Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Broadcast Bingo 2: Labour Party Election Broadcast, complete with unsurprisingly shit music

This post can also be found on the Th!nk About It blogging platform here.

And now for the second round of quite possibly the geekiest game you’ve ever played: Broadcast Bingo.

Last round the Conservatives scored a measly 3.5/10 for their failed attempts to avoid clichés in their party election broadcast. And one of their 3.5 was awarded for the novelty value of name dropping a Spice Girl.

Will Labour have any equally cringe point enhancing moments? I wonder…

But not for long, because here, my friends, is Labour’s party election broadcast. Sit back and enjoy…

Broadcast Bingo Results:

Length: 3.08

Times Brown says “Brown”: 0

Interviews with potential voters: 0

Cameron bashing: Nothing direct

Needless celebrity name drop: 0 sadly

Shot of sickeningly sweet child: 1

Times “recession” mentioned: 5, with numerous mentions of “downturn” (4) and other synonyms

Times “Obama” mentioned: 1 (but with many shots)

Amount of shots of campaign banner: 0

Best line: “Barack Obama and I share the same values…”

Plus…

Background music: Sounds like a GCSE music project

Generic people-walking shots: 1,000,000 approx.

Some Very Serious Analysis:

The broadcast begins, worryingly, with three shots of Brown that look as though they were recorded by a stalker, perving on our PM through a variety of key holes. But at least this stalker’s cool; his peeking is accompanied by guitar chords.

And yet, despite the GCSE music-project soundtrack, Brown moves on to succumb to the clichés we have come to know and love.

There is, for example, the token shot of a cute child. Although this one doesn’t have any aspirations to save the world, penguins, or anything else, thank goodness, and stays mercifully mute.

There is also, as in the Conservative’s attempt, shots of the party leader on trains. I’m still unsure as to why. Fast moving, perhaps; forward thinking? Whatever – any link is tenuous at best.

Unlike Cameron, though, Brown managed to avoid saying his own name repeatedly. But perhaps this was because he knew that doing so wouldn’t do him any favours. Also, unlike the Tories, Labour’s broadcast didn’t feature numerous interviews with potential voters, singing the praises of the PM. But perhaps that’s because they couldn’t find anybody.

Labour instead stuck to what they do best: Brown-nosing (yes, I did it again) Obama. With a substantial 24 seconds of the three minute video dedicated, in some way, to Brown’s favourite special relationship.

What was, perhaps, surprising, was the amount of time that Brown spends in schools. Which worried me a tad. And the copious amounts of generic people-walking shots, so numerous I stopped counting. When I was working at Sky News, these shots were what you included in long packages when you’d run out of material… It’s hardly comforting that Labour struggled to fill 3.08 minutes.

Yet again, a predictable broadcast with few surprises. Unfortunately for Labour, they lose a quarter of a point for not including any celebrity name-drops. But they claw back one point for the interesting use of pervert-filming technique at the beginning. As such, the Labour party election broadcast video scores…

Barack Obama marks Gordon Brown out of 10...

Barack Obama marks Gordon Brown out of 10...

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Broadcast Bingo 1: Conservative Party Election Broadcast, complete with sickening child and Geri Halliwell

Feel free to read – and vote for! – this post here.

For most people, May is the month of bank holidays and occasional bouts of sunshine. For those unfortunate enough not to switch the news off promptly, May is also the month of election party broadcasts.

But although the façade of impartiality knocks many viewers sick, I have revelled in the election broadcasts. For they have enabled me to develop a game, entitled Broadcast Bingo, which has made my May much more (get that alliteration!) enjoyable.

In this post, and those that follow, I plan to embed the video of a party’s official election broadcast video and tally the amount of times the party resorts to clichés in order to persuade us to vote for it.

(The fact that these parties don’t consider that resorting to clichés, much less inspiring the voter to vote, is far more likely to inspire the voter to sigh and switch off the TV – or in my case, get excited and blog  – astounds me.)

First up, the Conservatives. Sit back, and enjoy…

Broadcast Bingo Results:

Length: 4.46 – it’s a long ‘un

Times Cameron says “Cameron”: 4

Interviews with sceptical voters who will now, of course, vote Tory: 10

Brown bashing: 4

Needless celebrity name drop: 2

Shot of sickeningly sweet child: 1

Times “recession” mentioned: 1

Times “Obama” mentioned: 0

Amount of shots of campaign banner: 1,000,000 approx.

Best line: “I’ve started a campaign called Save The Penguins…”

Some Very Serious Analysis:

Set against a backdrop of campaign banners shouting Cameron’s name at the viewer, and an unnecessary amount of shots of Cameron in a variety of modes of transport, the Conservative party election broadcast does not disappoint when it comes to clichés.

The child with the sickeningly sweet voice who wants to save the penguins should comes as no surprise, and neither should the numerous interviews with apparently sceptical voters who have now been charmed by Mr Smooth himself.

There were some shocks though. Such as just one mention of the recession. Must have slipped their minds when they were brainstorming current issues that affect voters. And the fact that Cameron avoided name-dropping Obama was also a bit surprising. But that all made sense when I saw their ‘Vote For Change’ slogan at the end. Hats off to them for that subliminal messaging.

Whilst we’re on the topic of name-dropping, though, the Geri Halliwell mention was unexpected. And, to be honest, unnecessary. Who’d have thought that in Cameron’s 4 minutes and 46 sections to convince voters that he’s the man, he’d consider name-dropping a Spice Girl a good use of two seconds?

In summery, a completely uninspiring campaign election video that ticked almost every predictable cliché box. But the Tories gain an extra point for the Spice Girl reference, and so, in this – the first round of Broadcast Bingo – the Conservatives score…

Geri Halliwell Marks David Cameron Out Of Ten...

Geri Halliwell Marks David Cameron Out Of Ten...

Guido Fawkes, Derek Draper? Don’t forget Kirstie Allsopp.

Worried about the power of political bloggers?

I’m more concerned about the power of Kirsty Allsopp...

Kirstie Allsopp - or Tory advisor?

Kirstie Allsopp the television presenter. And Tory adviser.

Bad botox: Brown’s heading for some cringing facial expressions

On the 25 February, Jonathan Freedland said:

The sagging Brown image can only benefit from a shot of Obama botox.

I disagree. There is such a thing as too much botox, and Brown’s heading right for it.

It's me... honestly

It's me... honestly

As if the PMQs ass-kissing and races to the Whitehouse weren’t enough; now the Labour Party appear to be trying to pass Obama off as their own.

The Telegraph’s Iain Martin today blogged that Labour’s new campaign leaflet features a huge picture of Obama (see left) and not one mention of Brown.

It’s as if they’re hoping no one will notice. And who can blame them – the amount of identical physical characteristics is overwhelming, after all. Same sex, anyone?

But unfortunately, and not unsurprisingly, the Obama Brown-nosing (joke!) isn’t over just yet.

In my hunt for said campaign leaflet I ended up on Labour’s website – only to believe that I’d clicked on the Democrats’ website by mistake. Cue screen shot:

Eh?

Eh?

Yes, I too was confused. When the heck did Labour change its colour scheme from red to sickly teal (as it might be named on a paint tin)? And – perhaps more importantly – when did Obama become Brown’s second hand man, as the above graphic implies?

Perhaps Team Brown figured that few people would be convinced by the original attempt to pass off Obama as prime minister – despite the overwhelming amount of identical physical characteristics – and decided to try and pass him off as deputy leader instead.

Regrettably, after managing to navigate myself away from this bewildering pre-home page of the Labour website, I discovered that Harman had not been usurped (shame) by yours truly.

But in case you were wondering, this pre-home page isn’t just another attempt by Labour to place photographs of Brown and Obama in close proximity. Oh no. This page provides an opportunity to “say one thing to Prime Minister Brown, President Obama and the G20”. Which implies that Brown and Obama somehow transcend the rest of the G20; I’ve no doubt this thrills approximately 18 other countries.

If the above shenanigans confuse me, they’re going to confuse a heck of a lot of other peop too: Obama’s Britain’s prime minister? Or deputy leader of the Labour party? Or some kind of joint-King of the G20..?

Labour need to seriously consider the effects their Obama Brown-nosing (too good not to use twice) will have on the general knowledge of the British public. And then they need to consider whether there’s such a thing as too much botox.

I think that question can be answered by a quick glance at the following:

My, Mr Brown, how you've changed...

My, Mr Brown, how you've changed.

Doctors advise a break of 9 months before going back for more botox. Brown should take heed.

Ding ding: Berlins vs Brown in a, quite frankly, unneccesary bashing

Ker pow: a familiar Guardian mug shot and an even more familiar face craftily superimposed, if I do say so myself

Ker pow: a familiar Guardian mug shot and an even more familiar face craftily superimposed, if I do say so myself

Today Marcel Berlins said that:

The government’s plan to allow people to comment on public services online is lazy and ill-considered.

There are a number of reasons, according to Marcel (we’ll go with first names, the plurals involved in the second will only confuse me, if not others) that the government’s “eBay style feedback for services” is not democratic. I have a problem with all of them.

One is that offering this online service is leaving out those who can’t go online. If you’re wondering who these people are, Marcel tells us they “might” include: old people, ill people and thick people.

Apparently, then, people without the internet cannot comment on public services. They mustn’t be able to write (and send a letter to: Mr Brown, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA) or speak (and call: 020 7925 0918). My grandma doesn’t have the internet, and I’m pretty sure she’d disagree with the above – by letter and/or phone if required.

But there’s another reason, according to Marcel.

True democracy is not just about numbers. It is also about quality.

News to me, Marcel. As far as I can remember from my undergrad days, napping in Jonathan Wolff’s lectures on democracy, not much was said about the quality of the voice of the people. I’m pretty sure the voice of the people was enough.

But Marcel wasn’t finished.

Moreover, many people’s opinions will be based not on a careful consideration of their experiences, but on ignorance or misunderstanding of the profession they are dealing with.

Not that you’re assuming that the British public are stupid or anything, Marcel. And, no, I don’t know the difference between an experience, and a “carefully considered” experience either.

Marcel ends by predicting the disastrous consequences of the government “giving too much influence to amateurs, too little to the professionals”. 

Now I’m partial to a bit of Brown bashing myself – as regular readers will know – but I don’t see the point in bashing for bashing’s sake (if for no other reason than the quantity of bashing-worthy material out there).

And here we have (what appeared to me to be) a bashing-proof statement by our prime minister on increasing transparency of the services. It didn’t appear so to Marcel, but he went too far. Call it try-hard, call it desperate. But don’t call it disastrous before it’s even begun. Poor Brown.

Marcel, for some reason, greatly overestimated the weight the government will give to the proposed online feedback system. If he was right, I think there’d be more than just Marcel worried about our country’s democratic future being modelled on eBay.

Breaking news: Joe the Plumber has a book, and Americans can be funny

The recession has hit, everybody. Joe the Plumber’s book has sold just five copies.

Yes, you did read right. Joe the Plumber has written a book. (I reckon it was a publisher’s idea of a joke – quite a funny one actually. For an American.)

The Washington Post yesterday reported – in 700 words, typical – that poor old Joe held a book signing in Borders, hardly anybody turned up, and the author sold five books.

Thanks for this, Washington Post

Thanks for this, Washington Post

(Note: Joe is actually called Samuel. Interesting, then, that his book is nevertheless entitled ‘Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream’. He’ll have people saying he’s cashing in…)

Regardless, I couldn’t figure out why on earth a book with so much political and, I’m sure, literary clout was selling so badly. So I hunted it out on Amazon. Then I saw the photo.

Grrrr

Grrrr

I imagine the publisher was so impressed with the success of his first joke that he decided to try another one – telling Joe, sorry Sam, to gurn like his life depended on it for the cover photo. Again, funny for an American. Not so funny for poor old Joe, sorry Sam, I imagine.

But the jokes keep coming, because the ‘Product Description’ says:

Fighting for the American Dream is the Inspiration Guide for the New Conservatism. Get ready to get Angry, Laugh out loud, Cry, Shout, and Get Involved in the Future of the United States of America!

No one would ever employ that many capitals in a serious capacity.

Yet, as much as I was enjoying these Joe, sorry Sam, related jokes, I stopped laughing when my eyes were, predictably, distracted by Amazon’s ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’ function. This informed me that those who had deemed ‘Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream’ a worthy literary investment, had also bought:

The Christmas Sweater: “Beck’s debut novel, the conservative radio and TV host makes a weak attempt at a holiday classic in the vein of It’s a Wonderful Life”

and

The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World: “How America became an economic powerhouse offering wealth to the average citizen! How the Federal Government was built to protect and safeguard citizens rights! 28 Principles disputably creating freedom & prosperity unlike any other!

As such I have concluded that a condition for purchasing Joe, sorry Sam’s, book is that you are mad. Needless to say, I was relieved to find no such ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’ function on Amazon’s British site, which, I can only hope, means that no Brits have yet succumbed to Joe, sorry Sam’s, literary (and gurning) charms. And that Brits and more sane than Americans.

Snap! A tale of Team Brown’s four broken hearts

The tale of Team Brown’s four broken hearts begins when their American, and – I think we can accurately predict – far cooler counterpart,  Team Obama, informed them that no longer was Brown’s trip to the US going to involve the press conference of their dreams. You know, the one where Barack and Gords stand together, in front of the presidential seal, best buds, hands clasped, embracing… ah hem.

Snap! went their hearts: Obama just, like, totally stood up Brown.

Instead, they were told, there would be a… “pool spray”.What, I hear you cry, the hell is a pool spray? I’m sure Team Brown cried the same thing. Sounds like a, urm, spray. To perhaps be used on a, urm, pool.

NOT Obama's gift to Brown.

NOT Obama's gift to Brown.

But no. Surprisingly, Obama is not planning on presenting Brown with an aquatic cleaning instrument. Instead, Team Obama have decided that Brown can – what with being the Prime Minister of the UK ‘n all – face some questions.

At this point, I reckon, Team Brown’s hearts lifted. Questions? Well, that’s pretty much like a press conference, right? No one will ever know! Perhaps it was at this point in the tale that the press officer released this statement:

We always said that a media event was planned and that’s what will happen. The White House will confirm details in the course of the day.

Little did they know that this “pool spray” actually consists of four – yes, four – questions. Perhaps Team Obama had heard of the Arctic Monkey incident. Snap! Their hearts, I predict, broke for a second time.

Still, at least they could rest in the knowledge that the UK public were unlikely to miss the news of the momentous trip. After all, not only is Nick Robinson off to the US with our good old PM, but so is Oliver Burkeman along, I’m sure, with others. Missing news of the momentous trip should, in fact, have a hefty cash prize attached to it, so hard is it to avoid the publicity of Brown, who is – didn’t you know? -“the first European leader invited to Washington… blah… blah”

What publicity Team Brown didn’t bet on though, was the news that, although Obama is seemingly too busy to hold a press conference with Gords, he is not too busy to meet with the Scouts this afternoon. Snap! For the third time in two days, the Team’s hearts crumbled. At this point, I imagine, they could take little more. Three times in two days is enough for any heart – even those hardened, practised ones of Team Brown.

But there was more: this photo was about to find its way into the media.

Snap! (Wow, almost a pun.)

Snap! (Wow, almost a pun.)

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Team Obama didn’t rate Brown highly enough to give him a press conference (perhaps they’d been checking out the polls); as if it wasn’t bad enough that Brown was deemed only able to cope with four questions; as if it wasn’t bad enough that Obama places scouts above our PM – now everyone’s got a photo of him having make-up applied.

Either that, or he has a strange fetish for having his nose stroked by a lady in red with an unidentifiable object (his expression does look oddly sexual).

Regardless, I think it’s fair to say that Brown’s trip to America has not been good for his Team’s love life.

Th!nk About It: How do you make £1m? Become an MEP

(Also posted here…)

This time last week I said:

I reckon there’s something wrong with all expenses over £100,000. Forget second home, that’s a second flipping salary, that is.

But that was before I came across this Monday’s findings of the Tax Payers’ Alliance (TPA). And I thought UK politics was bad.

Yet another paint masterpiece...

Yet another paint masterpiece...

The TPA somehow got their eager campaigning hands on a leaked EU document called the Galvin Report (download here), which, it says:

revealed so many examples of poor financial controls, dubious practices and outright abuse of taxpayers’ money that it was kept secret from the public, and only a handful of MPs were allowed to see it on the condition that its contents were never revealed.

But the crux of the TPA’s findings – which should help dear old Jacqui Smith sleep better at night – is the following:

Over and above their salaries an MEP can personally earn a further £1 million during a typical Parliamentary term through their generous allowances and expenses

The report was based on a sample of 167 payments, out of a total of 4686, made in October 2004. And I’m going to assume – with, I grant you, no proof what so ever – that as the report has only just been published, repercussions have been somewhat lacking – and things have only got worse.

But there’s more. Because, it seems, £1 million might not cover quite as much glass and mussels as an MEP might like, the TPA also state that MEPs can expect a 47 per cent pay rise after this June’s elections; British MEPs could soon earn a ‘take-home’ salery of £68,801.

By george. I want tips! What sneaky tricks are these MEPs resorting to? I want to take notes in order to make the most of my future expenses-fuelled career as a journalist… (Difference being that I’ll be earning approximately £54,801 less than a British MEP.)

Thanks to the report, I now know that – if one wants to make the most of one’s expenses – one should claim money for fictional assistants, of which no record exists. And pay any assistants that do exist up to 20 times their salary – just to use up the full allowance. I should also, if so inclined, claim money for companies who have done absolutely no work for me.

This, it transpires, works for European Parliament members. I have a feeling it won’t work quite as well for a trainee journo.

Still, prior to this discovery I was feeling guilty about my two EU-expenses-paid trips to Brussels. I must admit, I feel a tad better now.

Con (wo)men and their wives: yet another bad day for British politics

It’s not been a great day for British politics, I’m not going to lie. A quick glance at the Guardian’s politics homepage and any foreign visitor would think that our country is run by con (wo)men. And their wives. They’d be right.

Jowllely Jowls and Jacs in the Serpentine - for no other reason than I got a bit click-happy on Paint.

Jowelly Jowells and Jacs in the Serpentine - for no other reason than I got a bit click-happy on Paint.

Your eyes have hardly taken in this stand-first:

Estranged husband of Tessa Jowell sentenced to four and a half years for accepting $600,000

Before they stumble upon the following:

Jacqui Smith is to face an inquiry into her claims for parliamentary expenses on her constituency home

First things first: Jowelly Jowells.

The woman in charge of raising £9.3bn to fund the 2012 Olympics was married to a man so bad with money he’s heading for an Italian jail. David Mills was paid $600,000 to “protect” Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi – but surely anyone with any money sense would have demanded at least a mill. Let’s hope his wife wasn’t too influenced by his prudence – or I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll be swimming our 800ms in the Serpentine.

But let’s move on to Jacs. As I’m sure her friends call her.

Our HOME secretary (the irony of which, as the capitals demonstrate, has not been lost on me) has been fiddling her housing allowances. She, of course, denies any wrongdoing in her £116,000 “second home” expenses – but I reckon there’s something wrong with all expenses over £100,000. Forget second home, that’s a second flipping salary, that is.

The Commissioner for Standards (which the BBC delightfully terms “Parliament’s Sleeze Watchdog” – a title almost too good to be true) has ordered an inquiry into Smith’s second salary after three neighbours raised questions about her housing habits. The recent complaints of neighbours Dominic and Jessica Taplin that Smith often spends only two days a week at her “main” home in South London is thought to have instigated the Commissioner’s move.

But if this isn’t interesting enough (and I’ll admit, I’d have stopped reading when I got to “housing habits” also), there’s better to come. Because the Taplins didn’t go straight to the Commissioner with their Home Secretary-shaped concerns. Oh no. Where do you go if you want to complain about old Jacs? The Tories of course.

And so the Taplins trot off the Cameron only to be told that… this was not a matter that the Conservative Party could deal with.

Hang on a minute. There’s something fishy going on here. The Tories passed up an opportunity to draw attention to another Labour bungle? That doesn’t sound right. Far too dignified if you ask me.

And you didn’t ask me, but I take your reading this as tacit consent (Locke would be proud) so I’ll tell you anyway: it doesn’t sound right because it isn’t. The Tories, according to the BBC, sent the Taplins away with the advice:

You might want to contact a newspaper as this would be “in the public interest”

You can almost hear the cough that sounded scarily like the “Mail” following them out of the door.

So long Crosby, and thanks for the all the gift (I know that doesn’t really work)

It was like a gift, it was. A gift wrapped up so perfectly that only an over-paid banker could have justified the expense. The gift came in the form of (Sir) James Crosby‘s resignation from the FSA, and was bestowed upon the people who revel an unacceptable amount in political bungles. Like me.

So long, farewell

So long, farewell

For those who are better at avoiding news than me, Crosby resigned from his position as deputy chairman of the Financial Services Authority today after he (allegedly, blah blah blah) fired a whistleblower for, urm, whistleblowing.

Paul Moore (the man with the whistle) claims that he warned of the problems HBOS’s risky strategies could cause – and you’d think that as the bank’s head of regulatory risk Moore was in a pretty good position to know about these things. Apparently not. He was promptly sacked.

Ah ha, I hear you cry. This confirms what we’ve been saying since Northern Rock’s failure to be rocklike: (and I apologise for the overused alliteration but…) the bankers are to blame.

(Incidentally, today our very proper shorthand teacher Margaret Lidell made the obvious comparison between the word banker and “another that sounds a lot like it and is perhaps more appropriate”. If Margaret’s saying it, it must be true.)

It wasn’t hard to find an example of people blaming of the wankers, but it is the following specimen that I love the most. Firstly because it was printed in The Sun and secondly it was written by David Blunkett. Gold:

Of course, people are right to look for someone to blame.

But this time economic collapse has nothing to do with trade unionists or incompetent managers of small businesses, or the failure to invest in new technology.

Along with the Government, business has been doing the right things — with one exception, the bankers.

Yet Crosby is, of course, denying the allegations, which he says have “no merit”. And I’d be much more inclined to believe him if he hasn’t just resigned. Undermines the protests a tad I feel.

Even his old mate Gords says it’s “right” that he has resigned, which brings us on to the extravagant bow that tops this gift of politics present: Brown had hired Crosby as an economic adviser to the government. Yes – the hit man for the whole economic crisis was advising the government on how to get out of the economic crisis. Or, as Cameron puts it:

Sir James, the man who ran HBOS and who the prime minister singled out to regulate our banks and advise the government, has resigned over allegations that he sacked the whistleblower who knew his banks was taking unacceptable risks.

Taxpayers have poured billions into this bank and not only was Sir James appointed as one of the top regulators in the country, you have been relying on him for economic advice.

You couldn’t make it up this good.

In fact, the only thing that puts a slight dampener on this dramatic tale can be found in the BBC’s coverage of the incident:

The BBC’s business editor Robert Peston said he understood that Sir James had stood down to protect the FSA from controversy.

Yes. The BBC are quoting their own business editor in their business stories. Brill.