Our inglorious leader David Cameron has recently been on the offensive with ideas to slash the benefit budget and in particular, has targeted the long-term unemployed and the provision of housing benefit for those under 25. Now as people who regularly read my blog will know, I’ve been a Tory voter all my life but for various reasons, that came to an end when Cameron walked into number 10. But on this he has my full and total support. Indeed I’d actually say ‘about fucking time’ because like many tax payers in this once wonderful country of ours, I’ve had enough. Enough of propping up people who’s idea of contributing is to society is to vote on X-Factor, enough of supporting some lazy bastard with no interest in working, enough of funding the lifestyle of some addict who can’t be arsed to take the help being offered to him and enough of being the sole provider to an unmarried mother with three kids by three different blokes. That’s not where I want my hard earned taxes to go and it’s certainly not what the benefit system was designed for. The liberal left of course would argue the opposite but then again they would. It’s what they do. Yet what they fail to see is that because of the scroungers who have come to infest our society, the people that the system was actually built for are being squeezed as hard as anyone. How for example, can it be right that someone who has worked hard and saved all their life has to sell their home to pay for care which is provided freely to someone who lives on benefits? How can anyone argue for a system which requires that? It’s a national scandal. The left inevitably avoid such questions and instead argue that rather than attack the benefit system the government should instead be going after those who avoid paying tax. And whilst I certainly agree with that, it is for a totally different reason. They want it because in their world fairness is an alien concept and if we take more money from the rich it would allow us to continue along the ‘funding the feckless path’ they seemingly so admire. I meanwhile, want it to help rebuild the damage done by labour and ease the pressure on the already struggling working people of this country. But I also know that if you have a financial problem, the first thing you do is not try to increase your income, it’s to reduce your outgoings and in that sense what Cameron has said is not only a wake up call for the government, it’s a wake up call for the tax payer. As a consequence, not only should we be backing Cameron, we should be demanding that he go further and take a long hard look at every benefit from Job Seekers to Motobility. Both of which are horrifically abused and which cost us billions every year. And that’s the key word; us. Never forget that as tax payers we are the ones who fund this country and it’s about time that those who steal from us, be they rich or poor, were dealt with in just the same was as any other thief. After all, as I have said many times before, if someone came into your house and stole £65 a week from your wallet you’d be onto the Old Bill like a shot. What pray tell, is the difference?
As a writer who doesn’t exactly shy away from contact with the outside world, I receive a steady stream of emails from people asking me questions. These range from requests for advice on writing to comments about books and all points in between.
All are welcome, all appreciated and all replied to. After all, if someone has taken the trouble to mail me, it’s usually because they have taken the time to read something I’ve written so the very least I can do is respond. Time is, after all, the most valuable commodity any of us have.
However, there is one particular question thrown at me, and on a fairly regular basis, which always provides a warm glow of satisfaction; ‘what’s the next book about?’
The great joy of this question is that it provides both affirmation and confirmation in equal measures. For it provides proof that not only is my work liked, it’s anticipated! Could any author ask for more than that?
What makes it even more special is that my back list isn’t just varied, it could even be described as manic. I certainly can’t think of many authors who’ve published books about subjects as diverse as racism in football and farting although I’m sure there is much a decent psychiatrist could make of that!!
Yet as many people have told me, the eclectic nature of my work is part of the attraction. I am, as one reader put it, the Forrest Gump of lad-lit. I think that was meant as a compliment, it’s certainly how I took it anyway!
This ‘box of chocolates’ reference inevitably leads me onto another oft asked question, how do I pick the subjects for my books? The answer to that is simple, or at least it was.
Like most authors, I have a list of books I intend to write at some point. Some are based on personal experience, a few on a passion for something and others which stem from a simple nugget of an idea I have locked away in what passes for my memory. This list has always been fairly flexible and it’s fair to say that it contains books which will never, ever get written for no other reason than I simply don’t have the required skill to pull them off. And before anyone asks, yes, my autobiography is on there and no, it won’t ever get written. There are lots of reasons for this but ‘no one would ever believe half of it’ and ‘guilty your honour’ are two.
But in the past the underlying reason for the subject matter of a particular book was always purely and simply what I could persuade my publishers to print. A process which all too often was incredibly time consuming and frustrating involving arm twisting, deviousness and even grovelling. Indeed, it is a fact that Billy’s Log, which remains one of my personal favourite books (and is also one of my biggest sellers!) was only published at all because I insisted on having it tacked onto the contract for Barmy Army. But that process took two long years!
However, since the move into eBooks and the speed with which that allows me to both write and publish, things have changed immeasurably. For with the decision on what to write and when being mine and mine alone, not only am I in total control but I can be much more reactive to what my readers are telling me. The astonishing success of both The Crew and Top Dog since they went online (and however you look at it, almost 8 months at number one on both Amazon and iTunes is an astonishing feat) is a case in point. For with Wings of a Sparrow almost complete, I had already taken the decision on what to write next but such has been the volume of requests for a third book in that series, that has now become my next project.
That said, only yesterday I had a ‘bolt-of-lightning’ moment which got me so excited that I had to pull over and send emails about it from a lay-by on the A1 so it might be that things change again!
But that’s the joy of epublishing over traditional publishing. It allows me that flexibility which as a writer, is incredibly liberating.
And as long as my readers are happy to indulge me, I’m only too happy to continue along my meandering path.
God bless ‘em all!!!
One final thing I have to say. Just prior to EURO 2012, the BBC aired a documentary which made all kinds of accusations relating to the potentialfor racism and violence in the Ukraine and Poland and featured amongst other things, former England international Sol Campbell claiming that he thought some black and Asian fans might come home in coffins.
As I write this, it is the morning of the England vs Italy quarter final and without wishing to tempt fate, there has not been a mass outbreak of mass racism at a single game nor has there been a single England fan arrested.
We are all used to this type of media fed hysteria ahead of major tournaments but that does not make it right and it most certainly does not make it acceptable. Surely the time has come for the FA to make a stand against this ridiculous, insensitive and above all insulting style of sensationalist reporting and let it be known that it won’t put up with it any more.
But above all, Sol Campbell has done a huge disservice to his country and the many black and Asian England fans who stayed away from the tournament because of his ridiculous assertions. He was also incredibly insulting to the tournament hosts.
Thankfully, the England fans have already let it be known what they think of him with the brilliant ‘coffin parade’ in Donestsk but if he had anything about him, he’d have the balls to come out and admit he was wrong.
I won’t however, be holding my breath.
So, it’s underway. Thus far the games have all been great and thankfully we’ve seen barely any of the racism that was so feared pre-tournament.
What we have seen however, are sporadic incidents of violence but of course that was always going to happen wasn’t it. After all, why else are we seeing so many riot police on the streets of the host nations?
And this of course begs the question; why so much talk of one potential problem and so little of the very real one? After all, there have been thousands of inches of print and hour upon hour of television expended on racism whilst the very real threat of hooliganism has received barely a mention in comparison despite the fact that far more people are at risk of being caught up in violence than of being racially abused.
The reason of course, is that the pre-tournament media needed to fill space be it on paper, on line or on air and racism fits the bill perfectly. It is in many ways, the perfect story because we all understand it to be wrong which means that they can say pretty much whatever they like and hype it for all it’s worth sure in that there is no one to provide any kind of contra argument let alone complain.
Conversely, no one cares that some Ukrainian nutter is spewing forth dire warnings of what might happen should any Englishman dare step onto their soil because we all know that such threats are laughable, the media more than most. But they are also well aware that going into hoolie-mode might well attract the wrath of both the FA and the government and why risk that?
No, hooliganism is only news when something happens and then it’s suddenly big news. Occasionally, very big and very bad news.
In many ways, that’s why today is the big test for this tournament. We talk a lot about the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Russians, et al, but thanks to history and our domestic football culture, the English will inevitably always be at the centre of any discussion about hooliganism. They will also be the target. Not just for the local hooligans (and for ‘local’ read Poles, Ukrainians, Russians, Croatians, etc, etc) but for those who seek to soil our nations reputation and undo all the good work that has been done to change the negative perception of our travelling support.
That to me is a real worry. Let’s face it, there are plenty of journalists who would be happy to do whatever it takes to hand Mr Platini our collective heads on a plate and there are certainly enough policemen out there willing to help them do the job. With UEFA hardly being our biggest fans, finding ourselves standing in the dock in front of them is not an attractive proposition.
Don’t get me wrong and make no mistake, England might not travel abroad looking for trouble these days but there are plenty of lads amongst their number who won’t back away if it kicks off. However, those lads are also old hands who know the score and they are well aware of the bigger picture. They know better than anyone how to read an atmosphere but the problems arise when they are placed in a situation where backing off or chilling out isn’t an option left open to them.
As I write this, the majority of the England fans are in place, the sun is shining, the beer’s already flowing and the Police are twitchy. As the day progresses, it may well get more nervy and with our game over early, the fans will have a long evening ahead of them.
Oh yes, tonight is the first real test for this tournament. It’s also a huge test for our reputation. Let’s hope everyone passes it.
The other day, someone sent me a link to a video. It was one of those YouTube compilations made by some genius on their laptop and featured a fairly hefty slice of action from the early 1980’s. Not just any action mind, but Watford action. It was quite simply awesome.
But it wasn’t simply the sight of Luther Blissett and Ross Jenkins banging in goals for fun which brought such joy to my drab supporting life, it was the memories it dragged up of the so-called ‘bad old days’ of going to football.
Now no one knows better than I that to walk along memory lane you have to pass through a mental filter which removes the vast majority of bad bits but the truth is that for me and for most of the people I know, watching football in the early 80’s wasn’t that bad at all. In fact it was absolutely fantastic.
As a Watford fan the football was amazing, the travelling generally hilarious and even encounters with other fans usually provided a degree of humour. All that running away also kept me extremely fit!
Yes, I know that there is a degree of brevity in what I’ve said here but there is also a serious point and it is one which all too often seems to have been forgotten.
You see whenever talk turns to watching football in the 80’s mention is invariably made of the hooligan element and to be fair, as someone who was around at the time and who has since written a fairly reasonable amount about it, they were certainly relevant. But the reality is that not every game involved trouble and not everyone who stood behind a goal or travelled home and away was involved in violence.
Yet here we are 20 odd years later still talking about the 80’s as if every game involved mayhem on the terraces. More to the point, whilst the
popular image the modern game portrays is of one where all of the stadiums are full of happy smiling faces, the stark reality is that the history of violence is still being used to generate a fear which in turn is used as an excuse to exercise control over fans. Be that through the imposition of designated seating, the use of oppressive stewarding, alcohol bans or even the continued refusal to bring back standing inside our grounds.
This isn’t good enough. Like the industry football has now become, fan culture has moved on since the 80’s and the time has surely come to acknowledge that and consign the memories of the violent minority to history.
Yes, as a culture it still lingers in the streets outside as well as on the internet and of course everyone must be vigilant but with the risks to the individual now greater than ever, even the most hardened of idiots thinks twice if not three times before throwing a punch inside a ground.
But more to the point, by setting aside the fear of hooliganism and placing a degree of responsibility onto the shoulders of the fans –who lest we forget, actually fund the game- we might actually see a return of the one thing which seems to have gone missing in action at all too many games in recent years, atmosphere.
Because no one can be in any doubt that the atmosphere at football these days is a pale shadow of what it was back then nor can they question the simple truth that atmosphere was generated largely from amongst those who gathered together and stood behind the goals.
The imposition of designated seating was almost solely responsible for killing that and if taking what many still foolishly consider to be a backward step is the price of bringing it back, then I for one think it’s a risk worth taking.
And I don’t doubt for one second that I am the only one who thinks that.
This blog first appeared on www.totalfootballmag.com
As a lifelong football fan and a passionate supporter of fans rights, I am often asked to become involved in campaigns. These can involve huge protests about clubs being taken to the edge of financial ruin by useless owners through to charity evenings being run by fans to raise money for sick children.
No matter what they are, as long as I have a degree of sympathy with the cause then I will do whatever I can do to help be that by going along to show solidarity or by donating books to raffle off as prizes. And I do that because I am one of those who believe that no matter where they watch their football, fans are one huge community. Yes of course there are exceptions (we all have rivals after all!) but at the end of the day, it’s the game that really matters and if a club are in trouble or something is being done which is fundamentally wrong, we should all pull together to help. I actually wrote a book about this very thing –Rebellion- which examined protests at clubs ranging from Manchester City to former FA Cup winners Wimbledon FC.
The reason I mention this is that this very week we have seen two clubs go into administration here in the UK including one of the legendary names of world football. No, not Pompey, but Glasgow Rangers.
Now I won’t go into my usual rantings about the way football is run but there is a sad inevitability in the fact that as with all such things, the only real hope for ultimate salvation will lie with the fans. Only recently we saw little Darlington put out a call for help when closure seemed just days away and to the credit of all those who follow the game, even though they are a relatively little club that call was heard and a small fortune raised (including one single donation of £25,000) to keep them going for a while in the hope that some way of saving them will be found. And to be fair, if history is anything to go by it probably will be. Sadly too many clubs have been in this position before including such giants as Chelsea, Leeds, Wolves and even the great Manchester United.
To me, things like this actually show football fans at their very best. We get a lot of bad press thanks to the hooligan and racist elements but we should never forget that they form only a tiny minority and the vast majority love the game and everything to do it. Long may that continue.
However, whilst news of a club in crisis being saved by the community of football fans always fills me with pride, it also fills me with a sense of anger. Anger which is directed at one specific group.
It would be reasonable to assume that the target of my fury would be those who administer the game. After all, their consistent failure to impose any kind of strict control over how the individual clubs manage their finances is ultimately responsible for things like this happening. But it is not. No, my anger is directed at players.
I do not for one second begrudge anyone earning a decent living out of the game because if I could, I would. I don’t like the amounts involved when we get into the top flight, that’s true, but I certainly don’t blame them taking it. That’s market forces after all.
What I do have a problem with is players taking that money and never putting any of it back into the game. Yes of course there are exceptions to
that but in the main, players take a fortune from out of the pockets of fans and then when trouble hits a club, we are the ones they expect to dip into our pockets to keep that the club alive. That’s not right. Not right at all.
Here in England there are 92 professional and hundreds of part-time clubs and together they form what is in the opinion of many, the greatest league structure in world football. If one of those clubs goes under, especially in the current financial climate, it can only destabilise the rest and as Rangers have shown, no one is immune from the danger of financial collapse especially when the tax man comes calling. Indeed, there are a number of Premiership teams in serious trouble at the moment and one can only imagine the consequences should one of those go out of business.
So with so much at stake is it really too much to expect that the people who take the largest slice out of the game contribute a small percentage of their huge wage to help keep a struggling club alive?
Or is that responsibility always going to fall on that group of people who in far too many cases these days are already struggling to afford the cost of a ticket to walk through a turnstile?
Two quick plugs, I’m currently giving away ebooks versions two of my best-selling books (The Crew and Everywhere We Go). Further details can be found by clicking here Free Books
Could I also thank all those who have downloaded my most recent book, The Art of Fart. If you liked it, please leave a review at the store where you obtained it from. As with all my books, they really do make a difference.
And I recently gave a short interview to the excellent It’s Round & It’s White website. Please click on the link to visit.
I will be the first to admit that I am something of a grumpy bastard and that I spend my days moaning about subjects ranging from the failure of HM Tax and revenue to collect money from the travelling community (why don’t they?) to people who illegally use disabled parking spaces (who should have their cars crushed on the spot). However, today I read something which hasn’t just irritated me, it has left me incensed. Yes, that’s right, incensed.
For on this very night, the 22nd of December, at White Hart Lane where Spurs will be playing near neighbours Chelsea, stewards will be wearing cameras in an effort to catch on film anyone in the crowd who uses foul, abusive or racist language.
Stewards….. wearing cameras….. Sorry, but I had to type that twice because I still don’t actually believe it.
To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin with this. The sanitisation of football is something I have written about extensively over the years and yet it continues apace. Usually it has to be said, hidden or at least cloaked under the ‘Kick Racism’ banner. But whilst I will be the first to jump behind anything which deals with either racism or racist abuse as I have done at length both in books and on this very blog, this is something else entirely. This is little more than fascism.
Like most people, I go to football to let off steam and part of that involves shouting, singing and occasionally, indulging in that little thing we fans call banter. Now in truth, many of the things we say, sing or chant could, when taken out of context, be considered abusive but inside a football ground, when directed at opposing fans, players or even officials, they are little more than simple words. Many of these words have basis in either history or fact but they are above all, instrumental in the creation of atmosphere. And atmosphere is, above all, what makes going to football one of the great joys of life.
But now, all of that is in grave danger of being taken away and make no mistake, that’s exactly where this is heading. The question is, why?
The fascists’ case is that no one should be subjected to any kind of abuse which might be deemed unacceptable but this is bollocks. This is about context and in the case of football, the game is the context. Enter a ground and you should know exactly what you are walking into, play it professionally and you must know what you are likely to experience at some point. If you don’t like that, then either don’t go or watch the sanitised version on television or don’t seek to enter the profession in the first place! It really is that simple. Because you have no right to walk into a ground or run out onto a pitch and then cry foul because you don’t like certain aspects of what you find. The individual will never, should never and can never be bigger than the game.
Yes, of course there are things which are said, shouted or sung inside grounds which are unacceptable but shock horror, terraces aren’t politically correct places and nor should they be! Furthermore, history has proven time and time again that in the vast majority of cases, the line of acceptability is drawn firmly by the people sitting within earshot which is exactly how it should be anyway! It is not, nor should ever be, drawn by someone sitting in a control room viewing CCTV footage a few days later.
Equally, what will be deemed unacceptable? The girls in Hertfordshire do have tits and fanny’s but me singing about them doesn’t make me sexist just as the age old songs about Mickey Quinn eating all the pies hardly make me fatist.
But to some politically correct driven jobsworth, that might be exactly what they decide and what then? Bollockings? Bannings? Prosecution? Or will we all have to attend some kind of seminar outlining the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of football fandom.
It’s a joke. But of course, it isn’t. Because it isn’t funny at all. It’s potentially very real and it could well have major consequences for the game in this country.
The irony is that this is happening on the very same week that someone in the UK has finally seen sense and decided that a return safe standing might actually be a good idea. Of course it isn’t in England because that would mean relinquishing some of the control the game exerts over us but fair play to the Scottish game (and that’s something I never thought I’d say! ) for finally having the balls to give it a try.
Yet what is the driving force behind the safe standing campaign? Exactly, the demise of atmosphere inside our grounds! Which is of course exactly what this farce at Tottenham is going to erode even further.
Well I have news for those who ‘run’ the game. Start filming people and prosecuting them for using foul language inside a ground and you will be fucked. Because enough is enough.
This isn’t about the game or the police, this is about the clubs themselves. OUR clubs. They’ve hiked prices to ridiculous levels, make us sit not stand, shift games around without a moment’s thought for the travelling fan and each week seem to find new ways to part us from our increasingly hard earned. And now, as we have seen at Blackburn and numerous other clubs, not only are they starting to cry foul when we actually have the nerve to voice our opinions about what is or is not going on at OUR clubs, thanks to Tottenham there is a very real sign that they are seemingly moving toward the total control of what we can and cannot say inside grounds. OUR grounds. What next? Song sheets? Big screens being used as auto-cues? Fans being asked to sing adverts for sponsors?
You may laugh, but I wouldn’t put anything past anyone involved with the financial side of football because none of them have the remotest idea of what it is (or was) like to stand on a terrace and be spontaneous. That’s why what’s going on at Spurs must be stopped from spreading and if the FSA and those who claim to be supportive of the rights of fans had anything about them, they would already be screaming blue bloody murder.
So where are they?
Recently, I’ve had a lot of people asking me to comment on issues relating to footballers and in particular, their morals.
This was of course, largely a result of the Carlos Tevez situation and his alleged refusal to get his overpaid but extremely talented arse off the Manchester City bench and actually do what he is paid shit-loads to do. But it’s continued thanks to the activities of… well, far too many of them.
Quite why anyone thinks I am qualified to comment on the morals of anyone is something of a mystery as my life has hardly been virtuous but hey, if they ask, I answer. It’s what I do.
For what it’s worth, I think that the vast majority of footballers are decent blokes who are lucky enough to be paid to do a job most blokes would do for nothing. Some of them are paid way too much money admittedly but that’s hardly their fault. Whilst one can argue at length about the issue of players wages, as it stands it is market forces that dictate what they get paid and so until that issue is finally resolved as it surely has to be soon, I say fill your boots!
However, there are also a few amongst their number who are not decent at all and can at best be described as chavs and at worst, as scum. There are certainly individuals who, were it not for the fact that they could play football, would be in prison. Probably for a long time.
This is hardly a shock. After all, football is the working class game and even in this day and age, many footballers come from backgrounds which can hardly be called affluent. So it is hardly surprising that some of them go off the rails when they suddenly find themselves swimming in money, living in expensive apartments and left to their own devices. What doesn’t help is that their clubs or agents are so quick to step in and clean up their mess and that to me is the real problem. It’s the fact that being a good footballer seems to provide a golden get-you-out-of-jail card. That’s not right.
No one should be above the rule of law but equally, no one who represents the game, be they player or manager, has the right to drag it into the papers for the wrong reasons and be able to escape punishment. Being a twat, stupid or just horny is no excuse and I don’t care if it’s drink driving, adultery, rape, murder or simply refusing to play, they are bringing football into disrepute and should be hammered by those who administer it.
Not least because it makes those who follow the game that funds these lifestyles look foolish to those who don’t.
It’s not often I write about politics but today, I have to make an exception.
Quite why this compulsion has hit at this particular time is unclear as the decision I’ve made and the reasons for it were made months ago but hey, my subconscious has decided that today is the day and so here we go.
I have never made any secret of the fact I have always voted Tory and am a huge fan of Lady Thatcher. My father led me along this road from an early age but it was reinforced when I joined the RAF (the military are traditionally right-wing) and set in stone when I headed south as part of the South Atlantic Task Force in 1982.
If anything, my anti-left resolve was hardened when Blair and his loathsome cronies came to power and set about their pre-planned destruction of the social (and as we later learned, economic) fabric of our country. A crime which is far more serious than the ongoing obsession with a so-called illegal war in Iraq yet which will similarly and tragically never result in any kind of justice being imposed upon those responsible.
Have no doubt, I was thrilled when Brown was ejected from number 10 and chuffed to bits that my vote contributed to his demise. I had high hopes for Cameron and even though he was forced to bring the Lib-Dems in, I was convinced that anything would be better than what we had been enduring. Yet as the weeks unfolded and the true extent of the damage Labour had inflicted on the country began to be exposed, I began to become concerned. And the more I heard, the more my unease grew.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually support many of the things the coalition are doing and whole heartedly back the cuts the government are making because at the end of the day, that’s my money being wasted by the NHS, the Civil Service and even the MOD (don’t get me started on that!). I also applaud the stance being taken over law and order and the growing calls to repeal elements of the human rights act. However, I certainly don’t support some of the cuts made to defence especially the destruction of the Harrier fleet which will surely rank as one of the most crazed military decisions of all time.
But there have been two particular issues which have enraged me since Dave came to power and combined, they have ensured that I will never vote Tory again.
The first is the issue of Europe. I’m English first, British second and European never. Whilst I understand the concept of a European state and accept that there are certain elements of it which are of huge benefit to the nation, there are other aspects which disgust me, others which terrify me. To me, it’s clear that the EU is a club which needs us far more than we need it and that alone is reason enough to leave. So where is my referendum? The one Dave repeatedly promised.
As each day passes, the clamour from the nation calls for it and whilst we are finally seeing noises that it might actually happen at some point, the stumbling block remains the construction of the actual question. But it shouldn’t, it should be a simple in or out question. If the people say we stay in, then fine. But if they say we want out, then it’s a total out.
Either way, it will be a democratic decision and those who voted contrary to the outcome will have to deal with it just as the country will have to deal with the consequences whatever they might be. But the fact remains, we want our say and we should be given it. The fact that we haven’t is a disgrace.
The second issue is the one which not only leaves me baffled, but furious. Indeed, even as I’m sitting here I can start to feel my blood boiling.
Britain is a wealthy country, of that there is little doubt. Yet at the moment we have, thanks to Blair and co’s mismanagement of our finances, a huge debt. As a consequence, the government have been forced to make massive cuts to public spending the majority of which, as I’ve already said, I support.
However, given the fact that we are in such a mess, why the bloody hell are we spending £8.1 billion a year on overseas aid (and that will increase to £11.4 billion in 2014. That’s a 34 per cent rise!)?
Cameron argues that it is essential to spend this money to maintain our status on the world stage and more importantly, that we have a moral duty to help those living what must be awful lives. But whilst I think the former is bollocks and do have some sympathy with the latter, surely as an elected government you also have an even greater moral duty to ensure that you don’t have kids in your own country who live in abject poverty or elderly men and women who, having spent the bulk of their lives paying into the system, are being forced to choose between eating and heating because their pensions are so low.
I wouldn’t mind so much if it made any sense. Call me old fashioned, but does a nation which spends £20 billion a year on defence and £1.25 billion
space programme really need £280 million from the British taxpayer? Would it not be better all round if someone were to give them a quick call and tell them to get their priorities right?
And did it not strike anyone at the Department for International Development as odd that many senior officials in Sierra Leone went on a huge spending spree shortly after they handed them a cheque for £1.2 million to aid ‘peacekeeping’ efforts?
I know I’m being flippant but sadly, those are two examples from a very long list of bizarre decisions and whilst the sums involved might not make much difference to the old age pension or child benefit, they would make a huge difference to organisations such as Childline, Cancer Research, Macmillan, the RNLI and even the RSPCA who as it stands, are essential charities almost wholly dependent on public donation. And I for one, would far rather my taxes went in that direction rather than risk them ending up in some African despots Swiss bank account or to countries who wish us nothing but harm in return.
Quite why Cameron and company cannot see that escapes me and that, in essence, is why I will never vote Tory again. Not because they are crap politicians or even dodgy characters, but because after years of Labour destruction and miss-management, they have failed to adhere to the fundamental rule of political life. That as a politician you are elected by the people to serve the people.
To do that, you have to listen to and act upon the will of the majority and the sad fact is that at the moment, at least when it comes to these two issues, they’re certainly not listening to me and plenty like me.
So why on earth should they get my support.
In every list or article written by a male about relationships with the opposite sex, there is one issue which will inevitably receive a mention. It is best described as entrapment.
I don’t mean entrapment in the sense of her trying to find out if you’re having an affair or have actually been out with your mates when you’ve told her you’re at work, I’m talking the really serious stuff. Primarily the stuff about HER! Those questions which are designed to trap you into saying the wrong thing and attracting trouble. The most dangerous of which is the dreaded ‘how does this look?’
Now any bloke with half a brain knows that if a woman asks that question, it doesn’t matter what he responds because it will inevitably be wrong. If we pay a compliment it’s ‘you’re only saying that’ and if we say anything negative…. well, best not to do that anyway. And even if it isn’t wrong at that moment in time, it will almost certainly be wrong later on at which point you will get the blame because ‘you should have said something’.
Worst of all is when this question is posed when we’ve been ‘taken’ shopping. Never mind the fact that most men hate shopping with a passion and being dragged around the underwear department of Marks & Spencers is the single most evil thing a woman can inflict on her man, our reluctance to show any desire to provide comment on anything from ball gowns to handbags means we are considered either useless or boring or both. All of which adds to the ‘fun’ of course.
I mention this here because the other day, whilst mulling over what would constitute my perfect job, I finally came up with the answer. You see I actually quite like wandering around shopping malls (it’s a people watching thing) and I certainly like women so it seemed reasonable to think of a way to combine the two activities. So in short, I’d like to be employed as the bloke who passes impartial and honest comment on what women are either trying on or already wearing.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not nor ever could be considered, fashionable. I wear clothes which do not suit me, have a body profile which defies any description other than lardy and am as far removed from Gok Wan as it is humanly possible to get (and on that note, if you want to spend all your life dressing women and acting like a woman, why not just get a bloody sex change and have done with it?) but I do have three things going for me. I am a bloke, I know what looks good on women and just as importantly, I know what doesn’t.
And having sat outside more changing rooms than I care to recall and watched a succession of fashion disasters appear only be told by their long-suffering and bored shitless partners that they look fabulous, would it not be better to have an honest opinion from an impartial male on tap? After all, wouldn’t a woman rather be told that she looks like a pig wrapped in some old pub curtains before she goes to that wedding as opposed to realising it herself when she receives the photo’s afterwards?
But equally, I’d like to be able to tell a woman that she looks beyond awesome. Indeed, I’d encourage any bloke to do that once in a while anyway. I have and trust me, you have no idea of the impact paying a random comment can have, especially at 08.45 on the Piccadilly Line.
The other attraction is that I’d also be able to walk up to a woman and tell that at 50 plus, she shouldn’t have pink hair or a nose piercing because they make her look slightly sad or tell that 25 year-old that men don’t actually find the sight of an exposed KFC fuelled muffin-top particularly attractive.
The more I think about it, the more I think that I’m definitely onto something here. After all, if honesty really is the best policy, let’s apply it where it is most needed, at the proverbial coal face. But equally, think how many cold and frosty nights I could save for my fellow males?
Anyone got a number for John Lewis?
In all the soul searching and hand wringing that has gone on since the riots that engulfed London, Birmingham and Manchester barely two weeks ago, little has been mentioned about what I regard as one of the major factors to have impacted on the fabric of British society over the last 50 or so years.
For whilst much has been made of the role computer games have played in the desensitisation of violence and the fact that music videos are increasingly portraying women as little more than sexual objects (and where are the feminists in that debate? Gyrating to Rihanna along with their 8 year old daughters perhaps?) little has been made of the most powerful medium of all, television.
Now I love TV. It is an amazing thing and the people who work within it produce some incredible programming. Yet as a weapon, it is unrivalled. For it has the potential to shape public opinion in a way no other medium can and only a fool would deny that it has certainly been wielded plenty of times over the years and for all kinds of reasons. Some good, most bad.
Never is this more graphically illustrated than in the soaps. Soaps are different to all other forms of entertainment in that they are infinite. Characters come, evolve and go, storylines unfold and die but the essence remains constant. This is of course, one of the great attractions and for many viewers that essence becomes so familiar that it takes on a sense of reality. A place it stops being the product of some writers imagination and is instead somewhere where the characters change from jobbing actors into into real people who actually experience real things. It’s Truman in all but name.
The arguement often put forward in defence of this type of programming is that it’s art mirroring life which would be fine if they showed lives, communities and problems which were actually ‘normal’ in the sense that yours and my lives are normal but they do not. Instead they paint a warped and necessarily condensed picture of a drama. One where hatred, shouting, violence, criminality and dysfunctional families are everyday normality.
And if you’re 7 and your evenings involve sitting in front of some screaming banshee supposedly living in a Manchester suburb and your only datum point is a home life which isn’t that far removed from what you’re seeing on screen, it simply becomes an extension of reality. When that is so destructive (and so repetitive) it can only have a negative impact because if anti-social behaviour is something you witness on a daily basis and it is rarely if ever condemned, how can you hope to learn that it is unacceptable in the real ‘real’ world?
Therefore, those who develop these storylines must be made aware that they too have a responsibility to society to portray life is it actually is as opposed to the twisted vision they trot out for us. Because whilst I’m sure everyone involved with Eastenders is happy to work there, I doubt any of them would actually want to live there in real life.
And that has to be the defining question all producers and commissioners need to ask themselves before they put their signature on that line to sign off that script. Because if it’s not good enough for them, why on earth should it be good enough for us?