Friday, April 27, 2007

Ten thoughts on...celebrity Rovers fans

We don't have many celebrity fans at Blackburn Rovers. We're not that sort of club, to be honest. We can't claim a celebrity fan base that includes James Nesbit and Curly Watts. I've thought about this because I'm told that one of the contestants in the new series of BBC TV's The Apprentice is a Rovers fan. The link to him is here. But this is a stab at a list for a bit of Friday fun.

Jim Bowen, presenter of Bullseye.

Steve Pinder, actor, used to be Max Fanham in Brookside.

Neil Arthur, former singer from 80s band Blancmange.

We sometimes claim Carl Fogarty, though he's really a Man Yoo supporter, but he pops up at Ewood rather a lot.

Wayne Hemingway, fashion designer, who occasionally appears on Soccer AM.

Jack Straw.

Jack Straw's son, Will.

And then there's only one Simon Garner. Who's famous for being a Rovers player. But he's a fan now.

We're really struggling now. Arthur Wainwright, the fell walking book bloke was a fan, but he's dead. As is Jack Rosenthal, a writer, and husband of Maureen Lipman. She must still hold a torch in north London for the mighty blues.

So to make up the numbers there's that Apprentice bloke. Adam Hosker.

Hard work that. But then, rather that lot than Alastair Campbell.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Go for gold

We were partners in a business conference today called Elevation held at New Century Hall in Manchester. One of the speakers was Sir Matthew Pinsent, the 4 times Olympic gold medal winning rower. What a great motivator and a speaker. The sheer physical regime he went through in order to win was enough to make your eyes water. He recounted how at the Athens Olympics in 2004 the unfancied British team came from nowhere to pip the Canadians at the very last 4 inches. As he looked over at his rivals he met the gaze of one of the Canadian team who he now knows well. At that exact moment they both thought exactly the same thing: "bloody hell he looks knackered, we're going to win".

His tips for successful teams:
  1. Set goals
  2. Excellent communications
  3. division of responsibility
  4. trust in team mates
  5. hunger for success

Tinseltown in the Tower

At the Manchester International Festival event on Tuesday I committed one of those social faux pas you can only dream of. As I politely thanked festival director Alex Poots for the event I casually mentioned I was particularly looking forward to the rare chance to see The Blue Nile at the Bridgewater Hall. Knowing an artsy Glasweigan like him probably had an inside connection I'd already thought to say A Walk Across the Rooftops is still their best album. "Not Hats, then," replied Alex. "Nah, didn't quite reach the heights," I said. Replied Alex: "I played on that."

For the record, Hats is superb. And I've always been a huge fan of Craig Armstrong's piano version Hats track Let's Go Out Tonight on his first collection The Space Between Us. But no, Blue Nile's finest hour is the soaring string arrangement of Tinseltown in the Rain as Paul Buchanan stretches his vocal range.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On top of the world

You could not meet a nicer bloke than Ian Wolfendale. He can see everyone else's point of view. He shows kindness beyond words, bravery beyond sanity and is the epitome of reason.

The only exception to this is the Hilton Tower in Manchester. You know, the massive one. Made of glass. He hated the building with a passion. Loathed it, detested this blot on the landscape. It was crass. Didn't fit in. Like a bloody big triffid hanging over Deansgate and creeping over the skyline in the unlikeliest places.

We were involved in a party for the Manchester International Festival last night in architect Ian Simpson's apartment at the very top of the tower. I asked Wolfie to come along into the head of the enemy mothership.

He's happy to say he's flipped his view. "It's something we've all embraced as a symbol of the modern city and something we're actually very proud of," he says. The hillwalkers of Wolfie's circle now use it as a point of reference from the top of Kinder Scout.
The view from the tower was spectacular, but I didn't feel twice as high up as the punters in Cloud 23, some 23 floors below. But you could peer into Coronation Street, see our office, the hills beyond and in one sweep you could see Old Trafford and the snaking line of rear lights heading to the match and the City of Manchester stadium to the east. It was amazing to be there. Ian's apartment, under construction, was also something to behold. It'll be great when it's finished. Manchester, that is.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Running man

My colleague Jim Pendrill, aka Running Man, ran the London marathon in under 3 hours. He came in at 2hrs 54min (and 32 seconds!) and was 551st in the race overall. If you tap his name into the marathon website you can also see his 10k split times.

Quite a few of us promised to double our pledge if Jim came in under 3 hours so his effort pounding along the scorching Embankment in 70 degree heat is going to cost us! A rough estimate is that Jim will have made £2,000.

This was such a joy for the family of Luke Carthy, the boy who Jim's wife Julie has been looking after and who sparked Jim's interest in a trial to seek a cure for the deadly and hereditary disease that little Luke is suffering from.

If you want to give to the charity, The Myelin Trust, you can find out more here.

Cool running, JP.

The Literal Democrat

David Thame, one of the finest business writers around, has set up his own website. It's full of the wicked wit we have come to love so much. His Real Deals column in Insider is always a real treat. Sadly we don't have it on our website.

He offers marketing people some tips on dealing with him. And a few ground rules.

A flavour of it is here:

Congratulations. Oh please, please spare me quotes like this: Norman Halfwit, director at Idiot Developments, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Sh!t Marketing as our fourth tenant.” Suzy Blonde, director at Sh!t, said: “We’re so happy to bring our expanding business to an Idiot Developments scheme.” Not only is Sh!t a silly brand name I won’t use - but the quotes add nothing. The day the developer says: “This is a tawdry little scheme and we’re very surprised to see some one daft enough to pay our exorbitant rent” and the tenant says “Our overdraft is staggering and I have these terrible headaches all the time, so we thought what the hell,” is the day I start to use quotes like these….. If it’s just a little story then a little unpretentious (brief) press release will do nicely, thanks. Don’t fabricate daft self-congratulatory quotes.

A link to David's site is here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Manchester goes to New York

I forgot to post the link reporting on the visit to New York by the Manchester International Festival people which was covered in the New Yorker magazine.

There's a link to it here.

And a flavour of it here:

To promote the gravitas of a city best known for one of its soccer squads, for the Madchester pop-music scene of yore, and for its tendency to be drenched in slow, steady rain, Poots had imported a team of seasoned professionals. “Manchester is the first city of the modern age,” Nick Johnson, the chairman of a company called Marketing Manchester, said. “It’s where Marx met Engels; it’s where Rolls met Royce. The industrial revolution started in Manchester. Manchester was the first city to invent the computer. I’ll have to get back to you on who that was, exactly.” (Arguably, the first computer was built in Philadelphia, though the first electronic stored-program computer can definitively be said to be a Mancunian invention. Marx made Engels’s acquaintance in Paris; however, the two did frequently convene in the North of England.)

It's not a particularly flattering piece, but the writer spots the fact that Manchester does run a genuine risk of believing its own hype a lot of the time. The festival should be good. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Blue Nile in concert and seeing Anthony Wilson back to his best in a mass debate on whether London is bad for Britain.

Happy birthday Matt

Matt is celebrating his 5th birthday this week. He absolutely loves racing cars so I'm taking him to Silverstone in a couple of weeks to meet the Porsche racing team. He's had loads of presents from Cars, his favourite film, including a model of Radiator Springs which was a bugger to assemble with a hangover, some Cars pyjamas from Grandma, this brilliant helmet from his Aunty Joanne and Uncle Dave and more goodies from Grandad Stewart and Nana Hazel. The rest of the team have been great about all this attention lavished on one boy. Wonderful kids, we're so proud and so lucky.

"Going out", it's the new "staying in"

I did four nights out last week and strangely feel alright. I must be fitter and happier than I feared. They weren't just swift drinks after work, but full blown formal dinners with drinks at 7, carriages at midnight and in three cases they were black tie as well.

1. CBI dinner in Manchester on Tuesday was OK, met some good people, listened to a dreary speaker, got a good story lined up, but it felt like work.

2. Our property awards in Cardiff on Thursday was a triumph. We pulled a great crowd together and there was a great energy in the room. Our editor down there, Wyn Jenkins, is a top bloke with a good following in the business community. We found Wyn because my deputy editor Lisa Miles used to work with him and rates him - which is praise indeed! I wanted to put an ad in Press Gazette that said - "Patriotic Welsh bloke needed, must have an accent like Neil Kinnock, be mad on rugby and have ruddy cheeks. Ability to spell would be an advantage. " I got better than that, he's all of this and more. It was brilliant to watch him work on Thursday.

3. The Marple Athletic JFC fundraiser at Mellor Golf Club was a ripping night. Looks like the money raised should really help the club. One thing though. Jason Isaacs might be able to coach kids football teams with distinction, he may be able to make the kids idolise him. Fair enough. And yes, he can probably play football a bit himself. Obviously he can also play the guitar in his absolutely superb band, A Few Good Men. And he sings lead vocals. And yes, he's a good looking bloke. I just don't need to hear it from every other woman in Marple. Seriously, great night out!

4. All of that didn't leave much in the tank for the Hurstwood Charity Night at the Midland Hotel in Manchester on Saturday. But we soldiered on. Our friends Stephen and Nicola Ashworth have dug deep to support Derian House, a childen's hospice in Lancashire. The money they raised on Saturday was astounding. We were delighted to play our part by offering a special Insider prize for auction.

It was clear to us as we watched from our taxi on Saturday that we socialise in something of a rarified atmosphere. What we witnessed on the streets of Manchester made us grateful we don't have daughters, but we were also horrified at the spectacle of the human zoo all around us. Then, I get to see this, an account on the Manchester Confidential website about the aftermath of a fight outside one of Manchester's so-called upmarket bars.

And so, on it goes. It's another hectic one this week, but we are definitely chilling out this weekend with a takeaway, a nice bottle of wine and a DVD. Staying in will be the new going out for us and that's how we like it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Top night out

We had an absolutely belting night out last night, the third of the week. It was a fund raising dinner dance for Marple Athletic JFC with a superb band - A Few Good Men who played a cracking set. Seems like we also raised a few quid for the club, but some of us are paying a heavy price today; there will be a few sore heads on the touchline at Brinnington this morning. Ouch.

This blog had an advert in the programme. If you've visited for the first time having seen it, then a very warm welcome to you.

And if you have raffle prizes to donate, please get in touch.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Marple Athletic win the league - foreigner whines

Don't you love a whiney foreign prima donna.

"The teams from the north of England are terrible. When we play them I have counted their centre-backs booting up to 30 long balls upfield per game. The weather over here is killing me. We'll get one day of sunshine for every 30 days of rain, and it is driving me to despair. My girlfriend and my mother are frightened about not seeing the sun in England. Premiership football is very hard. I am Brazilian and I enjoy playing the ball, making clever touches and taking bicycle kicks. Arsene Wenger does not forbid me from doing them, but the game is so fast I don't even have time to think about them. The moment you stop to think, someone has taken the ball off you and knocked you to the ground. Over here they value a corner kick more than a fancy flick" - Julio 'The Bleat' Baptista of Arsenal.

What a tit.

I can say with some pride that Marple Athletic Junior Football Club Under 8s have won the A and B divisions by some distance. Why? Because they are fitter, stronger, better organised and happier than other teams. They play through rain, mud, sleet and sunshine. The northern way. Love it.

Land of my father

I'm in Cardiff today. I do like Wales; my Dad was born in Wrexham and although I'm a proud Lancastrian I do always feel a touch of pride for Wales.

It's a bugger of a journey down here though. Even when you get to train stations with no vowels in the name you're still more than an hour from Cardiff.

We're off to the Wales Property Awards tonight which is a great do for us.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

There is power in a union?

Long before I became a capitalist and had to do people's appraisals I've been dismayed about the infantile ultra leftism of the National Union of Journalists. I resigned over their stance on Northern Ireland and now I notice they are now advocating a boycott of Israel. Please.

One journalist has pointed out already that such resolutions seem to go against some of the core ethics of journalism that we are here to protect, such as balance and objectivity. I don't think any representative body of journalists should be taking a side.

See here and here for more of the same.

It also seems to clash with point 3 of the NUJ's code of conduct:

A journalist shall strive to ensure that the information he/she disseminates is fair and accurate, avoid the expression of comment and conjecture as established fact and falsification by distortion, selection or misrepresentation.

And in the midst of this terribly complex and often dangerous conflict I don't believe that it's the Israelis that have kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

Hat tip: Norm

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Magic of the Cup (spoiled)

Still disappointed about the football at the weekend, but will probably save a very small fortune from not now going to Wembley. There were no discounted tickets for our tribe for the semi. Hence we didn't go as a family. I was going to post some splenetic rant about the price of tickets for the semi-final, but this from an email called The Fiver says it all.

The FA, no doubt pleasantly surprised by the ease with which they've been able to persuade the public that delivering a new national stadium ridiculously late and even more ridiculously over-budget is fine so long as you keep stressing the fact that it has 2,618 toilets, has now decided to recover their entire £353m overspend from MU Rowdies and Chelsea fans in a single afternoon. Today it confirmed that the cheapest tickets for this year's final will be an eye-watering 40% higher than their equivalent last year, with seats going for £35, £60, £80 and £95 (with a limited and as yet unspecified number of £17.50 seats on offer to Under-16s).
"It was important to set ticket prices at a sensible and affordable level for the first FA Cup final at the Late Wembley," honked permanently bewildered FA big cheese Brian Barwick, suggesting fans can look forward to even greater price increases next year when the novelty has worn off. "We believe these are very competitive prices for what will be an historic match," he continued, pointing at the list of admission fees charged by the Rowdies, Chelsea and anything on London's West End with the names Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton attached. If fans had any sense or dignity they'd vote en masse with their feet and stay away, but there's little chance of that. To paraphrase a ginger Welshman who was famously never prime minister (no, not John Hartson): loyalty is a fine quality, but in excess it fills inaccessible football stadiums and FA coffers.

In happy contrast the Rovers season ticket packs include some very generous discounts. I hope they manage to attract people back.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Gutted. There is no other word for it. We took Chelsea all the way and still lost. We deserved to win today. Bah. Still, the flag made it onto TV. And Rachel backed first and third yesterday.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sport mad

Although this is the first year in four I've not been to the Grand National, it's a fantastic sporting weekend. Last night's fairy tale at Edgely Park saw Sale Sharks' Jason Robinson score a try with seconds remaining of his last ever game. Ever the gent he thanked Bath for a gripping game before taking the applause of the 10,000 crowd. What a night.

Good match report here.

I've been looking for the picture from today's Guardian which shows him skipping towards the line with the Insider Magazine hoarding in full view. I'll buy it from Action Images in due course and get it framed for the office.

Rachel always does well at the National and we've backed our usual crop of no hopers and outside favourites, picking Irish trained horses and ones that aren't owned by Trevor Hemmings.

Tomorrow it's the semi final at Old Trafford. it was too dear to take the family so it's a lads do this time. Ten of us are meeting for lunch in Manchester, then heading to the swamp and then probably returning to town with our tails between our legs. 30 years following Rovers has taught me to prepare for disappointment. If McCarthy and Tugay can turn it on we can do it.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ten thoughts

Although I really appreciate good food, it’s usually when someone else has cooked it. Having spent so long away from home over the past week and anticipating a lot more time away in the next two – rubber chicken at business dinners, hospitality at rugby and football (I know, a hard life) you can’t beat home cooking. When it’s our home that means me. Here are my ten favourite things to make. If you ever fancy coming over, let me know your ideas for wine to go with them. Olive magazine is a great inspiration for this kind of thing as it’s aimed at simpletons like me with no time for preparation.

Fish pie
A winter and a summer variant to this, but the trick is to flake the fish and pile in a fist full of prawns, parsley and peas, don’t overdo the pepper.

Thai Chicken curry
A nation that has learned to love curry of the Indian or Pakistani variety hasn’t ever mastered making it at home, if you ask me. Thai is easier, especially as the core paste (red or green) can be bought in a jar – cheating a bit, but the coconut milk, extra red hot chillis, the crunchy vegetables and the gently cooked chicken make it one to experiment with.

Spaghetti Bolognese
The first thing many blokes cook, because it’s so simple and straightforward. Onion, garlic, mince, tin of tomatoes and a sprinkling of herbs. That’s the basic bit, but using Oxo cubes and puree to beef up the beef gives it a thicker flavour. You can use this as the base for lasagne and chilli too. I like red peppers in there for flavour and density.

Sunday roast
Taking over the kitchen for an afternoon and sticking onions and lemons into chickens, sprinkling with herbs from the garden and getting the roast spuds just right. Best veggies in our house are frozen peas, corn on the cob and carrots in marmalade.

Chicken soup
The leftovers of the Sunday lunch can be used to make a great stock when you bung in an onion and some herbs. Warm it up again, bung in a load of noodles and some peas and corn and it’s a Chinese type one. Wack in a jar of crème freche and it’s the Jewish equivalent.

Cheese on toast
Spread the cheese on thick and improve it with Worcestershire sauce or HP. I know it’s not really a recipe but when you can’t beat it for taking the edge off munchies after a long walk.

Full English breakfast
This is actually really hard to do when you most want to do it – ie first thing on Sunday morning when you’re really sleepy. Cumberland sausages are the best, thick smoked bacon and chunky mushrooms. I like white bread dipped in whipped eggs but a guilty pleasure is fried slice soaking up the sausages and bacon fat. A spoonful each of baked beans tops the lot off.

Lancashire hot pot
Chunks of lamb (some on the bone), carrots, and the right blend of thyme and rosemary topped off with thinly cut proper potatoes make this a tricky one to get just right, but as it’s the North’s representative in a new series of the Great British Menu. Serve with red cabbage, but don’t make it, get it out of a jar.

You can overdo paella, but the sheer size of it is brilliant for a feast. Something for everyone, keep it cooking in a massive pan. The mussels are a risk as the rubbery buggers give kids the squits. But chorizo sausages, chunky prawns and chunks of chicken and pepper give it lots of variety.

An American of my acquaintance once bragged that her cheesecake was simply the best. How do you make it, I asked. “Well, you open the packet…”. Truth is I’ve never really cracked cakes yet. But there’s this ace recipe for the Victoria sandwich in Olive this month.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The tragedy of Mark Langford

They'll probably never find the loot that Mark Langford and his wife Debbie trousered from their stewardship of The Accident Group - slogan, "where there's blame, there's a claim". We reckon he put about £9m into an Employee Benefit Trust, then transferred that offshore. Talk of £50m is fanciful.

The obituary in the Daily Telegraph is here.

A typically nasty and graphic account in the Daily Mail is here.

Previous posts on the subject of The Accident Group are here.

Was it suicide? Was it stress? Was it justice? Whatever his state of mind when he died it can't have been a happy one. He was separated from his wife. He had become a pantomime villain. Pilloried and pursued across Europe as the man who not only ran a distasteful business, but ran it dishonestly too. Served with a petition from the Revenue and Customs at his daughter's birthday party, his tragic end serves as a sad and pitiful warning to those who's greed and ambition consume them utterly.

On the two occasions that I met him I was struck by his painful craving for respectability. The back story was that he'd threatened to sue us for saying he'd killed Bill Thornley, a war veteran, while driving his Ferrari. He had top libel lawyers Carter Ruck and Partners send us threatening letters. We didn't back down and the row went away. It was true, by the way. He had killed the bloke, but technically he had been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving. Semantics. Mr Thornley was dead.

A year and a day later, he then called me in for a chat. He had employed Clive Entwistle, a former Cook Report investigative journalist as his PR man. Clive claimed this was an extension of his work unmasking bad guys. Langford wanted to show that he was helping people, that he had offered a service to people who had nowhere else to turn after legal aid was withdrawn for personal injury claims. He was also branching out into personal finance and would be sponsoring Manchester City FC through his First Advice brand. The truth was he was still mainly selling after-the-event insurance to accident victims, and taking a cut of the loans to fund them and gambling on a percentage of cases being settled by the insurers.

But Langford also had made an enormous pledge to support the NSPCC. At a glittering ball at Knowsley Hall President Bill Clinton praised him for his efforts. As well as providing the glittering lifestyle for his family - the mansion near Congleton and the fleet of cars, he also craved admission into the respectable class of Cheshire business. Hence the NSPCC stuff. Hence he was talking to Insider.

The business was doing quite well, his accounts showed enormous profit growth, but there was a time bomb under it. Insurers were contesting more cases. To compensate for this more cases were taken on, profits were then booked on probable case wins, rather than cash coming in.

At the end of one meeting I went through his accounts and asked about all the offshore entities which owned his businesses and asked about the employee benefit trusts. He got quite twitchy at that point and stopped answering the questions.

When the next accounts were published it showed just how much he and his wife were paying each other in salary and dividends. We decided to clear a stack of pages and the cover in the June issue and go to town on TAG. Sue Craven did some research for us and red flags shot up; this was a business not paying its bills. Everyone went quiet at TAG as well. Calls weren't returned and the cosy co-operation had dried up. In late May 2003 it went bust. He fled to Marbella and was engaged in a tetchy and evasive battle with the administrators to get the money he had taken from a business that had falsely declared large profits. He was disqualified as a director, chased by the Inland Revenue and Customs and occasionally turned up in the press for the crime of living in Marbella. Always on hand to provide a quote is someone called Alec McFadden, from something called the TUC (not that one).

Infamously, when the business went bust 2500 staff were told in a text they weren't being paid. That communication stunt was in fact organised by the administrators PWC, yet it will be forever the epitaph for Mark Campion Langford.

How do you cope?

We've been away. Center Parcs, Legoland and London. And before you assume we went to that Center Parcs at Longleat, which is quite near to Legoland at Windsor, we didn't. We went to that one at Penrith. We had to get there via Burnley and Settle because of the M6 on Good Friday. Then we drove to our Travelodge (one room, mind) in Reading on Easter Monday after a full day of fun in the forest. We've carbon offset it all however by urinating in the outdoors a lot, apparently it's good for the plants.

If I had £60,000 for every time this week that someone has said to us: "Five! Boys! How do you cope?" I wouldn't have to worry about our enormous and overwhelming mortgage. The truth is, we don't always cope. We sat up until 1am talking about them and what a wonderful life we have with them last night. Conclusion? We're getting better at it, but it's bloody exhausting.

All five of the little darlings will scream and rage and tantrum at some point. But there is usually a limit to it and it's usually for a reason. It took us a while to work that one out, but the reason is either hunger or tiredness. They need to eat, or they need to rest. Thankfully, they very rarely all kick off at once and they tend not to fight with each other too much. Well, sometimes, but it's soon resolved.

The other cause of angst is they need to go to the toilet at the most inconvenient time. Like when we've just navigated through a crowded train with standing room only (where we stood from Reading to Paddington next to a toilet), through Paddington station, the tube station and it's two flights of stairs, up, then down again. On the platform two of them announce a minute before we're about to get on a tube to Westminster: "I'm really bursting for a wee." It's fine at Center Parcs, you just whip it out and have a wizz behind a tree. Don't you? Oh. We piled off at Gloucester Road where the nearest toilet is one of those pod things.

So, here are some lessons learned this week to make up for the lack of ten thoughts last week.
  • Make them piss regularly. Stand over them and demand they try harder if it doesn't work first time. It usually does.
  • They make their own fun. The more contrived the higher the expectation. The highlight of London for Matt was going on an underground train. Louis loved seeing Reading's stadium as we drove past it. The elder trio played football in St James' Park and Matt and Elliot made a maze in the daffodils. Never mind Buckingham Palace and all that.
  • Give them adventures. A three bedroomed house at Center Parcs with the hated Jetix was much more stressful than all of us in one room at Travelodge.
  • Musicals on CD are actually alright. They love Mary Poppins and Joseph.
  • If there's a fight, let them resolve it between them. Unless skin is broken, or blood shed. Don't be an audience.
  • Be prepared to queue at theme parks. Or just don't go. We lined up for an hour to mess about with a JCB for five poxy minutes. My Dad could have sorted an afternoon doing that with his mate Bobcat Pete.
  • They don't remember the shit bits. They are grateful, they don't show it all the time, but they are absorbing the love and the experience.
  • We don't remember how surly and ungrateful we were as kids. My Dad came up to Center Parcs for the day and just chuckled at our gasps of exasperation. Been there, done that, son.
  • At a restaurant, organise two tables. One for us two and a table for the five kids. They get on with it then and we can relax a bit.
  • They make a lot of noise, but isn't it sad to see families that don't talk to each other. We blank out other people now. You have to. Sounds selfish, but we can't apologise for overbreeding and most of all they are very happy.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Discrimination report

I have a strange attitude to the Guardian newspaper. It's the best put together paper in this country. The wholesome humanitarian outlook is much more of my neck of the woods than anything else. The weekend paper is full of different ideas and always finds something new and fresh to say. News is balanced and well composed. It has more must-read columnists than any other paper: David Conn, Michael Walker, Marina Hyde, Matthew Fort, Jon Ronson, Catherine Bennett and David Hepworth. I even respect Polly Toynbee but I don't like her style or her politics.

BUT. As the voice of smug media London there is nothing worse than the Guardian in full flight. Take this. A feature on the top black and ethnic minority people in Britain's media. PR people, record producers, someone who runs a civil liberties group (media???), radio presenters, you get the drift.

What about a managing director of a media company with a turnover of over £50m that has changed the direction of his industry, moved its core brand into on-line and television? You'd think he'd be a shoo in.

Ah, but that's David Benjamin, the MD of the Manchester Evening News. He's the right colour, but he doesn't get in the Groucho Club very often. He just works in some far off outpost called the North of England.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Under April Skies

I didn't know which news stories to believe yesterday and certainly wasn't bowled over by the sheer hilarity of the April Fool's jokes. BMW did an advert about a new gadget - this has never been funny, but they persist with it nevertheless. The Observer had a piece about Tony Blair going into acting when he leaves Downing Street, here's the link.

We watched Louis Theroux's programme about a preacher in Kansas called Fred Phelps from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka and his family have become The Most Hated Family in America. They picket funerals of servicemen and women to proclaim it is a good thing. They wave offensive banners about homosexuality. Their website is God Hates Fags, and no, I won't be providing a link to it. This just had to be an April Fool. Surely? But no, here's what Wikipedia has to say about Phelps, here. We've been discussing it at work and we haven't made up our mind. If it is a spoof, it's a good one.