured, and as the politicians throw mud at each other about whether we’ve got enough helicopters out there, the harsh reality is—we’re losing the war. This is a tough admission. But many in that troubled land are not only sympathetic to the Taliban, they’re actually working with them to defeat the “occupying” forces. The argument used to justify the war is that if we pulled out, it would become a hotbed for terrorism. But I believe our presence there is provoking some to side with the very forces we’re trying to defeat. If we worked harder to win the hearts and minds of the local people, it would probably make a great deal more difference. As it is, our military activity prompts terrorist responses —it’s a vicious circle. It’s tragic so many soldiers have paid the ultimate price but more tragic still if we learned nothing. The grim fact of history is that using force, nobody has EVER conquered the Afghans.
FORTY years ago on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon—the greatest technological accomplishment in history. The world held its breath as he went down the ladder, before uttering those immortal words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”— marking a milestone of our time. My grandad, Ernst Opik, was involved in the moon landings. He was an astronomer, and was responsible for helping to work out if the “Lunar Lander” would sink into the dust or not. Luckily, he got it right, otherwise there would have been a lot of apologising to do afterwards. But perhaps the least known fact about the whole thing was that Neil Armstrong actually fluffed his lines. He MEANT to say: “That’s one small step for ‘a’ man, one giant leap for mankind.” It could have been worse. He could have said: “Hello Elvis,” or: “How did that World War II bomber get here?”
I HAD two meetings with Flash Gordon Brown last Wednesday – after which a miracle occurred. The meetings were on different subjects—one on human rights in Iran, the other on UK drugs policy. Busy Gordon had just 10 minutes, so it was a hectic logistical operation involving two staff members, half a dozen representatives of the Bahá’í faith (it’s a religion), a drugs policy expert and two reporters. Unfortunately no one had told Gordon any of these people were coming. Ooops! It’s an easy mistake to make. Gordo thought it was a one-to-one meeting. Just when I thought he was going to have me sent to the Tower, he laughed like a lion and told me I’d been crafty. If the public saw him like that, they’d realise he’s a likeable and very engaging fellow. Cheers, Gordon—next time we meet for a pint I’ll make sure I TELL you I’m bringing half my constituency and a couple of Daily Sport girls.
WHAT is art? That’s the question I found myself asking as I popped down to Tr afalgar Square to see what’s going on at the “fourth-plinth.” Ordinary people are taking turns standing on top of the giant plinth for one-hour each. It’s part of a 100-day long “work of art.” Some are making political points. The first lady up there released balloons to promote the NSPCC. One chap brought up a bike to encourage eco-friendly travel. Another fella dressed up as a giant turd to raise awareness of the fact that billions of people in the developing world live without proper sanitation. The “artwork” is going on for a few months and people can still apply to stand on the plinth. Perhaps Daily Sport stunna Tommie Jo should apply. Her campaign? “The naked truth”.
A BERLIN brothel is offering discounts to customers who go there by bike or public transport in an attempt to cut carbon emissions. But have they considered the carbon dioxide produced while people are “at it”? Like looking at the pictures in the Daily Sport, some things are just never going to be carbon neutral.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

We must rain in leaks

THERE have been a lot of leaks in Parliament this week, but they were nothing to do with sensitive information. No, this week’s leaks were the good old-fashioned watery kind, through the roof. My office is in Portcullis House. It’s Parliament’s newest building. When it was constructed the designers tried to make the inside seem so natural it would feel like being outdoors. Well, it really did feel that way when, during a meeting I was having in the building, it started raining INSIDE. MPs and staff dodged water as it came in all over the place. Dustbins were commandeered to catch the torrent and stop them messing up the carpets Strangely enough, one of the only roofs that didn’t leak was in Westminster Hall. That’s the oldest part of Parliament and was built right back in 1097 by William the Conqueror’s son. I’m not really sure how that happened. Portcullis House is not even 10 years old and it started to fill up like the Titanic. Meanwhile, Westminster Hall is over 900 years old and was as dry as Henry VIII’s bones. If things carry on like this, they might as well dump a thousand tons of sand on the floor, replace the staircase with a diving board and swap the Speaker for a lifeguard. Parliament? Baywatch for ugly people.
WITH the recession really biting, jobs are few and far between –– but in these dodgy times, Job Centre Plus is going the extra mile and branching out. This week it was advertising the position of Adult TV Channel Presenter –– a saucy job which involves posing in the buff three nights a week and bringing home a cosy £220 a shift. Not bad. Lots of free time, over 30 grand a year and the chance to make many new friends. Some citizens got wound up by this and claimed government-funded job centres shouldn’t be promoting such “naughty” careers. But the Department for Work and Pensions put its foot down, saying “a job is a job.” As long as it’s legal, Job Centres have to advertise it. So there you have it –– our own government reckons that a bit of nudity could help boost employment and bust the recession. And once again, the Daily Sport has led the way by providing employment to a whole army of potential applicants like super stunna Gemma Massey. The economy might look bleak, but the she never will.
TODAY Barack Obama lands in Africa for the first time since becoming US President. He’ll be talking about the big issues affecting the continent, including conflict, poverty and piracy so he’ll have his work cut out. Obama’s got African roots himself. He’ll be trying his hardest to help get things sorted. That’s great news. Although change needs to come from inside Africa, the international community also has a big part to play. All too often we chuck in a fiver for Comic Relief then go back to worrying because the Sky Plus isn’t working or that Dominos put too much pepperoni on the pizza. Meanwhile, thousands of people are starving and dying of easily treatable diseases. Africa’s got a lot to offer. People think about movies like Hotel Rwanda and Black Hawk Down but forget about the brilliant cultures and beautiful wildlife beyond the troubles. If Obama can help sort out some of the big problems, Africa might have a brighter future. I wish him the best of luck on his mission. It’s gonna be a hard job and a long slog but if anyone is up to it, Obama’s the man.
WHATis it with Parliament trying to keep out the young? First a group of stroppy MPs tried to stop the UK Youth Parliament using our chamber. Now the Commons authorities are trying to stop Cubs and Scouts from visiting. It all kicked off because water companies are about to start charging massive bills for drainage on campsites. This would bankrupt Scout groups and mean a massive loss for our youth. So Cubs and Scouts planned to come over to Parliament and have an argy-bargy with their MPs. But the powers-that-be decided that because they are too young to vote they shouldn’t be allowed in. And they politely told them to shove off. That’s pretty weird logic –– it’s not as if they’d be lighting campfires or anything. Luckily, Julian Brazier MP, Stephen Pound MP and Martin Salter MP stepped in. They went to the top and asked new Speaker John Bercow to overturn this ridiculous ruling. I’m pretty sure that Johnny boy will take the sensible decision. Anyone should be able to meet their MP regardless of their age.

Friday, 3 July 2009

This hybrid ain't no ass

MINISTERS can’t stop talking about the environment. However, there isn’t all that much actually happening about it. It’s all very well building big wind farms and telling people they should fly less. But you can’t go to work on a wind farm, and most people don’t fly down to the local supermarket to do their shopping. On the other hand, most of us use cars. So I took the political challenge into my own hands and drove around Westminster in the new Honda Insight hybrid. I used to think a hybrid was a mix of two animals, like when they breed horses and donkeys to make mules. But this hybrid was no ass. Instead, it has two engines, one normal and one electric. So you use less fuel, spend a bit less cash and pump out a lot less pollution. Indeed, the Honda hybrid was a lot more impressive than I’d expected. It has a top speed of 113mph, a smooth ride, electric everything, automatic gearbox, and a built-in MP3 player. It saves money AND the planet all at once. So good job Honda. Now you just need a great advertising campaign to go with it. I favour a car-wash scene with Holly James polishing the bonnet. It’s the perfect combination of high octane girl on electric wheels.
AS you might expect from Britain’s most outspoken MP, I won the award for “Alternative Parliamentarian of the Year” in 2008. This occurred at the prestigious GovNet Alternative Parliamentary Awards—parliament’s version of the Oscars, where top MPs from all parties get awards to mark the good work they do. So it was with a mixture of pride and sadness this week that I handed this coveted award over to the 2009 winner. And who might it be? None other than maverick Tory MP David Davis who was singled out for the excellent work he’s done to protect our civil liberties. Dangerous Dave has taken on the government over ID cards, detention without trial and ludicrous plans to store everyone’s DNA on a big database. It’s largely down to him that the powers-that-be have backed down on these crazy schemes. All in all, it was a good night and it turned the spotlight on some of the good stuff that MPs do. With others trying to make everyone look like a bunch of crooks who’d sell their granny for a duck island, it was nice to highlight folk like David who just want to help people. . . after all that’s why most MPs are here. I think the Daily Sport should have its own Parliamentary awards with categories for beauty, friendliness and, political incorrectness. Now that WOULD be a refreshing change.
POSTMEN from Lands End to John O’ Groats rejoiced on Wednesday when Labour MP Angela Smith introduced her bill to protect them from dangerous dogs. If a crazy canine bites you in the street the owner would be prosecuted and you’d get compensation. But the law doesn’t apply on private property, including gardens. Angey got the backing of the CWU—the union that looks after postmen— and she’s taking this all the way to the top! She stood up in Parliament and proposed that the Dangerous Dogs Act be changed to protect postmen, community nurses and anyone else who risks getting chomped by a hungry rottie. I like dogs but I also like getting my post. People need to take responsibility for their poochy pals and that involves stopping them from noshing on public workers. So good luck Angela. I’m right behind you, especially if there’s a dangerous dog about!
HOW do you turn 20 pence into 50 quid in these dodgy economic times? Easy — just find one of the many “dateless” 20p coins that are floating around. The Royal Mint created about 200 000 new 20p pieces. Normally, every coin has the year of issue stamped on it. But someone “forgot” to put it on the new batch — making them the first undated British coins for 300 years. This makes them rare for coin collectors who are shelling out £50 for the cocked-up coins! How about that to beat the recession! A 20p that wouldn’t even get a pack of crisps down the pub will buy you a whole evening out! Or, if you want a quiet night in, you could buy 80 copies of Daily Sport, a six pack of Carling — and a copy of Hello! for the missus