I wonder who is supposed to give a toss about the fate of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger? When I say the fate of Wenger, I refer specifically to whether or not he survives in his job, not whether he lives or dies. The latter would be rather more important. The former is of little interest to me.
Stan Kroenke, Arsenal’s zillionaire owner, is absolutely thrilled with the way things are going at the Dubai airline stadium because he is making money and lots of it. Every year, Arsenal qualify for the Champions League by not being champions and they make it to the lucrative last sixteen stage before going out to Bayern Munich. The money just won’t stop pouring in and that, for Arsenal’s owners, is enough. For the fans, it plainly isn’t.
Watching Arsenal’s group of international mercenaries wave the white flag in Germany last night was enough for Gooners to almost block Radio Five Live phone lines calling for Wenger to be axed. “For goodness sake,” they didn’t say, one after another. “We’ve reached the last sixteen of the Champions League, which is more than Spurs managed, we’re still in the FA Cup, we’re two points off second place in the Premier League and joint top scorers. Wenger must go.” Well, actually they did say the last bit, every single one of them. I really felt for them. Except I didn’t.
No one instructs people to watch Arsenal play, or to pay through the nose for the privilege. Perhaps, if they stopped going, Kroenke might get the message that fans are really pissed off, but perhaps they have concluded that as he seldom visits London, he wouldn’t give a toss one way or the other.
It must be terrible to watch your team win almost every single game in which they play in the Premier League. The hopeless failure of hardly ever losing and, every few years, winning the odd FA Cup. Compare struggling Arsenal to virtually every other club in all the leagues and weep. What the hell are they on about?
Many people don’t have a sense of entitlement about their team. They support their club, they want their club to do better and be more successful, but most of them, most of us I should say, look in amazement at Arsenal fans who seem to think they deserve success simply because they think they do.
It was pitiful listening to people today fawning over Wenger. The poor man has been at Arsenal for at least 50 years, he loves the club, lives and breathes it indeed, he deserves better than this. No, he doesn’t. Wenger is paid many millions every year for managing a football club, that’s all. He doesn’t perform advanced brain surgery or care for elderly people with dementia on the minimum wage. He can probably afford to buy his own home if he wants one. This bleating about Wenger is absurd.
When I say I don’t give a toss about Wenger’s future, I probably do because otherwise I would not have written about it. But I care more about the acres of space given over to such trivia when there really are more pressing matters to fret about.
I don’t mean to concern you but those supposed purveyors of “fake news”, CNN, are reporting that President Donald Trump is actively considering sending conventional ground troops into Syria to speed up the fight against ISIS. Trump hates CNN and refuses to allow its reporters to ask him questions, but are they onto something? I think they may well be.
The most worrying thing about Trump is not that he is breaking his promises: it is that he is keeping them. Banning people from certain muslim countries (though not the ones in which he has business interests), dismantling affordable health care, planning the ludicrous wall with Mexico, threatening to undo the nuclear deal with Iran and now a ground conflict in Syria. Just look at his comments from just a few weeks ago: “Our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying ISIS, and we will.” We didn’t know then how he proposed to destroy ISIS because nothing else has worked, but perhaps CNN has found the answer.
And if it happens, will this be Theresa May’s Iraq? Already, our desperate and fawning prime minister has dashed across the Atlantic to promise our everlasting love to Donald Trump and given our imminent parting of the ways with Europe and indeed the weakness of our country’s negotiating hand leaves us vulnerable to involvement in yet another disastrous overseas conflict. We know that May is begging Trump for a trade deal with the USA, even though we already have a pretty good one, and it does not require rocket science levels of intelligence to conclude what Trump’s price might well be.
Just a few weeks into the most unstable, bizarre and potentially cataclysmic presidential term of office, probably ever, and already we face conflict on numerous fronts, but Syria could well be the first one.
One thing will happen for sure if Trump sends his troops, and potentially ours, into battle: soldiers will come home in body bags, others will come home horribly wounded and once again we will just make things even worse.
I hope we have learned from the catastrophes of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and everywhere else we get involved in, with simplistic aims and no exit strategy, but I fear the worst. An unstable dictator in the White House, a hopelessly out of her depth and desperate prime minister trying to strike a deal on the back of the mythical “special relationship” and another faraway war we can never win.
We have been here before.
Happily, the European Champions League could be going the same way as cricket, at least in this country. Hardly anyone’s watching now the vast majority of it is on pay TV and, in my experience at least, I don’t hear anyone talking about it. I just think the whole thing is boring.
The teams competing rarely vary. Once in a very blue moon, a Leicester City turn up, but mostly it’s Bayern Munich versus Arsenal, PSG, Barcelona, Real Madrid and, frankly, the usual suspects.
I admit to watching Barcelona play like a very poor pub team past night, but otherwise it’s football for the armchair fan. It’s bound to be. My Premier League team is Liverpool and as they haven’t been in the Champions League for a few years, not consistently anyway, I am not going to start cheering on other ‘English’ teams, especially when most of them rarely bother to select English players. I have no loyalty to Richard Scudamore’s cash cow and, with virtually all the top clubs owned by foreigners, managed by foreigners and of course played by foreigners, what exactly is English about it?
And why is it the Champions League anyway? Our champions, incredible though it now seems, are Leicester City, not Arsenal, Manchester City or Tottenham Hotspur. (By the way, what night is Spurs’ game? Ah…) Call me old fashioned but for some odd reason I don’t regard the teams that come second, third and fourth as champions at all. I mean, you don’t call the FA Cup final losers the FA Cup winners, do you?
Given the money made from the misnamed Champions League, we are never going to have the European Cup again, which comprised the winners only, but if I was to be appointed FIFA General Secretary tomorrow, I’d restore the old competition at a stroke. For the clubs who didn’t win the league and aren’t champions, I’d bring in the Not The Champions League which would, of course, be completely pointless and meaningless, but little more so than the competition we already have.
The way football has become, the same old clubs with the occasional blip, the Champions League will carry on being the behemoth non Champions League it has become. As long as armchair BT subscribing football fans get a kick out of it and the money keeps on flowing, we’re stuck with it.
Me? I’m watching Air Crash Investigation followed by an ancient episode of The Persuaders. I’ve no interest in the Arsenal at all.
If you lived in Stoke would you vote for a serial liar in the forthcoming by election? Well, if Ukip’s leader Paul Nuttall becomes their new MP, that’s what they are getting.
This is a man who claimed last year that he supported the privatisation of the NHS, who recently lied about where he lived and now, it transpires, he lied about losing “close personal friends” at the Hillsborough disaster. The last bit is unforgivable.
Nuttall has entered the land of Kelvin MacKenzie in lying about Hillsborough. History, I believe, will forever judge MacKenzie as the worst of a bad bunch and quite right too. His lies about Liverpool fans stealing from and urinating on the dead were so awful that apologies from MacKenzie in particular and the Sun in general were meaningless weasel words. Nuttall is not far behind.
Why would you say you lost “close personal friends” at Hillsborough when you hadn’t? Only one explanation: to attract support from working class voters, especially those from Merseyside. “I am one of you”, he is effectively saying. But he is not. He has been caught out.
I am not sure I believe Nuttall was actually at Hillsborough, as he claimed. Why should I believe his claims which, he says, could be backed up, presumably by other Ukip type liars? And if he was there, why the hell has he never used his clout as an elected MEP to join the fight for the truth and justice for the 96? If he is so sympathetic, as he now claims to be, where has he been through the intervening 28 years?
The people of Stoke deserve better than a bigoted, racist, opportunist liar as their MP but it’s up to them to send him packing from the house in which he does not live and and never has. If Nuttall becomes their MP, it will not reflect well on the city.
Whilst channel hopping yesterday evening, I came across the maddest TV documentary I have ever seen, with Joanna Lumley trying to find Noah’s Ark, which certainly never existed. Ms Lumley, who seems to be a charming person, was filmed wandering around Mount Ararat, speculating to herself and with locals about precisely where the Ark ended up. At times she was deeply moved by what she found and with whom she spoke. The show’s researchers and producers should hang their heads in shame.
So much of the superstitious nonsense surrounding some of the more ludicrous biblical episodes wasn’t even vaguely challenged. We are supposed to believe that Noah was 600 years of age when God instructed him to build his Ark, which then took him 120 years to complete. Now, I may have lived a somewhat sheltered life but I have never heard of anyone reaching the age of 600, never mind 720, and still being able to build a gigantic Ark. And how gigantic must it have been? We were never told.
Why, for example, did she not seek to explain how Noah, who was 600 years old, managed to get two of each variety of beetle on board, given that there are at least 350,000 varieties that we know about? That must have taken a little while given that not all these varieties would have been in the near vicinity of the Ark. I am not aware that Noah had a team of wildlife experts to help him out given that this was supposedly at a time when no one really knew what was going on. If it had ever happened, collecting all these beetles and every other variety of animal on earth in time for God to drown everyone else would have been some achievement.
Ms Lumley seemed very disappointed when she met up with a geologist with a nice line in hair dye who explained, in drab, scientific language that the whole idea of Noah’s Ark was, an I paraphrase, a load of old bollocks. Everything, including the large rock that some claim is the Ark, could be easily explained through science. The show should have ended there and then, but of course it didn’t.
There was no reference to Noah the man, either, which was just as well since he had a predilection to get drunk on wine and roll about naked in the presence of his sons. I am not making this up – whoever wrote the Old Testament did that – but this does not seem appropriate behaviour for a biblical hero.
And throughout this dewy eyed performance, Ms Lumley never remotely questions the very idea that God should kill everyone and everything because, he must have concluded, humans (and animals) were wicked, they had bad thoughts, and the whole earth was violent and corrupt. It is estimated that 20 million people would have drowned as a result of the flood and the only people who survived were Noah and his family. That puts God right up there in the list of the worst mass murderers in history, alongside Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Ghengis Khan. Just as well it never happened.
The worst thing was treating the story of Noah as if it were fact, interviewing christians, jews and muslims alike who all pointed out that it appeared in their religious account of the times, whether that be the bible or the Qu’ran. A better idea would have been to have treated the whole thing as the fairy story it actually is but why spoil it with facts?
Criticise Diane Abbott for being an utterly useless, unprincipled politician and you will hear no argument from me. Diane Abbott, the hard left politician who was so opposed to private education that she sent her son to a private school. Diane Abbott, who expressed so much concern about the economic disaster that will engulf her constituents who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU that she voted in parliament for the hardest possible Tory Brexit. Diane Abbott who stated that Chairman Mao, one of the worst mass murderers in history, had done more good than harm. Yes, that Diane Abbott. Politically, she is and always will be an embarrassment to the Labour Party but even she does not deserve the abuse she attracted from the Secretary of State for taking Britain off an Economic Cliff, otherwise known as the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU.
David Davis MP, for it is he, said that he had not tried to kiss Ms Abbott because he is “not blind”. This was after he had supposedly tried to kiss her after the Brexit vote. The shadow home secretary then, so the story goes, told Davis to “fuck off”. Good for her. Davis then made an apology through his spokesperson, part of which read as follows: “The Secretary of State is very sorry for any offence caused to Miss Abbott, someone he has known and respected for many years.” Really? This is almost as bad as his misogynistic comments, but not quite.
Imagine Davis and Abbott were working together in an office. I would imagine that such a comment would place Davis in more than a little disciplinary trouble. This is the language of a generation and a half ago, ugly, sexist and cheap. Unlike Davis, I certainly do not respect Abbott for anything at all but you can see why a Tory would be because people like her make it all but certain they will remain in office for the foreseeable future. What is unacceptable is for a senior politician, or anyone else for that matter, to speak in such a disgusting way about Ms Abbott, or anyone else for that matter.
As for the Mail on Sunday – who else? – they put a front page slant on the story which makes it crystal clear they have more than a little sympathy with Davis.
If anything is ugly about this sleazy matter it’s not Abbott because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s the disgusting behaviour of David Davis and the Mail on Sunday. Argue with a politician any way you like and in that regard, Abbott is an easy target. Argue with a politician over the way she looks is a different matter altogether. Just imagine someone saying Davis’s words about someone you know and love and seeing them all over Britain’s biggest selling Sunday paper. You might think you look pretty good in the mirror but what if someone with enormous power didn’t? Not a nice thought, is it?
My radio listening is generally confined to BBC Radio Five Live, BBC 6 Music and, to a far lesser extent BBC Radio Two. For special occasions, like a particular edition of Desert Island Discs or I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, I’ll tune the dial to Radio Four. What I never do these days, not even for one second a week, is listen to BBC local radio, in my case Radio Bristol. Which is odd because in many ways, I fit their demographic. I’m old, I don’t work full time anymore, I like speech radio interspersed with music. But it’s the last station I’d ever want to listen to.
I am not alone in my aversion to BBC local radio in general and BBC Radio Bristol in general. In the latest industry (RAJAR) figures, the station’s reach is a mere 13%. In effect, this means that hardly anyone is listening. Worse still for local radio, many of its over 55 demographic are deserting to Radio Two. And why wouldn’t they? Radio Two is the classic BBC institution. It offers a wide variety of music, it doesn’t mess with the formula and it is very professionally run.
Radio Bristol lost its way when Tim Pemberton took over as “managing editor”. Pemberton initiated a major change in the way the station worked, gradually allowing its better talent to leave and replace them with fading former TV personalities. Dave Barrett, Sam Mason, Richard Wyatt, Peter Rowell were among the new breed and took the radio to places it had never been, the main place being a station which less and less people bothered to listen to. Radio Bristol turned into Radio Anywhere, with no obvious relationship to the area in which it was broadcast and soon morphed into Radio Nowhere. From having strong personalities like John Turner and Keith Warmington, who knew Bristol like the back of their hands, Pemberton recruited presenters who had never even been to the place. It was doomed to fail and so it did.
But it is not just Radio Bristol that has sleepwalked to near oblivion. To varying degrees, this is what has happened pretty well everywhere else in the land. BBC local radio is now near to irrelevance and it’s time to get rid of it altogether.
Listen to my local station and I hear generic presenters who could be from anywhere playing drab music on playlists put together by computers, a world where ELO represents the cutting edge. For me, in the over 55 listening demographic, it was unlistenable.
Before I address what should be put in its place, I’d like to know just why Radio Bristol has a particular age group in mind anyway? I suspect that someone, somewhere has decided that the only people who would listen would be pensioners. The way things are, that’s true. Before I took the station off my saved list, the phone-ins seemed to include only calls from people who appeared to be in their eighties. But if the BBC is supposed to provide a public service, why does it ignore everyone else? If Radio Bristol is anything to go by, local radio is not even trying to engage anyone apart from their core pensioner audience. In which case, what’s the point?
There is nothing, except perhaps the sport – the one redeeming feature of excellence at Radio Bristol – that commercial radio couldn’t do, probably even better. And if the BBC needs to cut spending, then why not get shot of local radio altogether?
In it’s place, why not use the money on genuinely local services, like community stations, pirates, campus radio? In Bristol, we already have the excellent BCFM. They have in Patrick Hart the best breakfast presenter in the city. The Midweek Sports Bar, featuring Neil Maggs and Nick Day, is slightly dangerous, often cutting edge and very funny in turn and has the scope to attract a vast audience that BBC local radio has not even tried to embrace. And a spectacular mix of specialist and mainstream local shows. Why not develop stations like BCFM and Bradley Stoke radio, genuine local radio produced by local people for local people? The scope for minority interest stations, full or part time, is infinite.
Perhaps the solution might be a hybrid, a mix of BBC radio and community stations, provided that overall control is held locally and not administered from London, always the main stumbling block to any progress.
If public service broadcasting is to have any genuine meaning, it has a duty to inform, educate and entertain. In its current form, I struggle to see how BBC local radio does any of these things and even if it does, in the case of Radio Bristol, it only informs, educates and entertains old people.
Who knows that if BBC local radio is scrapped, commercial providers might be brave enough to move away from the turgid output they currently provide and perhaps embrace talk radio and sport? If the BBC is not prepared to run local radio properly, maybe it shouldn’t run it at all?
According to some voices, John Bercow’s decision to make it public that he voted to remain in the EU means he can no longer be trusted to be speaker of the House of Commons. The argument, pathetic though it is, suggests he can no longer be regarded as impartial. The speaker must hold no opinions at all. What times we live in.
I worked for the Department for Work and Pensions when secretary of state Iain Duncan Smith was presiding over a situation where people were dying as a result of actions that he took. By that measurement, just by being employed by the DWP, I supported the persecution of the disabled. Of course I didn’t support the persecution of the disabled. I was just obeying orders.
I am genuinely concerned at the current direction of travel since the world took massive steps to the far right in politics, starting with Britain’s decision to leave the EU, the expansionist ambition of Vladimir Putin’s Russia and now of course the election of an unstable narcissist who displays all the signs of being a thoroughly old school fascist.
Starting at home, buoyed by the ugly whiff of racism in last year’s referendum, our unelected prime minister tears up a deal to bring desperate young refugee children to this country, hard on the heels of her recent hardline anti-immigration speeches and actions. Blaming migrants and minorities is where fascism begins and in adopting the actions of the far right, Mrs May takes us into ever more dangerous areas. May has form with migration, having carried out highly visible campaigns to vilify migrants during her term as home secretary. Going national is the next step.
Now, Mrs May’s government is planning new legislation to lock up journalists if it is perceived they are reporting on matters that could effect anything from security to the economy. Now pardon me, but I do understand there is a line which should not be crossed when protecting our country, but the new plans appear to include the sound of jackboots. Already, our country has tough regulations about whistleblowers who expose lies about what goes on in government. Every benefit fraud crackdown I ever experienced was nothing more than a media soundbite, based purely and solely on spin and often was used as a cover for the exact opposite, making it even harder to prosecute fraudsters and going after easy targets. But someone pointing that out would lose their job and maybe end up in prison. So much for freedom.
Theresa May is a desperately weak and desperate prime minister as Britain seeks to leave the EU and so cosies up to President Trump and associates our country with the far right. Trump, for reasons we don’t yet know, has a frighteningly close relationship with KGB thug Putin. Both are of the hard right, one, Putin, is already a dictator and Trump, unchecked by any meaningful opposition at home, is rapidly becoming one, as he fills the judiciary with his hard right place men and attacks the free press. These are things that fascist dictators do.
it is not just our lurch to the far right that concerns me, it is the sheer pace of it. The momentum seems unstoppable. In Britain, we have a very limited ‘free press’ because the bulk of it is owned and controlled by – yes, you guessed it – hard right billionaires who parrot the same line as hard right politicians. Why, Rupert Murdoch was sitting off camera when Tory toady Michael Gove interviewed Donald Trump for the Times newspaper, sole prop R Murdoch.
Sifting through some of the repulsive comments on social networks and I see a country becoming increasingly more angry and intolerant. The abuse dished out to those of us who welcome European workers to this country, who do not see colour in the same way the National Front and BNP always have, who support LGBT rights is reaching epidemic levels. It feels that not only are we an island race, we are now pulling up the drawbridge and morphing into Little England.
Andrew Neil, the best political interviewer and presenter of the lot, is employed by the BBC. His personal views, which he expresses on twitter and in the Spectator, are of no bearing to his work with the Beeb. In my opinion, Neil calls it like it is and holds everyone to account. Are we saying he should hold no personal views? Or Gary Lineker, the footballer turned TV presenter. Lineker has firm views on certain issues and receives substantial abuse from the usual suspects at the Daily Mail and on social networks. So far as I can tell, Match of the Day has not been overshadowed by Lineker expressing his concerns about refugees. And Jeremy Clarkson’s hard right politics were never an obstacle to his brilliant work with Top Gear.
John Bercow is the best speaker of my lifetime. The fact that he shares his personal views should not be a matter of concern if he does his job properly. Only a fool would say he doesn’t.
In these dark, unstable and dangerous times, would it not be better for politicians to unite the country than further seek to divide it? The wounds caused by Brexit may never be heeled, certainly not in this current generation which has condemned the next generation to a lifetime offering less opportunities than their parents had. And if Mrs May heads down the Trump road of attacking minorities and journalists, history has shown where that ends.
When people were posting RIP George Michael on social networks, no one told the Sun newspaper. With his family, friends and fans still coming to terms with his premature death, the Sun, who treated Michael with dripping contempt over the years – well, he was gay after all – decide to prolong the agony.
Rupert Murdoch’s vile organ – hang your head in shame if you support hate by buying it – runs with details of the 999 call made by Michael’s partner, sharing with us in the front page headline the unfolding sadness of Michael’s passing.
Of course, the Sun does not actually refer to Fadi Fawaz as Michael’s partner: he’s Michael’s lover, rather like Prince Phillip is Queen Elizabeth’s lover. And what a thing for Britain’s sleaziest and tackiest tabloid: Michael’s partner has a foreign name. Not only is Fawaz gay, he sounds foreign. He’s the last person the Sun would want to see in England’s green and pleasant land.
It’s the surreal romanticism in the Sun’s story that I find most disturbing of all. I have seen a number of dead people in my life, usually close family members, and I can assure you there is nothing remotely remotely romantic about it, especially when that person’s life was cut short and it had quality in it.
I do not want to know about that 999 call. I liked Michael the person, the campaigner, the generous benefactor and, when he was in Wham!, the musician, but he was far from being a part of my life. He was a picture in a magazine, a singer on the telly. His personal life, grotesquely scandalised by the gutter press that now pretends it loved him all along, should remain just that, especially as he is no longer around to reply to anything.
Above all, it is the tabloid obsession with sexuality. The world in which I live largely accepts diversity and understands we are what we are and that we are husbands and wives, husbands and husbands, wives and wives and partners. If we are lovers, then it’s usually part of the other stuff.
I would suggest the Sun (other scumbag tabloids are also available) uses the term “lover” to make make relationships like Michael’s with Fawaz seem a little racier, based on sex alone because gay people only get together for sex, right? Well, no actually but the Sun and its many half-witted readers haven’t realised that just yet.
Having written off the current Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn and the useless cabal with which he surrounds himself, the question is where do I go now? For reasons I don’t quite understand, I have retained membership of a political party I’m not sure I could even vote for at the next general election if this bunch of deadweights are still in charge.
There is nothing to the left of Labour, barring the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) which is essentially another wing of the Socialist Party AKA Militant, so there’s nothing for me there and the Greens will never be an option for so long as they want to stop me driving my car or charging me even more to drive it. So then what?
The Lib Dems, perhaps? It will take more than Nick Clegg’s half-hearted apology for tripling tuition fees to convince me to vote for them, even if they are the only party to have a coherent line on Europe. I’d want not just a full and sincere apology from Tim Farron, I’d want a promise that they would never break in any future coalition that tuition fees be reduced to the previous level or even abolished altogether. There is no getting round the fact that these fees are a tax on the brightest youngsters in the land and a curse on working class children who do not have wealthy parents to cushion the blow by paying them off. And Farron has history with other serious matters.
Farron abstained in the parliamentary vote for equal marriage on the basis of his religious fanaticism (my words). He later expressed his regret but that’s not good enough for me. To be a true libertarian, one must also set aside religious prejudice and, frankly, bigotry, because that’s what it is. In other ways, Farron seems to be a good bloke and far more trustworthy and competent than the out of their depth leaders of HM’s government and opposition respectively. I need convincing that he’ll keep his God to himself.
Then there is nothing. The gap from the Lib Dems, who I would place as just left of centre, to the Tories, who now occupy the hard right, along with Ukip, is more of a chasm than a gap. I suspect that the vast majority of people in this country would regard themselves of the centre ground, even if many of them voted to support the hard right Brexit. I do not know if the leavers are thrilled with the divisions their decision has caused the country and the damage it will cause in the years ahead, but I am hopeful that now they can leave Nigel Farage alone to spend more time with his mistress.
I do not want to see a new party of the left because, for much of its life, the party of the centre left has been Labour. That it has been hijacked by the basket case left takes Labour away from its core voters who, like me, don’t know what to do now.
I supposed the reason I choose to stay in Labour is because I want to fight to take it back from the middle class, grammar school chattering classes and return it to the party of the working woman and man. My patience will only last so long but I am hanging in there for the time being. When it becomes simply too much, I’ll take a walk into the political wilderness and keep my head down. No room for a centre left socialist in this land.