Saturday, December 31, 2005

The sound of knives sharpening.

OK, think of a gadget that changed the world. Is it here? I'm afraid I owned far more of these than I would wish to admit to. Anyone want a betamax video recorder and a couple of tapes?

Friday, December 30, 2005

Warley Woods, Bearwood, Sandwell
Behind the smiley faces of the Cameron Crew, this bunch are still around in the background. I hope His Bobness can square the circle of Capitalism - The most effective system of wealth creation. Free markets are blind to gender, race, class or religion. or "currency exchange rates determined by the free market..." or "Deregulation, Domestic and global – to maximise freedom of choice and individual responsibility in an improved society." Compassionate Conservatism, my arse.
Tom Watson describes 2005 as the year of the ipod. Well, maybe it is, but..... Sociologists will talk for ever now of the iPod generation, solipsistic, introverted, used to demanding and getting their own, customised version of everything. Combine this with a society made up of people whose sensitivity chips have been removed and you are headed for serious trouble.

Forget TINA.
Regardless of what we are told by the guardians of economic and political power, there is an alternative.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Recently revealed Cabinet papers show that Harold Wilson wanted to nationalise the breweries. "Much local resentment is caused when a local brewery is taken over by one of the anonymous national breweries thus reducing the choice - and often the quality - of beers available," he wrote. Unfortunately he was only writing to Shirley Poppins, but still, bless him, and I take back all those things I said about you, Harold (well, most of them).

It takes a desperate man to sing a desperate song.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Vote for who you like... the IMF will still win. Iraq will not be sovereign or independent in the near future, even if President Bush says so. The country’s financial future will instead be dictated by a new colossal economic occupation, complete with ground forces, tanks, foreign military bases and the like -- all thanks to the United States, Britain and the IMF.
Recovering from an all-day session on Timothy Taylors 'Landlord' this morning and I watched the highlights of last July's Live 8 concert on TV. One of the most moving moments for me was when Geldof introduced Birhan Woldu. This is from this morning's Guardian: "But I'll end with this truth. Although I am exhausted and bone weary in every sense, all of those 20 years of boring you and myself to death about this stuff would have been worth it for a single life. For just one person, it's been worth it - Birhan Woldu. When we saw that little scrap of humanity on The Cars' film 20 years ago during Live Aid, when we saw that silent scream, the soundless agony of that tiny thing, when the phone lines collapsed with pity for her - and then to see her now, beautiful, dignified, elegant, intellectual, dynamic, hopeful; a young woman worried about passing her agricultural exams on the Live8 stage, then I really, properly mean this: all of it was worth it for just her. For that single life. And in her is everything every person is and can be and must be allowed to be, and therefore every death, every loss is a great loss, an incalculable loss, a diminishment, an impoverishment.

This year, all of you started keeping 5 million Berhan people in east Africa alive. Not bad. Not bad at all."

Of course, if you want to, you can always sit on the sidelines and snipe whilst you play with yourself.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

An old mate of my has got his job back after a piece of personal vindictiveness led to his unfair dismissal. Good on yer, Mick, it just goes to show that sometimes the good guys do win! I hope you and Susanna have a good one this Xmas and I'll catch up with you in the New Year.
Thanks to Skuds for this link.

It's a website which enables you to in put a photo of yourself and using face recognition software it compares you to a celebrity.

So, I fed in this photo:

And it said the closest celebrity to me was… Kevin Spacey.

Not sure Kevin will be telling his mates down the pub though! As Skuds says… more work needed here.

Have a good Xmas everyone.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Remember what Tom Watson told you... vote Lib Dem... get Tories! The Lib Dems continue to pave the way for a Hemming-style Tory-Lib pact. If Mr Cameron is as good as his word, and the Conservative Party does change and become genuinely “liberal”, there should be nothing to prevent an electoral pact with the Tories.

Of course, Charlie doesn't want to deal with the Tories. That's easily resolved. Get shut of Charlie. The Leb Dim petitition to dump Chuck is online. Now, we wouldn't want any vote rigging, so leave it to those nice folk in the yellow tories to stick the knife in.

Footballer gives fascist salute. Blair's buddy Berlusconi leaps to his defence, "Mussolini's era hadn't been so bad", explaining that Fascist racial laws against Jews were only introduced to help the Axis war effort.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Twisted logic. British spy infiltrates Sinn Fein. British spy creates mayhem and succeeds in getting the devolution process halted. British spy confesses to being British spy. British spy is not assassinated by republicans. Who is to blame. Why, obvious really, Sinn Fein and the IRA, of course.

An absolute classic Private Eye cover.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"God damn it…first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom." - Gil Scott Heron, 'B Movie'. Evo Morales, the first ever indigenous President of Bolivia, Latin America's poorest country, describes himself as America's worst nightmare. Taking a leaf from the new book of Latin American politics written by Hugo Chávez, Morales will seek to copy the example of Venezuela's reformed state oil company, which has secured advantageous deals with foreign companies without too much complaint.

Remember 'Chemical Sally' and 'Dr Germ' and the US most wanted 'deck of cards' members of Saddam's regime? Well, quietly, slowly but surely, they are being set free. I suppose bringing people to trial for creating weapons of mass destruction would be a tad embarrassing without even the flimsiest evidence of such weapons.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

There's been a big fuss in Sandwell over the last couple of weeks. According to Council sources (and the media), we have allegedly offered the Council's refuse collectors an additional payment of £900 to work on three Christmas and New Year Bank Holidays to prevent a backlog of rubbish building up. They have (allegedly) refused and asked for £1300. You can probably gather from the above that I have not been closely involved in this fiasco. Well, the local (and national) media have had a field day with lurid stories of "greedy binmen" holding the council to ransom and editorials with hints to residents to withhold their traditional Christmas Box for the refuse collectors. I've only one contribution to make on this subject. Why do we want them to work on Bank Holidays anyway? I know the attempt to get them to work was a genuine attempt to help dispose of the even larger mountains of rubbish and wrapping which accumulate over the holiday... but it is not beyond the wit and wisdom of Sandwell residents to hang on to their rubbish a bit longer over a holiday period, surely? We might even encourage a few more people to get down to the Tip and the Bottle Banks and recycle more of their waste. Give the refuse collectors a decent holiday with their friends (if the poor buggers have still got any) and families, bung them a bit extra for taking away the extra stuff after the holiday, and maybe everyone could start off the new year on a more constructive footing. Oh, and by the way, negotiations like this are much better conducted without involving journalists, "greedy" or otherwise, in search of a scoop or some scandal to rake over.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Someone has drawn my attention to this sad personal tale concerning my fellow Sandwell Councillor.... BNP member James Lloyd. Apparently the lad... "got himself in with the wrong company to start with and has now gone completely off the rails." Actually, perhaps that is his own defence too... just got in with a bad crowd. The boot camp for the son, the jackboot camp for his dad.

Have I Got News For You, Charlie

Steve Bell, brilliant as ever.

Charles Keneddy has apparently received the support of his senior Leb Dim colleagues... a bit like the rope supports the hanging man, to steal a phrase from V.I. Lenin. Ming Campbell's pledge to support Kennedy "as long as he remains Leader" is a classic piece of Newspeak. We're approaching that 'tipping-point' where you can no longer find anyone who thought Charles Kennedy was ever a good idea anyway. Empty threats won't solve his problems. Time to spend more time with the family and the TV Studio, Chuckie. Still, the problem then could be the "yellow Tories" find their way back to their natural environment.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Where can you find Marianne Faithful convent-girl-cum-singer, Arthur Lowe, Book of Revelation, Ofsted, Jake The Peg, Amanda Burton and Pantheus, King of Thebes all in one place? Easy, I know. They are all referenced on the excellent 'Achtung Bono' from the Four lads who shook the Wirral. What a Xmas bonus for less than a tenner!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ernesto, an occasional and confused contributor to this site, once went into Philpotts, a 'fancy dan' sandwich shop in Brum and asked if they had black pudding on white sliced... with lard! So, Ernie, this one's just for you!
Aircraft Emissions/Noise: 14th December 2005

Q. To ask the Member for Yardley and Birmingham City Councillor, John Hemming, what the Leb Dim Councillors are doing about this in their capacity as shareholders of Birmingham International Airport.

Written Question to the member for Yardley: 14th December 2005

Q. To ask the Leb Dim Member for Yardley how much longer he is going to fiddle whilst Rome burns around him, and for clarity of his position in respect of the Honorable Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber.

I wonder sometimes if the Leb Dims have compelely lost it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Never underestimate the self-pity of the ruling classes. Since Labour took office in 1997 the Confederation of British Industry has been engaged in one long whinge. It doesn't matter that our taxes are among the lowest and our regulations among the weakest in the developed world. It doesn't matter that the rich are richer than they have ever been. The CBI is the monster with a thousand stomachs that will never be satisfied." George Monbiot gives both barrels to the CBI.... and a few others too!

Steve Bell on drawing Dubya. "He moved like a chimp, walked like a chimp and even talked like a chimp. This was no play acting; George Bush actually was a chimp."

Friday, December 09, 2005

It looks like there will be no difficulty scoring at next year's World Cup. A brothel where the prostitute's pay to get in!

The Tories have chosen the right man – and what a disaster that will be! The unanimous adulation heaped on David Cameron by media pundits and political commentators of all persuasions actually makes me more confident in predicting his failure as an opposition leader than I have been on any political issue since John Major took Britain into the ERM, applauded by a similar ecstatic consensus of the chattering classes.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Yesterday I listened to one of those dreadful Five Live radio ‘phone-in programmes asking people to ring in and say what they thought about David Cameron as the new Tory leader. The whole level of discussion reminded me of the scene from the West Wing, when President Jed Bartlet describes a similar experience:

“I was watching a television program before, with a kind of roving moderator who spoke to a seated panel of young women who were having some sort of problem with their boyfriends - apparently, because the boyfriends had all slept with the girlfriends' mothers. And they brought the boyfriends out, and they fought, right there on television. Toby, tell me: these people don't vote, do they?”

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Well, here's a surprising turn up for the book. A middle-class lawyer telling the trade unions to be more respectful to their masters or they will have to stand in the naughty corner. I'm touched by the irony of a new labour flunky telling the unions they must halt their decline in their membership!

Vote for Bloggerheads, and get your friends to do the same. I would say Vote Early, Vote Often, but that twerp Hemming will run off to the courts if I did. Surely Tim can beat the likes of Melanie bloody Phillips.

Things are getting serious for the bluenoses as they face the prospect of going into the festive season having won less games at St Andrews than Aston Villa have this season. Perhaps this is the time to remind Pete about his pre-season optimism. I quote from his post of August 10th:

"The football season is upon us and the prem starts on Saturday. Last year I predicted Blues would struggle, this year I predict the opposite. Most of my fellow fans and certainly the national media, have us written off as mid table plodders and I can see the sense in that, but there are circumstances which lead me to believe that the optimism that most (apart from me) felt at the start of last year is justified this time around.

First....Forssell, he proved himself fantastic scorer at this level in a mediocre, defensively minded team lacking creativity. Basically, he did it by himself. If his knee injury hasn't knackered him completely there is no need to suppose he won't be as prolific as before. There are a couple of factors that most commentators have failed to pick up on though. The first is Jermaine Pennant. This boy excites like I haven't been excited since Trevor Francis was superboy. If you think Wright Phillips is a class act, wait till you see Pennant. This time around, Forssell will have ammunition, plenty of it.

Also, assuming they are all fit, which is unlikely I know, he will be accompanied by one of two absolutely superb strikers......Heskey (don't laugh) and Pandiani, who believe me is a bit special and better than his stats from last season suggest.Then, Dunn might get fit and Izzett, who lets not forget was the prems leading supplier of chances the year before last is fit again. We have the potential to be a pretty scary attacking force, if only Bruce and his coaches take the shackles off. Remember where you read it first!"

Pete, if you've got any horse racing tips... sit on 'em!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

John Hemming takes time off from predicting the end of the world on energy supplies to claim that the NHS is in financial crisis. Incredibly, this is a man who willing jumped into bed with the Tories (and anyone else who issued an invitation) for the first (and last) sniff of power that came his way, and he's got the brass neck to claim Labour is presiding over the run down of the NHS. Well, perhaps he would care to take time off from asking endless crackpot questions about silent phone calls and ask a few about Government spending on the NHS. He might also want to compare what the Government has actually spent on the NHS with the pie-in-the-sky empty promises in the last three Lib Dem Manifestos. When he does he will be able to work out just exactly what sort of financial crisis the NHS would be in if Labour had only spent as little as Hemming and chums had promised.

Those of us in the Labour Party may disagree with our Leadership on a number of things, (and we still have more to do to bring health spending up to EU averages, but our starting point was to take over a health service from Hemming's coalition partners who had spent 18 years trying to destroy it)) but we will stand no criticism from those cretins who would have only made the situation worse.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Start the week with a smile...

Danny Kelly on why he won't say a word about George Best's 'minute's silence'.

Uncyclopedia. A good spoof Wikipedia site

... and this bloke's a laugh a minute!

Friday, December 02, 2005

This story reminds me of that old chestnut: When they opened the trophy cabinet at Wolverhampton Wanderers, two Japanese prisoners of war jumped out!

Best check the seat carefully before settling down in a Birmingham cab.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

There are weapons of mass destruction.... then there are OUR nuclear weapons.... and our friends nuclear weapons. Atomic Hypocrisy...Tony Benn comments on the distinction.

If I don't post anything for the next few days, send out a search party to dredge the cut! Want to know the reason for this misery? Look no further!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A good postscript to the 90-day detention debate. "a fear-driven society will always find something unique about the latest way that its members might be killed."

Goodness gracious! Peter Hain says something I agree with. And in a good day for Guardian letters, so do Mark, John, and Justin!

David Cameron's new 'nation service' for young people. Will they all have to dance around naked whilst bashing the daylights out of each other? (thinking about it, they seem to do that in Brum on a Saturday night most weeks anyway).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Every year the CBI gather for their beano with dark threats of mass unemployment if some piece of progressive legislation is introduced, or if employers are asked to do anything to consider their employees welfare. So, the National Minimum Wage was going to create over 3 million more unemployed.... equal pay for women was going to lead to the collapse of the economy... and now that clown Digby Jones is pedicting Britain will go bust if the government honour their contractual obligations to public sector workers over pensions.

The Grand Coalition looms ever closer. "Meanwhile, almost unnoticed, a fresh axis is establishing itself. On issue after issue, the old abysses separating the Conservatives from the Liberal Democrats have narrowed or virtually disappeared." As the yellow Tories in Birmingham have shown, they are comfortable bedfellows.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Ahh... poacher turned gamekeeper... or 'scoop' journalist turned spin doctor. The Council spokesperson in this article, Daniel Slee, is a sad Stoke City supporter who used to be gainfully employed by the Express and Star writing harsh, cruel and deeply hurtful articles about Sandwell Council.
The craze for this sort of thing seemed to start around the Millennium... certainly around here anyway. Do these mini-illuminations exist across the country, or are they a West Midlands phenomenon? This tasteful little number, complete with a Santa's Grotto, has appeared in the next Ward to ours.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of the demise of the Wicked Witch of Finchley. The BBC has commemorated the event by devising a rather clever graph thingy... try comparing champagne imports to coal production.

Just when did Cawol Thatcher become a 'celebrity'. Being the result of a congress between dipso Den and the devil's own daughter, doesn't make you a celebrity. Presumably the boy Mark could also have been invited, he's running out of countries to live in.

Monday, November 21, 2005

As someone who has ploughed his way through every edition of The Benn Diaries I suppose it would be hypocritical of me to complain about senior civil servants giving their views of events. What I do object to however, is the Chair of the Press Complaints Commission hawking his work round the national media to the highest bidder. Surely there should be some degree of impartiality in that position, and flogging your story about John Major's choice of underwear to Fleet Street editors (or Wapping and where ever they are now based) compromises that position. Anyway... just what exactly does the Chair of the Press Complaints Commission bring to the table to justify £155,000 a year for a part time-job?

Friday, November 18, 2005

“It was the flies that told us. There were millions of them, their hum almost as eloquent as the smell. Big as bluebottles, they covered us, unaware at first of the difference between the living and the dead. If we stood still, writing in our notebooks, they would settle like an army – legions of them – on the white surface of our notebooks, hands, arms, faces, always congregating around our eyes and mouths, moving from body to body, from the many dead to the few living, from corpse to reporter, their small green bodies panting with excitement as they found new flesh upon which to settle and feast.”

Robert Fisk was one of a handful of journalists who entered the Sabra and Chatila Palestinian refugee camps within hours of the Israeli endorsed massacre in 1982. I'm currently reading 'Tell Me No Lies', John Pilger's anthology of investigative journalism articles since the second world war, and that passage starts Fisk's outstanding and deeply disturbing contribution to the book, Terrorists. Definitely not for the squeamish, the article makes no bones about where the responsibility for the massacre lay, with the then Israeli Defence Minister, Ariel Sharon, and Tony Parson's old hero, Menachem Begin. No wonder the US kept journalists away from Fallujah. You can get Tell Me No Lies for just over a fiver from Amazon - 600 pages of pure gold.

The message on this soldier's helmet 'kill the messenger' gives an indication of their attitude to the media. More here.

The only tattoo I ever found even vaguely appealing was a guy in a market in Spain who had had his 'washing instructions' label tattooed just below his neck. So, why would you want to do this? Let's hope Charlie Clarke doesn't see it because given the hopeless history of government IT projects he might see this as an alternative to ID Cards.

Steve Bell's view.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Another Chavez takes on the might of the United States... and wins!
Melanie Phillips (description deleted on the advice of solicitors) banging her favourite drum, is convinced that the French riots are an Islamist plot to convert France into a Muslim state. Yes, Melanie, and the Watts riots... and Brixton riots? Or could the common factor be young people who are alienated, the victims of racism and exclusion? A much more interesting read is the Ken Livingstone interview on Something Jewish.
Steve at Occupied Country (if you haven't been there, go now) suggests we put our iPod or iTunes on shuffle and write down the first five tunes randomly selected. I gave it a go... and thankfully there was nothing too embarassing:

A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall - Dylan ('Live 1964')
Companeros - Christy Moore ('This is The Day')
Keito - Ali Farka Toure & Ry Cooder ('Talking Timbuktu')
Dojo Kun ( Jamais Laisser Tomber) - Temple of Sound (World 2003)
The Cool Out - The Clash (Super Black Market Clash)

Not bad with over 3,000 to choose from.

Rachel from north London recalls an hilarious conversation with Sir Ian Blair. I'd have loved to see his face. Thanks also to Rachel for this link... if it's still working, that is, Blair Abolishes Elections.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Michael Howard makes the worst case yet for Blair to stand down. Surely political parties go to the electorate either on their record in government, or on the promise of what they will do in future (or both).

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be. I would question the wisdom (and sanity) of anyone who suggests that John Motson "will go down as one of the all-time best commentators in television."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Better be careful what you are getting up to in the Cinema in Walsall and Wolverhampton, boys and girls. The staff are being issued with night-vision glasses. Goblet of Fire, indeed!

Meanwile, in neighbouring Dudley, the Tories are giving their definition of education reform.

"Lagaay, from Brighton, hit Adis and then stamped on his face during a drunken scuffle at the Level club in April. The victim then "whacked" his head against the floor of the men's toilets, suffering a fractured skull and brain haemorrhage. Last week, Judge Tom Crowther conceded that Lagaay had no intention of seriously harming Mr Kulo." Just a bit of clowning around then, eh Tom?

Monday, November 14, 2005

When everyone was "telling Sid" about gas privatisation and putting their shares in the new "leccy companies" behind the clock on the mantlepiece... there were those siren voices who warned that once these companies had settled in, the god of 'market forces' would strike back with a vengence. Well, wrap up warm... those days have come to pass.
For some strange reason former trade union General Secretary Alan Johnson wants to bite the hand that feeds him. Why on earth would the New Labour heirarchy care whether the trade unions vote en bloc at Conference? The Leadership only treat the Conference as a glam rally for themselves, and steadfastly refuse to even recognise any decision that they themselves don't agree with. Perhaps they want the unions to withdraw their money... introduce the State funding of political parties, and then they could rename themselves The Social Democrat Party.

Go, Silvio, Go. The Bad Democracy Awards.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

"While the world looks to Iran and Syria for the next Bush attack, Venezuelans know they may well be next." Same theme as yesterday... This time from John Pilger.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I had the misfortune last night to watch 'This Week' on TV. They had that irritating little twerp Tony Parsons presenting an insulting little film about the fact that MPs had turned down a police proposal to allow internment for 90 days. He said if there was a further terrorist outrage in London, the MPs who refused to back Blair would have blood on their hands. Parsons has always been an irritating little snipe, and he should know all about those with 'blood on their hands'. His first ever book, 'The boy looked at Johnny', co-authored with that other poser Julie Birchill, had a dedication that even the publishers printed a rebuttal of. The dedication was to that famous terrorist, Menachem Begin, who launched an armed action against the British, including bombing a hotel in which nearly 100 people died.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Thank God for Kerron Cross, I say. Whilst others were carrying out their vital duty in defying The Special One over his 90-day Internment Law, Kerron found time to get out on the stump and join the cleaners on the picket line outside of the House of Commons. I particularly liked this from Kerron: "I like the point Jack Dromey, the General Secretary of the TGWU, made in his speech about the privileged lifestyle of the Serjeant at Arms. He states that Sir Peter Grant Peterkin earns over £100,000 a year and lives in grace and favour accommodation due to his position - it's a very good point, which I hope wasn't lost on his wife Harriet Harman the Government Minister (who I believe earns over £100,000 and has access to grace and favour accommodation due to her position)". Nice to see some of our Lib Dem friends showing their true colours.... err, that's yellow, isn't it?
As it says on Talk Politics, if you read nothing else about the Terror Bill, read what Rachel has to say.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"Bush believes the spread of liberty, not the search for allies in an eternally shifting balance of power, is the guarantor of Western security." That should generate a belly laugh or two in Caracas.
Ramsey MacBlair's 'Government of National Unity' moves a step closer.

I once sat on the same shop stewards committee as Bill Morris at a factory in Brum. I liked him a lot. What a shame he has got to be associated with this shower. I knew Maggie Jones too. She represented UNISON on Labour's NEC and deeply resisted any democratisation of the union's political fund. Why, it might even have compelled her to vote in line with the union's policies. As for the CEO of Priory Health Care being honoured by the PM... I refer you to the remarks I made a few moments ago.

This is one for my old pal Ernesto, not that he ever took that many bites... who ate all the pies?

It's a dog's life, eh?

When I first saw this headline... my heart skipped a beat! Fortunately, it's another one.

Monday, November 07, 2005

As the Tories (surprise, surprise) rally round to try to save Blair's Terrorism Bill, the delightful Anne Widdecombe tells The Scum: "If we now end up with 28 days and someone on the 29th day goes out and kills someone, where will that leave us?". Which elicits this reply from The Anorak... It’s hard to say. But perhaps in a similar spot than if we end up with the full 90 days and someone on the 91st day goes out and kills someone, or everyone. (hat tip to Bloggerheads).

Political Hack on the disaster that is Hemming's mate Mike Whitby.
As Gil Scott Heron sang, in his classic 'B Movie' "God damn it…first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom." On that basis, these people are scary... Uncle Sam's worst nightmare. Can't be long now before the drums start beating out the WMD warnings... and the 45 minute readiness stories.

Friday, November 04, 2005

We skipped Bearwood Jazz last night to go to a Comedy Club arranged to raise funds for Unite Against Fascism. I don't go much for standup comics, and when other people roll in the aisles over the likes of Ken Dodd or Jasper Carott (the World's unfunniest comedian who has never so much as succeeded in getting me to break into a smirk), I just don't get it. So, I wasn't easy to impress by the six acts. I don't want to be unkind because all of them were donating their time for free, and some had travelled from as far away as Manchester and Bristol to appear... but, well, some of them weren't very good. One thing that impressed me yhough, was a guy who could give you the telephone area dialling code for anywhere in the Country. As people shouted place names out, including students from unlikely areas such as Buldleigh Salterton, he got their dialing codes spot on. I don't know how many there are in the UK... but I was impressed. Not laughing, but... impressed!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

It has been 15 years since I was last inside the House of Commons. November 1st 1990 marked the 15th anniversary of Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech which prompted that pompous ass Heseltine to stand against Thatcher for the Leadership of the Party. Three weeks later I was attending a trade union delegation to an all-Party meeting on Pensions in one of the Committee Rooms. One Labour MP, Tony Banks, chided his Tory counterparts by saying they found it difficult to concentrate because of events unfolding down the corridor. Well, down the corridor the Tories were busy applying the first touches to their summary execution of the Wicked Witch of Finchley. As she returned to Downing Street after the first ballot she was only 2 votes short of the margin she needed for victory and she announced she was going to fight on. Fatally (for her, if not the rest of us) she flew out to Paris for a European Summit, and by the time she got back a couple of days later, the game was up. From a seemingly invulnerable position she had been wiped from the political map in just a few short days.

Yesterday, I returned to the scene of that glorious crime. Walking down the corridor to the tea room near the Commons library, the TV screen flashed an update… The Minister for Work and Pensions, David Blunkett had resigned. A couple of hours later at Prime Minister’s Question Time, Michael Howard taunted Tony Blair, saying he had lost the support of his Cabinet and that he had “Office without power” (which seemed a bit rich from a man waiting for his P45 and was shortly going to be without either). The interesting things was that although the ‘loyalists’ hoping to climb the greasy pole dutifully supported the PM, the front bench seemed to find something interesting happening near their shoelaces. Still… I couldn’t help getting that feeling of déjà vu all over again, as that glorious tennis commentator said last year. A couple of hours later on, Blair came the closest he has got so far to a smack in the face when he won a division on a clause in the Terrorism Bill by a single vote. Turbulent times indeed.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

As the late, great Ian Dury would have said, What a waste.
I don't mean to be disrespectful to what will, I am sure, be a very moving day for survivors and relatives of those who will be remembered today... but couldn't the BBC have said on their news bulletins that there would be five candles lit at St Paul's Cathedral today?

Courtesy of my MP, Mrs P, the two dusbin lids, who are both studying politics, and myself will be going to the Mother of Parliaments tomorrow to see our democracy working at close quarters. The kids are under strict orders to keep their discipline when the Tories are on their feet... and I'm hoping they do the same when our lot are speaking.

Talking of discipline.... the first half of this match last night was one of the most shambolic performances I have ever seen in my life. I always liked Darius. Nice, quiet, unassuming lad who came up with a regular half-dozen goals a season. A bit like Emile Heskey without the whingeing. But no-one used to gift him goals like we did! Still, nice to see this bloke behind bars at last.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

In a week in which the French and the Spanish have been encouraged to join in the orgy of commemoration that confirmed that Britain Rules the Waves... someone thinks the Irish should forget their violent past.

Briefly interrupted the Match of the Day, icluding a most enjoyable humiliation of Man Ure, to watch a feature on the excellent Banksy on The Culture Show. As ever, the establishment looms as he apparently now has a coffee table book on the way, and you can buy Banksy originals for a couple of thousand quid.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Yesterday morning, for no apparent reason, my entire Windows system froze on that blue screen which welcomes you to Bill Gates World. No amount of fiddling and faffing about with it would put it right, so I upped and went to my local PC repair shop in Bearwood to see what they could do. The sorry response came back later in the day: Not much mate. They could do a reload of Windows XP and then everything would be OK, but all my files, photos and music would be deleted forever. Well, I had remembered to do a backup in June on a memory stick, but if there is a Council Officer reading this who has received a letter from me in the last four months and hasn't replied... you can always deny receiving it because I can't prove I sent it. Anyway, I know Flikr is not to everyone's taste, but I can be grateful that at least all my photographs have been captured on there.

But does anyone know how to transfer the files on my I-pod on to the PC without losing all 4,000 tracks in the process because the I-pod carries out the transfer in the opposite direction?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"The paper also outlined more powers for parents: they will get the right to demand new schools..." Oh, well done Ms. Kelly. I'll start getting the local parents in my Ward to demand new schools. By the way... does this mean they will automatically get one? More crackpot ideas and spin from our New Labour colleagues.

Your Education service is in safe hands... and here are those hands.

Ruth Kelly: Attended the fee-paying Sutton High School, followed by Westminster School for A-levels. She went on to Queen's College, University of Oxford.

Baron Adonis: Attended the private Kingham Hill School in Oxfordshire near Chipping Norton. He graduated (BA in modern history) from Keble College, Oxford, subsequently completing a doctorate in 19th century political history at Christ Church, Oxford in 1988, and filled a post as a research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford.

Tony Blair: After attending the Durham's Choristers School, Blair was educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh (sometimes called the "Eton of Scotland"), then on to read law at St John's College, where he graduated with a second class degree.

God, their parents must have been unsuccessful in demanding those new schools in their neighbourhoods. No doubt they were hampered by the army of bureaucrats in the Council House scrathing their backsides and filing paper clips all day.

John Prescott: The son of a railway signalman, Prescott was born in Prestatyn in Wales and brought up in Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. He became a steward in the merchant navy, and was a trade union activist. What... no private school John? No "Eton of Prestatyn" for you then, eh? Think on lad, when these proposals go through, all the little John and Jane Prescott's will have a School of Excellence in their own back garden, run by a combination of the local vicar and MacDonalds.

Hell's teeth! And all we will have to fight the cause when the careerist backbenchers troop through the lobby, will be the Secondary Heads Association. More power to your elbows, comrades. I don't suppose there is any chance of the 'usual suspects' in the trade union movement getting off their fat arses and doing something, is there? Its your members kids too!

Monday, October 24, 2005

"....But otherwise the schools will be accountable not to government at the centre or locally but to parents, with the creativity and enterprise of the teachers and school leaders set free."

It must be lovely to live in the leafier parts of Islington, or to send your kids to The Oratory. Don't worry if there are not enough Labour MPs to push this through Mr Tony... the Tories will snatch your hands off for it!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

For fear of a savaging from my ultra loyalist comrades in the 'modernising' wing of our Party, I will make absolutely no comment at all on the alleged plans Mr Tony has for his friends in the business community... and I wouldn't dream of calling the Education proposals elitist, middle-class and discriminatory. Not while there are others who will do it for me.
The talk amongst the chattering classes and tv pundits is whether, in the event that the boy Cameron wins the Tory leadership bonanza, Labour should shaft Gordon Brown and go for a younger model. The 'skip a generation' pundits argue that Gordon will look old and tired in comparison to the fresh faced public schoolboy and that Labour would lose votes in the same way that the Tories lost votes to the juvenile Kennedy. The choice of the generation skippers would appear to be the ever young David Miliband. Interestingly, the alleged source for this story in the Observer, is someone close to the Prime Minister. Now, surely, our beloved PM couldn't possibly want to scupper his old mate Gordon's chances of replacing him?

I'm sure I've said this before, but the joke about David and Ed, the Miliband brothers is that their father, the respected Marxist Ralph Miliband, wrote a book called Parliamentary Socialism in which his central point was that Labour would not deliver socialism through Parliamentary means. His sons are now setting about proving their father was right.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

This looks like it create plenty of work for one blogger... even though others might keep their heads down.

'Me as Tory leader? It's ridiculous; it's absurd. It's quite flattering. But it's just for the birds' - Errm, David Cameron, The Independent February 2005.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Never mind the 'modernisers'... they're still out there. I've received an e-mail from a very disturbed young woman who feels very strongly that we should all be grateful to the wicked witch of Finchley for freeing the slaves, winning the war against socialism, single-handedly defeating the Russians and giving the Argies, the Irish and the miners a bloody good thrashing. Very, very disturbed person indeed.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sectarian... moi?

Courtroom Drama

A 7 year-old boy was at the centre of a Birmingham courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him. The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents & the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with child custody law & regulations requiring that family unity be maintained.

The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt beat him more than his parents & he adamantly refused to live with her. When the judge then suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried out that they also beat him. After considering the remainder of the immediate family & learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him.

After two recesses to check legal references and confer with child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to Birmingham City Football Club, whom the boy firmly believes are incapable of beating anyone.

(Thanks to The Black Country Villain)
Smug, arrogant, young, ex-public schoolboy, wants to 'modernise' his party - not exactly original is it.

The ego has landed

I don't know who said it first about who, but if this man was an ice cream he would lick himself to death.

Biting the hand that feeds us

It seems Blair has yet another 'modernisation' plan in mind in his long-term strategy of turning Labour into the SDP. The man who told us he was going to rebuild Labour as a mass membership party, and spent the next 10 years watching members drift away, now wants to 'modernise us again. Tony Woodley advises him that further sidelining the trade unions is not the answer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What is it about Blairites and business. the latest public service to be subjected to the 'New Labour' axe is the probation service. They have announced the privatisation of the sevice.... to coincide with the government's Inside Justice Week (October 17-23), which aims to highlight the greater involvement of local communities in the criminal justice system. So much for the new-found enthusiasm for localism and civic renewal. Local Probation Boards will be abolished and replaced by smaller "business-focussed" bodies, composed of people with senior business, financial and management experience. Yes, I see. So the people who have made a complete cock-up of running of British manufacturing industry can have a go at doing the same thing to our public services.
The revolution will not be televised ... is a terrific fly-on-the-wall documentary which details the story of the Coup in 2002 against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from INSIDE the palace. Unfortunately, for reasons one can only speculate on, the distributors of the film appear to be deliberately boycotting the distribution of their own film. An old mate of mine who runs a Venezuelan Solidarity Group has decided to distribute the DVD free of charge, with just a small donation to cover his costs. Contact him and tell him you were referred by me... and he says he will accept a 'smaller' donation. Believe me... the film is pretty damn good!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The silence is deafening. As highlighted by Political Hack the Tory/Lib Dem coalition have wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds of council tax payers money on a consultants report which reached conclusions that.... "Any transport professional could have told them these conclusions before they started." So, always prepared to offer an opinion on anything, what does the egomaniac self-publicist who was Deputy Leader of the City Council when they threw this money down the drain have to say about it on his blog? Errrm... not a thing.

Well... if Hemming won't tell us what's going on in his Council... we will just have to read the newspaper. Birmingham - a city racked by indecision and procrastination.

Monday, October 17, 2005

For years people in Bearwood, particularly the elederly, have complained with some justification that we haven't got any decent toilets in the shopping centre. So, the Council did a deal with advertising company JCDecaux which resulted in one of those continental superloos being fitted in the town. Now, knock me down with a feather, the NIMBYs don't want it!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Its a good news day.... maybe. It wouldn't be the first time this devious old get had spun a line of bull on the day of an AGM in order to get himself off the hook. It is said that no-one has got a good word for Doug Ellis. I have: try.... bastard.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Did Cameron inhale?

Should Tory Leadership candidate David Cameron be obliged to 'come out' over whether or not he took drugs as an undergraduate? Ann Widdecombe, that well known liberal on these matters, says no, he should not. She feels whether or not he has taken drugs is of no importance, but she wants to know if he is hypocritical enough for her liking and will persecute sufficiently those who do take drugs. But should it matter? Politicians like Mo Mowlam haven't found that admitting smoking a joint or two in their student days was a major stumbling block in their career. So why not Cameron.... it could even improve his street cred. with some people (although I suspect it would not help in the eyes of the reactionary old buffoons who will select their leader).

Well, if you apply for a job as a teacher, or a management job in the NHS, or a Social Worker (No, not a Socialist Worker... for them drug taking is obligatory) you have to declare to those interviewing you whether you have even received a police caution for possession of a tiny amount of cannabis. So, why shouldn't the rules be more stringent for those who want to become Prime Minister of this country? Come on Cameron... did you or did you not inhale?

Some clown wrote in a letter to last night's Birmingham Evening Mail that Peter Crouch should never be allowed anywhere near an England shirt because he "can't run, can't pass, can't head the ball and doesn't score goals." Just to avoid being entirely negative, the twerp suggested the laughable Emile Heskey as a credible alternative. Last season Crouch scored 12 goals in 27 appearances for Southampton, who were relegated. This compares favourably to Didier Drogba, who despite playing with the superstars of Champions Chelsea, only managed 10 goals in 26 appearances. As for Emile Ivanhoe (honestly, its his name) Heskey... he managed 10 goals in 34 appearances for 'sleeping giants' Birmingham City. Just think how good Crouchy will be when he learns to run, pass and score!
On Newsnight the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, made it abundantly clear that the Government's aim now in Iraq, was to deliver a stable and democratic government to that country. Leaving aside the "5-10 years" he thought that would take, given the situation we find ourselves in, it could be portrayed as a laudable, if unlikely ambition. However, given that Saddam Hussein was only engaged in terrorising the people of Iraq, it doesn't do anything for the Blair/Bush War Against Terrorism.... but converesly seems to have at least fueled, and maybe encouraged the spread of international terrorism. Now Charles Clarke's latest measures aimed to deal with 'terrorists' or those who advocate it, are being interpreted as an incitement to terrorism. The Home Secretary says, He could not think of any situation in the world where "violence would be justified to bring about change". Milne writes...."as the mayor of London pointed out yesterday, support for Nelson Mandela, the wartime resistance and any number of anti-colonial liberation movements would all have been crimes under this bill."

The BBC website invites you to send in your views on Thatcher. I suspect the webmaster's censorship pencil is going to be working overtime today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Via Jo Salmon, something devised by her partner Antonia....

You put your first name into Google, followed by the word "needs".

Mine came out worryingly as, Bob needs... advice, Bob needs... a job, or
Bob needs... a new cage!
I was uneasy about the 'A Very Social Secretary' programme on Monday night. I chose to watch it over the new Ray Winston drama on 4 and I taped the programme about the Camp David talks on BBC2. So, I must have wanted to watch it. Yet, after 15 minutes or so, I turned it off. Now I realise exactly what I didn't like. Not that I felt any particular sympathy for a Minister making a fool of himself and being lampooned, nor the fact that it seemed like a series of Rory Bremner sketches... but that the joke was... Blunkett is blind. Even in the short time I watched it was inconceivable that many of the jokes (jibes) would have made it into a programme about any other public figure having a relationship with a married woman.

Lee Jasper on Trevor Phillips
: "Any CRE chair who does not know if councils should print documents in more than one language, or whether "coloured" is an appropriate term, or whether holy days should be respected wherever possible, should seriously consider whether he is in the right job." I agree with Jasper. However, when I worked in Walsall once residents would refer to the 'coloured girl' because they were trying to avoid being rude. They thought the term black was offensive.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A hard rain

It hasn't rained in these parts for what seems like weeks. Until tonight, that is, when a hardy band of anti-fascist leafleters set out to deliver on an estate the BNP have targetted recently. It peed down the whole time and we were forced to abandon the struggle when the leaflets started tearing as they went through the door. Still, it was a good lesson for my son Mike, who is studying politics at 'A' level. Now he has seen the soaking wet and miserable side of the story at first hand.
It is with great relief that we can announce that Sandwell's mummified head is to be archived... and just when I thought she was leading the Tory Group.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A US Vietnam veteran has saved and published the poignant diaries of a young doctor shot by US troops in 1967 whilst fighting to protect her wounded patients. "I know that an Iraqi mother will one day be in the same position as Mother Dang. Why are we in Iraq? I don't know. You can't know the vulgarity of war until you've been there, until you've been splattered with your friend's blood," he concludes.

Thanks to Political Hack for this. How refreshing to note that if you phone the Social Services Out-of-hours helpline your call will be dealt with by a telephonist outsourced to 'Facilities Management' company Vertex. As he says: "If you are a member of the Council Cabinet, you may now wash your hands."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Oh no! Our glorious leader has 'intelligence' information that he cannot share with us for security reasons, about Iranian involvement in support of the 'insurgents' in Iraq. Is this information from the same preople that briefed him on the mythical weapons of mass destruction? Coincidentally,(?) his mate pronounces on Iran in similar terms on the same day. Scary.
Keep right on... there is something about the colour blue that gets my back up.

I was there – Gigs that changed the world

That’s the title of a book just released by Mark Paytress. Well, I can’t claim these changed the world, but they made a bloody big dent in me.

Van Morrison and The Caledonian Soul Orchestra, Birmingham Town Hall
(about 1970) - I had never heard anything like this before. Sulky old Van, out of his moody blues and into Californian gypsy soul music.

Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Band, Old Traffic Cricket Ground, 2003 – I had seen Bruce before, over 20 years before, but for his sheer energy and entertainment value made this one stick out.

Pink Floyd, Mothers Club, Erdington, 1969 - Recorded for part of the live Ummagumma set. Introduced by Peel, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, Careful With That axe, Eugene. Sheer magic… it was another 20 years before Floyd recorded another live album.

Bob Dylan, Liverpool Odeon, 1966 - THAT tour.

Youssou N’Dour, Essaouira, Morrocco, 2005 - Not the greatest concert ever, but I will always remember it for that fantastic festival and that's the point. The experience is often more memorable than the music.

Jimi Hendrix, Some club in North London, 1967 – I was dossing around in London and someone at the hostel mentioned this bloke who had just come over from the States and could really play the guitar. I got there early and stood near the front (a mistake). Jimi was magnificent, and my ears were whistling for three days afterwards.

The Beatles, The Odeon, Birmingham 1964 - We queued up all night for tickets and with all the screaming I barely heard a word… but I could say I had seen them.

The Spencer Davis Group, The Alley outside Mothers, Erdington - We were queuing up outside to get in and Stevie Winwood was doing the soundcheck solo. He played a heartachingly good 'Georgia on my Mind' which he never played in the set but prompted spontaneous applause outside in the rain.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Steve Bell is ready for David Cameron.

IOU £7 million. Some people rob you with a fountain pen.

Was the 80's the worst ever decade for popular music? This says so to me. (via New Links)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

We all know that "we've got to change" is the theme for this week's Tory Conference. Well, thanks to Phil who sent me this. Pimp My Party is your chance to send the Tories to the knackers yard. Apparently based on some sort of MTV programme, Pimp My Ride, he said, sounding like a High Court Judge.

If you think the standard of the Tory opposition in Parliament is bad, you should try sitting through a Sandwell Council meeting. It has been months since anyone heard the Conservative leader, the lovely Karen Bissell, (Councillor for Old Warley and Express and Star Central) say anything at all. She sits through most Council meetings like a rabbit caught in the headlights whilst her deputy tries out his stand-up comic routine. I had been intrigued about Kas Bissell's inactivity, until I scrolled down this!

Monday, October 03, 2005

The hits on my blog seem to have been boosted largely by people google searching for Cuddles massage parlour, including one nice chap from the Express and Star newspaper (there see, I said I would 'out' you). So much for me thinking people were coming here for my sharp witty comments and deep political insight. Bummer eh! (That should up the hits)
Tom Watson invites comments on an article by Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Health, in which she states, "The NHS is, as Aneurin Bevan put it, 'the most civilised thing in the world.'" Personally, I suspect Nye got it right when he said, "It is an axiom, enforced by all the experience of the ages, that they who rule industrially will rule politically"..... except those were the days when we had industry. These days you can substitute 'financially'. Which leads us to.... this!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

A wonderfully affectionate piece about Paul Foot, The Gnome Years, by Richard Ingrams.

Tribute to Walter:
"That's the trouble with old people today - no respect." - Letter in The Guardian

Friday, September 30, 2005

I read the news today, oh boy!

We went to Bearwood Jazz Club last night and we heard the police sirens screaming out on our way down there. But it wasn't just the usual panda bobbies looking to separate the bruisers punching each other's lights out on payday, as happens from time to time. No, this was over 50 of the finest the boys in blue could muster, including a number of armed officers. Suddenly, the whole world's news media now seems to have descended on to our sleepy suburb. Instead of a peaceful out of town commuter spot, we find ourselves host to an international sex trafficking trade with girls from across Europe locked into the Cuddles massage palour during the evening to work, and taken away during the day and locked in a house. The excitement continued through to this morning when a man claiming to be the 'cleaner' arrived in a 4x4 Mercedes and found himself "assisting the police with their enquiries." Interestingly enough, although The Birmingham Evening Mail carries banner headlines about last night's raid headed "Police swoop in battle to stamp out vile trade" in the same edition they carry their own advertisement for.... Cuddles Massage Parlour!

Funnily enough, Cuddles isn't the most notorious brothel in Bearwood. Local people have been complaining to no avail to the police for years about the nocturnal activities of The Fun Place in Bearwood. They also openly advertise their 'venue' in the local press, and they have even got their own website (not for the more sensitive of you to view, unless like Pete Townsend and myself you are carrying out research into this "vile trade"... and certainly inadvisable if you are connecting at your place of work).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I wrote that last piece about intolerance in the Lib Dems before I had seen this on tonight's news. What an absolute disgrace. When you consider the behaviour of MPs in the House of Commons week in, week out, baying at each other and behaving like public schoolboys on a day out, to eject an 82-year old man from the Conference Hall for shouting out "nonsense" when Jack Straw was speaking is just disgusting. Is that the sort of freedom and democracy we are 'giving' the Iraqis. Who told the 'bouncers' to throw him out? We should be told if it was a Party Official or politician.
Lord protect us from... "Haughty conduct!" It just goes to prove what Tom Watson said last week, the first sniff of power from the (somewhat less than) Liberal Democrats, and it all goes belly-up. In the mid 1980's under Kinnock and the unreconstructed version of Roy Hattersley, life in the Labour Party was not easy on the 'left'. But to find yourself purged for .... haughty bloody conduct, that's a cracker! Given the shambolic state of the Birmingham Lib Dems, it is no wonder John Hemming, normally so quick to comment to anyone and everyone on anything at all, is concentrating on..... toilets!!!

Is this the most gruesome adaptation of google maps? Satoogle. I like that x-ray though. (Via New Links)
"Some MPs believe that Mr Clarke's chances could be fatally damaged if the party reject a proposal to strip local party members of the final say over the choice of leader and return it to MPs." Toby Helm, Daily Telegraph Chief Political Correspondent (6th Sept. 2005).

"Kenneth Clarke's hopes of becoming Conservative leader were boosted last night after plans to strip grassroots members of their right to vote for the leader were thrown out."
Daily Telegraph after the decision.

So, that's clear then, whatever happens, the Daily Telegraph has got someone who will say it benefits Kenneth Clarke. What I cannot understand is why Clarke's supporters keep repeating the message that he is 'a big man'. Trailing someone's main qualification for the job is that he is a fat sod doesn't strike me as doing him any particular favours. In any event, if being a scruffy fat bloke was the qualification for political leadership, Charles Clarke would be way out in front of Gordon Brown and Ken Clarke!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

One of the major justifications for the invasion of Iraq was the fact that in Saddam Hussein we were faced by an undemocratic tyrant, who ruled with fear and cruelty, and who was in possession of the infamous weapons of mass destruction. So, on what basis are we currently trying to woo the Saudi's into a £40bn arms deal? Money doesn't talk... it swears.

How about: Ministers must reconnect with Party for starters?

There really isn't anything that anyone can do to convince Ian Paisley that the IRA have called it a day. Let's face it, without the fear and loathing of the IRA, why would anyone want Ian Paisley?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Never mind the Blunkett of blondes and babies. Hattersley hasn't forgiven him for his most blatant lie 10 years ago.

My Back Pages

Tonight's Scorsese documentary about Bob Dylan's early career through to 1966 is an absolute must watch. The two most memorable experiences of my teenage years took place within a couple of months of each other in the summer of 1966. In May I hitch-hiked to Liverpool with a ticket in my pocket for Bob Dylan’s concert at the Odeon Liverpool. It was Cup Final day, Everton were in the Final and they beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2. These were the days before wall-to-wall footie on tv, and I never missed a cup final. It was also in the days before all-day pub opening, so I watched the match with a dozen others, obviously desperate scousers who hadn't got a telly, through the showroom window of Currys.

Dylan was stunning. In the first half he played a familiar acoustic set, and then after the interval he came on with the band and they blasted through a rock set of songs, many of which Dylan had revamped from the acoustic versions he had released on record. Where upon lots of the ‘folkies’ in the audience who had cheered to the rooftops in the first half, went ballistic. They were booing and throwing their programmes, and dozens, if not hundreds walked out screaming in protest at the stage. They wanted THEIR Bob Dylan back. I was in a state of shock. Firstly by the sheer volume of the band… and then by the vitriol of these louts ruining the concert. I must confess to also preferring the acoustic side of Dylan. Visions of Johanna in that first set was absolutely spellbinding and you could have heard a pin drop in the Odeon… as opposed to the second half, when you could barely hear yourself think. But having said that, the electric versions of One Too Many Mornings and the stunning Like a Rolling Stone were quite breathtaking.

There was a commotion outside as I left the Odeon, and I headed on down to the crowd to see what was going on. It was the stage door, and a baying mob had gathered waiting for The Man to appear. He did… to a chorus of booing and shouting, dressed in a green corduroy suit (I always wanted a green corduroy suit after that). He looked like a rabbit in the headlights as he jumped into the waiting limo and away in a flash.

I set off to try and find the East Lancs Road to thumb my way back home… with the sound of ‘Rolling Stone’ still pounding through my head. It had been a weird experience watching the audience idolise someone, and then turn on him and spit venom at him in the space of an hour.

A couple of months later I set out to hitch-hike to Wembley… with two tickets for the World Cup final in my pocket. What a summer that was.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Next week Britain's most incisive journalist on the Middle East for the last twenty-five years publishes a book, 'The Great War for Civilisation: the Conquest of the Middle East'and it will be serialised this week in The Independent. Read this extract: On Finding Osama. In the meantime, in the land of the brave, land of the free, they have banned Robert Fisk from entering the country. Seems that, as Woody Guthrie said, some people can kill you with a fountain pen.

Friday, September 23, 2005

This story reminds me of a story the late Brian Johnson used to tell. Johnners was commenting in a test match in Kingston Jamaica when he reported the site of an ugly black cloud behind the pavilion. Suddenly there was a commotion around the ground, with people gesticulating and shouting up at the press box. Apparently, with many in the crowd listening on transistor radios, they misheard his commentary and thought Johnners had said 'crowd', not 'cloud'.
I was at a school governors meeting last night where the teaching unions confirmed their opposition to government plans that could result in some teaching staff taking pay cuts. Their main concern, which I fully agree with, is that with so many teachers in their 50's, a reduction in pay could have a major impact on their pension entitlement. By the look of these proposals, they need not worry too much because they're going to have to work until they die anyway! If any government thinks they can escape the wrath of an electorate, many of whom are busy making plans to travel the world or buy a gite in Normandy on the strength of their property equity and pension lump sum, they must be living in cloud cuckoo land.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

There is a subway which leads from my Ward under the main Hagley Road out of Birmingham, to Harborne in Birmingham on the other side. Hundreds of schoolchildren have to cross the road at that junction every day to get to the two large secondary schools on the Birmingham side of the road. Do they use the subway? Not if they've got any sense they don't, unless they are looking to score supplies of illegal substances, of course. It's not only children either. The subway isn't safe for anyone, and last year the whole thing was taped up with scene of crime tape whilst police in white overalls scoured the floor for evidence. Despite the fact that the Hagley Road junction hasn't got a pedestrian phase on the traffic lights, hundreds of people daily take a chance on the traffic rather than risk the subway. So... you're the bloody councillor, I hear you say, why don't you do something about it? The answer is, the junction is controlled by Birmingham City Council... not Sandwell. and despite the Council Leader Mike Whitby having his Ward on the other side of the road in Harborne, the City Council won't do anything about it. Before the 2004 Council Elections the City were committed to doing something about filling in the subway, and fitting a pedestrian phase to the lights. In come Whitby, Hemming and co. and the plans are put on indefinite hold. One of these days I am convinced we will get headlines like this about the subway, and you just listen to the whimpering coming from Councillor Mike Whitby when it does! And when Charles Kennedy tells the Lib Dem Conference, "I want a society that tackles crime – but really does tackle the causes of crime. I want a Britain where older people again feel safe to answer their doors. Where parents can let their children walk to school – or play in the park – without the incessant worry. Where our streets and town centres are free from fear at night." the people of my Ward scuttling across a six lane highway will know it is simply empty rhetoric.

My fellow Ward councillor, Dr Ann Jaron, has just returned from a visit to her homeland, Poland. She brought back a leaflet advertising 'Communism Tours' which invites you to 'Experience Stalin's gift to Krakow in a genuine Eastern Bloc Trabant automobile.' They offer, for instance, at only 119 Zlotych - about 20 quid - a tour of the Nowa Huta district and steelworks where you can see the sights and architecture that made communism famous. Initially I thought it was a spoof, but, no, They've got a website.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Birmingham - It's not shit! Official

Sandwell is a borough with many immigrant groups, and relatively few racial tensions. It is one of the borough's strengths. Perhaps the shame of being associated with the Tory "If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour" election campaign 30 years ago has got something to do with the way new communities are received. Now, I'm not saying everything is perfect, but community relations (or social cohesion, to use the modern jargon) in Sandwell seem pretty good. However... there is one group who, no matter how long we have been here, no matter how hard they try to integrate and adopt the local customs, are never fully accepted. Brummies. It is over 25 years since I moved from Birmingham, three miles across the City, to Sandwell. But still you feel the almost vitriolic dislike and mistrust when people realise you are a Brummie. A former Leader of Walsall Council used to say, "You can always tell a Brummie when you enter a factory. If you see people working, they are from Walsall. If you see a bloke with his hands in his pockets, he is a Yam Yam (A colloquial name for inhabitants of Wolverhampton). If you see a bloke with his hands in someone else's pockets... he is a Brummie.

So, I suppose this site will be wasted on my local readers. Still, at least the people behind it are not as parochial as Sandwellians. Famous 'Brummies' listed include Frank Skinner, Noddy Holder... and Stan bloody Collymore (who is from Cannock, which is up North somewhere), and songs on the site are sung by Bearwood Ted, from my own adopted neck of the woods. Why, they've even got a flikr group with some 'exciting' shots of things happening in the City.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

The yellow tories are meeting

So... all those radical ronnies and lefty lizzies who voted for the real left alternative... was this what you were urging people to vote for?

Or was it this?

Or perhaps you just wanted to privatise the post office?

Oh no.... just look who's swinging left. Please, no, no, no.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The exit poll

It would appear the very unlovely Angela Merkel (portrayed here in a German carnival) has, according to the exit polls, narrowly won the German general election.
The anniversary of the death of a victim of the other 9/11 terrorist act... the one the U.S. politicians don't like to talk about.

Friday, September 16, 2005

If you like clouds (as I do, except when I'm on holiday) there are some terrific photographs of clouds in Birmingham here.

If Adolf Hitler flew in today, they'd send a limousine any way.

Jim Naughtie on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning put it to the Prime Minister that the definition of terrorism was a legal minefield, and therefore ‘encouraging terrorism’ in the Government'latest draft legislation was even more difficult to define. Tony Blair said the definition of terrorism was easy, “It’s killing innocent people indiscriminately” he said.

That simple, eh? So where does that leave, for instance, Churchill after Dresden, Truman after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Sharon after Sabra and Shatlia or even George W. Bush after Fallujah? There is probably not room on this server to list all of the other names of those who have either directly ordered the killing of innocent people indiscriminately, or encouraged others to do so (Kissinger’s relationship with Pinochet over the murder of Allende, for instance). In fact, Churchill seemed to define himself as a terrorist when justifying using mustard gas against the Kurds he said it should be used “against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment.” He dismissed objections as “unreasonable.” “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes to spread a lively terror."

So, thinking about this definition, I thought perhaps terrorism should be more correctly labelled as “the indiscriminate killing of civilians by those not in power.” With that definition, surely we can get around the legal problems of the UN dragging Tony forward to answer charges of collaborating with George W. before the courts on charges of encouraging terrorism, and all of those other brutal regimes whose Heads of State regularly sip out of Buckingham Palace’s best China.

Talking of China… it tells me that there are still problems with this definition. Mao, for instance, and Uncle Joe Stalin, are now almost universally regarded as having conducted large scale acts of terror against their own people…. and yet they were actually in power at the time. So Stalin is a “terrorist”, but Vladimir Putin isn’t? Gerry Adams used to be such a dangerous “terrorist” we were not even allowed to hear his voice in case it encouraged us all to go around making semtex parcels (my spellchecker just tried to get me to change that to semen, but I’m sure it was semtex) and Nelson Mandela was a “terrorist” before he was declared a saint.

So, here goes with Bob Piper’s latest definition of terrorism: Terrorism consists of acts of violence against innocent civilians by those people we don’t like or who disagree with us. Any problems with that, you pinko, commie liberals?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I got to this via Skuds. It is a map of the world showing all the countries I have visited.

It really highlights how little of the world I have actually been to. You can do your own by visiting world66.
"Well, all I can say is that when we do finally catch Osama Bin Laden, we can all thank God that al-Qaeda is a terrorist gang rather than a corporation. Were al-Qaeda found to be a registered company, what would the Crown Prosecution Service do? All they'd manage to charge Bin Laden with would be a couple of breaches in the health and safety regs. Would Osama get done for murder and crimes against humanity? Don't be daft. The most he would get done for is sending suicide bombers to work without proper goggles and a mask. Mark Thomas on the Government's as yet unfulifilled manifesto pledge(s) to introduce a law on Corporate Killing.

George Galloway's US Tour started last night... and he has published a book about his appearance on Capitol Hill. For more, read When George Galloway Channeled Rocky Marciano.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

If you want one of those snazzy 'Make LabOUR Party' banners on your blog,(as displayed above left) and designed in the style of the Make Poverty History ones, I suggest you get the script from The UK Today site.

Tonight was the Abbey Ward selection meeting and I extend a warm thank you to the comrades who came out and unanimously selected yours truly to fight the Council elections next May. Warm beers all round.

Monday, September 12, 2005

"It's funded by the billions leeched by private profiteers
From Soviet oil resources built up over the years
So take a walk to Stamford Bridge and soon you'll plainly see
The universe's most exclusive donkey sanctuary!"

From Abramovitch's Donkey Sanctuary.... by the splendid Attila the Stockbroker.

While I'm talking football, this proposal by the EU Commissioners may on the face of it appear to be welcome. The prospect of wiping the smug smirk of Murdoch's mug is a delightful notion. However... I suspect the proposal will not see an influx of free-to-air footy. Much more likely is the prospect of the BBC and ITV, not to mention cable providers like NTL or Telewest, using their digital platforms to also charge for matches. Not just one subscription then, but two or three maybe.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Yesterday we went to an open day at Lightwoods House in Bearwood. Inside the hall they make, and renovate stained glass windows in the John Hardman studios, and many of the country's churches, as well as the rebuilt House of Commons have stained glass windows made by the Hardman Studio. It was a terrific place. I had always wondered what it looked like inside, and although the house is badly in need of repair and restoration, the museum and studios are tremendous.

Amongst the stained glass windows in the studio, this one caught my eye...

Apparently this image of Fidel is one of a number of stain glass images created by a Russian émigré

Saturday, September 10, 2005

It looks like Banksy has been to Bearwood. This morning I spotted this on the way to Lightwoods House in my Ward (more of which will follow).
A couple of mates of my from Wolverhampton recently visited Venezuela to see the Bolivar revolution in practice. Andy Goodhall, Co-ordinator of Venezuela Solidarity UK and Nick Kelleher from Wolverhampton Trades council, have written a report of their visit.

The local woodland near our house is plagued by... well, what shall we call it, dog shit! I've no objection to people exercising their dogs, and I recognise the dogs have to resort to the call of nature, but surely the owners could pick this mess up afterwards before kids (and adults) find themselves smeared with the stuff. This particular invention (watch the video) seems a tad intrusive for walking about with... perhaps what we need is a bigger version so that we could scoop up the owners of these beasts.

Friday, September 09, 2005

All three main political parties are losing members. The fact of the matter is, by and large, they have failed to engage with the public and those in power, although anxious to listen to people when they are on the way up... become more remote and distant the higher they climb up that greasy pole. It is easier for the Lib Dems because they exercise such little power they can present themselves as everything to everyone, but even they have a situation whereby the Party leadership will ignore the party membership if they don't like their decisions. Within days of the election Chat-Show Charlie was making noises about dropping the local income tax policy, and they are all over the place on issues like anti-social behaviour and drugs. The Tories are busy trying to take away power from the membership to choose the Party leader, under the misapprehension that this was the reason for their last three election drubbings.

But really, I don't much care about the Tories and their Lib Dem friends. However, I am concerned about the 200,000 or more Labour Party members who have walked away in the last few years. The scrapping of Clause 4 may well have been popular with the 'New' Labour luvvies... but where are they now? And on a whole raft of policies, the Party leadership has ignored the decisions of the Party Conference, particularly on major policy issues like Foundation Trust NHS organisations and PFI. Despite various initiatives about being a listening party, as far as the membership are concerned they want to be in a position to influence policy, not just ever 4/5 years in a General Election, but at internal Party meetings, Party Conferences and policy forums. If they feel they have no more influence than the average voter... they will walk away and use their energies in other ways, most notably pressure groups and single issue campaigns. I am not just moaning about national government. I think local councillors up and down the country have to give some thought about how we engage local party members in the formulation of our policies.

Anyway... Michael Meacher and others are starting the process by setting up a commission to enquire into the fall in party membership. Party members can also sign Peter Kenyon's Pledge to support the Commission.
Last night I went to the inaugral meeting of Unite Against Fascism in Smethwick. An interesting meeting and a good opportunity to launch a non-sectarian anti-fascist organisation with trade union and labour movement support. Even our local MP turned up! One interesting little footnote: A few of us were having a swift half in the pub round the corner afterwards, as you do, when a burly geezer popped his head round the door, lifted his mobile phone, took our photographs, then scooted back out of the door. When one of our number jumped up, followed him, and asked him why he had done it, he used the full extent of his mental powers before replying, "Why, it ain't against the law is it? I just like taking photos." Highly likely, mate, very believable.