Archive | January, 2015

Celebrity Politicians ….some truth

30 Jan

It seemed a rash of experts were ready to tell us that fictional character “The pub landlord” would not make much of a difference to the election outcome as..fictional celebrities don’t do that well in elections. Well actually most people seemed to ignore the fact that hes a fictional character as they do with Boris Johnson..but that’s not the point. I did wonder whether this was true. I know Esther Rantzen tanked, and that’s all well and good. I also know that celebrity politics isn’t celebrities standing for election. But what happens when they do?

I have taken celebrity to mean someone with a persona outside of the political arena. For this reason Boris isn’t one as hes clearly been spoiling for the main job since he started out on the entertainment circuit.

So with little science heres some interesting facts.


Jimmy Edwards stood for the Tories in 1964. That year the Tories suffered a swing of minus 6%. Edwards a popular TV comic thing (sorry im not old enough ) suffered a 6.5 % swing against. Clearly no celebrity factor then. In the same year Ted Dexter , cricketer, nicknamed Lord Ted though not a real Lord as he was standing against Jim Callaghan and hadn’t renounced his imaginary peerage managed a positive swing of 1.3%. Perhaps Cardiff wanted imitation Lords, who played at Lords not the House of Lords. If only Ray Charles and Lord Allen had stood the swing might have been greater.

Fast forward to 1992. A couple of smooth faced celebrities were standing for the Tories again. That year the party suffered a minus.3% swing against and managed to win against all the expectations. Gyles”wooly jumper” Brandreth standing in Chester won his seat with a -.8% swing so again no Celeb factor. Similarly Seb Coe former athlete won his seat but suffered a -7% swing.  In 1997 both men lost their seats. Coe suffered a-8.1% swing and Gyles a -9.9% swing. However the party suffered a -11.2% swing so maybe incumbency or maybe celebrity helped them…slightly.

In 97 the referendum Party ( oh remember them they kind of seem sensible looking back through the last 20 years of UKIP and the BNP) anyway they stood a couple of celebs. Robin Page a journalist won 6.1% of the vote in his fight and David Bellamy gwappled (sorry!) to 5.5% against John Major. Neither made an impact on the results but both exceeded the 3% the party scored across the board.

Was Martin Bell a celeb. Probably though the circumstances make him too odd to consider. Similarly Robert Kilroy Silk was that oddity of a politician turned celebrity turned politician. Like a kaleidoscope really.

When Glenda Jackson first stood for Labour in 92 she managed a 7.6% swing , nationally Labour only managed a 3.6% swing. Surely her celebrity status got her over the line ? Well probably, but maybe the fact her opponent was Oliver Letwin accounted for the real increase!



The Joy of the John Player Sunday League

26 Jan

Think back to a time when Cigarettes had a mandatory right to sponsor sporting events. When cricketers still wore real shirts , white shirts and used red balls. When cricketers looked like school teachers and anyone thinking strange thoughts about entertainment was calmly ignored.

For me the Sunday League and its pedestrian coverage were a key part of my cricket education. You got to see county players you never knew about , watch counties you never knew existed. Hants right that’s short for Northants that’s short for Northampton..oh Hampshire that near ? Middlesex it doesn’t exist a mythical creature. Once when I was ill I swear I saw Wessex play Suffolk Punch.

BBC 2 didn’t really take the coverage that seriously. You got an intro section that caught up with the first wicket fall , over and over analysed. Some live coverage and catch ups on and off while coverage was stopped fro a three day event or some Motocross.


Back  in the early 80s there was no test play on a Sunday so this was the main chance. The play was very pedestrian almost like a local league. Little if any innovation or risk. Slow starts a slog maybe a collapse all over in time for a pint before tea. It was blissful though, reassuring. The commentary was friendly and most matches given the structure of the league and the shortened format had no bearing on anything either for teams or individuals.  And that somehow seemed to be the point.

The Collapse of the Major Government – an occasional series part 1

22 Jan

If I had unlimited research resources I would document the chaos and confusion that killed off John Majors Government. It was awful yet entertaining. There were days when they seemed so out of control at war with each other and it dragged on and on. If ever there was an argument for shorter parliamentary terms …this was it. I had the luxury of spending 3 years at University during this time , so could often spend the time watching a disaster unfold. Newspaper claims , counter claims on Radio and TV all day.  Was it wilful , did anyone ever stop and wonder what they were doing. The pinnacle of British Politics were just name calling and pulling faces.

Just to be clear I couldn’t stand them one bit, but they had the quality of those old you’ve been framed videos. Yes you know the Cat is going to hit the window, yes you know it will hurt and has no positive benefits, but you also hold in a snigger.

So without the resources I will post an occasional series here….

I was reading something in Gyles Brandreths Diaries the other day. Brandreth to me is the ultimate chronicler of the incompetence, pointlessness and chaos of the Major years. He mentioned  a spat on the 19th of Feb 1997. Not one I recall( I was then working !). It started with Rifkind the Foreign Secretary saying he was hostile towards the Single Currency. It then led to Clarke the Chancellor saying it must have been a slip of the tongue. Then No 10 made a series of ambivalent statements until finally , after a” Rifkind vs. Clarke its war ” headline in the Standard they all make up and apologies and move on. Until the next day when Geoffrey Howe disowns the Government and Tony Blair embarrasses it at Question Time.

The interesting thing is this day happened many times. The Single Currency was a policy area Major failed to own like oh so many others. Somehow though he approached it like someone testing their ability to take an illicit drug. He dances around it , watches it..becomes mesmerised…and yet he thinks he’s strong. Day in Day out the government changed its language …wait and see…negotiate and decide…sleep and toss a coin…pretend we give a shit…all very important though meaningless approaches. Cabinet met and agreed a formulae time after time only for someone to break it instantly. And Major he just sat back and let it roll. He even hinted at changes himself…a silent sceptic. Nudging to his supporters…I hate it but I cant say it. Labour on the other hand quite dispassionately just said we will treat it on its merits at the time and seemed to sail to the election line. Major you see was weak, possibly vulnerable( if only we knew then !) and I personally believe didn’t have any fixed firm ideological views. A puppet leader…only a leaderless puppet leader at best.


More Chicks

20 Jan

It’s not been a great time for the Chicks. The last clutch of eggs ( fathered by Sid the Rooster ) hatched in November. The 4 chicks were very boisterous,for chicks, and were Two blackie / brown ones and Two white. Sadly we lost One early on but the Three chicks stayed close to Mum and we managed to keep them in the hen-house for quite a while.

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The Three spent a few days out but then sadly another was taken,probably by a hawk so we are now down to Two. Then as they reached around 10 or 11 weeks Mum started to leave them and they have been operating independently of the rest of the flock. They spend the day together scratching and pecking and running away from anything and everything. However what is amazing is that at night they can still be found(just about) under Mums wings, sleeping in the coop.

Xmas Spectator 1974

6 Jan

Normally at this time of year I am getting through the Xmas issue of the Spectator. In fact it normally takes me until Easter but early January is when I knock off the more interesting articles…to ease my brain back in. I say normally as this year due to a lack of incoming resources and an over limit credit card I never got one. If the Spectator fairy is listening9or reading) its never too late ?

I did however find the wonderful Spectator archive online. It is a treasure and I hope to spend more time looking. I found the Xmas issue for that gloriously topsy turvy year of 1974. Many commentators keep bringing parallels between 2015 and 1974, so what better way of catching up. Of course it wasn’t a proper Xmas issue , no short stories or bumper quizzes, but a wonderful microcosm of the world it inhabited.

The editorial raises some Christian issues..I quickly glossed it.

The letters are as always outstanding. A rather sarcastic one on school behaviour and a very 1974 letter on Armagh’s position in Northern Ireland as a self governing area with no self government.

Patrick Cosgrove longs for a revival in the oppositions fortunes and a new leader to ease the depression. There’s a couple of anti common market articles, a strangely dated article ” What should Alistair Burnett do with William Hickeys column in the Daily Express “. The George Gale tells us he is never wrong in predictions and that Wilson will be gone by 78 and will remain above politics during the referendum. Half a point to George I fancy. There’s an article on the rise of female Santa’s, including one in a silver bikini. The article of Deciduous hedges is pure Spectator any era. Then there’s Enoch Powell reviewing William Rees Moggs book or rather reviewing himself in it. Russell Lewis drips pure monetarism onto a page and before you know it its a fool and his money questioning our fascination with Gold rather than Dog Licences ( oops I forgot to pay that this Xmas as well ) and a final page of City Diary which is a very 1974 Spectator attack on that bogeyman Tony Benn.


All in all a wonderful read !