March 29, 2015
by Paul

Channel 4’s Coalition – a terrific piece of television

On Channel 4 On Demand, I watched Coalition earlier today.

I was not impressed by the first few minutes covering the election campaign. However, once the election polls closed, the drama changed gear and was superb from that minute onwards.

The acting was first-rate. Mark Gatiss as Peter Mandelson was priceless. Donald Sumpter was utterly brilliant as Paddy. Chris Larkin was great as Danny Alexander. OK, the latter two didn’t look like Danny/Paddy but they “got” them. Acting is not impersonation. Acting involves getting into a character, and I think Sumpter and the rest of the cast did that.

There were a few hilarious episodes that had me laughing out loud.

And the climax was very gripping.

This piece is a major contributor to helping us to understand the events of May 2010.

March 28, 2015
by Paul

West Berkshire Lib Dems campaign launch @judithbuntingld

It was very exciting to be at last night’s West Berkshire Lib Dems campaign launch at Newbury Town Hall. We were very privileged to have Liberal Democrat Party President Sal Brinton present. She gave a very inspiring speech (photo above). I was also very inspired to hear Judith Bunting give a rousing address.

“We get knocked down but we get up again”, said Judith and the sound controller, Tony, quickly googled Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” (“I get knocked down but I get up again”) and played it, unscripted, at the end of Judith’s speech. Sadly, I only I noticed this clever work.

March 25, 2015
by Paul

Clarkson: The BBC had no choice

I am reproducing in full the summary text of the BBC report on the Clarkson incident, below.

I am just utterly breathless that anyone can think the BBC did anything except the completely unavoidable. They took the only action they could take in the circumstances.

Guido Fawkes is saying “lentils all round” and that the BBC have finally found an “excuse” to get rid of Clarkson.

Louise Mensch came up with this comment:

…and then followed it up with: “when I was a kid two blokes would have taken it outside and brushed it off.”

She has no clue, has she? This is a work situation. Since when are fracas between bosses and staff solved by going outside to fight? (It is superfluous to point out that Clarkson is six foot five, but I feel I ought to).

I see Sky have categorically said they will not hire Clarkson. “Experts” are saying ITV will improve their brand by hiring him.

That is highly debatable.

On 9 March 2015, Jeremy Clarkson reported to BBC management that he had been involved in a physical and verbal incident with Oisin Tymon, the producer of Top Gear, at the Simonstone Hall hotel, North Yorkshire, while working on location. The incident had occurred on 4 March 2015 and Jeremy Clarkson was suspended on 10 March, pending investigation.

I was asked to undertake an investigation to establish the facts of what occurred. In conducting my investigation, in line with the BBC’s usual practice, I interviewed a number of witnesses and others connected with the incident. Accounts were agreed, based on my interviews, with each participant.

Having conducted these interviews and considered the evidence presented, I conclude the following: on 4 March 2015 Oisin Tymon was subject to an unprovoked physical and verbal attack by Jeremy Clarkson. During the physical attack Oisin Tymon was struck, resulting in swelling and bleeding to his lip. The verbal abuse was sustained over a longer period, both at the time of the physical attack and subsequently.

Specific facts I have found as part of my investigation are as follows:
Earlier on 4 March, studio recording of Top Gear had taken place in Surrey and the presenters had travelled that same evening to the location shoot in North Yorkshire.

The incident occurred on a patio area of the Simonstone Hall hotel, where Oisin Tymon was working on location for Top Gear.
The physical attack lasted around 30 seconds and was halted by the intervention of a witness.
It is the case that Oisin Tymon offered no retaliation.
The verbal abuse was directed at Oisin Tymon on more than one occasion – both during the attack and subsequently inside the hotel – and contained the strongest expletives and threats to sack him. The abuse was at such volume as to be heard in the dining room, and the shouting was audible in a hotel bedroom.
Derogatory and abusive language, relating to Oisin Tymon and other members of the Top Gear team, continued to be used by Jeremy Clarkson inside the hotel, in the presence of others, for a sustained period of time.
It is clear that Oisin Tymon was shocked and distressed by the incident, and believed that he had lost his job.
Following the attack, I understand that Oisin Tymon drove to a nearby A&E department for examination.
Over the subsequent days, Jeremy Clarkson made a number of attempts to apologise to Oisin Tymon by way of text, email and in person.
And it is the case that Jeremy Clarkson reported the incident to BBC management.

It was not disputed by Jeremy Clarkson or any witness that Oisin Tymon was the victim of an unprovoked physical and verbal attack. It is also clear to me that Oisin Tymon is an important creative member of the Top Gear team who is well-valued and respected. He has suffered significant personal distress as a result of this incident, through no fault of his own.

March 12, 2015
by Paul

And on that bombshell: Did Jeremy Clarkson really want to carry on doing Top Gear – I mean deep down?

Health warning: I’ve been reading the Mail Online about this. It appears that there have been more journalists roaming the North Yorkshire moors in the last few days than at any time since the invention of the printing press.

On the day of the “fracas”, allegedly, a helicopter was allegedly kept waiting for three hours while a certain broadcaster was allegedly in the pub.

Do you know how much a helicopter costs for three hours? It’s a lot of money. All paid for by the license payers, I suspect.

And after an alleged three hours in the pub, is it any wonder that a “fracas” ensued? I think I would cause a fracas if I spent three hours in the pub.

And was the chef at the hotel not entirely justified in going home when the “guests” were an alleged two hours late for their meal? (The general manager later rolled up his sleeves and cooked the broadcaster a steak, which makes the whole fracas a bit of an alleged farce).

And was the alleged alternative of bar snacks, including hot soup, not entirely reasonable?

The alternative, that is, to a £21.95 sirloin steak which the broadcaster allegedly wanted, complete with fondant potatoes, fried wild mushrooms, grilled cherry tomatoes and pink peppercorn sauce.

Has the said broadcaster not allegedly lost the plot if he is allegedly spending three hours in the pub, allegedly delaying a helicopter and, allegedly, dinner, and then allegedly throwing his toys out of the pram, including an alleged scuffle which he allegedly caused?

I was very struck by an article by Ian Morris, who worked on the Top Gear team for many years:

And that leads me to an odd conclusion. Namely, that perhaps those involved – like Clarkson – are bored. The show has run for longer than anyone, including them, expected. Bored people can, sometimes, look for ways to put an end to things, and if Jeremy wants to go and work for Sky making a different show, then belligerently arguing with the BBC and his producers is one way to get out. It’s also important to note that all three presenters were weeks off signing new contracts that would lock them into the show for three more years.

I would perhaps add the word “subconsciously” in there somewhere. I don’t think JC deliberately entered into a fracas. But perhaps something in the back of his head was at work. Do people who really want to keep a job allegedly keep helicopters waiting for three hours while they are allegedly in the pub and then allegedly have a “dust up” with a staff member?

I think not.

And on that bombshell….

March 11, 2015
by Paul

Top Gear with the current team had run its course

I’m a mild fan of Top Gear. I find it moderately amusing. It fills a hole in the corner of the living room. I prefer “Call the midwife”. That said, I have been watching it since it was introduced by Angela Rippon and Noel Edmonds.

We must await the outcome of the BBC enquiry into the “fracas” over the non-availability of late evening hot food in a posh hotel in North Yorkshire. I don’t agree with the 400,000 idiots people who have signed Guido’s stupid petition. HR procedures are actually important and deadly serious.

It is conceivable that the incident might actually indicate that Top Gear with the current presenters had run its course. It is hugely popular. But once you have fired a body into a hospital (the Top Gear equivalent of jumping the shark?), it is difficult to know where you go next for entertainment.

One thing stands out. The current threesome are extremely passionate and experienced motoring journalists. Exceptional. And they do have a remarkable chemistry together.

But watching it recently I have noticed how Jeremy Clarkson tends to over-shadow the whole thing. There’s a lot of pressure on him, which might explain why he blew, if blew he did. He has to say and do a lot.

It’s quite possible that the fracas was something that happened which was indicative of the whole Clarkson/Hammond/May/BBC/Top Gear beast collapsing under its own weight.

I won’t miss the show in its current form. I think there are many talented motoring journalists such as Quentin Wilson, Suzi Perry and Tiff Needell who could make an excellent Top Gear line-up. General presenters such as Chris Evans, Jake Humphrey and Clare Balding would easily fit the mix and do a very good job.

I think Top Gear would benefit from moving on from its current presenter team. They are very expert, they are very funny but you can get too much of people behaving like fourth formers.

March 10, 2015
by Paul

Blog commenting and anger

Sometimes I wonder if some commenters on blogging sites will one day spontaneously self-combust. You know, burst into flames. I regularly see commenters who appear to comment in a parallel universe. They get themselves worked up and put enormous anger into precisely worded comments. (I think I may have been guilty in this regard in the past.)

I do wonder if they should just chill.

There are a lot of people – almost exclusively male – who can make themselves seem like very big men from behind a keyboard, with the relative anonymity of the internet.

But I suspect – based on a few examples – that when you meet such people they are actually very small, very withdrawn, socially inept and couldn’t, frankly, knock the skin off a rice pudding.

I think it is a good rule of thumb that you should not say anything on the internet that you would not say to someone’s face.

For example, I never call people racists on the internet (or elsewhere). If I have not met someone, I don’t think it is ethical or credible to do so.

I don’t think it is right to be anything but polite to someone you have never met. (Again, I confess that I may have sinned in this regard in the past).

Come on guys, let’s get a sense of perspective here. There is more to life than the internet (and, indeed, politics). Politeness costs nothing and leads to a much better world for all of us.

And remember, if you are rude to someone, you might actually meet them some day. They might even be in the position to give you a job that you want.

March 7, 2015
by Paul
Comments Off

International Women’s Day and Women’s World day of prayer #makeithappen

Yesterday was Women’s World Day of Prayer. I am aware of this because for decades my mum has supported this annual event.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and we have been asked to nominate women we admire. I would like to nominate one of the Emeritus Lay Canons of Truro Cathedral, Mrs Hilda Walter.

She is approaching her ninetieth birthday. She brought up a family of seven children, including six boys, often on her own. She has studied and lectured on theology and played a very active role for decades in the church in Bude, and in Stratton deanery, Truro Diocese and on the national synod. As a mark of this she has been awarded the Cross of St Piran and is referred to by the Bishop of Truro as “Canon Hilda Walter”, because she is, as I say, an Emeritus Lay Canon of Truro Cathedral, which, I think, is the highest honour a lay person can receive within the diocese of Truro.

She has also given decades of service to the Mother’s Union, Christian Aid, RNLI etc etc

She is a fine example of a woman who gets down to hard work to make people’s lives better.

Through years of ups and downs, including just recently losing her beloved daughter, Eliza, to cancer, she has been remarkably calm, stoical, positive, dignified and determined, providing a shining and inspiring example to many people including myself.

And, yes, I am proud to say, she is my mum.

February 28, 2015
by Paul

Money saving expert Martin Lewis on Labour’s fees policy: ‘Poorer students will subsidise city investment bankers’

Here’s part of what Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, said on the BBC’s World at One today:

This is the worse type of politics for me. It is the politics that may appeal to people on the surface but it is financially illiterate…If any other party was launching a policy that effectively meant that poorer students would be subsidising city investment banking graduates, which is what this does, there would be protests in the streets and it would be led by the Labour party. I simply don’t understand how they’ve launched this. Continue Reading →

February 28, 2015
by Paul

To hit the LibDems, Labour give £2 billion to graduates earning 32%+ above the average wage

Details of Labour’s tuition fees policy are emerging today. There is a proposed higher maintenance grant and higher interest rates for higher earning graduates. It will remain to be seen how much those two changes alter the regressiveness of the main proposal to reduce the fee cap to £6,000.

That basic policy proposal is to take £2 billion from pension tax breaks and give it to graduates who earn 32% above the national average wage. Continue Reading →

February 27, 2015
by Paul
1 Comment

Tuition fees – Labour can’t have it both ways

So Labour finally confirm their policy on tuition fees. A cap at £6,000 a year, funded by curtailing pension tax relief.

So, this will mean that high earning graduates pay less, while low earning graduates pay the same.

What baffles me, is that Labour’s argument for the change is that graduates are not paying back the “loans” at the rate predicted, thereby ‘loading more burden on the national debt/taxpayer’.

But that is rather a foot-shooting argument. They are basically accepting that the post-2012 tuition fees scheme is not as onerous on graduates as they – Labour – said it would be. Well, it’s great for them to accept this at last!

So they seem to be saying that they are not going to even attempt to make the tuition fees scheme more progressive – indeed they will make it more regressive. Instead they are going to give relief to high earning graduates and fund that from pension tax relief changes. But that won’t reduce the burden on the taxpayer will it? Unless they get more money into the national coffers from the pension tax changes than they pay out to high earning graduates through the £6,000 cap.

Labour’s policy here is a complete mess. They don’t really seem to know what they are doing.

And we have more Guardian writers talking about ‘saddling a generation with debt’. Well, can I have some of this “debt”? “Debt” where I only pay it back when I earn more than £21,000 a year and then I only pay 9% of my income above £21,000, so that if I earn £25,000 I just pay £6.92 a week, which is half what most families spend on booze and fags in a week. And the “debt” gets written off after I only pay 40% of it. And the “debt” doesn’t go on my credit file, and if I stop working I don’t have to pay it, and I won’t get chased by debt collectors if I don’t pay it, and I won’t lose my house if I don’t pay the “debt”.


February 22, 2015
by Paul

The fascinating hidden history of Woodley

headley road east woodley
This is Headley road east in Woodley, Berkshire. Woodley is a town of some industrial units and much housing just outside Reading.

I have driven along this road many times. Many people do. And I am sure most people do not think twice about the area. It’s a dormitory town.

But some of the road names give a little clue to an exciting local history:

  • Hurricane way
  • Lysander close
  • Victor way
  • Nimrod close
  • Spitfire way

In fact, this road is on the edge of the former Woodley aerodrome, where 6,000 civil and military aircraft were built and first flown between 1933 and 1962. It was where Douglas Bader had a flying accident, which led to both his legs being amputated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, recorded in his diary laconically as:

Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show.

It was also where some of the first ballpoint pens (Biros) in the world were mass produced, firstly during the war for the RAF and the navy, followed by general mass production after the war.

The building on the right in my photo (with apologies for my rather befuddled geography) was part of the Miles Aircraft factory, later used by Handley Page aircraft company and then by Adwest.

The Digital Noise photography website has some great photos and commentary on the old Miles aircraft factory.

And the nearby Berkshire museum of aviation is a mine of information and artefacts, including whole planes, related to this subject.

February 20, 2015
by Paul

How the British Parliament works

Over the last three years I have put up with a rather old and indiosyncratic laptop. I always had to use it on mains – the battery didn’t work. And a particularly fun feature of it was that I had to open and start using Internet Explorer three times before the session finally “stuck” and continued uninterrupted.

Suffice it to say that I was in extensive correspondence with a trading standards officer about that purchase.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with both iPad and iPhone which have filled the breach. But there are certain things which need a laptop. I have blogged very successfully on a phone and on an iPad. But there are annoying little “features” of both. Each gives about 90% coverage of the tasks needed to do real heavy duty blogging. If you really want to get down and dirty, with links, photos and extensive typing, then you need a laptop or PC.

I long considered buying a new laptop. I nearly succombed to a Maccydooddle of some nature. But in the end, declaring an interest in that I work for the company that make them, I got an HP Pavilion 360. Professor Green had one in a rather dodgy video he made. It’s a godsend. – The laptop, not Professor Green’s rather dodgy video.

Anyway, tonight my new laptop really came into its own. I have spent the night in a house without the full 9999 channels via Sky which are now considered a basic requirement of life. (But of course, I am of the annoying generation who, apart from insisting on drinking out of glasses and not bottles, also remembers when there were only two black and white TV channels that broadcast only in the evenings, accompanied by pop music played only for an hour a day on one radio channel or through a variable audio scrambler in the evenings from Luxemburg).

All the good advice I receive comes from my wife or daughter. My wife advised me to pre-load some programmes to watch from BBC iPlayer, which I did. This will now sound like a commercial. I then watched the programmes in “tent mode” on my laptop. It’s a 360 you see. It works in four different position-thingymes.

Anyway, coming round finally to the subject of this post, (and perhaps it is better when I am constrained to brevity by using a phone for blogging) I watched the third episode of “Inside the Commons” – which was a corker. The programme is a co-production between the BBC and the Open University. So, no doubt, it will be a part of the staple diet of students of politics for many years to come. It will serve them very well. Dear old Michael Cokerell is superb at producing this sort of stuff. It’s made by Atlantic Productions with assistance from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Quite what the Aussies will make of the following shenanighans from this week’s episode, I know not:

  • There was scheduled to be a vote at 10pm on a subject which was not mentioned in the motion which was going to be voted on.
  • Then at 9pm, before the vote on the subject which it wasn’t really a vote on, the opposition called a vote on the proposal that the vote at 10pm on the subject that it wasn’t a vote on be not held, or “not put”.
  • So, then the government supporters had to talk about nothing for 30 minutes while their members were brought back early from the middle of dinners throughout central London. Risking Bullingdon Club references, the Prime Minister came back in white tie and tails from the Lord Mayor of London’s dinner.
  • So, finally, there were enough government members, so that the government supporters could stop talking about nothing and then the vote was put that the vote not be put about the subject on which the vote was not about.
  • The house voted, clearly, that the vote on the subject that the vote was not about be not not put.
  • In other words, the house voted that the vote on the subject that the vote wasn’t about should be put.
  • But then, as far as I can make out, the vote on the subject that the vote was not about was not put anyway, and everyone went home.
  • The government won the day, but it was considered a great victory for the opposition, and particularly for an opposition MP called Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is a member of one of the governing parties, so he isn’t an “opposition MP” at all, except that he is.
  • In amongst this farce of British Parliament at its finest, poor little Master Willotts, son of Jenny Willotts, was being passed from pillar to post, as he waited for his mummy to vote before he could finally go to bed.

It makes explaining the rules of cricket to an American seem like child’s play. You know the one:

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side thats been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!

February 19, 2015
by Paul

The strange campaign videos of Benjamin Netanyahu

First of all, we had this truly weird video where Benjamin Netanyahu turns up at someone’s house to baby sit for them. It took me a while to work out whether it was a spoof or whether it was the real Benjamin Netanyahu. No and yes, seem to be the answers – incredibly:

Now we have Sara Netanyahu, his wife, showing a sort of Israeli Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen around the Prime Ministerial home, to prove that they don’t live in luxury, as supposed by many. Only, it turns out that the areas shown are used by administrative staff, not the Netanyahus, apparently. And they don’t look bad to me….

February 18, 2015
by Paul

Broadchurch scenes filmed at John Nike Leisuresport, Bracknell

Last September, the ITV Broadchurch team were filming around Bracknell, including at John Nike Leisuresport – which just happens to be where my gym is.

In this week’s episode of Broadchurch, the subway under John Nike Leisuresport was shown as a car wash.

You can see the full episode on ITV Player here. Below are a couple of snapshots from the scene, and, at the bottom, the subway as it was today:

john nike broadchurch

john nike broadchurch2

john nike1