Tag Archives: Daily Mail

Votes for the people, by the people

On the 27th January 2015 as I began to organise my thoughts for this piece, it was 100 days until the election. Already the bun fight has begun, cakes and pastries layered with shale gas, tuition fees, immigration and other issues. The word that seems to be repeatedly being used, issues, issues, issues. I often think it is like a schoolyard scrap, ‘My plans for the NHS are better than yours’, yada, yada, yada.

What appears to be lacking in this debate is a vital ingredient to credibility and that is authenticity. I do wish some of our politicians would take heed from the ancient poet Rumi,

If only people raised their words, instead of voice, it is rain that grows flowers not thunder.

Who to vote for at this stage is a decision of extreme difficulty. I am somewhat apathetic as I look at the parties and what they have to offer. Although I do know for certain one I am not and that is UKIP. I have no desire to be transported back to 1957.

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As I drove across Yorkshire before Xmas, I was startled by the abundance of posters and paraphernalia associated with UKIP that I saw, a surreptitious malignancy that is growing. My friend drove me past rural picturesque scenes, I was immediately reminded of the scene in the magnificent film CABARET, where a young Aryan school boy in Nazi youth attire breaks out into song at a propaganda rally, Tomorrow Belongs to me.

Recently, I found myself in the jewel in the crown of Liverpool’s Bold Street, News From Nowhere. I can always guarantee finding a book that will stimulate my mind, feed my soul and challenge my way of thinking.

On this occasion, I found myself mulling over the political spectrum and how it is exceptionally difficult to see between the different policies, many of the parties seem to converge, with the deviations being unseen by the untrained naked eye. It used to be a simple battle of red versus blue, but now it is not so straightforward.

Yet people are hungry for change, for something more. I do not in any way want to start to sound like Russell Brand. I have always thought of that man as a ‘Brand’. Brand by name and Brand by nature. I still have not forgiven him for recreating the fabulous role of Arthur in the same titled film, ingeniously played by Dudley Moore, in the same way I will never forgive Nicholas Cage for remaking The Wicker Man.

So, on this charcoal grey January day, I stumbled upon a little book of wit that was published in 2010 by Mark Thomas, The People’s Manifesto. The author toured the country to find out what people really wanted out of their elected government in 2009. The book evolved from a live show and I think it is worth reading to stimulate the current political debate. Re-awaken your voting animal!

If we can just cast our minds back to 2009, the world was in the middle of an economic crisis. Banks and countries collapsed, only to then be rewarded generously for the mess of their own making. Thomas asked audiences from all over the country to voice their ideas for policies. He was working on the basis that most people often proclaim that they could run the country. The eclectic mixed bag of written forms were sifted through and then the audiences would vote on the ones that they would like to see put down into the manifesto. The result is this witty, satirical – and often surreal – call to arms.

Some of the policies are exceptionally practical. I particularly liked the proposal to cure the world from the rise of body dysmorphic disorder:

MODELS SHOULD BE CHOSEN AT RANDOM FROM THE ELECTORAL ROLL. THIS OF COURSE WOULD RESULT IN A MORE REALISITIC PORTRAY OF REALITY IN ADVERTISEMENTS.

I was pleased to see that one law has actually been executed, IT SHOULD BE LEGAL FOR GAY COUPLES TO GET MARRIED. After all homosexual couples should suffer the same as married heterosexual couples, it is only just!

As mentioned, some of the laws declared are downright surreal: I do not own a dog and although doggy poop or doggy caramel as I often call it, (to try to detract from the harsh reality of canine roughage) on pavements does anger me, I feel this particular point is somewhat sadistic.

PEOPLE WHO ALLOW THEIR DOGS TO S##T ON THE PAVEMENT WITHOUT CLEANING IT UP SHOULD BE FORCED TO WEAR IT AS A MOUSTACHE.

After seeing too, too many pictures in the newspapers of the elderly battered and bruised by muggers, perhaps this next rule is one that may act as a deterrent:

TO RANDOMLY ARM OAPs

That would cause some surprise to hapless crooks.

There is lots of press at the moment about the minimum wage and zero hours contracts, so I do think that to state THERE SHOULD BE A MAXIMUM WAGE seems fair. Certain points make perfect sense, EVERYONE SHOULD BE GIVEN THE DAY OFF ON THEIR BIRTHDAY. If you think about it even an atheist is given the day of for Jesus’ supposed birthday, one for his death and one for the David Blaine-like trick of coming back from the dead.

My particular favourites in the manifesto are those that the author quite rightly highlights,

…are they really suggesting that managing a banking crisis, a recession, mass unemployment and a massive national debt of around 200 billion doesn’t require their full attention.

And then there is another,

POLITICIANS SHOULD HAVE TO WEAR TABARDS DISPLAYING THE NAMES AND LOGOS OF THE COMPANIES WITH WHOM THEY HAVE A FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIP LIKE A RACING DRIVER.

I have had an innate disliking for the newspaper the Daily Fail for a long time so it was refreshing to discover my gut instinct was right. One of the papers original founders was an anti-Semite who visited Herr Hitler on several occasions and thought the little ball of fury was misunderstood! Lord Rothermere excused the stories of Nazi violence as exaggerated. Therefore, it seems only correct that:

THE DAILY MAIL SHOULD BE FORCED TO PRINT THE WORDS, ‘THE PAPER THAT SUPPORTED HITLER’, ON ITS MASTHEAD.

Whilst on the subject of fascists, I liked the suggestion that ANYONE FOUND GUILTY OF A HOMOPHOBIC HATE CRIME SHALL SERVE THEIR SENTENCE IN DRAG.

I think Putin would look fabulous with a Dame Edna-esque purple rinse and a Gucci dress, being forced to sing From Russia With Love.

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This Manifesto is required reading and works well with a good dosage of the only newspaper worth looking at, Private Eye. I find this satirical rag is also a great way to get a handle on a political story.

Mark Thomas’ The People’s Manifesto is an antidote to the acidic political debate that we are going to see more of until Election Day.

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A sense of belonging

In the coming year, I really want someone to stand up – and I really hope it will be Ed Miliband – to say something along the lines of: I’m a migrant, you’re a migrant, some of my best friends are migrants. Some came as children, some fleeing, others as students. They have brought things to us and have adapted to the ways in which we do things, strange though we have sometimes found each other.

Some of them came further back in the past, to fight alongside us when things were dark. They fought against an ideology that said that some people were made superior by blood and biology and that put millions to death to preserve this nonsensical pseudo-scientific theory of racial purity.

We, the descendents of those that fought together against it, refute that ideology completely. We know that although we are an island, we have never been insular. Rather, our influence has always extended beyond our shores. Our language has travelled around the globe and, despite the fact that our influence has not always been benign, our hope is that our words can become something of a unifier.

What would Britain be without immigration? Perhaps our roads would be muddier and wonkier, our castles made of wood, not stone, and large swathes of it might be forest, not farmland. More recent arrivals have brought food, music and literature: the joys of life. Migrants, their children and grandchildren, have nursed us through sickness, taught our children and built our houses. They serve as magistrates, stand as MPs, read the nightly news. They are as bound into the fabric of our country as a plant from the Americas is to our soil and our diets.

Anybody with any sense can see that strength comes from this, not some outdated, horrendous notion of ‘purity’ or ‘separateness’, but a blending and mixing of backgrounds, experiences and histories that creates a patchwork, linking us to Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. We are joined via great-grandparents who perhaps had to leave or perhaps chose to, and decided to come – perhaps a little reluctantly – to the industrial powerhouse that we were, leaving behind more pleasing scenes that would never entirely leave their hearts.

Perhaps those migrants came because they believed us when we spoke of our love of fair play and justice, of ‘live and let live’. They might have come because we never surrendered, never gave in to the jack-boots, because we fought on the beaches. That makes it even more ridiculous to me that today, the political descendents of those who did take money from fascist dictators, who donned their black shirts and silver flashes, who shouted ‘Death to Jews’ or trumpeted ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’, now seek to convince us that they hold the key to what Britishness is and that they are the keepers of the flame. It is rubbish.

Not our Briton of the Year

Not our Briton of the Year

It doesn’t matter if you drive a white van or a vintage Jag, if you believe that there is a ‘THEY’, who can be ‘SENT BACK’ to some imaginary ‘OVER THERE’ and all problems will be magicked away with them, you are being sold a pup. The problems that afflict our society don’t stem from Europe or the Middle East, or anywhere else. They don’t come from people of a different colour, or religion, speaking a different language to you. They have been caused by mostly old, mostly white, mostly men – certainly greedy – taking more than they are entitled to and leaving the rest of us to fight over the scraps. Migrants didn’t crash the banks, vote to sell off the NHS to healthcare companies they own shares in or spend your money on duck homes or moat cleaning.

We can continue down this road to the end, refuse every visa to every scientist researching medical cures, every student attracted to our universities, break apart more families, close the doors and say no more. Our country would be no richer and certainly far poorer. Or we can draw a line, say no more ground will be given to the racists and nationalists. Of course we need to set criteria, but they will be fairly applied. Of course we need to verify information, but you will be treated with dignity while we do. If you are looking for a base for study, for innovation, for entrepreneurship, to love who you want to, to raise a family in peace and freedom, as so many have done before you, join us. Welcome. We come from many places, but we all belong here.

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They come over here, they buy our handbags

I think it is fair to say that the Daily Mail has an uneasy relationship with foreigners. Not very keen on them remaining in their own countries doing strange things, they are even less fond of the ones that decide to make Britain their home. Warnings about legions of poor migrants from various parts of the world planning to abuse Britain’s hospitality – ‘swamping’ our ‘over-generous’ benefits system and pride-of-the-world NHS in particular – are a staple of the Mail’s journalism.

However, it seems from an article that I read this week that they feel ambivalent even towards those foreigners who arrive in Britain for a very short time, bearing tons of cash that they plan to leave behind in exchange for luxury items. Especially, it seems, when those shoppers are of a particular ethnicity:

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Caption reads: Oriental customers queue outside Selfridges

The accompanying article features brief interviews with (I imagine) fairly atypical consumers – the diplomat’s wife with £10,000 to spend and a young Thai student with a generous allowance from home – in order to ramp up the outrage. What sensible person could contemplate spending thousands on handbags? Shouldn’t students be starving in attics somewhere rather than shopping on Bond Street? run the subtexts. Yet it is in the caption to the photograph that the framing of the story really becomes clear, with the use of the term ‘Oriental’ to describe a group of people waiting to get into Selfridges department store.

The debate over the use of that word to describe people is neatly summed up in this NYU Livewire article, and while you could expect the Daily Mail to be resolute in ignoring what it will no doubt consider ‘political correctness gone mad’, even a brief glance at the Oxford English Dictionary would have told their reporter that:

it tends to be associated with a rather offensive stereotype of the people and their customs as inscrutable and exotic.

When really, of course, what is on display here is nothing of the sort. Stronger currencies in Asia mean that London is a very attractive shopping destination for a large proportion of those consumers usually so dear to the Mail’s heart: the suburban middle-classes. The people in the Mail’s photograph are behaving no differently than the denizens of Surrey and Hampshire did, when hopping over to New York for a weekend on Fifth Avenue, back in the days a decade or so ago when the pound had similar strength.

Rather than pointing out supposed differences, what the Mail’s story shows is that shopping is an international hobby and the  love of a bargain is universal. A more perceptive article would perhaps have dwelled on the irony of Chinese consumers flying miles to spend thousands on supposedly ‘British’ items their compatriots were paid pennies to stitch together or the emptiness of this acquisitive culture. Even the diplomat’s wife, with her five-figure sum to spend, was enjoying saving hundreds in the sales. Thriftiness (of a sort), a love of Britain’s quaint customs (queuing) and tills ringing across London. I would have thought the right-wingers at the Mail would find something in that to smile about, instead of such mean-spirited carping about this particular group of visitors.

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The Daily Mail on those funny foreign types

The UK’s Daily Mail attempted to bring a little light relief on Christmas Eve, via the subject of Japanese dining choices:

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Long-time Japan watchers will no doubt shrug at this well-worn trope, critics of the Daily Heil will note that it has taken them a while to catch up on this story, which must have been doing the rounds for over 20 years.

I suppose there is something to be said for the Mail approaching it from the angle of amusement at those funny foreign types and their ways, instead of the thundering outrage at the death of Christmas which they so readily summon at this time of year.

For the record, while I have never eaten KFC at Christmas in Japan, it is very popular. However, usually with young couples rather than families as Christmas isn’t a holiday or a family event in Japan, that’s saved for New Year’s Eve instead.

ten minutes hate wishes a very Merry Christmas to all readers, wherever you are and whatever you are eating while reading.

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Occupy everything

At first, like Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi, some of us could confess to having had mixed feelings about the Occupy movement.  For me, these may have been caused by distance and time difference getting in the way rather than anything more concrete, although other questions have surfaced about what the protesters stand for and what they could likely achieve.  Still, they seem to be annoying the right people, with Mayor Boris Johnson deriding the London wing of the movement as ‘fornicating hippies’ (ironic given the number of notches on his own bedpost).  Add in almost no-one’s favourite Blackshirt-lovers at the Daily Mail winding themselves up into apoplexy at the apparent emptiness of the tents (at 11pm, hardly a point at which your average protester would be tucked up with the cocoa) and it becomes easier to see the Occupiers as A Very Good Thing.

Mail-baiting aside, however, there are more positives to the movement.  Never has a motley collection of tents garnered so much commentary on what it could all mean and what the outcome could be.  Back to Mr Taibbi, who thinks:

This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one’s own culture, this is it.

I think he is right.  This is a generation up to their eyes in debt, not because they bought eighteen-hundred dollar handbags, because often they needed the cash to cover the essentials.  Such fripperies as a roof over your head, a good education – or in America, healthcare – easily become millstones when the economic dice are so loaded.  I see the Occupy movement as an attempt to reimagine life, to try to envisage a world run for the benefit of the many and then bring it about.

Some have decried Occupy for a focus on the economic, when there are other matters of equal importance, however activist Silvia Federici, interviewed on libcom, notes:

…the economic crisis is bringing to light, in a dramatic way, the fact that the capitalist class has nothing to offer to the majority of the population except more misery, more destruction of the environment, and more war.

Occupations, in this context, are sites for the construction of a non-capitalist conception of society…

Sharon Borthwick, writing in The Commune, highlights another important function of the Occupy London site:

There are all manner of signs, some large ones, intricately written with many paragraphs describing their anti-capitalist message. The message is spreading. Londoners are stopping to read these long missives. They are also stopping in the street to talk to each other about how their lives are being run. They are in dire need of these alternative means of information.

The ‘Big Lie’ currently being peddled is that the responsibility for our ongoing economic woes can be laid almost anywhere except where it really should be planted.  The disinformation is spreading that governments or irresponsible borrowers or the welfare system was somehow to blame for banks deciding to follow a financial model more suitable to a casino.  Now overwhelmingly, it is the elderly, the young and the ill who are paying for the failure of that model, as the ones who created it skip off with the proceeds.  Matt Taibbi again:

People want out of this fiendish system, rigged to inexorably circumvent every hope we have for a more balanced world. They want major changes.

So what could victory look like?  It is difficult to say, since few past movements have even got close.  They have all ended up co-opted, watered down and bought off in the end.  Hopefully this one has a greater chance of success because it is attracting such a broad base, however, that is by no means assured. For now, I think it is enough to have our rulers clearly unsettled by the tents, while they are used to engage in a conversation about what comes next – especially with those who claim not to ‘do politics’ – and to be creating a space where people matter more than money.  To that end, perhaps the message should be moving from that of occupying the individual cities to one of ‘Occupy Everything’.  At this stage, there is little left to lose except our chains.

The other likely ending for any spontaneous movement is, of course, brutal repression.  ten minutes hate will be covering the authorities’ responses to the Occupy sites in another post soon.

Illustration by Barney Meeks

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Imagining the future

Even in a normal year, a lot of news can happen in 10 days.  Unfortunately for someone with intermittent internet connection, 2011 has been far from a normal year, so the last 10 days have seen almost too many events to process.  The US debt deal was cobbled together at the 11th hour, a flat-out Mubarak went on trial in Egypt and things took a further turn for the worst in the Horn of Africa as sensitivity-deficient columnist Liz Jones was sent to cover the disaster by the Daily Mail.

With the attention being constantly prodded in the manner of a TV remote control button by a bored viewer – Libya! America! Syria! Greece! Egypt! Britain! Somalia! – one country which doesn’t like to shout too loud might have slipped from your field of vision.  Yet help is still needed for those living in Japan’s 2,559 evacuation centres as the five-month anniversary of the earthquake approaches.  That their lives have been altered forever is beyond doubt, but how to make a new start remains unclear when the basics are lacking.  Temporary housing is slowly being built, but water supplies are contaminated and the economic future of many small towns is uncertain.  While survivors such as Jun Suzuki are hopeful that they can rebuild:

I wish I can stay in my hometown.  This is where I was born.

Such hopes may not be easily realised.  The affected areas of Japan were not in a position of strength even before the earthquake, as outlined by Christian Dimmer, an urban design specialist, in this article on Imagining an Alternative Future for Japan.    He notes that,

the Great East Japan Earthquake hit hundreds of kilometers of coastline in mostly rural regions with a population of nearly 7 million, 22% of whom were older than 65.

Even before the catastrophic events of March, many of the younger inhabitants of the area had left for jobs and study in Tokyo, leaving the traditional economic bases of agriculture and fishing diminished.  For some communities, rebuilding may prove an impossible task.  Many may never recover.  For others, the immediate need to provide temporary solutions may crowd out attempts to plan for long-term survival, as it is understandably impossible to try to imagine the future when you are living day-to-day.

Faced with such huge questions, alongside so much additional trauma being inflicted worldwide, it is easy to feel powerless.  However, an alternative view is that many of these problems are the result of a delegation of too much responsibility to politicians and vested interests.  If we are going to find a way around them it will take billions of small efforts, made by each one of us, to try to change our futures for the better.  This is something I want to give more consideration to on ten minutes hate soon, so please let me know what you think in the comments below.

In the meantime, you can also donate to projects like Quakebook, which are supporting the work of the Japanese Red Cross to assist those living in the disaster areas.   The DEC page for donations to East Africa is here.

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Disobey on 6 May

Watching the Dailies Mail, Telegraph, Express and the Sun spew rage-fuelled invective across their own front pages this week has been wonderfully exhilarating.  That their attempts to slur Nick Clegg prior to the second leaders’ debate amounted to little more than, in Tabloid Watch’s memorable description, ‘hysterical bawlings from the sidelines’ caused the warm glow that comes from being proved right to reach blistering levels at ten minutes hate HQ.  It was delightful to look on as the rest of the population finally caught up with what Liverpool fans have known for 21 years.

Newspapers lie.

The problem with lying, as your mum probably taught you once, is that eventually it catches up with you.  You start off with the ones about fascists being good chaps, if a bit misunderstood, and eventually it leads you to a place where stories about a live TV debate that contradict the evidence of anyone who actually saw it for themselves seem normal.

The Independent tried to take advantage of the anti-Clegg furore with a cheeky advert stating that ‘Rupert Murdoch won’t decide the election.  You will’.  Apparently this breaks the cosy rule about one newspaper not going after the proprietor of another, the dishonouring of which  caused James Murdoch to pop round to the Indy’s offices to engage in the kind of toy-pram-evacuation manoeuvre which is a gift to anyone within hearing distance with a Twitter account.

As the newspapers in question take a short breather from hysterical ranting, Anton Vowl asks a pertinent question when he wonders if it is them or us who have run out of steam.  While there are promising signs that this election is not going to be the usual handing over of power between two identical political parties, following an ordination of the eventual winner by an Australian media mogul, it must be a remote possibility that they will let go of the levers so easily.

Still, this election is perhaps the best chance we have to fuck up their programme and raise merry hell before they go back to ignoring us for another five years.  So, along with the White Rabbit and Beau Bo D’Or, I urge all ‘people of goodwill’ to engage in some evidence based voting to disobey Rupert Murdoch on 6 May.  After all, he can’t send James round to yell at all of us.

Independent picture thanks to Beehive City

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None of the above

Bless ’em, it seems as if the ‘traditional media’ are struggling to cope with the vagaries of electioneering in these modern interconnectivity-driven times.  First the formerly ‘great ignored’ Nick Clegg gets a 10-point bunk up due largely to appearing on the gogglebox and not coming across as a complete twat.  Then all hell breaks loose, as the Tory-cheerleader press goes apeshit at the thought of Facebook campaigns causing the ‘natural party of government‘ to miss out on the heralded and therefore inevitable coronation, thus unleashing hell against those they used to deride as sandal-wearers.

Call me insanely optimistic if you will, but there does seem to be something in the air to indicate that this year’s poll will not simply be a rubber-stamping of ‘business as usual’ across the next Parliament.  There are websites where you can research what your MP has been up to for the last five years and what might happen on 6 May where you live, campaigns seeking to engineer a hung parliament, or pressing for electoral reform here and here.

If you are of the belief that they are all the same, that ‘none of the above’ is the only viable option, get to the polling station with a marker pen and deface that ballot.  Make damn sure that your refusal to engage is taken for ‘visible and vocal abstention, not apathy‘.  Because after all, as a fellow lover of fine malt whisky once said,

The question nowadays is not what makes government work. The question is how do we make it stop

–P. J. O’Rourke

It is also heartening to note that, in amongst all the new media shenanigans, the old skool medium of egg chucking still getting a look in.  Seems some things will never change, after all.

The tragic remains of the egg following its encounter with Cameron

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I love Migrants

Remember when I wrote this post about the French campaign, a day without immigrants? Well, along with fish and chips, chicken jalfrezi and our own Royal family, this is yet another bloody good idea to make it to Britain from foreign shores.

The ‘I love migrants’ campaign has been developed by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants to outline the facts around migration and help people show their support for people who have come here from elsewhere.  My particular favourite fact is this one:

The British Isles were completely empty until humans returned around 14,700 BCE. The land would by definition have been discovered by a migrant. St George was most likely born in what is now Turkey.

When your Queen, your Saint and your national dish all come from somewhere else, I feel it is time to start embracing your status as a citizen of the world, while junking outmoded nineteenth-century concepts of nationalism.  Now if someone could just explain that to the Daily Heil…
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A blog is for life…

…not just for Christmas.  Right?  Right.

So, it is two weeks to Christmas and you are bored of work.  In a short time you have to spend enforced periods with your nearest and dearest convincing them that you have more to offer than tales of a boring job and an embryonic drinking problem.  With that in mind, let ten minutes hate help by offering a slew of great writing and opinion pieces that you can shamelessly pass off as your own over the turkey this festive season. 

So you got very angry about the Daily Mail, Jan Moir thing.  You emailed everyone you knew to tell them to do something and then, like most sensible people, you moved on.  Unlike the writer of the Enemies of Reason, who instead dives headfirst each day into the immense ocean of shit that is the Mail and the Express and their comment pages, to provide superlative source material for the winding up of Daily Hate-reading relatives, like this post.  

 Then there is markwoff, navel-gazing in the warm surroundings of The Mortal Bath and pondering if responsibility for climate change can, after all, be pinned on ocelots.

Hop out of the bath and head to The Flying Rodent for gems such as this on why right wing-nuttery is a good thing:

Veiled nastiness is devilishly difficult to combat, but open idiocy and naked meanness defeat themselves. The Labour Party have proved that one single-handedly.

On the day I write something so good on here, I will probably close down the site and have it immortalised in bronze for future generations.  Unlikely though. 

If all this political commentary is sitting on your tummy like a million over-cooked sprouts, you should check out Neil’s songs of the year at The Bleeding Heart Show.  Alternatively, if you long for more politics like you long for extra helpings of Christmas pud, check out his explanation of the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend culture of UK political blogging and be astounded.

Or you could try to demonstrate that you have been surviving in the big city on more than Pret sandwiches and late night kebab shop forays by memorising some of DeboraJane‘s recipies and hitting the kitchen when everyone has had enough of turkey.  Only you might want to tell your mum that this one is called something else…

Finally, for commentary on Tiger Wood’s dalliences which doesn’t fall into the temptation of referring to the women involved as ‘birdies’, read Alex Song’s Cultured Right Foot.  Sport journalism so insightful, you could almost forgive him for being a Gunner.  I said almost.

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