Archive for December, 2011

Quote of the day: Henry Deedes.

December 30, 2011 Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone, London mayoralty, Quotes Comments Off

“Boris wins, Ken vows to fight again. And again.”

(Henry Deedes, in his predictions for 2012.)

Last year’s predictions reviewed.

December 30, 2011 Any other business, Politics, Sport Comments Off

Any fool can make predictions at the start of a new year, but it takes a big man to own up to how wrong he was, twelve months later. So here goes; my 2011 predictions (recorded here) were as follows…

11 political/economic predictions:

1) Labour will win the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. - RIGHT 
2) In May’s local elections, the Tories and Lib Dems will each lose around 600 seats net. - WRONG
3) Labour will fall only just short of a majority in the Scottish Parliament elections in May. - WRONG
4) The ‘No’ campaign will win the AV referendum in May. - RIGHT
5) An attempted coup on Ed Miliband will be openly discussed. - WRONG
6) Dominic Grieve will replace Ken Clarke as Justice Secretary. - WRONG
7) Vince Cable will leave the cabinet, replaced as Business Secretary by David Laws. - WRONG
8) Unemployment will decrease in at least one quarter as the private sector grows. - RIGHT
9) The FTSE will climb above 6,500. WRONG
10) Strikes in London will help Ken Livingstone take the lead over Boris in the polls.WRONG
11) Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty will all confirm they’re running for president. - WRONG

and 11 sporting predictions:

1) England will win the final Ashes test, taking the series 3-1. - RIGHT
2) Paul Collingwood will quit Test cricket. - RIGHT
3) England will win the Cricket World Cup. - WRONG
4) Roy Hodgson will be sacked as Liverpool manager. - RIGHT
5) Fernando Torres will leave Liverpool. - RIGHT
6) Manchester City will win the Premier League. - WRONG
7) Andy Murray will win a Grand Slam – probably the US Open. - WRONG
8) Rory McIlroy will win a major. - RIGHT
9) Ronnie O’Sullivan will announce his retirement. - WRONG
10) New Zealand will win the Rugby World Cup. - RIGHT
11) David Haye will beat both the Klitschko brothers before retiring. - WRONG

I’ll post my (hopefully more accurate) 2012 predictions tomorrow…

Rompuy Pompuy’s New Year message.

December 29, 2011 Politics Comments Off

A thoughtful, if completely unintelligible, New Year message from the beloved EU president…

Chavez: ‘Did US give Latin American leaders cancer?’

December 29, 2011 Ken Livingstone, News Comments Off

Hugo Chavez – socialist President of Venezuela, friend of Ken Livingstone and the late Colonel Gaddafi, and all-round nutcase – has really excelled himself this time. Commenting on the unfortunate coincidence that a number of left-wing Latin American leaders (Chavez, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner, Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva) have recently been diagnosed with cancer, he speculated that the United States may be responsible for their respective illnesses.

“It would not be strange if they had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it until now…I don’t know. I’m just reflecting.”

One wonders if Ken Livingstone shares his friend’s suspicions, particularly as he reckons Barack Obama is “like some sort of mobster”…

Shawcross refuses to defend Ken over al-Qaradawi.

December 29, 2011 Ken Livingstone, London mayoralty Comments Off

Some interesting quotes have been coming in from the Limmud Jewish Conference, at which there was a London election debate this evening. Brian Paddick attended, Andrew Boff represented the Tories and Val Shawcross (Ken’s running-mate) represented Labour. Apparently a Green Party candidate was there too, but such is his/her irrelevance to my life, I can’t be bothered to look up who it was.

Ken has a lot of work to do to restore relations with London’s Jewish community – he’s the man who compared a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard, made anti-semitic comments about the Reuben brothers, welcomed Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London, and casually compared Boris to Hitler (as if Hitler’s actions were in some way equivalent to cutting crime and investing in transport).

The worst of the offences was the warm welcome given to al-Qaradawi, a calculated act which couldn’t be dismissed as a joke or a misunderstanding. The cleric defends Palestinian suicide-bombers, condones wife-beating, favours female genital mutilation, and advocates the persecution of Jews and homosexuals. When his visit received media criticism, Livingstone declared ”Very often those who raise uncomfortable truths are denounced.” In the years since, Ken has continually rejected criticism of his relationship with al-Qaradawi; even as recently as March this year defending the cleric at one of his ‘Tell Ken’ events.

The issue obviously came up at today’s debate and it sounds like, by all available accounts, Shawcross struggled to defend Ken. According to tweets from Barnet Bugle, she asked voters to not punish Ken for the “mistake” and “misjudgement” of inviting al-Qaradawi to London. She also apparently chided him for “not apologising sooner” for the “stupid and unpleasant things” he said when Mayor. Apparently Brian Paddick asked her why Ken has such a “long standing problem with Israel”, with, according to tweets from Andrew Gilbert, Shawcross saying that Ken would “need to reassure Jews himself”. Indeed he will…

[UPDATE: Andrew Gilligan has since written on the same topic. Read it here.]

Shock as Eddie Izzard finds himself on winning side.

December 28, 2011 Ken Livingstone, Politics 1 Comment

For those who have followed Eddie Izzard’s career with amusement (albeit perhaps not the kind of amusement he aims to produce), it was a shock of near-epic proportions to see him emerge on the winning side on last night’s Big Fat Quiz of the Year. Indeed, his shock (right) seemed almost as great as mine.

This is a man who has constantly, repeatedly and invariably found himself on the losing side in life – particularly when he’s stepped out of his comedy comfort zone into the far trickier world of politics.

He’s argued for years that the UK should integrate further into the European Union, and has been one of the loudest advocates of Britain joining the Euro – a stance that now seems comically foolish, given the currency’s current troubles. Almost as foolish as the below photo of him stood next to a billboard suggesting Britain was heading for some kind of national ruin by not signing up to the single currency.

Izzard’s next big political passion was Gordon Brown. He was a full-throated backer of the man recognised by most as one of the worst Prime Ministers this country’s ever seen. His biggest contribution to the Labour cause during Brown’s premiership was appearing in party political broadcasts – firstly at the 2009 European elections (at which Labour came third, behind UKIP) and again at the 2010 General Election (at which Labour were kicked out of power, having lost nearly 100 seats).

Izzard carried on incorrigibly to help lead the ‘Yes’ campaign at the AV referendum. In the lead-up to polling day, he embarked on a vainglorious whistle-stop tour of the UK, to drum up support for the proposed new electoral system. The tour had no impact whatsoever (in fact, polls worsened for his side), and ‘Yes’ was defeated by more than 2 to 1 – ending any chance of electoral reform for at least a generation.

And what of Eddie’s next big project? But of course – he’s backing Ken, isn’t he? Only time will tell whether the Big Fat Quiz marks a sea change in Izzard’s fortunes, or if ‘Ken for London’ will be yet another embarrassing black mark on his political copybook.

Ken’s got his strategy wrong.

December 27, 2011 Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone, London mayoralty Comments Off

Leaked documents obtained by the Evening Standard last week reveal that Ken Livingstone’s main electoral strategy is to remind voters which party Boris represents. On discovering that Boris is a Conservative, the voters will – so the plan goes – recoil in horror and flock in droves to back Ken. I’ve been mulling the strategy over for a couple of days, and I think that while it’s clever in theory to pin a candidate to his less popular party, it will fail in practice for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I find the language of the plans strange. They suggest that this is in some way a new strategy – that, as from January, they will start reminding people of the link between Boris and the Tories. The fact is that they’ve already been doing it for over a year – when selected as Labour’s candidate for the mayoral race Ken said he would be the voice of opposition to “Boris, Cameron and Osborne”; during the London riots, he (hilariously) attempted to pin the blame on “Boris and the government’s EMA cuts”; in his conference speech in September, he mentioned ‘Tories’ or ‘Tory’ a dozen times in as many minutes. And with what outcome? An 8% lead in the polls for Boris. It’s not hurting and it’s not working, to mis-quote my favourite leftie inanity.

Secondly, if the big strategy is to link Boris to Cameron, the obvious response will be to link Ken to Ed Miliband. Given Cameron’s far better ratings (as reported by the Guardian in a rare moment of frankness yesterday – see pic), it seems unlikely that Ken would be the beneficiary of those comparable associations. Indeed, whereas Boris and Cameron’s differences are much documented, Ken has attached himself to the Labour leadership far more than ever before – declaring Miliband to be the first Labour leader that he’s actually got on with. To be so closely associated to a leader who epitomises weakness and indecisiveness doesn’t strike me as the cleverest tactic.

Thirdly, at a broader level, Ken’s still making Boris the focus and subject of what is a hugely negative campaign. Even the Guardian aren’t convinced that’s the right strategy, given Boris is the more personally popular candidate. In an article today, which can only be described as sympathetic towards Boris, they quote Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, who argues that Ken needs to completely de-personalise his campaign if he’s to stand any chance of winning. That means an end to Bullingdon and Eton jibes, an end to the inane #GetAGripBoris!! shrieks on Twitter, an end to supporters dressed in chicken outfits, an end to comparing Boris to Hitler, and an end to desperately trying to paint Boris as in some way draconian or evil. Whether a candidate as bitter and vengeful as Ken can bring himself to end the personal attacks, to frankly grow up a bit, remains to be seen. I have my doubts.

Tube strike: Unions’ greed; Livingstone’s silence.

December 26, 2011 Ken Livingstone, London mayoralty Comments Off

Today’s Aslef-organised Tube strike means Londoners are facing severe disruption across the capital, already struggling businesses and retailers are experiencing reduced trade and Arsenal fans are missing out on their traditional Boxing Day fixture. All this because tube drivers – who, it should be remembered, get over £45k a year (rising to £50k in the next few years) and seven weeks holiday for a 35-hour week – are demanding triple pay and a day off in lieu for working bank holidays.

As someone whose first job, as a student (yes, in those days we got jobs rather than relying on EMA handouts), was in the service industry, where working bank holidays is the accepted norm, and as someone whose nurse flatmate was dealing with dying patients all day on Christmas Day, the extent to which the tube drivers are out of touch is almost unfathomable. I’ve read people say that the poor, victimised tube drivers have to work shifts and sometimes see people die – so does every nurse in the country (indeed, far more frequently), and they’re paid around half what tube drivers earn. [And, no, that isn't an argument for nurses to go on strike. They have fulfilling, reasonably-paid careers, and knew they'd never be rich when they chose their profession. They're stoic heroes, who devote themselves to caring for the ill - even on bank holidays. Most I know scoff at the tube drivers' greed.]

So what of the response from the mayoral candidates? Boris said:

“It is appalling and simply wrong that at a time when many Londoners are enduring a decline in salary in real terms and rising living costs, that the union are asking for more money for something already included in their salaries…The union leadership’s demands only add weight to the argument for moving towards greater automation and driverless trains.”

Brian Paddick said:

“The fare-paying public, many of whom are on minimum wage, who need to get around London, won’t understand, let alone sympathise with the unions in this dispute.”

And Ken Livingstone said:


How strange – I can’t actually find a response from Ken. It’s an awkward one for him, of course, given Aslef are one of his principle backers – both in terms of support and finance. But how perverse that a man who has aspirations to lead London has his hands tied so tightly by the unions that he can’t even comment on (let alone condemn) something causing such disruption to Londoners.

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2011 Any other business Comments Off

Just a quick line to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas! May you embrace the festivities with the same enthusiasm as this young lass…

Ken’s history.

December 18, 2011 Ken Livingstone Comments Off

Some Christmas shopping in Waterstone’s earlier provided much unexpected amusement. Look who’s been classified under ‘History’ alongside Thomas Cromwell, Mary Tudor et al…

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