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Cameron and Blair: Plus ça change

[flashvideo filename=”http://sjhoward.co.uk/video/blaircameron.flv” title=”Time Trumpet (BBC Two)” /]

From Time Trumpet

If you have any good pictures or videos that deserve posting, then do let me know. You can comment below, email simon@sjhoward.co.uk, send mobile text, videos, or pictures to 60300 (start your message with the word ‘simon’), or call 0845 638 1916 and let me know where to look. To see more videos, click here.

This post was filed under: Politics, Video.

For the good of us all, Blair must fall

Tony BlairIn the UK, the government is in crisis. And yet Blair insists on hanging on, and has indicated he still hopes to be Prime Minister at the end of June. Why, oh why, won’t he just do the honourable thing and go now?

The Home Office is in a terrible state. It’s lost control of immigration, asylum, prisons, and is interfering in judicial sentencing. A catalogue of blunders recently have shown us that they haven’t tracked criminals who have committed crimes abroad, they’ve lost contact with 322 convicted sex offenders who they’re supposed to be monitoring in this country, they’re illegally locking up asylum seekers who’ve done nothing wrong, they haven’t enforced travel bans where they should have, prisons are bursting at the seams, the head of the Youth Justice board has resigned in disgust, they’ve lost terror suspects, and now John Reid is sending letters to judges – interfering in their ability to judge properly – telling them to send only the ‘most serious’ offenders to prison – then saying that this means exactly the same as saying that people who post ‘any risk’ to the public should be locked up. Apparently ‘most serious’ and ‘serious’ and synonymous in the lexis of our Home Secretary. Oh, and this disaster of a department still wants us all to trust it with ID cards, which will run on current systems. Which have been oh-so-successful.

On top of that, the NHS is in a terrible state, with more doctors going to be out of work any time soon thanks to MMC meaning there aren’t enough jobs to go round, and a Health Secretary who believes we have too many doctors and that last year was the ‘best ever’ for the NHS. Patricia Hewitt announced she’d get NHS debt under control, and it doubled to half a billion pounds – yet this was seen as good progress, despite being twice as much debt as her target amount. The staff of the NHS have lost confidence in her and want her to resign, but Mr Blair continues to back her to the hilt. Oh, and she wants to criminalise any staff who are still there, and she thinks GPs are overpaid – despite it being her who decided how much they were paid.

Let’s not forget that inflation is at 3% – the highest rate for 11 years, we’re still fighting a war in Iraq which was all about weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist, and the Ministry of Defence can’t even look after soliders properly. The Prime Minister himself is at the centre of a criminal investigation, with his closest advisers arrested and the net closing in on the PM himself.

Despite all this, Mr Blair thinks he can continue. He’s ‘not finished yet’. He genuinely beleives he’s the right person to lead a party into elections.

Surely Mr Blair can see that his administration is a disaster. Surely he can see that a new administration is needed to even have a hope of clearing up the mess created by this one. So please, Mr Blair, go soon, and let us get on with repairing the damage caused under your arrogant and destructive leadership.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

Wallcharts succomb to Grauniad Fever

CorrectionMonday’s edition of The Guardian’s famous (and hugely successful) series of wallcharts has, it would seem, succombed to Grauniad Fever.

Of the forty breed featured, the names of six were spelled incorrectly, and the classification of one was wrong. That gives an 82.5% accuracy rate – not brilliant for an educational wallchart.

Of course, this isn’t the first wallchart to feature mistakes, but this example from yesterday’s newspaper is certainly the most extensive correction I’ve seen featured about a single one of them. On the plus side, I suppose it reinforces the Guardian branding of the wallcharts, and allows the reader a wry smile…

This post was filed under: Media.

A classic Sun front page

John Reid’s brain is missingAn absolutely classic front page greets readers of The Sun today, with the fantastic headline ‘John Reid’s brain is missing’.

They claim that a nationwide search is underway for John Reid’s ‘walnut’ sized brain, as they are unhappy with the way the Home Secretary has dealt with the full jails fiasco – which can, of course, be added to a long list of Home Office fiascos from the last few weeks alone.

Can John Reid ride out the storm, or will he soon become the next casualty of the cursed position of Home Secretary? I suspect the former…

It’s also been particularly fun watching the news programmes reviewing the front pages with this one… Tim Wilcox on BBC News 24 certainly seemed amused by it – but then, for a newsreader, it must be pretty satisfying to get to read a headline like that…

This post was filed under: Media, News and Comment, Politics.

State of the Union

For those of you who were too lazy to stay up for Bush’s State of the Union, here’s what you didn’t miss, as constructed from last year’s edition.
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This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics, Video.

‘There are no rules’

Just looking back at this post tonight, I was reminded of one of Blair’s conference speech lines:

The first rule of politics: There are no rules

But as the criminal investigation into Cash for Peerages moves ever closer to Tony, the first serving Prime Minister to be interviewed in a criminal investigation, it begins to look like he got that one wrong. Not only are there rules, but his party’s been flouting them.

Last week, we were treated to the huge news that Ruth Turner had been arrested as part of the row. As Director of Government Relations, she’s as much at the heart of Downing Street as it’s possible to be. But more is to come…

PowellThe hot news from Guido tonight is that John McTurnan, Downing Street’s Directer of Political Operations, has been interviewed under caution, and that Blair’s Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell could soon be arrested. That would be political dynamite.

And, just as I’m about to publish this post, the BBC have confirmed that John McTurnan has indeed been interviewed under caution. Is it too much to hope that the second rumour is also true? After all, Blair’s said he’ll quit if his aides are charged (at least according to the Grauniad).

The excitement intensifies…

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

Scary Mary!

Introducing Mary Poppins… As you’ve never seen her before!

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And also introducing the brand new sjhoward.co.uk video player – much bigger than the YouTube and Google Video versions I’ve previously embedded, and with a full-screen option built in. Enjoy!

Video courtesy of Eleni and Moviemker.

 Update: Most of the archived videos on the site have now been updated to the new format, and the ‘Videos‘ category page has a new look, as well as a link in the top bar.  How very technologically advanced!

This post was filed under: Video.

WordPress 2.1

This post was filed under: Notes, Site Updates.

All about the hits?

After barely six months, the excellent Cassilis has given up blogging, and he’s posted in some detail about his reasons for doing so.

I started blogging because I loved political writing. I wanted to be able to craft a sentence like Orwell or Hitchens, Chomsky or Hennessy … Looking back over what I’ve written is a depressing experience – there’s a few half decent posts and I know I can pull a half-decent paragraph or two together but by the standards I set myself (however ludicrously high they may have been) I haven’t succeeded.

Much the same can be said of me. There’s an awful lot of crap and bilge on this blog, particularly from the earlier days. Some of it is embarrassingly terrible. But there are nuggets of decent writing in there, too. Hopefully, as time has passed, the nugget to mud ratio has increased, and with any luck will continue to increase. I post a lot less often than I once did, but I’d like to think that each post was better for it. It’s certainly more satisfying.

What’s more the medium itself isn’t what I envisaged it to be – the hype surrounding blogs is all about an alternative media, the democratisation of journalism and the ‘voice’ of the ordinary people. But bloggers aren’t ordinary people – most of them, like me, are political nerds or obsessives who get off on the idea of interacting with like-minded people. Looking back over the six months or so I’ve been doing this the posts that have generated the most comments are those that deal directly with blogging itself (or comments from mainstream pundits on blogging) … So the fact that the topic that generates most interaction is blogging itself tells you something about the medium – most of us read blogs to see if anyone has read our blogs, given us a link or has any interesting widget in their sidebar that we could pinch. Comments are used rarely to advance genuine debate or discussion – simply to say ‘ hey, here’s what I think and I have a blog too’. It’s all about the traffic no matter what anyone tells you.

It’s true to say that I’m probably a political nerd or blogging obsessive, but I disagree that I write to interact with like-minded people. That’s never been the point. And similarly, traffic isn’t hugely important to me.

If I had ever been overly bothered about traffic, I wouldn’t be blogging now. In the first month of sjhoward.co.uk being online, I received 133 visits – many of which were from me. If that had unduly concerned me, then I’d have stopped writing long ago. Instead, I continue to write. I blog primarily because I enjoy writing, and it allows me to rationalise my thinking about current affairs. If I decide to write about something, then I have to think and form a rational opinion on the subject, rather than just mulling it over. It’s good for the brain, and good for the soul. If someone then comes along and reads these things what I write, then that’s a bonus – admittedly a very rewarding bonus, but it certainly isn’t the raison d’etre for the blog.

If I’d lived 50 years ago, I’d probably have written a diary reflecting on issues, which no-one would read. This place is merely a modern-day way of challenging myself to think about what I think, how I think, and why I think about certain issues. Sometimes, I’m not in a reflective mood, and I don’t post. I’m not a career blogger, and I’m not unduly concerned with hits. Though they’re nice.

I’m unusual in the blogging world in that I rarely post about blogging itself. I tend to just get on and do it. I don’t think I tend to enter into the community spirit of blogging. Yes, I have the obligatory blog roll, but I don’t have series of in-jokes between bloggers, I don’t constantly link to my favourites, and I’m not forever obsessed with what others are writing on topics. Occasionally, I’ll reference other blogs as they’ve made me think about issues, but I think I’m largely independent of the ‘community’ at large.

For me, blogging is a means to an end, not an end in itself. And perhaps that’s why I don’t see myself giving up any time soon.

This post was filed under: Blogging.

Big Brother: Racism, revamp, and ratings

Big Brother contestant ShilpaThere’s been a lot of news coverage today about perceived racism on Celebrity Big Brother, with the row about the treatment of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty even reaching Parliament.

Channel 4 should view this as an opportunity, not a failure. The series is flagging as it is, but imagine the acres of press coverage if they were to cancel the series, right here, right now. It would be huge. And it would probably bring in fantastic rating for Channel 4, for the inevitable post-controversy interviews with the involved contestants. That would be one huge buzz surrounding this increasingly dull brand.

Then we come to summer. Channel 4 revamp the programme, have a whole new look to the series with a new presenter, and some tweaks to the Big Brother format. Revamping the show, along with the controversy that even having a new series, would create such a fever-pitch buzz that ratings would shoot through the roof.

They’d be mad not to capitalise on the controversy.

This post was filed under: Media.

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