Sunday, 30 August 2009

It's silly season

EVER heard the phrase “silly season”? Journalists use it, but never really explain what it means. Well, in yet another world exclusive for the Daily Sport, here’s the silly season laid bare. Basically, for most of the year, reporters depend on politicians to make enough news to fill the pages of their newspapers. They may slag MPs off much of the time, but the poor dears are lost when Parliament isn’t sitting. That’s why, over the summer, you’ll find so many prominent stories which wouldn’t even make the news the rest of the year. Some of them are simply trivial, others are plain silly. Hey presto! Welcome to the silly season. A good example is the coverage which the small Spanish town of Bunol got on Wednesday. They had a festival called La Tomatina, where they all throw tomatoes at each other! Nearly 140 tons were thrown during the “veg out”. There were no winners—but a lot of red faces and rivers of juice. Now, I ask you, would this be news at other times of the year? Of course not! But, when the politicians are away from Parliament, the media gets desperate and reports stories like this. Am I guilty of the same desperation? Not a bit of it! The reason I’m telling you about it is because I have an idea. We could do this in London’s Parliament Square. All the politicians could throw tomatoes at journalists on the first day of the new Parliamentary session. That would be very good indeed for Commons morale. And, to give it a political dimension, Nicole Ford could oversee proceedings, dressed only in fruit and veg. This could cause the usual outrage among conservative elements, but it would massively big-up healthy eating. Department of Health take note.
I NOTICE the British Empire has just seen a bit of a comeback. Although the days of running around in funny hats, imposing oppressive laws and beating up “the natives” have passed, the UK still has a few colonies scattered about. But it’s not cool to call them colonies any more. So instead they’re known as “overseas territories” which obviously fools everyone. Most are little islands in the Atlantic and the Caribbean. They mainly rule themselves on a day-to-day basis. Occasionally the UK government checks up on them, plays the national anthem, hoists up the Union Flag and then wanders off again. But the other week the government spotted a bit of foul play on the Turks and Caicos Islands, a UK colony –– I mean overseas territory –– in the Caribbean. They realised that sneaky local politicians had been flogging off crown lands to line their own pockets. So they shut down the local assembly and will be exercising “direct rule” there until 2012. It’s a risky business. Kicking out elected politicians and ruling a country from 4,000 miles away isn’t terribly easy. Then again, things could be much more serious –– if the government decides to impose direct rule on Britain’s former colonies as well they’ll be invading America next!
PIRATES could soon be in power in the UK! But they’re not the swashbuckling Johnny Depp-type –– or even our uzi-wielding chums from the Somali coast. I’m talking about the Pirate Party –– the Swedish outfit who campaign for free file-sharing online. They’re fed up of big fees being charged for music downloads, copyright being slapped on YouTube videos and internet usage being tracked. They won a couple of seats in Brussels and are now planning on standing in the UK general election next year. These buccaneers shouldn’t be underestimated. They’ve got a big supporter base of mostly young people. I can see problems with making everything free as composers and writers would lose out. But the pirates have a point. Until we take a more reasonable approach to tracking internet usage and copyright questions there may well be a case to say: “Yo-ho, me hearties!”
LOOKING forward to the weekend? I guess you’re gearing up for a night of clubbing with the lads, a few pints down the boozer or a takeaway with the missus. But Friday night isn’t the start of the weekend for everyone. Take Algerians –– they work Saturday and Sunday but have Thursday and Friday off. Recently, however, Algeria’s government has decided to move the weekend because it’s cocking up their economy. You see, most of the country’s North African neighbours have their weekend on Friday and Saturday. So when people frantically call the Algerians on a Thursday, there’s nobody in the office because they’re off chilling out on the beach. A recent study showed their choice of weekend is costing Algeria a whopping £420 million in lost business every year! That’s why the government is shifting the weekend to one day later. I’m pretty sure the UK won’t be changing our weekend anytime soon, though. After all, just think of the effort it would take for TGI Friday to change all their signs!

Monday, 24 August 2009

We need more jaw-jaw

MORE than 200 soldiers have now died in Afghanistan with no sign of any end to the fighting. So when is it going to stop? Well, the government tells us it will stop when we win. The new British Army chief General Sir David Richards even said that we might be stuck there for 40 years! If we’re still stuck in the Afghan mountains then, it would mean a lot more fatalities ahead. But is this war even winnable? It’s a hard one to call. Obviously, our government reckons we can get the job done. And the courage and professionalism of our brave and dedicated military is not in doubt. But HOW can we win? That’s not a question I’ve heard a good answer to yet. Don’t they realise that the very act of “being there” is actually part of the problem? I know ministers don’t like to admit it, but lots of local people support the Taliban who are hell-bent on getting us OUT of that country. I also get tired of hearing that the reason we’re there is about stopping terrorist attacks in the UK. You don’t have to be an international peace envoy to see the reality and realise that we’re provoking some the terrorism by fighting them in their country. So here’s my humble suggestion. Let’s look at other ways of solving the mess. Like trying to talk with the people we’re fighting. It’s not such a crazy idea. We did that same thing in Northern Ireland. And it worked. The terrorists have stopped their killing. Life in Belfast is better than it’s been in over 40 years. Why is Afghanistan so different? What’s for sure is that the current way we’re approaching it isn’t working. And until we take a new look at it, the bullets will keep flying, the bombs will keep going off, and our military will carry on paying the ultimate price.
POLITICALLY speaking, I’m pro-Royal Family. I’ll tend to defend them when they get hassle in the press. So I pricked up my ears when I heard the inimitable Duchess of York – Fergie – had swapped her Royal lifestyle to live in Manchester’s Wythenshawe housing estate. That must have come as a surprise to the neighbours. One minute, it’s just your normal folks next door. Next minute you’re hearing the National Anthem every few seconds and the bins are filling with empty bottles of champagne and caviar. She says she hoped it might turn Wythenshawe into a “thriving community”. That’s a pretty big ambition, considering she was living there for just 10 days. Still, fair play to her, it was an interesting project and I respect her for putting herself in an unusual circumstance for her. Sadly, after she’d filmed it, Fergie got loads of stick on the radio. She went in a rage and said she she’ll never go back to anything like this again. Funny how history repeats itself. I wonder if, after Fergie moved out of Wythenshawe, the Queen phoned the residents and said: “Yes, she was just the same after she moved out of Buckingham Palace.”
I DON’T normally have a go at political parties, but something happened some days ago which really got my Parliamentary goat. So the Conservative Party are now saying they might get rid of “league tables” on how schools are performing. That’s sensible. But what I want to ask them is if league tables are so crap, why did YOU—the Conservatives— introduce them in the first place? I mean, it wasn’t as if everyone was telling them it was a great idea back then. I remember folks objecting at the time. League tables for schools are about as clever as measuring someone’s intelligence by weighing their head. That’s the thing which annoys me about politics. Governments introduce stuff which is obviously stupid. Then they expect to get praise for dumping the barmy idea a couple of decades later. The same thing happened with the Poll Tax, which the Tories introduced and then scrapped. And it even goes for the war in Iraq, which the Tories voted for, but now say they’re opposed to. It’s all “yes but—no but,” and “in out—in out”. You can’t run a country well by introducing bad policy and then abolishing it again. I suppose at least we’d know what a Conservative government’s theme tune could be – the “Hokey Cokey”.
WELL, it had to happen sooner or later. Spanish researchers are saying that beer is GOOD for women. They reckon ladies who drink moderate amounts of beer may have stronger bones. That’s pretty good news. Perhaps our government should promote beer through the NHS for ladies. We could have a beer allowance distributed through the Benefits Agency to make sure that every female gets her healthy portion and fair share of booze. But what would it do to the overall appearance of the fairer sex? That worries me not a little. After all, my good friend Donna Tickel doesn’t look like she’s in need of an improved bone structure. She’s far too sweet to need bitter.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

How was it for you Hillary?

POOR Hillary Clinton made world news for getting ratty in the heart of the Congo this week. A male student asked, through a translator, what her husband thought about the Chinese giving a loan to the Congo. She wasn’t, er, too happy about this question. In fact, it’s fair to say she reminded everyone that SHE was in charge now, not her hubby. The amount of interest it generated made it sound like she’d declared war on Africa! In truth, it was mildly amusing. But it was also unfair for the global media to focus on it so much because the student did not, in fact, ask for her other half’s opinion. His question referred to current President Obama’s view. It’s just that the interpreter screwed up the translation, and changed “Obama” to “Clinton.” What a blunder. You can kind of understand Mrs Clinton’s reaction. I mean, how would you feel if every time you went to work and made a suggestion in a meeting, someone enquired: “What does your wife think about that?” Eventually, you’d just flip your lid and either walk out or shout at the irritating git who was going on about it. Since Hillary was in the middle of the Congo at the time, walking out wasn’t an option, as she probably didn’t want to become a tasty snack for the local wildlife. Shouting was the only practical option. So, next time you’re having a pint and Hillary Clinton walks in, don’t say: “Does your husband know you’re here?” If she nukes your local, you deserve it.
THERE’S a lot of politics involved with the London Olympics. Location, investment and transport are always being discussed in Parliament. But the latest debate is about what new sports should be included. Yesterday, female boxing was added as an event at the 2012 games. It’s the first time that ladies punching each other will be included as an official Olympic sport. There’s some history to this. Britain’s first professional female boxer, Jane Couch, took her case for recognition to an industrial disputes tribunal 12 years ago. She claimed the boxing authorities were refusing to give her official status.
The boxing board argued that“Pre- Menstrual Tension” made women too unstable to be boxers! Well, I’m glad the IOC made the right decision. If your missus is a bit peaky, politically speaking, it’s bad for interpersonal relations to tell her she’s too “unstable” to go boxing. While ladies like Jerri Byrne may look lovely in boxing gloves, it was probably safer to let them “go for gold” in the Olympics instead of provoking them to “go for your goolies” in the bedroom.
AS Britain staggers under the weight of rising unemployment, on-going recession and rising prison numbers, everyone’s looking for a hero to save us. Well, could that hero be a cat called Hugo? Apparently, when this feisty feline noticed next door’s house was on fire, he ran in through the cat flap, woke the sleeping neighbour with his paw and saved his life. The local fire brigade said: “We are delighted that this very fire aware cat was able to alert the family on this occasion.” What a star. But I’m worried. In the government’s desperation to save dosh, they might sack all the firemen and replace them with an army of firecats, trained to rescue people from burning buildings. Frankly, as a solution it’s far from purr-fect.
SHOCKING new figures reveal that, last year, there were half a MILLION requests for surveillance procedures in the UK. That means 500,000 separate requests went in to snoop on our e-mails, phone calls and generally spy on what we’re up to. That’s very, very bad. It means the authorities are out there, tracing your credit card expenditure, who you’re phoning, what you’re saying, where you’re staying and which internet sites you’re visiting. And what’s the purpose of all this spying? Is it to stop international terrorism? Are they out to break massive drug cartels? Is the aim to disrupt organised crime? Actually, a lot of it isn’t anything to do with that. They’re checking to see if you’ve been lying to the Benefits Agency, or if you really live where you say you do, or if you know any baddies. They even put one woman under surveillance to see if she’d made a valid school application for her kid. You might say: “So what?” Well, be afraid. Be very afraid. Because if they know everything about you, they can abuse that information in all kinds of ways. After all, what’s to stop the bad guys getting jobs in government, finding out tons about you — and using the information illegally? So you’re in danger — we all are. We’ve got to fight this surveillance society. There’s a lot of danger that the State will become so all-powerful that we lose our privacy altogether. Then, they’ll not only know what we do, they’ll be able to tell us how to live. If we don’t do something soon, before long you’ll need permission to fart from the Department for Climate Change.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Jordan for the cabinet

A ROW erupted this week after Labour’s feisty second-in-command, Harriet Harman , declared that one of the party’s two top jobs should always be held by A WOMAN. High-flying Harman says we blokes can’t be trusted to run things by ourselves –– a bit like when your missus won’t let you do the shopping, because she thinks you’ll buy Pot Noodles instead of pasta and Carling instead of carrots. And let’s face it, you would, wouldn’t you! Some “feminists” have been jumping for joy and think it’s a great leap forward for women. Others are sceptical, saying you can avoid discriminating against women without supporting giving a woman a top government post instead of a man based simply on the fact she’s got boobs. That’s a practice called “positive discrimination.” I’m with them. It’s patronising to promote women just because they are women. Lots of lasses in Parliament are qualified to do these jobs and their talent should be recognised. Having a quota for girls in the leadership is a bit like saying: “Go on, luv, it’s about time we had a lady in power.”
Also, where does it all end? Presumably, if we’re trying to even up the score, we don’t want just ordinary women –– we’d want the womanliest women available. In this ludicrous situation, the more “womanly” a lady is, the bigger the job she should get. In that case, Jordan should be the next Home Secretary and let’s put Daily Sport babe Gemma Massey in as Armed Forces Minister. Her slogan could be: “Make love, not war.”
Cop some food for thought
MOST of our boys in blue are excellent at law and order and keeping streets safe—but over the last year there have been some worrying incidents. Just this week, the Independent Police Complains Commission gave prosecutors a big file of evidence about protestors who were hurt during the G20 protests back in April. It includes stuff about Ian Thomlinson – the poor fella who died after being hit by a baton-wielding bobby. Some police on duty that day could end up before a court. But an even more amazing is the revelation this week Cambridgeshire cops were keeping DNA samples in the same fridge as takeaway curries. Now I’m no forensic scientist. But I don’t reckon keeping crime scene DNA samples next to vindaloos is “a very good idea.” They should have learnt a lesson from the Yorkshire cops who last month were told off for keeping forensic samples next to their ice-cream. What if the two bags got contaminated with each other’s contents? You could get murders being pinned on chicken kormas and have courts finding tubs of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream thrown in the cooler for aggravated assault.
FROM Braveheart to Gazza’s goal—England and Scotland have always had a stormy relationship. But that’s nothing compared to what could kick off next... because an English historian called Catherine Brown is now claiming that Scotland’s national dish – the “Haggis” – is not actually Scottish at all. Cath insists the tasty treat was invented in England 100 years before our friends in the North started eating it. That’s a controversial claim—and political dynamite! It’s like the Scots claiming they’d invented tea and crumpet before the English. I phoned my pal Pete Wishart who’s in the Scottish National Party – which wants Scotland to break away from England — to see what he thought of it all and he said: “This is soft Southern nonsense. Most English people I’ve met think Haggis is an animal. Next, they’ll be claiming the Loch Ness Monster was born in London.” Based on his reply, I think Catherine “Braveheart” Brown had better not go to Scotland anytime soon!
WHAT do you do if you’re mayor of a big town but the government is slow in stumping up the funds they’ve promised you? Basilio Ridolfo, Mayor of Fircarra on the Italian island of Sicily, has a cunning plan — betting on the lottery! Ridolfo reckons there’s a better chance of winning on the lotto than of getting the money from the Italian government in Rome. So he’s set up a syndicate and has bought hundreds of tickets for this week’s “roll-over” draw. If the maverick mayor and his pals win the £98 million up for grabs, they promise to spend half the winnings on improving the town. They’ll then split the rest between the residents. He’s taking a risk but one thing is for certain — it’s a bloody good vote winner if it works out for him. It’s not something I’d try in my own constituency of Montgomeryshire. If I was that good at taking insane risks with other people’s money, I wouldn’t be an MP — I’d be running a bank.