Paul Waugh reported earlier that Eddie Izzard is to embark on a four-day whistlestop tour of the United Kingdom in support of the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign. Whilst I applaud the endeavour, one can’t help thinking that he should stick to the comedy and charity fundraising – both of which he excels at. Assuming, as all polls now suggest, the ‘Yes’ campaign is unsuccessful on Thursday, it will have been yet another embarrassing political misjudgement on Izzard’s part.
This is the man, you might remember, who campaigned for Britain to adopt the Euro (a now laughable position, given the eurozone’s current crisis), who continually backed Gordon Brown’s leadership of the Labour Party, who played a big role in Labour’s 2009 European election campaign (where they finished an awful 3rd behind UKIP, and only just ahead of the Lib Dems), and who figured prominently in Labour’s disastrous General Election campaign last year.
Izzard’s political antennae are clearly faulty, if not broken. Almost without exception, every political campaign he has ever been involved with has proved, ultimately, unsuccessful. Could someone please suggest to him that he offers to help Ken Livingstone next year?
On behalf of the Londoners, Boris has given the royal newly-weds a tandem version of London’s now iconic Boris bike. He’s quoted as admitting “there’s no indication so far that this was top of their list”, but it’s a classic Boris idea – fun, relevant, memorable, and a great bit of PR for the hire scheme…
Before Boris entered Westminster Abbey for today’s Royal Wedding, he took time to speak to Fiona Bruce. He was in high spirits…
Fiona Bruce: “Boris, I’ve never seen you look so smart!”
Boris: “Well, what do you expect?! I’m very very proud to have been invited. And of course I’m going to wear the right stuff! And this comes, I’m delighted to say, from Moss Bros in Fenchurch Street, and I’m indebted to Pam in Moss Bros of Fenchurch Street for her hard work in getting me as smart as she could!”
FB: “Well, I’m sure she’ll be very glad for the mention! Now you have already worked out what you’re going to be giving to the happy couple as a wedding present, I gather?”
BJ: “We have, and we’re very glad that some kindhearted sponsors have come up with the support necessary for what we think is a perfect present, which is a tandem bicycle! Oh, I’ve given it away already. Anyway, we’ll be unveiling it later on!”
FB: “Well they may not be listening! I think they may be trying to get ready at this point!”
BJ: “True. It may not be uppermost in their minds!”
FB: “It’s a great day for London isn’t it?”
BJ: “It’s a fantastic day for the city, and obviously it shows the city off at its best. We’ve got the entire international media here, and in many ways it’s a good dry-run for the Olympics. And, you know, we’ve got just about every American broadcaster you could possibly imagine. And it’s a good opportunity to test our systems, get our transport systems working, and show it off as best as we possibly can.”
FB: “And how well do you know William and Kate?”
BJ: “Well, I don’t want to exaggerate! The prince and I were involved in an inglorious episode which some of you may remember…to try to get the FIFA World Cup to come to England. We got to know each other a bit then, but I can’t pretend to be, you know, a close buddy of the royal couple, but I’m absolutely thrilled that we’ve been asked!”
FB: “Are you looking forward to the day?”
BJ: “I’m very much looking forward to it. What we’re going to do afterwards, is we’re all going to Trafalgar Square, and I’m going to offer a toast to the happy couple!”
FB: “Boris, I’m going to let you take your seat. Thank you very much for talking to me.”
[UPDATE: Watch it here at 1hr41]
April 29, 2011 News Comments Off
An estimated two billion people across the world today tuned in to see Prince William marry Kate Middleton. They saw not just a marriage between two people, but a strengthening of the relationship between Britain and its royal family. Given the fresh feel of today’s events (not least, William and Kate’s solo drive down the Mall), the welcome addition of a very popular new family member, and the enthusiasm of the crowds, the British monarchy would appear to be in very rude health.
“The country is at war in two Middle Eastern countries. The country is seeking to recover from a huge debt and banking crisis. The Government is embarked on reforms of the NHS, benefits system and education. We are a few days away from a referendum on our voting system and from numerous council elections about local services and the council tax. Yet, the thing which gets the opposition spin doctors into orbit is the use of the phrase ‘calm down, dear’.”
We’re now just eight days away from the AV referendum. Frankly, it’s been an awful fight so far, with both sides scraping the bottom of the campaign barrel in search of a way – any way – to persuade people to support them. I’m still firmly in the ‘No’ camp, because I truly believe that AV is an utter mess of an electoral system, but the campaign has hardly facilitated a mature discussion of the relative virtues of AV and first-past-the-post.
Anyway, as we get closer to polling day, I’m naturally encouraged to try to predict, and bet on, the outcome. A few months ago, there was a competition over on PoliticalBetting.com, which asked readers to predict what the ‘Yes’ percentage will be. I went with 47% – in other words, I predicted ‘No’ to win 53-47. Although much has happened since then, and some of the recent opinion polls seem to forecast a far bigger ‘No’ victory (yesterday’s YouGov poll has ‘No’ 18% ahead), I’m going to stick with my initial prediction. I suspect the result will be much closer than many people are expecting.
Which leads me to the betting. The contest is, in my mind, almost impossible to call with any certainty. Whilst the polls seem to favour the ‘No’ camp, there are so many variables – known and unknown – that I don’t think the deal is anywhere close to being sealed. For starters, the ‘Yes’ campaign’s latest tactic – to encourage people to vote ‘Yes’ to give Cameron and Osborne bloody noses – is a clever political move which could really resonate with Labour voters. Secondly, I’m not convinced that pollsters have taken geographical variations into sufficient account – for example, turnout will be highest in Scotland and Wales where they have parliamentary elections on the same day, and where (in Scotland’s case, particularly) the electorate won’t want to do anything that is deemed to benefit the Tories.
Unless I’m completely misreading the campaign, I think we’re actually looking at what is essentially a 50:50 contest – neither result would surprise me. When you then look at the odds and see that ‘Yes’ is 10/3, and ‘No’ is 1/5 (with William Hill), it’s obvious where you should be putting your money. So, despite predicting ‘No’ to win, I’ve whacked a reasonable amount of cash on ‘Yes’. The winnings would at least fund the drowning of sorrows…
I was pretty amused to read that while Margaret Thatcher and John Major have received invitations to Friday’s royal wedding, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have been omitted from the guest-list. The official line is that this is no political snub – Thatcher and Major are both Knights of the Garter, all of whom have been invited, and Major is also attending in his capacity as special guardian to Princes William and Harry. All of that said, I rather like the idea that Buckingham Palace might’ve made an active decision to exclude the two former Labour prime ministers. Tony Blair had a particularly poor relationship with the palace – he was heavily criticised for trying to secure himself a major role in the Queen Mother’s funeral service, and Cherie Blair always refused to curtsey to the Queen.
Anyway, you’d think it’s a pretty minor issue, which will probably be forgotten about as quickly as it was discovered. Except, it seems, in Rotherham, where local MP Denis MacShane says folk are “genuinely shocked”.
Really Denis? The locals of Rotherham are really genuinely shocked that some politicians will not be going to a wedding? They’re jaw-droppingly aghast at this stunning revelation? They recoiled with horror when they first heard? I very much doubt it. I’d suggest, instead, that it’s just a great opportunity for their local MP to have a swipe at the royal family. In fact, I’d imagine your average Rotherham resident is far more shocked that said local MP claimed £125,000 of expenses for his constituency office which turned out to be nothing more than a garage, claimed for eight laptops in three years, was stripped of the Labour whip, and could face jail in a matter of months. That’s genuinely shocking.
April 24, 2011 Politics Comments Off
Being, as this blog is, a bastion of public advice and guidance, I thought it might be useful to provide a three-step guide to dealing with leaflets from the British National Party.
1. Read leaflet. This bit is very much optional. That said, I particularly enjoy their ‘No to crime’ policy. How very clever! Why on earth has no other party ever thought of that? Think of the zero-crime society we’d be living in if we’d all voted BNP in recent elections.
2. Set light to leaflet. This can be done in any way you choose. I personally prefer the traditional ‘match’ method. The use of petrol is generally advised against.
3. Wallow in self-righteousness, knowing that you have prevented the spread of Nick Griffin’s repugnant campaign of racism, xenophobia and enmity.
There’s an intriguing new post over on Mark Wallace’s excellent ‘Crash Bang Wallace’ blog. He reveals that the infamous liaison between Ken Livingstone and Lee Jasper continues to flourish, despite previous claims that the two men no longer associate with each other.
For those that don’t remember, Lee Jasper was Ken Livingstone’s Director of Policing and Equalities in City Hall. He was suspended (and later quit) after it was discovered he had channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to projects run by a woman he was simultaneously bombarding with sexually explicit emails. Amusingly, the London Evening Standard revealed him to be quite the romantic:
“Darling, I want to wisk you away to a deserted island beach, honey-glase you, and let you cook slowly before a torrid and passionate embrace…How many ways do I love thee? As the air I breathe and first gentle dew on a gloden summer morn. As much as the Brazil national football team or aki and saltfish. I love thee feet, ankles, legs, thighs, bum and belly, arms, head and brain…But most of all I love you in a flaming red sari, bangles, chains or failing that in a bikini!”
Anyway, I digress… The corruption tainted the final months of the Livingstone mayoralty, and was given as one of the many reasons that he lost to Boris in 2008. The two men have rarely been seen together since, Jasper has been excluded from Ken’s 2012 election campaign, and every effort has been made by Ken’s cronies to give the impression that Ken is a changed man, free from previous nefarious associations. Until now. It seems the two men are due to be co-speakers at TUC’s May Day rally against cuts next week. Ken will speak as Labour’s mayoral candidate, while Jasper will be representing ‘Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts’. As Mark writes:
“It seems the old band is back together again. (And yes, you did read that right – Jasper really has set up a group that believes the cuts are racist, and he really has called it “BARAC” in a heroically desperate attempt to get some Obama-glitz-by-association.)
According to his propaganda, we are meant to believe that Ken Livingstone has changed, but here is, once again, sharing a platform with the same old cronies, banging the same old drum. The leopard hasn’t changed his spots – and who really believes he’s been trying to?”
Quite. As hard as he tries to hide beneath the new, fresh, shiny facade, the nasty old socialist in him just keeps emerging. It seems we need to add Lee Jasper’s name to the list of contemptible individuals with whom Ken happily associates (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Lutfur Rahman, Hugo Chavez, Yusuf al-Qaradawi etc.).
[P.S. Jasper's Wikipedia page is hilarious. He's clearly written it himself. "Lee Jasper found himself at the centre of extensive racist media campaigns." Sure...]
April 18, 2011 London mayoralty Comments Off
After an unavoidably lengthy blogging hiatus, I return with the news that Jenny Jones has today declared war on London’s cabbies, saying they put the lives of cyclists at risk. She describes how she has twice been forced off the road, once “into some railings”. Now, I’m a cyclist myself, and have a degree of sympathy, but there are two points here.
Firstly, it’s just a naïve move for a mayoral candidate to insinuate that every cabbie in the capital is some kind of dangerous, raging cyclist-hater. Not only is it patently inaccurate, but it’ll also do her electoral chances no good at all. The last thing she needs is 24,000 licensed cabbies spending the next year telling anyone who gets in their cabs that the Green candidate is a complete idiot.
Secondly, as tricky is it is to cycle on London’s roads, there are things you can do to protect yourself. If she’s as concerned for her well-being as she suggests, can I recommend she gets herself a bike helmet? A reflective jacket wouldn’t hurt. And perhaps she could wear something other than a long skirt and sandals when out negotiating the mean streets of inner London? Lastly, that bike she’s riding is too big for her – I’m not a bit surprised that she’s prone to wobbling off it. Here’s an idea, Jenny – take some responsibility for your own safety before you start lecturing others.