January 31, 2011 Politics Comments Off
Forgive my pedantry and pervading sanctimony here, but I’m a tad bemused by an answer Ed Miliband gave in a recent interview with GQ magazine. Asked if he’d ever taken drugs at university, he said he hadn’t because he was “a bit square”. Is he saying that only nerdy people eschew drugs? Is he saying that so as not to be perceived as geeky or dull or ‘square’ at university, students should take drugs? Is he saying that in order to avoid displaying his level of social awkwardness, students should be sure to find themselves a local dealer and ideally develop a raging crack habit? I’m pretty sure that’s not the message the Leader of the Opposition should be giving. It is the taking of drugs, not the avoidance of drugs, that should be portrayed negatively and discouraged.
January 31, 2011 Any other business Comments Off
What would you do for a million pounds? What wouldn’t you do for a million pounds? YouGov have polled just over 2,000 adults to find out what they’d do for a million pounds cash. The results are both hilarious and intriguing. 31% of people would be photographed fully naked in a national newspaper, 18% would go an entire year without any human contact, 17% would have sex with someone they find physically repulsive, 15% would give up one of their kidneys, 9% would go without sunlight for a year, 8% would be waterboarded, 2% would play russian roulette, 2% would have an advertising slogan tattooed on their forehead and 1% would have one of their arms cut off.
The figures get really interesting when you look at the breakdown of the responses (see here). While just 13% of people in London would lose a kidney for a million pounds, 21% of Scots would happily part with the organ for the cash. A much higher proportion of Labour supporters than Conservatives would go a year without sunlight. While 7% of 18-24 year olds say they would have an advertising slogan tattooed on their foreheads, just 1% of people aged over 60 would do the same. 27% of men say they’d have sex with someone they find physically repulsive compared to just 7% of women. Perhaps most interestingly, just 13% of Scots say they’d go without sunlight for a year – I thought 100% of Scots did that already…
“Oh God…erm…I used to be good at the Rubik’s Cube.”
(Ed Miliband, when asked what his skill would be if he appeared on Britain’s Got Talent.)
January 31, 2011 Politics Comments Off
It’s great to see Boris warming the hearts of Conservatives and libertarians everywhere, by calling on George Osborne to establish a plan for reducing taxation over the course of this parliament. He rightly argues that 13 years of Labour-rule (“miserable and anti wealth-creation”) has seen taxation spiral to a prohibitively high level which is now undoubtedly harming the United Kingdom’s global competitiveness. As an example, our top rate of income tax (50%) is higher than that of Germany, France, the US, Switzerland, China and numerous other countries. The top rate generates little extra revenue yet discourages the biggest talent from working here.
Boris is calling for a ‘pro-enterprise direction of travel’ – the details of which he hopes George Osborne will set out in his budget in March. This would go some way to combatting the criticisms of the government that it doesn’t have a sufficiently comprehensive plan for economic growth. It would put money in individuals’ pockets and reduce the burden on struggling businesses.
There would, of course, be political obstacles. A programme of tax cuts would be inherently difficult to force through (particularly as a coalition government) at the same time as cuts to the public sector and a presumed increase in unemployment. Lefties would describe such a programme as ‘evidence’ of the Tories’ ideological entrenchment and their desire to shrink the state. Regardless, it would be the right approach – helping businesses, increasing competitiveness and empowering individuals. I hope we hear a lot more of this from Boris.
January 30, 2011 Politics Comments Off
If, as reported in today’s Telegraph, Nick Clegg is refusing to receive new memos or paperwork after 3pm each day, he needs to reflect on whether he’s made out for top-level politics. It simply isn’t practical or appropriate for our Deputy Prime Minister, an important member of the government and a key player in the coalition, to be trying to limit his workload in such a way. This is, after all, a man who wanted to be Prime Minister – a job with an even heavier workload and even fewer opportunities for recreation.
I know he’s recently expressed a concern at his failure to get his work-life balance right since entering Government. I sympathise to an extent, but there’s a reason that he’s paid nearly £135,000 a year – to work seriously hard. I’m not suggesting he should be doing Brown-esque 18-hour days (with the associated sleep-deprived rages) but if he wants evenings off and relaxed weekends, he’s not in the right profession.
It was Theodore Roosevelt who said “A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.” I’ve long thought that one of the biggest scandals in this country is how poorly we treat our servicemen and women after they retire. You only need to look at the suicide rate of ex-troops to see how much help we should be giving them to deal with both physical and psychological issues after they return to civilian life. That’s why ‘Help for Heroes‘ is my charity of choice, and why I’m so keen to help the likes of the Chelsea Pensioners whenever I can.
So I was delighted to receive, as a Christmas present, ‘A Salute to Cooking’ – a recipe book sold in aid of the Chelsea Pensioners, containing recipes submitted by various celebrities. It really is a cracking book (you can buy it here). The contributed recipes include David Cameron’s smoked mackerel pate, Tony Blair’s fish pie, Frederick Forsyth’s pigeon pie, Katherine Jenkins’ ratatouille, Sir James Dyson’s butternut squash goulash and Stephen Fry’s honey buns. Boris’s contribution is both colourful and efficient…
I can’t help feeling a bit uncomfortable about the furore surrounding Richard Keys, Andy Gray and their recent sexist misdemeanours. For sure, Keys’ almost violently misogynistic comments about Jamie Redknapp’s ex-girlfriend were probably a sackable offence. Gray’s sexually suggestive intimidation of a female colleague was also probably a sackable offence. What wasn’t a sackable offence was their banter about the ability of the lineswoman, Sian Massey – yet that’s what the media have focused on, rabidly, amid a maelstrom of unrelenting sanctimony.
I’m not saying it wasn’t sexist or bigoted. It clearly was. And I don’t in any sense condone sexism at a serious level – women shouldn’t be disadvantaged in the workplace or in politics due to their gender. But how many of the journalists getting worked up about this can claim to have never made a sexist jibe? Indeed can many men or women – Gandhi-esque quasi-deities apart – honestly claim to have never exchanged lighthearted sexist ‘banter’ with a friend or a colleague or a loved one? I suspect not.
One of the most publicised criticisms of the pair was that of Rio Ferdinand, England captain. He described their views as ‘prehistoric’. Are you seriously telling me there’s never been a sexist joke in the Manchester United dressing room? Or that, if there has, Ferdinand’s stood up and said “Sorry lads, we’re not having any of those prehistoric views in here.” I don’t remember him describing Wayne Rooney’s actions as ‘prehistoric’ when he committed the vastly more vulgar offence of having sex with a prostitute behind his pregnant wife’s back. Oh, and does Ferdinand think he too should have been universally castigated when, in 2006, he described Chris Moyles as ‘a faggot’ for saying he thought Alan Smith was good looking. That comment, made on live radio (Keys and Gray’s comments were, remember, unknowingly recorded), was a far nastier and greater affront to equality, yet he apologised and moved on. The lack of consistency is astounding.
The media’s criticism has been just as hypocritical. Sky themselves described the comments as “entirely inconsistent with our ethos as a business and employer”. That’s the same Sky that allows Soccer AM to have a weekly ‘sexy Soccerette‘, a model wearing little more than a football shirt, offering viewers the chance to have a pre-match oggle. No chauvinism there, of course. Funnier still, the Sun expressed its outrage at Keys and Gray’s comments, showing an article by Karen Brady in which she slammed institutional sexism. No doubt they (and she?) would claim their topless Page 3 models are ‘being empowered’ or some other nonsense?
So no, I have no problem that the two men are now out of work, but the hyperbole and faux outrage that’s greeted the comments has been tiresome, hypocritical and frankly embarrassing. Anyway, I’m off to watch the football. At least with a male referee in charge, we can be sure no mistakes will be made.
“Theresa May looks like she’s wearing a cross between a Malayan commando outfit and a stained glass window.”
(Paul Waugh, on the below outfit.)
“I will greatly miss Alan Johnson, not just because he is a nice guy but also for the satisfaction I used to get when I saw a headline saying ‘Johnson in new gaffe’ and realised it wasn’t me.”