Friday, 26 August 2011

Notting Hill's Carnival will parade the true spirit of London

Despite the recent riots, there is no reason why this weekend’s Notting Hill Carnival won’t live up to its reputation as Europe’s biggest and most successful street party.
A lot of reputations rest on everyone having a good time. London mayor Boris Johnson wants to reassure sports fans that London is a family destination ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Met needs to show its policing strategy is fit for purpose. At the same time the Carnival’s organisers need to prove that by providing adequate numbers of stewards and ending the two-day event a couple of hours earlier, they can maintain control in the streets.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Love locks - tender token or eyesore?

Why haven’t I seen any love locks in London? Until today I’d never even heard about the custom where lovers write their names or initials on a padlock, attach it to a bridge or some other structure and chuck the key in the water as a symbol of their everlasting love.
Apparently the fashion has been around a while, found across the world and has grown to a degree where some local authorities in places like Paris and Venice consider it a menace – unsightly and potentially damaging.
I’m neither young nor in love – of the two, if I could choose, I’d settle for the latter – but I am a pretty observant person. Surely I would have spotted a random alfresco padlock let alone an epidemic of the things?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Skills crisis: The Government must do more to help the young become employable

Just as New Labour failed too many of our young people by not ensuring they left school with basic levels of literacy and numeracy, so the Coalition is denying them a second chance to remedy the deficiencies that make them unemployable.
News today that nearly a million 16 to 24 year olds – one in six – are classified as NEETS (Not in Employment, Education, or Training) was deeply disturbing. It illustrates the hollowness of Tony Blair's "education, education, education" pledge.
The year-on-year 18 per cent rise – some 119,000 - in the number of 19 to 24-year-old NEETS in danger of becoming a lost generation was the largest jump since records began to be collected in 2000. I wonder how many of them were caught up in the riots?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

NICE: Hypertension battle must move to the home front

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is expected to announce new guidelines tomorrow for how GPs should diagnose high blood pressure in their patients.
‘White coat hypertension’ - when your blood pressure soars during a test in a surgery - could affect as much as 25 per cent of the population, NICE concluded a while ago
Inevitably where doctors have relied on surgery readings alone, there is the risk of inaccurate readings. Patients with otherwise normal pressure could be prescribed unnecessary drugs and those with a problem might be overprescribed.

Monday, 22 August 2011

David Cameron was proved right on Libya - now he must win the peace too

Historians may well conclude it was more luck than judgement that allowed David Cameron to pull off the gamble that helped prevent the massacre of Benghazi and played a large role in aiding the defeat of Colonel Gaddafi.
It’s no wonder the imminent overthrow of the Libyan dictator had the Prime Minister rush back to the capital from his holiday a lot faster than when the recent riots set Tottenham and elsewhere a-blaze.
With the Government’s economic policy mired in zero growth and U-turns the order of the day, Cameron’s veneer of competence was being rapidly chipped away and he needed some good news. It’s come from an unexpected quarter.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Hurrah for Celebrity Big Brother - but will Sally Bercow fall flat on her face?

Raise a cheer for the return of Celebrity Big Brother. The nation needs an inconsequential, low rent guilty secret to divert it in a summer, which so far has been denied a traditional silly season.
Riots and plunging stock markets are only the latest setbacks turning 2011 into a year to forget. So thank goodness CBB has been revived on Richard Desmond’s newly acquired Channel 5 - after Channel 4 dumped the show as old hat.
A new house – with plenty of scope for eye candy housemates to flash the flesh in both swimming pool and sauna – a new presenter in Brian Dowling but the same old D-List selection of celebrities.
Fittingly the introductions to the new dawn opened with Kerry Katona and ended with the Jedward twins.
Despite the rumours no Charlie Sheen, no Mike Tyson, no Pamela Anderson. The nearest CBB got to a Baywatch Pammy was Pamela Bach, once married to David Hasslehoff.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

We had it easy - student days in the Sixties

The publication of schools’ A Level results today set me thinking about my own education and the rocky road towards my third in BSc (Sociology) in 1968. The product of three years at what was then called Regent Street Polytechnic in central London.
A Level grades are make or break as to whether you can study your chosen degree course at your preferred university. I got C, D, E and on the back of six miserable O Levels grades no one would have me.
The only degree I was half-interested in studying was English. Without Latin O Level my choice of universities was very limited. I might not have passed Latin but I couldn't have done worse than the Grade 9 (the lowest) I got in German which I ‘studied’ instead.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

I support tough sentencing but we don't preserve our values being unfair to rioters

Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time is unbeatable street philosophy, which crossed the Atlantic to here several decades ago.
But the pendulum in some of the prison sentences being handed out after London’s recent riots does seem to have swung too far in the direction of the latter day hang-em and flog-em brigade.
Four years for inciting a riot on Facebook - which never happened or ever likely to -is tough compared to the two years and eight months received by the protester who dropped a fire extinguisher from the roof of the Tory HQ in the student fees demonstration.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

David Starkey's gangsta culture attack was tame compared to Bill Cosby's broadside

I was reminded of the blistering attack on what we now call gangsta culture by black comedian Bill Cosby in his Pound Cake speech back in 2004 in a comment piece by Dominic Lawson writing in The Independent today.
I wonder what those who damned David Starkey’s albeit clumsy invective on the same theme – people who tweeted their condemnation before their brains connected with their thumbs like Labour leader Ed Miliband, BBC’s Robert Peston, and CNN’s Piers Morgan - would have made of Cosby’s observations.
He was addressing a NAACP celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the court ruling, which ended racial segregation in American schools.
Cosby feared the sacrifices of courageous campaigners made half a century before were being squandered.

Monday, 15 August 2011

The truth behind noisy orgasms

It will have come as no surprise to most men that the “copulatory vocalisation” made by their womenfolk is more likely to be linked to an “opportunity to manipulate male behaviour” than anything prompted by her approaching or actual orgasm.
The two researchers from the University of Central Lancashire, who found survey evidence pointing to this conclusion, have merely stumbled across bedroom good manners.
The first sound a man is often likely to make after his orgasm is the word “sorry.”

Friday, 12 August 2011

The riots - a symptom of the death of respect

Policing, for the time being, has leapfrogged the UK economy as the public’s No.1 concern. Levels of crime have always worried voters but usually focused at a local level. The riots have promoted law and order issues to the top of the agenda – in England, at least.
Something will be done because the rioting came uncomfortably close to those who operate the levers of power.
It is one thing to find your high performance car has had its bodywork scratched by an anonymous coin-wielding malcontent during the night but quite another to be confronted by a baying mob kicking in the restaurant window where you are enjoying the 12-course tasting menu.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Trying to cut rioters' benefits is a wrong turn

In just a couple of days, the e-petition "convicted London rioters should loose [sic] all benefits" has reached the 100,000 signatures required to be considered for a Commons debate.
The e-petition submitted by Stephen Mains adds: “No taxpayer should have to contribute to those who have destroyed property, stolen from their community and shown a disregard for the country that provides for them.”
This position won guarded support from several MPs in today's recalled Parliament, while some councils are considering whether they have sufficient powers to evict tenants who have - or their children - committed offences in the riots.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Max Hastings gives a grim assessment of thuggish rioters but can Ed Miliband offer some hope?

I would give my eye-teeth to write half as well as Sir Max Hastings. Having edited the Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard, he returned to jobbing journalism even more successfully than before.
His military pieces contain masterly analysis; his political and social examinations are always thought provoking.
None more so than today’s article in the Daily Mail titled Years of liberal dogma have spawned a generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalised youngsters in which he examines the background to the riots in England.
It makes uncomfortable reading for someone such as me, who believes in social justice all be it of the hand up rather than hand-out variety.
Read it for yourself; the headline tells the tale.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The riots - how soon can England turn this unhappy page in its history?

Reaction to the riots ranges from the fire-snorting bring back birching and National Conscription brigade to hug-a-looter “we are all to blame” sympathisers. It’s early days in the debate into what sparked the nationwide confrontation between youngsters and the police on Saturday night beyond the shooting of Mark Duggan.
But it’s likely both extremes of opinion will agree ineffectual parenting is where the problem starts.
Conservatives will argue that tough sanctions need to be taken against parents (including efforts to discourage them procreating further) as well as demanding their wayward children be tamed.
Liberals will insist that understanding and support is applied both to redress the disadvantages of birth and an unfair society.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The riots - a Londoner's despair

For the last three days I have been tuned to the radio and television reports of the riots across London, which ignited in Tottenham on Saturday night and have been spreading in copycat outbreaks ever since.
As a Londoner I am ashamed and worried that images of wanton arson and destruction by feral youths in my city are being broadcast across the world.
What began as a legitimate and peaceful protest about the shooting of Mark Duggan by police – and the shabby treatment of his family in the wake of the killing – has been seized on by disaffected youngsters to cause mayhem.
Prepared to put lives at risk, they are obviously beyond the control of their parents, but it is to be hoped they are still within the reach of the long arm of the law.

Friday, 5 August 2011

we know who you are, thats why you cant come in you coke head ponce

The headline is an over-the-top comment left today by an anonymous writer responding to a wisp of a story on a showbiz gossip website. It had reported on the indignation of a minor Hollywood celebrity denied a backstage pass at a rock concert.
The target of the invective is inconsequential; I use it only because the reaction typifies the bile that many internet items attract where comment moderation allows. My example is modest in tone compared to some of the vitriol – often obscene – which is commonplace.
The advent of the internet has made possible a worldwide epidemic of what used to be called poison pen letters. What did these angry or envious people do before technology allowed them expression of their bitterness?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Britain's defence policy is unfit for purpose

Defence strategy and procurement are a GC blind spot but I’m in good company – neither this government not the last lot have a clue how best protect either UK interests or the service personnel charged with that duty.
The shame is the military top brass have been found wanting too in the light of their mistakes in Afghanistan.
The Tories are squabbling among themselves. The Commons defence select committee chaired by Tory MP James Arbuthnot has heavily criticised last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Broadly speaking the Armed Services are being pared to the bone yet are asked to do more (e.g the Libya conflict) with less.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

I've time for critics - but not The Hour

It’s a relief to me the BBC 2 drama series The Hour has turned out as awful as it is.
I gave the first episode both barrels in my July 20th review Sorry, The Hour is a waste of 60 minutes.
This was a departure for me. Generally it goes against every instinct to be negative about any creative project given that many of mine have failed to fly at all.
True, I didn’t like The Finkler Question but then it had won the 2010 Man Booker Prize. I forced myself to watch two further episodes of The Hour to be certain I hadn’t been unfair.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Labour's legacy - 1 in 3 children ill-prepared to start secondary school in September

This year’s Key Stage 2 Sats – the national curriculum tests of England’s 11-year-olds leaving primary school – provided plenty of fodder, much of it negative – for comment from all shades of political opinion today.
For neutrals the BBC decided the news angle was a small rise – from 64 per cent to 67 per cent - in the numbers reaching the “expected” level in the “three Rs.”
On the left The Guardian was concerned that 1 in 3 pupils (nearly 183,000) would be entering secondary school without a working command of reading, writing, and maths.
The Daily Telegraph, on the right of the political spectrum, led with its worry that the proportion of children gaining upper level scores had fallen.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Should child murderers and police killers hang?

Capital punishment was formally abolished in the UK in 1969 but the last executions occurred in 1964 when Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans were hung – at the same time (in different prisons) - for murder.
Several death sentences had been handed down in the intervening period but the murderers had been reprieved.
Now the Guido Fawkes right-wing political website is hoping to use the Coalition’s new e-petition procedure to further the re-introduction of capital punishment for the murder of children and policemen killed in the line of duty.