Sunday, 30 May 2010

David Laws: Almost A Record Breaker

The shortest ever British Cabinet career was that of George Nugent Temple Grenville, who during 1783 was Foreign Secretary for three days. In recent times, the politician with the shortest Cabinet career is Peter Mandelson, who was forced to resign after barely six months in 1998. He later returned to the Cabinet, but had to resign a second time. During 1992, David Mellor lasted just five months as Heritage Secretary.

Now, we have Liberal Democrat David Laws. Treasury axeman for just seventeen days, and the first coalition casualty. Yesterday Laws resigned, after it was revealed he'd directed more than £40,000 of taxpayers’ money to his secret lover James Lundie. As well as questioning his financial probity, the revelations have meant Laws has had to deal with coming out; it's thought he had never discussed his sexuality with his family.

Pillsbury, the creature Osbourne, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have expressed regret at Laws' resignation. Immediately he was replaced by Lib Dem Danny Alexander, one of the great architects behind the coalition agreement. John Lyon, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, will now examine whether Mr Laws paid his lover reasonable amounts. As yet it's not at all clear Laws breached allowances rules, but he was so devastated by the combined impact of disclosures about his sexuality and his financial arrangements that he felt he had to go.

Though Laws was in post for under three weeks, he certainly left his mark. Firstly, he made public the disgraceful note left on his desk by his predecessor, Liam 'Little Prick' Byrne, which said: "I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left." Then, he pulled out of the BBC's 'Question Time' last week after Labour refused to withdraw Alastair Campbell as its spokesman on the programme. So did Laws make himself a target?

It's a sad fact that even today, without the gay element and for some the associated prurience, this story simply would not have been as big. What caused the Daily Telegraph to trawl their expenses files once again? Was it a tip-off from somebody's dirty-tricks department about the nature of David Laws' relationship with Mr Lundie? In a perfect world, Laws' wish to keep his personal life private while holding high office would have been upheld; in reality, it was always doomed.

Eurovision: Camp, Tasteless, Loveable

Germany has been crowned winner of this year's Eurovision song contest. Last night in Oslo, Lena Mayer-Landrut stormed to victory with her song Satellite, already pick of the pops across much of Europe apparently. Meanwhile, Great Britain lived up to its recent er record by finishing last. Plucky hopeful Josh Dubovie was awarded a feeble ten points at the contest.

It wasn't entirely Josh's fault. The song was dreadful, the scourings from Pete Waterman's nineteen-eighties bits-box. Think Rick Astley, if you can. Ladbrokes offered odds of 175-1 against Josh winning the competition; even Waterman felt he was "highly unlikely" to romp home.

The evening also saw Spain perform twice, after their first attempt was interrupted by a stage invader, while a Welshman represented Cyprus. For this year the voting rules were changed, but many nations still supported their mates. This time too, five countries dropped out of the competition, for financial rather than musical reasons it was claimed.

But Eurovision isn't rubbish, or a waste of time; it's too easy to pan the occasion. Camp, vulgar, yes, poor songs of course, but as a spectacle it's pure entertainment. Graham Norton was an adequate successor to the great Terry Wogan, though a little light on spite for my taste; more next year, please. But above all, Eurovision provides a moment for the peoples of Europe to bond over tacky, meaningless music. It's like dancing with your fat cousin while drunk at a family wedding; just a bit of fun.

Actually, with the cost of Eurovision this year at £21 million, and the winning country having to host the event next year, young Josh has done his nation proud.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Coalition: Good Or Bad?

Labour's attempt to remain in government is over. Seeking some form of power-sharing deal with the Lib Dems, the party cobbled together a negotiating team - led by unelected 'public servants' Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell. As Rasputin and Campbell swept in and out of big London buildings for talks, the mere MPs within their 'team' trailed behind at a respectful distance, carrying stuff. Incredibly, it also appeared Rasputin had the call on whether Chuckles would stay, or instead be sacrificed as party leader in return for an agreement with the Lib Dems. But how could Nick Clegg ever have entered into an association with a broken party, thrashed at the ballot-box and detested by millions? In any case, the seat numbers simply didn't add up, the rainbow majority a fantasy. The talks failed and finally, Chuckles bowed out.

We now have a government of formal coalition between Clegg and Pillsbury. Unsurprisingly the media has followed every nuance of the sudden love-in. At their first joint press conference, held in Number Ten's back garden, we witnessed a tender scene between Nick and Dave; all affectionate punches and misty eyes. Later, we watched as hallucinating Lib Dems joined the Tories at the high table. A new joint manifesto has been wheeled out, blunted by both sides as the need for compromise immediately rears its head.

What do the papers have to say on these events? the Independent believes the coalition is "doomed to fragility", while the Mail's usual balanced view offers "a word or two of caution" which concludes "Coalitions - even those that start so amicably - are a deeply unsatisfactory way of conducting government, handing the political class far too much power at voters' expense." Oh woe, then. The plebian Mirror mumbles: "Sham isn't fooling us" while perhaps the Telegraph sums it up best: "Strip away the guff... and the reality is one of crude political calculation."

One thing's certain. The coalition may or may not be a pantomime horse, but for now it's the only horse in town.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Gordon Brown: Go Now

Gordon Brown has just led his party to a crushing General Election defeat. For Labour the result was so bad that it approached the collapse experienced under Michael Foot; the party lost more seats than in any election since 1931, and several Ministers have been toppled. Chuckles has no mandate to remain at 10 Downing Street, yet he refuses to budge. The game, apparently, isn't yet up. He seems to feel he's entitled to remain Prime Minister whatever the result. Sociopath or mere narcisist? You decide.

Desperate to cling to power, yesterday Chuckles made overtures to Nick Clegg, citing sudden common ground with the Lib Dems in a hasty punt at some form of coalition deal. We learned that for almost a day now, Chuckles has been a committed 'progressive', even to the point of embracing electoral reform. Yet he must know that many, many people would never forgive the Lib Dems should Clegg agree to shore him up.

And what of the Lib Dems' election experience? The bubble burst; fewer seats were won than at the previous election. Yet where Brown acts with disgraceful egotism, despite his disappointment Clegg has integrity and decisiveness. Yesterday, because the Tories had the most votes and seats, he said it was up to them to prove they are capable of seeking to govern in the national interest.

Within minutes of each other yesterday, Chuckles and Pillsbury addressed the nation. Their pitches to Clegg, in his role as Warwick, were poles apart. Chuckles: worn-down, grim, implausable. Pillsbury: energised, fervent, optimistic.
Now, Pillsbury and Clegg are talking; most people hope they'll reach agreement.

Meanwhile Gordon Brown's self-interest is affecting the performance of the markets as well as sterling exchange rates. And in the Labour wings wait glove-puppet Glenn and and his master Rasputin, with their big knives. Get out of the way Chuckles, and quickly.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Sleaze: Payback Time

MPs who attempted to defy public anger over their expenses abuses were punished at the ballot box during yesterday's General Election, as voters gleefully took their revenge. Disgraced former home secretary Jacqui Smith was among the MPs who paid the price for the sleaze that has engulfed the Commons.

Squirrel Nutkin suffered a well-deserved trouncing in her Redditch constituency, despite desperately enlisting the last-minute support of former Prime Minister Tony Bliar. She'd claimed over £116,000 during six years of designating her sister's house in London as her main home. Also, her husband Richard Timney claimed hard-core pornographic films on her taxpayer-funded expenses, though perhaps we can forgive him that. A visibly upset Nutkin was fighting back the tears after her humiliating defeat to the Conservatives was announced. She now plans to sell her second home, and move her entire family into her sister's spare bedroom.

Nearly a hundred and fifty MPs, many embroiled in the expenses row, had quietly announced their retirement in the run-up to the election. But a handful of the most brazen expenses cheats thought they could try their luck at the ballot box. Nutkin was the most-high profile of the expenses scalps, but former ministers Tony McNulty, Shahid Malik, Phil Hope, Vera Baird and Ann Keen have also been kicked out of office after making controversial claims. Goodbye, good riddance; snouts in the trough no more.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Crystal Palace Avoid The Drop

What a game of football. Kick and rush, no let-up. Blood and bandages everywhere. Two minutes from the end, a lunatic miss by Stern John. I'm worn-out from watching it. Crystal Palace drew with Sheffield Wednesday 2-2, and stay in the Championship. Not at all pretty, but well done boys. Man of the match, Palace goal-keeper Julian Speroni. Not for the first time, ahem.

Same as it always was with Palace. They're still broke, but their league status is assured for another season. Crisis? What crisis?