Thursday, 3 November 2011

Comments on my visit to the House of Parliament.


Houses of Parliament

After what can only be described as a very pedestrian start to what would otherwise have been a well desired day off, I made it into Westminster at about 10:45.

The first comment i would make is how much I love the layout within the depths of Westminster Underground station. To most I imagine the innards of the station to be dull. However if you treat the rather industrial look (the grey beams and pillars make the whole thing look like a machine) with an open mind, you might just conjure up a nice metaphor along the lines that those otherwise dull objects represent the wheels of the economic, social and legislative functions turning, in what goes on above ground in the Houses of Parliament.

Leaving through Exit three of the Station, you find yourself emerging from underneath perhaps the UK’s most famous Landmark, Big Ben.

After wading through the inevitable security measures in place at the Cromwell Entrance, you emerge into a very dull room, otherwise known as Westminster Hall. Had it not been a cloudy day or perhaps if they had turned the lights on, what looked like a glorified Barn of a structure might have been a little more spectacular. However, this was not the case and was just a large dull hall.

Me and a fellow student made our way to the House of Commons Gallery, after a queuing a short while and checking some bags, we ended up in the gallery. It all looked very grand on first impression, and further it looked rather small. Perhaps the TV makes it looks fat, because in reality from my perspective it seemed incredible tight. Perhaps a good selling point for the reduction in of fifty MPs come the next election will result in a more spacious chamber for our representatives.

What we viewed as the extension of Question Time, where the house questions the work of the Minister of a particular department. After the scheduled questions have been answered, the floor was opened to “urgent questions”. Urgent Questions are a new feature in the proceedings of Parliament, implemented by the Backbench Business Committee, something I will discuss later.

We then left to view the House of Lords. There was much less ‘to and fro’ between members, as to be expected, and more long winded, thoroughly prepared speeches and comments from the members to the House. The impact of Creative Industries (media sources to you and I) was what was discussed and despite being not fully up to speed on for example local Newspapers or Children’s Television, the experience was still quite interesting.

We then left for Lunch. The only detail I shall give is that I had a very over-priced Cheese Baguette from a Pub across the road.

We then returned into Parliament, again with the hassle of going through security.

At 2:30 we had a discussion scheduled with three different Parliamentarians.

The First, John Whittingdale, was Chair of the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport. Of all Select Committees, this one has had particularly large media exposure in recent weeks because these have been the Parliamentarians involved in investigating the Phone Hacking scandal of the News International Group, which as can be imagined led to some interesting discussion.

We then had a visit from Peter Bone MP, who describes himself as the 2nd most rebellious MP in the Conservative Party. He is a member of the earlier mentioned Backbench Business Committee, a newly formed Committee. In a nutshell they make life difficult for the House of Commons, tabling debates that the House otherwise doesn’t want to talk about. They have three criteria, which if all are fulfilled means a topic is primetime for discussion. 1: If all Parties agree on something, it’s wrong, we must debate this topic. 2: If they disagree on something within the party, they must debate the topic. 3: If the public are talking about it, and express their desire to discuss it with 100,000 signatures on a petition, they must debate it. Things like the European Union Referendum fulfilled all three criteria, and came about because of a petition supported by the Daily Express.

Finally, Sir George Young discussed the changing role of the House of Commons. Perhaps the most recognisable figure seen today, the Conservative Front Bencher is the Leader of the House of Commons.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening day. I consider myself quite lucky in some of the opportunities that have been given to me. For example, I had an experience very similar to today’s events two years ago on a School Trip to Prague. At the time I did not really appreciate how lucky I was, only now do I realise how good an experience it was.

I had to rather dash out however to catch my train. I did however spend a moment watching David Dimbleby prepare for tonight’s Question Time Broadcast, which will be shot from the afore mentioned Westminster Hall.

I did discuss with some friends, that despite being a learning trip, I also wanted it to be a motivational one. Did the day succeed in sending me the vibes of: Alex, you want to be here, you need to work hard so you can end up here. Yes it did. I look forward massively to being there next year, working for an MP. Bring it on, and bring on a career in Public Office of some kind.

I’ll leave you with the final thought that I am travelling back First Class, because it was Cheaper than standard, which comes with a free evening meal or Sandwiches. I can confirm how thoroughly disgusted at the fact the meal involved Goats Cheese. East Coast will receive a sternly word letter in the morning from me with regards to their thoroughly vile meal options on board.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Last train home for the Coalition.


One of the rather smaller pieces of news this year has been the announcement of a High Speed Rail network in the UK. Smaller this is of course because despite this venture transforming how people are shuttled two and from work, it seems Riots, News of the World and the Royal Wedding have collectively pushed this interesting change in infrastructure well and truly into the middle pages.

The facts are it will cost £32bn, a cost which will be most likely shared between the Government and private firms, a mix that will mean a good oversight in how its being built and being built with good value for money. It will operate out of London to Manchester, and to Leeds via Birmingham. There are options to extend, but not as it stands. It will be completed in 2028/2032, Leeds scheduled to board the train at the latter date.

I rather oppose the High Speed rail network. I don't see the point and i consider it a high cost for something that won't see good use.

The UK has looked to countries such as France, China, Brazil and Germany with their High-Speed lines and wants in. You don't need to have a Phd in Geography to spot the flaw in these kind of comparisons. These countries far exceed the size of the UK. Geographically the UK is rather lucky that Leeds an Manchester can reach London already between an hour or two on existing train lines. Is slicing that time in half altogether worth it? Will people be pleased with the difference? Personally, i can reach Hull from St Albans in about 2 and a half hours and am very please about it. I reached the far reaches of Kent this summer in just over an Hour. I've reached London from St Albans in 15 Minutes. The speed of our services i think is already reasonable, for people that might have to once or twice a week visit the capital from Leeds, might accept the 2 hour commute, if it was wholly unacceptable wouldn't they just move?

Then we've got to consider the use of existing train lines. Aside from the notoriously busy London Underground and commuter trains in and out of London, are the trains that busy with commuters demanding faster speeds? I traveled cross-country from Peterborough to Stevenage (a train on its way to London) and i tell no lies, i had a carriage to myself. I have traveled before and it's been busy of course, but i've traveled at other times and it's been deadly quite. Outside of commuting times it has to be said, the 2pm from Hull to Doncaster i've been on my own before beside a few small kids who got off on route.

Finally, i disagree with the costs and time span. £32 billion doesn't seem to much compared to say the cost of hosting the Olympics or the size of our Governments debt. However that figure can be amended as time goes on and costs change - there's going to be a lot of inflation in the next twenty years. It could easily be £50bn at it's scheduled completion. By which time, will people still want it? Will it still have it's appeal? In 2030 cars will be more efficient and people might consider traveling in a car with good Miles per Gallon over paying £100 a ticket on the new trains. In 20 years peoples views can change, you've got to ask will people still want in 2032, let alone do they want it now?

The point of this venture is to try and move business away from the capital, Inshoring, is to encourage growth in areas far away from the capital which thrives from having the best transport networks. Geographically, Manchester isn't too far away, why not just split the money up into chunks of £1bn and hand it out to these struggling areas? Regeneration zones can probably provide the Governments aims. A screaming train, running on a dirty trainline that needs maintaining and manning, probably will not.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

2,977


This Sunday marks the ten year anniversary, if you can call it that, of the September the 11th attacks. Currently caught in the moment of it all i thought i'd share some thoughts.

It's really the only time in my life so far that i remember where and what i was doing at the time, excluding perhaps the 7/7 London Underground attacks. Too young for Diana's death and my younger siblings were all born at night, so this is the only "where and when" moment i've ever had. I was 8 and in Year 5 at Primary School. Nothing was said at the time from teachers, or nothing i'd heard, I presume because it was 2001 and teachers didn't have the internet access we have now, so it was only when i left the school door when i knew something had happened. Parents, all of them were deep in conversation, about a "serious incident", which given how close i lived to school, we didn't discuss until i got home and saw it on the news. The BBC had continuous coverage of the attacks on the Twin Towers, Pentagon and 3rd Hijacked plane that had crashed in Pennsylvania.

I remember being incredibly spooked by the mention of the name Pentagon, because as an 8 year old the only time i'd come across the American heart of Defense was in the video game Metal Gear Solid.

The severity of the situation was really emphasized by the fact Eastenders was cancelled that day.

It has been an event which really has been as much about the aftermath as it was the actual event. The foundation of the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the huge upscalling of intelligence in many countries around the world. Further, it marked some of the biggest conspiracy theories in history - i heard recently that a budget for a conspiracy movie had been $500,000, incredible for what's effectively a YouTube video.

I at one point bought into the idea of it being a hoax, and a massive home security scare put on by Bush. These feelings lasted only about 30 seconds in truth, as i realised that the videos i had seen were just a disgusting and scaremongering attempt to distort peoples truth of a country's Government. Further, i cannot help but feel that it is somewhat disrespectful of the dead.

Then there's the question of who dunnit. Well Osama Bin Laden and al-Queda plead guilty all to smugly for any sane mans liking.

Automatically you then address the issue of whether or not it was right to kill Bin Laden without trial, who was killed by US Navy Seals in May 2011. Personally, the War on Terror is like any other war, those who kill and get killed do it for a cause, in this case it was a war about beliefs which led to his death. Even if a trial was involved, he would most likely have been killed anyway, so as vulgar as it sounds, the Navy Seals just sped up the process.

Aftermath is a curious thing. Aftermath is what makes us study history, and produces post-event analysis that can enlighten even the most unenlightened. Motives, Costs and Responses are all part of the aftermath. In this case: extreme religious beliefs resulting in a hatred for capitalist Western Society, costing a huge American economic downturn (as desired) and a worldwide increase in security at home and abroad, ending with a response which has come to taint Bush's premiership: seeking to end the threat of terrorism through invasion.

While we learn about the aftermath and generate whatever opinions we have of Bush/Bin Laden, i worry we lose touch with reality, the fact in all 2,977 people lost their lives. People at work, people on the phone, people eating a bagel. Like drowning, those in the Towers had to wait in the sickening belief that they will perish. Some chose to die on their own terms by jumping, while helpless others died as the Towers went down.

On Sunday forget about Bush and whether or not it really happened. Mourn the lost and the hero's who perished. Spend the day and be thankful for those who lost their lives, who in a strange way, i believe made the world today a safer place.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Today's guest speaker: Phil from Marketing!




The title? A quote from the Simpsons when a marketing firm took over Sringfield Elementary because of a lack of funding (the picture however is from a similarly themed episode where the church becomes sponsored in order to raise funds). Of course this resulted in half an hour of family friendly hilarity with Funzo ruining Christmas. However, Free Schools now appear to be less of a cartoon creation and more a reality, with 281 applications to create a Free-School in the UK joining schools like Krishna-Avanti, Leicester as a wave of new Free Schools which seem set to revolutionize how kids learn.

A Free School is effectively independent from Government curriculum, and can be proposed by anyone: parents, teachers, charities, University's and even Football Teams - the only criteria that has to be met is that they must teach English, Maths and Science, and offer a broad and balanced curriculum (leaving a bit of room for maneuver). The only requirement is that there must be enough support from parents as to be able to fit 50% of the schools places.

It is bizarre to think that these new schools can offer a different kind of learning, that is so radically different to schools as we know it, which traditionally are based are Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. However, these schools and their ideas as how to teach are very much in the pipeline of the education revolution - Everton Football Club in Liverpool for example want to create a sporting and athletic atmosphere around their school, so as to encourage young, inner-city children to attend - the incentive of playing sport apparently is means of getting kids to school.

While we may sit and laugh at the extremes of having sponsored schools (Economic Monopolies brought to you by Wal*Mart/Leisure and Tourism in Association with EasyJet), this isn't much too far from what may happen, and what already is. An unnamed Free School has a connection with Apple, which as a result offers iPad's to it's students.

So what of these plans which have been on Tory pipelines since the days of Thatcher but have only recently come about under Gove, the Education Secretary. Well, as a principle i like the idea. Between the ages of 4 and 11, school can seem a little bit of a chore. Secondary school i feel is different, you're more independent which is a bit of an encouragement to attend (or on the flipside play truant). However, primary school can seem like a drag. Personally, i remember doing a lot of PE and having a lot of "Golden Time" in the later stages of my primary school life which makes me wonder how i got straight-5s in the KS2's. The point is, Primary School, while being the foundations of education, was not always what i wanted to do with my day. At home i had toys and a Playstation which i could play all day if i stayed at home, not just for an hour at lunch time as i might at school.

Free School's do offer incentives like these, its school revolutionized to a point where it's hardly a school at all - in Manchester a Free School is planned to be guarded by groups of the Army in order to promote ideals of respect and civility. But where do we stop? How are schools like these policed? Whats to stop Tesco's coming in and giving a lesson on the benefits of Land Banking? Nothing: Free Schools need not have qualified teachers giving the lessons.

I like the idea of modernising primary schools, things like mini white boards and computer rooms can really invigorate a child to participate in the classroom and can boost attention spans - however what we don't want is the Samsung School for mini electronics buyers. I'm all for a change but lets not have it run by Funzo and Phil from Marketing.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Observations from The Sunday Times.


Apologies to the culture vultures amongst you, but there will be no poem today. I've got some content in mind, but you have to realise to write a poem as a non-poet is actually quite hard. Anyway todays blog draws inspiration from a story from The Sunday Times.

The story (on page 10 who like references) deals with a story, i don't really know who to describe but i thought i should share. Girl, 11, pleads for cash to go to top school

Aliyah Tribak, a girl from the Tower Hamlets council estate in London, has been scooting about town (literally) in order to try and find a benefactor to fund her place at the Queen's College independent school for Girls. The reason being her mother failed to correctly fill out the bursary forms in order to receive funding from the school.

The girl has dreams, which she believe would become slightly closer to a reality if she get's to go to Queen's College, which charges nearly £15,000 per year. Aliyah wants to go into medicine.

The story paints an interesting picture really. From sunny-suburbia-in-St Albans, to do medicine is not too hard. I know of a few people who got onto decent medical courses from a state school. My mantra is that in order to fulfill a dream like this, you've go to work hard, you don't need to be from a pay-per school.

In fact i was talking recently about being poor, being deprived and i suggested that i am poor. A friend however suggested that there's poor, and then there's poor. Of course i argued that i am poor, given i fit comfortably into the Government's lowest bracket in order to get funding as to attend University. Without this, University and I would simply not have married in the way we have.

But, my friend who writes here, was right. I am not from a council estate and i did go to a good state school, which unfortunately for me get's better and better each year, leaving the records that we make in terms of results only a shelf life of a year, until the lower-sixth come along and bust them wide open.

This is all about social mobility. The truth is i know nothing about what social mobility really is. I look at myself in a rather misguided belief that i am Social Mobility. I am the idol, the leader who's breaking the trend. The council house-kid on his way to do Law with a years placement in the Houses of Parliament. Only the second person to attend a University in a pretty decent sized clan. But this isn't social mobility. This is just me using whats been given to me well - a decent school - and a decent household.

Aliyah on the other hand hasn't got that, or won't unless she gets the place at Queen's College. This is wrong. One can argue that people can break the mould and leave the council estate or poverty stricken areas of inner-cities. But this is a rarity, and we all know it. While Labour offered improved schooling and healthcare, the inequality gap grew which gives us situations and rather primitive reasons to riot.

For me, there needs to be a ridding of this idea of "fill the quota" placements in schools and University's and more serious screenings. A ridding of the private school help sessions for Oxbridge interviews and more of a method whereby of course a grade-A student from Tower Hamlets is perhaps proportionally cleverer than a grade-A from Eton.

Queen's College has the money, it has the bursary available, otherwise they wouldn't offer it. While i make assertions here, i think you can probably agree that Queen's College could bend the rules in this case, whats stopping them is most likely a pride thing, a small-C conservative (and big C no doubt) system whereby as described by Aliyah herself "in the interviews everyone came in posh cars and all knew each other", they want to keep its rich, exclusive feel to it.

I could of course be wrong, even so, Queen's College, Government or someone should step up and take the baton of encouraging Social Mobility. Front the money in order to show that the days of shunning further education for financial reasons are gone, and that anyone can follow a dream.



Saturday, 20 August 2011

Civil War




On April 12th 1861,
Conflict and strife had just begun.

To fight for freedom is to defend,
What Washington'n co sought to mend.
Constitution, a sacred thing,
Black men are just as being
As the white man, in the text
Who's job liberty is to protect.
Unionist in the North, Lincoln,
Under pressure from New York.
An end to possession and control,
With Musket, Sword and Pistole.

To fight with Lee was to Honour,
The life of US. Southerner.
Ever industrious, strong and tough,
To keep the Blacks, who'd had enough.
O'er the hill of destiny, a south
who struggle to live without
Slaves.
Business in the North seemed set to thrive,
W'out the slaves, Georgian land is set to die.
A tenacious struggle for what
each side wants no more to put,
the stamp of honour in Unionist
and Confederate soldiers midst.

As a conflict, a frightfully grave'd affair,
Lincoln's Revolution, celebrated every year.
Peace and freedom, took much time t'spend,
Lest we forget the yank family and friend,
War, where Half a Million lives met their end.


Friday, 15 July 2011

A disgusting incident where i let a burglar into my house.


This blog is being brought to you by personal experience. I know these kinds of blogs have tasted bad in the past but bear with me.

I've written previously that what I write is just a regurgitation of other more credible sources. This is no different, David Mitchell, all round funny guy and socio-politi-commentator, has written a column in The Observer about this before, but i can't find it any where on the Web so rather than link you to the real deal you're going to have to chow down on very primma donna ramblings that will be this blog.

Now, the theme, tone and imagery of this blog all meet at the nexus that is "hate". I am a hateful character, and while i have been trying to cut down on all the hate recently i am about to boil over like the raging furnace of hell where frankly the scourge of our story can rot.

In essence this began about 3:30 this afternoon (now being 4:45). A man knocked at the door. He looked very casually dressed and so i opened believing at first he was lost or a neighbour. In fact this is how he introduced himself. He was so-and-so, and suggested that i might have seen him dashing about the neighbourhood earlier today, in the naive belief that like most 19 year old's i spend all my day at the window people watching. He spoke about he was working in our community, which for a moment sounded like the charity work was going to benefit Drakes Drive. Anyway, after a confusing opening few lines it became clear he came here with rather criminal intentions, that was to steal some of my very limited money.

"Can i come in?", in the kindest possible way i said no, i have things to do and for some stupid reason i thought my killer line of rejection as that "my house is a mess", expecting "ooh no! i shant come in, wouldnt wont to tread and fall on an untidy'd shoe!"

"I understand, but do you have a flat surface i could just show you...[no]...i understand but surely you must have a table or something?". Perhaps out of pity i let the man in. I won't be making this mistake again. I was rather confident of my approach here, thinking like a Dragon from the Den i'll slay the poor fucker if his deal isnt quite up to par. Wrong again.

Well it all looks..well like a sham really. Poorly produced leaflets which i wasn't allowed to keep, because they dont produce leaflets to keep costs down. It wasnt until our final exchange did i actually see (when i asked) for their charity number.

After one leaflet i said very clearly that i don't what to sound rude or disinterested but im not going to be signing up to anything today, i don't have the money and that he should leave a leaflet or something i can show mother, although she is just as a tight as me. No dice. I sat through 4 more leaflets.

These poor people looked very happy with all the work being done by this charity. Now however i was become rather irate and uncomfortable with the conversation. It was about this point where the horrible reality set in that i had let a man i didn't know into my home and rub his dirty crotch all over my sofa. I wont talk to strangers mum no, but i'm gonna let them and take a pew!

"Right, now, again i don't want to sound rude because i like what you've shown me, but lets get down to business, what is it you want from me?" Out he produces a Direct Debit form. Just as i thought. Three times i said "no contracts" "no more signing up" "no". Three times he 'understood' and suggested that "£9 a month isn't much money, as a student you know this!" (I put the latter line in there so maybe a reader might be able to offer some kind of explanation as to why exactly, as a student, i should know it wasn't much money).

I then dished out what i believed to be the royal flush hand, our living conditions "Look, i'm not and as a family we aren't made of money, we live in an ex-council house as you can see, not very big and really, i can't afford it". His response "Don't tell me this, you've got to Xbox's i can see right there!". I was now fuming to pass judgement like that, how we got two of them is not his business, in fact i could have stole them! Looking back though it was a stupid hand to play, having said it i looked around the room to see as he said, two Xbox, 2 pairs of RayBans, a load of fancy books that arrived just today and our tickets from the British Grand Prix displayed gloriously like a medal of honour on our shelving unit!

Anyway, i reiterated the fact i wasn't going to be signing up by...standing up. This was my final hand. If it didn't work i felt i would just buckle and pay the man to leave. However, understanding now that i am a biggish man with a giant foot about ready kick him out the door, he stood and thanked me for my time and that maybe he'd pop back. "No thank you".

Now i understand the need for charity, but this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. Unfortunately i made the infantile mistake of letting him in. This kind of thing should not be allowed. I need to suggest who might succumb to giving money away they dont want to. It's charity but on a certain level it's almost criminal.

I'll leave you with the offering of pearls, my pearls of wisdom which i also said to the man. "If i could offer advice it would be this. I understand [somehow?] Direct Debit payments decrease administration costs, but what i want like many others is to just give some money. You said £8 would make that garden thing and why not just let people donate that money. Also you mentioned administration costs but you offer a monthly magazine that must surely carry a weighty price. Just get a coin collector and be done with it. You might make more money"


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Rob Lowe called it right

In a rather desperate attempt to improve my blogs ratings, I'm going to write a blog about a current news story, after it seems my last blogged bombed a bit for presumably not making much sense and also being a bit racist...

In the news this week was the News of the World and the various tapping shenanigans (I'm talking about phone tapping not "i'd tap that"). A host of celebrities over the last month have reportedly been hacked, then last week a rather more sickly affair in the tapping of Milly Dowler, a then kidnapped or missing or deceased 12 year old girl. Yesterday it emerged that Gordon Brown, ex. UK Prime Minister had been hacked.

For those who know me, i have been throwing around a quote around for a few weeks, never quite retelling it with the same Va-Va-Voom as Rob Lowe did in the West Wing where it is plucked from. Thanks to the Internet and Google here it is in all it's glory:

In the '20s and '30s it was the role of government. '50s and '60s it was civil rights. The next two decades are going to be privacy. I'm talking about the Internet. I'm talking about cell phones. I'm talking about health records and who's gay and who's not. And moreover, in a country born on the will to be free, what could be more fundamental than this?
Interesting indeed. Even more so considering it will have been recorded into film in roughly 1998 perhaps even sooner, it's age however doesn't make it any less true.

In the West Wing he was referring to the scoop that White House officials were or are substance abuses. Compare this to a similar private information scoop in the real world and i'm thinking of the expenses scandal. Supposedly private information blown into public view as a result of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 coming into effect in '05. It is in the best interests, it is our right to know as a general public group, to know this information. Fine.

However i don't need to tell you this is different.

In an interview i watched this morning with Gordon Brown, he said that imagine that this personal information of his has been gained whilst in an office of Government, with the relatively tight security that comes with the job, and thus imagine what kind of information could be obtained about the regular citizen. He makes a good point. Just who might have been targeted?

Mother and my Great-Uncle were discussing yesterday that perhaps the various naughties played by the now defunct News of the World is just the start. Playing the role of scape-goat. Mother suggest it goes deeper. Newspapers have hacked more people. MPs and Celebs, Civilians and Civil Servants are not safe. How then do the Papers get their scoops and have an idea of who to "tap"?

A bent police force and crooked intelligence service might be the answer. I wont say much more in fear of being found on here and being tapped myself. It is an interesting point though. Hopefully an enquiry within Government will reveal some kind of underground or shady group of public officials supplying the media with this kind of scoop. A dodgy copper accepting a few hundred quid in return for personal information of a crook, public or public service-person. Intelligence officers giving tapes of private conversations in return for access to media and business barons? To be honest, things have seemed less far-fetched than this...especially so now. As suggested, it does go deeper than the NOTW.

Coming back to Rob Low again. The age of privacy. I have also called this the age of "green" but in the socio-economic-politics world we'll call this the age of privacy. Anything you say, do and think isnt secret nor safe. What you do is often broadcast on Facebook or what you do on you computer recorded into the vast wilderness that is the world wide web. I'll leave you with a final thought: be careful with the kind of Porn you watch, i can think of a few genres that are a bit taboo and might just come back to haunt you when you're the emperor or the king...because you know the News of the World Mk II will publish what kind of smut Prime Minister Organ/Graham watched when a horny young buck back in 2011....

Monday, 4 July 2011

"If a Russian man plays tennis, you know he is reasonably wealthy"



Yes, indeed interesting quote that in my title. Perhaps a little bit stereotypical or even prejudice on the Russians. I'll be honest i'm not sure which activity or characteristics would best sum up a Russian? Short back and sides for hair? Cold and menacing look? Oil drilling? Well Maria Sharapova is none of those things so maybe i need a new stereotype.

Anyway, it's been a while bloggers. I would now consider myself a global celebrity, so really i should keep my fans updated with my quite interesting and profound points of view. (Yes, i do appreciate the irony of the last sentence). It is hard to write about something other than myself. I have such an urge to blog something about me, my own life and what i do. But i'm not that interesting and frankly, I air most of my dirty laundry in public anyway so who needs a blog about it.

Right then, the quote. It's from a fictional book, 'Our Kind of Traitor' by John le Carré. While written as fiction i sense there is perhaps some truth in it. Not for the Russian people but for Tennis as a whole. Having played today, on to be honest some really awful sand-based astro-turf, i can kind of see why families and individuals would want to pay to play tennis, rather than used the courts i used today, as paid for by the fair residents of St Albans' Council Tax.

In fact last week a family friend spoke about how £250 to join Leverstock Green Tennis Club was actually a great deal for a family of four. Obviously it struck me as ridiculous amount of money. For starters there is a limited scope to its use, being the Summer and when it isn't raining. Second it is the kind of membership that is easy neglected, something you use once or twice and never really get full use of. Unless you are fully committed, it is similar to Gym membership, and might suffer a similar fate of membership cards tucked away under bank statements on the hall table or in Michael Mcintyre's man draw. Further, i know this family: the boys are keen footballers (I play with this man at the legendary Monday Night Football) and the girls keen dancers. Yes, they are the stereotype of stereotype happy families. So in all, where do you get the time.

Tennis then would appear to be reserved as a sport for the upper echelons of society: The rich, the famous and the stupid.

This gets me thinking. An ethos thrown around by sportsmen and woman is something along the line of sports "bring us together". In fact, i may be wrong, but this possibly could have been a slogan for the Olympic Games. Thinking about it, this is remarkably wrong.

Sport separates us in terms of interest and background. A common outlook is that Rugby players are posh while Football players are hoodlums. Tennis is for the rich, while baseball is played by kids from America with a bat, ball and 4 jumpers. Formula One for the Elite of engineering, business and management, while MotorCross and Speedway is there for "Mechanics or Distributors" (A quote from father in response to me asking "who actually watches speedway?).

Further, you have differences in ability. You're only allowed to join the club if you're fit enough. You can't join, you're too slow. Go away, you need a Tennis Racket to play Tennis!

Given some thought. Something that can bring people together can actually pull us further apart. No man would be punished for thinking a man pompous or rich for enjoying Polo. Whereas it is a gross prejudice to assume a Darts player a Larger lout.
The Olympics in 2012 was a chance for Britain to bring down the barriers to entry when it comes to professional sports of all varieties. People around the UK, with a once in a lifetime opportunity to see athletes. But, Seb Coe and Co. appeared to have balls'd it all up. Countless are left without tickets, while those with the purchasing power who could afford to apply for Hundreds have ended up with at,least a few. Well i hope those going enjoy the spectacle, amongst the aristocrats, businessmen, lawyers and doctors. Sip on Pims and chow down Prawn sandwiches for all i care.

I'll be watching from a distance on my 32" Plasma Tv....ooh how very "Rah".

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Politics - Where i'm at.


Having found out i've had 344 hits on my blog, i felt compelled to write yet another. Do enjoy.

I like American Politics. I enjoy reading about it in the Sunday Broadsheets. It isn't a huge insight that i get, but enough to let me know how things stand over there. For example, at the moment the front runners to oppose Barack Obama in the forthcoming Presidential elections could be Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, both because they have memorable names, and Michelle Bachmann who is a rather right wing, anti-gay, anti-atheist, anti-anything-that-isn't-republican-or-Christian. Yes, your guess is as good as mine.

Anyway, i won't be boring you with my thoughts about American Politics, instead i'm going to be boring you about British Politics.

I have begun to believe that i have become something of a floating voter. Perhaps even independent. I dislike the Tory's, their attitude seems to be the main problem, as well as being the party most distant to mine and my families beliefs (at least on my mothers side) of the three main parties.

You've then got the Liberal Democrats, who for a while i associated myself with, certainly at the local level of Government. However the coalition they're in has done them no favours with me, or the UK it seems. Government policy implemented in their term it seems will be tarred by the echo of "broken promises".

Which leaves Labour, the party i for quite a while associate myself with. I am a Blairite, which is not something many people will admit to these days. I will be honest however, and come out and say that with regards to policy and beliefs, Blair and New Labour were spot in terms of what i want. It seems however his image will forever be tarnished by the Wars. My thoughts on this however will be left to another blog.

New Labour wiped the floor with John Major's Tory party in 1997, reflecting the countries desire for change. Without wishing to sound like a party political broadcast, they offered hope of not just prosperity, but also care and supervision to any who needed it. As a result i grew up with good schools, good healthcare and good living standards. The man delivered.

However the good times didnt last forever. Enter Brown. While i was still a fan of the Labour party for the 2010 election, they had some obvious problems in leadership, beliefs and of course their performance in looking after the Economy, to the regular viewer, seemed laughable. However, given the state we were in and are in now, credit perhaps should be given where credit is due to Brown and Co.

However, i'm now left in a position of helplessness when it comes to choosing a party. Labour it seems have become slightly more Left than they once were. Tony Blairs "trying to please everyone, all of the time" approach appears to have been abandoned in favour of returning to Labours roots, the left, with the face of "Red" Ed Milliband.

I have no immediate problem with this. I think as a leader he is performing better and better each week at PMQs, often the benchmark of Prime Minister material. However, what leaves me and 54% of polled voters, is we're not sure what his policies and beliefs are yet. Blair took no time at all in amending the all important Clause 4 or Labours constitution, laying the ground work for his election campaign giving voters an idea of what is to come.

Ed hasn't made such a step yet. I think the "honeymoon" period is over in both Government and Opposition. Over a year on it's time for the mud slinging "You left us this" "But you're not sorting it out" business and starting moving forward. Ed needs to align himself and declare his intentions in order to really give voters an idea of what might be offered. Otherwise of the polls continue to show insecurity about what Ed is offering as opposition leader, he might just find himself out of a Job as Iain Duncan Smith did in 2003, and instead his brother David, taking his place opposite David Cameron.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Facebook? Facebroke.


I'm not sure who i'm speaking to any more really. I'm not sure how many of the originally thriving blogging bunch remain, so i may actually be talking to myself in writing this blog. However, i felt my last blog was a rare success so i'm going write another. Hopefully Mini will read it, his regular ramblings and ravings can be quite entertaining, so who knows maybe he'll read some of this, which might be more up his street.

Reading The Sunday Times today, more than a few articles concerned themselves with the perhaps seemingly trivial and teenage thing that is Facebook. I won't spend any longer explaining what Facebook is.

Some of the articles were concerned with the thick-as-a-plank jury member who thought only would be a good idea to talk about her case on Facebook to her friends, but also talk to either the plaintiff or defendant, i'm afraid the sheer stupidity of this story that has developed this week has not left enough room in my brain to remember who it was. "We're all wiv' ya luv" bullshit that belongs on Bebo. Perhaps naively thought Facebook slightly high brow, how wrong i was.

Before i thoroughly abuse Facebook, i need to point out that in the last month similarly special idiots have motioned on Twitter "Doing Jury duty...GUILTY!!" an similar stories.

The second crop of stories were to do with the idea that Facebook might be in decline. 6 Million American's reportedly removed their Facebook profiles last month, although as a friend points out, this is perhaps down to Exams.

Nonetheless, the Focus point in question was that the novelty has worn off....

I might be inclined to agree. I have been increasingly more and more involved on Twitter. Why? There's less bullshit like groups and vain pictures and groups. Perhaps its also because i am a bit self absorbed and like to document all i do on Twitter. But in reality it's because i consider Twitter to be as i mentioned, higher brow that FB. I can follow who i want: Friends, Sports and Intellectuals. It is this point that makes Twitter appeal to me, I choose who i want to enjoy my Twitter experience.

Further, Facebook has lost its appeal to its original audience of young people because of the increasingly large presence of embarrassing adults. I counted no less than 11 family members on there recently.

So are we moving into a new place, a migration. Perhaps. Most i think will stay because i think deep down they like the idea of people looking at pictures they've uploaded (i wont lie, i enjoy this), something facebook offers in no abundance.

I urge any readers however. Move our activities onto Twitter and Blogger. Failing this, return to the Forum.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

SENNA



There are very few instances in my life i actually cry. I think myself to be rather hard when it comes to sentiments and feelings, as i'm sure a lot you do. Whatever reputation i have earned myself over the years it isn't being a softy that's for sure.

However, i do cry. Seeing my mother cry makes me sad, but i do not cry. However seeing my father cry does, something i have never understood, perhaps something to do with the childlike belief that is the invincible father. I do cry at funerals. I cried last year during the summer when i had received my poor exam results, was working 9-5:30, 6 days a week and felt a load of pressure upon my shoulders. Looking back i was perhaps suffering from depression, certainly exhaustion. I just wanted to be alone, i had problems that i wanted to sort out on my own. I put the then girlfriend Katy through it, and i'm ever grateful for her shoulder, but the truth is she deserves credit for sticking with me in a time when i was in a bad place. Something went wrong. I'm not sure what it was but it had gone wrong. Many evenings i would just come home from work, and cry. None of you will know this, but i feel maybe now is a time to share it.

I rarely however cry at films. I think maybe when i was younger i might had cried at Titanic. Interestingly i cried in the Lion King when Simba's dad died, again perhaps something to do with the invincible father ideal.

There's a film called Reign over me, with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle, about Post Traumatic Stress disorder and other psychological illnesses. I'm not sure why i cried during that film.

On Saturday, June 4th i cried at a film. I was watching Senna, the movie about the great racing driver.
I think many misunderstood him as a man, however the film was an enlightening look into the life he lead, one of honesty, faith and perfection. The truth is, while fully aware of his fame, he seemed very humble from looking at the footage in the film. Prior to the film, Championship rival Alain Prost seems to come off better, the bigger man, but this is perhaps not the case. What i saw of him, and what he said in the film fell not too far short of inspiring. The truth is, today there are few racing drivers that actually can come across as inspiring. Schumacher used to do it for me, but with hindsight, the great Schumacher has nothing on the astounding Brazilian, Ayrton Senna.

Of course, the film shows his death. It is built up hugely, the weekend of his death had footage lasting for what felt like half an hour. Rubens Barrichello crashed heavily in Friday Qualifying, but came out unscathed. Senna was moved, distraught, i am reading a biography of him at the moment, and he actually didn't want to race that weekend, he felt that scared for his life around the Imola circuit. The weekend would have been tarred anyway, as during Saturday Qualifying Roland Ratzenburger crashed heavily and died from his injuries later that day. Formula 1 hadn't seen anything like it for quite some time, so a lot of the pit lane were troubled by undoubtedly a huge tragedy.

Tragedy however struck again. After 7 laps Senna's crashed crashed heavily into Tamburello corner. He sat motionless. No marshal attempted to help the man. Both my mother and father saw the race, both horrified as they saw a man, lifeless within the cockpit, seeing the marshal's backing off. Everyone knew something was wrong. The brilliant Prof. Sid Watkins, the Formula 1 mechanic did all he could. In fact before the race Watkins had predicted "there's going to be a fucking accident", in response to the danger of the circuit. What killed him isn't known, although it was likely to be a suspension piece penetrating his helmet, and causing fatal stress wounds to his skull.

While the music and atmospheric conditions built up the tension during the film, something made it all the more moving than that. He was a hero, in Brazil and Worldwide. Laying in the Navy Blue overall's of his Williams team, surrounded by medical staff, we saw a great man fallen, helpless. The once touted invincible had succumbed to injury's received whilst performing his natural calling, racing a car. At the time millions watched, helpless themselves, as they saw a man losing his life.

The Senna film is different. Hero's are depicted regularly in TV and film. But what we were watching was something i haven't seen before. He was not fictional, he was a man. This is what i think moved me. Despite the accolades, the brilliance and the championships, he was not immortal after all. I can only hope he is remembered as the best ever. He was only 34.

Hero, villain or man he finally was at complete peace in the grace of God. Both men and hero's fall. Perhaps it is times like this, we realise that we all fall. We will all fall.

Senna.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Murdoch, Sky, F1 and Business

So circling around this week is the news that Rupert Murdoch and his partners may be lining up to buy the rights to F1 coverage from Bernie Ecclestone and his partners, CVC capital. F1 will be sold soon, its fair that Bernie has been in the top spot for years and isn't getting any younger, however i'm wary about any bid from the Murdoch Family, as i'll look it now.

Now don't get me wrong, i am a bit of a bisexual, or i suppose a bi-terrestrial when it comes to Sky and Freeview. My dad has Sky, my mother does not. I am a massive fan of Sky, when i get to use it. The choice they offer across the board is fantastic, as well as the new Sky Anytime feature, which means even when nothing else may tickle your fancy (for example in the middle of the day) there is something you can watch.

Of course when i'm not watching it, i'm not a fan. I look at what is on offer on Freeview compared to sky, and i'm annoyed that sky have all these great programmes and i want more. If F1 is bought out by the Murdoch group, then there is a good chance that it will end up on Sky - with a re writing of the current Concorde agreement, which is like F1's constitution which currently has a provision meaning it can be shown on free to air channels.

I think it's disgusting really, that there is so much sport on Sky, and so little at times on Terrestrial. There is sport that must be shown on terrestrial TV including the FA Cup and World CUp finals. F1 is not on that list.

Personally i think it is absolutely ridiculous that there are times when England aren't shown on TV, for example Wales vs England earlier this year, there weren't even highlights shown on TV.

So, what about F1? Well it is a brand all about money, and inevitably they would get more money from Sky. However, overall sponsorship may decrease for the teams as they recognise they might lose some of their audience to Sky.

As for Audiences, well Motor Sport has been done on Sky before. NASCAR and the IndyCar events from America were given live coverage but never featured beyond their midnight slot when of course it was live. Further, Sky had the rights and really bigged up the new A1 GP, a world cup of Motor sport if you like. In case you didnt realise, that went into liquidation last year following massive cash flow problems and loss of audience.

Now, F1 won't suffer the same fate as its motor sport brothers, because of its global image, not just in the UK, other deals from other Broadcasters around the world would keep it afloat.

F1 is something of a niche market. Widely, there are a lot of sports fans, most of whom follow football in the UK. The F1 demographic is somewhat smaller, there are a core following such as my family and some friends, however there are a lot of people also who will drift in and out of Formula, catch the green lights go out perhaps, see bits of it etc, etc. Its these semi-fans who might be lost, which is a shame, as if it moves to Sky the F1 demographic is decreased even further, limiting coverage to only those who have Sky.

While a move to Sky might improve the coverage available, on the red button for example, it will not do well for the sport as a whole. I do hope it doesnt move to Sky, for in recent years with the arrival of BBC HD coverage, as well as top notch, wheel to wheel racing, F1 has got something good going and id hate to lose it.



Thursday, 28 April 2011

Stupid really...

So, really i just read Simon P. Rickenback's blog, and on the whole it was a nice experience. I'd also like to point out at this point, because there may not be a better point to point it out...that blog is considered a spelling error on this little blog writing java script or whatever it is.

So, having read the blog, i'd like to point out how glum it was, really giving the hair dryer treatment to poor Mini and his Mindless blog. I mean the poor lad has a low meat intake, this kind of punishment probably wont stand well on his shoulders, he can barely stand at all.

What i thought i'd do is write a blog in response, which is in a way not really taking on board Simon's point that no one actually cares. Well, i tell you now i did take it on board and screw you.

What i'm going to write about is not the musings on an online sharing center where friends can comment ones thoughts, oh no it's much worse. See, yesterday i bought a notebook, not just any note book, but a MoleSkine. Moleskine's are probably made out of moles hence the name, on the packaging it said things about Jules Verne, Da Vinci and Picasso and perhaps naturally i was leaning to purchase one. Also, Steven has one and he is probably the cleverest teenager i know.

Anyway, this thing which by all accounts is lined paper,was supposed to be an outlet where i could write down important information and thoughts about what i do. Maybe i could write down blog ideas. Or thoughts about the law or politics which might in some way aid my degree.

This turned out to be something of a niave thought, since actually, i dont have anything to say, 9 out of 10 of any epiphanies i have are usually about porn or my naked classmates, and should one day my note pad be put on show in a museum, i dont want it to be full of sketches and pie charts of who is the fittest in the year....

Again that is probably a childish thought, that someone might actually want to read what's in it, of course if anything actually does get in it. Most things i do say are regurgitated from The Guardian or USA Today or some Comedian - in fact this blog may be the first thing thats come from me. Plainly, if i thought somehow i'd get down loads of profound thoughts which somehow might make a political, social and economic utopia, is obviously wrong.

So for now my Moleskine is left empty bar me writing my name in the front and that i would be willing to pay $10 for reward if found (again how much do people value their journals in their content). It's a shame really someone's self esteem is so low that not even their own thoughts are amusing enough to be written down. I suppose we've got people like Simon to thank for that, who remind us, actually no one cares.

Here's to no one caring, and Here's to Richard Mills.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Am I a Royalist? or a Roundhead?

So, i had originally planned to write a blog about my love affair with Sky and all the packages they do, but then Daniel Meier's blog Mindless covered pretty much exactly the opposite, so instead I'm going to write about my musings on the whole Royal Wedding hurrah.

Discussing it with a few people over the last couple of weeks, the Royals are getting a mixed reception, an variable schmorgasbord of opinions.

Some are, perhaps by right or birth somehow, fans of the Royals. After all they are the heads of the realm and give rise to all that blows out of Parliament. Respectfully they acknowledge the work of the Royals, openings and speeches and so on and so forth. Public image, while from time to time is tarnished by be it a distant princess or the divorce of a prince, is that of your typical role model.

Then again, perhaps maybe more so, or at least more vocal in dislike, are the haters. Your usual, unnecessary, high cost, high maintainance drivel that sometimes can be read as grounded potential truth and sometimes unfounded idiocy.

For years i've sided with the royalists if you like, the grand image that marches around with the Royal Family, for me seemed liked something to respected, there was no question. Then of course as time passes there comes the stories of corruption, Prince Charles influencing the work of Parliament, Sarah Ferguson...princes Diana blah blah blah.

So where am I now? Well, it's a strange existence really. I find myself wondering what King or Queen actually means these days. Of course head of state and what have you. But when you consider the coverage they get in the media, the influence they have on people and the work they do and what it means. You take all that and i think, King and Queen, who's work matters more? or Gets a better response? Well, David and Victoria Beckham perhaps had stolen the crown, but times have moved on.

Is it time for a new King and Queen as who the majority of british public can look up to? Wayne Rooney? Kelly Brook? God forbid Stacy Soloman? Lewis Hamilton (even though he's actually American these days)

No, if there ever was a chance to be the King and Queen in both a royal and media sense, it's with the to-be-weds: Prince William and Kate Middleton. What a chance to reassert the image of Royalty and what it is to be a Royal. What chance to become role models for millions of Children across the world next week.

I wish them both the best of luck.

(I'd like to add, in response to Dan/Mini, Step mum has since showed up and turned on Katie, new to Sky Living HD, what load of fucking shit this is...)

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Sun: "baby you can drive your car, beep beep yeah yeah"

Give me strength.

On Wednesday, George Osborne delivered the budget statement, which has been received by the right as very good and by the left with degrees of scepticism and even "there's no fooling us" type thinking.

The Sun were quick as usually to evidence itself for the Newspaper for frankly, idiots. Front paged with "Britain you can drive your car, beep beep yeah yeah yeah". As well as being a horrific play on a classic Beatles number, the observation at the 1p DELAY not cut, but DELAY in full duty rise is meant to be the reason for cheer from the Budget.

As Ed Milliband rightly pointed out, a 1p delay, following a rise of 3p because of the recent VAT increase under Osborne....

The fuel duty delay however is countered by increases in tax burdens for Oil Companies.

Aside from this, The Budget, as usual seems to benefit the working class, but the for the lucky rich there bear the brunt of various adjustments in Taxation.

Cooperation tax has also been cut, typically a Tory manoeuvre satisfying the middle England business executives.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the announcement of 21 new enterprise zones, with decreased restrictions on councils as where best to build them. A fantastic idea.

The Daily Express led with the cheery sensation that the potholes will be repaired! Damage done of course was done there by Labour, not cold weather causing the road to crack as moisture freezes.

While the right wing press will argue the budget is what is needed, as a huge boost to the economy, being a Lefty i have to agree that the budget is a safe one.

What the budget failed to recognise, as indeed what the right wing press failed to realise is that of course, the budget follows the biggest cuts ever seen in Westminster, as the Tory's attempt the impossible in removing the deficit in this Parliament.

While the budget wont leave us that much worse off, what will occur is a decrease in living standards. What we will see is 500,000 job cuts in the public sector, a sector made up of 75% women who will then have to compete in the private sector, majority of course are men.

Emergency Services will see huge cuts. There is a huge risk that advancements in the NHS, reducing waiting times from 18 Months for example to just 18 days maximum under Labour.

Rising youth unemployment, as University's increase tuition fee's. £9,000 a year may well be acceptable at the top institutions, however as we have seen, it's a game of hide and seek, as each University breaks from cover, another does announcing they will charge the maximum. The less recognised Essex and Surry will be charging the maximum, as well as most other top 15 announced so far. Kids will end up thinking twice before going to Uni, and may well end up unemployed as a result.

What we're seeing is not in fact a hero in Osborne, as the right wing press depicted him, in fact a bit of a crook. The go into the Commons and fail to mention declining growth, and to fail to mention the Cuts, and still try and claim we're on the route to a prosperous Britain, is most certainly pulling the wool over our eyes.

Be warned folks, this is going to be a horrid era.






Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A good Tory idea.

Newspapers and a bike ride gave me inspiration to write this blog.

Reading a lot of written press as usual, one of the proposals from George Osborne and Local Government minister Eric Pickles is to remove red tape and planning restrictions around building, notably so for public authorities, handing back power to regions, local councils in order to best provide and best distribute funding.

Reading this, naturally i was sceptical, being of Center Left. This scepticism is a bit of naivety on my i think, because having visited the regenerated areas of Hull, i can fully endorse the idea of allowing local Government, giving them the reigns, in order to allocate construction budgets.

It was a beautiful day today, and perhaps this somewhat maybe added to the serenity of it all, but i can confirm that i can picture fewer places of the Hull seafront on a day like today. And there as we looked out into the Humber, we discuss the regeneration of Hull. A local guy said that years ago Hull was branded as the worst City in the UK, and the local residents and council thought to do something about it.

And here and now, 2010, Hull is a pleasant place to be. The seafront of Hull has seen the best of the regeneration, where i had the pleasure of cycling around today, along the trans penine path which accompanies the humber river, down to sheffield and then onto Liverpool. There is a lot of good work down there, new houses, offices, marina and regenerated roads, adds to not just monetary value, but as Osborne mentioned today in the Budget, something more than just economic measures - happiness. It is a happy place to be.

This leads me to believe, that actually, local government might just know best when it comes to allocation of resources. Under Labour government did return to Westminster, perhaps part of a backlash that was Thatcher's government.

Reading today in The Guardian, we have a story about Middlesborough where there is discussion of redevloping the now derelict wastelands of Boro's steel and chemical industries of the past. The point here is local authorities do know what is needed, increasing land value, through regeneration, moving forward into a 21st century town, as noted in Hull, where because of the regeneration, all industries, but the fishing industry has pretty much gone, now we see much more office space than warehousing or industrial sites.

In Hull train station, there is a large sign, Welcome to the New Hull. I saw that today, and it really made my day. With these new provisions allowing more money to go into industry deprived areas, hopefully we'll see a wave of evolving towns and cities in the next 10 years.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

New F1 Season

I'd like to write about Formula One, i know this may not be to everyone's cup of tea, but hopefully it may be an interesting read for you.

The new season is only a few days away now, and as always for me it could shape up to be an exciting season. Every year i say this, and to be honest it is mostly unfounded, unproven, high expectation. I remember in 2009 i described the championship as to be the most open yet! As hard as he makes it out to be, Jenson Button led the Championship from start to finish.

Regardless, this is looking like a prospectively good season.

Why is this? Well, there is the return of KERs, an energy retention system that stores energy from braking, allowing it to be reused as a boost of power in order to overtake. It featured originally in 2009, when i was all for the idea. However it did filter out of everyones good books gradually, the main problem being that for many teams, the power output was not justified by the extra weight of the system. Hopefully this time KERs will have been revised and updated in order to maximise the idea's potential.

Next, there is a new feature to the rear wings of the cars. Again brought in to try and give the cars more of an edge when trying to overtake, as with the KERs boost button. A button on the steering wheel, allows for part of the rear wing providing downforce to be rendered almost negligible in how much drag it produces. If used wisely, this will mean high grip in the corners and max speed on the straight.

Further more there has been a change in tyre supplier, from Bridgestone to Pirelli. Last year, with refuelling banned, teams often would have only one pitstop, going for long stints. The new tryes have been designed to be varied in how long they can last and how much grip they can provide. ranging from Hard to super soft the aim is to get teams pitting more and varying their strategy in order to maximise excitement: Endurance strategy or speed strategy for example. I find this idea to be a step in the right direction, however with all cars required to be fuelled until the end of the race, it seems daft that the FIA have rather made half a step into making F1 more strategical, i would like to see refuelling allowed again so teams have the choice of how much fuel they put in the car, i.e. how much weight they will carry.

What does this all mean? Well, it may be all a bit scientific, but to a Formula One fan it is a good step for the Championship. The last few years in my opinon we have seen a rise in the excitement of Formula One, with the exception of 2009 where it was something of a 2 horse race, both horses from the same breeder.

Melbourne on Sunday morning will be exciting, the circuit itself is part road, part race track which, with short run of areas, plenty of sweeping straights and tight corners, amidst the setting sun in Australia, will hopefully all add up to an electrifying first Grand Prix. I hope you'll give it a watch.

Who will win is a tough one. All the teams playing there cards a bit close to their chest at the moment. i would be surprised to see Mclaren start slow and pick up in the mid season. Red Bull are going to be the team to beat, and in all honesty at the moment they seem to be in the best position to win races.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The strumpets that are England Captains.

Football blog. Sorry.

In the footballing world this week we can see further developments in the England captain saga. Let's not beat around the bush, because i have very strong views about this.

1. John Terry should never have been relieved of his duties as captain. By far and away the best choice, one of the fittest players in the England squad and a good leader.

2. Why single out Terry? JT, while nothing was actually proven (if anything denied) was rumoured to have cheated with another players then ex girlfriend. While circumstances may have been a bit different [team mates ex], i'd like to pose the point that many players do it.

To then give it to Rio seemed a choice, at the time my sentiments i remember were "He has only played half this season? why him?" "He failed to attend a drugs test, and was banned from football, surely this is just as bad a message as cheating?" "He is not as good as terry, he might lose his place if King suddenly gets fit?"

Now, while some may know that i dislike the England football team. Have for a while, things just seem so wrong with that set up. This probably stems back to Steve Mclaren, dropping Beckham and then failing to qualify for the 2008 Euros.

But what happened in the last friendly match against Denmark was simply nothing beyond a joke. Lampard started as captain, gave all the pre match interviews etc, etc, which is fine, he is Vice Captain at Chelsea and not a bad leader/player.

He then played half the match, before the armband was passed to Ashley Cole and Garath Barry. Two players that have never captained club. Cole is also well publicised as having been a bit naughty when with Cheryl Tweedy!

Now we come full circle and Capello may well just give the armband back to Terry. Why, well it's a bye gones be bye gones thing, as well as Rio Ferdinand some what taking the mickey and remaining unfit. Capello doesn't want to keep handing the armband round like a hot potato.

Im not sure where i stand on the matter. Terry, has stood strong in the whole saga. I might have turned my back on England having been fired as captain, been boo'd by the fans for many games after being dropped as captain, and then having to be part of the farce that was England vs Denmark. To do this somehow means he might deserve it back.

On the other hand, for Capello to do so might indeed remove all my faith in the man. To give it back to Terry seems almost a sign of weakness, of fear, even lack of confidence of other players. I imagine the moment, if it happens, in the dressing room will be something like when Jonothan Ross returned to the BBC for the first time after his ban, just an awkward experience for everyone.

We'll see next week against Ghana.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

AV Reform: The issue to about to tear this coalition to pieces.

Lets be perfectly honest here: coalition governments are not usually something we see in the UK. Matt Beech, lecturer and writer suggested in a lecture of mine that coalition governments follow a trend as to when they appear: in times of crisis. The last time we saw a coalition was between 1940 and 1950 - where Churchill led a coalition, desirable out come in War Time Britain. Prior to this, World War One saw a coalition government. Make no mistake, coalitions appear in times of serious crisis, WWI, WWII....a Global, deep, unavoidable recession.

If we are to suggest that this is a time of crisis, we need a strong, workable government with mutual respect for the joined parties policy and ideology. After 8 months now of coalition embracing Westminster and the political scene, finally it seems, cracks are really starting to show.

Today the observer reports that Ken Clarke, a liberal Conservative MP, should be removed from his positions as Lord Chancellor and Secretary for Justice by the most powerful man of the executive: David Cameron. Why? For being too Liberal in his views.

The Conservative right, backbenchers and so forth all too often can be the uprooters of the incumbent leader. Here we could see history repeating itself, are the Tory grass roots about to pull up the new Liberal-Conservatives weeds?

David Cameron has got what will be a tricky couple of months before the AV referendum in May. Keeping the back benchers in check will be of upmost importance as we see what will surely be more disagreements between the Tory-right and Lib-Dem colleagues.

However any handbags between now and May 5th will be but mere scratches to what could be an untreatable wound come polling day. If we as the electorate vote in favour of AV, an inevitable mushroom cloud will erupt in Westminster. Labour and Lib-Dems support the bill: in the last election combined off the top of my head polled around 15 million votes, far usurping the Tory's 10 million.

If you want my opinion on AV, well this is just it. 22% of overall results in the 2010 GE for the Lib Dems resulted in only 10% of seats. Although this issue does rather speak for a proportional representation reform, AV will make things slightly fairer indeed, it will get my vote.

As for the crisis, well it's not going to be made much better in Westminster. We might be about to observe a huge shake up in Cabinet, notably so if the AV reform proves comes out 'yay'. This issue could well define this Government. It could be very messy. DC has got some serious work to do in pulling in the threads of what could turn out to be some very serious straggling MPs, all torn over one key issue - Left or Right - AV or First Past the Post?

Watch this Space.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Desert Island Discs

Hello All.

Basically i know they have something under this name on Radio one, but i have no idea how it operates, and because it's on the internet and according to recent Twitter scandles that any tweet is public information etc, i ought to say i am in no way affiliated with or working for or copying Radio One.

Except maybe copying.

Regardless, despite thinking about lots of things to write about Politics which may insight/inspire you, i haven't had the creative streak as of late to get them down into a blog. Instead i'm hoping to start perhaps an argument as to best ever band/artist, by publishing the 5 Bands i consider my personal Favourites.

1) Michael Jackson - I feel this a good place to start. Not everyone's cup of tea perhaps, but at the same time you'd be hard pressed to find someone who would turn down MJ tickets - when alive of course. Such a wide variety of music, which i suppose is the end result of being in the business for 40 odd years. Thus there is normally something to suit your mood, be it happy, sad, funky, depressed, wanting to save the world etc, etc: you need look no further than MJ. I ought to add as well, that many say Thriller was brilliant - i on the other hand am a huge fan of Off the Wall, a much better album IMO some genius stuff on there.

2) Stevie Wonder. Those who have known me for a long time may remember me suggesting that he is the greatest artist of all time. Perhaps i have matured enough now to realise no one can win that title, but still, he is up there. So much of his music is timeless, brilliant pieces which a never a chore to listen to - this point being very much a reason why he is such a good musician, it would never annoy me to listen to Stevie Wonder. Of course the fact he is blind gives the music that little bit something extra - somehow.

3) The Beatles. Perhaps an obvious choice, but at the same time not so. I know many of you may consider The Who, The Rolling Stones etc, etc to be better bands. However if someone says 'I dont like The Who' it might not invoke much of a reaction. When someone says 'I Don't like the Beatles' it seems that little bit more bizarre: "You dont like the Beatles?" Of course there is also the fact that they have a lot of content as well - i prefer the older stuff myself, there is genius to both the Blue and Red Album era's as i'll put it - i prefer the Blue Album.

4) Muse. Perhaps a surprising choice by contrast to the Beatles. I know many may respond with, well if you want that music who with Coldplay etc, etc. However a few years ago i got into Muse in attempts to bring my music taste not only inline with my then Girlfriend - but also my friends. Was not a bad experience, and in fact if ever i wanna rock out, have a bit of a mope or whatever you might do, i do it to Muse. Black holes and Revelations btw. *Sharp intake of breath*

5) This is a real difficult choice now - having covered many genres with my prior four choices. Part of me wants to break the trend and just say an Album (Pulp Fiction Soundtrack). However, i'm going to go with Moby. Again, not an obvious choice, but some of his music is pure class. Some truely wonderful music notably on the Play Album. If you dont know what im talking about, do search the album, not only will you recognise songs, but im sure come on board to what i'm saying.

Please comment with any responses you might in order to make me feel this last 20 minutes or so was a waste of time. Make me feel like i have a worth.


Saturday, 5 February 2011

Back through unpopular demand

Yes my blog is back, after a dabble in the art of blogging about 18 months ago, i've decided to write once more. This time however, rather than writing about the complete B/S that was Theory of Knowledge, it's going to be loosely based around politics/law - my Degree - but also a little bit of sport and maybe even a rant or to. With any luck i'll get a few followers and what have you, if it not it'll simply be a good place to offload some ideas and thoughts i may be harbouring.

Happy reading.

Alex "Smash" Smith.