Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The PM's wrong to rubbish the public service strike

For a former PR man prime minister David Cameron showed poor judgement in portraying today’s strike by public service workers in defence of their pension rights as “something like a damp squib.”
He missed the chance to appear statesmanlike opting instead for Tory-boy adversarial.
Cameron's assessment made during PMQs in the Commons was patently wrong. Strikes and rallies were nationwide and supported by millions of public sector staff including those who were driven to take industrial action for the first time in living memory if not in the history of their unions.
Cameron’s dismissive comment will rile and make it that much easier to strike next time round if a compromise over pension ‘reforms’ cannot be found. It won’t be received well either by parents.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

STRIKE - public service unions need to work on their communication skills

As many as 2 million public service workers could go on strike tomorrow. They oppose the Government’s proposed pension ‘reforms’ which they say mean having to pay more in contributions, work longer, and receive a reduced income in retirement.
One opinion poll suggests 61 per cent of the public supports the one day walkout. The cause of health workers and teachers is always going to get a sympathetic hearing, at least at first.
But it’s unlikely given the likely disruption in schools, hospitals, and airports and much else that backing for industrial action will remain so solid if strikes become a regular event.
Both sides have embarked propaganda campaigns in support of their case but they have generated more heat than light.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Hot stuff - Tina Turner and David Bowie's Tonight duet

The evident pleasure Tina Turner and David Bowie take in each other’s performance was rumoured to have begun hours before they sang together on March 23rd 1985 during the English leg of her Private Dancer tour.
Bowie was a surprise guest to duet with Turner at the NEC Arena, Birmingham on the song Tonight, which he had co-written with Iggy Pop.
At around the 3:15 mark in the video clip below, amateur lip readers suggest Bowie whispers “My cock still hurts.” Whatever he does say as they slow-dance elicits a roar of laughter from Turner.
Whether or not their tenderness is genuinely post-coital, their duet oozes sexiness –and manages to be meaningful and tuneful all at the same time.
For all the raunch, naked flesh, and single entendres displayed by today’s music artists led by Rihanna & Co, they’re not close to the heat generated by Turner and Bowie what is now nearly 30 years ago.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Birthday poems to my children

It's my son's 28th birthday tomorrow. By coincidence earlier today I came across a copy of a poem dedicated to him, which I wrote in a greetings card for his 16th birthday. Here it is.


To my son on his 16th birthday
Where were you while
your cheeks whiskered
your legs haired
your arms muscled
your reason bettered?

Where were you while
you grew tall and true
where were you?
In my heart.


Being an equal opportunity parent, a few years later I repeated the exercise for my daughter.

To my daughter on her 16th birthday

Child grown to woman and ever still my child,
I greet your 16th birthday.

From the moment you squeezed into the world,
I have always loved you.

Years from now when we are apart,
You will cross the road,
And feel me reach for your hand.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

It's a bad day when tabloids need Piers Morgan to make the case for popular journalism

So Piers Morgan, former editor of red-tops the News of the World and the Daily Mirror is to be called to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics.
His knowledge of phone hacking will be undoubted focus of close scrutiny.
To date although Morgan, now with CNN, is on record admitting phone hacking was prevalent during his days in Fleet Street, no one has been able to challenge his assertion it never happened knowingly on his own watch.
It’s unlikely that will change when he is questioned under oath at the Inquiry. Morgan has vigorously argued his innocence and in the continuing absence of ‘smoking gun’ evidence, his defence is likely to remain bulletproof.
Whether we choose to believe his answers on hacking or not, his testimony cannot come too soon for me.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Will the 'swinging' Tenerife couple shed their anonymity?

Let’s play newspaper news editors.
The Daily Mail – along with others – is carrying for what any newsroom – tabloid or broadsheet – is a cracking ‘Brits abroad’ story.
A British husband and wife are making love in the public stairwell of the building of their Tenerife holiday flat when she topples over the banister.
The woman is saved from serious harm by catching her leg in the railings of the stairwell though she sustains a broken ankle.
Several elements appeal. The fact the woman is 49 is as saucy as that she was left dangling in the nude.
Agency stories about roistering British youngsters on holiday - ranging from flashing in front of outraged locals to drunkenly falling to their death - are common.
It’s much more unusual for a middle-aged couple to be found in flagrante – and married to each other.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Christmas wish - peace on earth (and in our stores)

I should be used to it by now. But each year I find myself surprised and irritated how early the Christmas season is exploited by retailers. Christmas ranges seem to have been on sale since late summer.
I can live with the offence to the eye and the cynical exploitation of what is after all a religious festival. If only it could be done quietly.
What really appals me is yuletide piped music in stores and supermarkets from early November.
Prisoners of war are protected – or else they should be – from torture by persistent, discordant noise under the Geneva Convention. The same courtesy should be extended to shoppers until, at least, a fortnight before Christmas.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Leveson Inquiry - Hugh Grant sticks knife in the Press but it's the Dowlers' evidence that really wounds

It was bad timing the parents of murdered teenager Milly Dowler gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics just hours ahead of Hugh Grant.
Their case against press malpractice in general and the hacking of their daughter's mobile phone in particularly is much stronger than that of Grant’s but inevitably attention will focus on the film star.
Grant’s first aim was to settle old scores with the Associated Newspapers titles Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday. For the first time a newspaper group other than News International has been forced centre stage in the hacking furore with, it has to be said, as yet, little firm evidence.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Nigel Farage's attack on Germany's euro ambitions may be unfair but the UKIP leader knows which buttons to push


Britain has never been as united in its scepticism of closer integration with Europe; certainly since the launch of the eurozone perhaps the EU itself.
Recent events in Greece and Italy where governments have crumbled only to be replaced by German-approved technocrats has put back the cause of British europhiles by, at least, a generation.
No governing party let alone a coalition can now envisage closer ties with Brussels without being forced to make good the promise of a referendum. I would suggest that with the nation on alert to any loss of sovereignty even modest constitutional change may be difficult to push through.
So who speaks for Britain on Europe?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Nick Hewer - Lord Sugar's right hand man will sweeten Countdown

So Nick Hewer, Lord Sugar’s right hand man on The Apprentice, is going to host Channel 4’s Countdown quiz show from January.
I’ve no doubt Hewer will deliver the polished, professional performance that has been the hallmark of his working career.
It must be nearly 30 years ago that I met Hewer first; he in the capacity of PR man to Sugar’s Amstrad electronics company and me as a financial journalist.
Sugar was just as cantankerous back then as he is now. It was Hewer’s job to smooth feathers, show the world the best side of his boss’s businesses, which were not without their ups and downs.
Hewer was a model public relations man; he knew his stuff and I can’t recall ever being sent the wrong way by him on a story.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

GC offers some advice to the jobless young - and wishes it were more

George Osborne’s Autumn Statement on November 29th must contain new initiatives from the Chancellor to promote youth employment.
The 2.6 million jobless total was bad enough but today’s news that unemployment among Britain’s 16 to 24-year-olds now stretched to beyond 1 million – more than 1 in 5 – was truly shocking. There is a danger of creating a lost generation that never acquires the work habit.
I’m thankful my children, now in their late 20s, missed the double whammy that is blighting the lives of the current generation of students – higher tuition fees and no jobs when they graduate.
Rather than waffle on about the unfairness of it all, I’d like to reprise those posts where I addressed the issue of young job seekers – and offered a few tips.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

How not to make a fortune from stamp collecting

I have no emotional attachment to the stamp collection I put together as a child nearly 60 years ago. I can barely remember being interested in the hobby.
But the prospect of one day turning the stamps into cash appealed, and, once an adult, I took care they followed whenever I moved house.
My three battered albums containing perhaps up to 200 stamps from around world surfaced recently during a bit of a clear out. Now seemed a good time to make good on the dream.
The website of philatelists Stanley Gibbons advertises consultations with its valuation experts at a refundable £20 if the stamps for consideration generate a sale.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Fun and the Games - a Londoner's view of the 2012 Olympics

I’m starting to regret London won the bid to stage the 2012 Olympics. It wouldn’t matter quite so much if I’d been successful in applying for tickets. But I got zilch.
So all I have to look forward to this summer are the crowds, the traffic disruption and now it would seem a possible terrorist threat, remote though it is.
So deprived of the pleasure of actually going to an event, I’ll be watching the Games on television with the rest of the world. It’s not as though I live in the east of the city, which will benefit from the legacy of the Olympics.
It might be the ideal time to take a holiday and watch the events in a beach bar somewhere in the Med.
I hope Great Britain gets a respectable haul of medals. The way our economy is shaping spirits will be in sore need of a morale booster come the Games.
But from the viewpoint of a foreign visitor who has got Olympic tickets, I would be already hopping up and down in anticipation.
You’ll have the joy of watching the world’s finest sportsmen and women compete. The rest of the time even if you don’t venture outside the capital, you won’t want for diversion.
London’s got it all. History, culture, pageantry, shopping, multi-cultural cuisine, a vibrant nightlife, theatres, cinemas, clubs, bars, pubs. You might find Londoners like me a little grumpy but we will be proud if the 2012 Games are a resounding success. I still think the logo sucks.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Praise be that Britain never joined the eurozone

Democracy is the biggest casualty in the breathing space bail outs of Greece and Italy, as the eurozone installs Europhile technocrats to push through its austerity demands. Britons should give regular thanks for their country's narrow escape from membership of the single currency.
Economic life is tough enough now but at least we have been spared having to pass round a desperate begging bowl, which would have been our fate had we ever joined the euro.
The Bank of England wouldn’t have been free to slash interest rates and print money. Together with George Osborne, at least giving the illusion he is serious about tackling borrowing, we’ve preserved our AAA credit rating.
The 'safe haven' front page headline in today’s Financial Times is mis-leading - our plight is just less worse than some others. But we are indeed in a far better place than had we joined the euro.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Tom Watson over cooks James Murdoch grilling

The Commons culture select committee had one task in recalling News Corp boss James Murdoch today – to show whether he had earlier misled members about the degree to which he was aware of widespread phone hacking at the News of the World. It failed.
He denied the accuracy of incriminating testimony of two former NoW executives, which without a ‘smoking gun’ leaves the committee to decide on one man’s word against those of two others.
If Murdoch’s version of events is accepted, he is guilty of monumental incompetence in not questioning why the newspaper was shelling out millions of pounds in hush money to hacking targets.
Having failed to nail Murdoch, committee firebrand the Labour MP Tom Watson exposed the weakness of his case by resorting to personal abuse.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The rights and wrongs of Fifa's poppy ban

I wear a poppy at this time of year joining millions of Brits in honouring our war dead and hoping in a small way to help the work of the British Legion.
Fifa’s original ban on England’s soccer team wearing a poppy on their shirts when they play Spain at Wembley in Saturday’s friendly was wrongheaded.
The poppy isn't a political symbol and therefore should never have been placed on the banned list of what footballers may wear at internationals.
But Fifa did have a case that in allowing the poppy, other nations might use the decision to press their own claims for special treatment.
The change of heart to permit the poppy to be worn on our players' black arm bands, while welcome makes the organisation look more foolish than it already does.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Remembering Frazier v. Bugner, London 1973

I was sorry to learn of the death of Joe Frazier yesterday. The former world heavyweight boxing champion lost his final fight to liver cancer at the relatively young age of 67.
I was in the Earls Court crowd the night Frazier beat Joe Bugner on points in July 1973; my first and only big fight.
I had ethical objections to prize fighting; any event in which the object is to knock your opponent unconscious doesn’t deserve to be called a sport.
But they weren’t strong enough to prevent me following the career of Muhammad Ali (he, let it not be forgotten, who was put on the canvas by our own Henry Cooper).
Ali had a wide, rebellious appeal among us young people at the time, even those that would otherwise espouse non-violence in response to the Vietnam War.
Frazier had beaten Ali – the first man to do so – in the ‘Fight of the Century’ in 1971 (pictured above).

Monday, 7 November 2011

Deaf as this blog post - another judge attracts GC's attention

Given the torrent of abusive comment which the fairly lightweight story attracted, I must be one of the few people in the country who feels some sympathy for Jamie Tabor.
He’s the judge sitting in Gloucester Crown Court the other day who thought he heard a defendant giving his occupation as “burglar” when he had actually replied “ground worker” (whatever that is).
It’s not clear from the Daily Mail report whether Tabor is a touch deaf or if he had difficulty deciphering the accused’s thick Mancunian accent.
If it were the former then I would have sympathy for his plight even if he had a bathroom mat on his head at the time. I have specific hearing problems primarily related to pitch.
I have had my ears checked on several occasions and have been told what I knew already that women’s voices are harder for me to hear than men’s.

Friday, 4 November 2011

I bet Judge William Adams was beaten as a child

There may be no other way of convincing a toddler not to run in the road or bite a new baby brother or sister than a smack on the back of the hand or leg. It might produce a short lived flood of tears but the amount of force used should be the very minimum to make the point.
I can’t actually remember applying this punishment to my now grown up children. But I must have done because I can’t think how else you get life and death messages across to a young child after reasoning with them has failed.
Beyond that point I’ve never given the ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ philosophy house room. To this day I think it is positively sick that until relatively recently British teachers were free to thrash other people’s children.
These thoughts come to mind after reading about the videoed leather belt beating US family court judge William Adams gave his daughter Hillary when she was 16 back in 2004.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

We need to talk about Tilda Swinton

We Need To Talk About Kevin, the award winning and critically acclaimed adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel directed by Lynne Ramsay and starring Tilda Swinton in an Oscar worthy performance, is a hard-going near-two hours in the cinema for all that.
The misery is relentless as Swinton tries to fathom how her teenage son could grow up to commit a massacre at his high school. This isn’t a spoiler – the carnage is soon evident in a film that abounds in too many flashbacks.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Roll on Christmas - we need some festive cheer

Christmas lines seem to have been in the stores for months but I suppose the official switching on of Oxford Street’s festive lights by The Saturday’s girl band yesterday marks the ‘official’ opening of the yuletide season for Londoners.
Almost as traditional used to be complaints that Christmas was starting earlier and earlier in the high street. But this time round, though still only early November, there doesn’t seem to be as many objections as is usual.
I put this down to the dearth of good news both at home and internationally, which has made 2011 a year to forget. So much so that having Christmas on the horizon will be a welcome diversion to many.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Occupy protesters should take a leaf from the Tea Party book

As a Brit I didn’t need to understand all the intricacies of American politics to appreciate the wisdom of a recent comment column in The New Yorker magazine and draw conclusions relevant to the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest which is causing so much grief for St Paul’s Cathedral.
Hendrik Hertzberg draws important parallels with the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party protest movements even though they are at opposite ends of the left/right spectrum.
“Both arose on the political fringe, more or less spontaneously, in response to the financial crisis and its economic consequences. Neither has authoritative leaders or a formal hierarchical structure,” writes Hertzberg.
The big difference is that the Tea Party has “never doubted the efficacy of elections.”