Saturday, 25 September 2010

Miliband To Lead Labour

In a sledge-hammer victory today, Glen Miliband has swept to power as new leader of the Labour Party. Glen's plucky brother David also ran in the leadership contest along with three other no-hopers, but the result was never in doubt; a ringing endorsement for the younger man by a landslide voting margin of 0.00002%. Jubilant Labour supporters clapped hesitantly as the news was announced at the party's annual conference.

The results were revealed in alphabetical order, starting with Diane Abbott, the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP and the only woman in the race, followed by Ed Balls and Andy Burnham, and finally the two Milibands – David, then Glen. How fortuitous that the comic element came first, and that the announcement climaxed with the final candidate's win; will the fourth estate root out a conspiracy?

Throughout his leadership campaign Glen presented himself as the change candidate, who if elected would end the era of Bliar and Chuckles. On the other hand, brother David was once a follower of Bliar and later Rasputin's glove-puppet: a Continuity candidate.
One of his principal allies in the leadership race was Alastair Campbell. Could those associations possibly have contributed to his downfall?

During the campaign Glen prudently distanced himself from Bliar, referring to him as 'Little Brown Jug-Ears'. But among his chief backers are the trade unions. Tony Woodley, joint leader of the Unite union, said of the result: "His victory is a clear sign that the party wants change, to move on from New Labour and reconnect with working people." Back to Labour's reliance on the beer-and-skittles brigade then, together with the inevitable left-wing hostage politics. See how far the party has come; Prescott for deputy leader?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Polar Bear Found On Cornish Beach

When information came in yesterday morning of a polar bear washed up on a Cornish beach, our local ITV station was first to break the news. West Country's breakfast bulletin reported that an animal more commonly spotted in the Arctic had turned up at the North Cornish seaside town of Bude. Remarkable footage showed a large white beast lying dead on the shore. Presenter Naomi Lloyd told us, "The bear comes from the North Pole, and an investigation is underway as to how it could have ended up in Bude." Quite so.

Alas for the bumbling yokels at West Country, tales of the polar bear turned out to be a mistake. Closer inspection revealed it was actually a cow. The animal had been bleached white by sea water.

The item was dropped from later bulletins, but red-faced ITV bumpkins insisted it had been an easy mistake to make. "The cow caused quite a stir in Bude. Several people had seen it from the cliff top and thought it was a polar bear," a perspiring spokesman said. "Its size and colour and its position on the beach made it look like a polar bear, and we had several calls." Someone else's fault, then. When Naomi Lloyd began her career in journalism, was she a cub reporter?

GCSE Animalology ungraded teenagers would have realised the unlikeliness of a polar bear appearing on Cornish shores; the closest they get to Britain is Greenland. But this isn't the first time something unusual has washed up at Bude; during 2008, seven suitcase-sized packages of cocaine were found on the beach. A surprisingly interesting place.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Dirty Books

A while ago I visited Porthleven, on Cornwall's south coast between Helston and Penzance. A village 'fun day' was in full swing. Side-shows, stalls, raffles. Face-painting and balloons. Elderly ladies selling cakes the like of which supermarkets will never, ever be able to create. Under the hot sun I worked my way along the stands, looking for a bargain here and there, until I came to the book stall.

In front of me, a lady was thumbing through the spines; in charge of the stall was a middle-aged woman with frosted hair, pearls and a starchy blouse. One of the local doers of good works, I supposed. The lady selected several battered paperbacks, but paid only a pound or so.

I turned to frosted-hair woman and attempted engagement. "Your prices are very reasonable", I ventured.

She had a rather plummy voice, which carried, and to my delight replied, "Well, we charge less for the dirty books."

There are times when your options are just too many. In the end I fixed her with a faux-outraged glare and managed, "I wasn't looking for anything like that, madam." How would she react?

Once again I'd got it wrong. Instead of tutting or colouring up, she laughed with a raucous heartiness I simply couldn't have predicted. We got into a long conversation about this and that which lasted most of the afternoon, interspersed by punters and cups of tea. A lovely day and I bought a couple of books, but nothing too racy.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Pope: I Was Only Following Holy Orders (2)

Catholic church officials are grudgingly conceding fewer people than expected will watch Benedict XVI beatify Cardinal John Newman at Birmingham on Sunday. They blame the early start, with pilgrims having to board coaches for the venue in the middle of the night, rather than the £25 ticket price. The church is defiantly confident that the Pope's visit to Britain will be successful and, ever optimistic, is marshalling volunteers to man phonelines for all those wanting to convert following this week’s event.

The British Government has set aside £10million to pay for the pontiff's brief trip, excluding security. All tax-payers are therefore contributing, whether or not they're Catholics. The church has been obliged to chip in a further £10m to cover costs of the three outdoor 'pastoral' events, but has so far only scraped up £6.2m. Of course, the gap could easily be bridged by parting with some minor art treasure snaffled away in the Vatican. In the meantime, with ticket take-up vastly overestimated, thousands of excess 'pilgrim passes' are being given away to schools and rest-homes.

Britain's most senior Catholic official, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, said the moral value of Benedict's visit "far outweighs any cost value." For practicing Catholics, perhaps. The Cardinal continued: "It improves morality in the Catholic Christian community. It will outweigh any fears, any worries, any depression that folk might feel about the cost. I look forward to it very, very positively." Well good for you, old son.

Meanwhile, many grave issues within the Catholic church remain unresolved. Benedict XVI has underlined traditional Catholic teaching on artificial contraception. He took the opportunity to emphasise his beliefs during a trip to Africa, a continent that desperately needs every effective method to combat the AIDS pandemic. The Pope's recommended solution is abstinence. On top of that, he's attacked gay unions, abortion, and IVF treatment.

The Catholic church has also failed to surrender to the proper authorities its ranks of paedophile priests. Instead, we're assured of the church's sorrow, that the 'situation' will never be the same again. But of the loathsome culprits there is no sign; no Catholic custodian of decency has handed over these vile people to be punished by the law. While police operations have lead to prosecutions, the church has not co-operated in a drains-up, transparent investigation. Very reassuring, as ticket sales for Benedict's visit deservedly reflect.