Fit for purpose?

May 21, 2015 1 comment

So I was wrong about Mr Tristram Hunt coming t through to lead the Labour Party. I guess that the cousin of a former Tory Cabinet Minister would have been a step too far. That leaves us with three likely candidates, since Mary Creagh may not clear the threshold of 35 nominees among the parliamentary  party.

I’ve been looking at the CVs of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall. Apart from their Oxbridge link, they have one other common trait, and that is minimal experience of the working world outside the political sphere. Liz Kendall does list a spell as director of the Ambulance Services Network, but even after a good rummage in the NHS website, I’m not exactly certain what that is. If Mary Creagh does make the list, she will add experience as a lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Cranfield Management College. How one can hold such a post on the back of a modern languages degree followed by a stint as a volunteer in the European Parliament and then a  post with the European Youth Forum, and without every having been an entrepreneur, well, that rather beats me.

My point is this. These people all want to be Prime Minister, yet none of them seems to have any real practical work experience outside their very limited, enclosed little world. Surely there is room for a public examination of the credentials of everyone who aspires to be  leader of a national political party. If there were, I suspect that most of the candidates would fail.

Categories: Politics


One election behind us and another looming.

Who will be the next Leader of the Opposition? I’d have put my money on Chuka Umunna until it emerged that he wasn’t backing himself. The bookies are saying Andy Burnham, but his association with the ogre Len McCluskey may cost him. Yvette Cooper is second favourite but her association with her husband, rejected by the electorate two weeks ago, will surely taint her. The coming man is said to be Tristram Hunt, but a quick glance at his CV reveals him as ‘Tony Light’ or even ‘Tory Light’, take your pick. Then there are the outsiders Liz Kendall, and Mary Creagh, of whom the less known the better.

I won’t be taking up Harriet Harman’s invitation to register to vote in the election, but I have taken a look at the background of the five potential candidates. At once an interesting common fact grabbed my attention: each one of them is a Oxbridge graduate. Only Chuka does not have a degree from either Oxford or Cambridge, but his name won’t be on the ballot.

If I was a Labour supporter, that’s a mould I’d be trying to break. The People’s Party seems to be no more; it has become as elitist as the crowd across the floor of the Commons, and there is nobody on offer who is going to reverse that trend, especially not Mr Hunt, the man I suspect may win out in the end and whose personal manifesto seems to be ‘Let’s pick the best bits of Conservative policy and copy it.’

If there was a second election next month, and the SNP fielded candidates in every UK constituency, running on an out and out left wing manifesto, how would it do? Very well, I suspect.

Categories: Politics

A plot twist too far

May 20, 2015 1 comment

Still on TV and still on Sky; I have confessed in the past to being addicted to Game of Thrones, but Monday’s episode may have turned me off. No, I don’t mean the debate of the value of a dwarf’s appendage as an alternative medicine . . . ‘Okay the dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant!’ That was funny.

It was the scene at the end that did for me, where Sonsa Stark, after surviving heroically for four and a half series finally meets a fate worse than death at the hands of the unspeakably beastly Ramsay. If I carry on watching it will be in the hope that one day, the psychotic bridegroom is handed over to the aforementioned trader in body parts, unless, of course Brienne gets to him first.

Categories: General


May 20, 2015 1 comment

Last night saw the end of a Sky original series called Critical. I saw most of the episodes, although there were one or two points when I averted my gaze from the effects department’s latest creation on the operating table. For those of you who only know of a clam shell as a crustacean’s house, best leave it that way.

‘Real-time drama’ they called it, without ever really explaining what the clock was for. Once it got moving, it was all pretty predictable, part from the horrors self-inflicted on poor old Lorraine. In the final episode, you knew from fairly early on that the accident victim wasn’t going leave the scene with two legs. You knew that Glen wasn’t going to drive into the night and out of the action, that he would be back for an enigmatic reunion with Fiona, and probably for a second series.

And yet I watched it to the end. Why? I have Lenny James to thank for that. The man is an absolute star and he can play Skinner any time he likes.

Categories: General

Best wishes

May 18, 2015 1 comment

Haven’t heard in a while from the Senator in Arizona. How are you doing, Ma’am?

Categories: General

Cometh the hour

Labour in Scotland is in a mess of unimaginable proportions. It is lost, leaderless and possibly irrelevant having been replaced as Scotland’s leading left of centre party by the SNP. The front runner for the national leadership gave a very clear hint on TV yesterday that he wouldn’t mind if it was cut adrift.

If it is to survive as anything meaningful, it needs a new, strong helmsman and needs him fast. His tenure needn’t last long. The job is to renew the failed party’s faith in itself, to point the way forward and rebuild it as a campaigning unit. He’ll shout me down for suggesting this but my candidate for that task would be my friend George Foulkes. He has integrity, experience, ability, and he takes no prisoners.

He may be 70+,  but if I had any wish to save the Labour Party in Scotland, which I don’t, he’d be the guy I’d choose.

Categories: Politics

Men only

Fiat 500X TV ad: one of the greats.

Categories: General

Deep throat

I have arrived at a turning point in my life. Yesterday. Motherwell FC, my team since I was a little lad, were condemned to a play-off to determine whether they are relegated from the Scottish Premier League, or whatever the bloody thing is called this week, a competition so charismatic that it can’t find any sponsor willing to have its name associated with it commercially. There is no realistic prospect that ‘Well will emerge victorious, regardless of the opposition. The club is going down, to what is called illogically the Championship, and who knows what lies in wait beyond that, maybe even relegation to the Highland League in the fullness of time.

For me the terrible thing is not that. It is not the prospect of weary journeys to Forfar or Falkirk, or even scenic Brora . . . not that I’d be going. No, it is this; after sixty-five years of loyalty, (this is a man who, aged seven, gave up the chance to see the now legendary Stanley Matthews FA Cup final on TV to stand on he terraces and watch Motherwell Reserves) I find today that I do not give a good Goddamn.

(No, I’m not going to explain the relevance of the title of this post: work it out.)

Categories: Sport

Obvious solution?

May 16, 2015 1 comment

Harking back to the Kevin Pietersen business one last time, a thought occurred to me as I lay awake early this morning listening to the Mother of all Tramuntanas. Wouldn’t it have been simple, and at no cost to whatever personal code of honour drives Andrew Strauss for him to put a proposition to KP?

The Enfant Terrible isn’t an Enfant any longer. Very soon he’ll be 35, an age at which most top batsmen have opted out of at least one form of the game, to prolong their careers. So why didn’t Strauss say something along the lines of, ‘Look Kev, why not get us both off the hook by announcing your retirement from Test cricket on grounds of age and self-preservation, and we’ll pick you for the short form England teams, which are in dire need of help.’

Categories: Sport

Zoo time

Until a couple of weeks ago, there was a comment of which Labour supporters were very fond: ‘There are more pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs.’

Now that Labour are in the same boat, any chance they’ll try to mate them?

Categories: Politics

Dog days

I’m not a huge Twitter fan but #waronterrier is pretty funny.

Categories: General

KP nuts

I’ve followed cricket since I was a little lad, from the days when the late Richie Benaud was a player rather than a commentator, and when Trueman and Statham inspired far more fear in  the hearts of opponents than Anderson and Broad manage today.

Throughout that time the governance of the game in England has been questionable to say the least, but this week it seems to have lowered its standing still further. A year after sacking Kevin Pietersen, their best player, because he was a maverick whose face didn’t fit, they’ve just concluded a weird and pointless ritual dance by effectively sacking him again, on the very day that he proved conclusively that he is still their best bat by a country mile.

The excuse on offer was a breakdown in trust, between the ECB and Pietersen. Strange that since KP trusted the  Board enough to walk away from a £250,000 deal in India to play for Surrey for peanuts in the red ball form of the game, to prove what everyone knew anyway. He did that on the word of the incoming chair of the ECB, and boy, was he let down.

Fact is, for the last several years, nothing has happened in English cricket  without the approval of Giles Clarke, the outgoing chair, who hands over next week to one Colin Graves, the man who gave his word to KP, only to have it broken by the new Director of England Cricket, Andrew Strauss, who is, in turn, the man who had to apologise last year when he was caught calling KP a lady part on a live microphone. It might bugger belief that Strauss was allowed to have the final say-so on KP’s future, but he’s a Clarke man through and through, a good Tory. (Giles is the nephew of Tom King, Maggie Thatcher’s Defence Secretary.)

Fact is, although Clarke is leaving office as chairman, he’s still there and everything this week has happened on his watch. Furthermore when he does go he won’t be going far, for he is taking up a newly created post as President of the ECB. If Graves is as pissed off at being portrayed as deceitful in his handling of KP as he is entitled to be, there may be some interesting discussions between those two. But how any of it will benefit English cricket, well, that beats me.

Categories: Sport

Spot on

May 13, 2015 1 comment

It’s been six days since the election and the smoke has cleared.

On May 1 I made a prediction, on this blog. Scroll down and check it out. I was wrong in only one respect, in that I underestimated the scale of Labour’s Scottish disaster. However events are in the process of proving that I was on the ball in suggesting that a minority Tory government would’ve been a better result for Scotland. For all its 56 seats, Scotland has no leverage to apply to force a constitutional settlement that is better than the ‘not quite halfway’ house that the Smith Commission proposed.

We voted powerfully for an SNP Manifesto calling for full fiscal autonomy. Will Cameron acknowledge that and cut a deal? Not a prayer? Will Trident will be removed from Scotland?

A cat in hell would have a much better chance.

Categories: Politics


If Leo Messi ran for public office, I’d vote for him.

On my lifetime there have been a handful of great footballers. As a nipper I grew up hearing stories of Stanley Matthews; then there was Puskas, After him came Pele, Best, Cruyff, and Maradona, each supreme in his era. Then there was a fallow period, with excellent players in Zidane, Ronaldo (El Gordo), Ryan Giggs, (Don’t argue.) and Ronaldinho, not quite on the pinnacle  that those predecessors had reached.

We are lucky now in that there are two global superstars on the planet together, each at his peak and both playing in the same league as a bonus. There’s been nothing like it since Di Stefano and Puskas lined up since by side.

Cristiano Ronaldo is possibly the best European footballer ever, so it must frustrate him to be sharing the stage  with someone who might be the best player ever to pull on boots, anywhere. CR7 or Messi; each has his supporters. I don’t see the point in choosing between them, but if I had to I would have to pick the little man. He can do everything that Cristiano can do, but he adds on a few things that he can’t.

It’s akin to a choice between a surgeon and a matador.

Categories: Sport

Make of it . . .

I’ve just been asked three questions by ITV, through YouGov.

1) Have you made up your mind on how you will vote tomorrow?

2) Have you changed your voter intention during the course of the campaign?

3) If no party can form a stable coalition or get an overall majority would you want a second election later in the year?

The results, from 2,162 respondents:

1) 88% Yes, 7% No, 4% Won’t vote.

2) 24% Yes, 72% No, 3% Won’t vote. (I guess that 1% of respondents changed their minds between Q1 and Q2!)

3) 61% Yes, 26% No, 12% Don’t know.

Categories: Politics

We’ll see

Five days ago, I made an election prediction, that we would see a small Tory majority.

Given what the polls are saying, that might seem more than a little rash, given also that the polls usually get more or less right.

But as Sky News keep saying, this is an election unlike any other. In 2010, the two-party system became three, and today it appears to have become five, maybe even five and a quarter if you add the Green element. This has come about because of the absence of a credible leader in any party other than the SNP, which contests less than one tenth of the 650 seats.

Five years ago, David Cameron became Prime Minister because the voters disliked him less than they disliked Gordon Brown, old Captain Barbossa, as I will never tire of calling him. The electorate couldn’t bring itself to give him outright power, so it hung a millstone round its neck in the form of the Lib Dems, the greatest argument against televised leadership debates that any country has yet put forward.

Today nothing much has changed. Cameron has made no friends, but fewer enemies than might have been expected. Miliband is the least likeable Labour leader that I can recall, and his personal approval ratings prove it. Clegg is a hollow man who will only keep his seat, if he does, because of Tory tactical voting. Of the newcomers Farage is a bumbling caricature of an English nationalist geezer, not that far apart in philosophy from the BNP, and Natalie Bennett of the Greens is so unimpressive that her party is thinking of changing its name to the Greys.

Then there’s Nicola Sturgeon, of the SNP, whose moment this most certainly is. She has been far and away the most impressive leader of this campaign, and yet even she is on a hiding to nothing. The media and the pollsters are predicting over fifty SNP members of the new Westminster parliament. George Kerevan has my postal vote already in East Lothian, where I expect him to be elected. If he has more than twenty-nine parliamentary colleagues on Friday, I will be pleased and surprised, but anything less than those fifty seats will be portrayed as a failure by Sturgeon by the same media who have been building her up.

But let’s forget Scotland for a while and look south. There the polls show Labour with less than one third of popular support, where one would expect them to be after five years of ineffectual opposition under an unloved leader. The Tories are not doing much better, with a lead of around three per cent at best. The unknown quantity in England is UKIP, which scores around 15%, way ahead of Clegg’s Lib Dems, who could be heading back to the Grimond days of half dozen MPs.

There is no groundswell that will sweep Miliband into Downing Street. The electorate doesn’t want him. But does it want another coalition, or a completely unpredictable nature?

The outcome will depend on how many of those people who have declared for UKIP to the pollsters, can actually bring themselves to cast their vote for Farage and his Band of Idiots, whose raison d’être is undercut by Cameron’s pledge of an In-Out EU referendum. Will one in six out of every English voters do that? I don’t believe they will.

Categories: Politics

Monty Python

I’ve just had an email from a young lady named Natalia. She’s asking how I’m getting along, and other things besides. In the immortal words of the mortal Willie Ballantine, it’s nice to know I haven’t lost my touch.

Categories: General

Age concern

If you get to the stage in life when your driving licence has to be renewed, and you have a notifiable condition, for example a cardiac pacemaker, do not leave your application to the last minute, instead use all of the 90-day window. If it winds up in the hands of the DVLA medical team, and most probably it will, they will take six weeks to process it, and during that time your driving status will be uncertain. Should you need to hire a car during that period, forget it, for you won’t have a licence. The old one has to be sent in with the application.

Categories: General

Plugged in

My dad took little notice of music; it got in the way of his reading. I doubt that he’d have liked ‘Wilder Mind’, the third Mumford and Sons album. But I do; it reminds me of the time when the younger Dylan caused outrage among his folkie following by going on stage with an electric backing band. i doubt that we’ll see such fury this time round.

Categories: General

My old man

Thirty-nine years ago today, my dad died, suddenly in his armchair, leaving my kids and me with good memories that have been with us ever since. He was reading the Glasgow Herald at the time, but I’ve never held it against that newspaper. At least it wasn’t  the Scotsman. (He’d have laughed at that observation, by the way.) He was laughing the last time I saw him, as he showed me to  the door, and so was I; about what I can’t remember, but I’ve always felt good about it.

Categories: General

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