Thursday, 30 May 2013

Time to leave Machynlleth to grieve now

Mark Bridger's whole life sentence for the murder of April Jones needs to be a watershed moment for this quiet Welsh town.

Thrust back into the limelight hundreds of years after Owain Glyndwr's 15th-century parliament was set up in the town, the eyes of the world have been on it in a bid to find the five-year-old.

Now justice has been done, it's time to leave this beautiful town alone and let it truly mourn the loss of one of it's youngest members.

What has emerged from this horrible case though is the how wonderful and friendly community is in Machynlleth.

Something which does not surprise me as I have been going there since I was a young lad and the place (well just outside the town) where my wife and I bought our wedding rings.

If you want to visit, then do so but please let it be for a day out on your holiday, to visit the wonderful cafes and small businesses and take in the wonderful scenery, the local people deserve a normal life now.

As for Bridger, no one believed him, the 'story' was nothing more than a pack of abject lies from a cold-hearted and vile waste of oxygen.

My heart goes out to the wonderful community, to April's family and friends and specially her parents.

If it wasn't bad enough they have outlived the child they lovingly created and brought into the world, they still do not have a body to bury and therefore a place to grieve and remember.

I suspect the black-hearted coward won't ever tell the truth about what he did to April and where she may be.

The truth may be very difficult to hear but it's a story April's parents must be told – they know how April came into the world, the least they deserve is to know how she left it.

For the sake of them, the family, the friends and for the many hundreds of people in Machynlleth, tell the truth you spineless coward.

After you have done so, I hope you rot in hell

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

To follow on or not to follow on, that is the question

England won the second Investec Test Match against New Zealand at Headingley by 247 runs to clinch the test series 2-0.

Those are the facts, but there seems to be an almighty row about how they got there – are you a follower onner or a bat em out the match onner?

From my Twitter feed (@robgeorge1) it seems many current pros subscribe to the bat the opposition out the game then feed on the demoralised scraps route.

But many journalists and some fans share my opinion – if you have just rolled them over for 174 and a total of 242 for the loss of 20 wickets, it’s probably a good idea to ask them to try again.

I have always believed in the follow on, because if the opposition can’t get close to you and you know some of the batsmen don’t fancy the bowling, stick them in again!

On Sunday, England rolled New Zealand over for 174, seven days after knocking the same line up out for 68. Why wouldn’t you ask them to bat again? Their batsmen had been spooked by Anderson and Broad at Lord’s and by Swann and Finn at Headingley.

Indeed Swann made Headingley look so much like Galle I was expecting to see the historic fort and Murali coming on from the other end!

But Cook batted again and Trott plodded along so slowly that England almost were washed out.............

It wasn’t about overloading the bowlers, it was about stomping home England’s advantage and showing the Australians this team is ruthless and we are winning ahead of the Ashes.

I'm sure Broad, Anderson, Finn and Swann would have preferred the extra day's work in exchange for a day off resting.

Having said that, I understand the position by many of the pros, bat again and build such a lead that the opposition can not only not win but drawing would be a herculean task.

A similar demoralising effect is levied upon the batting team and the extra runs allows a captain to keep the field up and attack the batsmen.

It was quite clear the New Zealand batsmen were still feeling the pressure but for me, on a spinning pitch and against a batting line up horribly out of nick I would have preferred to see England go in for the kill.

The issue of whether to follow on or not has divided the pros, the press and fans, no one is right, no one is wrong, but hey isn't it great we are talking so much about cricket?

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Labour’s biggest challenge? Making the voters forget!

A lot has been said and written about Ed Miliband failing to take Labour into a 15, 20 even 25 point lead in the polls considering the economy is in the toilet under a Government which lurches from crisis to crisis.

They have no policies, Ed is not credible, it’s all their fault the economy is in such a bad state and Iraq are the main sticks to beat the party with.

But it’s nothing as broad. Driving home from Walsall at the weekend, I caught the excellent Pienaar’s Politics on Radio Five Live which featured the pollster Peter Kellner from YouGov.

Not only was there a engrossing political debate but Mr Kellner absolutely nailed the party’s biggest issue and one it will have to address before 2015 – the voters themselves.

Labour are being largely ignored, according to Kellner, because the electorate kicked them out in 2010 and asked them to ‘go play outside for a bit’ while they met their new Government.

And there is Ed’s biggest headache, how does he break with recent political history and ask to be let back into the house with the big black door?

Not since the 70s has British politics let the opposition back into power, the UK voters are fair-minded to give their Government’s a good spell in power.

Labour had 13 years up to 2010, the Conservatives had 18 years from 1979 to 1997 and 11 years from 1951 to 1964.

After a six year spell in office, Harold Wilson was ejected as Labour PM in 1970 but was back thanks to two general elections in 1974 only to lose to Thatcher in 79.

Before he even can talk about the mistakes of the past and the vision of the future, Ed actually has to get the voters listening to a party they asked to leave just three years ago.

Crack it and he can start measuring the curtains for Downing Street now, the Government is that vulnerable.

If people are still feeling the squeeze on their wages and at the supermarket two years from now, then and only then will the voters turn around and say: “So Mr Milliband, tell us more about these ideas....”

If they aren’t, then perhaps the best he can hope for is another hung parliament with Labour as the largest party and a deal with a weakened Liberal Democrats.

Labour MP Michael Dugher delivered the best line on the party’s lack of an economic plan though when he said: “We don’t know where the economy will be in two year’s time.”

Something Dugher’s former rival for the Doncaster North seat ought to repeat over and over again.

Maybe then the voters will listen Ed?

Thursday, 23 May 2013

RIP Lee Rigby – A brave soldier to the very end

Drummer Lee Rigby was 25, he had a two-year-old son called Jack, he was married, he fought for his country.

On Wednesday afternoon, he was savagely attacked and brutally murdered because he dared to wear a ‘Help for Heroes’ jumper outside Woolwich barracks.

Those are facts, here are some LIES – It was a taste of Baghdad or Damascus on our streets, it was a new front in the Muslim extremist war on the West and the day real Islamic fundamentalism came to the UK.

Drummer Rigby suffered at the hands of two irrational, spiteful and downright pathetic cowards. Not brave to fight properly, they armed themselves against an unarmed combatant and brutally murdered him ‘in the name of Islam’.

Except they didn’t – my Twitter feed was busy on Wednesday night of shock, horror and revulsion and abject condemnation.........from Muslim’s in the UK and beyond who stood and said ‘not in our name’.

Many quoted the Quran to make their feelings known about this pair while many simply just condemned the men verbally.

It’s that we need to focus on in the coming days, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Buddist standing together as one, as British people to condemn these men and hope they rot.

After 7/7 did we turn on our Muslim brothers and sisters, no, we stood tall and stood together.

These cowards want to divide us, to begin a Holy War. I’ve news for you guys, Christians and Muslim’s have been there for each other for a very long time.

During the Holocaust, the predominantly Muslim population of Albania shielded the Jewish population from Hitler’s army.

In the midst of a genocide in Rwanda in 1994 which saw 1.2million die, tens of thousands of Christian Tutsis fled into Muslim mosques to escape from the machete-wielding Hutu mobs.

They were shielded, many were saved.

Today, Muslims’ and Christians’ fight TOGETHER in the British Army and other forces around the world.

And that brings me onto the final point, the coward with blood on his hands called for ‘our troops’ to be brought home. That was nothing more than a pithy little statement to cover up a truly awful, abhorrent and cowardly crime.

Stand side by side with men and women of all faith’s today, tomorrow and for the rest of your time on this planet to show that cowards will never win.

My deepest sympathies go to Drummer Rigby’s family, friends and colleagues. He died a hero at the hands of cowards and together we will ALL remember that.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Rebel, Rebel – The Tories are a mess

'Infamy, infamy – they've all got it in for me', a classic comedy line but something our Prime Minister may have been thinking as he slumped in front of the television last night.

Because it looks like, whether now or in 2015, the Conservative Party and David Cameron are heading for a divorce and ironically it could be legislation about gay marriage which ends it all.

Electoral suicide in my opinion but for the first time last night I kind of understood why the rebels are rebellious.

Cameron appears to be lurching from one policy to another, we will have a referendum but hey let's negotiate our position first turned into yes we will have a referendum.

Gay marriage, while an important issue, was not in any party manifesto in 2010 but now is a cornerstone of Conservative Party policy.

Add to that the u-turns, the backtracking and the embarrassing 'swivel eyed loons' comment about party members and well our Government is in rather a state.

But the seeds of this were planted back in 2010 when Cameron 'lost' an impossible to lose election against Gordon Brown.

Cameron needed a coalition to take the Conservatives back into power and deep down, those on the right of the party did and always will resent him for it.

The backbenchers now see a Conservative Prime Minister that has to run everything past his Lib Dem deputy despite that party making up 1/6th of the Government benches.

And they hate it, what's more they now hate Cameron and are smelling his blood. Rebellion after rebellion is taking place and even worse for the PM, he now needs Labour's help to get things done.

I suspect many of those backbenchers would have preferred Cameron to go it alone after 2010 with a winter election if it proved impossible – something which could have secured him a small, albeit workable majority.

When he didn't, I suspect many in the party wanted strong leadership and a pat on the head for the Liberal Democrats not joint working – Dave needed to tell Nick he only brought so much to the party.

The problem for Cameron is he did neither and now, with the economy still fast asleep, Her Majesty's Government already looks spent.....three years into the Parliament.

Now the rebels are energised they face a choice, rebel and weaken the PM so much and leave the Tories with no chance in 2015 (See Major and the run up to the 1997 election for a fuller explanation).

Or do they gather, force a no confidence vote in the Prime Minister, depose him and install a new leader who will speak to their values, drag defectors back from UKIP and shore up the party's vote.

It's a huge gamble as any new leader would have to learn from Gordon Brown's mistake and call a General Election or risk being viewed as another unelected Prime Minister.

But after the weekend the Tories have had, the rebels might now want to roll the dice and take their chance......

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The future of press regulation......we need to talk a bit more!

Regular viewers of my Twitter feed can’t help but notice I have had, for me, a rather engrossing discussion with Dr Evan Harris from Hacked Off this week.

What started off as rather heated actually became an interesting to and fro between two people at the opposite ends of the regulation scale, me opposed to Hacked Off, him opposed to some of my profession.
But do you know what? I get it, I get Hacked Off and their campaign now and certainly their calls for a Royal Chater.
The Newspaper Society’s plan is OK but fails on one key area, power would pretty much still be in national newspapers and proprietors hands. We have lost that right to govern ourselves now given phone hacking, given the flagrant bending of the Contempt of Court Act and given the rush for a headline.

Hacked Off are right on that respect, we need independent self regulation and I repeat what I called for in an earlier blog and echo now what Hacked Off, an independent board to rule on complaints.
Hacked Off’s briefing note was sent to editor’s like myself in the week and unlike what the national press say, is not a scaremongering tactic but quite a thought provoking rebuttal.

For example, the Newspaper Society state that should the Royal Charter go ahead, the principle of a free press not subject to Parliamentary statute would be conceded. Erm, no because as the briefing note points out, we journalists are already governed by Contempt of Court Act, Defamation Act, Data Protection Act and of course the Human Rights Act!
All of these benefit my profession greatly if you abide by them, think about all those FOI’s – would not have happened without the Freedom of Infomation Act!

Contempt of Court is a biggie, every journalist should be able to recite it backwards because its common sense, basically don’t do anything until the jury have heard EVERYTHING!
Sadly, in the case of Chris Jeffries, the landlord of the flats where Joanna Yates lived before her brutal murder, contempt of court went out the window. The national media were branding him ‘weird’ and ‘a peeping tom’ – all of which wholly untrue and slanderous.

All of which prayed on the fact you can say what you want before a suspect is charged and the case becomes active. His life was spilled on the front pages and he was only being questioned! A process which happens every day, suspects are brought in and often ruled out.
Hacking is a cancer which needs to be nuked big time (another good idea from Hacked Off being £1million damages by the way)

But national newspapers need to remember the contempt of court act, let every man have his day in court (innocent until proven guilty) and if guilty then rake it all up.
I still have worries about the Royal Charter, such as the possibility of rampant compensation claims from past stories. I accept Hacked Off’s assertions but everyone knows if a law is in place it probably can be ‘intepreted’ in 40 different ways. For example did anyone ever imagine the Human Rights Act would keep terrorism suspects in the UK?

There is good and bad in each proposal being put forward. I hope my profession perhaps grows up a bit and sits down with people such as Dr Harris who can deliver throughtful and analytical prose.
Because if any national colleagues are listening, we can still be free and able to stand as the ‘fourth estate’, but boys and girls we do need to grow up a bit!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Miliband needs to be principled.....and abstain from EU vote

On Wednesday, Conservative rebels will force a vote expressing 'regret' there was no pledge for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU in last week's Queen's Speech.

It's a vote which could see more than 100 Tory MPs rebel and could see the Government lose in an embarrassing manner.

If Labour backs the Government and Ed Miliband's decision not to offer an EU referendum - the Government will win the vote and spare Cameron from embarrassment.

However, rather than playing politics, Miliband ought to instruct his MPs to ABSTAIN from the vote on the grounds that no competent Government should ever vote against its own Queen's Speech.

By suggesting this vote, the Tory rebels are effectively suggesting they have no confidence in the Prime Minister but are too cowardly to challenge his leadership.

They paint the vote as an attempt to thwart UKIP's rise to electoral prominence, the truth is many on the backbenches simply do not like David Cameron's Conservative Party.

There is nothing within this Tory civil war for Labour or Ed Miliband – he and the party should refuse to vote and let the Tories beat themselves up.

Miliband should not be weak and ride to the Prime Minister's rescue, he should stand at the dispatch box and simply say 'Your problem, you need to fix it'.

I believe Miliband is right, the EU issue is not as big as the Conservatives are making out – I would much rather see our economy thrive, homes being built and jobs being created.

Yes we need to look at our relationship and mention we quite like dealing with the US and would only be to happy to move our pound over the pond if necessary.

But total withdrawal? Nope, it's always better to be in the tent p****** out than on the outside p****** in.

The EU knows what we bring to the table and deep down they would agree to anything if push came to shove.

This is yet another open goal for Miliband to look like a Prime Minister in waiting - saving Major was never on Blair's to do list, he let him drown in the anti EU flood.

Take a stand Ed, refuse to back efforts to vote against the Government's legislative programme for the year ahead and the sovereignty of Parliament and don't prop up the Government.

Cameron is on the ropes with this one, he's done what the rebels wanted by suggesting an EU referendum yet they still are after him.

While he attempts to avoid being knocked to the canvas, talk about the real issues Ed – who knows you might have your hand raised in victory sooner than you think.......

Ta ra Fergie – 26 years of memories and far from crap!

United fans will identify with the title of this blog as in 1989 fan Pete Molyneux held up a banner saying '3 years of excuses and it's still crap TA RA FERGIE'.

Well Fergie has indeed said 'Ta Ra'.......24 years after the banner was unveiled and with enough memories to last a lifetime.

Yesterday scenes at Old Trafford were emotional and special, if you weren't touched by them then in my opinion you are not a true football fan.

Britain's greatest ever football manager took his leave and the gratitude of millions of United fans with him in a special day for the Govan guvnor.

It was a fitting tribute for a man who has ruled the roost for 26 years – yes he berated referees, yes he played mind games, yes at times he could be unpleasant but above it all Fergie is a winner.

13 league titles in 21 Premier League seasons is phenomenal, but the fact United have always faced the challenge of a new team winning 'their' trophy but then dismantled them is Fergie's biggest achievement in my opinion.

Remember 1995? Blackburn Rovers won it on the final day and we heard how United's domination of the league would be over? Where are they now?

In 98,2002,04 – it was Arsenal who took the trophy away, again United had reached the end and so had Fergie – he even 'retired' one season but had to make a U-turn!

When Jose came to Chelsea and won two titles, United were finished, especially when Carlo Ancelotti continued taking the trophy down south.

But today, Arsenal face a fight just to finish fourth and are more than 20 points behind the champions while Chelsea have had more managers in the last four years than United have in almost 40!

The very fact that the next longest serving manager, one A.Wenger, is 10 years of service behind shows just how well Sir Alex has done.

Football has not got a sacking culture, it's now a disease. You can now be sacked if your face does not fit with new owners or you are just above the relegation zone.

Or if you are Roberto Mancini, and lose a FA Cup Final to end the season without a trophy despite having won the club's first league title in more than 40 years just 12 months before......

Fergie has been close to the door a few times, but eternal credit must go to the United board, firstly for standing by him in the late 90s and through the blips they endured in the next two decades.

Sky's Martin Tyler said we might not see another Fergie again and sadly in this case 'The Voice is right' – loyalty is a dirty word in football nowadays.

Congratulations on a fine career Sir Alex, I spent years hating you but I was wrong, you can never despise a winner.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Farage throws Cameron a ticking time bomb

Well that was fun, an electoral party which saw these purple folks gatecrash and drink all the beer and upset the regular guests.
Yes UKIP came, saw and my word didn't they conquer? Kicking out Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems all over England.
And what did our Prime Minister do? Immediately said you couldn't abused anyone who voted UKIP and he would listen to the message the voters sent.
Great......except David Cameron has spent the past 18 months, erm abusing UKIP and using words such as 'fruitcakes'.
The truth is while UKIP have hived votes off all three parties, they threaten the Tories the most and that is why Mr Cameron has turned on the charm.
Except it maybe too late, UKIP have seized on large amounts of Tory voters who want the policies of Thatcher and Major not the hug a hoodie warmth of Cameron.
It's a powerful weapon, does Cameron move the party to the right and win those votes back but risk conceding election winning centre ground to Labour?
Or does he stand his ground, reform the party and potentially see the Conservatives go through their own Liberal/SDP divorce and see the Conservatives plunged into the electoral wilderness?
The truth is there maybe no right answer, Cameron is facing the firing squad between now and 2015 and Farage is one of those holding a pistol.
Meanwhile over in the red corner, Ed Miliband may have chuckled at the situation while smoothing out more dents in the party's local machine.
No one will pretend it was a great day for Labour, it wasn't. But when you look at the carcrash the party had four years ago getting almost 300 seats back is a boost if not the keys to Downing Street.
But I suspect that's Labour's approach, quietly repair the damage from 2005-2010 while the Tories and UKIP have a fight.
It helps that a lot of seats were in the south, because if he plays it right Ed can really start showcasing this 'One Nation Labour' idea.
And where did Ed spend his day? Hastings! Labour got seats there as well.....
In time we will realise election 2013 was about Labour regaining ground in county councils controlled by the Tories.
Judging on that alone, the party had a very good day! Miliband is showing bravery in spending so much time in Tory areas such as Sussex and Kent.
If the PM was to do the same and offer an EU referendum next summer he himself could be the man with the golden gun, the one who could wound UKIP, perhaps fatally.....
If he ignores UKIP though, he might find the removal men in Downing Street a lot sooner than May 2015.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Concerts show Hansi certainly can make the party Last

Hello Blog! It's been a great six days away from work again in the company of friends in the James Last Appreciation Society viewing concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London and Bournemouth.

In my opinion, James Last just gets better and better! If you told the layman the guy was 84 you would probably get a few raised eyebrows.

The magic of the RAH was only matched by the wonderful programme on offer with the band even doing Skyfall this year.

Have to admit as well as hearing the wonderful tones of Ingrid Arthur I was rather emotional on the first evening because of course Derek Watkins, who lost his battle against cancer earlier this year, played not only for Hansi but on all the James Bond movies.

Ingrid's voice gets better and better and the whole choir; Simon Bell, Mac Kissoon, Tracey Duncan and Sonia Jones make it a night to remember.

Erland Krauser's guitar solo again left me fascinated, I love the sound of the electric guitar played by a true professional – and Erland is certainly that!

I would die a happy man listening to James Last's version of 'Moves Like Jagger' and the simply brilliant 'Glad you Came' made famous by The Wanted of course.

What makes me all the more proud to be a fan of James Last is the way he makes music from today ie Maroon Five and The Wanted accessible fors his members and fans, many of whom are of a certain age.

One day I am determined to do a poll at a venue and ask the audience if they knew who first performed tracks like Moves like Jagger, I reckon less than one in 10 would give me the right answer!

And that for me is the genius of James Last, taking music from today and widening its appeal. Can you think of someone in the market nowadays that does that? No me neither.

On the whole it was a great break with some great friends and did include a fair share of sprinkler dancing! The story of that though is for another blog!

We waived many of them off on Monday and myself and Pam stayed in Bournemouth for a couple more days of food, crazy golf and some R and R. It was heaven but then again, Bournemouth always is for us.

Came back to work for a new job, the editor's post of the Evesham and Pershore Observer, first paper done, looking forward to the challenges ahead!!