Tuesday 30th September
I was for a short while on a dating website and I am amazed to hear of many women’s experiences of receiving unwanted images of men’s dicks; I never even imagined sending a picture of myself in any kind of supposedly “sexy” pose at all. But apparently “sexting” is all the rage. A Tory minister has had to resign because he sent images of himself to who he believed was a young female Tory PR girl but which was really a Sunday Mirror reporter. While deploring this “Agent Provocateur” style of journalism you have to admit the man was an idiot. But then we all know that men have been gifted with two magnificent organs, the brain and the penis – unfortunately they can only use one at a time. So, what is it with people, is this the new form of chatting someone up, sending them a picture of your tits or arse or pecs or something even worse? It would appear so. I was shocked at the news of female “stars” having nude photos of themselves’ stolen from their mobiles; not shocked about the theft but that they should have such images in the first place. But sexting explains it, this is obviously the new calling card, “Look at this honey – fancy getting your hands (or something else) around this?”
But actually, although laughable (if I sent a life-size image of my dick it would probably fit the screen of a mobile) there is a far more serious and sinister side to this craze. Apparently young teen girls are being plagued both by pornographic images and by requests that they reciprocate by sending selfies of themselves naked. Images which will undoubtedly be shared around the playground. It seems that every new technological achievement brings with it more dangers. I can remember maybe thirty years ago one idiot I vaguely knew showing everyone in the pub a Polaroid picture of his girlfriend sucking his dick. I thought him a nasty pratt at the time and felt so sorry for the girl, who thankfully I didn’t know. So girls just be sensible and don’t take any nude selfies or let your boyfriend either, it might seem like innocent fun but like everything else on the internet it is forever.
Monday 29th September
Mrs Bracknell in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde wrote that to lose one parent was unfortunate, but to lose two was careless, when presented with the fact that one of the male characters had been an orphan. And so to you Mr. Cameron we might paraphrase that famous statement with M.P.s, for in less than a month he has indeed lost two M.P.s to UKIP. In a rare moment of political drama on Saturday afternoon, on the very eve of the Tory Conference another Tory has defected. Nigel Farage should have been a ringleader in a circus, or a Master of Ceremonies in an Edwardian Music Hall. He absolutely stunned the gathering media scrum by unveiling, like a rabbit out of a hat Mr. Reckless the M.P. for Rochester in Kent. He has an almost 10,000 majority which will undoubtedly be hard for UKIP to overturn, but maybe not impossible.
The Tories are spitting feathers, because co-incidentally a junior minister has had to resign because of a sexting scandal. An idiot you may say, but time was when Cabinet Ministers took days to resign even when caught in flagrante or even in a Chelsea shirt. Sending sexy texts seems innocuous enough to my mind, but there you go, it is now almost tantamount to rape. Anyway a great start to the Tory Conference where the careless Mr. Cameron will try to appear Presidential and above the fray. Actually an enormous number of Tory M.P.s are standing down at the next election, even William Hague who until a couple of months ago was Foreign Secretary. Maybe they are scared of losing their seats to UKIP? Maybe they are just tired of having to lie every day before breakfast, before lunch and after dinner. Mr. Cameron may be furious but it brought a smile to my face.
Sunday 28th September
George Orwell was writing in 1948 and he thought the title 1984 would be about right. Sorry George, you got the date wrong. By thirty years. You got everything else right, mind you – more or less. If we aren’t watching Big Brother then Big Brother, under the guise of looking for terrorists is watching us. As I say in my book “2066 – A Personal Memoir” –‘You can have as much free speech as you like, only you aren’t free to say exactly what you are thinking’. Don’t be daft – they might lock you up as a terrorist.
History is being re-written, before our very eyes. Labour caused the financial crash of 2008, Gordon Brown was personally responsible for the collapse of Lehmann Brothers, we are the tax cutting party (but only for millionaires, the first thing they did was put up VAT, in fact it is their favourite tax, every new Tory administration since Heath has raised VAT) and so on. And the press colludes in this too.
Government departments mean exactly the opposite, ‘Employment’ spends it time counting those on the dole, ‘Health’ makes sure that Hospitals have to ration treatments, ‘Environment’ promotes fracking and fossil fuels, ‘Communities’ starves local councils of money for any local project, ‘Edukashun’ is for dumbing us down and making us good workers and not enlightening us to the realities of the world. But the worst, the biggest hypocrisy of all is ‘Defence’. The Department of Defence promotes constant war. And however little money there is for Hospitals or Schools there is always money for new bombers and bullets and cruise missiles, which inevitably will kill people. But they are Muslims, so that’s alright then.
So, let’s raise a glass to Mr. Orwell for his perception and wisdom, even if he did get the date wrong.
Saturday 27th September
Time methinks for a book review. I don’t tend to read that many new novels these days, time was when I read avidly the entire Booker short-lists and for years every winner, but I have slowed down these days. My eye was caught though by this first attempt at a novel by Andrew. He had a stroke a couple of years ago, but there appears to be no diminishing of his great mind. I think he is one of the most astute of political commentators around these days, and he always seems to have a glimmer of humour in his eye, as if he finds the whole political establishment fascinating and ludicrous to the same degree.
So you will not be surprised that “Head of State” is just that – fascinating and ludicrous in equal measure. The plot is unbelievable, there are too many half-formed characters but the prose rattle along with gusto and carries the rather thin story with it. Lots of insider information and a broad contempt for almost all politicians and parties make for an interesting if skeptical read. If, like me, you are a politics addict it is well worth reading. Though as a serious novel it fails, it has enough amusing lines to keep you smiling.
Friday 26th September
After the monumental success of mid-eighties Let’s Dance it seemed that David could do no wrong. Until he released his next record that is, and the few that followed too. “Tonight” and “Never Let Me Down” were pretty awful, rehashing old ideas and drifting dangerously close to the middle ground, a place he had always avoided. Then he decided to be a member of a band and created Tin Machine, a noisy synth and guitar band which is best forgotten. He then went all jazzy with “Black Tie, White Noise” and Drum’n’Bass with “Earthling”; a lot of noise but only a smattering of decent songs. He still sold in the millions but seemed to be treading water.
But being David Bowie he still had a few surprises up his sleeve. He teamed up again with Eno to produce the Art-Rock-Detective-Sci-Fi album “Outside” which I thought was the best thing he had done in years. Then an Accoustic album of sad slow songs “Hours” which was another side of him we hadn’t seen since Hunky Dory. “Heathen” and “Reality” followed, solid albums but nothing really new. Then nothing for a decade. Rumours abounded that he was ill, had Aids, was dying or had died. The truth is he was painting. He had always had an interest in Art and had become a collector of Modern Art, but now he was painting. Or so one narrative went. He popped up, playing a nasty version of himself in the brilliant comedy series “Extras”. He had acted in a few films before and you had to wonder if his whole life was as an actor? Anthony Newley, Ziggy, The Thin White Duke, the Disco King, and it does seem he loves to make Art, with himself being the main installation piece.
He shocked us all with a new album last year “The Next Day”, which while fast and furious wasn’t really that good, but the world now waits on him, accepting any crumbs from his table with adoration. But is he an artist or an Artist?
Thursday 25th September
Firstly let me apologise for spoiling your breakfast. I should perhaps have written about Ed Milliband and “Together”, but his rather thoughtful speech was upstaged by yet another War. So far this year we have had Ukraine, South Sudan, Syria, Gaza, Iraq and now Syria again. Not bad for the twenty-first Century, and I must apologise for any wars I have missed along the way. It is quite confusing these days.
And now an unbelievable amount of heavy weaponry, including in all probability depleted uranium and many other cancer-causing agents has been unleashed on a country that is barely a country at all now. Syria has been torn apart by a civil war which we helped to fund and arm and support, in essence to get rid of Bashar Assad, who our media has painted as another Middle Eastern Tyrant ‘a-la-Saddam or Gadhafi’, and which we thought we might win easily without actually getting our troops involved. We narrowly missed out on committing our soldiers to fight for the rebels a couple of years ago, but now the very lunatics we were supporting have turned out to be the enemy. Just as in Afghanistan where the Taliban were created by us to fight the Ruskies and then turned on the hand that fed them, so Isis – or call it what you will is winning and killing Christians and unbelievers in their particular brand of Islam and so America has decided to not only “defend” Iraq, but to bomb them in Syria too.
What no-one actually explains is that this is killing. Hundreds of thousands will die, possibly millions be displaced, homes, hospitals and schools destroyed, a whole already battered nation will be pummeled to death. And for what? To try to stop an ideaology. To kill an idea. What the West fails to acknowledge is that we created Isis. By our barbaric attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, by our constant crusade against Muslims we alienated young people who we are now killing. And for each one we kill, we will wake up on another day at some time in the near future with another war on our plate.
Wednesday 24th September
Tesco has been forced to admit an “Accounting Error” in its reporting in the region of 250 million pounds, this has con-incided with the arrival of a new Chief Executive who I suspect had discovered that these shenanigans have been going on and has decided that “truth”, or a version of it, is the best course. The Supermarket sector has so dominated our lives for years that we take it for granted, but I can remember a time before Supermarkets. I can remember the first Supermarket opening in Stowmarket and how everyone was so excited. I can also remember a squalid poky nasty Tesco store in Leyton where it literally was pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap. I can remember the brand new Tesco built on the site of the old swimming pool, the old shop opposite appropriately turned into a pound shop. I can remember Christmas Shopping at a huge out of town Tesco Hypermarket, which at the time was a novelty. I can remember the introduction of Clubcard points, and receiving the vouchers in the post.
And Tesco is still the biggest Supermarket chain; for years it was neck and neck with Sainsbury but pulled ahead a few years ago. Then along came Asda, newly bought by American company Walmart which specialized in low prices and squeezing suppliers. Then along came Morrisons, swooping down from the North of England to snap up smaller failing chains. And now we have the continental invasion by Aldi and Lidl. And Tesco is suffering the most. It seems to have lost its way. For a while it tried to emulate M. & S. and Waitrose by going up-market, and then tried aggressive discounting which has also failed. The trouble is that it just got too big and the public felt it was being ripped off, which undoubtedly it has been for years by the big Supermarket groups. Tesco will survive, will carry on making huge profits and may have a complete change of strategy, maybe moving into finance or coffee shops, who knows? But the brand may have to change. Unlike Virgin, which you can sell anything with that brand on, Tesco has become something to avoid.
Tuesday 23rd September
It has started, the annual photo-op and free advert that is the Party Conference Season. We will see in turn Miiliband, Cameron and Clegg smile rapturously, give speeches which will receive both standing ovations and critical analysis from the media and crowds of smiling delegates. And in all probability it will all be for nothing; it barely affects the opinion polls at all. Time was, of course when Party Conferences actually meant something, when real decisions were taken, when the delegates might actually affect things. The parties after all should be about their members but sadly they aren’t. They are about the leaders, almost exclusively; most of the delegates are there to star-gaze anyway, to maybe shake hands with one of the elite, the spokesmen of the real or shadow government, to be able to relate back to their local parties how impressive the leader’s speech had been, or not. I went twice, to Blackpool both times; I was in my early twenties and didn’t quite understand how these things worked. The first time I was impressed, Jim Callaghan, newly raised to PM, was imperial, calm and measured and his team, Healey, Foot and Jenkins were commanding figures having been Cabinet ministers for many years. The second time the party was falling apart; Tony Benn had just failed in his bid to be elected Deputy leader and there was fraction and discord all around as delegate after delegate attacked the leadership rather than the Tories. I was dismayed and shortly after stopped my involvement with the party, though this co-incided with personal matters so I was never sure exactly why.
You cannot imagine a conference like that ever again, they are far too stage managed now. And pointless. Although one suspects that if a party decided not to hold one it would be ridiculed by the media which loves this sort of jamboree more than real news. Anyway for the next three weeks we will be bombarded with images and speeches and after it is all over and the dust settles I suspect the polls will be just the same as they were before.
Monday 22nd September
Makes sense doesn’t it? Well, if you don’t really think about it too hard. It’s a good slogan, appealing to Nationalist sentiments and trying to gain some sort of rebound from the Scottish Debacle. But in another way it seems a strange sort of reaction from Cameron after his belated profession of such love for the Union to want to threaten to break it up even more. He loves the Scots so much that he wants to stop them from sending M.P.s to Westminster to vote on anything that concerns just England. It is so obvious that he wants to link the idea of some sort of English Parliament to more devolution for Scotland as being done purely for Party political reasons and to put Labour into a trap, that it is almost laughable. He is trying to be too clever. It is going to be incredibly difficult to keep to the very tight timetable to devolve more powers to Scotland on its own without tying it to not even formed or stated ideas about a devolved English Parliament.
And anyway the real problem is far greater than that. We live in what is called a United Kingdom but one which is dominated by population and even more by economics by a far too weighty England. England is simply too big in relation to the Celtic fringes (and we must consider Northern Ireland in there as well). And England itself is dominated both by numbers and by economics by a far too weighty London. The voters in Yorkshire or Cornwall feel just as much alienated by Westminster as did the voters in Edinburgh or Aberdeen. One of the things we forget about Thatcher was that she was the great Centraliser. She closed down the GLC and all the Metropolitan regions, which had looked after the interests of great cities such as Birmingham and Manchester and she centralized more and more power in London. An English Parliament would be just as remote and unsympathetic to the needs of people in the regions as the present Westminster is.
The whole problem of alienation is caused by people feeling that decisions are being made far far away from them and by people who do not understand their concerns. The only solution is more devolution to the regions themselves, not a specifically English Parliament, which would simply be Westminster Mark 2. And to get this right you have to be careful and take your time. To try to push this through in a few months when the arguments haven’t even been heard is foolhardy and actually quite desperate. And it will fail.
Sunday 21st September
He seemed to come out of nowhere, the SNP were regarded as a bit of a joke, much like Plaid Cymru are now. Nobody ever expected them to succeed, but there was a groundswell of opinion that Scotland should have a degree of devolution and way back in 1979 it was the trigger that caused Jim Callaghan to call a general election he was never going to win. History, Ancient History.
Then eighteen years laters when Labour finally won again Devolution was back on the cards. And so was Alec Salmond, who was now leader of a still small but vocal SNP. Labour ruled supreme in Scotland, or thought they did. But in the nature of these things both Nature and Politics abhors a vacuum and an opposition to Labour was needed. The Tories were still hated after Thatcher so there really only was the SNP. And slowly under Salmond’s leadership they gained power and by 2011 were running a slightly devolved Scotland. And there main manifesto promise was an independence referendum. Opinion polls at the time thought it was a complete non-runner, but Salmond pressed ahead, and almost by the sheer force of his personality almost made it happen.
Then he resigned after twenty years running the SNP. It wasn’t through a feeling of failure at all, but of success, and his departure was the final success of the YES campaign. He had taken it as far he could and had firmly planted the idea, the possibility of Independence, which will surely happen some day, into the Scottish political landscape. And he has taken away the whole “failure” away with his resignation. It will now be for others, probably Nicola Sturgeon, to take the party further.
He has almost done the impossible, to end his political career on success and not a failure. Alec Salmond, a remarkable politician.