Friday, 30 April 2010

The Guardian sells it soul to the Liberal Demons

"Honesty, cleanness [integrity], courage, fairness, a sense of duty to the reader and the community. These are our values."

So what happened to them?

Read the full Guardian editorial here.

UPDATE: 02/05/10  And the Observer follows suit.

Green Party say their voice is 'not being heard'


Prime Ministerial Debate III Liverpool 0

The Great Hall of the University of Birmingham was the splendrous setting for the last in the series of three prime ministerial debates.  David Dimbleby introduced the three party leaders on stage and I fell asleep.

In the meantime, over on Channel 5, I also missed Atletico Madrid knocking Liverpool out of the Europa Cup.  However, I am assured that the magpie seen on the pitch during the first half was the highlight of the game. Had Newcastle been playing it would have been quite uncanny.

Apparently, Fulham has a football team though and they got through to the final, so well done them. What is this Europa Cup thingy, anyway?

My word, that house is well-situated.  Handy little balcony aswell.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Ooh, Matron!

Yes, it will be depressing if the Conservatives win this election but keep this in mind - whovever wins will be so unpopular because of their tax rises and cuts in public services that not only will they lose the following election, they will be out of power for a generation. Almost worth letting them win!

Nurse Osborne may be interested in the Sun's latest carry on, as reported by John Naughton on his online diary. He has come across an email from Jenna Sloan of the Sun that reads as follows:

From: [redacted]
Sent: 27 April 2010 11:15
To: [redacted]

Subject: request from Jenna Sloan, The Sun
If you have relevant information for the media professional concerned
please click this link to reply:

Request deadline: Thursday 29 April, 2010, 4:00 pm
Contact me by e-mail at

My request: I’m looking for a teacher and a nurse to be case studies in The Sun next week.
This is for a political, election feature and both must be willing to say why they feel let down by the Labour Government, and why they are thinking about voting Conservative.

We’ll need to picture them, and also have a chat about their political opinions.
We can pay the case studies £100 for their time.

Please do let me know if you think you can help.

I have this afternoon emailed Ms Sloan for her comments, however an automated out-of-office-until-Tuesday note came back to me.  Mr Naughton concludes:
Is this genuine, I wonder? If so, interesting, ne c’est pas? First of all in terms of the implicit journalistic ’standards’, but also in terms of chequebook journalism. It just shows you what they think of teachers and NHS Staff — assuming that they’d be willing to pimp themselves for £100. Max Clifford’s clients wouldn’t blow their noses for that.

Oh, dear!

The moment Gordon Brown's political soul left his body

Citizens for Undead Rights and Equality

This lot are standing in four constituencies - Hitchin & Harpenden, Twickenham, Doncaster Central and Brighton Pavilion (obviously). One of their manifesto pledges is to permit the marriage of the living and the undead. Still, if they nick some votes off the Greens, they're OK by me.

The CURE's manifesto pledges:
* To give the undead equal rights to the living
* To make cemeteries more comfortable for its inhabitants
* To implement a robust social integreation programme for the undead, curing society of its prejudices
* To increase the minimum statutory retirement age to beyond death
* To permit the marriage of living and the undead

CURE website

Jones ... Miss Grace Jones

A unique collaboration between Grace Jones and Chris Levine is to be shown to the public for the first time at The Vinyl Factory Gallery in Poland Street, London W1 from 30th April until 15th May 2010.

The show will also be used to launch Grace’s new video 'Love You to Life' which Chris Levine directed with Why Not Assc. The two met through Philip Treacy, who was directing Grace’s first live band show in over a decade at the Royal Festival Hall in 2008. The collaboration blossomed and Jones soon asked Levine to create some original laser work for her tour, one highlight of which was a high-beam laser shone directly onto Grace’s Swarovski crystal bowler hat designed by Philip, showering the entire audience in shards of light.

Simon Hattenstone interviews Miss Jones in the Guardian:

At 10.03pm the doors burst open. A huge trunk is carried in. Then another. And another. Jones has brought her entire wardrobe – and then some. It turns out she stopped at her favourite Issey Miyake store on the way – they opened up specially so she could raid. "Finally!" she says, looking round the room as if we're the ones who have kept her waiting all these hours.
And on Gaga:
Is she talented? "I wouldn't go to see her." So, did she ask to play with her? "Yes, she did, but I said no. I'd just prefer to work with someone who is more original and someone who is not copying me, actually."

Read the full Guardian interview here.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

£10bn profit for taxpayers after surge in shares of bailed out banks

The taxpayer is sitting on a profit of close to £10bn on its stakes in Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group after a surprise surge in their share prices. The shares in both banks have risen sharply in recent days and outperformed the wider market amid signs that the banking crisis is coming to an end and that their bad debts have peaked.

Alistair Darling tonight claimed his bailout of the banking sector had been justified after analysis by the Guardian showed a sizeable paper profit had opened up – once recently disclosed fees paid to the government are taken into account.

RBS shares have jumped 75% in little more than two months and a £26bn combined loss on both stakes at the end of last year has now been reversed to a profit of £9.4bn. The Guardian has calculated that the profit on the 84% stake in RBS tonight stood at £7.4bn while the taxpayer's 41% share in Lloyds was worth almost £2bn more than the Treasury paid for it.

Read the full Guardian article here.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Stephen Hawking slobbers out another sentence

Aliens almost certainly exist but humans should make every attempt to avoid them, he says.

Oh, OK Stephen, I'll do my best, now finish your Weetabix, love.

Get real, Nick




Pope to meet Tony Blair and Susan Boyle

This week's papal blessing goes to the Foreign Office employee who let slip a memo listing suggestions to mark the forthcoming visit to the UK of Pope Benedict XVI in September.

Suffer the little children to come unto me

Entitled "The ideal visit would see...", the paper proposed the launch of  "Benedict-branded" condoms and that the Pope be invited to open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage. Furthermore, he should sack all the "dodgy bishops" and launch a helpline for abused children, having first apologised for the Spanish Armada and recorded a song with the Queen for charity. "Positive" public figures who could be made part of the Pope's visit, included Tony Blair and Susan Boyle along with those who were considered "negative" public figures such as Wayne Rooney and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins.

The paper was attached as one of three "background documents" to a memo dated 5 March 2010 inviting officials in Whitehall and Downing Street to attend a meeting to discuss themes for the papal visit. Foreign Secretary David Miliband is said to have been "appalled" by its contents. The UK's ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Campbell, has met senior officials of the Holy See to express regret on behalf of the government. The document was obtained by the Sunday Telegraph.

The junior civil servant responsible has been put on other duties.

The Holy Church of Global Warming

This appeared on for a couple of hours this morning, before they decided it wasn't actually a piece of Green electioneering at all.  Amusing nonetheless [click to enlarge].

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Cameron targets north-east and Northern Ireland for spending cuts

David Cameron sparked a fresh row on public spending last night when he indicated that the north-east of England and Northern Ireland may face a squeeze under the Tories. In a move condemned by Labour as "alarming", the Tory leader said the state's share of the economy was too big in some parts of the country.

"In Northern Ireland it is quite clear – and almost every party accepts this –that the size of the state has got too big," Cameron told Jeremy Paxman in an interview on BBC1. We need a bigger private sector. There are other parts of the country, including in the north-east. The aim has got to be to get the private sector, to get the commercial sector going. Over the next parliament we have got to see a faster growing private sector, we've got to broaden our economic base and we need to have a rebalancing of the economy between the commercial and private sector on the one hand and between the state sector on the other."

Read the full Guardian article here.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Prison population at record high

The prison population in England and Wales has reached a record high, exceeding 85,000 for the first time. There are currently 85,076 inmates, compared with 84,897 in March. If the rise continues at that rate, the total will surpass 85,700 by the end of June.

There are still 2,000 places left so watch it!

The increase is likely to be partly due to the phasing out of the early release scheme, which allowed some inmates to be let out 18 days early until 9 April. The government is damned if numbers go up and damned if they go down.

The BNP call for an end to immigration from Muslim nations

The British National Party (BNP) have called for an end to immigration from Muslim nations, saying that this presents a "deadly threat" to the UK. The pledge is contained in the party's election manifesto, launched by party leader Nick Griffin in Stoke.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned?

The BNP also plan to give grants to encourage some UK residents to return to "their lands of ethnic origin". They recently changed their whites-only membership policy after it was ruled unlawful by the courts. Opponents say they are extreme and their policies divisive. The BNP is targeting Stoke, where they currently have a number of city councillors and a number of other constituencies as they seek to get their first MP elected to Westminster.

Although they had two MEPs elected to Brussels in last year's European Parliament elections, they received less than 1% of the national vote in the 2005 UK general election. The BNP are campaigning on a platform of curbing immigration, only allowing new migrants in "exceptional circumstances" and pledging to deport all illegal immigrants. Mr Griffin said his party would support "decent settled minorities who accept that Britain should remain British". The party has previously said Islam is incompatible with modern secular democracy.

Among other pledges, the BNP wants to leave the European Union, withdraw British troops from Afghanistan and abolish regional development agencies and other quangos. It calls for restrictions on imports from China to help protect jobs in British manufacturing and avert "economic disaster".

The Marmite Party - love it or hate it
It all started when Unilever featured the spoof 'Hate Party' in a Marmite advert. The BNP, assuming this was a reference to them, followed up with a broadcast of Nick Clegg and a jar of Marmite. Unilever issued a statement saying:

"It has been brought to our attention that the British National Party has included a Marmite jar in a political broadcast shown currently online. We want to make it absolutely clear that Marmite did not give the BNP permission to use a pack shot of our product in their broadcast. Neither Marmite nor any other Unilever brand are aligned to any political party. We are currently initiating injunction proceedings against the BNP to remove the Marmite jar from the online broadcast and prevent them from using it in future."

The BNP have retaliated by saying it was complaining about Unilever to the police, Electoral Commission, Independent Television Authority and Advertising Standards Authority.

The little Britain of small-minded Conservatives

The Conservatives shed doubt on Gordon Brown's claim that he had nothing to do with the Labour leaflets being handed out in the north of England.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Prime Ministerial Debate II

Well, Gordon won that, clearly.


Manchester United stalk Gareth Bale (and who can blame them)

The Daily Express reports that Gareth Bale is one of Manchester United's prime summer targets with an offer of £20 million on the cards. Handsome Harry Redknapp fought off advances from Manchester City and Inter Milan last year and they're still monitoring Bale, but he may be hard pushed to refuse such a sum from United.

United first wanted to sign Bale as a 17-year-old from Southampton and Welsh legend Ryan Giggs even tried to persuade him to go to Old Trafford. At the time, however, Bale was fearful he would not get enough first-team chances and instead chose to sign for Spurs for a fee of £5m, rising to £10m. A serious ankle injury cut short his first season and he struggled to make much of an impact when manager Redknapp joined in October 2008. Although a left-back, Bale has looked equally comfortable on the left wing for Spurs.

Spurs travel to Manchester on Saturday hoping to clinch fourth spot. Champions League qualification would represent their best chance of being able to afford to turn down United and convince Bale to stay at White Hart Lane.

How the Tories are screwing it up

You could be forgiven for thinking that there was an unofficial contest taking place on the right at the moment to see who can give David Cameron the single most dud piece of advice. Nuke China! Replace police chiefs with politicians! Make Israel the centrepiece of your foreign policy attack on Nick Clegg in the next debate! Use George Osborne more! Actually, I made one of those up, admits Christopher Montgomery in the Guardian. I made up the one involving using the shadow chancellor more in a general election taking place during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. No one has called for that.

Osborne sums up everything that is wrong with Cameron's approach to leadership: he's not sinuous; he's not tough; he's not realistic; and he's not self-confident enough to reach out beyond a tiny, self-supporting clique. If he was any one of those things, let alone all four of them, Osborne would have been sacked years ago. Instead of being the gaping hole at the heart of the Tory campaign – as unable to land economic blows on Labour as he is to run a '40% campaign' – Cameron should have long ago replaced Osborne with someone capable of helping win an election.

Whatever Cameron's character failings, I keep coming back to the bad advice. Much as he keeps getting it. The latest idiocy is to attack Clegg on his expenses. Really? The one party leader whose immediate family directly benefitted from the expenses scandal – some of Cameron's colleagues spent their taxpayer-funded lolly in Cameron's mother-in-law's high-end tat shop – is going to go down this path? If Cameron really is foolish enough to say to Clegg, "you're as bad as I am", what does he think Clegg's going to say in reply? "When did you know your shadow cabinet colleagues were spending public funds in Oka, and why didn't you stop them?" would be my guess, but I suppose we'll see during the next television debate.

Read the full Guardian article here.

Bryan Ferry | Mamouna


Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Cameron under fire for youth group denial

David Cameron came under fire today after he claimed he knew nothing about a controversial Tory youth group which has trained some of the party's parliamentary candidates, despite its leaders describing the NHS as "the biggest waste of money in the UK" and suggesting that waterboarding of prisoners can be justified.

Despite the YBF's rally being held in Commitee Room 10 of the House of Commons on Wednesday 3rd March 2010 between 14:00 and 18:00, David Cameron doesn't know anything about them

In an interview in Time Out magazine, Cameron denied all knowledge of the Young Britons' Foundation, which has been called "the Conservative madrasa". Conservative HQ promotes YBF-run training courses for young Tory activists. Several members of Cameron's team, including shadow defence secretary Liam Fox, addressed a YBF rally last month and at least 11 prospective Tory candidates have been delegates or speakers at training conferences run by the YBF. The group's leader, Donal Blaney, has taken Conservative activists on training courses in the US which include sessions shooting semi-automatic weapons and machine guns.

Asked if it was true that prospective candidates had been trained by the YBF, Cameron said: "No, I don't think so. I don't know anything about the Young Britons' Foundation." When told the YBF claims on its website that it trains Tory members at official party conferences, Cameron said: "I've no idea about this."

The party's link to the YBF was front page news last month and last night Labour said Cameron's denial was "unbelievable", calling for him to "come clean" about his party's involvement with the YBF. A spokesman for Cameron declined to answer questions about his depth of knowledge of the organisation, but confirmed it has "been involved with some Tory candidates". He added: "The YBF is independent of the party. We do not endorse their views."

David Cameron's 'Big Society' crashes on the doorstep

A series of anxious shadow ministers have warned the Tory leadership in private that David Cameron's central general election message – devolving power to create a "big society" – is crashing on the doorstep as candidates struggle to explain the idea to voters, writes Nicholas Watt in the Guardian.

It's all about me, me, me

Criticism is focusing on Steve Hilton, the director of strategy, and Oliver Letwin, the shadow cabinet policy co-ordinator, who were the main brains behind last week's Tory manifesto. "Oliver Letwin had this great 'big society' idea, though it might have been an idea to share it with the rest of us," one normally loyal shadow minister said. "People don't really follow Oliver's philosophical discourse." Another shadow minister echoed this criticism. "The 'big society' needs to be turned into more practical, voter-friendly language. We need to turn Oliver Letwin's Hegelian dialectic into voter friendly stuff."

"The 'big society' is bollocks," said a third Tory source. "It is boiled vegetables that have been cooked for three minutes too long. It tastes of nothing. What is it?"

Tories are agreed that it would be wrong for Cameron to embark on the sort of lurch to the right that destroyed William Hague's leadership. They say that the 'big society' strategy is right but needs to be illustrated with specific policy proposals. The leadership appeared to respond to these criticisms by unveiling a hardline poster featuring the party's policies to crack down on benefit cheats. "Let's cut benefits for those who refuse to work," the poster says next to a picture of Cameron. Tim Montgomerie, the founder of the ConservativeHome wesbite, wrote: "It's good to see the party getting specific about what 'change' means."

One senior figure said: "The project is all about Dave. So if he succeeds it is about him. But if he fails it is about him." The source was clear about what would happen if Labour and the Lib Dems formed a coalition in a hung parliament to push through electoral reform. "By then we would have murdered our leader and his head would be on a stake. The last week shows how thin our support was. There is no great enthusiasm for Cameron."

'The ultimate fulfilment of the New Labour mission'

That is how one senior Labour figure described the prospect of a Lib/Lab deal in the event of a hung Parliament, writes Nick Robinson in his BBC blog. It's the clearest sign yet that Gordon Brown and his team are preparing to woo Nick Clegg, having either ignored or belittled him in the recent past.

There is one big problem with this plan though: it is Gordon Brown himself and the history of his dealings with the Lib Dems. Paddy Ashdown has always blamed Brown for scuppering the deal he spent many hours discussing with Tony Blair. It was one reason Ashdown turned down Brown's invitation to join his government in 2007. Similarly, Nick Clegg has sour memories of his conversations with the prime minister on expenses reform and much besides. Both men regard Mr Brown as a Labour tribalist who thinks the Lib Dems should simply pack up shop and join what he regards as the anti-Tory forces.

Interestingly, friends of Gordon now dispute this version of history, insisting that their man was never opposed to electoral reform - nor indeed to a referendum on it. They blame the Lib Dems for overreaching themselves in the late 1990s by insisting that they would only accept one system of proportional representation - what's known as AVplus as opposed to AV, which the Labour party is now holding out on offer. But the Lib Dems do not want to be seen as completing anyone else's mission; given their poll ratings, they now believe that they can achieve their own.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Nick Clegg: the early days (gripping stuff)

Every Wednesday lunchtime when parliament is sitting, Nick Clegg gets to his feet in the Commons and asks questions of the prime minister in his role as 20th leader of the Liberals. A quarter of a mile away and a quarter of a century earlier, the teenage Clegg spent the same mid-point of the week at Westminster school's lunches in honour of one of liberalism's founders, John Locke.

"I still feel the utter liberation of it," Clegg told the Guardian this week, trying to pinpoint the moment that shaped his political beliefs. "Going to school in the middle of London, it was precocious and astonishing."

Today a photograph emerged of a young Clegg at Westminster school with his hand in his pocket, just as he stood in the TV debate last week when millions of voters started to listen to him for the first time. He was eyeballing the camera again, just as he did last Thursday. Precocious and astonishing.

Read the full Guardian interview here.

Banks to be taxed twice to pay for future bail-outs

Banks and other financial institutions face paying two taxes to pay for future bail-outs. BBC business editor Robert Peston said that the proposals by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were "more radical" than had been anticipated. All institutions would pay a flat-rate levy and also face a further tax based on profits and pay. 

The measures are designed to make banks pay for the cost of future financial and economic rescue packages. "The proposals are likely to horrify banks, especially the proposed tax on pay," Peston said. "They will also be politically explosive both domestically and internationally."

Is Nick Clegg the new Obama?



Women behaving badly are causing the earth to shake

A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.  Iran is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, and the cleric's unusual explanation for why the earth shakes follows a prediction by the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that a quake is certain to hit Tehran and that many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate.

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Women in the Islamic Republic are required by law to cover from head to toe, but many, especially the young, ignore some of the more strict codes and wear tight coats and scarves pulled back that show much of the hair. "What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?" Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon last week. "There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes."

Seismologists have warned for at least two decades that it is likely the sprawling capital will be struck by a catastrophic quake in the near future. Some experts have even suggested Iran should move its capital to a less seismically active location. Tehran straddles scores of fault lines, including one more than 50 miles long, although it has not suffered a major quake since 1830.

Tories nominate for honours two business leaders who attacked Labour

Two of the prominent businessmen who helped lead the charge against Labour's rise in national insurance have been nominated to become working peers by the Conservative party. Simon Wolfson and Anthony Bamford were among the high-profile signatories to a letter supporting the Tory proposal to scrap the increase – a move that left Labour flatfooted and gave the Tories an early advantage at the start of the general election campaign. The peerage nominations have been accepted by the appointments commission and will be announced imminently. But the disclosure is bound to raise questions over the party's continued interest in appointing prominent donors and supporters as working peers.

Read the full Guardian article here.

Brian Eno at the Brighton Festival

Being a life-long fan of Roxy Music, I was thrilled to hear of this year's choice for artistic director of the Brighton Festival. Brian Eno began his career as a visual artist and has always been interested in the synthesis of sound and image. 77 Million Paintings is an ever-evolving, audio-visual installation that continues this creative exploration.

Brian Eno does his Neil Tennant impersonation

The artwork was originally conceived in 2006 as the next evolutionary stage in Eno's fascination with the aesthetic possibilities of 'generative' software. It offered infinite, non-linear 'visual music' for the idle screen. Since then Eno's vision has been transformed into a major gallery experience, shown across the world from the Venice Biennale and Milan Triennale to Tokyo and San Francisco.

I've actually turned this on its side for all the difference it makes

Eno's hand-drawn images are cut up, rearranged and realigned to produce limitless variations. Completely random, entirely original and constantly mutating, the results come to life on luminous screens in a brilliant display of colour, shape and form. To complete the experience, layers of ambient sound interweave to create a similarly morphing soundscape.

Wed to Sat: 12.00-17.00; Sun: 14.00-17.00 until 23rdMay.
From 1st May, 12.00-20.00 throughout the Festival.
Open until 23.00 on Saturday 1 May and Saturday 15 May.
Free of charge. Fabrica, 40 Duke Street, Brighton BN1 1AG

Monday, 19 April 2010

This week's 'Memo from Mandy'

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so I welcome George Osborne following in our footsteps with these campaign memos. But I notice in his latest one yesterday he began with the line, “It’s been another great week for our campaign”. Keep it up, George!

And my bet is that most people will not follow through on their current flirtation with Nick and the LibDems. Why?

Three reasons: first, voters will be reluctant to embrace a party that would cut tax credits, scrap Child Trust Funds and even offer an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Second, a hung parliament may seem attractive to some but it may give disproportionate power to a small party holding the balance of power and bring its own danger. Important legislation, for example on fighting terrorism which the Lib Dems are likely to oppose, would be difficult to get through.

And third, in these uncertain economic times, we need a strong, centred and united government – not one that might be rocked from side to side by Lib Dems chopping and changing their point of view. I am not against coalition government in principle ... and for Britain, anything would be better than a Cameron-Osborne government. But a two party government may not be so stable without a single big unifying challenge facing it.

There’s another consideration for those tempted to vote Lib Dem because they want political change. The only party offering the real deal – radical reform of the Commons and Lords and the chance to vote for a new, fairer voting system – is Labour. If you vote Lib Dem and, in doing so, help the Tories win in those hundred or so Labour/Tory marginals where the election is going to be decided, that’s going to deliver the status quo, not change in our political system.

Voting for the Lib Dems means settling for second best, or worse. Getting the Tories in power would mean policies that de-rail the economy’s recovery and turn our public services into a do-it-yourself wish-list from which the well-off could afford to opt out and everyone else would have to put up with the consequences.

To switch to the Tories before our policies have succeeded fully in lifting Britain out of the recession would risk tipping Britain back into rising joblessness. And having to negotiate policies with the Lib Dems would likely blunt rather than sharpen our performance.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Just another weekend in the Premiership

On Friday afternoon, Arsenal defender and planetpmc favourite Thomas Vermaelen was ruled out for for the rest of the season after suffering a calf injury in Wednesday's 2-1 defeat by Tottenham. The Belgian international hobbled off after twenty minutes at White Hart Lane and was replaced by Mikael Silvstre. Arsenal had initially expected the 24 year old to play again before the end of the current campaign but Gunners boss Arsene Wenger confirmed on Friday that "Vermaelen's season is over." Vermaelen has missed only one league game, through suspension, since joining Arsenal from Ajax last summer.

Saturday lunchtime brought all the drama of a Manchester derby - or not. Paul Scholes gave Manchester United the points with a free header in the third minute of stoppage time and that's as exciting as it got.  This most eagerly awaited of derbies served to prove that Manchester is no longer where it's at.

Manchester City 0 - 1 Manchester United
Come teatime and Chelsea took a hammering; they don't half sulk when they're not getting their own way.  And what was Ancelotti thinking of, using up all his substitutes by the time the second half had started?!  Joe Cole was miserable, Drogba hard done by (but, it has to be admitted, remained upright for most of the game) then joy of joys ... John Terry was sent off!  Oh, how we laughed.

Spurs 2 - 1 Chelsea
Wigan beat an half-hearted Arsenal 3-2, Arsene Wenger blaming his players' lack of discipline for losing a 2-0 lead.  On-form Villa dealt with Portsmouth efficiently, beating them 2-1 at Fratton Park. Liverpool's Fernando Torres went under the knife on Sunday evening to repair cartilage torn during Liverpool's 4-1 win over Benfica in the Europa League quarter-final second leg at Anfield on 8 April. He will miss the rest of the Reds' season, but hopes to return in time for Spain's opener against Switzerland on 16 June.

Liverpool went on to beat West Ham 3-0 at a much-depleted Anfield, probably the result of Norwegian and Irish fans being unable to fly there due to the volcanic ash cloud. They didn't miss much. We look forward to the UEFA semi-finals with much disinterest. The pubs must be gutted.

Album of the Month

Weller's new album's relentless vigour is exhausting but he strikes gold all over again * * * * *

Modlike and Godlike, ‘Wake Up…’ shows just how lucky we are to have Weller.  NME

"Once I was a man, my cock as hard as wood."

As the title of one instrumental has it, Whatever Next?  ***** 

Warhol self-portrait up for auction

The self-portrait, valued at $10-15m (£6.5-9.7m) and about 2.7 sq metres, was produced in 1986 and at the time Warhol's dealer, Anthony D'Offay, was quite taken aback by it. "When D'Offay saw the paintings he said they were too scary, too prophetic. He was worried about Warhol not being well," said Meyer. As it turned out, Warhol died unexpectedly the following year.

"Don't see it as a self-portrait, see it as a disaster painting. This is a ghost."

There are five in the series. The yellow, blue and green ones are in museums and the privately-owned red one is unlikely to come to market any time soon. I'll start the bidding at one copy of the Green Party's manifesto.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Clegg emerges as the silver lining for the Lib Dems

Not exactly the calm after the storm today as the cloud of volcanic ash continues to threaten northern Europe and the airports remain closed; meanwhile, political correspondents are ejaculating left, right and centre over Nick Clegg's performance in the Prime Ministerial Debate last night - they must have been watching a different channel because I only remember him being slightly more competent than he is during PMQs. The polls are all over the place and we have no idea if they represent voting intentions or just the punters's delight at seeing their preferred choice of leader being smiled at by Gordon the honey monster.

A staggering 250 people joined the Lib Dems after the show

But what about Dave's "Big Society"?  Not a mention!  No sooner than it's been announced - gone!  And Gordy didn't get in a dig about inheritance tax.  Throughout the show, ITV had a live 'worm' poll on its website tracking real time likes and dislikes of the three leaders.  At no time did Dave get above 18%, while the other two were battling it out for the lead, wavering between 40 and 42% alternately.  Yet a poll for the Sun newspaper, carried out after the TV debate, pushed Labour into third place on 28%, with the Lib Dems on 30% and the Conservatives 33%. They must have been gutted however when the BBC applied these results to their "swing-o-meter" as it gave: Labour 276 seats; Conservatives 245 seats; Lib Dems 100 seats; and Others 29 seats at a general election.

You'll never walk alone, much
On any other Friday, the news of a football club the size (both financially and famously) of Liverpool being put up for sale would have filled the newsrooms with puns and pundits the whole day long, sending the markets into a frenzy lasting over the whole weekend, opening nervously on Monday morning to assess the havoc wreaked. However, on this occasion, I didn't even hear about it until 4.00 in the afternoon upon checking my mobile as I stopped for a fag before embarking on the weekend shop in Waitrose (I still don't get £130 for four dinners).

Gillett and Hicks have appointed the British Airways chairman, Martin Broughton, to oversee the process and become the new independent chairman with immediate effect [just aswell he wasn't doing anything - Ed]. Hicks and Gillett are understood to have agreed a six-month extension to their re-financing deal with their existing bankers, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia. There have also been reports of a three-year, £300m re-financing package with Barclays, denied by Anfield officials and sources close to the Americans. The Americans have consistently made it clear they value Liverpool in the £500m bracket and recently allowed a deadline to pass from the Rhône Group on their offer to purchase a 40% stake for £110m. Despite interest from several parties since managing director Christian Purslow launched his search for new investors last year, the Rhône Group are the only party to have made an official bid so far.

You can run but you can't hide

All this means that Gillett and Hicks don't have to pay back £100m by July, so Gerrard and Torres stay - for now. However, Agger may well have to attend the planetpmc summer bootcamp in order to re-acquaint himself with some good old-fashioned discipline [do what?! - Ed].

Hot air

Peter Brookes, the Times

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Volcanic ash halts all UK flights

All flights in and out of the UK have been suspended as ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland moves south. Safety body Eurocontrol said up to 4,000 flights across northern Europe had so far been affected by the cloud. The Air Traffic Control Service (Nats) said no flights would be allowed in or out of UK airspace until 1800BST amid fears of engine damage. The airspace restriction was the most significant in living memory, a spokesman said.

Cue 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall'

Experts have warned that the tiny particles of rock, glass and sand contained in the ash cloud would be sufficient to jam aircraft engines. But the Health Protection Agency said the ash did not pose a significant risk to public health because of its high altitude.

On Caroline Lucas, hopefully

Fair is worth fighting for

And so it's the Green Party's turn to entertain us with their manifesto. Plans include the introduction of a 'living wage' of around £37 an hour, a free post office on every street corner, free healthcare for the whole of Europe [no change there, then - Ed], the creation of a million jobs, free social care for everybody and on and on, fantasy after fantasy, joke after joke; it's a laugh a minute. It's all here, in a BBC nutshell, the quicker you read it the better for it matters not. I thank you.

Even the vegetables are laughing

Shed a tear for the BNP

If the thought of Nick Griffin kissing babies in the run-up to the election makes you feel sick, you could shed a tear for the BNP this morning - their candidate for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, Edward Holmes, has hit out at the ‘thugs’ who sent a blood covered hate effigy to his home. Mr Holmes, former chairman of Ashfield District Council and a former Labour councillor, found the toy rabbit hanging from his garden fence at his home over the Easter bank holiday weekend. The effigy was a Christian cross with a stuffed toy nailed to it and a picture of his face with blood smeared across it.

Mr Holmes immediately reported the hate crime to police and believes it was an attempt to stop him from standing as the party’s candidate in the general election. "This was particularly nasty because I am an active Christian and someone linked this with my membership in the BNP and the Easter weekend. I am more determined than ever to stand — the low life thugs who are carrying out these acts of intimidation will not prevail,” he said.

A Christian in the BNP?!  You'll be telling me next there are homosexuals in the Conservative Party. Oh, wait ...

Aston Villa 2 - 2 Everton


Tottenham Hotspur 2 - 1 Arsenal

I thought Harry's wig was going to fall off.  The noise at White Hart Lane was deafening before Danny Rose scored the goal of the season (so far).  Yet, although the night belonged to Spurs, the anti-night haunted Wenger once again with another injured player having to retire.  My joy at seeing van Persie return later in the match could not compensate for the sight of Vermaelen limping off the field.  Not him and Ramsey, surely?  Hmmm, Vermaelen and Ramsey ... [continued elsewhere - Ed]

No mass debate jokes here, thank you

On the eve of the historic first ever television debate (to be held at that shrine to northern glamour, Granada Studios in Manchester), David Cameron has condemned the strict rules and format that have been thrashed out over weeks of negotiations between all three parties and the broadcasters.

Potentially the most entertaining part of the evening

Dave's worried "that we may have ended up with a format that's going to be a bit slow and sluggish. So I may be wrong. I hope the public won't feel short-changed … I think we've got to make sure the public feel they're getting their questions answered." Labour rounded on Cameron, asking why he was questioning the very rules that his own communications team had negotiated. One senior Labour official said: "This is typical of Cameron; he agrees some rules and then pretends he has had them foisted on him so he can look like he is the public's friend."

A different stance altogether saw Cameron announcing on BBC Radion London that Boris Johnson would be running for the 2012 London Mayoralty contest rather than chasing Cameron for the leadership of the Tories. All news to Boris, apparently. Then there's the two former Tories who have crossed over to Labour in a row over gay rights. Anastasia Beaumont-Bott, the former head of David Cameron's gay campaign [his what?], accused the Conservatives of an "elaborately executed deception" on gay policy, while David Heathcote said he had also quit the party after two years and joined Labour because he felt let down [oh, get a grip, man!].  At 20, Anastasia will be a useful addition to the ranks, thought the children's minister.

And I can't help wondering what's happening to all the good work Caroline Lucas does in Brussels while she spends a month campaigning in Brighton.  Mind you, I suppose there's only so many pixies you can save from carbon emissions.

Oh yes, the Lib Dems unveiled their manifesto this morning. Thanks for that.