Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006

People are Tight Bastards

Holy Moly's take on the London newspaper wars:
"Free Newspaper Readers"
If you cunts can spend £200 per month commuting to work whilst listening to your £150 iPods and wearing your fuckknowshowmuch designer gear and drinking a £2.75 chocafuckingmochalatte coffee, then surely you can spare 35p to buy yourself a fucking newspaper, you tight, metro reading cunts."
This is a site that tells it like it is. Go and add your own observations.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

Going or Staying

Why does Tony Blair feel it's worth risking humiliation to remain Prime Minister? It's an irony of the position that the very things worth doing the job for make you steadily less suitable to do it. But being PM is addictive and holders of the job generally have to be prised out of the door.

The perks are sensational. The houses spring to mind; Chequers is reportedly fabulous in the Summer, with its staff and swimming pool, and of course there's the convenience and centrality of Downing Street. When the PM picks up the phone he can speak to anyone he likes, with the possible exception of Osama Bin Laden. If you want to go anywhere, cheerful plain clothes detectives bring up a convoy of Range Rovers, or an aircraft of your own can be used. Want to meet a celebrity? Anyone interesting can be invited for lunch by your office. Dinner at the Ivy? That's very fixable too.

Against this amazing access to life's finer things and people has to be set the continual scrutiny by opponents and the media; the constraints on one's personal behaviour (it's unacceptable for a PM to lose his temper or even express himself honestly with anyone other than a small number of people who won't ring the papers or pop the incident in a memoir) and the fact that a variety of terrorists and nutters would love you to meet a bloody end. Indeed, some are possibly conspiring to make it happen.

The effect of these distortions is to set the leader apart from the swing of natural life. He never sits in a traffic queue. He virtually never buys anything in a shop, and he was in opposition the last time he experienced the pain of paying for petrol himself. It's unlikely the postcode lottery for health care has an impact on the PM's life, or those of his immediate family members. He spends no time in a pub where he might meet disgruntled voters. In short, he's in a bubble. Bubble Blair.

Of course things do get through to BB; the papers, provides he bothers - John Major infamously gave up looking at them. TV plays its part, and I've never believed Prime Ministerial expressions of naivety when it comes to the Internet. He knows what a browser is for, I'm quite sure. His family see more of real life and Blair says they inform him of it at breakfast.

But the addiction lies not so much in the perks as the centrality of the role. When the phone rings, it could be George Bush, or Kofi Annan, or Jacques Chirac. Blair knows phone traffic after BB bursts will be very dull by comparison. He'll give lectures and be well paid, but what's that next to PMQ's? Then there'll be the temptation to be a back seat driver and whine at Brown's moves; even Thatcher gave vent at times, appearing on ITN to demand policy changes on Bosnia.

It's easy to snipe and meddle; and as nostalgia overtakes the party for the man they dumped, he'll be tempted to become the focus of alienated backbenchers and peers.

And disturbingly, Blair doesn't strike me as a man with a hinterland; indeed apart from tennis I have no idea if he has any hobbies. He'll write the book, and again he'll be well paid. But he'll be in a wintry landscape and he might give way to bitterness. I'd reflect though, if I were him, that Churchill too had wilderness years. And when his country needed him, the phone rang.

Monday, September 04, 2006

This is me in Miami last year, look into my eyes, see the corruption and despair.

A remarkable Poem

Five years ago this week Ms T and I flew to the States for what we were quite positive was going to turn out to be the holiday of a lifetime. Events the following morning changed all our lives; ending some three thousand prematurely and fully raising the curtain on a war of contrasting beliefs which we may not see the end of this century.

Occasionally I think: this is the one that does for us all, but then that's what participants and bystanders have thought about most wars for centuries.

We were staying in a small hotel in the Nob Hill district of San Francisco, which wasn't en suite. I was padding back from the loo and I could hear people's TV's on, talking about some sort of air crash. I'd promised Ms T that I'd try to cold turkey off my news addiction but on the telly went and we sat with the rest of the world and watched it all live.

Eventually we tore ourselves away and went to have breakfast with stunned and quiet Americans. We walked into town, to find one of the most vibrant cities in the world deserted and the shops shut or closing.

Bars that had the previous night shown American football now all had TV news on in the corner, with the same dreadful set of images. A transistor radio relayed the words of a president utterly at sea. He got into his stride later, but for those hours it felt like the World's most powerful country was in a panicked spin.

Even though I was in the States at the time I've always found it easier to empathise with Americans generally rather than the people in the Towers; not sure why - too big a leap of imagination for me to make.

That was until today when I came across this extraordinary poem by Simon Armitage, which will no doubt become famous in the weeks to come.