Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A complete idiot's guide to the election. Part 1 of an occasional series.

It's election time and the race is on! Hurrah!! For the benefit of those of my readership hailing from the less important parts of the globe and also for those too young to have exercised their majorities in a previous one, I have compiled a brief guide to the runners and riders in this year's big race. There may be further editions of this guide as and when necessary. Or when I can be arsed.

This Week: The Parties.

The Conservative and Unionist Party

Idiots. Rich Idiots. Some not as rich as they could have been but they've resigned and won't be standing.

The Labour Party

Idiots. Like above but supposedly with a social conscience. Just don't mention the word "socialist".

The Liberal Democrats

They haven't quite decided if they're idiots or not. They'll let you know after the event.

The Green Party

Are they still going? Probably hippies.

The British National Party

Idiots with knives and dogs of indiscernible pedigree. No blacks or Irish unless Rangers supporters. Everyone welcome. Large hadron collider developed in order to detect presence of inter-cranial matter in party leadership. Large hadron collider currently broken, insufficient power.

The United Kingdom Independence Party.

As above but with a nice pair of slippers (from BHS) and a cardigan. And a shed and a compost heap. Dustbin always full after one week, knows editor of local paper's email address off by heart. Shouty.


Probably sectionable. Now Russian.


Glad to see the grand tradition of a political party having an ironic name hasn't died.

Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

Probably their best chance yet.

Who are you going to vote for?

Monday, March 22, 2010

And there's more...

Three MPs get "stung" by a fake lobbying company. Oh, save me. I have to turn Jezza Vine off before I throw a shoe at the wireless. I must be stupid as I can't actually see what the fuss is about. They are ex-ministers and as such have to wait at least a year after resigning before seeking paid work with commercial enterprises while serving as MPs. Fair enough. It's not really right, no MP, especially one in government, should have "work" outside the Commons but it's not illegal. There's a Register of Members' Interests so there is always the chance that any nest feathering or otherwise will get found out, as it often does. But that's not the point, although listening to the crap in the media, you'd think it was. These three ARE all ex-ministers and, with the exception of Geoff Hoon who resigned in June 2009, haven't been in the cabinet for well over a year. But, they're all leaving parliament at the next election in May. THAT is the point that makes a mockery of the whole story. Nobody points the point out.

I'm against sleaze and corruption as the next man but please tell me what on earth's wrong with someone attempting to use the skills and contacts they've developed doing a job that's coming to an end in order to to get their next paid employment? It's called networking, isn't it? Anyone who's unemployed is actively encouraged to trade on their contacts and the knowledge they've built up. And lobbying companies, while a bit suspect, aren't actually illegal. We all have access to our MPs whether we're private individuals or commercial concerns - and if there's a means of getting your message across, fair or foul, many will use it. What's the difference between a lobbying company and knowing someone who works for your local paper or radio station who can get your story or concern media coverage? Or you publicising your cause with a newsworthy stunt? Absolutely none. All this has really done is show up Stephen Byers for being a bit of a tit with an ego problem. But then again, who of you reading this, hasn't massaged your CV a bit in the past?

What has also passed most people by is that this story was part manufactured and broken by The Sunday Times. That's the The Sunday Times, prop R. "Dave's my Boy"Murdoch ("You want crap, I'll sell it"). And everyone's fallen for it. Please wake me up in June.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Did you have to go so soon?

I moved back to London, town of my birth, in 1980. The ex and I had a tiny, freezing cold, one-roomed garrett in Lewisham, owned by a spectacularly mental Italian woman with a dreadful bingo habit and a strange notion of charity ("You can use my fridge any time you want" "Mrs Ldro (that's not her name, it's an anagram. You never know these days), I've seen your fridge, I wouldn't even shit in it, let alone put food in it"). I think that place was why I developed a fondness for the works of Zola. Emile, not Gianfranco. Until we got a gas heater we had a paraffin heater and we had to get Esso Blue from the ironmongers or the machine at the garage. Keep up kids. In the olden days there wasn't much choice for home based audio-visual entertainment; three telly channels on the little black and white portable we had (it would be another 2 years before we could afford a colour one) and even that gave up after we accidentally spilt candle-wax over it. But I had a ghetto blaster, so we used to listen to the wireless, way into the early hours. This was also way back in the day when Capital Radio was actually good (it's total bilge now, of course, like anything relying on advertising has invariably become), with the likes of Richard Digance, Roger Scott, Graham Dene and the mighty David Rodigan doing interesting, and occasionally (in R-R-R-Rodigan's case, always,) exciting, stuff.

Another presenter joined at the same time as we started listening, Charlie Gillett. It gradually became apparent that what he didn't know about popular music wasn't worth knowing. Indeed, his masters' thesis was written on the History of Rock and Roll - in 1966. He was always engaging, somebody whose own enthuisiasm drew you in, even if you didn't particularly like what he was playing. You listened, enjoyed, and you learned. Peel was the same; Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie have some of it, too. He'd already made a name by championing unpopular (at the time) acts such as Ian Dury, Graham Parker, Elvis Costello and Dire Straits (sounds like a running order from a Hope and Anchor festival) and then became the touchstone for the emerging world music scene. In the 90s he went on to host a weekly world music show on GLR (latterly BBC London 94.9) which was, for me anyway, absolutely essential listening on a Saturday evening while I was working at the world's most exciting tolled river crossing. One of the duties there was as a "jumper", a rolling relief across three toll booths for half an hour at a time, in order that the incumbent could have a break. Everyone had their own radio, invariably tuned to Radio Smooth Cabbie FM. Not on a Saturday evening if I was the jumper. Chap would come back off his break to be greeted not by Mick Hucknall warbling one for the ladieees but Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or a trilling Moroccan. OK, some of it sounded like pigs being run over by a steam-roller but anything's better than Heart FM.

Charlie Gillet passed away yesterday. Which is a shame.

Alex Chilton as well. Not everyone will immediately know the name but I'm sure some of the music will be familiar: ex The Box Tops (The Letter - his first ever song, not a bad way to start), the Replacements and of course, Big Star. One of the most distinctive of pop voices and a huge influence on so many bands over the last 40 odd years.

Both gone criminally early. I've been told there's a reason why but I'll never understand.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Is that really Vince Cable?

The Lib Dem Party Political Broadcasts might just be worth watching for a change.

Volunteers for fluffers, anyone?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Knee Jerks

A few days ago I was asked by a survey company to identify 6 brands that I considered myself to be faithful or loyal to. I thought hard about it but I couldn't do it, on account of I just don't "do" brands. You would be hard pushed to find anything I own, and I think anyone who knows me would back me up on this, that has been bought or is worn out of brand loyalty - apart from maybe Branston pickle and ASDA regular baked beans. But that I do on account of taste, not because of a perceived superiority to other brands, clannishness or cliqueyness or for the cachet. In fact, a brand flash is more than likely to turn me off buying something for precisely those reasons. I am not interested in clothing or footwear that ostentatiously displays a maker's name - why would I wish to be associated with something that in a very short space of time could mark me out as something I am not? 25 years ago a Burberry raincoat with its distinctive checked lining was something one saved up for and treasured as it was considered a finely crafted product that did its job suprememly well; nowadays that same pattern adorns the head and neck of every Staffie owning, concave chested, trackie bottoms tucked into socks gobbing yob at the jobcentre who wouldn't have a clue that it was actually a premier league product; you wouldn't get me wearing it if you gave it away.

Then I had a minor epiphany while listening to the news on the wireless yesterday morning. I suddenly realised that there is indeed one brand that I'm exceedingly loyal to and I which I do actually put on a pedestal way above all others: the BBC. I feel a bit rum in criticising the decisions it has been bullied into making as I don't actually finance it in any way; I don't own a television so haven't bought a licence for many years and I rarely buy any of their merchandise. I would if I had the money, some it's very good. But there isn't any viable independent competition out there at all, is there. Nothing out there can do anything the BBC does any better. Sure it's had some problems but most of those are more the product of professional jealousy, shit-stirring, rivalry or political expediency and exacerbated by the so-called democracy of the new media (I would prefer to call it bullying. I actually heard the "Manuelgate" thing live - how many of you sit and listen to Radio 2 on a Saturday evening? - but thought it was just a bit near the knuckle and didn't warrant the ordure/fan debacle that followed).

Commercial pressure is acid rain to broadcasting standards but the BBC is mercifully free from most of that. It doesn't actually need a bigger audience share and the willy-waving about viewing figures depresses me. Long gone are the days when more than half the country sat down to watch a single programme so what's the point in fighting over a dimishing slice of the pie? Have you ever listened to commercial radio? It's the broadcasting equivalent of an edge of town retail park, designer outlet or a Holiday Inn. Devoid of originality and flogging the same old mass produced sing-along pap because that's what draws the punters in and keeps them in their comfort zone for the advertisers (I hesitate to say chart - who was No 1 last week? No, me neither). It has to be populist out of necessity - you wouldn't get Mark Lamarr's "God's Jukebox" or Stuart Maconie's "Freak Zone" on Heart or Radio Cabbie FM. And commercial talk radio is just for gobshite Nigel Farage BNP lite clones so let's not go there because that's just plain scary.

As for Murdoch, I would happily bury him alive under Maggie's rotting corpse when the time comes and fill the hole in myself. Constantly bleating about the power the BBC has through its funding model seemingly without realising it's the unrealistic demands of the commercial pressures his company has created that's destroying the football league and with it, the positive influences that football clubs have had on their immediate communities. That's real, indiscriminate power, isn't it? It pains me that the tail wags the dog in such an outrageous fashion. It's heartening to see that nice Sig. Capello making such a commonsense observation, although I doubt if Rupe's seething, he's still calling the shots. Seeing a 20' "Sky Sports shown here" banner outside a pub has probably kept more decent people out of them than the smoking ban. My Hampshire friend will undoubtedly mention that I missed the Little Master's 200 the other day and much of the one true game as it is played throughout the world but in reply - I've missed well over 99% of all cricket ever played, so I think I'll survive. I might go out for a walk instead. I'll survive with my principles intact, too. You won't find anything from News International in my house, the man's a complete shit (Murdoch, not Vicus) and he won't get my money if I can help it. And yes, I know it's usually on in my local but the sound is off as company policy. Very few people actually watch it.

Quite why the BBC is running scared and caving in is beyond me. It has the luxury of being able to appeal to niche markets without a commercial imperative, although the demographics for 6 Music and the Asian Network could hardly be called niche and in 6 Music they have a unique service, a non-commercial left-field/specialist music network presented invariably by high-profile performers in their own genres or respected broadcasters in their own rights. No other station does this, not even XFM. Undeniably, the network for "pop" has to change as yesterday's hippies gradually claim their bus-passes and Radio 2 has the mechanisms for this. To be honest, it's the station I listen to most, mainly because I am allergic to "earnestness" in most things but it tries to fulfill a broad brief and invariably does it very well. And David Quantick's "The Blagger's Guide..." is one of the funniest shows on the radio. As I age I find my musical taste encompasses almost everything (musical theatre? OK, I'll make an exception) and I'll listen to most things presented with enthusiasm, humour and good grace. 2 and 6 Music make unlikely bedfellows but it works.

And the website is peerless, too.

Don't mess with it just for the sake of it, some of us actually care.