Tuesday, 27 February 2007
“Two former Cabinet ministers have e-mailed all Labour MPs, calling for an "open debate" on the party's future. Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn wrote that Labour needed to show that, after 10 years in office it had the "vision and policies" for Britain's future. Both have previously urged Gordon Brown - favorite to succeed Tony Blair - to say what he would do as prime minister. BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson said the e-mail suggested that "waiting for Gordon isn't good enough".
Tony Blair has said he will step down as prime minister by September 2007, and Mr. Brown is widely expected to succeed him.”
Personally, I smell fish, especially if Milburn is involved. You may remember that Alan Milburn is the man who used to be Health Secretary and resigned, possibly because he couldn’t get the resources out of HM Treasury. He made a comeback a couple of years ago as “Party Chairman”, the defacto campaign chairman for the 2005 Election. You know the one where New Labours poll ratings floundered before Gordon (Brown) was invited back on board to help the Blair 3 re-election campaign. Milburn was last seen sulking. A lot.
Now he is back, alongside another of the “could have been contenders” Charles Clarke, asking for an open debate on the future of the party. Yeah right.
The only debate that these guys are interested in is the future of the New Labour brand. If Gordon becomes leader, the brand might be diluted, might be more Old Labour than it has been over the past 10 years.
The UK has lots of problems of its own making, its involvement in an illegal and disastrous war, a UNICEF report which claims that British children are the most miserable in the industrialized world, a private equity sector destroying the British economy, human rights stripped from us in the name of “safety”, and lastly, but by no means least, a report this week will claim that Scotland is poorer now than in the 1960’s.
We need good ideas, big schemes, ideas that will get us out of the hole we are in. New Labour, for it is New Labours future that Milburn and Clarke are trying to locate, does not have the answers. We need an alternative.
Wednesday, 21 February 2007
Scotland 1 France 0
Scotland sit proudly at the top of Euro 2008 qualifying Group B after a fabulous win over France at Hampden. Thierry Henry hit the post as France dominated the first 45 minutes but Scotland improved after the interval. Gary Caldwell, who was outstanding in defence, turned goal hero when he stabbed the ball home from a Paul Hartley corner kick on 67 minutes.
All I can really say is that this perhaps is the biggest result that the Scotland national team has ever pulled off. Yes we eliminated Czechoslovakia from the World Cup (qualifying for 1978) when they were European Champions. Yes we beat the Netherlands in the World Cup finals. Yes we have beaten Spain & France (when they finished 3rd in the previous World Cup) in World Cup qualifying. But that was all when we were Any Good, and its something we haven't been for a while.
Our problems came when, for whatever reason, we stopped producing good, young players. Ironically at the point when the financial squeeze on football began to grip the Scottish game, suddenly teams had to ditch the foreign player and play young homegrown players. For example, Motherwell had been shelling out big bucks for their big name players. When they went into administration, they had to start to get rid of the high earners, and in their place came young players who no-one had heard of, and nobody knew if they were ready. Guys like Hammell, Pearson and a cheeky winger called McFadden.
While this was happening, Scotland had missed out on the play-offs for the World Cup, which then saw the end of Craig Browns tenior in charge of the Scotland side. The SFA appointed Berti Voghts as Browns replacement.
Now at this point I should point out that i thing that Voghts wasn't a bad manager for Scotland, its just that results did not go his way. I feel that the turning point for him was the Euro 2004 playoff tie with the Netherlands. We had beaten them at Hampden (1-0, that man McFadden) and we were fairly confident that we could do something. Instead, the Netherlands did something by winning 6-0. His next match was a friendly in Cardiff against Wales, which he lost 4-0. If the writing wasn't on the wall then, then it was after the first 3 qualifying games for the 2006 World Cup (a 0-0 draw at home to Slovenia, a 1-0 loss to Norway, our first home loss in the World Cup for 19 years, and a 1-1 away draw to Moldova).
Enter Walter Smith, who's debut was a credible 2-0 defeat to Italy in Milan. Even with a 4th home loss in World Cup history (Belarus 1-0, in October 2005) we had come on in leaps and bounds since Voghts left. Unfortunately the draw for the European Championships hasn't been the kindest with us facing France, Italy, Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania and the Faroe Islands.
So even with the good start (we beat the Faroes 6-0 at Parkhead and won in Lithuania 2-1). We still face an uphill struggle to qualify (and that was before our only loss of the campaign 2-0 in Ukraine). The performance in that match gives me confidence that we are turning the corner and could be on our way back!
Monday, 19 February 2007
Mr Salmond called Mr Stone's comments "unacceptable". He added: "Nicol Stephen, in his speech, called for no name calling but within minutes one of his senior MSPs launches this outrageous attack. "This is totally hypocritical on the party of the Liberal Democrats and Nicol Stephen must issue an immediate apology."
We are about 10 weeks to the Holyrood elections and, already the negative campaigning has begun. I do feel that there has been a see change in the Lib Dems since their Coup against Charles Kennedy last year. Since then, they have become more assertive, maybe nastier than they were before.
Certainly, it feels like some sort of act of desperation. The Lib Dems have staked their claim to be the largest party at these elections. The polls suggest that once again, a crucial supporting role awaits. While down in England, Dave Cameron’s new Tories are trying to tap up key Lib Dem front benchers. No wonder Menzies Campbell took out all his frustrations on Alex Salmond on Friday.
However there are rumours that New Labour may be about to end their 8 year partnership. If Jack McConnell does end the partnership, then this weekend’s outburst must be some sort of record for bridge burning.
Sunday, 18 February 2007
World Cup Quarter Final - England 0 Portugal 0 (Portugal win 3-1 on penalties)
England went out of the World Cup 3-1 on penalties after their quarter-final with Portugal ended 0-0. England lost skipper David Beckham to injury just after half-time and Wayne Rooney was sent off after 62 minutes for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho. They battled on bravely for the rest of normal time and extra-time with 10 men to take the game to a shoot-out.
But Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher missed to end their hopes and Sven-Goran Eriksson's reign. The Swede leaves his post as England coach after going out at the quarter-final stage of a major tournament for the third time in succession and now hands over to Steve McClaren
I think with 6 months passing it will be safe to say this without any threat of treason, but here goes... England were never going to win the World Cup. They just were not good enough in defence. Sure they were good going forward, but good enough to get past good defences. As it transpired other things got in the was of just not being good enough.
For a start, only picking 4 forwards, of which 1 of them was unfit (Rooney) and one of them was not so much a rookie, but still green behind the ears (Walcott). To have Owen break down (in the final group match Vs Sweden) was just the fates telling England, nope sorry not your year son. Also not helping was the poor form of the England midfield. At the end of the group matches England had gone from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-5-1 formation. This was good, except it was a formation that England had not deployed under Eriksson, not even in friendlies.
The grand irony was that Englands exit came when they had their best performance of the tournament. Portugal were not at their best that day, but still got into the heads of the England players as evidenced by Rooney's frustration culminating in his sending off (above). Their professionalism (translation: diving, cheating and conning) won them little friends, as they were booed during their semi final with France. Further evidence was the fact that 2 of Englands penalty failures came from players with good pedigrees taking penalties.
In the future, England need to put their national team in front of everything else, and prepare properly. Oh and stop building the team up to be supermen.
Overall, the World Cup wasn't very good. Too many negative matches, with few risks taken by the big teams. The best team in the tournament was Argentina, but they lost (on penalties in the Quarter Final to hosts Germany) because their coach Peckerman took off their playmaker Riquelme.
Lets hope South Africa in 2010 is a better spectacle.
Thursday, 15 February 2007
St Mirren 2 Dundee 1 St Mirren win the 1st Division Championship!
“St Mirren clinched promotion to the Scottish Premier League with a win over Dundee at Love Street. A late goal from Billy Mehmet secured the win but St Johnstone's defeat at Queen of the South would have been enough to send the Buddies up”.
Yes, I'm afraid it's another one of those picks that would have been obvious to anyone who has read my profile, though i don't think i thought that we would win the league until St Johnston's loss on that afternoon meant that we were safe, then Mehmet's scored to ensure a win against the only team in the league that we hadn't beaten that season, and the celebrations duly got underway. Apart from that, not much of a game really. Too nervous, and not being in my usual seat.
I think the first point where i thought that we would definitely challenge for promotion/the championship was just before last Christmas, when we went up to Ross County and won 4-0 (Unfortunately, the following week, we went to Dundee and lost by the same score). After that we kept our nerve.
That's not to say that we didn't falter, or the path to the championship was a clear one. St Johnstone were our closest challengers at the death, but Hamilton Accies and Ross County were there or there abouts at different points of the season too. County avenged their loss with a 1-0 win at Love Street at the end of January, while Hamilton got a too little too late win (2-0), also at Love Street on April Fools Day. Had the god's been in a different mood, both sides might have been playing a Scottish Cup semi-final against each other at Hampden on that date. The match on April 1st was also the first opportunity St Mirren had to wrap up the championship, depending on how badly St Johnstone got on.
St Mirren got their revenge on Ross County with a 2-0 win on April 8th, which meant that a win against Dundee would take St Mirren over the finish line...
So since we have been up (in the Scottish Premier League), we have played OK, we need to strengthen our defence in the January transfer window. But on our day we have been able to compete, taking the scalps of Inverness Caley Thistle, Motherwell, Hearts, Hibernian & (on Boxing Day) Falkirk. We play Rangers on Saturday, where hopefully we will get something for the first time since 1991. Onwards and upwards.
Wednesday, 14 February 2007
Well an hour to go until the brits, and here’s my preview. Bear in mind that if you have read any of my previous blogs, you will know how poor a tipster I am.
International breakthrough act: Gnarls Barkley, Orson, The Raconteurs, Ray Lamontagne, Wolfmother.- Gnarls Barkley for producing the single of last year in “Crazy”, though The Raconteurs might just sneak it.
International album: Bob Dylan - Modern Times, Gnarls Barkley - St Elsewhere, Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds, The Killers - Sam's Town, Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah. -Probably the Killers to win this one. You know, I got this album at Christmas, and I still haven’t heard it…
International group: The Flaming Lips, Gnarls Barkley, The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Scissor Sisters – Strong list here, with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers winning here.
International male solo artist: Beck, Bob Dylan, Damien Rice, Jack Johnson, Justin Timberlake. International female solo artist: Beyoncé, Cat Power, Christina Aguilera, Nelly Furtado, Pink. – Hmmm, bit of a toughie these two. Of the males, it will be between Justin & Jack Johnson. In the Females, it will probably be Nelly for her 2 big singles last year. “She’s a man-eater/make you work hard…”
British live act: George Michael, Guillemots, Kasabian, Muse, Robbie Williams. – Kasabian or Muse, Kasabian or Muse, hmmm, Muse I think. Their show at the Reading Festival still has music hacks in raptures.
British breakthrough act: Corinne Bailey Rae, The Fratellis, James Morrison, The Kooks, Lily Allen. – Bit of a weak category this one, therefore not the easiest to predict. I’d like to see The Fratellis or The Kooks win, though sod’s law dictates that Lilly Allen will win.
British single: The Feeling - Fill My Little World, Razorlight - America, Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars, Take That - Patience, Will Young - All Time Love. I think we know what I think of this lot. America is the best song here, but is not my pick of best single.
British male solo artist: James Morrison, Jarvis Cocker, Lemar, Paolo Nutini, Thom Yorke. British female solo artist: Amy Winehouse, Corinne Bailey Rae, Jamelia, Lily Allen, Nerina Pallot – Down to the blue ribband awards now. Best British male, should be Jarvis, just for writing that song that disses the organizers of Live 8, though Lemar would be a good winner. Best Female will be Lily Allen.
British group: Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, Muse, Razorlight, Snow Patrol – For the year they have had, it should be Arctic Monkeys. The other bands had a good year too buy it has to be the Arctic’s.
British album: Amy Winehouse - Back to Black, Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, Lily Allen - Alright Still, Muse - Black Holes & Revelations, Snow Patrol - Eyes Open. Again, the Arctic Monkeys to storm this one, though I would like to see the Muse album win
See you later
Monday, 12 February 2007
I was on 9:30 to 5:30 shift last week, so I had hardly any time to myself, sorry for not being in touch with you guys out there in the blogosphere. I was going to talk about David Cameron, and how boring the supposed drugs story is, compared to the story about his party tapping up Lib Dem MP’s, to try and see if they will defect to the Conservatives. I might blog about this later on.
I am going to write again about the lovely Brit awards, which occur on Wednesday night. We produce fantastic music in this country. We produce great, if slightly derivative, guitar music. We used to produce great dance records, and… er that’s it really. My problem with the Brits is that it is too corporate. Not sometimes, all the time! Remembering of course that the Brits started out in life with the naff moniker of the British Phonographic Industry Awards (then shortened to the BPI awards).
During these years, the awards somehow evaded the great bands of the era, The Smiths, New Order, Depeche Mode, were all overlooked in favour of Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits and all the other corporate big sellers from the big record companies. Indeed the year that Factory paid subscription fees to join the BPI was the year that New Order won their only award, Best Video for True Faith. The following year, “indie” band Erasure won one of the blue riband awards, Best British Band.
Despite the voting procedures changing in the early 1990’s (at the insistence, on of all people, of Jonathan King) the ceremony still retains an element of the naff. Nowhere does it still get it so badly wrong as the Best British Single award, the revised nominees are…
The Feeling - Fill My Little World, Razorlight - America, Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars, Take That - Patience, Will Young - All Time Love
Actually, looking at it again, it’s an OK shortlist. I prefer “In The Morning” to “America”. That
I will try and preview it in the next couple of days, till then see you later
Sunday, 11 February 2007
Scot McClatchey wins gold in 200m
“Scotland's Caitlin McClatchey beat Australian swimming star Libby Lenton to win a sensational gold medal in the pool in the women's 200m freestyle. The 20-year-old overhauled favourite Lenton, who had been targeting a record of seven golds, in the final metres to win the race in a new Games record. McClatchey finished in one minute 57.25 seconds with Lenton back in 1:57.51”
And we were off… In the end it was one of Scotland’s most successful Commonwealth Games ever, finishing 6th in the medal table, with 29 medals, 11 of which were Gold medalsAll the athletes that contributed deserve a mention, in Athletics Chris Baillie, took 110m hurdles silver, and Lee McConnell, won 400m hurdles bronze. Our Cyclists, led by Olympic champion Chris Hoy won 6 medals. There were Gold medals in Bowls and Boxing too.
However it was the swimmers that started the event off. McClatchey’s win in the first day appeared to galvanise the Scotland team, like Jason Queally’s Olympic Gold on the first day of the Sydney Olympics seemed to galvanize the Great Britain team. McClatchey won another gold, while David Carry & Gregor Tait also won 2 swimming gold’s to add to the 6 silver and bronze won by Scottish swimmers in the pool.
I also picked it because of all the doom and gloom surrounding our more (mostly English) higher profile sporting failures this year, who have clouded our view of how the year in sport unfolded. To remind people that there were British sucsesses, all the more sweeter because it came clad in blue and white...
This blog was originaly posted on 27th December 2006 @ uk.360.yahoo.com/silvertdevil69
Saturday, 10 February 2007
A strange thing happened in the autumn, ITV started to show good dramas. They kept showing the bog standard ones like Where the Heart Is, Heartbeat and The Royal, but for about 4 weeks in October they showed good quality dramas!!!
Starting the mini revival was the return of Cracker, featuring Robbie Coltraine’s fictional gambling alcoholic criminal psychologist (the original of the personality trait obsessed cop shows, though Fitz isn’t a cop and the personality traits are secondary to the narrative. It still doesn’t stop this formula get copied to death) followed by another return, Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect 7:The Final Act. Both were excellent, and examples of the sort of drama that ITV used to be good at…
However my last pick of the year is the drama that was shown between the new Cracker and Prime Suspect. What We Did On Holiday, had Shane Ritchie as Nick, a loving husband (to Angeline Ball) & son (of Pauline Collins and Roger Lloyd-Pack, both last seen in this years Doctor Who) who takes his family on holiday to Malta, where his dad was stationed during his National Service. Except Jim (Lloyd-Pack), who is in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease, confesses that he has a son living on the island.
The family track down Anthony, who by appearing to be more successful in life puts more strain on Nick’s relationship with his wife Laura (Ball). Nick is suspicious of Anthony, and is proved correct when Anthony runs off with money that was meant for a timeshare.
This is on the list, because it is good, but it did surprise me how good it was. ITV makes this kind of drama in its sleep, and it is usually terrible. This one was actually really good. The first big surprise was Shane Ritchie. He’s not the best actor in the world, but he somehow pulled it off here as the stressed Nick, going against what perceived wisdom dictates is his type (he played Alfie Moon in Eastenders, which was perceived to be close to his own personality). His scene at the end, with Jim was genuinely touching. Either that or I am getting too soft in my old age.
The narrative was also surprisingly good. At no point did the writer or director whip out the rose tinted glasses or turn the melodrama on, instead we had the plot of is Anthony what he says he is or not. The ending however was the clincher for me. After Anthony has been stopped by Nick, the family are on the beech when Nick takes Jim out for a swim, when the tide starts to come in a bit, Jim asks Nick to let him go, euthanasia by li-lo. The acting here was just excellent, full of emotion.
This blog was originaly published on http://uk.360.yahoo.com/silvertdevil69 December 24th 2006
Thursday, 8 February 2007
Yes, I did say that TV cop shows were dull, and yes this is another TV cop show. However the police in this dark drama do not have personality traits that feel shoehorned into the show, they do feel flawed.
The drama centres around the killing of Brendan McCann by two of his colleagues in the Lothian & Borders Police, Joe Geddes (played by Brian McCardle) and Frank Agnew (Mark Strong). McCann is killed after a works night out, and the body is (eventually after discussions on how McCann should be seated) dumped into the Forth inside his own car.
The body is not properly disposed of because it is discovered the next day, though not before the internal affairs department arrive looking for Geddes and McCann. It transpires that McCann had been under surveillance for some time.
Meanwhile as the story goes on the alliance between Geddes and Agnew gets shakier and shakier. Agnew had been tricked into helping to kill McCann, Geddes had said that Agnew’s missing girlfriend had been killed by McCann. Agnew had found out when his girlfriend tried to call. Agnew beats up Geddes, who is beginning to fold as forensic evidence begins to contradict the original assumptions about what had happened. Finding a headless and armless body in the trunk was not part of the plans.
At the end Geddes folds, confessing that he alone killed McCann, when it looks like Agnew is going to be fingered as the prime suspect. Geddes kills himself. Agnew does not find his missing girlfriend.
I liked this because the acting was superb, Brian McCardle was really good while Mark Strong’s performance was as excellent as his mastery of the Edinburgh accent. The plot was good, it was violent at times but there was a realism to it, I flinched away from the television a couple of times because of how realistic it felt (I can only remember one other scene that did that this year, it was from Jimmy McGovern’s BBC drama The Street. It was a vicious beating that one of the characters was giving to his partner’s brother in law). Also, because it was set in Edinburgh, the old buildings somehow added a gothic atmosphere to the drama.
Wednesday, 7 February 2007
You are probably looking at this, after looking at my profile, and thinking yes he would say that this is one of the television shows of the year. You would be right. However it is still amazing what some money for believable special effects and a good script will do for a programme. One for whom the mauling it used to get from a sceptical public and derision it gained from within the BBC (mentioning no Michael Grade’s… ooops sorry, names) during the mid 1980s meant it’s axing in 1989 looked pretty near permanent.
What came next was a new Doctor, in the shape of David Tennant, and some equally good scripts. Tooth and Claw, The Idiots Lantern & Fear Her were all episodes continuing the gothic horror aspect of the series. The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit was also very good, a sort of Alien meets Nosforatu, while School Reunion was a touching episode, with the Doctor meeting up with Sarah Jane Smith, a companion of his during his fourth incarnation.
The blockbuster episodes in the series had a different tone to them again. They all featured a return to the series of the
As I have said in a previous blog, the Daleks have never been so sarcastic. When an alliance between the Cybermen and the Daleks is suggested, the Cybermen discuss how well they are designed. The Dalek retort is “The only thing you are good for is dying”, followed by “This is not an invasion, this is pest control”. Ouch!
Tennant’s portrayal so far has been excellent, a bit more metro sexual, more new man than other incarnations. There is also humanity there, his apology to Sally, a downed Cyberman who (due to her inhibitor being broken) remembers that it is the night before her wedding before putting her to sleep, in The Age of Steel. Certainly a more than worthy successor to Eccleston.
The bar has been raised; let’s hope the third series back is as good.
Friday, 2 February 2007
I must admit I was listening to this morning, mainly because Blair rarely gives interviews to the heavyweight political interviewers in this country, Humphries, Paxman, Bolton or Snow. Most of the interview was dedicated to domestic affairs (there will be a foreign affairs one in the next few weeks apparently), and it got me thinking about where it went wrong over the past decade for this government, bearing in mind Blair will be in office for 10 years at the start of May.
At the end of the Second World War, British politics had a period of consensus, where for the following 40 odd years the main parties would fight and win elections with manifestos which were left of centre by today’s criteria. Heath tried to break the consensus after winning in 1970, only to be brought down by the miners in early 1974. Thatcher was more successful, bringing in monetarist economic policies. Where Blair comes into the story is that rather than being what Labour leaders had stood for and argued for before, he was pragmatic and tailored the labour message to a still thatcherite electorate, thus creating the current right wing consensus.
However, I feel that you cannot promise low waiting lists for hospitals, new schools & hospitals or a drop in crime without serious investment. Sure the Treasury has put up lots of money (in stealth taxes, heaven forbid that the top rate of tax goes up over the 40% it has bee at since 1988), so why does it feel like crime is still high and that our hospitals and schools are not how they should be. It will be because New Labour has tried to marry old labour ambitions with Thatcherite economics, using PFI and PPP to finance the re-building of local amenities. These have not and will not be value for money in the future.
Like I said earlier, it will be 10 years in May since New Labour came to power, so I suppose this is the first in a few blogs looking back at the Blair years as they come to an end. It will also be 15 years in April since Labour’s last election defeat, the one that influenced Blair, Brown and others that the party had to change radically if it was to win.
Things will only get better. Aye right.
Thursday, 1 February 2007
It is amazing to think that half a century ago, radio was the dominant medium in the UK. In the 1950’s there were two radio shows who’s influence would carry on through the decades. The influence of “The Goon Show” is for another blog. Hancock’s Half Hour, on top of giving us the first sit-com about the everyman that thinks that he is better than everyone else (a former colleague of mine had a theory that Galton & Simpson, the writers of Hancock & Steptoe and Son, based their characters on the more unpleasant aspects of their actors own personalities). The other influence Hancock would bring to British comedy was that the majority of the Carry on team worked on Hancock, among them Kenneth Williams.
I must confess that I am not a great fan of the Carry on films, but I did watch this drama about his life because he was such a larger than life figure, and because Michael Sheen was in it, and from the trailers not so much plays him but somehow inhabits his skin.
The trailers don’t tell the whole story; Sheen was just sensational as Williams.
I first saw Sheen in 2003’s “The Deal” (about the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown up to their infamous meeting at the Granita restaurant in 1994) as Blair, opposite David Morrisey as Brown. Morrisey was his usual excellent self as Brown, but Sheen was just excellent. He seemed to inhabit Blair (He reprises this role in Stephen Frears follow-up “The Queen”).
In Fantabulosa! Williams is played as a complex being, even more complex for being what we would now call gay, but at that time homosexuality was not thought of as normal. So this feeling of not being normal fed even more into his neurosis. In effect, he was scared to follow his own feelings, because they made him feel guilty. Somehow Sheen conveys this and the absolute sense of loneliness that this brings.
This is a fine drama about one of British comedy's standard bearers, which unlike a few of the documentaries shown over the past few years (which have tended to be warts and all), this drama shown Williams in an understanding light.