Thursday, 28 February 2013

Voters will be the winners in Eastleigh

Polls have now closed in the Eastleigh by-election, a seat made famous because of Chris Huhne’s transgressions.

It’s also the first by-election in living history where the three main political parties have made almighty cock-ups in their attempt to hold or gain the seat.

Labour never stood a chance because they needed a 19,000 vote turnaround and any political junkie will tell you those miracles only happen once in a blue moon unless you are George Galloway.

Yet the party picked a high-profile candidate in John O’Farrell, not quite political suicide but this was one fight Labour really ought to have stood in the corner and watched.

Meanwhile the Conservative’s desperate bid to give their coalition partners a bloody nose was dented
somewhat with the selection of Maria Hutchings.

Oh Maria, the only by-election candidate who did not appear at a hustings event and even said a state school education would not help son become a surgeon!

And what of the Lib Dems well their candidate did nothing was just the rest of the party imploded 10 days before the poll! Not helpful at all.

Current predictions are for a Lib Dem victory, UKIP second, Conservatives third and Labour fourth...

Meaning tomorrow you will wake up to either ‘Labour in crisis as they finish fourth’ or‘Tory revolt as party misses total open goal’.

Truth be told, none of it will be true. Look at the facts, every voter interviewed on TV couldn’t give a hoot about national issues, they want a nice MP to send to Westminster and good on them.

If Labour finish fourth then yes it won’t be a great night but remember in 2010 they were 19,000 votes behind the winners and came third, they were always the outsiders. In 1997, Labour won everywhere.....but still didn’t win in Eastleigh!

If the Tories don’t win then it should not spell crisis for David Cameron. Yes a win would be great but remember Eastleigh is the strongest of Liberal Democrat areas (the local council is dominated by them).

I suspect the problem could come if UKIP finish second, a prospect which frightens the Conservatives because of the potential impact at a general election.

But Eastleigh won’t be the ‘country rejecting austerity’ or ‘the last post for the coalition Government’, Cameron might need to grin and bear it but get on with being in Government.

Any Tory rebels who want to chance their arm and go after the PM after this result would do well to remember Redwood v Major, no the rebels didn’t win but they left the then PM wounded and beaten well before Blair finished him off in 1997.

With the Liberal Democrats having a ‘sex scandal without sex’ and Miliband not yet having truly won over the electorate, caution and discretion is needed in the Conservative party, not all out war.

Anyway, let’s see what the returning officer has to say.....

Monday, 18 February 2013

Miliband parks his economic tank on the battlefield

“We would put right a mistake made by Gordon Brown and the last Labour government”

Well hello Mr Miliband, please park your tank on the battlefield neatly between the blue one and yellow one.
Miliband's announcement that a future Labour Government would re-introduce a 10p rate of tax was not expected, not forecast but certainly well-timed.
The beauty of this move is how much of Westminster life it will affect in the coming months, right up until May 2015.
By coming out with the sentence above, Miliband and Balls have scored a intriguing political hat-trick.

The admission of economic error - Since 2010 David Cameron has pinned all the economic ills at Labour's door. It's a strategy which has succeeded but now is looking weaker because the economy is still lethargic.
Miliband knew the abolition of 10p was controversial and upset Labour voters. But he also knew it was an easy apology to make and would show on the surface Labour was prepared to acknowledge it made mistakes on the economy. A classic case of we've accepted our mistakes Mr Osborne, will you?

Goodbye Gordon - Another favourite Tory line is to brand Miliband and Balls 'Sons of Gordon' because both worked for the Chancellor at the Treasury. Well today both Eds told the world they didn't like daddy. Brown will be fuming but Miliband and Balls have tried to put clear water between themselves and Brown/Blair.

Chaos theory - Lib Dems want the mansion tax, not 10p tax rate. Tories want 10p not mansion tax. Labour floating both is classic stirring. Are you a Lib Dem, don't like coalition but do love the mansion tax, come over to our side. Mr Osborne, we've floated the idea of 10p, are you brave enough to whack it in your budget like so many back-benchers want, knowing that if you do you shall come across rather weak to the outside world.
And if he doesn't, might the plotters begin making their moves on Cameron by going after his best mate? The polls haven't exactly bounced for Labour this weekend, but they have solidly retained a double digit lead, more than enough to return to Downing Street you would imagine.
Miliband's pledge won't win him Eastleigh, barring a miracle, but if John O'Farrell can add 2/3'000 to the share of the vote compared to 2010 it might be an indication how Southern England is reacting to Labour.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

In Wenger we will EVENTUALLY rust

I have thought long and hard about this blog, defeats to teams you should beat tend to leave you time to muse.
Yesterday's reverse to Blackburn means Arsenal Football Club have been knocked out of England's two cup competitions by Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers, by teams in League Two and the Championship.
I don't wish to take anything away from either, Bradford in particular have been wonderful, but our exits to both is disgraceful.
In years past, Arsenal have been knocked out of completions by Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona, defeats that hurt as a football fan, but they are quality football teams.
This season however, Arsenal have been eliminated by teams who simply wanted it more. That is something I will struggle to understand. Watch the Bradford game again, the Bantams were at it from the first whistle to the last penalty. 
Arsenal? Well they played like a team who just expected to win, not good enough against the underdog. Remember Birmingham City? the Carling Cup final Arsenal were expected to win? What happened there and where are Birmingham now?
The simple truth is the will to win comes from the top and on that I am afraid Arsene Wenger has simply failed.
Players like Wilshere and Walcott are left on the bench to be introduced when needed. Why not start them the bring them off when you are 2-0 up?
But again last night, criticise Wenger and the Arsene Knows Best brigade attack you, accuse you of being a plastic fan or even worse a closet Spurs fan!
I am neither, have supported Arsenal since 1989 and have seen worse days than this. I proudly applauded when the 10 valiant men lost to Barcelona in the Champions League final in 2006.
I've shouted myself horse in every match since, I have celebrated giddily every time we have won a truly big game.
I backed the club when Robin Van Pursestring said it wasn't about the money and then left for the money. 
But this season has hurt, Bradford left me angry yet Blackburn, well I just shrugged.
I will take defeat (eventually) to any top team, that is football. But I cannot accept afternoons like Swansea at home where a team that nearly dropped out of the league altogether came to the Emirates and OUTPLAYED Arsenal.
On Tuesday, I will cheer on my team against Bayern Munich, i don't want us to be slaughtered like some Wenger critics do.
But yesterday is the beginning of the end for Arsene Wenger, we are not rusting yet but another 12 months and fourth-place won't be an aspiration, it will be nothing more than a pipe-dream.
I don't want him sacked, the man has done too much wonderful work for that. But go win the Champions League or get fourth and let's shake hands and walk away and remember the wonderful memories made possible by Wenger.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Equality at last, but at what cost for the PM?

Tuesday February 5 2013 could go down as one of the most historic days in British history when genuine equality began to really emerge from the shadows.

Legislation to permit gay men and women to marry was passed overwhelmingly in the House of Commons, meaning marriage truly now is open to all.

Churches can be exempt and in some cases will be. It won’t please many but surely we in Britain in 2013 really ought to recognise people from all walks of life?

However, despite getting the bill through, the Prime Minister has lots of negative headlines to deal with. More Conservatives voted against the motion than for it and it would not have passed had Labour not voted for it – not a good sign for a PM trailing in the opinion polls.

In truth, February 5 could also be the Cameron’s ‘Maastricht Moment’ where he pressed on regardless of what his party thought. John Major did the same over the EU and, although he was not removed by a subsequent leadership challenge, he was fatally wounded.

The list of ‘no’ voters on gay marriage include all the usual suspects; Carswell, Redwood, Pritchard and Bone but also many who had not rebelled before, including some elected in 2010.

Also featured in the no list was Adam Afriyie, Cameron’s alleged potential leadership challenger according to the Mail on Sunday.

Now a leadership challenge is a flight of fancy but imagine if the Tories are still behind in the polls this time next year and the economy is still in the toilet? Conditions ripe for a traditional Tory bun-fight!

Conservative commentators will point to the Labour and Lib Dem rebels but 20 Labour MPs and a smattering of Lib Dems hardly compares to almost half of the Conservative intake at Westminster.

Those that voted against need to state their reasons to their voters, maybe some have a case and we as the electorate should certainly listen.

It should also be mentioned that six Muslim Labour MPs and Conservative MP Sajid Javid were among those backing the motion. A nice kicking to those neanderthals who continually try to whip up anti-Muslim feelings in a modern, multi-cultural Britain.

Even more reason for Britain to be proud of February 5 and have some respect for the Prime Minister who, whether politically-motivated or not, pressed ahead with something that has been rather divisive.

Whether the Conservative Party will dump him at the altar remains to be seen....

Monday, 4 February 2013

One last chance to save Gazza...

The weekend's headlines about Paul Gascoigne should shock, surprise and horrify. Yet sadly they don't as many of us, football fans or not, have seen the Geordie's horrible descent in recent years.

What is clear is that the man responsible for so many of my childhood memories , even though he played for Spurs and not my beloved Arsenal, needs help and fast.

Gazza's decline is horrible to watch, a legend slowing ebbing away, but its clear not enough people understand mental illness, depression and addiction. The man likes a drink, he is surrounded by people who, in my opinion are not doing enough to keep him away from it. The man lived for football, something he cannot do anymore because of age.

The man is mentally ill, spiralling into depression because of the reasons outlined above. But nothing has been done to help him, no-one has wrapped him in their arms and gone 'come on, you have plenty to offer, let me help you'.

Therapy won't help Gazza, it's too structured. Football will, not management but maybe working with kids, kids on Tyneside perhaps? Coaching kids, getting a ball out and playing with them, allowing him to be just what he is, a big kid!

Too much has been made of Gazza, he is a fun-loving Geordie who lived for playing football. A lot of headlines were generated after Hoddle left him out of his France 98 World Cup squad. Did anyone ever think Gazza's reaction was one of a man being denied his last chance on the big stage?

Similar comparisons have been drawn with George Best, another flawed genius. Please, please don't let the Gazza story have the same ending...

A change is a good as a rest

Realised hadn’t blogged for a good while now and wanted this one to not be about politics, more of that as the week goes on!
So erm, hiya all I hope anyone who reads this is well and happy. Been a good couple of days for me, a day off always refreshed even though I was actually doing some work for work!
Enjoyed the live sport over the weekend and watching it made me realise how impressive a job Sky Sports do compared to the rest.
I hear too often that Sky and Murdoch have ruined sport etc. I disagree entirely and actually think Sky have helped certain sports grow.
Take Cricket, everyone remembers the shock when the BBC lost the rights to English test matches in 1998, how dare Channel 4 steal from Auntie!
And for a while, the new kids showed they were right to be trusted with the game as they brought a number of toys for us to play with.

But cricket takes a long time and soon Channel 4 wanted to grab their coats and go home and watch the Simpsons and Hollyoaks. They tried to fix it by starting test matches earlier but then the pesky
English summer turned on them and it rained.

This delayed the end to the days play and saw Channel 4 often say goodbye before the umpires declared time.

In the end, Channel 4 ran out of time, patience and money and said goodbye to leather on willow for more from Mercedes her friends on Hollyoaks.
Sky swooped and since then I cannot remember a ball being missed, if play continues because of rain then Gower et al will delay dinner to conclude the events.
Yes, subscriptions are high, yes we shouldn’t have to pay to watch test cricket but that’s all you did for years when cricket was the BBC’s domain.
Sky know the prices people pay, that’s why the broadcaster goes above and beyond at times to offer you something more. Take the last Ashes series, when was the last time England’s warm-up game was broadcast? It was this time.

And this series in New Zealand, well a little extra treat in the schedules, England’s two warm-up T20 games, live on the network.

Yes it costs, but without Sky Sports you do have to wonder where sport would be??