Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Grenfell......Why?

ONE week on from one of the worst non terrorist tragedies I have ever seen, I can’t get past the first question…..Why?

Why did it happen? Why in Britain in 2017 can a place of solace, a place to rest your head, a place to laugh, a place to cry, a place to call home go up in flames so quickly and cause so much death and destruction?

Why did one brave firefighter feel the need to write on his shirt ‘We did our best, I promise’ when once again they ran towards the gates of hell as others fled.

And most importantly why on earth have our politicians gone ahead with a public inquiry when criminal proceedings MUST be explored first.

Profit was almost certainly put before the people of Grenfell, those who took such decisions must answer for them in a court of law.

I cannot for a second imagine the desperation of those trapped inside, their final moments and the realisation there was no exit when they needed it the most.

Nor can I imagine the pain of Grenfell, from those who lost everything in the disaster to those who have lost loved ones and may never be able to lay them properly to rest.

Death doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t take names, it just reaches in and causes pain and devastation to all those in its path.

All of us with a heart will be haunted by the images of that tower as it burned, but we should all have a burning shame that we aren’t as well forward as we thought we were.

Britain is full of wonderfully created buildings, from the historic to the modern, from churches to libraries, football stadiums to supermarkets.

We place our trust in those who designed and built them that they did their job and these venues would keep us reasonably safe.

Yet the victims of Grenfell were betrayed in the place which held their secrets, a place they could express all emotions, cast off the shackles society can place on people and truly be themselves.

It was the place they called home which killed them, how in god’s name am I even writing that sentence in 2017?

For crying out loud, we put a man on the moon, we’ve stood up to the most dangerous threat posed to the free world in the Nazis and we have made medical advances which mean a diagnosis now doesn’t necessarily mean death.

But on this night, we couldn’t keep people safe in their own damned homes and watched as a community was ripped to shreds with some choosing to leap to certain death than await the inevitable.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy, we can’t bring the fallen back but together as a nation we can help a community begin to heal.

Grenfell is a monument now, a symbol of how Britain failed the basic function of the state, to keep its people safe.

It must never happen again.

Friday, 28 April 2017

In praise of the Special One

JOSE Mourinho is already a success at Manchester United, but don't tell that to some who want him to fail.

It's been strange to watch how the Special One has been covered this season, almost through a prism of him constantly being under pressure.

What did we expect? A league title in his first season? The Red Devils don't have the squad for that just now.

But at a trophy hungry club, Mourinho has already plonked the League Cup on the sideboard and realistically should add the Europa League to the cabinet by the end of May.

All the while keeping in touch in the league, a difficult task for English clubs who often struggle with the Thursday night to weekend turnaround required.

The draw with Manchester City on Thursday keeps United well in touch with a Liverpool side attempting  to treat triumph and disaster the same each week.

Yes they have drawn too many games but United have dominated many of those stalemates without reward. 

If just four of those games had ended in victory for Mourinho's men United would be joint second and four points off the top.

Of course he has spent a lot of money, but which Premier League manager isn't afraid of waiving the chequebook in a cash rich league? 

And the excuses and bizarre comments such as claiming Middlesbrough would beat them? Come on everyone, we are dealing with the master of deflecting attention here.

Remember Mourinho was the man who named Barcelona's team 24 hours before a game. The result? Everyone was talking about Jose the next day not the challenge awaiting Chelsea....

The spectre of Sir Alex still looms at Old Trafford at a club which went 26 years without a league title and arguably without the continued success the Govan guv'nor delivered.

A period of change was almost certain, but had Moyes or LVG put a trophy on the table in year one they would be there now.

Mourinho has brought himself time with the League Cup but knows the owners want Champions League football.

Should he achieve that then it will be a job well done in his first year. The expectation level will rise again at Old Trafford I am sure.

But if anyone can meet the challenge it's the Special One. 

By the way, any chance of a smile Jose?

Thursday, 23 March 2017

#WeStandTogether to defeat this evil no matter how long it takes

YESTERDAY was a dark day for the capital with innocent lives taken and others changed in ways we cannot comprehend.

Hopefully any broken bodies will heal and in time some of the horrors witnessed yesterday will be locked away deep in the recesses of the victim's minds.

The stories of the victims from the brave PC Keith Palmer who ran towards danger rather than away to the American man on a 'trip of a lifetime' to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversay, are utterly tragic and emotional.

My heart goes out to their families and all those whose loved ones were caught up in this murderous rampage.

And I sincerely hope PC Palmer was welcomed to a higher plain with a pat on the back from his fellow fallen bobbies for bringing the target down. It's heartbreaking to think it cost him his life.

But already some on the right are seeking to make political gain from this, including Ms Hopkins and messers Farage and Nuttall, speaking from his home in......where does he live again?

'Britons are scared' 'Muslims need to do more', etc etc. The same old claptrap trotted out everytime something like this happens.

The problem is this mantra is so deeply flawed that actually if we dared ever take their views seriously we'd be playing straight into the so-called ISIS's hands.

Firstly, we aren't scared – look how quickly London has bounced back, nervous yes but normality has ensued today. Remember Hitler tried to flatten London and we simply drank tea and hit him with everything we had!

Secondly, terrorism is not a new weapon exclusively available to the Islamic world, it's been a cancer on all races, creeds and religions since the year dot.

When diplomacy and democracy don't work – the tapped amongst us turn to bombs and bullets.

Has it ever worked in the modern world? No of course not!

Do you really think the Muslim community across the UK is turning a blind eye to this radicalisation of young men? Of course they aren't. But a number of men and women are being sucked into a vicious vacuum where jihad is there only way out.

I recoil when the phrase Islamic Extremism is used – what happened yesterday and on other occasions is simply terrorism, it didn't work for the IRA (We never called that Catholic Extremism did we?) and it won't work now.

The terrorist failed in his mission yesterday, as well as multiple deaths on Westminster Bridge he wanted to take victims in the seat of our democracy and be taken down as a martyr.

Instead, thanks to the compassion and care of British people, the casualties were heavily reduced, although one wishes the only death had been his.

Look beyond the attacker's religion, give him no name other than 'the terrorist' and stand together with your fellow man and woman of all races and religions.

The threat we face today is not from Islam, from immigrants to our country or from people who look and sound different to us.

It's from people who don't accept our way of life, our values, our tolerance and our respect and have bastardized a peaceful religion to achieve their wicked aims.

All of us, in London, the UK and the rest of the world won't let them win.


#WeStandTogether, today, tomorrow and always....

Friday, 17 February 2017

Criticise Blair all you want, he's just become leader of the opposition...

IT'S INCREDIBLE that 10 years after leaving Downing Street, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair still provokes as much bile and vitriol as we have seen today.

His 'crime' this time? To dare to suggest the British people voted to leave without knowing Brexit's terms and conditions and opine that a space existed where he and other people could persuade voters to change their minds.

Basically the former PM is suggesting the sort of insurgency which has brought the likes of Farage, Nuttall, Le Pen and President Trump to the fore except this time in reverse.

His speech has predictably been ripped to shreds by the Brexiteers and the media who whip out their favourite 'affront to democracy' lines when anyone dares suggest Brexit isn't full of milk and honey.

However on this Blair is spot on. The British people did vote leave without knowing the terms and conditions of an exit and a space does exist to change people's minds....it's called the Her Majesty's official opposition.

In a single speech, Blair has done more to oppose Brexit than Jeremy Corbyn has since June 23, 2016 and shown a clear, decisive approach to what is a thorny issue for the Labour Party.

Let's remember the current 'opposition' to the Government have pretty much waived Brexit through the House of Commons, yes amendments were tabled but they failed and many Labour MPs still voted in favour apart from a hardy few who stuck to their principles.

The Liberal Democrats have been principled opponents as have the SNP but the overwhelming narrative is Brexit MUST happen. No, the ATMs must have money, our hospitals must have doctors and nurses and our schools must have teachers.

Against this backdrop, a tissue of lies and half-truths and hypocrisy has been allowed to be 'the norm' and to go unchallenged for fear of being labelled 'unpatriotic'.

It was wonderful to see the Foreign Secretary tear into Mr Blair....Because we all know Boris led the Leave campaign with facts, not with lies such as buses promising £350million extra for the NHS .....

This would be understandable had our nation voted overwhelmingly to leave, such as the 10 percentage point result of the Scottish referendum result. But Brexit was decided by less than the three percentage point margin of error used in all opinion polls.

It was also decided by a margin previously described by Nigel Farage as 'unfinished business' had it been the opposite way around......but shhh we aren't allowed to talk about that.

It's therefore right for someone to squeeze into the gap and pose the awkward questions, because Brexit should only mean Brexit if we can negotiate an exit which ensures our wonderful isle can continue to prosper.

That should be the message from the Labour Party but while Her Majesty's official opposition continues its breakdown, running scared of UKIP while taking even further away from its core voters, then the space exists for someone to exploit.

Ask yourselves this, if not Blair, then who?

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Brexit is a shambles but will anyone admit it?

WELL this is going well....

Halfway through the House of Commons debate on Article 50 and Labour MPs are resigning, Conservative MPs are seriously falling out with their own party's whips and there are so many amendments being suggested that we could be here until Christmas debating them.

Why? Could it be the sheer vacuous nature of the original referendum question put to voters?  It simply asked leave or remain when in truth a lot more information should have been provided in the event of a leave vote. It wasn't even made legally binding.....

Did all those wanting to leave want a 'hard Brexit'? Indeed did anyone want a 'soft Brexit' or is everyone so fed up now that all they want is a 'stiff G and T'!

As a remain voter you'd probably expect criticism of the current situation but I do so not to over-turn the democratically decided result but simply to shine a light on the mess in our Parliament.

A decision which will last for the ages has been hijacked by the alt right in this country to deliver a warts an all exit which a) we don't know if we will get from the EU and b) could do untold damage to our economy for generations to come.

Yes, the economy is doing OK at the moment thank you very much but we haven't got divorced from the EU yet. The only way to gauge the health of the economy is when we have packed up our things and left her for good.

The truth is satire and real life have blended into one almighty daily shambles where politicians of all sides have cast aside pretty much anything else for 'Brexit, Brexit, Brexit'.

Answering the Europe question was supposed to heal the Conservative party when in fact all that has taken place is some serious war wounds have been brutally picked open.

Labour is....well Labour, confused, muddled and rather like me on a treadmill - lots of noise but no real end result.

The Liberal Democrats are trying to step in as the anti Hard Brexit party and oppose the Government but when you can fit all their MPs into a booth at Wetherspoons its not easy to oppose more than 300 on the other side.

The Greens' don't want to leave at all like the SNP but any chance of upsetting the applecart is again thwarted by numbers.

The blame here should go to former Prime Minister David Cameron and his 'Deal or No Deal' referendum. Like on the Channel 4 show, voters were asked to open one of two boxes without truly knowing what was inside...

A poor piece of party management and a craven bid to win votes has reduced this process to an almighty shambles. Don't think the EU powerbrokers aren't watching and laughing.

No vote on the final deal could well cost the PM her premiership. She is walking the narrowest of tightropes; fall and the consequences are shattering, stay true and take a walk into the unknown.

We're leaving, but this divorce won't be a quickie, it will be messy and truly shambolic and to paraphrase the late Geoffrey Howe, our team captain is heading to the middle with a broken bat.

"There is no plan, they (the Government) should have had a plan," the words of Faisal Islam, Sky's political editor on June 26,2016.

How true those words still ring today....





Saturday, 4 February 2017

Dear Arsene.....

THE ESTEEMED John Cross tells us in the Daily Mirror you want to ‘feel loved’ before you sign a new two year deal, a contract you will once again observe to the day I’m sure.

All true Gooners do love you Arsene, you are the greatest modern-day Arsenal manager and we have memories to cherish until our dying days. The first double including that phenomenal run to haul Manchester United’s 12 point lead in and of course 2002 when we won it in their backyard.
None of us will ever forget 2003/4, the unbeaten season during which you and the players delivered the best football I have ever seen from an Arsenal team.

Those were seasons where we felt everyone was aiming high, pushing each other to win, win and win again. Since then I suspect many Gooners including myself feel an attitude of ‘that’ll do’ is the message, much of it coming from you.
We understand moving home was a nightmare financially and meant we had to sell the best players, but please remember before the move us fans were told it wouldn’t affect the team.

We do appreciate your loyalty and understand others wanted to prize you away, but that doesn’t mean we will just accept things.
And we do appreciate Champions League football every year Arsene and the stadium you enabled to be built. Personally if the Emirates deal ever ends I would be happy for us to play at the AW Stadium

But too often in the Champions League we end up throwing it away against sides we should beat or rest players in the group stages and end up with a harder draw in the knockout phases.
Arsene, we also pay some of the highest ticket prices in the country so it’s massively galling to see our team get so close and throw things away.

The Carling Cup final in 2008, we should have beaten Birmingham out of sight yet we went into the game thinking it was won already. AC Milan were disposed of in the Champions League 3-0 at our place, just a shame we were 4-0 down from the first game!
Put simply, when the pressure is on, a lot of us now think an Arsenal team under you cannot handle it.

Last year we beat Manchester City at the Emirates to go top of the league at Christmas. We then won just two out of the next seven league games and went a month without a victory.
We don’t understand Arsene how Leicester, a team which was all but relegated the Christmas before, held it all together to win the league. A team we beat home and away.

We struggle to understand how the current very talented team isn’t running away with the league like Chelsea – under a manager in his first season in English football.

And Arsene, we don’t like the fact them lot down the road seem to be building a pretty decent team!
We have a huge, beautiful stadium, a cracking team which you have assembled but then we lose to Watford, go 3-0 down to Bournemouth and inch past Preston North End.

We are football fans Arsene, we are forever asking ourselves ‘Would this happen to Man United, Chelsea etc’ and nine times out of 10 it wouldn’t.
That’s why we are frustrated and yes angry with things. We don’t want ‘that’ll do’ mentality, we want the Arsenal of old, the flourishing football with an insane desire to win trophies.

You are your own man and make your own decisions Arsene and we will always respect that.
If this is the end though, please be assured all true Gooners, even your fiercest critics will stand and applaud as you leave and thank you for taking a football club in a right state when you arrived in 1996 and putting us among Europe’s elite.

We do love you Arsene, but we love Arsenal Football Club as well. It was here before us and it will outlast us all too.
Merci pour l’├ęcoute