Sunday, 12 January 2020

LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES - WHAT A FABULOUS BUNCH !

What a fabulous choice Labour Party members face as they look for a replacement for the bearded wonder, Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn's ultra-left wing agenda was roundly rejected by the electorate in the recent general election but at least some of the potential candidates to take over at the helm seem to have closed their minds to this. In particular, Clive Lewis seems to be hell bent on running a campaign which could even be more extreme than Corbyn's although his supporters seem to be few and far between. Rebecca Long-Bailey, Corbyn's all but anointed successor, is also an adherent of the same Marxist policies as her mentor but seems to be somewhat more acceptable to her peers, Lord knows why. A vote for Long-Bailey would surely be nothing but a vote for a Conservative victory in 2024 or whenever the next general election takes place.

Whatever Emily Thornberry thinks is probably irrelevant as she appears highly unlikely to attract the support of more than a handful of her fellow MPs and MEPs; clearly, they've rumbled her and realised that her arrogance and snobbery render her an impossible candidate. Jess Phillips, the loud and somewhat foul-mouthed MP for Birmingham Yardley since 2015, has been no supporter of Corbyn and appears to have more support than Thornberry but can anyone really see her as a potential Prime Minister ?

The MP for Wigan since 2010, Lisa Nandy, may not have a particularly high profile but she does appear to be well respected. Her support amongst fellow MPs and MEPs is very similar to that recorded for Long-Bailey and Phillips although she is a very different character. As an opponent of Corbynism, Nandy has apparently spoken well at gatherings of the party faithful and made a very good impression; she actually seems to have the beginnings of a plan for restoring the party to a more sensible and acceptable pathway.

Finally, there's the front runner, Keir Starmer. Starmer has spent the last few years sitting alongside Corbyn on the Labour front bench but now wants everyone to believe that he's not really a 'Corbynista'. It is clear that he's a strong opponent of Brexit and has no record of opposing Corbyn's policies, other than his resignation from a shadow cabinet position in 2016 when there was a significant revolt against the leader. However, his subsequent return to the shadow cabinet suggests that the resignation was far more about positioning himself than about any principals that he may have had. What looks like hypocrisy is backed up by his acceptance of a knighthood in 2014 while apparently wanting the consequential title of 'Sir' to be omitted when he's addressed. A serious case of personal ego conflicting with public persona and career ambitions, perhaps.

What a bunch. Not a statesman, or stateswoman, amongst them, not even a player with any real charisma or political weight. Thank God the choice between them isn't mine to make.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

PRINCE HARRY HAS A SIMPLE CHOICE TO MAKE.

Take one rather naïve Prince, add one worldly wise, strong willed, divorced American minor television celebrity. Mix well with plenty of unrealistic expectations and the usual media attention

What do you get ?

Well, it seems the answer to the question is manifold :

a) a disenchanted couple
b) an angry Royal Family
c) an uncertain future
d) an unholy mess 

While Prince William found the perfect bride in the former Kate Middleton and, as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the couple have done nothing to arouse even the slightest criticism or to cause even the most minor ripple in the lives of the Royal Family, Prince Harry seems to have followed a different path.

In choosing to marry a minor show business personality, Prince Harry may have married for love, but was it wise ? That his bride was American raised the odds against success even further. While the Duchess of Cambridge had a clear understanding of the culture of the United Kingdom and the position of its monarchy, even before her marriage, it appears that Megan Markle did not. Worse, she seems to have had a wholly unrealistic expectation about what marrying into the Royal Family would actually entail - she would not be marrying a man, but an extended family, even a dynasty. Whether Prince Harry, or any other of the Royals, even considered this as a potential issue, we will probably never know. 

Unsurprisingly, once expectation was confronted by reality, things began to go wrong and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are now trying to organise a 'half in, half out' relationship with the Royal Family. Just as other 'unsuitable' Royal marriages - the Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson, Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, Ann and Mark Phillips, Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, to mention but a few - ultimately failed, the truth is that silk purses aren't made out of sows' ears. I have no doubt that the non-Royal spouses were perfectly nice people, but they weren't Royal and didn't fit, for whatever reason. While the Duke and Duchess of Windsor remained together until the ends of their lives, they were ostracized by the Royal Family; the marriages of Margaret and Ann simply failed; although Prince Andrew has apparently stayed on the best of terms with his former wife, Sarah Ferguson has been rejected by the Family. 

The lesson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex surely must be that it's all or nothing - they either are members of the Royal Family or they're not; they can't pick and choose. Rumour has it that both Margaret and Ann wanted to marry men who were considered unsuitable and that both eventually  married 'suitable' husbands under pressure; if that's so, it's hardly surprising that the marriages failed. The Duke of Windsor chose to marry for love and against the wishes of the family and establishment; he suffered the consequences. Prince Andrew may also have married for love but accepted that the marriage had to end if he was to stay as an active Royal, and so the marriage ended. He understood that his family, the foremost family in the country if not in the world, made the rules and had to come first.

We have to believe that Prince Harry also married for love, but his wife has much more in common with Wallis Simpson and Sarah Ferguson than she does with the former Kate Middleton. If history is any guide, either Prince Harry will find himself excluded from the Royal Family or the marriage will end quite quickly. Quite simply, he can't have his cake and eat it.

STOP PRESS !

Having been a prime mover in the creation of this situation, the Duchess, aka Meghan Markle, has decided to run off to Canada, reportedly to be with her son. So firstly, she and her husband came back to England a few days ago but left their very young child in Canada, and secondly, the Duchess can't face up to dealing with the fall out from the mess she's had a major hand in creating.

Despite the fact that the Queen and other senior members of the family are reportedly seeking ways of accommodating the demands of Prince Harry and his wife, this really doesn't look good.





Sunday, 5 January 2020

DEAD MEANS DEAD, NOT "PASSED".

In a film many years ago, Robert Newton's character refers to a remark made by one of his fellow performers about a deceased person by saying that "She did not pass on, pass over or pass out. She died !"

Frank Gibbons, the character played by Newton in the great wartime film "This Happy Breed" was a realist. He didn't believe in hiding the truth or in finding comfortable ways of describing unhappy events. Until recently I thought that this approach to life was the norm, but I was wrong.

In the last year or so, television and film seems to have decided that referring to dying is not a good thing; instead, anyone who dies is referred to as having "passed", whatever this may mean. Is it a nod to the pseudo-religiosity that seems to pervade all corners of our world, or is it  due to some simple fear of death ? Are the words die, died, dead, death and dying no longer considered acceptable in polite society ? Will they soon be discouraged even more strongly for fear that they may be considered frightening to some or may cause offence to the recently bereaved ?

What is this nonsensical lunacy all about ?

Is it something to do with selling programmes and films to the USA, where most of this type of idiocy originates, or is it simply further evidence of the extent to which our own culture and language are being drowned out by the seemingly endless influx of the most appalling language, ridiculous phraseology and verbosity and, worst of all, a mind bogglingly narcissistic and puerile culture from across the Atlantic ?

Whatever the answer, "passed" as a euphemism for "died" is a ridiculous use of language. Dead is dead, nothing more and nothing less.



Monday, 30 December 2019

VAR IS A DISASTER !

The VAR system being used in Premier League football matches is clearly failing, in fact, it's failed and quite miserably.

I thought that it was to be used to help referees in situations in which there were clear and obvious errors; obvious handballs, fouls or offsides that had been missed, or obvious examples of such offences being adjudged to have occurred which were erroneous.

In the event, VAR has become the arbiter of the most marginal decisions, overruling goals, awarding penalties and more, frequently after minutes of consideration and in situations that are nowhere near "clear and obvious". Offsides determined by a matter of fractions of millimetres and goals disallowed as a result. Penalties awarded, or not, by similarly tiny margins.

These decisions are not being taken by the referee and other officials at the matches but by someone sitting in front of a television screen miles, even hundreds of miles, away. It's ridiculous and, as has been said by many respected pundits, the system must be changed.

One hopes that the elephantine bureaucracies of the FA and Premier League will react and that things will improve quickly. One equally doubts that such hopes will be fulfilled any time soon.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ENGLISH CRICKET ?

To start, I don't mean the one day knockabout stuff, I mean real cricket, the game played over 3, 4 or 5 days and the one that needs a bit of genuine ability and application.

Following defeat by New Zealand in the recent 2 match 'series', England have now lost to South Africa in the first of a 4 match series. Captain Joe Root has put the defeat down to a batting collapse in England's first innings, but surely the problem is much more than that.

England started by winning the toss, something usually considered to be a benefit and one that usually results in the winners of the toss batting first, unless there are strong reasons not to. There were no such strong reasons but Root, nonetheless, decided to allow first use of the pitch to his opponents. His bowlers didn't do badly and managed to restrict the South Africans to only 284 runs, a relatively poor score. 

Surely England were now on top, and so it seemed when they reached 142 for the loss of only 3 wickets; whoops, 7 wickets then fell for the addition of only 39 runs and the South Africans had a lead of 103. The gamble of putting South Africa in to bat had failed and England's only chance was to run through South Africa's batting quickly at the second time of asking; this they also failed to do, hampered by having an attack comprised only of seam bowlers and poor strategy.  

The outcome was that England's batsmen were left with the task of scoring 376 runs to win the match, a very substantial target for a 4th innings and many more than anyone had ever managed at the same ground in the past. Unsurprisingly, they failed and lost the match by 107 runs; this time, the score reached 204 for 3 before the last 7 wickets went down for just 64 runs. So much for the first innings collapse being pivotal.

The decision to bowl first was wrong. The bowling strategy was wrong, Not including a recognized spin bowler was wrong. The batting, apart from the first 5 in the order, failed in both innings. However, above all, England lacked leadership. Joe Root may be a good batsman, less so in recent times, but as a captain he lacks the dynamism, vitality and positivity that is needed for such a role. His demeanour on the pitch and in after match interviews is that of a man tortured by his responsibilities; on the pitch he exudes no aura of authority and rarely gives any impression that he's in charge. There is no sign that he's a natural leader and he provides no on-field impetus.

If England are to sort their problems out, they must start with the captaincy. Joe Root is well worth his place in the side as a batsman but he cannot be the captain. Playing a raft of all-rounders is also a poor approach; Stokes, Butler, Bairstow, Curran, Pope - how many more ? They need 5 quality batsmen, a quality 'keeper, one all rounder and 4 main bowlers, exactly as was the case in the past. Quite simply, if 4 front line bowlers can't do the job, why would 5 be any better ? 

Troublingly, the national county championship has been cut to the bone and finding players of the right skills and quality is now far from easy. Given that Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are both at the ends of their careers, it is time to leave them out in favour of the next generation, whoever they may be. For the spin bowling department, Jack Leach, Dom Bess or young Parkinson may be the best available but there must be an effort to change the championship in order to encourage the development of more spinners. 

As for the batsmen, are there no Boycotts or Barringtons out there ? perhaps a Graveney or a Steel, a Thorpe or Gatting, a Gooch maybe ? Our modern bunch simply don't begin to compare even with Strauss, Atherton and Gower, let alone the truly great players of passed years, those who played on uncovered wickets without a vast range of body protection and still managed to far exceed the achievements of today's molly-coddled crowd.

English cricket has lost its way and it needs serious attention. What chance that such attention will be forthcoming while all attention is on the money-spinning knockabout variety of the game ?

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

A CHRISTMAS PUDDING FOR THE GODS !

I suppose most people today buy their Christmas pudding from one or other of the all-encompassing supermarkets; they all get the same bland offering and have no idea of what a real Christmas pudding tastes like, the one enjoyed by the family of Bob Cratchitt, for instance.

My mum always made her own Christmas puddings and I've followed suit. I make them a batch at a time and keep them for years; the older they get, the better they become. This year, my pudding was 12 years old - really, it was made in March 2007. Almost religiously, I've kept it in storage, opening it up every year to add a little bit more brandy before putting it back into the dark recesses of a kitchen cupboard to rest and mature. 12 years of love and attention, 12 years of ageing, it's no different to the ageing of a valued whisky or brandy; it produces wonderful results.

My pudding was exceptional. Black as the Ace of Spades, rich, mouth wateringly beautiful and yet so light that I could have eaten bowlfuls more. It was the stuff of dreams, a nectar for the Gods themselves to enjoy. 

Oh, how I feel for you poor people who have to endure the feebleness of a Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Morrison's or even a Marks and Spencers' pudding; even those who may have partaken of a pudding from Harrods or Fortnums can have no idea of the glory of MY pudding. It was extraordinary, stupendous even. 

My mum would be so proud !




CAUSING OFFENCE OR MURDER - WHICH IS WORSE ?

I am increasingly disturbed by the way in which incidents of so-called racism are being handled, in particular in the sporting arena. Claims are made and instantly reported as if undoubtedly true; 'offenders' not only find themselves banned but subjected to the most strenuous vilification and even criminal action. Is it all either justified or sensible ?

In the first instance, I wonder why such a fuss is made at all, as what this does is to give publicity to the moronic perpetrators; surely this is what they desire above all else. Secondly, words and even actions such as making 'monkey noises', can be open to interpretation and the notion that an offence is committed if the supposed victim feels offended is contrary to common justice or even common sense. I may well feel offended by many things, the BBC and its incessant outpouring of politically correct, left wing propaganda for instance, but I doubt anyone would consider this to be worth taking action over.

Reference to me as being a limey, honky or 'white trash' would draw no condemnation, although even referring to a black man as being a negro might well, and referring to him as being a nigger or wog most certainly would. That mere words have assumed such ludicrous prominence in the minds of our lawmakers says much about our society which now seems more interested in tackling offence than real crime. While stabbings and other murders run riot, our police chase their tails pursuing social misdemeanours, assorted crimes involving 'offence' and a vast range of other 'thought crimes'.

While the police chase people who make 'monkey noises' or say offensive things, there have been 142 murders this year in London alone, the latest today, Christmas Day. People stabbed and shot, in the street, on trains and, today, on their own doorstep. Even in my own fairly quiet midlands area, a teenager was stabbed to death less than a mile from my own front door only a few weeks ago.

While this goes on, the media appears to be full of reports of supposed 'racist' activities at football matches and the police are looking for people who make 'monkey noises'.

Am I alone in believing that our society has its priorities wrong ? Which is worse - being offensive or murder ?