Sunday, 29 November 2009

It's time for some answers

SIX years, 179 lost soldiers and thousands of dead civilians after it began, we may finally be on the verge of getting some clarity about the UK’s ill-fated expedition into Iraq. On Wednesday, the public inquiry into why we went to war finally got underway. Top spies, government advisors, military chiefs, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown will be giving evidence. The hot issue will be why the government was so sure Iraq dictator Saddam had weapons of mass destruction when, even at the time, it was pretty clear he didn’t. After so much death, destruction and suffering, it’s important to get some answers. Of course, it’s good Saddam isn’t ruling his country any more but when our government seems to have misled the nation and sent our brave troops to die in a dodgy conflict, we have to examine what really went on. Unfortunately, while Gordo and his boys bowed to public pressure and decided to hold the inquiry in public, those running it are hand-picked by No 10. Plus, NONE of the witnesses will be required to give evidence under oath. Some people suspect a government “whitewash.” While a lot of important questions will be asked, we’ll probably never find out completely what went on during those dark days back in 2003. We need to remember the sacrifices our troops made and to find out why they were sent to their deaths. However, we also need to help the Iraqis rebuild their country, get our troops out of Afghanistan and make sure that future British governments do not go mental in the Middle East again. I voted against the war in 2003. It’s cold comfort to be proved right when the error is measured in billions of pounds, and hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths.
WITH the World Cup fast approaching, the South African government is planning to set up 54 special courts so they can deal with rowdy football fans! The World Cup Courts will be in the host cities and will be able to “fast-track” cases involving foreigners. It’s a good idea. If you have your wallet nicked or get a punch in the pub you can give evidence in a couple of days rather than flying back to South Africa after the tournament has finished. It could also put people off footy-related violence. Those idiots who enjoy intimidating other fans or smashing up towns can be in the dock within 24 hours and the South African government has insisted that there will be “no leniency”. Still—I think every football fan will agree on the first person we’d like to see hauled before a judge. For cheating, robbery and crimes against football…Thierry Henry!
IT’S been one of those weeks when the weather has been the main news as huge winter rainfalls caused massive floods. My own area, Montgomeryshire, has been suffering from blocked roads and minor landslides while the situation in Scotland is so bad that people are being told to only make essential car journeys. But, as everyone knows, the centre of destruction is Cumbria. My MP friend Tim Farron has his work cut out sorting out evacuated residents, collapsed bridges, burst banks and millions of pounds in damage. Things got so bad that the army came in to help the emergency services. It’s a scary reminder of just how powerful the weather can be. We often moan about the wind and the rain but just be thankful your house isn’t under eight feet of water! It looks like the worst of the rains may be over but the clean-up hasn’t even begun yet. No one knows how long it will take to repair the schools, roads and houses. Frantic Farron reports that the Cumbrians have all been pulling together to help each other and show a true bit of “Blitz spirit”! It’s this kind of community teamwork that we should be proud of. So,well done to all the residents, emergency services and troops there and to anyone who still thinks there’s no such thing as global warming –– take a hike to Cumbria and see how far you get with that line now.
THERE’s been a spate of bizarre purchases recently! First, some Russian billionaire brought Hitler’s Mercedes for a cool five million quid. The un-named oligarch obviously fancied something a bit different and thought it would be trendy to cruise round in the wheels of one of the world’s most evil men. Then — and I kid you not — someone’s trying to sell Mussolini’s brain on eBay! Now, no one’s quite sure this brain actually belonged to the dead Italian dictator. But it may have been pinched from the hospital where it was stored after his execution back in 1945. His granddaughter Alessandra, a porn star-turned politician, got really angry and made sure eBay took down the offending item. What’s next? Idi Amin’s false teeth? Saddam Hussein’s moustache trimmers? Or even Katie Price’s modesty? Somehow I doubt it. If they
do go up for sale, all three are likely to be fakes.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Time for Gord to be a wise guy

WESTMINSTER’S usual business stopped for the “State Opening of Parliament” on Wednesday. It’s an impressive show, with lots of pomp and ceremony, including a Royal parade from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords. The Queen sits on a big gold throne, then she reads out the government’s plans for the coming year. Although it’s called the Queen’s Speech, she doesn’t write it, the Prime Minister does. But, I wonder if she’s tempted to add bits in like, “My government has decided to give everyone free ice cream in February,” or “Katie Price will be detained in the Tower of London indefinitely”. There are only 70 working days of parliamentary time left before the nation goes to the polls next May. It’s the same length as a series of Big Brother. And just like BB, you decide who stays and who gets the boot. The Lib Dems called for the Queen’s Speech to be cancelled because whatever Labour say, they won’t have time to do it. But there is time for one more thing, bringing our troops back from Afghanistan. Daily Sport was the first paper to say we should leave this un-winnable war. I agree. We should get out before we lose more troops. If Gordon Brown wants to spend the next six months wisely, he’ll bring our boys and girls home. That alone would make this very short parliamentary session well worth it.
Truss issue for Tories
WITH the election so close you’d think the Tories would be taking on Labour. But, nope, they’re busy fighting THEMSELVES about each other’s private lives! Dangerous Davey Cameron has an A-list of candidates, which includes women and ethnic minorities. One’s a lively lady by name of Elizabeth Truss who’s fighting for the South West Norfolk Seat. Apparently, the local Tory branch went mental because Liz failed to mention she’d had a fling with a Conservative MP. Local Tories claimed they had been “betrayed” by Conservative HQ (who knew about the affair) and tried to stop her standing. Oh, for goodness sake! What does it matter? Her love life is no more relevant than her favourite food, or her view on the Offside Rule. Also, if local Conservative Party branches are so obsessed with who loves who, they’ll look pretty out of touch at the next election. I don’t know Ms Truss personally. But as far as “hanky panky” goes, her own team should back off big time. Our Tory chums still have a few lessons to learn.
Colonel Pimp
TWO hundred young Italian ladies were left very confused this week after an exclusive knees-up in Rome turned out slightly unexpectedly. They’d been recruited to attend the bash with a mysterious un-named VIP. Each woman was chosen because she was between 18-35, at least 1.7m tall and suitably “beautiful”. They were taken to a posh venue where they probably thought they’d rub shoulders with Hollywood film stars or top sportsmen—but no! The host was Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi, in Rome on a state visit. He made a long speech to “convert” the girls to Islam before sending them home with 50 euros and a copy of the Koran. It seems the likeable Libyan — a devout Muslim—was trying to poach Italy’s finest. I don’t think it would work over here. Short skirts, high heels and low-cut tops were specifically banned, so none of the Sport girls are likely to end up as Mrs Gaddafi anytime soon.
Dodgy donations
UNSURE of what to get the missus for Christmas? Got a spare £20 knocking around? If so, yo u can give her the ideal gift...a donation to the government! Sound weird? Too right it is! The bizarre idea comes from the Charities Advisory Trust — usually a very sensible group. They run a magazine where you can buy things like goats, chickens and wells for poor villages in Africa — all in the name of a friend or loved one. They send a certificate to show where the “present” has gone and how it’s helping those in need. It’s a nice scheme. It makes people feel good and helps the world’s poorest. But this year they’ve expanded the “gifts” available to include a £20 voucher to “help whittle down the national debt”. Basically, you hand over your 20 notes, and it ends up in HM Treasury… and your other half is meant to feel happy because Britain’s less poor — in her name. I’ve got two problems with this. Firstly, it’s just stupid – I doubt your lass will thank you for giving her present to the Chancellor. And secondly, the national debt currently stands at 825 BILLION QUID... with only £500 worth of vouchers sold so far. Just buy her a bottle of Baileys and some flowers, instead.
Hi Kevan
LAST Saturday I bumped into a great Daily Sport reading chap called Kevan Daniels. He told me : “I read the Daily Sport because it’s a different paper. There’s too much gloom and doom and you need something to cheer you up.” Too right, Kevan. If you read the Sport and you see me, say hi and I’ll try to include you next week.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Nostalgia by the tonne in Berlin

There were big parties in Germany on Monday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was so long ago now, that my youthful staff members Basil, Bill and Barker (sounds like a 1960s folk band) have no memory of it at all! But for many the memories are fresh. Thousands of people were split up from their friends, families and lovers when the Communist leadership in East Germany built the wall literally to stop people escaping to the Free West. That’s why its destruction – and reunification of Germany into one big country again - was their happiest historical moment. Meanwhile some folk have been celebrating – and reminiscing – by snapping up old East German products that disappeared after the country reunified. Communist Cola, toothpaste and even pickled gherkins are all being purchased in a fit of nostalgia. There’s still a small bit of the Wall standing. Go to see it if you ever get the chance. Just one bit of advice- while you’re there don’t spend your cash on any of the “genuine fragments of wall rubble” that are on sale. So many of these have been flogged that you could have built a wall stretching twice around the world! If you want some,give me a call. I’ve got thousands of tonnes of the stuff from, er, a hillside in Wales.
A MEDIA storm erupted this week involving Gordon Brown and the sorry situation in Afghanistan. But it wasn’t to do with troop numbers, pensions for veterans, helicopters, battles with the Taliban or even whether our boys and girls should be out there at all. No, this week’s big story ignored all these serious issues and focussed on. . . the Prime Minister’s handwriting. You see — one of our brave lads, a young serviceman called Jamie Janes, was killed on the front line last month. Gordo wrote a letter of condolence to his mother but, due to his bad eyesight and dodgy handwriting (something he openly admits to), it looked like he wrote the surname “James” not “Janes”. The Sun got hold of the letter and went to town on Gordo, accusing him of disrespecting troops and insulting Guardsman Janes’ mother. Now don’t get me wrong, I can see why Mrs Janes is devastated. But the Sun has really gone too far. Gordon Brown sends personal letters to the relatives of all servicemen and women who lose their lives on the front line, something that has brought a small degree of comfort to a lot of people. The fact that his handwriting has made one name look wrong is no reason to attack him. Anyway, national papers like this should be focusing on the real issues surrounding this conflict. So far the Daily Sport stands head and shoulders above the rest in calling for a withdrawal from Afghanistan. That’s what counts — not whether an “n” looks like an “m”. When our troops’ lives are on the line the Sun, which is backing the Conservatives to win the next general election, has resorted to petty political point scoring. It’s they who should be ashamed.
AS I was driving through London the other night I caught sight of a giant poster for the new Stereophonics album Keep Calm and Carry On. The album cover features the four Welsh fellas sitting around a table in the middle of the sea. It reminded me of a strange political incident the other week when the government of the Maldives went a step further and actually held their cabinet meeting under the Indian Ocean! Maverick President Mohamed Nasheed hosted the meeting in full scuba gear and 20 feet below the sea’s surface, to highlight the threat of climate change. He raises a very valid concern. Experts reckon that if global warming carries on at its current rate the Maldives could be submerged within 100 years. Their problem is that they depend on the whole world to sort out climate change. And at the moment we’re doing a poor job of it. And if we carry on like this there’ll be lots of places which will end up beneath the sea. Let’s start taking the climate thing on a bit more energetically. And until then my advice is go on holiday to the Maldives by all means. But don’t buy a house there unless it’s waterproof.
ONE person whose dedication to veterans and families noone could question is Lance Corporal Katrina Hodge, known to her mates as “combat Barbie”. Gorgeous Katrina is just 21 but has already served in Iraq and won the prestigious Miss England beauty competition. That’s a strange combination if ever I saw one! Now she’s due to head off to Afghanistan but first will be given a short break to compete in the Miss World contest which takes place in South Africa in December. And if she takes the crown Kat wants to help charities that look after wounded soldiers and their bereaved families. Gorgeous, charitable, brave and patriotic — she sounds like the perfect girl. On behalf of Daily Sport readers everywhere I’d like to say good luck Katrina — we’re backing you all the way!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Keeping it in the family......

A CHAP called Kelly has finally revealed his brilliant plan to sort out MPs' expenses. While most of it is OK, there are a few slightly weird bits in it. For example, he reckons that eventually all MPs might have to live in accommodation owned by the government. What has he got in mind? A giant dormitory, with lights out at 11pm and no visitors? Or just a converted prison where we’re all locked up for the night, for our comfort and everyone’s safety? Then there’s the other recommendation: You can’t employ a “family” member. So what does that mean exactly? What constitutes a “family member”? Lots of MPs employ their wives and husbands partly because that means they actually get to see each other a bit more than they would otherwise. Many MPs work 90 hours a week, and if they can work as a team that makes sense. Also, what on earth does “family member” mean? Does having a Christmas kiss with your secretary mean you have to sack her? Can you employ your ex-wife? If you suddenly find out your excellent researcher is, in fact, a long-lost cousin, does that mean it’s curtains for his employment? This one seems a bit dodgy to me and would actually mean we’ll need a kind of register of romantic interests. I mean, if you just fancy someone, do you have to make them redundant before you take them out on a date? These are unanswered questions, and they’ve got to be sorted out before the new system comes into force. The rest of the Kelly stuff makes reasonable sense, but I wonder if he really thought about the family stuff before making his proposals. There’s no doubt things have to change. Personally, I say get rid of all the allowances, apart from travel, and leave an independent body to set MPs’ salaries. What we’ve got goes some of the way there, but until we simplify this whole business, it’ll never go away completely.
SINCE 1989 the Indian army has been trying to defeat Islamic militants in Kashmir. They’ve tried everything. High tech weaponry, aircraft, military vehicles and thousands of troops have been deployed in the region. However, this week two rebel fighters were successfully taken out — by a bear. The mis-adventurous militants were taking a break from fighting and putting together a meal when a great big black bear wandered into their cave. And despite the pair being armed with AK47s, the hungry mammal managed to overcome them and, well, eat them. It proves nature can win where a well-armed military force can’t. The US will be hoping that one day Bin Laden might go the same way. After the billions the Yanks have invested in tracking him down, it would be ironic indeed if he became a tasty snack for Yogi
Bear’s peckish pals!
THE House went nuts this week when Home Secretary Alan Johnson sacked the government’s top drug advisor Professor David Nutt. Dangerous Dave advised the government on drug policy. But he got the boot for saying cannabis was less risky than alcohol or tobacco and that it should never have been made a Class B illegal drug. Now I like Alan Johnson but it’s ludicrous to ask a top scientist for policy advice and then sack him for sharing that advice with the public afterwards. It’s like asking Daily Sport babe Bailey to get her kit off, then getting offended because you don’t like nudity. Anyway, Prof. Nutt is right. I’m not encouraging you to have a spliff instead of a pint, but booze and ciggies are also dangerous. Cannabis may cause mental illness but so does alcohol. Then there’s the link between fags and cancer. If you’re going to make cannabis a Class B drug,surely whisky and cigs have to go in there too! But while the medical world (and the LibDems) are right behind downhearted Dave, the Labour party and, predictably, the Tories seem set in their ways. They’re waging a war against common sense and, sadly, they seem to be winning.
REMEMBER a few months back when I told you about the decision to let the UK Youth Parliament use the Commons for their annual session? It was the end of a long hard battle against a group of stuffy old traditionalists who opposed letting the youth into “our” chamber. Last Friday the Youth Parliament session happened. And a lot of those guys and girls shone. There was no bitchiness or political point scoring, just serious and very well handled debate. My mate, the “Speaker” John Bercow, chaired the session and praised MYPs for their speeches. It was great to see so many young people involved in democracy. Some who spoke — like Funmi Abari and Oliver Rawlinson — have already been spotted by the press. The way things are going,maybe they should start running the country right now.