Monday, May 31, 2010

Phillip Blond's Red Tory - reviewed

Many reviewers of Phillip Blond's Red Tory have used the word intruiging, others have also lavished greater praise - citing the fact that this former theology lecturer from the University of Cumbria is now the provider of "David Cameron's mood music".

There is little in the aspiration of his central thesis that many can disagree with. Britain is too unequal, there is social breakdown and many positive pillars of a unified British society have been dismantled - friendly societies, churches and community associations. How we got here is one of the strengths of Blond's quite brilliant social history, which the early part takes much from Ferdinand Mount's Mind The Gap, which I also read recently.

Along the way, there is also little that many left leaning thinkers could also take issue with. He nods in the direction of Will Hutton's The State We're In and Anthony Giddens and his Third Way both of whom gave some early initial intellectual ballast to New Labour, but who had their good intentions mislaid along the way. That's the "red" bit. He also picks a thread from various "tory" and conservative traditions, dismally buried under the memory of Thatcherism, which he dismantles wonderfully.

Philosophically, I also like Blond's acknowledgement of "an objective common good" and the nonsense that comes from "an incoherant melange of fact and opinion" - especially in schools.

And his chapter on the way in which a very illiberal version of liberalism has tried to enforce what is supposedly right in society is strong. He doesn't use the example that sprung to my mind: there is no doubt that Britain is a more racially tolerant society. It is, but by the slow creep of politically correct legislation, media hectoring and patronising mind control, so much of that progress has also served to stoke up resentment from white working class people, to the point where a far-right party wins two MEPs in a protest vote election, but has no real bedrock of popular support and Britain is a fairer and more racially tolerant place.

But it is worth noticing more for his bigger picture political conclusions - sweeping, bombastic and stirring - particularly his call for a different role for the state and the market. "We must restore society, and the individuals who comprise it, over both state and market as the sovereign site of our renewal." I'm still not sure what that means. I'm not sure David Cameron does either. But Blond then fleshes this out with some fresh ideas for community land trusts, co-operatives in the public sector and for new microfinance products which all make great common sense and are bound together in his overarching big idea. Where I begin to recoil from its real world application is the thought of how the busy bodies of the PTA clique are the worst possible people to run a school.

Where there is also work to be done is in his thoughts on the economy. Not just because of the job I do, but because of where I'm from, the unheralded and unloved saviours of this country are its entrepreneurs and inventors. Economists and political thinkers so often forget this, or don't see this. They also miss how networks and informal bonds sustain groups of businesses. Blond comes close in his ideas on banking reform, but probably hasn't spoken to enough people who run businesses to grasp what they need from the tax system and from banks, which would quickly give some insights into what they want to do, but he's on the right lines.

This is an important and inspiring book. But, as we see from the first month of the coalition government what becomes very important, very quickly, is less about ideas and more about dealing with events and, sadly, scandals.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Modern life is rubbish

I've felt very disconnected this last two weeks, and we are far from back in the land of the living.

Our sorry technology saga began when I got fed up with our TV digital recorder box crashing. It's always been a flimsy bit of kit. It has failed to record programmes for the kids, so we bit the bullet and ordered cable from Virgin. Please note, the primary purpose was better TV and a more robust digital recorder. Our order was processed from a call centre in Manila and there were some awkward linguistic ticks but all was well.

They came and installed the TV, when they said they would, but not with a V+ recordable box, they also installed a phone line. When I realised this would disconnect BT, and thus our wifi connection through Orange, I asked them NOT to switch our BT connection, but to install it as an additional line. They messed this up. As did BT, who cut us off anyway, despite saying in a letter that all would still be connected until the 28th of May.

The TV is great. I love that it has BBC iPlayer and a few other things like that. But the one thing I actually wanted I still don't have. Now a Virgin customer I was told from Manila that it was my fault that I didn't have a V+ recordable box because I didn't order one. I said I thought I did, wasn't familiar with their product names, but would certainly like one now. £99 please.

Once it was clear, last weekend, that BT had cut us off I asked them to get me back online. Some people were helpful, some were useless, but none could answer my query. Someone in Scotland acknowledged a mistake in the cut off date, someone else said there was a SLAM system that could have us back in 24 hours. This involved speaking to people in India, Scotland, Liverpool and somewhere down south. Eventually I was told this would take two weeks. And that it was my fault for switching providers.

So, our home phone number is now with Virgin, something we didn't want, but have accepted. The only problem is there's only one phone socket on their connection into the house. So, we got our mate Anton Koropisz to hook them up while he was doing a few other wiring jobs around the house.

Patience duly snapped we canvassed opinion on the best alternative and Virgin's broadband came highly recommended. In for a penny, in for a pound, I called them again. A lovely lad called Kevin, in Manila again, put a decent package together for us. I asked for the V+ and a new channel package.

A lad came and plugged in the modem this afternoon, he also left us with a box to install the wireless router ourselves. I'm not wholly convinced this is working terribly well yet and reserve judgement on whether we have been well served. He told me I had "customer not happy" on his call sheet, so I expected a bit better to be honest. He also bypassed an installation stage when our name and postcode wasn't recognised. And there was no V+ box again. Computer says no.

As I sit and compose this the kids are trying to connect their Wii to the household network I think I've installed, but it has parental controls still set up from the previous person who owned it (we bought it 2nd hand).

It's also exposed how crap our home PC and the wireless dongle I attached to it. This is also going to cost us, but genuinely I think we're better off.

I find myself getting annoyed and stressed about this sort of thing not because this is a vital part of our lives, but mainly because it actually seems quite unimportant; quite ephemeral and a bit of a whimsy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Yes Minister Stunell

Our MP has joined the government. Andrew Stunell is now a parliamentary under secretary of state for local government, quite an important brief for an administration committed to community empowerment, the Big Society and a bonfire of the quangos.

He's holding a meeting at Romiley Forum on Friday evening where he's going to repeat his reassurances of last Friday when he told activists and community groups of what his party's role in government seeks to achieve.

He's been a very good constituency MP. I maintained before that he's able to do this as he doesn't have the Westminster commitments. Well, he does now.

Playing on the hallowed turf of Ewood














Here is the photographic evidence. That's me in the centre of the picture; stalking the edge of the penalty area as our team sought a goal in our tournament at Ewood Park, the home of football. An amazing day, a dream come true and an experience to remember forever.

I did it to raise money for the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, a charity I wholeheartedly support. Thanks to the sponsorship of family, friends and colleagues I raised about £1600. You can still contribute here. The whole day made over £45,000 for the hospital.

The other bit of good news is that although I ache all over, I avoided serious injury. And even more positively my team – Denmark (in yellow, I know) – won one and drew two games. Before the game none of us knew each other but we got going and played some really good football. I played two full games of 25 minutes and most of the other.

Thanks too for the encouraging messages. Sadly Fabio was not watching, I did not wear a Burnley shirt to cause Brian Curran to double his contribution and neither did I score, thus failing to win the Kevin Roberts bonus (I was playing left back and had two shots on goal).

There's a piece in the Lancashire Telegraph, here, showing organiser Nigel Haworth celebrating his goal in the first game. He was hoping to celebrate a great deal more as he'd drafted in Rovers veterans Kevin Gallacher and Stuart Ripley, but both withdrew due to injury. We can't complain, it turns out one of our players has also played in the Premier League and still gets paid to play, but I'll keep it quiet just in case.
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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ooh Aah Jaguar

The Jaguar promotion in Manchester has really caught the eye. The advertising is everywhere, the embrace of social media intruiging and the range of promotional activities are unusually intelligent for a car company. There will clearly be marketing dissertations written about this in years to come. Afterall, Jag was an aspirational brand for middle England. A real emotional draw and a powerful icon. The cars were grand and imposing, while dudes in the sleeker two door models had a classier edge over the nouveau riche Porsche drivers.

That all rather slipped away from Jaguar. It's always difficult to pinpoint how and why, but when I saw they'd done an estate a few years ago I thought they had lost their way a bit and didn't quite know who they were aiming at.

Now they do. The target market is Audi, Merc and BMW drivers in their 30s and 40s. In so doing they've very much gone for Manchester as the kind of city that will get them to these kind of people. As a previous owner of two of those German marques I suppose I'm a target too.

To this end I test drove an XFR for a weekend. It is a beautiful dangerous beast of a car. The comfort, the gadgets, the ease of the driving experience was tremendous. On the downside, it drinks petrol like a thirsty beast in a desert oasis. That's probably because the model I had was a 5 litre V8 engine that was like a jet on a runway- a very scary, very powerful monster of a car. I could quiet easily have lost my licence as it effortlessly (could have) cruised at about 120 mph (theoretically).

My dilemma on this kind of expensive engineering is that at the moment it's impractical for taking kids around their weekend activities and for the occasional stop start grind into Manchester via Hyde and the A57. But in a moment of midlife madness I dream for this kind of luxury and comfort.

MacArthur's Park is melting...

I'm beginning to see a trend in the music I properly really like. Apologies for the indulgent nature of this. It's a bit of a study and an audit of what I have and then an examination of the tangential possibilities. And it's working. I'm noting the tunes that come up on shuffle that I go, ahh! as opposed to just nodding along. Take the best song I've had on this morning from the Top 1000 I created last week. It is MacArthur Park by Donna Summer. Lyrically, it is nonsense, but I just adore the camp disco diva drama she brings to it. The pinnacle of the song where the orchestra completes the whole wall of sound is one of those moments where music matters. I now know it was written by "one of the greatest song writers the world has ever known" - Jimmy Webb. Maybe he could be a source of discovery.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Music update

In my top 1000 today my favourite was definitely Tinseltown in the Rain by the Blue Nile from their 1983 debut album A Walk Across The Rooftops - but I have to say that all this talking is only bravado.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell talks serendipity in Manchester

I've missed the political drama this evening as I was sat listening to Malcolm Gladwell at the Lowry in Salford Quays. He opened his talk by mentioning that a blogger at his previous date at Oxford had been nasty about him. I was going to link to that as a counterpoint, but couldn't find it. I found a kind review here though. There, do you see what he did? *

Gladwell's story telling is multilayered and subtle. But he also draws heavily on emotional devices - like empathy. You take out lots of different things from his stories - personal nuances, moral choices as well as systemic insights.

His talk tonight was about serendipity and the quest for something that you don't quite know what it is, until you find it. There's a link to the same tale about oncological research in the New Yorker, here.

The first time I saw him last year I was exhilerated. This time I was deflated. Partly because of the sad ending to the story, but also because he seemed to come up short. It hasn't made me any less keen to hear him again or less likely to buy a book or read an article by him. Quite the reverse. Serendipity, you see. And a quest.

Thanks to Matt Johnson for organising the tickets.

* The nasty blog is here. Hat tip: Jonathan.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Alright, if you like laughing

I was very lucky to see Michael McIntyre, Jason Manford and Peter Kay last week. Not all at once but on different nights. All were good in their own way and were in different settings. Peter Kay's Arena gig was a spectacle, McIntyre did a corporate gig and wasn't on for long. Jason Manford did a warm up at Burnley Mechanics which was the most intimate, which usually brings out the best of these occasions.

An attempt to ease my trouble with music

I've blogged before about my difficulty getting into new music. So many times I've done shuffle on my iPod and been unable to find a run of songs I like. I've now put together a Top 1000 and am going to work through it. Each day I'll reflect on the best of my best - run it into my Last.fm profile - and see what comes up. And if any Marple Leaf readers think of anything let me know.

Today's best: Little Green Isaac by Prefab Sprout from 1984's majestic Swoon (Songs Written Out Of Necessity).

Adam Boulton (Sky News) v Alastair Campbell (Labour) - FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!



Sky's Adam Boulton loses the plot. And manages to make Alastair Campbell look reasonable. At least Boulton now has a catchline - "Don't tell me what to think!"

Time for the Tories to align with the Liberals

Another amazing day in Westminster. The Liberal Democrats are the only party with the certainty that they will be in some kind of government. And they came third!

Labour have a moment. Step away, let the Tory-Lib government do its worst and wait. This has been the election no-one wants to win. It's brinkmanship politics. It's what John Reid has argued today.

But the Tories have their opportunity too, re-align to their liberal tendencies and offer a seat at the table to Nick Clegg.

But surely all of this proves the difficulty of electoral reform - and the need for coalitions. BBC and Sky News need to understand that such important decisions don't get made in time for the next news bulletin.

And for the Liberal Democrats they are balancing their fragmented internal factions - including that represented by our MP Andrew Stunell on the top team - what it leaves us asking is this: who's going to clear up the litter on the canal towpath now, Andrew?

What will the election result mean for Manchester?

This will be the subject of a Downtown Manchester debate on Wednesday morning at the Royal Exchange Theatre. I'm on the panel with political hacks Jim Hancock and Rob McLoughlin.

What shall I say? What does it mean?

You can book here.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

My football predictions - how did I do?

At the start of the football season I made my predictions, here.

1 Chelsea (CORRECT!)
2 Liverpool (WAY OFF)
3 Manchester United (JUST OFF)
4 Manchester City (JUST OFF)

5 Tottenham (JUST OFF)
6 Arsenal (WAY OFF REALLY)
7 Aston Villa (SPOT ON)
8 Everton (SPOT ON)

So I got the top 8 correct, with Liverpool as the worst prediction of the lot.

9 Sunderland (OVERESTIMATED BY THREE)
10 Fulham (JUST OFF)
11 ROVERS (JUST OFF)
12 Wigan (JUST OFF)
13 Stoke (JUST OFF)
14 Bolton (JUST OFF)
15 West Ham (JUST OFF)
16 Portsmouth (OVERESTIMATED)
17 Burnley (OVERESTIMATED DUE TO DOMESTIC PRESSURE)
18 Wolves (UNDERESTIMATED)
19 Hull (SPOT ON)
20 Birmingham (MY WORST PREDICTION)

League Cup: Manchester United reserves (SPOT ON)
FA Cup: Liverpool (RUBBISH)
Champions League: Real Madrid (RUBBISH)
Scotland: Do you know what? I couldn't care less. (WHO DID WIN? FORGOTTEN ALREADY)

Nothing particularly controversial there. I did also say, correctly that from Rovers downwards it was all going to be pretty grim stuff. It was. I thought Gary Megson could be the first manager to get sacked, but he was actually the second. I thought we'd lose at Turf Moor but win at Ewood and was very very happy to be wrong about that. If, and it's a mad if, but if Owen Coyle had stayed at Burnley then I think they could have beaten us and they could have stayed up.

Elsewhere, nearly right with the tip for West Brom to win Championship, but woeful with any notion that Ipswich and Derby would come up with them. My prediction of Newcastle to be nowhere was almost as bad as the one that had Blackpool to go down. PNE were comfortable mid table, but it was a grim season for them in truth.

I thought Huddersfield and Charlton would go up, one still might through the play offs. But Dirty Leeds haven't stayed down, they're coming back. As yet undiscovered tribes in the heart of Peru could have tipped Stockport County to go down.

I was right about Notts County coming up, but not with Shrewsbury and Rotherham. And I had it spot on with Morecambe in the play offs. Glad my predicted farewell to Accy Stanley was unfounded.

In the Guardian Pick the Score I made 288, which could win me the work league, but the numbers aren't in yet!

It's enough to make me want to take up gambling

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Fundraising Football at Blackburn Rovers

On Sunday the 16th May 2010, Blackburn Rovers have generously donated their wonderful stadium to allow us to put on Fundraising Football and I’m going to play something resembling football on the hallowed turf of Ewood Park in a tournament. Obviously I’m not going to risk serious injury and a mental breakdown for nothing. Our aim is to raise a significant sum of money for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity.

By each person contributing to the team’s total we are hoping to raise a minimum of £45,000.

Please sponsor me. The easiest way is to donate via the Just Giving website which you can access via the following link http://www.justgiving.com/fundraisingfootball - please ask that any donations denote my name in the comment column so they can be allocated to me.

Thanks in advance for your very kind donation and helping us reach this substantial target.

Ten thoughts after the election

Division. Isn't this a divided country? And it saddens me. A hung parliament is what "the people" want, according to Sky News, and yet they don't. Most people just hate the other lot.

Weakness. Arguments in favour of first past the post say that it delivers strong government. It doesn't, the weakest government in my lifetime was the tail end of John Major's. It pandered to the Eurosceptic right by chucking them the bone of rail privatisation. A disaster. This is an opportunity to bang heads together, and fair play that Major is acting as a broker.

Clegg's Sheffield rally moment. I think Nick Clegg is a good speaker and won the debates. However, he got carried away. I heard him whoop on a radio interview and thought he sounded like he was getting a bit triumphalist. He was certainly brought down to earth. The Lib Dems are good local campaigners, but so too are the well-funded Tories when they get going and the Labour grass roots in London and the North East hardened their resolve in the final week. He's negotiating with a weaker hand now.

Coalition. So, we face a coalition. Fear not. Parties are coalitions. Take our local contest here. Labour's Richard Scorer hardly agreed with his leader on anything. Our Liberal Democrat, Andrew Stunell, comes from the non-conformist Christian wing. Our neighbouring MP is a former SDP centrist, our council leader is a Labour man at heart and our newly re-elected councillor is from the lentil faction. I'd rather that bunch to blunt Cameron, than him pandering to the anti-gay Theo-Cons in his own party who've done very well out of this election. Don't expect a coronation of David Milliband as Labour leader either, the left are on the rise.

Top marks and no marks. George Osborne was kept well out of sight. He was highlighted as the Tories' weakest link at an early stage. Will he be able to keep a front bench position? My fantasy cabinet in a government of national unity - fanciful, I know - would include William Hague, Liam Fox, Ken Clarke and Rory Stewart. It would also include Nick Clegg, Paddy Pantsdown and David Laws. Even Labour's Lord "More Andrew Than" Adonis could get on with sorting out the railways and the airports. I struggle to name good women politicians either, and that is a great shame.

Vindication. At Insider we backed four candidates. Three won: Rory Stewart (Tory, Penrith), Simon Danczuk (Labour, Rochdale) and Mark Hunter (Cheadle, Liberal Democrat). When I saw the fourth, Susan Williams (Tory, Bolton West) on the BBC Town Hall debate I was sure she'd lose, her body language and projection was poor. And she jibbed out of our election debate at Manchester Business School. She lost by 92 votes. And my predictions were pretty good too: "Conservatives to have the largest bulk in parliament - 302 seats (306), Labour 240 seats (257), Lib Dems 73 (57), Others 18 (10), Northern Ireland 18."

Bloody students. Sorry, but I have nothing but ire for the students who turned up at 9.55, straight out of the pub, with no card, expecting to vote. You had 15 hours to vote, get over it. I do feel for the people who were inconvenienced by these latecomers. However, the problems at polling stations prove just how bone-headed and lacking in foresight some people in the public sector can be. It's a wasteful, lazy and unproductive part of our economy that has sucked in management talent. It needs tackling.

Traditional media or social media? There was a lack of impact by the national newspapers. Guardian readers ignored their paper. The Sun has not won it either. The BBC was the best of all media, Nick Robinson slightly self-important, but they are pure class. Locally, BBC TV in the North West was absolutely dreadful. It wasn't the social media election either. Twitter was fun and if you follow good people it is terrific. But on the whole it is a liberal/left wing echo chamber raging with tribalist anti-Conservative sentiment, spilling over into bile. The trending topics were usually very pro-Labour and Guardian inspired, like an extension of the risible Comment is Free. One bloke said he'd done his democratic duty, another supposedly intelligent and professional chap I know asked if that meant "assassinating Cameron". Some seem to react like there's been a military coup by "right-wing junta".

Hope not hate. The collapse of the vote for fascist parties was good news. Delighted that the BNP and Respect were both trounced and the public rejected their brand of ugliness.

Friends. My old University pal Suzannah Reeves won Old Moat ward on Manchester City Council for Labour. A teacher and former head of department at Marple College, public life needs good people like Suze. And she's got almost as many kids as us.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

My mate.... Simon Danzcuk #6 in a series

A completely random shuffle of my address book for my completely random profile on someone I know and how I know them, comes up today with... Simon Danczuk, the managing director of Vision 21, a market research business in Manchester. He is better known this week as the Labour Party candidate for Rochdale and was stood with Gordon Brown when Gillian Duffy gave the PM a piece of her mind and provoked that mean spirited description of her as a "sort of bigoted woman".

Simon is a Labour traditionalist and a really good bloke. I first met him after he'd set up Vision 21 with Ruth Turner, who now works with Tony Blair. He's made efforts to stay in touch over the years and we share a lunch and a phone call every now and again. I wish him well in his campaign. I won't vote for his party in this election, but I would if I lived in Rochdale.

How I will vote

Well, to start with, I will read this very long and very well considered piece by Stephen Fry.

By far the greatest team the world has ever seen

I'll refer those of you who are interested to have a look at Dan Clough's excellent Rovers Return blog, here, for a good summary of yesterday's VICTORY OVER ARSENAL ("young European pansies and a crap goalkeeper"). I still can't quite believe it all happened. He sums up what we pretty much thought, except for the fact that the weak link in Arsenal's defence was Silvestre who was lucky not to be sent off. David Dunn was the most creative player on the pitch in the second half.

Our day was made very special by an act of generosity and kindness from Alan Townley, a good mate of David Dunn, and a bloke I know through work. He organised for Joe and Louis to go in the player's lounge after the match, as a treat for Joe's impending 11th birthday. They had a ball, collecting autographs and talking to players and buzzing from a brilliant and deserved win.Me? I generally try and avoid talking to players. It only ever ends in embarrassment for me and for them. I've blogged before about my evening with Dunny, here, but that was different, somehow.

Yesterday was more typical. Vince Grella signed a shirt and the books for the lads and in order to break the awkward silence I asked him if he'd taken a knock. "No," he replied, with some sadness, "I was taken off." There was nothing more to say. I couldn't offer sympathy, I couldn't bring myself to join in his brooding sense of hurt, nor could I engage in any more small talk.

Louis saved the day. The confidence and exuberance of a 9-year old who refused to be star struck simply told the highly paid professional that Australia are his second team for the World Cup and Grella looked visibly moved. He smiled at Louis, looked at me, shook my hand and nodded. A moment passed between us, unsaid, respectful, but a moment.

So, another season. That would have cost us £67 if we'd gone on the day, bring the total value of the season's football to an incredible £653. And we paid £400. Unbelievable stuff from a great football club that stays close to its roots.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Great Marple Election Debate

Well, not quite, but well done to Churches Together in Marple for putting on the first, possibly only, debate between the three main parties last night. There were about 120 people there, quite an elderly crowd, the questions were submitted beforehand to the candidates who want to be MP for Hazel Grove, the parliamentary constituency that includes Marple.

I tracked the debate on Twitter @marpleleaf and retweeted the other person who was also commenting. But here's a quick run down.

The chairman: John Sparrow was very good. Firm, fair and respectful.

The questions: as it was a church event there were more ethical questions than at, say, the leader's debates. And hardly anything on the single biggest issue, the economy.

The conduct: I thought all three candidates were decent enough people. They are clearly fighting a clean contest and behaved very well.

In alphabetical order here's how I'd rate them.

Annesley Abercorn, Conservative
Very articulate, very posh and very much a Cameroon. Dived straight in with the core Tory themes: broken society, public sector waste, need for change. He did drift into vague anecdotes about care home owners driving Ferraris and blathered on about Isreal/Palestine, rather than stopping when he was clearly out of his depth. He brought up the immigration issue to attack the Liberal Democrat position in answer to a question on worklessness. 5/10

Richard Scorer, Labour
If you wanted to vote for New Labour you'd struggle round here. Continually distanced himself from "New Labour clones", "the Blairite view" and attacked the "illegal invasion of Iraq". Favours voting reform and higher tax rates for people earning £100K a year. Had a legal answer for many questions, as he is a lawyer at Pannone in Manchester. Declared himself a non-believer but married to a practising Catholic and a supporter of faith schools. 6/10

Andrew Stunell, Liberal Democrat
The sitting MP has the experience and gravitas you'd expect. Clearly works hard on environmental issues and the third world. Declared up front that he's a Nonconformist Christian and gave good answers on moral questions, especially religious conscience - "faith is not an excuse to discriminate and hate". Made a better case for immigration policy than Nick Clegg did. Less impressive on the need for public sector reform and barely touched economic policy. 7/10

The Liberal Democrat surge is a phenomena of this general election, but Hazel Grove has the distinction of being a relatively safe LibDem seat, even though this should be prime Cameron country. The reason for that is that Stunell has been a good constituency MP. Annesley Abercorn will be an MP one day, but he's serving his time here. Richard Scorer may well be a good council leader for somewhere like Huddersfield, but there was only one candidate on show who looked like a winner. I think Stunell won the debate last night, and he will clearly win again next week.

Links for Mayday

A rather silly song about Stockport, here.

Great speeches of all time, very American, here.

A wonderful Rovers memory, courtesy of Simon Garner. Bury away 1980.

John Squire does Penguin Books. Superb.

What really happened when Keith Andrews chucked a water bottle at a fan, full transcript is here.

Glasgow Rangers fans don't want the "hassle" of going to Boston. I'm sure Boston isn't too keen on rivers of piss.

John Stewart mocks the UK election.

Then there's this from here:

Michael O'Leary walks into a Dublin pub and asks for a pint of Guinness. 'That will be one Euro' says the barman. 'That's a very reasonable price' he says handing over the money.
'Now will you be wanting a glass with your drink Mr O'Leary?'

That's Entertainment

In 1989 I was involved in a club night in Perth, Western Australia. We got a good crowd most weekend nights, but it was a relatively new concept down under. An Aussie bloke asked what time the band was on and I explained it was a DJ. "I'm not paying Five Bucks to listen to some guy playing records, I could do that in my living room."

The same thing sort of happened this week. We're organising an anniversary dinner to celebrate 25 years of Marple Athletic Junior Football Club. I was thinking of a guest speaker from the world of football, followed by a comedian. Lots of backslapping, memories and a bit of a prize raffle. Drink will be taken.

Said one committee member at our meeting on Wednesday: "It sounds like it's going to be the most boring night ever. No-one wants to sit there listening to two blokes talking. It should be a dinner dance, get a DJ."

I reflected on this again on Thursday at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce dinner where 840 people heard speeches from this year's President, the transport minister Lord Adonis, two sponsors and some bloke who was talking for 20 minutes. He was called Michael McIntyre and for "talking" for half an hour he charged somewhere north of £25,000.