Friday, 4 September 2009

Point scoring hides the real issue

THE big political story this week has been the aftermath of the release of Libyan bomber,Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. In 2001 he was convicted of blowing up a Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The Scottish courts sent him down for a minimum of 20 years. A couple of weeks ago he was released on “compassionate grounds”, by the Scottish government, because he’s dying of cancer —a move that caused all sorts of arguments. A lot of people think al-Megrahi should never be released, no matter how ill. And some folk in the media got very excited, because they suspected a secret deal: Libyan business contracts in exchange for Megrahi’s release. Others think he wasn’t even a bomber but took the rap. There were even more arguments over the role of the UK government. The PM and his Cabinet kept being dragged into it by the press. Meanwhile, Tory boss David Cameron jumped in and said he thought al-Megrahi should die in prison. What everyone seems to forget is that it was a decision for the Scottish government—not No10. It was embarrassing listening to interviewers getting lost on this point, looking for a scandal where there wasn’t one. Once again, political point scoring has drowned out the real question— whether al-Megrahi should have been released at all.
IT’S officially the end of summer—the sun has gone, the rain has started, everyone is back at work and Gemma Gleeson has packed away her bikini for another year. Many folk are fondly looking back at snaps of their summer holidays and remembering the Ibiza clubs, Greek beaches and Thai ladies, with a ping of nostalgia. But for a lot of British tourists summer wasn’t such a laugh. The boys at the Foreign Office have been taking stock of all the trouble Brits got into abroad. And there was a lot of it. This year, more than 1,000 holidaying Brits ended up in hospital, almost 7,000 were nicked—and a whopping 29,774 lost their passports! An even darker figure shows that some 22 Brits are now in prison and facing the death penalty after allegedly getting involved in dodgy business while on their hols. It certainly ain’t happy reading. It’s no good for Britain’s reputation and even worse for the folk who end up in trouble. Thankfully, our Foreign Office has a great track record for helping tourists who get caught up in sticky situations, but there’s only so much they can do. After all, while the lingo varies from land to land, certain behaviour spells “SIGNOR PLONKER” in any language.
AS a nation we’re in a lotta debt –– but not as much as we were. For the first time since records began, personal debt has actually fallen. This summer, the amount of dosh we borrowed fell by a whopping £600,000,000. A lot of this is down to interest rates falling. But folk are also being a bit more careful with the pennies and taking drastic steps to reduce their debt –– like paying off a bit of their overdraft rather than renewing their football season tickets (which isn’t such a sacrifice in the case of the team I support). It’s not all good news, though. When you add together all our bank loans, mortgages and the like, we still owe nearly one and a half TRILLION quid, which looks like this: £1,500,000,000,000. So really, we’ve paid back a ridiculously little amount. It’s like your mate owing you £150 and paying you back 6p a month. Try going down to your local and offering to repay your bar tab on those terms. And if the landlord agrees, call me immediately.
VIVE la France! Except when it comes to traffic management. There was a whole heap of traffic chaos in Paris this week. But it wasn’t road works, broken down cars or dodgy parking. In fact, the gridlock was caused by political scrapping between two rival mayors. There’s a road called the “D909” that runs between two different bits of Paris. One bit is run by a conservative mayor, Patrick Balkany. The other is run by a socialist mayor, Gilles Catoire. Well, they don’t seem to get on and, sure enough, things came to a head a few days ago. Mayor Balkany made his part of the “D909” a one-way street. Uh oh! It made more traffic trundle through the bit run by Mayor Catoire. So he did the natural thing. He made HIS part of the “D909” a one-way street too—except in the opposite direction! Brilliant! When the two tides of traffic met each other on the district boundaries, everyone started hooting and it caused a bigger stink than the local onions. The cops had to sort out the mess. And They’re still arguing about it.

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