Friday, September 29, 2006

The "Independent" and Afghanistan

Speaking of Afghanistan and the Taliban, it was interesting to see The Independent run a front page (link now hidden behind a subscription firewall) on Tuesday highlighting the plight of women in that troubled country. Interesting in that the Indie has repeatedly taken an anti-war position through its news coverage, its editorials and its commentary (this is the paper that gives acres of space to Robert Fisk, remember). So this is something of a contradictory, if not downright hypocritical, news story to run with. I stopped respecting this particular publication some time ago as it gradually stopped being a newspaper and instead became a campaigning organ with every front page patronising its readers with bold graphics and statistics supporting whatever issue they feel is important today.

And as for its claim to be “independent”? Pah! You will not read a British broadsheet with a more skewed point of view (I would probably even include the Daily Telegraph in that). Its editorial position runs through every story like words through a stick of rock and I would rather read The Times which carries a demonstrably broader range of opinion (although I’m still partial to The Guardian, albeit more out of habit than for its opinion pieces).

Back to the story though, about Safia Amajan, a women’s rights campaigner shot dead in Afghanistan by Taliban gunmen. Her crime? Working. Even worse, working for the government. Worse still, she had also opened six schools in the town of Kandahar where local women were taught a trade. All grave offences to deranged Islamic fundamentalists who prefer their women illiterate, covered from head to toe, stuck in the home, raising children and doing the housework. As the Indie reported it:
Five years after the "liberation" of Afghanistan by the US and Britain, with promises of a new dawn for its downtrodden women, her murder was a bloody reminder of just how far the country is slipping back into a land of darkness.
We’ll ignore the hyperbolic prose (“land of darkness” indeed) and concentrate on the decision to put ironic speech marks around the word liberation instead. Because the rest of the article, and an accompanying comment piece (although as stated, with The Independent it’s difficult to tell where the comment ends and the news reporting begins and vice versa), goes into great detail about the plight of women in Afghanistan in lawless towns where the Taliban are resurgent and fighting ferociously against the NATO forces. NATO forces that The Independent has consistently argued should be withdrawn. Well, you can’t have it both ways can you?

The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 overthrew a diabolical and hideous regime. It was, without question, a good thing to do. While I can understand people objecting to the war in Iraq (although I would not agree with them myself), I think Afghanistan was a far more clear cut case. An isolated rogue state playing host to an armed and dangerous terrorist operation which, if left unchecked, and given the opportunity, would surely perpetrate far greater crimes than it managed on 9/11. We were right to go after al Qaeda and right to remove the Taliban while we were at it. In the process, Afghanistan got a new constitution and a new elected government (which people turned out in great numbers to vote for). Everyday life and conditions did improve for the majority of the population, and it was only the military intervention that ensured this.

But now the Indie seems to be saying that, in the light of a renewal of the Taliban’s strength and the suffering they are inflicting on Afghans, the invading forces have not done enough to create stability in the region. Thus taking a position of two-way criticism: we do not support the invasion or the presence of our troops; additionally, we are not happy with what they have done to safeguard the people (especially women) that live there. Never mind that the latter is conditional on the former. Yes, conditions have been deteriorating which, to my mind, is even more reason to stay there as long as is necessary, bolstering the military presence there if that is what it takes.

According to today’s Guardian, senior military officers are strongly of the opinion that British troops should tactically pull out of Iraq to strengthen our presence in Afghanistan, which is seen as a more worthwhile and winnable battleground. Even better would be a bigger international commitment to the cause, but that doesn’t seem to be happening either. Withdrawal now, as desired by the anti-war movement, would be to inflict an atrocity on the people living there. People who, after all that they have suffered, deserve better.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Beware the tide of marchers

In addition to my esteemed visit, Manchester also played host on Saturday to an anti-war march. 60,000 protesters (at least, according to the organisers - the police put the figure more at 20,000) walked through the city to oppose, oooh, lots of stuff they don't like. Tony Blair for example (also in the city for the start of the Labour Party conference): they want him to go. Freedom For Palestine was another popular placard. Which is a bit of a conundrum, because Tony Blair also wants a Palestinian state and was a sponsor of the ill-fated peace plan spearheaded by Bill Clinton in the late 1990s. It was even starting to get somewhere until Yasser Arafat (probably something of a folk hero to many of these marchers) pulled the plug on the whole deal. Since then we've seen a second Intifada and the election of a terrorist group to their government. Hardly a great move forward.

Anyway, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, the protesters protesting about things they want to protest about. As long as they're protesting, they're happy. Oh, how they like a good protest. Changes everything you see. Troops Out Of Iraq, of course, that was another favourite. Troops Out Of Afghanistan too...

This one I find particularly objectionable, seeing as our troops (and others) are currently there fighting back the Taliban: that reactionary, barbaric, philistinic force that would rather live in the Middle Ages, following a rather idiosyncratic interpretation of the Koran. And insisting that everyone else does too, on pain of death or disfigurement. And many of the protesters were university students. The idea of students - albeit perhaps unwittingly - arguing for action that would lead to the restoration of a regime that forbids education for women is beyond laughable. Norm wrote about this before me, and I agree with him wholeheartedly when he says:
But the marchers in Manchester, including members of the University and College Union it seems, are happy for the women of Afghanistan to be left to the benign attentions of the Taliban. Hold your heads up high, peaceniks, why don't you?

These are the progressive forces of this country, remember? They turned up in their thousands to listen to the likes of George Galloway, Tony Benn, Bianca Jagger and, erm, Lauren Booth, insist that Afghanistan be returned to a system of medieval feudalism: where women not adhering to the strictest form of Muslim dress can expect to have acid thrown in their face, or face a death squad if they want to be educated rather than just be baby-making chattel for their husbands; where music is forbidden, where free speech or independent thought are not allowed to exist. Oh, these people might not explicitly call for such a thing, but an argument for removing troops from Afghanistan is exactly what it amounts to.

A plague on their houses.

Incidentally, you'd expect them to have a bit of respect for the environment wouldn't you? Given the number of placards discarded on the pavements of Deansgate and Market Street, an awful lot of them don't. Still, they had their little walk and "die-in" to oppose the imperialist dogma of Bush and Blair, so I dare say they all went home happy.

Oh Manchester, so much to answer for

I was in Manchester at the weekend, visiting a friend. Having graduated from Manchester University in 1996 but not having visited since 1998, it was quite an eye-opener walking around the old place now. The massive redevelopment programme that took place after the IRA bombing ten years ago, plus the considerable investment in preparing the city for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, has resulted in a city centre bearing little resemblance to the one that I remember. The grotty old Arndale Centre has been totally refurbished and extended with a fancy new atrium. Exchange Square is a totally new development: pedestrianised, with a big outdoor screen, water features, all overlooked by new residents Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. It's a bit like Covent Garden, but nicer, minus the tourists and tedious street 'artists'. When I was a student, Piccadilly train station stank of piss, lager and fag butts. The walk to the station would involve doing the 'tramp slalom', where you would try to avoid scary looking beggars with missing teeth and ginger hair hassling you for change so that they could "get their train fare home". (One chap in particular must have been very unfortunate with losing his train fare, because he was there every time I went to the station.) But now, with its glass exterior and abundance of shops, Piccadilly is more like a smart new airport terminal. Hulme has probably changed the most of all. In my day ("Aye, in my day, it were all fields round these parts"), it was like a cross between London's Elephant and Castle and Dresden after the bombing of 1944. Imagine a run-down council estate the size of a town, where virtually every deserted building has had all its windows broken and every wall is daubed with crude or illegible graffiti and you're starting to get there. But now, smart new low-level housing has sprung up all over. There are now bars, restaurants and delicatessens where, less than ten years ago, the only culture was that growing in the broken beer bottles dropped onto the pavement. Meanwhile, the University, my old alma mater, has ambitious plans to eclipse Oxford and Cambridge in terms of academic excellence. This is probably unrealistic, but they could certainly give them a run for their money.

So all in all, I was very impressed. It struck me as a confident and affluent city, quite European in style (but then it always was, with its canals, narrow winding backstreets, public squares and Gothic architecture). For so long Manchester had an inferiority complex. It would often make bold claims to being a great international city, on a par with London - claims that were once really quite laughable. But from what I've just seen, such proclamations are no longer ridiculous: it can offer pretty much everything that London has, but on a smaller and more manageable (not to mention affordable) scale.

It's oh so quiet

By 'eck, it's been quiet around these parts lately. Let's rectify this situation at once!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Knock me down with a feather, Clever Trevor

I had the pleasure this morning of listening to John Humphrys interviewing Abu Izzadeen on the Today programme. Abu Izzadeen (also known as Omar or Trevor Brooks) was the protester who on Wednesday heckled Home Secretary John Reid during a speech he was giving to a group of Muslims in East London. Izzadeen disrupted the meeting, shouted his fury about “state terrorism by British police” and proclaimed John Reid an “enemy” of Islam before being removed by police and security.

Izzadeen/Trevor is a former member of al-Ghurabaa, an Islamist militant group best known for praising the 7/7 London bombers as “martyrs” and being the chief organisers of the February protest outside the Danish Embassy in London during the furore about the publication of those “offensive” cartoons. They were founded by Omar Bakri Mohammad, who publicly praised the 9/11 hijackers/mass murderers as the “magnificent 19”. Mohammad has since been excluded from Britain, and al-Ghurabaa itself was one of the groups banned by British law in July 2006 for glorifying terrorism in addition to suspected links with other extremist and terrorist organisations.

Again, taste the delicious irony. Here was Izzadeen protesting about the police state and the “war against Muslims” yet he lives and moves freely in the country despite suspected links to terrorist groups and hate-preaching Islamist extremists. Moreover, he was able to get within shouting distance of one of the most powerful members of the British government. He was then removed from the premises but was free to continue his bizarre ranting outside the building. Then, two days later he is given a ten minute interview to state his case on the most popular news show on British (state-owned) radio. Clearly, we have become a fascist state of monstrous proportions. Somebody, please call Amnesty International. Even George Galloway wrote an open letter to John Reid on Wednesday, wondering how “such a well known extremist..... was allowed within punching distance of the British Home Secretary”. (To clarify, George was talking about Abu Izzadeen, not himself.)

The interview itself can be listened to here. It’s pretty much what you would expect. Bush and Blair are “Crusaders” who have declared war on Islam. Their intention is to murder Muslims, they have blood on their hands, the government is persecuting Muslims on a daily basis, democracy is a sham, we want Sharia Law, etcetera, etcetera. Personally, I think John Humphrys let him off quite lightly. When Izzadeen remarked that US/UK foreign policy is designed to inflame and persecute Muslims I would have liked to have asked him about Kosovo, where NATO intervened to halt Serbian slaughter of Muslim civilians: something that Tony Blair – that deranged Muslim hater - was instrumental in orchestrating. Or point out that military operations in Afghanistan are purely focussed on fighting the monstrous Taliban who were quite happy to kill, torture and deform any Muslim under their rule who did not adhere to their standards (women, mostly). It would have been good to counter-balance this interview by having a moderate Muslim involved too, to show that most British Muslims do not think in this way and - for once - not give the limelight to a deranged extremist. Humphrys did ask Trevor why, if he finds British life so objectionable, he does not simply choose to live in a country that does govern according to Muslim law. Funnily enough, Clever Trevor wasn’t too keen on that idea.

Trev, if it’s the air fare that’s putting you off, we can have a whip round. I’ll chuck in twenty quid towards a one-way flight to Kabul. You’ll like it there. You can meet up with other like-minded types and fight off the bloodthirsty Western Crusaders yourself.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

This is an outrage! The Pope, Islam and perpetual offence.

So, to recap. The Pope makes a speech in Germany and, touching upon the concept of violence within religion, repeats a quote made by Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus in 1391: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Cue hysteria and outrage across much of the Muslim world. Cue shock, disgust and despair. Cue thousands of Muslims taking to the streets in India, Pakistan, Turkey and Gaza burning effigies of the Pope, clashing with the police and attacking Catholic churches, outraged that their religion has again been associated with intolerance and violence. I mean, where does this undeserved reputation come from?

Some Muslim gentlemen turn up to engage in a
philosophical debate about their belief system.

Andrew Sullivan here reproduces a quote from a spokeswoman for the Pakistan Foreign Ministry which perfectly summarises this response: "Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence.” Beautiful. This is right up there with the one I quoted from someone protesting against the Danish cartoons in Afghanistan: “They want to test our feelings. They want to know whether Muslims are extremists or not. Death to them and their newspapers.”

Bonfire of the Inanities

Islam strikes me as a particularly childish faith. Of course, all religions are childish with their superstitions, anachronisms and rituals; their reverence of ‘sacred’ texts, rocks, buildings and animals. But Islam in particular is so rigid and inflexible, so unopen to dialogue, reasoning or criticism, so unchanged since the Middle Ages, it sets itself up for strife. It is the Daily Mail of religions: stuck in another age, frozen rigid in a permanent sense of outrage, preternaturally conditioned to take offence at the slightest opportunity. Prepared to kill in defence of its beliefs. Beliefs that are not open to debate under any circumstances.

And so the Pope, quoting from an ancient text and making it very clear from the outset that these were not his own words, has been forced into making an apology for words which he is not personally responsible for in the hope of nullifying the anger that has erupted – again – through the Islamic world. (Question to Muslims everywhere: is there anything you don’t get offended about?) Of course, one might question the Pope’s motives for highlighting this particular text, and one could also point out that the Catholic Church is in no position to criticise or comment on any faith that seeks to enforce and perpetuate its belief system through violence, as it worked well enough for them for hundreds of years. A pot-kettle-black situation if ever there was one. But it’s little short of depressing that for days the biggest news story has been caused by the leader of one redundant belief system quoting some words spoken 615 years ago by somebody most people have never even heard of, criticising the philosophy of another redundant belief system.

Non-theists like myself can only howl in despair and rage. I think I might take to the streets in protest. Would anyone like to join me?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I brand thee a twat

You may have seen a story in various sources about a chap called Neil Boorman, a club promoter, style magazine editor and fashion victim who has decided to burn every item of branded merchanise he owns in an exercise he has dubbed the Bonfire of the Brands. He plans to publicly set fire to almost everything he owns in an attempt to start his life over, free from the trappings of brand status and material covetousness, in a quest to find his "true self". Coincidentally, there is also a book of the same name coming out later this year, written by Mr Boorman, about the whole experience. Thus rendering the entire event meaningless and hollow. Or, as I remarked in the comments section of his piece on Comment Is Free:
Wasteful, pretentious, self-indulgent exercise in futility. Cynical, self-serving art wank. Sub-Nathan Barley toss. As pointless as someone taking a vow of silence, but first spending a couple of months publicising the fact that they have taken a vow of silence.
Disclosure: I used to vaguely know this person. We went to the same A level college and he is part of an extended circle of Lady Sane's friends and acquaintances. I never liked him very much and this bias does, of course, come through in what I have to say. But trust me, he's an arse of the highest order. A real life Nathan Barley.

I do have some grudging respect for him, however. He has come up with a stunt (albeit one almost identical to something that Michael Landy did about five years ago), and got a book deal and substantial media coverage for it in the process. What niggles with me is his straight-faced insistence that this is some sort of post-No Logo "statement", when it is clearly nothing more than a means to an end. If he really wanted to perform such a "cleansing" exercise, he would have gone about it quietly then got on with his life. Instead, he's going to try to launch a career off of it, cashing in on the exercise with a book that is, in itself, a brand. Meanwhile, the whole event is being managed by Idea Generation who are... wait for it... a PR company.

Along with many other commenters, I think it would be better to give the items away to charity as there are plenty of worthy recipients who desperately need clothing and couldn't care less if it has a label on it or not. But if he insists on the bonfire option, I'd personally recommend that, after putting everything in the fire, he has himself thrown on soon after. FCUKing idiot.

Bonfire of the Brands will be published in the autumn. I'm sure there will be plenty of copies available.

Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer

Next door, in fact.

Gordon Brown, being interviewed on Sky News yesterday, declared that Tony Blair is his friend, and always will be, despite the recent skirmishes in the Labour Party. He also denied having any involvement in the recent plots and resignations designed to weaken the prime minister.

Yes Gordon, and I'm Archduke Hercules Orangutan VII, patron saint of geese.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Remembering 9/11

Like most people, I vividly remember the events of 9/11. At the time, I was working on the trading floor of a large American investment bank (Merrill Lynch, if you’re interested) at their new premises in London, near St. Paul’s. I had just returned from a lunchtime gym session and, upon returning to my desk, saw on television images of the World Trade Center on fire. I asked a colleague what had happened, and was told that a plane had flown into one of the towers. Weird, I thought, figuring that it was some kind of micro-plane, perhaps one that does traffic reporting, not for a second imagining it was a large passenger craft. I sat down to get back to work, keeping one eye on one of the many TV screens placed around the floor. When it was finally confirmed what kind of plane had hit the north tower, I immediately suspected that this was no accident. That kind of thing just does not happen. The trading floor I worked on was the size of a football pitch, holding several hundred people, and by now hardly anyone was sat at their desk working anymore; instead everyone was standing around a TV screen, trying to get more information. It was then that the second plane flew into the south tower, from what seemed like out of nowhere, immediately shattering any hope that this was just a dreadful accident. This couldn’t be anything other than a deliberate, orchestrated attack. A collective gasp went across the floor, and one woman in particular screamed as the second plane hit – a noise that I will never forget, and still makes the hairs on my neck stand when I think about it.

Everything that followed simply felt surreal. News of another plane hitting the Pentagon; reports of another plane hijacked, whereabouts unknown (which would later turn out to be United Flight 93); images of people trapped in the towers jumping to their deaths. Then the south tower fell and, within half an hour, the north tower too. I could barely comprehend what I was seeing. It felt apocalyptic. The Merrill Lynch global headquarters are at the World Financial Center, parallel to the site of the twin towers. When the north tower went down, it looked like the entire thing had landed on our colleagues. As it turned out, all but three of the 9,000 staff had been evacuated in time and made it home safe.

Along with the rest of London, we were all sent home early, still in shock at the events we had seen, feeling very vulnerable. It turned out that Canary Wharf had already been evacuated. Was London also going to be targeted? Not for today, at least. But that vulnerability is more acute than ever now, as the prospect of a major terrorist incident is a daily reality for everyone.

I remember remarking to a colleague that this will be our generation’s JFK moment. Yes, this is a cliché now, but it’s true. This was a day that seared itself on our collective conscious, still a vivid memory now, five years later. It may have all happened over 3,000 miles away, but it all felt very close to me, and it was clear that the world was never going to be the same again. And indeed it hasn’t been.

I’d always been fascinated with New York ever since I was a young boy, when I would spend ages looking at my book of NYC skyscrapers, memorising their names and locations. I had always wanted to visit and always expected that the highlight of any trip would be visiting to the World Trade Center - something that could never happen now. As it happens, I have since been to New York twice and went to Ground Zero on each occasion. Both times I have been shocked by the sheer size of the site and the thought of just how big those buildings really were. Even five years later it’s still incredible to recollect the events of that day: watching helplessly as those monolithic structures - which once stood like two fingers stuck up at the rest of the world - were attacked and obliterated in less than two hours.

9/11 changed everything forever, alerting us all to a war that we were already involved in. We just didn’t know it yet.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thus spake Blairathustra

Well, Blair has retorted, in a pre-recorded statement of blandness during a visit to a school in north London. It started with an apology on behalf of the party, which was an interesting way to begin. Trying to distance himself from all the in-fighting, obviously, and put the blame squarely on that nasty, manipulative Brown camp. By the end of it, we were still none the wiser: this year will be his last TUC and party conference - that's as close he came to specifying any stand down date. Any date will be named at a time in the best interests of the country and the party. The public comes first, etc, etc. Other than that, there were a few opportunities to highlight a few policy achievements (although I can't remember which). And that was it. No questions, no answers.

Just over an hour ago Gordon Brown committed himself to supporting whatever decision Blair makes with regards to standing down. So now what?

Gordon Brown, texture like sun

Just watched Gordon Brown live on BBC News 24. Interesting that he got his word in before Blair's scheduled announcement. The gist of his statement was basically: "I have worked with the prime minister for over twenty years now, in good times and bad, and we are both committed to the same principles and beliefs, blah, blah, blah (smiles). I will support the prime minister whatever decision he makes (smiles), because it is his decision to make (smiles), and he must decide what is best for the country and the party. And this gun that I'm holding to his head should not make any difference to his decision."

End of speech. Blair coming up soon.

The crap that comes through my letter box

I'm off work today with some kind of man virus, trying to stave off cabin fever by blogging and overdosing on news. Where I live, we are fortunate enough to be deluged with all manner of junk mail, usually leaflets for local takeaways, cleaning services or mini cab firms. But something came through the post today that I thought I'd share with you. For the sake of something to do, if nothing else.

It's from a Mr Conde who is, according to his literature, an "African Marabout you can trust". At last! I'm fed up with those untrustworthy marabouts giving the profession a bad name. Clairvoyant, spiritual healer and medium, there seems to be no end to this man's talents. "Call now - He will help you. He will break curses and protect you and destroy the powers of Witchcraft, Black Magic and Bad Luck."

Anyway, I'm going to give him a call and see what he can do for this cold. I've got a bit of a headache too, so maybe there's something he can do for that.

In a fast German car, I'm not surprised you died. An airbag didn't save your life.

Apparently there is to be a new inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales commencing in 2007. Can anyone explain to me why? Outside of Daily Express editorial meetings, who cares? Where’s the conspiracy? They were in a car being driven by a man high on drink and drugs, involved in a high speed race to get away from photographers. The car crashed. Neither of them were wearing seat belts. I’d say the chances of death under such circumstances are good to even, wouldn’t you? Why are we still picking over this corpse?

Blairites and Brownites hit the mattresses

So today’s the day. Sometime between 2pm and 3pm Tony Blair will announce to the world the day he intends to stand down as prime minister. Or so we all thought. Breaking news suggests that, in fact, he won’t specify a day at all, but will confirm that he will stand down sometime before next year’s party conference.

Brownites are desperately pushing for clarification, and would love for Blair to just stand down today, avoiding what could otherwise be the longest leadership contest in history. According to reports, Gordon Brown has demanded that he goes by Christmas. If Blair were to say, for example, that he’ll go on May 31st, we’d be looking at eight months of machinations and political manoeuvres in a party that is clearly not united on anything. With no real leader in the interim (who’s going to care about the consequences when they already know that he’s leaving?) this could make the Conservative Party squabbles under John Major in the mid 1990s look like a children’s tea party. Gordon Brown will most likely be the victor in any contest, but may first face a battle from John Reid, Alan Milburn, perhaps even Jack Straw or Charles Clarke. None of whom would be particularly attractive to me – but at least we know something about them. Gordon Brown is an unknown quantity. Who knows what he thinks about any of the major issues facing Britain today? What does he think about British involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan? About our role in Europe? Our relationship with the United States? About Muslim fundamentalism?

In any case, any euphoria about Blair leaving is going to be relatively short lived. The left of the party still aren’t going to see Labour return to anything like its socialist roots. And Brown’s backers will soon have to face up to a certain reality: their new leader will have to battle David Cameron, who is younger, more charismatic and more voter friendly than Brown, the Silent Chancellor. It’s almost laughably ironic: after giving way to Tony Blair in 1994, then spending twelve years as a frustrated leader-in-waiting, Gordon Brown could well find himself as prime minister for just a couple of years, before being unseated in a general election to a Conservative Party led by a replica of the man who held him back for so long.

The Guardian today quotes Labour MP John McDonnell as describing the events of the last few weeks as being like an episode of The Sopranos. I think that does our favourite Mafia family a disservice. There is at least a concept of honour amongst thieves in their world: what’s going on in the Labour Party right now makes the mob look quite civilised. Perhaps Gordon should have had Blair clipped - that usually speeds up leadership contests in La Cosa Nostra.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Stepping aside with dignity. Or perhaps not.

As the pressure mounts on Tony Blair to step down, or at least name a date when he intends to do so, The Daily Mirror has published an excruciating and, frankly, hilarious memo which, they claim, originates from the prime minister’s advisors. This memo details the action plan that will kick in during the build up to his handover of power. The BBC has summarised the main points of the leak and it is a veritable mine of comic gold.

So without further ado, let’s go through some of the best pieces of this document, offering advice and comment as we do so. Because it’ll be fun, and I’ve got little else to do this evening…

Time is not an unlimited commodity. His genuine legacy is not the delivery, important though that is, but the dominance of new Labour ideas ... the triumph of Blairism.
Unbelievable pomposity. My jaw is agape. Very astute observation about time, though. For it is, indeed, not an unlimited commodity. At least, not in politics. Although it is infinite, according to Einstein. But we won’t nit pick.

As TB enters his final phase he needs to be focusing way beyond the finishing line, not looking at it.
And don’t forget to think outside the box while you’re at it, TB. Then stop to pick the low hanging fruit. Ah, platitudes. Platitudes and clichés. You can’t beat them.

He needs to go with the crowds wanting more. He should be the star who won't even play that last encore. In moving towards the end he must focus on the future.
I can’t improve on this one.

As much as possible a farewell tour, looking to the future, making sure the party is in the right place and the public remember him as he should be.
Looking to the future. Again. And it should be like a farewell tour – perhaps with Elton John? But remember the point above: no encore.

He needs to embrace open spaces, the arts and businesses, he needs to be seen to be travelling on different forms of transport. He needs to be seen with people who will raise eyebrows.
How, exactly, does one embrace an open space? Actually, let’s not linger on that one. Different forms of transport... A bus, a moped, a skateboard? How about a camel? Be seen with people who will raise eyebrows? Peter Sutcliffe, perhaps? That would certainly raise a few eyebrows. Roller blading with Osama Bin Laden. A candlelit dinner with Gary Glitter, followed by dancing. These would all be remembered, I assure you.

He needs to travel around the UK to be carefully positioned as someone who while not above politics, is certainly distancing himself from the political village.
By all means travel around the UK, but don’t forget that earlier commitment to embracing open spaces while you’re at it. But while you’re embracing those open spaces you have to distance yourself from the political village. Got that? Good.

He should be dropping references in all that he does which reflect his energy and enthusiasm.
OK Tone, to summarise thus far: you need to embark on that farewell tour (but no encore!), travelling by camel in tandem with Peter Sutcliffe (must raise eyebrows!). All the while, you have to embrace open spaces while distancing yourself from the political village. But is the political village surrounded by embraceable open spaces? We'll check that out. Anyway, when you’ve done all that, drop some references that demonstrate your commitment to the future. While not forgetting the past. And perhaps a quick nod to the present, too. But then back to the future. Hang on, that was a film. Scrap that. Oh, and keep those energy levels up, especially as you’re looking beyond the finishing line. Jesus, this is getting confusing.

While we need to do what is required to defend the government and ensure a clarity of message, we should not be drawn into hand-to-hand combat.
Oh, I disagree. I think hand-to-hand combat is the way to go. Remember: you want to raise eyebrows. So be seen with Osama Bin Laden, then take him on in hand-to-hand combat. When you’re done there, you should twat Gordon Brown live on television, then walk off camera. But don’t walk back on – must remember that “no encore” rule...

Another gem is the proposal to have Mr Blair appearing on high profile shows: Blue Peter, Songs of Praise, the Chris Evans radio show. This is the problem: these advisors appear to be trapped in a time where Tony Blair and Chris Evans are both popular. I believe most people would agree that such a time was…. 1996.

How genuine this leaked memo is, I have no idea. It reads like something Gordon Brown’s camp has put together for a laugh. The scary thing is, I would be no more or less surprised to know that it is completely authentic. Still, it gave us a few laughs, whatever its origin.

Dear oh dear Tony. Who are you surrounded by? When you do go, don’t listen to any of this tosh. Remember: all farewells should be sudden and if you follow this advice you will be a laughing stock for the rest of your days. Just say goodbye, and walk away with some remnants of dignity. You don’t really care about the Labour Party anyway, especially now that even your own loyalists are turning on you like wolves. This is all going to be Gordon Brown’s problem soon and you should leave him to it. Given that he’s going to inherit a country in recession, facing a resurgent Conservative Party rejuvenated under Cuddly Dave Cameron, he doesn’t stand a chance anyway. Leave, write your memoirs, be a grumpy backbencher, earn a fortune on the speeches circuit. Just don't let yourself be stage managed like a fading boy band.

All quiet on the blogging front

I do hate those blogging gaps that just creep up on you. A week and a half passes with not a thing written - and not because of a lack of suitable material either, I might add. The lack of anything around these parts is really down to two things. Firstly, a lack of opportunity to write anything during work hours. This is my favourite way of blogging because, let’s face it, it’s a damn sight more interesting than doing real work and I’m getting paid for it. But no more, for a mixture of paranoia and a newly found work ethic have put paid to that. To be precise, the paranoia has created a work ethic because I’m terrified of the day when my boss calls me into his office and says, “Now, what’s this ‘Liberal Elite’ website we see you visit for at least two hours every day?”


The second reason can be attributed purely to the fact that I bought the first season of Lost on DVD approximately two weeks ago and Lady Sane and I have been totally addicted to it. We came to this one a bit late – I can’t really be bothered to diarise screenings of TV shows, and then have to sit through the adverts and wait another week to see the next one – but it is, to be frank, fucking excellent. Totally absorbing, quality television just like The Sopranos, The West Wing, Desperate Housewives, 24 and (so I’m told although I’ve never watched them) CSI and The Wire. Programmes of this quality only ever come out of the US. Why can’t WE make something like this? We just get unambitious toss like Doctor Who, The Bill and Holby Bastard City.

Anyway, we got to the end of season one last night, which should free up a bit of time in the evenings; time to spend a bit more time writing this here blog. That is, until I buy season two...