James Landale, fighting cancer himself, criticises those who closely followed the Jade Goody demise

For some strange reason I am quite a fan of a little programme called “News Watch” on BBC News 24. It goes out at 7.50am on Saturdays, which seems to fit into one of my prime attention span opportunities. It’s presented by Raymond Snoddy, who acts like a little terrier in calling to account BBC executives on behalf of the viewing public.

This week, the programme majored on the coverage of the death of Jade Goody. I was interested to see that the piece included some quotes from James Landale, who is BBC News 24’s chief political correspondent (See him below reporting from Westminster while drenched to the skin during a thunderstorm.) I didn’t realise that he is fighting cancer (roughly the same type that Menzies Campbell survived).

After the programme I belatedly found this piece in the Mail, which James Landale wrote a few weeks ago:

I can no more criticise Jade for her choices than any other healthy person.

If she chooses to end her life exploiting her celebrity to provide for her two young boys’ future and raise awareness of cancer, then so be it. Few can disagree with that.

But those who follow the Jade Goody coverage with such seemingly prurient interest should, I believe, examine their motives.

Yes, this is a powerful, compelling story of human tragedy – but how much are people drawn in also by the prospect of witnessing death?

How much are people succumbing to exactly the same appetites as those who once took their picnics to attend a public hanging?

Perhaps they are not quite modern-day tricoteuses sitting with their knitting before the guillotine, or day-trippers to the Coliseum watching the lions at work. Cancer rarely provides such a quick, violent death.

But perhaps some of those people obsessively following the Jade story – photo by photo, detail by detail – are betraying the same instincts as those who slow down on the motorway to stare at some poor wretch hanging out of their windscreens?

Counting one’s food

As I have done for several years now, I am taking part in Christian Aid’s “Count your blessings” for Lent. This involves reading and thinking about one factoid everyday, then calculating a donation based on the fact. I mention this only because today the factoid led me in an interesting direction.

After taking part in Basingstoke’s weekly timed 5K “Park Run”, we finally got round to doing something we’d wanted to do for a long time. We stopped off at Nelson’s American Diner on the A339. I plumped for the “Big One” breakfast. I doubt I’ll be eating until this evening after that. Suffice it to say that it was “the works” with all the trimmings. Marvellous.

With uncanny irony, I then came home and read today’s”Count your blessings” factoid:

Saturday 28th March – A large UK supermarket stocks 30,000 different products, while many people in the world eat the same food every day. Give 20p for each different food you ate at your most recent meal.

I have just finished counting. It was ten….I think.

An explosion in a Pickles factory

Eric Pickles goes ballistic on Question Time. Clip here. Transcript below from The Telegraph’s Three Line Whip. It is hilarious and Pickles certainly demonstrates the art of sanctimonious pomposity. He doesn’t seem to realise how weak and pathetic his defence seems from the point of view of ordinary members of the public.

David Dimbleby began by asking Mr Pickles if he claims for a second home:

EP: “I do indeed have a two house system and an allowance. But if I could just make a brief contribution

DD; “How far away from Westminster are you?”

EP: “Thirty seven miles.”[Boos from the audience]

EP: “And if I could just make this brief contribution to hang an MP week -“

DD: “Take your time! Take your time!”

EP: “OK, then let me explain why. And I have actually had experience of commuting that distance, when my wife was ill (she’s fully recovered now) – but for a month I did it. And it was an extremely difficult experience and I’ll explain why. Because the House of Commons works on clockwork: you have to be there, if you’re on a committee, you have to be there precisely. Particularly for someone like me, I was a number two -“[Boos from the audience]

EP: “Let me explain, let me explain, please just let me explain for a moment. I had to be there -“DD: “Like a job, in other words?”[applause and laughter from audience]

EP: “Yes exactly like a job. If you’re number two in the opposition, you’re essentially running the committee. So I needed to be there at 930 to move those amendments. It doesn’t matter if a Liberal Democrat isn’t there, but it matters if I’m there -“

Ed Davey: “That’s just cheap”

EP: “When I was doing this, I was leaving home at five thirty in the morning to guarantee that I was there and I wasn’t getting back until twelve or one in the morning. Now you can do that once or twice, you can do that for a while. But you’ve got to understand, the House of Commons runs like clockwork.”Caroline Lucas: “So does the rest of the world, Eric.”

EP: “And I have never, ever claimed my full allowance. I have always claimed the amount -“[jeers from audience]

EP: “Well I mean, I publish them. I’ve always published them on my website. They’ve always been there for people to see. I have always been accountable. And I can tell you, I think the things are going to come out in a week’s time. I think I’ve only claimed about sixty percent of the allowance, it might even be fifty five percent. But I’m a serious guy who will put in the hours. And I will work for those hours. But I can tell you this: it is no fun doing five thirty in the morning right the way through. You cannot be sat on a train thinking ‘am I going to make it? Am I not going to make it?’ That’s why I do it.”

Audience Member: “Do you think Fred Goodwin should give some of his pension back Eric?”

EP: “Yeah, I do.”

Audience Member: “Right – that’s because he’s behaved immorally, unreasonably perhaps. But he’s played within the rules! Don’t you think that’s a bit hypocritical?”

EP: “I had my flat – I bought my flat when we regularly sitting until two in the morning. I bought my flat when we did that. I bought that flat because it turned out -“

[Audience member: “sell it!”]EP: “OK well I’ll sell it. Of course I could sell it. I am never going to be able to satisfy you folks, at all, because I am an MP and therefore guilty.”