Thursday, 31 December 2009

Politics gets the X factor

IT’S finally been agreed! Next year, in the run up to the General Election, there’ll be televised debates with the party leaders. Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg will go for it on air. It’s the first time a leader’s TV debate has happened in a British election. They’re common in America but the trend never caught on over here, until now. I think it’s going to be good.The public can really put the leaders on the spot.And the leaders can do the same to each other for a full 90 minutes, not the half-hour at Prime Minister’s Questions. It’s like The X Factor but better because it won’t take 14 flipping weeks to vote for the winner. But some folk aren’t happy. The Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties are complaining because they haven’t been invited to the party. I see their point, but if we invited them we’d really have to invite every minor political party in Britain with representatives! And then there’s everyone from the Monster Raving Loonies through to the Legalise Cannabis Party. If THEY all turned up, it would make The X Factor look positively respectable.
REMEMBER I told you about the big Iraq inquiry that is taking place at the moment? It’s investigating why we went to war and what went wrong, looking at everything from Tony Blair’s gung-ho decision to follow George Bush off to the Middle East, through to the torture of Iraqi prisoners years later. When the inquiry was first announced there was a big argument about whether to hold it in public. Government spooks wanted to keep things hush-hush and hold the investigation behind closed doors. Campaigners for truth and democracy wanted it in the open. In the end the government went with the public option, broadcasting the goings-on and publishing what was said. Unfortunately things went bad last Friday when the lead investigator decided to black-out a whole section of the proceedings. Around midday, an ex-diplomat was giving evidence. Suddenly chairman John Chilcot hit a button and cut the live feed for over a minute. When the transcript turned up later the words said during this time were blocked out with black ink. What on earth happened? Was there swearing? Did somebody fart? Methinks that there is a more sinister explanation. What we’ve got is a public inquiry with the juicy bits cut out. That’s no good. Soldiers died, thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed and billions were spent. Blacking out some embarrassing words won’t fool anyone. The war was wrong and most of us know we should NEVER have invaded. It’s a shame the government still tries to shield itself, and us, from this inescapable and dreadful truth.
SO, the Russians have announced that they’re planning to send a monkey to Mars. That’s right, in a new 21st Century space race, our Moscow based mates are going to put a chimp in a capsule and try to send the little fella all the way to the Red Planet. The experiment will include a robot to look after the monkey on its trip and will hopefully pave the way for plans to send a human to Mars in the next couple of decades. It’s exciting stuff! Putting a man on the moon was one of the biggest achievements in history. That also started with monkeys. Putting someone on Mars will be even more thrilling, because as well as Russia and the US, it will probably include China as well. It’s a shame the European Space Agency seems unwilling to seriously enter such an exciting mission. But one question. Why does it have to be a monkey, or even a man? What’s wrong with sending a woman,like Daily Sport babe Monica Harris? It’d be a real win for equality. And besides, she’s the perfect heavenly body for the trip.
LOOKING at the snow outside you wouldn’t think it – but global warming is getting worse by the day. And although top politicians from around the world gathered in Copenhagen last week to try and thrash out a deal to stop climate change, we’re still a long way off fixing the damage. The Copenhagen summit was a historic chance to try and prevent a global climate catastrophe. But where did it all go wrong? All the countries argued and spent time trying to protect their own interests. In the end US big boss Barack Obama helped broker a bit of a sort of treaty, but it wasn’t binding. That means countries have signed up for it but don’t have to actually do anything! Useless? You bet! Having a non-binding treaty is like saying: “Here’s a load of money and beer — please don’t take it… but no one’s going to try to stop you.” So in a way we’re back to square one. Something big has to be done soon – otherwise this could well be the last white Christmas we ever see.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Identity crisis grows

IDENTITY card plans have caused anger for years. First they wanted everyone in Britain to carry one. Then they saw sense and scrapped the scheme.But now they’ve gone for a bizarre halfway house where ID cards aren’t compulsory but people can buy them for 30 quid! After shelling out seven tenners for a passport, folk in Manchester,where the pilot scheme is starting, have the option of making it a round 100 by buying a useless ID card as well. Labour plan to extend the scheme to Cumbria, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cheshire next year. So if you Northern lads have a few quid left to burn after Christmas, forget the pub! Get yourself another piece of plastic to prove to your landlord you’re who he thinks you’ve been for the last 10 years. I suppose the only person who really could do with proving he exists is Santa Claus. But he doesn’t need ID to get into the country, he can get a herd of reindeer and 10 billion quid’s worth of presents in and he hasn’t even got a passport!
THE troubled Sun newspaper had a curious pop at me for using electricians from Mid-Wales to fix my electrics in my London flat. Their reporter, Lynsey Haywood, implied I wasted money by getting Welsh chaps to fix some electrical problems down in the Big Smoke. Now, let’s think about this. Which do YOU, dear Sport reader, think is cheaper? Sparkies from central London — or my guys from Montgomeryshire, one of the lowest paid regions in Britain? The Sun seems to believe you can get electrics fixed for less in Britain’s capital than you could with Welsh electricians — even including the travel! Perhaps they think Mid-Wales is more costly than Monte Carlo, so their tiny journalistic expenses allowance won’t stretch to a visit to find out whether the place is inhabited by multimillionaires and Pamela Anderson. Just so you know, a pint in my local pub is just over two quid. Rents are a fraction the price of the Big City… as are wages. Daily Sport writers know the real salaries people get OUTSIDE London. What’s bad is the story caused local electrician Chris Lewis to get so upset about how he was, in his words, “completely misquoted” that he offered to resign from his job. That’s NOT good, Lynsey! I don’t mind people having a bit of fun at MY expense, but how would young Ms Hayward feel if someone caused HER so much grief she felt like resigning? As one journalist to another, I suggest there should be limits. It’s wrong to pick on people who don’t know how the press will use their quotes. It might be good to show more respect to decent people like Chris, who deserve better from papers like the Sun.
THERE was scandal in the Irish parliament this week when fiery Green Party MP Paul Gogarty stood up and shouted “f*** you” to rival MP Emmet Stagg. The outburst came during a heated debate on the budget, and the passionate Mr Gogarty went on to declare: “We are screwed as a country because of the wrongdoing of others!” Gobby Gogarty quickly apologised — but the story took a startling twist when it turned out he hadn’t actually done anything wrong! Official rules ban Irish MPs from using the words “scumbag”, “communist”, “fascist” and “hypocrite”. But apparently the f-word is perfectly fine! The rule book is now being reviewed to give it a 21st century update. It’s the end of a flipping era.
THE race for the Christmas number one single used to be very competitive. But ever since The X Factor appeared it’s almost automatic that the winner of the show tops the Xmas charts. Now, non-fans of the contest, have organised a mass buying of the track Killing In the Name, by heavy metal band Rage Against the Machine. But I know who’ll get my backing this year. The British Army Rifles Regiment band recorded Love Farewell, as a tribute to fallen comrades in Afghanistan. They’re selling copies to raise money for the Help for Heroes charity. It’s a great cause. Go and buy it. If enough of us get a copy maybe the government will do their own Christmas tribute to the troops next year…by bringing them home.
FOR ages the African nation of Eritrea has been ruled by a nasty government. People are locked up for “crimes” like criticising its leaders. Now its footy team has legged it while playing in Kenya. The government called for the players to return and also accused them of “betraying their country”. Hmmm… don’t try that approach with your kids— or next thing you know, they’ll defect and end up playing football for Eritrea

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A century of tears

THE UK’s ill-fated expedition in Afghanistan hit a grim milestone on Monday with the loss of our 100th soldier this year. Lance-Corporal Adam Drane, 23, died in a gun battle in Helmand Province. Total coalition deaths in 2009 are now approaching the five hundred mark, with hundreds more Afghani soldiers and civilians dead or missing. The Daily Sport, and millions of people, have said again and again that its time to bring our troops home. And we’ll carry on saying it until the government does just that. It’s clear now that military measures are not the way forward in Afghanistan. But government ministers, from the comfort of London, are continuing to send our people over to fight and die on the front line. One of the arguments they use to keep our troops there is that all the deaths will be in vain if we pull out. But I don’t think this is the case. Allied forces have made progress. It’s just time to switch to a political strategy and to talk to the Taliban instead of trying to bash them into submission. Our forces won’t be home by this Christmas – but I just hope this is the last festive season they have to endure this war that cannot be won… and that the new year brings with it a dose of commonsense— and withdrawal. One death is too many, but one hundred in a single year is just insane.
I BET a lot of you Daily Sport readers look forward to the regular feature Students Talk Sex every Friday. Well, in Parliament this week we’ve had our very own version. You see, some folk in the media got hold of a naughty sex guide that was apparently written by Speaker John Bercow during his uni days. The saucy article appeared in a Tory student paper back in 1986. It included top chat-up lines and ways to seduce various different women. When it came to light on Monday some people got all excited and started slating boisterous Bercow, saying it made him unfit to do his job. What a load of nonsense! The whole thing turned out to be a bit of a non-story because the article wasn’t even written by John! It was a joke ABOUT him, not BY him. I was in student politics at the same time and anyone who met the young Mister Bercow knew he was the last person who would write something like that. And even if he has written it, who cares? Everyone does some odd stuff when they’re younger and it shouldn’t affect their position later. People should chill-outand get off John’s case. Anyway, after this week’s events you can be sure we won’t be seeing a “Bercow special” of Students Talk Sex anytime soon.
THE Italian edition of Rolling Stone magazine has picked its “Rock Star of the Year” and the result was unexpected. Chosen for his maverick lifestyle and eye for the ladies, the prize went to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi! The magazine reckons that even the likes of Rod Stewart and Keith Richards in their prime weren’t a patch on silver-tongued Silvio. They’ve got a point, the billionaire big boss became famous for flings with sexy model Noemi Letizia and call girl Patrizia D’Addario. He also threw saucy hot tub parties with naked girls then shrugged it off as “nothing scandalous” when the press found out. Still — and perhaps most interestingly — Berlusconi has stayed popular in the polls. In fact, there’s a good chance his lifestyle may even be making him EXTRA appealing to younger voters. Maybe Gordon Brown should take a leaf out of his book and hit the town with Peach . What’s the worst that could happen? As well as winning the election, he might even win Loaded’s “Man of the Year!”
LAST week Chancellor Alistair Darling revealed the country’s financial situation. And basically,we’re poor. Very poor. In fact, we’re skint. Everything’s gone wrong economically for the last year or so and the Treasury has been throwing money at it to tryand stop a total collapse. It’s sort of worked, in the sense that the economy will probably start growing again in January. That’s good news if it happens,but we’re still left with a whopping bill of £1,400,000,000,000! There was a bit of good news. Apparently, tax will be less on new central heating systems and also you’ll pay a bit less to play Bingo. So, in the words of economic Guru Vince Cable MP, it’s “good news for bingo and boilers.” But for the rest of us, start saving…

Monday, 7 December 2009

Will Gordon turn pirate

OUR Prime Minister appears to have become amphibious. You see, as his party's European election ratings sank beneath the waves, Gordon somehow managed to keep his head above water. This is no small feat. It was the worst election result for Labour since the First World War. On top of that, some Ministers resigned- and some said that Gordy should resign too. But there's something about Gordon which people under estimate. Just when you thinks it's all over, he somehow rallies his troops and the danger recedes. All the same, there's a lot of Labour wreckage from last week's Euro elections. Other parties, like the Tories and UKIP, were the main beneficiaries. Labour's worst result was in the south-west of England, where in parts they came SIXTH behind a Cornish nationalist party that wants the county to be independent from England. If the unsinkable Gordon Brown survives all the way to the election, he'll be more of an escape artist than Houdini. The thing is, he might just do it. He might take heart from some of the stranger parties which won against all odds in the elections. For instance, the Swedish Pirate Party who campaign for free downloads and file sharing on the internet. Pirates in Parliament? Shiver me timbers!
MAYBE it's because I'm a Londoner that I have to walk everywhere at the moment. OK, I'm not actually a Londoner, but I live there and it's been a tough week for travel in the Big Smoke. Arguments over pay and working hours caused a Tube workers' walkout, bringing gridlock to the capital. I've got sympathy for the strikers, they've a tough job and work hard. But it's pretty crap that London gets stuck whenever we can't use the Underground Ever tried driving around central London in the rush hour? Almost impossible. I dread to think what will happen when the Olympics are here and millions of people come to visit. Perhaps the only solution is to make Tube strikes and traffic jams into official Olympic events.
Remember Gary McKinnon? He's the fella facing big charges in the States for hacking into US Navy and NASA computers. Gary, who has Asperger's syndrome, was using his computer to look for UFOs and managed to hack into some pretty sensitive mainframes during his hunt. Back in October, the Home Secretary ruled he should be deported to the US, where he faces 70 years in jail. This week he's been in the High Court contesting this. His lawyers argue that deporting him for such a lengthy prison sentence could seriously damage his health. He's a got a lot of support. It's common for Asperger's sufferers to be unaware of the effect their actions are having so Gary probably didn't realise how much his hacking antics were frightening the spooks in the States. I reckon the US government should employ him rather than imprison him. He's obviously got the skills and the passion for a job in Area 51. But it could put the X Files out of business -if The Truth Is Out There on a computer somewhere, McKinnon WILL find it.
THERE are a lot of worthy causes around: all over the country people are saving the whales, forests and local post offices. But now some passionate activists have launched a new campaign- to save the Essex accent. Proud Essex historians reckon their unique lingo is being diluted. They are worried that the famous dialect of Essex girls like Bond babe Gemma Arterton and Daily Sport stunna Triana is under threat by the creeping advance of Cockney. It's not a moment too soon either. If Parliament has its way, everyone will probably have to sound Scottish when the Labour Party is in power, and like an Eton toff if the Tories take charge. But ONLY Lib Dem Lembit promises to preserve Essex accents forever!
IN the coming months there'll be a host of 'Pride' festivals up and down the country. Every summer gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities get together in London, Birmingham and other cities throughout the UK. They are often, bright and vibrant events. But in some other countries things have always been a little more low key. In China, for example, homosexuality has traditionally been a bit of a taboo, until now. A couple of lesbians from the USA set up Shanghai's first ever gay pride festival last week. So it's one more Pride party on the calendar so long as you like Chow Mein that is!