Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Only bravery will save Labour now

DAVID Cameron took to the stage in Manchester, the first Tory Prime Minister in 19 years to address his party with a majority.

He left it an hour later having took the Tory tanks off the battleground, onto Labour's lawn, through the sitting room and kitchen and out the other side.

A devilishly bold speech sought to solidify his core vote and say to any moderates in the Labour Party "Come on in, we're open." Those same Labour moderates who have been told to 'go and join the Tories' now have an invitation. 

The speech was short on policy, based heavily on promises. But it was never designed to be policy rich, it simply is the next move in the Tory chess game.

Already proud of how they made the 'Labour crashed the economy' message stick and then the 'Vote Labour, get the SNP' follow up (ironically most in Scotland just bisected Labour and went straight to the Nationalists), the Tories now smell real blood.

The Labour corpse is still twitching after May but the election of Jeremy Corbyn has delivered a potentially fatal dose of 'leftitis'. The Tory wolves scent blood.

Cameron delivered a straight punch with the 'danger to our security' line, expect to hear that more in the months ahead. But there were the cursory jabs, the left of centre policies and the downright appeal to soft Labour voters to reject Corbyn's blast from the 70s.

Cameron gets it, to win power you need to win Middle England. Blair did it in 97 and he did it in May. He knows a Corbyn led Labour Party will never appeal to swing voters in areas such as Worcester so is looking to both toxify Labour and welcome new support at the same time.

Of course he will be judged on what he actually delivers. But when you compare the leaders speeches, one was full of desire, the other full of empty rhetoric and desire to be nicer on Twitter.

A very well respected journalist tweeted after the speech: "@janemerrick23: Labour's gigantic problem: why did I, from a Liverpool comp, who voted for Blair & never voted Tory, agree nearly every word of PM's speech?"

It's a problem a brave Labour Party need to solve. If not then 2020 is going to make 1997 look close. The answer? Alan Johnson, loved by the Blairites and a former union official.

Sometimes speeches change the politcal weather, well David Cameron made the rain fall eeven heavier on Labour. It's time to reach for the umbrellas! 

Monday, 10 August 2015

In praise of Michael Clarke

IN ALL THE excitement of England's Ashes triumph, the news Michael Clarke is retiring was relegated slightly if understandably.

Announced on the outfield to his mate Shane Warne, the 'Pup' who became captain of his country and almost the leader of a nation after the tragic death of Phillip Hughes revealed he would hang up his whites after the final test at the Oval next week.

Was he pushed or did he jump? It's hard to say 100 per cent either way. It's no secret his back is not the best and equally he is hardly a popular player on the dressing room or with some supporters.

But in paying tribute you can never say Michael Clarke didn't give 100 per cent everytime he donned the Baggy Green. Century after century including an incredible 329 not out against India. 

While the 'get ready for a broken f****** arm' comment during the last Ashes Down Under was hardly his finest hour, his statesmanlike approach following the death of Phil Hughes should never bee forgotten.

Australian cricket was in mourning and looked to Clarke to lead them through the darkest moments, a job he did manfully.

It's rather ironic following his return from injury and inconsistent form that Australia seemingly wasn't there for him.

A great player will be taking his leave next week, cricket lovers everywhere ought to stand and applaud.

Your nickname might have been Pup, Michael but you were one big dog in Australian cricket and will be missed 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

What is the point of the Labour Party?

ONE of the great aspects of democracy is usually there is always 'another way'.

Unhappy with the Government? Well take a look at the party in opposition. Had enough of the Government? Then vote the other lot in! 

Be it Thatcher in 79 or Blair in 97, oppositions should show Governments up and present an opportunity for us to vote them in and 'let them have a go'.

Except today, the Labour Party - Her Majesty's official opposition - is not doing that.

Instead the party which once threatened to wipe the dishevelled Tory party of the late 90s almost off the electoral map is now giving the Conservatives a free run at being the Government.

Why? Because Labour must have a debate with itself about why it lost in May, a debate which has seen its MPs coerced into putting someone on the ballot they hope will lose!

The worst part of all this is the party is repeating the mistake of 2010 when it spent the whole summer 'having a debate'.

Meanwhile the Tories not only governed but spun the narrative that the nation was penniless and it was all Labour's fault - a charge which stuck and condemned Labour and Ed Miliband to defeat in May.

And so back to the present, Chancellor George Osborne delivered the first Conservative budget for 19 years.

Labour through Harriett Harperson trotted out the same tired cliches and the candidates all said they'd oppose the jolly bad bits they didn't agree with....

Three of four candidates standing will basically continue the same approach as Ed Miliband, trying desperately to regain economic credibility while also still reaching for their wallets to spend, spend and spend.

Liz Kendall said it was wise to adopt some of the Tory economic polices and was instantly branded 'Tory' by her rivals.

Which is fine, until you realise that actually at the moment, voters might not like the 'Tory' medicine but trust it more than Labour's cure.

Labour needs to start listening to the nation which once flocked to it in its droves and send a message it's still an aspiring Government.

Because otherwise very soon a lot more people may ask 'What is the point of the Labour Party?'

PS: Labour, you lost in May because people didn't like the policies and didn't trust your leader. Worst still while the electorate didn't like the Tories, they were scared of you. Debate done!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

They called him Hansi, I call him a legend

THE Gentleman of Music, The Emperor of Elevator Music, The King of Easy Listening or just ‘Hansi’, however you knew James Last, you couldn’t fail to ignore his ‘Happy Music’.

Born Hans Last in Germany in 1929, both he and his brother Werner made music their life’s work and both were anglicised for the international market and Werner became ‘Kai Warner’.

Hans became ‘James Last’ but before too long his friends, anyone who simply enjoyed his music, knew him as Hansi.

Over an incredible five decades, this German bandleader broke record after record and shattered the conceptions surrounding music.

Nothing was off limits as Hansi ‘borrowed’ music from Mozart to Madonna and adapted it to his own ‘happy’ sound. In the process he served up an entire musical palette to audiences who might never have heard of Rihanna, Lady Gaga or even LMFAO.

And that was the mark of the man, he made music accessible to all, I’ve been to concerts where members of the older generation loved a particular new track but looked puzzled when told it was by The Wanted!

However, last night The Gentleman of Music moved on to become part of heaven’s orchestra, leaving me along with many thousands of fans distraught.

Quite simply, Hansi was my music teacher, my first musical memories are of James Last which is no surprise when you consider my dear mum was going to his concerts while pregnant with me.

There is a picture of a six year old me sitting on Hansi’s lap, I hope once this grief has subsided I’ll be able to find it and look at it with a smile on my face.

I’ve travelled thanks to James Last, seeing countries I may never have seen and learned more about music than I may ever have known.

Much more importantly, I’ve got to know hundreds and hundreds of people united by the love of the music of James Last. No not friends, more like an extended family.
To be at the historic Royal Albert Hall to witness a James Last concert was something to behold, to see the warmth this German was greeted with in a quintessentially English venue year after year reminded us to always make peace not war.
To have known the music of James Last was to have experienced an education in song, in verse but also in life.
I have tears in my eyes as I write this as 14 hours on I somehow still can’t believe it to be true.

But I also raise a glass to toast his memory and in keeping with the spirit of the man, I will do so with a ‘Happy Heart’.

Sleep well Hansi, may you Rest in Peace

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

What shall we do about Kevin - Part 158

JUST when you thought it was safe to take a peek at English cricket again we have part 158 of 'What shall we do about Kevin'.

You may remember parts 1 to 157 - the story of a talented but very arrogant batsman who could delight and frustrate in equal measure.

Our story appeared to have ended when Pietersen was sacked for not being a jolly good boy and...this will shock you....he was caught....whistling!

Banished, he sought a new career in foreign climbs where he could whack te ball as far as he liked. But then in part 156 the new king of English cricket proclaimed Kevin should be given a second chance.

And in part 157, our hero smashed 326 not out before his big meeting with Prince Andrew Strauss and Tom Harrison (who ?)

But that is where the tale now ends for Pietersen who was summoned to a meeting to be sacked again! 

Strauss weirdly blamed 'trust issues' like Pietersen had been adulterous or something and in the same breath offered him a role as an advisor?

The new head of English cricket doesn't trust Pietersen enough to play him but is happy for him to talk to cricketers picked for the team, go figure!

Quite simply the ECB, Strauss and Harrison look even bigger fools than already were. Quite an achievement when you consider the faux pas of recent weeks and months!

The bosses of English cricket know the way they disposed of Pietersen was wrong. It's just no one has enough guts to admit it.

So now we have this farce of Pietersen calling their bluff and doing everything asked of him only for the ECB to move the goal posts.

Meanwhile in Australia, 11 very competitive souls are looking on and laughing at English cricket, ready to beat it into oblivion this summer.

This is no longer a fairy story, more a case of a horrible history.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

PM won't serve a third term...he's got to win a second first!

A PUZZLING annoucement from the Prime Minister during an 'at home' interview with the BBC, he won't serve a third term at Number 10...

Puzzling because of it's timing, why on earth would you on the verge of the election campaign proper say you only want the job for one more term then you'll be off?

Puzzling because recent history shows PMs who set out their future plans tend to limp along until the end, see Tony Blair after he said in 2004 he wouldn't serve a full third term. He then faced mutiny and uncertainty regularly until he eventually departed in 2007.

Puzzling because the Conservatives love a good old bunfight over the leadership, a vote for the Tories in May will gurantee lots of jostling for position and in-fighting, particularly as Cameron named his chosen three; May, Osborne and Boris. Wonder what Sajid Javid and the other 'rising stars' think about his comments.

And puzzling because technically, the PM hasn't won an election yet, either in 2010 or the upcoming poll. His comments, however well intentioned, could be percieved as arrogance from a man who didn't win a majority in 2010.

Put simply the Conservatives are shooting themselves in the foot at every turn, every good sound bite and economic news they have is undone by strategic mistakes.

The Tories ought to be doing better, Labour are led by a man who simply hasn't sealed the deal with his core Labour vote let alone floating voters, the Lib Dems are near enough finished while the UKIP pint has been watered down in recent weeks.

It's as if the Tories don't understand that to obtain a majority Government they need to do better than 2010, a very hard challenge granted but the circumstances are there.

Cameron should have embarked on his 2010 'meet the people' strategy and debated Miliband head to head. Not doing so has render his 'weak' tag on Miliband virutally redundant.

Labour's task now is to weave a narrative which once again labels Cameron arrogant, point out he failed to win a majority in 2010 and question again why he won't debate his record.

If they are successful then Cameron will indeed not serve a third term, he won't get a second either!

Monday, 16 March 2015


JEREMY Clarkson has attracted more attention in the past week than the Islamic State, any of our politicians or the upcoming Budget.

Now what that says about our media remains to be seen but there has been a lot of talking about something where no one knows what ACTUALLY happened.

'Jezza punches producer' quickly turned into 'Jezza calls producer a effin this and that'.  

Two very different things, if he's punched Oisin Tymon then, as much of a fan of Top Gear and Clarkson as I am, I'm afraid it might have to be the end of the road for him.

If it's just a lot of shouting and swearing and loads of insults then surely things can be resolved. Almost every show on TV has probably seen heated rows at one point or another!

The problem in all this is the BBC itself. If we believe the media reports, Clarkson 'turned himself in' a week week! Ask yourself this if you'd been punched at work would you be happy if your boss waited a week before tackling it?

The BBC looked more concerned about cancelling Top Gear than actually looking into this and have now got themselves in an almighty mess.

The corporation thinks everything needs to be an inquiry, it doesn't. Take statements from everyone involved and who was there, build a timeline. 

Once the events of that night are clear, take the action needed. Simple

And on that bombshell it's time to end 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Bring em home!

REMEMBER the reason we've had so many Ashes series recently? It was to ensure we had 'proper' preparation for the Cricket World Cup.

Yes folks this is the result of 'proper preparation', batsman batting out of position, bowlers leaking runs and Sri Lanka chasing down 309 for the loss of just ONE wicket.

Forget Scotland, England have been an embarrassment at this World Cup, out batted, out fielded, out bowled and frankly outclassed.

Unbelievably despite making the same mistake at every World Cup since 1999, England are still playing one day cricket like we did in the 70s and 80s. Meanwhile the rest of the world learned from tournaments like the IPL and Big Bash.

So an English batsman will walk to the wicket and take a few balls to 'look at the bowling', when he reaches 10 not out off 20 balls, batsmen like Brendon McCullum and AB De Villiers are raising their bats for a 50 or getting very close.

This is despite having some power hitters like Moeen Ali, Alex Hales, Jos Buttler and Ravi Bopara in the line up, a line up which could also have had Kevin Pietersen had he not been sacked.

Quite simply, those playing for England now do so in fear and are made to toe the party line, buy into the head coach's love of statistics and most importantly not have an opnion.

Never in the history of sport has a man been sacked for having an opinion, Kevin Pietersen did. In sport if you don't deliver your dropped, not banned from ever being selected again unless you have committed a crime against the law of the land or cheated using drugs et al.

The perpetrators? Paul Downton, Andy Flower and James Whittaker - MD, former coach and head selector. Men who want to change the very notion of sport and only have the 'right sort of people' playing for the country.

The problem is all successful teams have 'challenging' players within their midst. Shane Warne had an interesting life away from the cricket, did Australia ever drop him? Course not!

A clean slate is needed, we need to go back to picking the best players in an atmosphere where they can excel. Or what we called the 'Duncan Fletcher era'

As well as these awful men, Peter Moores also needs to be removed, how a man who wasn't deemed good enough for England head coach once actually has the job again is beyond me

In their place perhaps lets consider former England captains who went to the commentary box not executive box. Strauss for MD? Vaughan as coach and Hussain as chairman of selectors?

Think about it, former players driving the future of the English cricket team......awfully radical isn't it!

Or shall we leave it and let Bangladesh chase 300 next week and then lose by 100 runs to Afghanistan?

We can do better than this!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

REVIEW: About Time we heard such great music

SIMON Bell's first release since 'Givin' It Plenty', the theme from No.1 Of The Secret Service in 1976 is entitled 'About Time', I wonder why it took so long.

This EP showcases the full range of his considerable vocal talent, from the deep, sorrowful and soul vocals to the high, punchy notes meaning About Time is a rollercoaster of human emotion.

The self-penned lyrics are emotive and strong and easily to pick up as Bell is a master of his craft and provides clear diction throughout.

About Time begins with 'Next To Me' a tale of love and loss, full of anger but also recrimination and loss, beautifully woven together with words and a fine sorrowful sound.

Play (If Life's a Game) is in a similar soulful vein and creates a very relaxed atmosphere which allows you as a music lover to take in the deep vocals.

Bell, together with producer Justin Whittingham, has put together a masterclass in EP recording, for as soon as you've relaxed into your chilled out zone, up comes Partner in Crime.

Within the first few chords, the atmosphere of the EP changes with a foot tapping, guitar heavy bouncy tune which fans of the Eagles might appreciate as the sound is quite similar.

For me Partner in Crime is the most addictive track on the EP, with just a few listens I was humming the tune when I finished the car journey.

To close a very fine EP, Bell wishes us a Happy New Year and returns to the sorrow and soulful sound which serves him well.

The track is very poignant and brings together nicely the mood around the change of year, one of celebration yes but also reflection and occasionally emotion.

Music can make you happy and make you sad, but it can also make you reflect and think.

About Time does that, based on this effort I reckon it's About Time we heard an album!

* About Time is available for download from iTunes, Amazon and all other music download sites.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

General Election TV Debates – The Solution

This is less of a blog, more of an open letter to all the party leaders and to the broadcasters, a solution to your current ‘dilemma’ over the proposed debates.

STRUCTURE – one debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband and one between Cameron, Miliband and Clegg. Instead of inviting just Farage to the last one, invite him, Natalie Bennett from the Greens and George Galloway from Respect. It’s not beyond podium builders to come up with seven platforms you know!
Every party which is represented in Westminster and could feasibly field candidates in every constituency across the UK would then have a platform.

SCOTLAND, WALES AND NI – For a party very keen to distance itself from the ‘Westminster elite’, the SNP has spent a lot of time demanding to be in the debates. Why? People in England cannot vote for them. Same with Plaid Cymru and the various Northern Ireland parties, should they have a platform? No.
Instead, why not have country specific debates. I mean wasn’t the whole point of the Scottish devolution vote to ensure the Scottish voice was heard. Why not have a debate between the SNP, Scottish Labour, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats? Sky ran one the last time and it proved very successful.

Surely the voters in those countries want to know what the various parties are going to do for the country if returned to Westminster? It’s not about exclusion it’s about issues that matter to those in the respective countries are addressed.

AND IF THEY DON’T AGREE – empty chair them, this applies to the PM if he is indeed ‘chicken’ but also call Miliband’s bluff as well. Quite simply if an invited guest doesn’t turn up, leave the podium empty and let the British public draw their own conclusions.
Simple? Yeah pretty much, so is there any chance you lot can get on and sort it out because frankly there are one or two hugely more important issues affecting us at the moment!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie....we are all united

LAST week's horrific events in Paris were meant to cause division, anger and recriminations and perhaps even conflict.

Instead it provoked quiet outrage, with Parisians being joined by people from across the world to express their revultion at the vile acts committed in the name of the Prophet.

As well as the condemnation from all races, creeds and colours it's important to again these murderers are not 'Islamic terrorists' they are 'terrorists'.

I grew up with the news often dominated by vile atrocities committed by the IRA both in Ireland and on the mainland.

Were they 'Irish terrorists'? No, just terrorists. The brave 'Not in Our Name' protests showed the actions of the IRA and later the 'Real IRA' were not the actions of Ireland.

These vile butchers want to be portrayed as 'Islamic Terrorists' because it aids their cause to provoke a split and see Christian and Jew battle Islam in another 'Holy War'.

But the column inches and tweets by Muslims of all ages, status and gender since the attack show how outraged many are about attacks in the Prophet's name.

Single handedly these savages have outraged the West and much of the Islamic world, further denting their and ISIS hopes of provoking some sort of holy war.

For as long as we, the peace loving, tolerant and understanding members of society stand together, the forces of evil will never win.

These savages and those who continue to join them aren't fighting in anyone's name, least of all the Prophet. Would any god truly condone the beheading of a man who brought aid to Syrian refugees, many of them children, as was the case with Alan Henning? Of course not

When history reflects on the tragic events of January 7 and the subsequent days, I hope it will remember those who perished and the united front against terrorism.

These butchers will just be a foot note, just the way it should be.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Hello 2015 and thanks for the memories 2014

I KNOW, a year in review post five days after it finished, I’ve been busy!

2014 was a wonderful year as I became a dad for the first time to baby Jacob although I question how he already is five months old, where does the time go.
I feel truly humbled to have been blessed with a child and that Pam enjoyed a relatively healthy pregnancy and suffered little ill effects in the aftermath.

We didn’t have the birth we wanted but the greatest gift for any man is to bring his wife and child home, both healthy and happy if a little bewildered by the whole thing!
It’s a gift I cherish and am thankful for each day and I am humbled to see my wonderful wife evolve from the kind-hearted person she has always been to the natural mother. I know I am biased but I truly believe she was born to be a mother, I am just thankful I played my part in helping her achieve her destiny.

Also in 2014 I saw good friends become parents, some for the first time in dramatic circumstances and others for the second time, their lives made complete by the welcome arrival of another little bundle.
Family members have made decisions about their futures and some dear friends have bounced back from the abyss in style and are now looking down the road to a brighter tomorrow.

I still miss those we have lost but cherish the fact my immediate family all have their health, all apart from my dear mum.
Dementia is sadly a permanent resident but the fight in her heart remains, she has never been beaten by anything in her life and dementia, you’ve picked a tough cookie this time.

The mum I know is long gone, but her courage and her will to keep going sustains me and my dad. To anyone coping with dementia I say don’t focus on the present, treasure the memories.
So what of 2015? What are you bringing to the party? You’ve got a lot to live up to!

Whatever you have to offer, I will attack every day the same and to everyone reading this may I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Abuse of Wenger is beyond contempt

ONCE again Arsene Wenger has been subjected to abuse at close quarters, this time a fan running into the dug out area to remonstrate with him.

Coupled with the vile, foul mouthed abuse from 'supporters' after the Stoke match last month and the Frenchman must fear the next time he leaves London.

At this point I will acknowledge I have called for him to go in the past but let me repeat for those who clearly can't read.

When I called for him to depart it was not to be sacked but a mutual parting at the end of the season to allow Wenger to be applauded into the centre circle and thanked for everything he has done for Arsenal FC.

Because what these morons who think it's OK to spout invective and bile don't understand is without Arsene Wenger, Arsenal may well be in League One by now. A club which stagnated after George Graham left and pushed into the dark ages when Bruce Rioch took charge.

Le Boss came, saw and conquered and has delivered many, many memories of which we are all rightfully proud. But that work and dedication, those trophies and glory days come with respect for the man who delivered them.

If and when he decides or the people running Arsenal decide it's time for a new chapter then we ought to replicate what Man United did for Sir Alex Ferguson, a guard of honour and a chance for the real fans to say thank you and goodbye.

Yes the league has been disappointing this season but we have an OK FA Cup draw and for once a nicer (not easier) second round Champions League draw. We all know how well Arsenal finish a season so who knows? This could yet be a good campaign.

Sacking him is wrong and completely unjustified. But there is another scenario bubbling away in the background now.

What if Wenger decides he's had enough and walks? Something for the morons to think about?