Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is Britain a Christian Country?

If by definition of the status of the Church of England, and that some of our culture, attitudes, and heritage? Then yes I would agree (albeit to a certain extent) with Dominic Grieve and Iain Duncan Smith! If however, one means a Christian country in that most people in the UK are committed Christians, then I think that is a matter for greater conjecture and I would have my doubts! I suspect many people in the UK believe in God, but that is an entirely different thing. At least, however, this issue seems to be prompting a debate and that is a good thing!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Manchester United Sack Moyes

To be fair to David Moyes, succeeding one of the longest serving football managers' in the UK's football history, of one of the most successful and popular teams in the World, was always going to be tough! I think that he should have been given more time, i.e. another year, and see for sure how Manchester United would fare, because these changes do take time. I just hope the choice of the new manager will be a wise one!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tories and Gaffes

What is it with the Conservatives of late! With weeks before the local elections they seem to have driven full throttle into Gaffe Street, and in some cases making people suspect that they may well be the Nasty Party after all!
If one is not making 30 second apologies for offenses that would mean a prison term for many, another is making an offensive comment about rape, or in this case, sick comments about "mongols". Yet another has made some sick jokes on Facebook! Then there is Wirral South MP, Esther McVey, tweeting political attacks on Labour during a service in memory of the Hillsborough victims
Now thankfully, many of these people have apologised, but they seem to fail to understand in the first place what was profoundly offensive about their actions, and as elected representatives, one would expect them to have a little more savvy, and at the least, a little more empathy! The fact that seems to have been lacking says much about the Conservative Party at the present, and sadly it bodes badly for all of us at the Polls!

Putin and the Ukraine

I think it is clear that Russia are behind these attacks, if they are not, then why does President Putin not condemn them, or at least try and smooth relations between Russia and the Ukraine. What is frightening is that there seems to be no sense of self control from the Russian government and no concern about the conspicuous lack of support they are getting, such as from China
How things will turn out I don't know, but if President Putin is a thoughtful man he will be asking himself whether the gamble is worth it given the long term hostility towards Russia from around the Globe that he is stoking up!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Interview with Adrian Mole

On hearing of the sad demise of Sue Townsend last night Mars Hill sought out the one time celebrity chef in the antique bookshop he now manages for his views on the women who made his diaries public, Adrian Mole. We asked him some questions earlier this morning and the following is the result.

Mars Hill: What are your first recollections of Ms. Townsend?

Adrian Mole: Well I was in my teens sending off some of my poems to the BBC hoping that one of them would be read out on the great shows of culture that the BBC produced. But I kept getting rejected. I knew that like myself Ms. Townsend was from Leicester so I sent some stuff to her for advise as to how to get it published. But heard nothing back. So I wrote again and again and still nothing. So I went round to where she was making a public appearance one time, but I tried to ask her a question I was ushered out by the book shop security, dropping my teenaged diary in the melée. Sue picked it up read it and rang my number which was written inside the front cover and said she'd like to edit it for publication.

MH: What did you think of what she did with your diaries?

AM: Well she didn't edit them very much in the end, much to my embarrassment. I mean it was the diary of a teenaged boy, she kept in all the measurements of my penis that I had recorded in there. Which was fine while it was just a book form. But then one day on the way to school I heard it on the Mike Read Breakfast Show on Radio 1, my father had chosen the station much to my disgust as I was missing Today on Radio 4. But they were reading out the words that I had written, it wasn't Radio 4 but Radio 1 and they also were credited Ms. Townsend as the author, but they were my words.

MH: After the serialisation on Radio 1 of course it became a TV series in 1985 covering initially the first two volumes of the diaries in the 80s. The in 2001 one of the later volumes The Cappuccino Years was adapted. What did you make of these imaginings?

AM: Well neither Gian Sammarco [in the 80s] nor Stephen Magnan are anything like me to be honest. I was a little let down especially in 2001 after I had become a celebrity in my own right [as a celebrity TV chef cooking with offal] that they didn't approach me to play myself to give a truer reflection. However, I did have Ron Weasley's mother [Julie Walter's played Mrs Mole in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ (1985)] all to myself long before JK Rowling even had thought of Harry Potter. Sadly they replaced her with some singer [Lulu] for The Growing Pains but cast a Shakespearean Actress [Alison Steadman] as her in The Cappuccino Years.

As for the girl they cast as Pandora in the original [Lindsey Stagg] she was nothing compared to the real beauty that filled our classroom at Neil Armstrong Comprehensive, it may be while she has never appeared in anything since. But Helen Bexandale captured her a lot better in the last dramatisation, although I got an angry call from Pandora when that first aired about how dare they. I think she was rather upset with the mock tacking they did of her 1997 election poster.

MH: Have you and Ms Townsend kept in touch through the years?

Yes. Every so often I would get a phone call asking if I had written much in the diary recently. Personally I think when she did that she had run out of ideas of her own.

MH: What do you mean?

AM: Well some if quite good, I like Number Ten which she wrote after Pandora on a number of occasions introduced her to Tony Blair. It is quite a satire on a Edinburgh born politician to a Communist sympathising father heading to the top of the political tree by appealing to the right more than some of the left would have liked. I always though she was rather unsympathetic to my heroine Margaret Thatcher. She was also rather cruel to our Queen and her family in those other books [The Queen and I and Queen Camilla] who I believe are wonderful people.

MH: When did you last talk to Ms. Townsend?

AM: It was a few months ago, we had been in talks about a new set of diaries. I been recently going through a number of difficulties with my prostate and I felt it was needed to highlight these issues to the men of my generation so was prepared to be open about the difficulties I had encountered. It was actually something that had happened about 5 or 6 years ago, but she'd not got around to editing that volume yet.

However, when she didn't turn up for my 47th birthday just last week, or even call me to wish me a happy birthday I knew something was wrong. I tried to get Colin [Broadway her husband] or one of the children on the phone but all I got were their voice mails. She was a big part of my life after all and now that she is gone I'm not sure how things will develop as far as my ongoing diaries will go. We recently of course also lost a great diarist in Tony Benn.

I've actually written a poem in her memory which you can also include. [Editor - sadly we have run out of space for the poem]

RIP Sue Townsend

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The StrongArm Tactics and Miller Show

Maria Miller could have had more goodwill, or at least less anger heading her way if she did any of the following:

1) Miller could have made a more fulsome apology than the thirty second one she made in the House of Commons

2) She could have sacked her SPAD after  it came out that the said SPAD was caught threatening journalists , using Leveson as a weapon of choice (although that would have been shabby, she could have been accused of using a human shield, and Craig Oliver, Downing Street's Director of Communications, had been making similar threats)

3) She could have resigned before the weekend, even during the weekend, it would have been seen as an honourable move, and it would have quickly have been forgotten

In fact, if David Cameron had sacked her before Monday, there would not have been the current voices mentioning question marks on his leadership getting the audience it has! However spirited his supporters are in their defence, the fact remains that Cameron failed to show leadership by appreciating the situation, gauging public opinion, and acting accordingly. For a PM to get out of touch so quickly is breathtaking, but as we saw with Brooks and Coulson, and other past acts, his lack of judgement started before he became Prime Minister

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Interview With Andrew Allison

Over a month ago, I interviewed Andrew Allison, formerly of the Taxpayers' Alliance and now Campaigns Manager of The Freedom Association, in a cafe in Central London. It was in the aftermath of the January floods and the debates about the BBC's status coming up afresh

PAUL BURGIN: I am with Andrew Allison, who has just become Campaigns Manager of the Freedom Association. So, previously you were with the Taxpayers Alliance weren't you?


PAUL BURGIN: What led you to the Taxpayers Alliance in the first place?

ANDREW ALLISON: It was a chance meeting that I had with Bob Wallace at the Conservative Party Conference in 2008 and he asked if I would do some work for the Taxpayers Alliance, on an informal basis, it's an interest area of mine, and that's how it went on! In 2009 that's exactly what I did, then I was with a local branch, then I became a national part-time member of staff, then a full-time member of staff and it sort of moved on from there, a national progression!

PAUL BURGIN: One of the frequent criticisms of the Taxpayers Alliance is that it is politically biased towards the Conservatives and/or to UKIP, it is essentially a right-wing organisation isn't it!

ANDREW ALLISON: Well it is Centre Right, I don't think you see many people on the Centre Left particularly calling for lower taxes

PAUL BURGIN: I think those on the Left, who are pro tax and spend, would be happy so long as the money was spent wisely!

ANDREW ALLISON:  Depends on how you define wisely though!

PAUL BURGIN: I suppose so, but how do you think the present government is doing on the tax issue at the moment?

ANDREW ALLISON: Well it's such a personal answer, but of course the VAT increase just shouldn't happen, they need to keep going further and reduce taxes more. Of course it would be better if it was placed from 50 pence down to 45 and pushed again down to 40, we could argue about the rich giving a fair share, but of course what is the fair share and if you can give me a good answer I will put forward a good argument, so like the Taxpayers Alliance I would like to see taxes reduced further, it is taxpayers money after all! They initially made a good start, they just have to continue in the same vein

PAUL BURGIN: So now you are Campaigns Manager for the Freedom Association, how did that come about?

ANDREW ALLISON: Well when you do the same job for quite a while you feel stale, and you you feel like you have broken through the glass ceiling, which I felt I had, so it's time to move on, so I had a chat with Simon Richards who is the Chief Executive of The Freedom Association and we discussed opportunities from there!

PAUL BURGIN: It doesn't seem to have the same publicity as it did in the 1970s and 80s

ANDREW ALLISON: That is true, and that is very much part of why we, including Jack Hart our Communications Manager, are ready to raise our profile!

PAUL BURGIN: One of the problems people have had with The Freedom Association is, perhaps a sense of inconsistency. For example, the campaign in 1980 to make sure athletes did not contest the Moscow Olympics, which is all well and good, but equally they campaigned against sanctions against South Africa! It smacks to some as ideological pick and choose on the regimes that are not...

ANDREW ALLISON: I can see your point and I we can talk about things that happened thirty plus years ago, I mean if you look at when Nelson Mandela died for example, The Freedom Association paid tribute to him, and on a personal note I myself have a great deal of admiration for Nelson Mandela, South Africa would have become a bloodbath if it had not been for him. Things move on, and there are things in those days some of which I would not agree with and which we are not responsible for

PAUL BURGIN: So where do you see the Freedom Association going in the next two years or so?

ANDREW ALLISON: Well certainly we need to be at the heart of the debate when it comes to freedom and liberty issues, which we haven't been in recent years. We also have some strong campaigns coming forward, such as the "Free the Airwaves" campaign, which is not an amateur, not an anti-BBC campaign because I don't want that. I'm not anti-BBC myself, but the Licence Fee as it is is not sustainable, and some in the BBC have admitted that, the former BBC Presenter, Nick Ross, has said that! So "Free the Airwaves" campaign is a campaign I will be in charge of, that we need to abolish the Licence Fee. Of course we've got the "Better Off Out" campaign as well

PAUL BURGIN: With the BBC, surely part of the problem with the Licence Fee, it is that the BBC is in a unique position, compared to other broadcasters!

ANDREW ALLISON: Yes that's right

PAUL BURGIN: There is a Trust, it relies on taxpayers' money, but equally it is in a competitive market, so in order to get to the high standards that is required of it, it does need a large amount of money. How they spend it is perhaps another matter!

ANDREW ALLISON: When it comes to the Licence Fee,  it's outdated, because people are accessing information from completely different ways. I've been through goodness how many Offcom Reports looking at the rise of the use of Tablets, Smart Phones (such as the one you are using now),  are outsmarting TVs, as sources of information! People do not watch television now solely through their television set and many don't touch BBC content, and yet still have to pay the Licence Fee just to watch live television. It's ridiculously outdated! But public service broadcasting in itself is alright, and some of the BBC's output is public service broadcasting and that can be done through general taxation and that's important, but the rest, you know it can be done by subscription, it can be done by sponsorship. Many people watch EastEnders, 10 million people watch EastEnders how many times a week it's on, and why not, but EastEnders is nothing to do with public service broadcasting. Now the battle is between Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor on a Saturday night before Christmas

PAUL BURGIN: How do you see British politics after the 2015 election, based purely on how things are at the moment?

ANDREW ALLISON: Well blimey, crystal ball time! My position's never changed. This is the thing, after the next election it will be pretty much the same as how things are right now. I don't think Cameron is good enough to stay if we are to have a majority, I don't think Ed Miliband is good enough to be Prime Minister, and I think unless there is a radical shift, because these floods have affected things and I think the Prime Minister has handled the floods badly, and I think post 2015 politics is pretty much going to be in the same place it is! I don't think anyone has given the British public a convincing argument to say they should be in charge!

PAUL BURGIN: Do you think Cameron has made a massive blunder with the "Money is no object!"  question?

ANDREW ALLISON: Yes. He didn't explain what that was about and I sort of feel I knew what he meant now, but he shouldn't have said that

PAUL BURGIN: Because he's given councillors and all kinds of groups the chance to say, "Well where is our money?" !

ANDREW ALLISON: Exactly! Why is money no object here, but money is an object there? Silly comment to make!

PAUL BURGIN: Andrew Allison, thankyou very much


Friday, April 04, 2014

Telegraph Allegedly Threatened By No 10

I am not sure what to make of this, but ask yourself why a former Daily Telegraph Editor, having worked for a broadsheet newspaper with no ideological axe to grind against the Conservative Party, would make something up like this? Hard to prove either way and I suspect Maria Miller will survive, albeit damaged! The same will go for the Prime Minister who, not for the first time, has perhaps shown misplaced loyalty. Incidentally, Craig Oliver has form in leaning hard on respected journalists. Below is his confrontation with BBC Political Editor, Norman Smith! (I know, it's via Guido, but it's the only source)