|Mine's a Daiquiri|
Tuesday, 20 September 2016
Thursday, 8 September 2016
Just think of those early days after Tony Blair's election in 1997 - the moment when Cool Britannia flowered briefly before being hastily deadheaded - when the likes of Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher were eager to be photographed with the new, rockstaresque, prime minister. And, in 2000, while Nelson Mandela addressed the Labour Party conference, the Tories had Jim Davidson instead. This is despite the alleged comedian having been happy, in his 1993 autobiography, to write about poking his then wife in the eye, ending with the hilarious quip: 'I actually went for the mouth. Thank heaven I missed, I'd have fallen in. I just took a playful punch.' How the blue rinses must have laughed.
Yes, this was the stuff for satirists. And, more recently, the Three Brexiteers, Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox – awkwardly yoked together by the canny Theresa May – could easily have entertained us all in their own sitcom with their bickering over who nicked the milk or failed to replace the toilet paper in the Chevening House farce in which they all star. But, think of the poor satirist being faced with Jeremy Corbyn’s recent liaison with UB40 – or, at least, one version of the group, if not the one with the original lead singer: what is he to make of this?
Today, for reasons I have yet to fathom, Jeremy Corbyn was joined by UB40 on stage at the Royal Society of Arts where they endorsed him as leader of the Labour Party, claiming he had:
're-ignited an interest in politics for people who no longer felt included, and engaged and inspired a new generation of young voters who, for the first time, believe that they have an incorruptible politician who truly represents them.'
UB40, of course, is hardly an up and coming band riding on the crest of a popular wave of youthful fans; it is an ageing band that was involved with the not entirely successful Red Wedge movement of the 1980s, had split up famously acrimoniously and featured a set of siblings who no longer talk to one another. As this event was being planned, that no one within Labour's strategy team piped up and questioned, just for a moment, whether seeking the backing of such a group an might not be the best metaphor for the modern Labour Party, is little short of astonishing.
Last week, Jeremy Corbyn unveiled an interesting, ambitious, arts policy, pledging to reverse Conservative cuts in arts education and widening opportunity for pupils to participate in the music and arts. How exactly it was to be funded was not entirely clear, but there is a theme to develop, though this event provided no such opportunity. Moreover, I think, prior to the event, there were were very few people on the planet who wondered where UB40, or indeed UB40 with Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue, stood in the Labour leadership battle.
Thursday, 2 June 2016
One crime CCTV didn't help solve, however, was the murder of Camille Gordon, who worked as a nightclub hostess at the Blue Bunny Club in Archer Street, Soho. This was a clip joint, a venue which enticed men in with the promise of a strip show and even sex for prices as low as £5. Once inside, normally in a basement, customers would suddenly find themselves with an astronomical bill of hundreds of pounds and threatened with beatings if they didn't pay. Sometimes, unfortunate customers would even be marched up to cash points and ordered to withdraw money by some knucklehead. The business plan of these clubs - which have mainly gone now - relied upon knowing that their victims were highly likely to be far too embarrassed to ever complain to the police.
On this particular occasion, on March 1, 2004, there was a dispute with a young black man who was facing a £375 bill after being in the club for about ten minutes. He left the club only to return and stab the 23-year-old Ms Gordon, who staggered down the stairs of the club before collapsing. Archer Street, at that time, had no CCTV cameras and the only footage that was obtained by cameras nearby displayed grainy pictures of a figure heading away who may or may not have been the killer. Despite a £20,000 reward being offered, her killer has not been captured.
There is, of course, no way of knowing whether CCTV would have led to the successful conviction of her killer but I remember police bemoaning the lack of decent footage and Westminster Council certainly wasn't saying CCTV was of 'little benefit' at the time.
In just over three weeks’ time voters will be going to polling stations to cast their vote in the EU referendum. The polls are increasingly close, the Conservative Party is, predictably, tearing itself apart on the issue, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are having whale of a time campaigning to large crowds around the country. This, then, is the obvious time for a film (full film here) about the apparently pro-EU leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, to rail against those enemies of socialist progress, the BBC and The Guardian columnist.
Tuesday, 17 May 2016
Monday, 25 April 2016
The full interview, where she talks about her transport plans, why Heathrow expansion should be stopped, how the Garden Bridge should be cancelled and Boris Johnson's legacy can be found here.
'I used to make them up when I played my very impressionable sisters! For some reason I used to like the greens - Regent Street, Bond Street, Oxford Street. I thought they were attainable without being ostentatious.'
Bond Street is possibly a bit ostentatious these days and Regent Street, if not quite ostentatious, is certainly an advert for aspiration. But, regardless, it isn't a winning tactic for Monopoly. Peter Whittle's full interview, where he talks about tackling overcrowding in London, his love of the arts and meeting the Queen, is here.
'I would go for the train stations, to guard our precious transport infrastructure from Khan's £2bn blackhole.'
So, not a winning Monopoly strategy, but he's hoping with his overtly political answer to highlight again his major campaign theme that Sadiq Khan's plan to freeze transport fares for four years, if he becomes mayor, would blow a large hole in Transport for London's development budget. It's certainly a point of contention. Goldsmith talking of his love for Richmond Park, his plan to build houses and why Britain should leave the European Union can be found here.
'Buy early, and buy lots! Whether it's Old Kent Road or Park lane, buy, buy, buy.'
Finally, in the Monopoly stakes at least, a candidate has a potentially winning strategy. Whether he can win in London with his contested four-year freeze on fares and his affordable housing target of 50 per cent remains to be seen. For details on why he thinks those policies would work, and how he would like to step into a boxing ring with Barack Obama and that he definitely didn't woo his wife in McDonalds, see the full interview here.
'I play with my daughter Grace, who has autism, and struggles with maths as well because she has dyscalculia. So when I play Monopoly my main strategy is to help her understand the value of the properties that she's buying and whether she can pay the mortgage.'
Here is someone with a sensible purpose for the game rather than one who wastes hours - albeit with sadistic glee - trying to bankrupt one's opponents. You can read more about the struggle for equal pay, trying to end violence against women and why Mary Wollstonecraft deserves a statue in London here.
Friday, 8 April 2016
One cannot atone for the sins of one's father. One cannot even atone for their accounting choices. I dare say that, gazing back through my family tree, among the many fine and upstanding people, several of the characters that feature would have done something of which I thoroughly disapprove. I imagine there was a racist, a bully, maybe a petty criminal and a blithering incompetent. There's little I can do about it. And I reckon I do things that will make my daughters in future roll their eyes in bewilderment.
I actually feel a bit sorry for David Cameron for this is the problem he now faces. He cannot undo the business decisions his father made and it must be very excruciatingly painful for him to see a figure he loved and so obviously admired to be hauled over the coals, especially as his financial arrangements were far from unusual and all tax owed - under the law - was paid. People claiming that Cameron has benefited from tax dodging are simply wrong. He hasn't.
Nothing illegal has occurred. That does not mean, however, that the prime minister hasn't made a series of terrible of mistakes that yet again leaves his judgement open to question. While the urge to defend the honour and privacy of one's father is a perfectly natural instinct, it is hard to imagine how it could have been handled more incompetently.
It is the end of yet another wretched week for the government and most of the problems are entirely self-inflicted. In his interview last night, yet again David Cameron said 'I don't have anything to hide', but it was the fifth statement on his financial affairs, having spent the week trying to dodge the question.
David Cameron was at pains to say Blairmore Investments wasn't set up to avoid tax. Yet, the 2006 prospectus for the scheme stated:
'The directors intend that the affairs of the fund should be managed and conducted so that it does not become resident in the UK for UK taxation purposes... the fund will not be subject to UK corporation tax or income tax on its profits'.
And it is noticeable that both the prime minister's £300,000 inheritance and £19,000 profit from Blairmore both happened to be just below thresholds above which tax would have been due.
Why also did Cameron sell his stake in January 2010? It surely cannot have been because he feared how it might appear if he were to win that year's general election, can it?
And while not strictly necessary under the rules, it is a noticeable omission from his Register of Interests after repeatedly asserting his transparency.
The claim that 'we are all in this together' also sounds particular hollow now and Cameron's criticism of others using offshore vehicles - such as Jimmy Carr - does appear at the very least foolish, if not hypocritical, now.
These are awkward questions which the prime minister may still face pressure to answer.
Oddly, though, they're almost irrelevant. The bigger issue is political competence. Lurching from self-inflicted wound to self-inflicted wound, the government currently gives the impression of being tired and out of ideas, much like John Major's administration after the disaster of Black Wednesday.
Consider the last few weeks. George Osborne's budget took three days to fall apart spectacularly. Jeremy Hunt is proving more unpopular at health than even Michael Gove at education and the junior doctors' dispute shows no sign of being over anytime soon. Sajid Javid found himself on a jaunt in Australia when Tata was holding a crucial, and long expected, meeting on the future of the British steel industry. Even the EU pamphlet, while in many ways perfectly understandable, is a £9.3million invitation for a bit of internecine warfare.
One can only think that the most plausible explanation for this is the EU referendum. The government is chronically divided and is struggling to present an agreed voice on almost anything. We witness, on a ridiculously frequent basis, ministers within the same departments saying contradictory things - meaning that focusing and simply getting the basics right is very difficult to achieve.
The biggest danger for the government is that this image of incompetence might sway voters in the EU referendum. While it is fair to say neither side of the Brexit debate has covered itself with glory, no one wants to be on the same side as an incompetent and it always looks worse coming from a government. Voters might tick the box to leave the EU simply to give the government a bloody nose rather than because it's something they actually want to do.
Despite the ineptitude, however, any calls from Labour for Cameron to resign are way over the top and while the government does seem tired, it remains very hard to imagine a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn ready to step into the breach.
It is recoverable, of course. Cameron simply must shore up the team around him for currently he is receiving woeful advice. And if the Prime Minister wins the EU referendum - which still seems most likely - he will have the opportunity to shake up his cabinet, refresh it and try and push on; though it will be a struggle to keep all sides happy.
In the end, it does rather feel that the final days of the David Cameron era has arrived. If he loses the EU referendum he's a goner anyway, but if he wins he will at least have the opportunity to depart on his own terms.