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”…
I know, for many, criticism of the BBC is virtually sacreligious, but it’s on nights like these that I find myself wondering what the TV licence money is actually spent on. On hearing of events in Libya – where the rebels have surged into Tripoli, and it’s rumoured that Colonel Gaddafi has been killed – I instantly started hopping between Sky News and the BBC News channel. The juxtaposed images were incredibly different. On Sky News, Alex Crawford is in the middle of nighttime Tripoli, wearing helmet and body armour, reporting live on events as they happen. Gunshots ring out all around her.
Meanwhile over on BBC News, they’re showing some video footage – apparently from earlier in the evening – of rebels jauntily heading towards the capital. Occasionally, when they can, they’re speaking on the phone with Tripolitan residents, most of whom have no idea what’s going on. As I type, they’re going to the weather…
For an historic event of this enormity and consequence, it’s frankly a disgrace that our national public service broadcaster – and the world’s largest broadcaster, at that – should be so behind on a story. Sky News deserve to pick up – and keep – huge numbers of new viewers tonight.
Within hours of returning early from his holiday, Boris was this afternoon out on the streets of London, meeting local business owners and residents who have been so hugely affected by the riots in the capital over the last couple of days.
At one point, an interview he was giving in Clapham was interrupted by chants of “Where’s your broom? Where’s your broom?”. Boris looked over, bemusedly, to see a huge group of volunteers behind a police cordon waiting to begin cleaning up the mess. He grabbed himself a broom and headed over to speak to them…
“Can you hear me? Good afternoon everybody. Can you hear me at the back? I just want to say thank you to everybody who’s come out here today to volunteer to help clean up the mess of last night. Thank you. You are the true spirit of this city. You represent the people of this city, not the looters and the thugs who did so much damage to London business last night.
I want to say personally how deeply sorry I am, and how much I regret the damage that has been sustained by businesses in this community. And I want to say to the rioters and the thugs, and to those who committed robbery and violence last night, that it’s time we heard a little bit less of the sociological justifications for what is, in my view, nothing less than wanton criminality. I hope the people recognise that they will face the full force of the law, and they will face punishments they will bitterly regret.
And I ask anybody who has the faintest vestige of sympathy with these people to ask yourselves, what is the good, in times of economic difficulty, in raiding and destroying businesses which are the lifeblood of our community, and that give people jobs? Where is the sense in that? There is no logic in it, and I appeal to everybody to resist it and to help us to bring these people to justice.
And in the meantime, I want to thank all of you for coming along today. Thank you for issuing me with this broom! I know that you’ve been waiting here for a long time to come and sweep up the streets. I’ve been talking to the borough commander and his police here – there are forensics they have to go through, but I’m told it will be imminent. Any minute now, you will be allowed to come through and begin the process of clearing up. Thank you very much everyone for coming along today, and thank you for sticking up for London, and for the innocent, hard-working people of this city.”
You can watch it here.
May 2, 2011 News Comments Off
Osama Bin Laden has been shot dead by US ground forces in Pakistan. It’s not a common feeling, but this morning I celebrated the news of another man’s death. Nearly ten years after he orchestrated one of the most horrendous terrorist atrocities, in the form of the September 11th attacks, justice has finally been done. Some will argue that he should have been captured and tried in court, but such proceedings would merely have provided him with one final platform from which to declare martyrdom and encourage others to continue his cause. Those of us who believe in such things are confident that he will meet his maker down the line, and truly be punished for his despicable evil. Hell hath every fury.
Celebrations, however, are mitigated by two secondary thoughts. Firstly, Bin Laden’s death won’t result in the collapse of Al Qaeda. Whereas seven or eight years ago, his demise might have toppled the entire regime, the organisation is now bigger, more scattered and more diffuse. The world – tragically – awaits the inevitable bloody retaliatory acts. Secondly, one can’t help questioning Pakistan’s commitment to the fight against global terrorism. Bin Laden was living in a huge purpose-built compound, less than 35 miles from Islamabad, in the same town as the country’s main military training institution. Imagine, as a tenuous analogy, the world’s most wanted man living happily for years in a massive mansion in Sandhurst. It simply can not be the case that no-one in Pakistan’s government or security service knew of his whereabouts. David Cameron was criticised last year for saying that Pakistan has ‘looked both ways’ on terrorism. It seems that he had a point.
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.
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.
February 24, 2011 News Comments Off
Full marks to whichever apathetic Guardian journalist wrote the below headline for an article about how Kate Middleton did something not-very-newsworthy:
[See the story here.]
February 1, 2011 News Comments Off
There’s been quite a lot of excitement about a new crime-mapping website that allows people in England and Wales to see the offences recorded in their own street or area. I’d hoped there’d be more historical data on it so that the crime I reported a couple of years ago might be included (RIP bike – still missed, never forgotten), but it only shows the stats for December. I’m not sure what I think about the site – I’m a big fan of enhanced localised accountability, but I’m concerned that poor areas might suffer as high crime rates result in house prices slumping even further.
Anyway, a picture posted on Twitter by comedian Susan Calman really made me laugh. She wrote: “There’s no Scottish equivalent of Police Crime Map, so I’ve done one for you. It’s not as detailed as I’d like…”