Breakthrough in Minnesota!

The word “breakthrough” is being used comparatively there. I have given up counting how many months it is since Minnesotans voted in the election for their US Senator. It’s eight. But at long last the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in ex-comedian Al Franken’s favour. It’s not decisive, however. Well, come on – what did you expect?!

In a bizarre swop of positions, Franken’s opponent, Norm Coleman is now featuring in late night comedy himself.

EXCLUSIVE – Prime Minister resigns – new government taking shape


After 137 years as Prime Minister, Mr William Gladstone has finally called it a day and handed in his resignation to King David (of the Penhaligon – just in case you were wondering when he would crop up).

His Majesty has graciously offered Mr Gladstone the post of Minister for relations with remote Hellenic Islands and certain oft-visited parts of Soho, a post which Mr Gladstone has gratefully accepted.

His Majesty this afternoon requested the presence of Dame Shirley Williams at Buckingham Palace and duly offered his hand to Dame Shirley. Having kissed the proffered royal extremity, Dame Shirley is now in 10 Downing Street devising her new cabinet.

Mr Churchill has asked for a release from his onerous duties to spend more time building his wall. He made clear this resignation was nothing (much) to do with India.

Dame Shirley has already asked Nancy Seear to take up the post of Deputy Prime Minister – a move seen, by seasoned observers, more as “cock-up” rather than “conspiracy”.

News of other cabinet positions will follow, but we already hear that Vince Cable’s new duties may include something exciting to do with the very urgent subject of bees. Two Earls Conrad are tipped for jobs and there has even been talk of Sir James Graham, the 2nd Baronet, returning to the government. It goes without saying that rising stars Jo Swinson and Baroness (Emma) Nicholson are likely to be given key roles.

Dickie Bird gives Barnsley the finger

No offence intended. 😉 …and many apologies to Lord Bonkers for doing a post about cricket without any mention of the …..-….. method.

Many congratulations to Dickie Bird, who’s just unveiled a statue of himself where he was born in Barnsley (it was erected by benefactors in the town). There’s not many people who have a statue raised to themselves while they are still alive. Indeed, Sir Michael Parkinson and Geoffrey Boycott have not been afforded this honour and they are both, by strange coincidence, Barnsley contemporaries of Bird.

There’s a great video of the occasion here from the Yorkshire Post. It looks like a truly great occasion. Well done Barnsley! Well done Dickie Bird!
I didn’t realise that Dickie used to put his finger up like that (i.e. palm turned towards himself as in the statue). See also above. Indeed, in this classic photo with Dickie doing his hilarious laugh-a-minute “two hat” routine and adjudging someone as “out”, he didn’t.

Grandiose fantasy Liberal cabinet

William Gladstone – Prime Minister
Winston Churchill – First Lord of the Admiralty and Deputy Prime Minister
John Maynard Keynes – Chancellor of the Exchequer

Now, who else is there?……….

Ah, yes

Vince Cable, Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Nancy Seear, Work and Pensions
Jenny Tonge, International Development
Roy Jenkins, Home Sceretary
Shirley Williams, Leader of Commons, Lord Privy Seal
Ray Michie, Sceretary of State for Scotland
Jo Swinson, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Herbert Asquith, Constitutional Affairs
Susan Kramer, Transport
Baroness Barker, Chancellor, Duchy of Lancaster
Lynne Featherstone, Children, Schools and Families
Baroness Nicholson, Leader of the House of Lords
William Beveridge, Secretary for Health
Nick Clegg, Foreign Secretary
Lloyd George, Defence
John Cleese, Culture, Media and Sport
John Pardoe, Business Innovation and Skills
Jo Grimond, Cabinet Office
Paddy Ashdown, Energy and Climate Change
John Stuart Mill, Justice
Charles Kennedy, Communities and Local Government
Jenny Willott, Secretary of State for Wales
Julia Goldsworthy, Northern Ireland
Menzies Campbell, Minister for the Olympics
Baroness Sharp, Paymaster General
Also attending:
Baroness Ludford, Housing
Baroness Neuberger, Minister of State, Business, Innovations and Skills
Baroness Northover, Employment & Welfare Reform
Lord Roberts of Llandudno, Africa, Asia and UN

Thanks to LDV , Caron and Irfan Ahmed.

The rats’ nest of South Carolina politics

For lovers of political intrigue, there’s a fascinating article here in the New York Times about the swirl of plotting and counter-plotting around the future of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. He’s the governor who was supposedly nude hiking on the Appalachians and then turned out to be allegedly ending an affair with an Argentinian lady.

The varied responses of state political leaders to the affair serve as clues to their alliances and complex interests. Some have called outright for the governor’s resignation, while others have suggested that the gentlemanly thing to do is give Mr. Sanford enough rope to hang himself.
Such remarks have less to do with Mr. Sanford’s flaws than with the 2010 race for governor, which already had a full field of contenders because Mr. Sanford was limited to two terms.
One likely candidate in particular, Lt. Gov. André Bauer, stands to gain if Mr. Sanford resigns, because he will fill the vacancy and be able to run for governor as an incumbent. His expected opponents in the Republican field want to prevent that by keeping Mr. Sanford in office, no matter how much animosity they may feel for him.

The intrigue, complete with e-mail messages plotting the governor’s demise and
Twitter debates among high-level staff members, is playing out in a state with serious problems like extremely high unemployment, now led by a governor who has become a late-night television punch line.

If you think we’ve got problems, spare a thought for Ireland

Occasionally I get fed up of ‘Today’ or Five Live and resort to Terry Wogan during my morning journey. Today I took an even larger leap and listened to RTE Radio 1’s ‘Good Morning Ireland’ on 252khz long wave. Now that was an experience!

The Irish economy is in a worst state than ours, with the IMF saying it will contract by 13.5% over 2008 to 2010. The government is having to look for a further 5 Billion Euros’ worth of spending cuts (which may well involve cutting social benefits – including child benefits!) on top of 13 billion of cuts already made. And the IMF are breathing down their neck.

On a positive note, the abalone industry is booming! Yes, I had to look it up too. But RTE had a little report from Bere Island in County Cork, where they have a factory farming abalones (photo below). These taste a bit between an oyster and a scallop apparently. In a restaurant in London you can pay £80 for a bowl of abalone-based soup. The producer said that ideally, a full grown abalone should be “about the size of a rugby player’s ear”.

Which Michael Jackson track will be number one in the singles chart?

Something in the nature of a ‘live blog’…
Update: ‘Man in the mirror’ was the higest Jackson singles chart track at Number 11. La Roux was Number One.
Just listening to the Chart Show. (Which in itself is taking me back to my teenage years) They’ve already had the following in the run down: ‘Earth Song’, ‘Beat it’, ‘Smooth Criminal’, ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Man in the mirror’ and ‘Thriller’. Shame that, I was expecting and hoping that Thriller would be Number One. Ho hum.

So what do we have left? ‘Bad’, ‘Don’t stop ’til you get enough’, ‘Black or White’ or a load of dark horses. ‘ABC’ anyone? ‘Rockin’ Robin’? My money would be on ‘Black or White’ to be number one. And deservedly so.

The ‘Number Ones’ album is at number one in the album charts.
If another Jackson track is listed in the singles Top Forty, he will equal Elvis’ record of having the most tracks in one chart (seven). Another two and he’s broken the record.

It’s all a fine tribute to to the man who, when all’s said and done, was one hell of a musician and performer. (But we should still spare a thought for Jarvis Cocker ).

Michael Jackson 1958-2009 RIP

Nick Clegg dressed up as Marge Simpson. Now there’s a thought….

I hardly ever buy a daily paper during in the week nowadays. It seems silly when you can read so much online or watch it on the box. I do usually buy a Guardian on Saturdays, mainly spurred on by my nearest and dearest’s enthusiasm for “The Guide” which is the handiest telly guide around (as well as covering a lot of other stuff which we never read).

Sometimes I miss a Saturday, especially if I haven’t yet read the previous week’s non-news sections. I then spend a weekend catching up. It is one of my small contributions to the health of the planet.

That is a very long-winded excuse for only now having read the two in depth party leader interviews from last weekend’s glossy magazines.

As usual I nervously insist that I did not buy the Mail on Sunday. A relative of right-wing persuasion kindly gave me the MoS glossy Live. This featured Nick Clegg on its front cover and over several pages. The interview is a glorified rehash of the all the little Clegg Cacti arson/30 lovers/don’t like to talk about drugs stories. It does, however, enlighten us with the fact that Clegg went to a New York fancy dress party with Marcel Theroux dressed as a female character from The Simpsons. What the article doesn’t divulge is which character Clegg dressed as, although it mentions that huge wigs were involved. The next cutting-edge journalist who interviews Clegg really ought to find out which character he was dressed up as. Marge Simpson? I think we should be told. Oh, do let it be Marge! The vision of Clegg as Marge is absolutely delicious. Oh let there be a photo somewhere of this!

Anyway, apart from that, the MoS Live article is mainly notable for some excellent photography by Ian Derry, including the prominent cover shot which I reproduce below.

The Guardian Weekend article on Brown is really very well observed and written, by Katharine Viner. It’s worth a read. You have to admire Brown’s resilience, but it seems that his very resilience is born out of a lack of self-awareness. He is the ultimate bunker politician. He’s not a very good communicator, he admits. That is a problem with a modern Prime Minister. Viner mentions that Brown is totally different in private, where he is very engaging. Well, that’s no good is it? We’re all good in private, for goodness sake. But if you are Prime Minister you have to C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-E. They also said John Major was very good in private. Big deal. He was also useless at communicating in public, which was his main job.

Viner ends with an interesting observation. During several long meetings with Brown, Viner “never once saw him perform that strange, lower-jaw breathing manoeuvre he so often executes in public.” That’s amazing isn’t it? Brown reserves his goldfish impersonation just for the public. Very good of him.

Viner concludes interestingly:

His image is fusty and secretive, but he’s the first prime minister to sit in an open-plan office in Downing Street. To me he spoke fluently and with passion. He sounded like a normal person.
The prime minister is a man of such paradoxes. He is now convinced free market solutions can’t work, but is still privatising parts of the Royal Mail and the health service. He passes strong legislation on women while appointing few to top positions. He sees himself as a good person, but employs others to do his dirty work. He wants to stay as prime minister, but longs to get out of No 10, govern from a train, become a teacher. As he says himself, “It’s a strange life, really.”