The Snow In The Summer or So-So

06/21/2004 - 06/27/2004

Mon 21 Jun 2004

Sorry, what are those "fact" things you mentioned?

Another very good piece in to-day's Indytab exploding some of the more pernicious myths about the EU constitution. As the link will expire next week, I'm blatantly swiping some (not all, just some) of the arguments for reproduction here.

"If Tony Blair puts his pen to paper today he'll be signing away a thousand years of British sovereignty. Our independence to run our own lives, make our own laws, be masters of our destinies, will all be lost." - The Tab editorial, 18 June 2004

FACT: The constitution defines and clarifies who does what. The extension of majority voting is small by comparison with earlier treaties. In all sensitive new areas such as justice and home affairs or social security, Britain cannot be outvoted. There is only one new area where the EU gets the power to act, jointly with member states: energy. This is hardly "the loss of a thousand years of British sovereignty."

The constitution "creates a European public prosecutor, a prosecuting magistracy (to be known as Eurojust) and a federal police force (Europol)". - Sunday Telegraph, 20 June 2004

FACT: All nations will have to agree unanimously to set up a European public prosecutor who would help combat fraud against the EU (unless all agreed to widen its scope). Eurojust already exists to co-ordinate between prosecutors, just as Europol has provided an umbrella to exchange information among European law enforcement agencies for the past forty years. It does not reflect reality to call this a federal police force.

"Beneath all the posturing, two things are certain. First, Brussels will gain extensive powers over foreign, defence, and employment laws. How different it looks now to Mr Blair's insistence only months ago that it was a mere tidying up exercise. Second, the agreement emerging from this weekend's imbroglio was trumpeted by Mr Blair as a triumph for the EU and its citizens. In time, he will insist none of his 'red lines' have been crossed. And he will mount an unprecedented propaganda exercise to convince us of this in a referendum campaign." - Daily Hell editorial, Saturday 19 June 2004

FACT: There are institutional changes that make the constitution more than a tidying up exercise. There are no new EU powers on defence, which remains the preserve of nation states and an area in which Britain is co-operating because she wants to. There will only be majority voting in foreign affairs in the implementation of policies already agreed ­ unanimously ­ by all 25 nation states. It also includes a reference that, according to the Government, ensures that the Charter of Fundamental Rights does not create any new employment rights. CBI director general Digby Jones gave the document a cautious welcome yesterday.

"If Mr Blair signs the constitution regardless of public opinion we will have to surrender our place at the international top table ­ in Nato, in the United Nations and at the G8 summits to name but a few.'' - Nigel Farage, UKIP MEP, 4 June 2004

FACT: The UK will continue to enjoy exactly the same status in Nato, the United Nations and at the G8.

"The British have done dogged and effective work to pare back the more federalist aspects of the constitution. But it still has a number of legal and institutional innovations, including the charter, the creation of a single legal personality for the EU, more majority voting, the establishment of a foreign minister and a full-time president of the European Council. Combine them, and assume that the European Court of Justice puts a federalist spin on them, and the potential for a big increase in EU power is clear." - The Economist 19 June 2004

FACT: The European Community already has legal personality (the ability to sign treaties) but the EU does not. This is a change but a technical one. There is already an EU high representative for foreign affairs; the constitution stops them duplicating the work of the European Commissioner for external relations. There is already a president of the European Council; this job would not rotate every six months but would be in place for at least two-and-a-half years. Strengthening the Council ­ the place where member states take decisions ­ would beef up the inter-governmental part of the EU at the expense of the European Commission, something the sceptics always want.

A secret clause in the constitution would give Brussels control over our oil. - The Tab, 12 November 2003

FACT: Utter bullshit. The treaty contains no reference to EU control over North Sea oil. There is a new chapter on energy but in a form which both the UK Government and the oil companies accept as harmless. It says that natural resources are for member states to exploit.

The constitution is "a gateway to a country called Europe ... It's going to be a constitution which has supremacy over our constitution, over our laws, and this is something which we believe is highly damaging to the interests of this country." - Michael Ancram, shadow Foreign Secretary, 20 June 2004

FACT: The EU is not a country, it is a collection of 25 nation states that pool some of their sovereignty. The constitution says that countries confer competences upon the EU ­ not the other way round. It spells out the supremacy of EU law but this restates the current position: every lawyer knows that the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg is the highest court. Nor is this damaging to the UK which has a good record of abiding by the law. It is only because of the supremacy of EU law that, for example, the French had to lift their ban on British beef when it was shown that they were in breach of it.

"The EU and the European Court will choose who will be granted asylum in the UK, and even who gets a passport. We will lose control of our borders and have no say in who enters the country." - The Tab (again), 12 December 2003

FACT: EU member states will decide the principles behind asylum policy by majority vote. But this is backed by the UK which wants all countries to have similar rules to prevent "asylum shopping". Britain retains an opt-out on EU border policy and keeps the right to police her own frontiers and this will not change.

"The constitution promises to create a European state 'without internal frontiers', a definition that would be interpreted by the European Court to undermine our veto in this area. The Charter of Fundamental Rights also includes a right to asylum that would be open to the European Court to interpret in whatever way it chose, overruling our national Parliament." - Daily Hell, Thursday 17 June 2004

FACT: The text quoted is designed for countries that are part of the Schengen free-travel zone. The UK is not part of that zone, so it does not apply to us. The EU already recognises the right of asylum under international treaty obligations so the charter creates no new rights.

"The constitution confers on the EU the power to tax." - Irwin Stelzer, The Times, 13 April 2004

FACT: No it doesn't.

"The constitution creates an EU foreign minister, despite British opposition, and a new European foreign ministry and diplomatic service to support him. [It] limits our global influence by forcing Britain to surrender its seat on the UN Security Council whenever the EU foreign minister needs it. [It] creates a mutual European defence pact and army to go with it, thereby undermining Nato." - Daily Hell (again), Friday 18 June 2004

FACT: The UK did not oppose the creation of an EU foreign minister or of a team of assistants. The EU foreign minister will not sit on the United Nations Security Council. Britain keeps her permanent seat there. There is no mutual defence pact ­ Nato remains the mutual defence organisation for the Western alliance.

Well, that's twelve impossible things debunked. I'm in the mood for a large breakfast.

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posted 21 Jun 2004, 10.19 +0100

Desk of sport

Two quick links.

1) Matt T on the gap between gentlemen's and ladies' performance on the athletics track. He has a small theory for the records.

2) I felt trapped in this world of horrible men. - Beverly Turner, erstwhile ITV pit reporter, on life with the F1 circus.

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posted 21 Jun 2004, 10.29 +0100


Tue 22 Jun 2004

Ooh, nasty

Ambidextri Sports has a remarkable tale of how M Schumacher managed to get into the lead of the Indy GP last Sunday evening. To wit:

Schumi was leading with Rubens in second when Ralf had his horror smash. It was immediately signalled that the safety car would be coming out which meant that no one could overtake. Rubens then slowed up, blocking all the drivers behind him. Schumi raced around the track, pitted, and came out before Rubens caught up and, most importantly, behind the safety car which left the pits when the leader approaches, i.e. Schumi leaving the pits and the pack approaching behind Rubens.

If that's right - and I'm not in a good position to judge as I'd made the unfortunate decision to listen to proper radio and use the ITV commentary wankers who were as pitifully useless as ever - then someone is playing beyond the spirit if not the letter of the law, and that someone deserves to have their win taken away.

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posted 22 Jun 2004, 19.21 +0100

People are still having votes

This democracy thing's not working. So says Martin Jacques in today's Gruniaad. Highlights...

The boast about democracy is largely a product of the last half-century, following the defeat of fascism. The idea of democracy as a western virtue was blooded during the cold-war struggle against communism, though its use remained highly selective: those many dictatorships that sided with the west were happily awarded membership of the "free world"; "freedom" took precedence over democracy, regimes as inimical to democracy as apartheid South Africa, Diem's South Vietnam and Franco's Spain were welcomed into the fold. Following the collapse of communism, however, "free markets and democracy" became for the first time - at least in principle - the universal prescription for each and every country.

Democracy is viewed by the west in a strangely ahistorical way. It is seen as eternal and unchanging, neither historically nor culturally specific, but a kind of universal truth. But, of course, nothing is eternal. The western model of democracy, like everything else, is a distinct phase in history, which depends upon certain conditions for its existence. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it should not be assumed that it is of universal application, nor that it will always exist.

Britain has only enjoyed universal suffrage for about 80 years, by which time it was already highly industrialised. For many west European countries it was even later. The great majority of countries that have experienced economic takeoff, including Britain, have done so under forms of authoritarian rule. The most successful recent examples of takeoff, those in east Asia, were similarly achieved under authoritarianism: the legitimacy of these regimes has depended on economic growth rather than the ballot box.

Democracy, historical experience suggests, is not that well-suited to achieving the conditions necessary for economic takeoff. It does not mean, of course, that authoritarian rule is necessarily good at achieving takeoff: the Latin American model has proved extremely poor, the East Asian very effective. Nor does it mean that democracy can't deliver economic takeoff: India is a case in point.

The fact that western countries share various, usually unspoken characteristics is often ignored. They were the first to industrialise. They colonised a majority of the world, invariably denying their colonies democracy. They were overwhelmingly ethnically homogeneous. Developing countries, for the most part, have faced the opposite circumstances: takeoff in the context of an economically dominant west; the absence, in the context of colonial rule, of indigenous democratic soil; and far greater ethnic diversity. Democracy, the politics of the majority, allows the majority ethnic group to govern, potentially without constraint. Multi-ethnic societies, like Malaysia or Nigeria, require, for their stability, a racial consensus: democracy, resting on majorities and minorities, is deaf to this problem.

If it is mistaken to regard western democracy as a universal abstraction that is equally applicable across the world, it is also wrong to see it as frozen and unchanging. Indeed, there are grounds for believing that western democracy, as we have known it, is in decline. The symptoms have been well-rehearsed: the decline of parties, the fall in turnout, a growing disregard for politicians, the displacement of politics from the centre-stage of society. These trends have been observable more or less everywhere for at least 15 years.

The underlying reasons are even more disturbing than the symptoms. The emergence of mass suffrage and modern party politics coincided with the rise of the labour movement, which drove the extension of the vote and obliged political parties to engage in popular mobilisation. The rise of the modern labour movement, moreover, provided societies with real choices: instead of the logic of the market, it offered a different philosophy and a different kind of society. The decline of traditional social-democratic parties, as illustrated by New Labour, has meant the erosion of choice, at least in any profound sense of the term. The result is that voting has often become less meaningful. Politics has moved on to singular ground: that of the market.

The influence of the market is manifest in multiple ways. The funding of parties now moves solely to its rhythm: big business and the rich are as important to New Labour as they are to the Conservatives. The same interests fund, and therefore influence, the parties. Big money calls the tune. Nowhere is this truer than in American politics, which has become a plutocracy mediated by democracy, rather than the reverse.

Far from the free market and democracy enjoying the kind of harmonious relationship beloved of western propaganda, democracy grew as a constraint on the market, holding it at bay and enabling a pluralism of values and imperatives. What happens when this healthy tension becomes a dangerous imbalance, in which the market is dominant and consumerism is established as the overriding ethos of society, permeating politics just as it has invaded every other nook and cranny of society? Democracy comes under siege. In the US it is deeply and increasingly flawed. Democracy is neither a platitude nor an eternal verity - either for the world or for the west.

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posted 22 Jun 2004, 19.27 +0100

Bloody barkin' cretins

There's a big screen showing the football in Birmingham. It's been put up by the council in Centenary Square, on a nice flat plaza just outside the NIA and ICC, opposite the former Central Television buildings, behind the Library, and slap-bang next to Broad Street.

Yesterday, there was a second big screen in Birmingham, thanks to the BBC. In a vain attempt to plug their jingoistic coverage of England's battling defeat to Croatia (sub - please check), the Beeb's erection dominated Chamberlain Square, outside the City Hall, in front of the Library, about 25 yards away from the Council's screen.

Centenary Square is huge, and can accommodate 5000 people without any trouble. Chamberlain Square, though its steps make a natural amphitheatre, gets painfully full at about 750 people. Guess which square the BBC had cameras in.

And guess which imbecilic Arsenal striker turned dull game show host panned Birmingham because the producers had plonked their cameras at a bandwagon-jumping big screen.

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posted 22 Jun 2004, 19.36 +0100

Eats, shoots, and buggers off

The New Yorker pokes its head above the parapet and declares what some of us have known since suffering through her interminably dull newspaper columns in the early 1990s: Lynne Truss is a charlatan.

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posted 22 Jun 2004, 19.58 +0100


Wed 23 Jun 2004

It's not as though we reckon all Englishmen are congenitally minging...

...and heaven forfend that we suggest the Daily Hell ever got anything right, but that disreputable organ's front page on Tuesday is worth noting.

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posted 23 Jun 2004, 20.22 +0100

Top DJ fired for playing popular music!

Tony Blackburn has been suspended from the semi-nationally networked Classic Gold radio station ... for the heinous crime of playing Cliff Richard records.

The former Radio 1 DJ was suspended from his weekday breakfast show on the network, partially owned by Blackburn's former rival Noel Edmonds, after being told by UBC head of programmes, Paul Baker, not to play songs by Richard as it was "against station policy".

On Tuesday, Our Tone played another Cliff track, Summer Holiday, sparking a heated exchange of emails from Mr Baker and the managing director, John Baish. "We shouldn't be playing Cliff Richard," Mr Baker wrote in an email sent on Tuesday. "As I said on Monday, we might carry out research on him, but for now we have a policy decision that he doesn't match our brand values, he's not on the playlist, and you must stop playing him. Requests is [sic] not an excuse."

An unrepentant Blackburn read out the email at around 8.20am this morning then tore it up live on air, threw it in the bin and played two Cliff Richard tracks back to back. Minutes later a further email was sent out confirming that Blackburn had been suspended. "You're consistently breaking the station's music policy. We've made our position as clear as we could. I've got no option except to suspend you until the situation can be resolved," Mr Baish wrote.

According to Mr Baish, "Classic Gold plays songs that people know and love from the last 40 years. The question is should we be playing one particular artist and how we go about our behind the scenes discussions." If Cliff Dick and his hundreds of hits don't form part of CG's brand, what does? The same boring 500 songs, repeated every 43 hours until the listener is so bored of them that they tune away. Grief, their station is a pile of pants.

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posted 23 Jun 2004, 20.37 +0100

In good news for radio listeners...

Annoyed that your favourite DJ has been fired for playing too many Cliff Richard records? Hacked off by oldies radio playing the same fifty records over ... and over ... and over again? Then tune your radio to 1008 on the AM band (that's mice) and enjoy music radio the way it ought to be.

Radio 10-0-8 launches on Thursday, July 1, after the backers of Radlon gave up on their attempt to launch an English-language station broadcasting from the Netherlands.

In the West Midlands, UBC's Classic Gold network broadcasts on 990 and 1017. I expect that both stations will lose listeners during the winter, when people accidentally mistune and hear something interesting.

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posted 23 Jun 2004, 20.55 +0100


Thu 24 Jun 2004

VH-1's a disaster area

Well, we've known that since the channel's budget was slashed to £0 (€0) a couple of years back. To-night, though, the channel listed Ten Disastrous Pop Careers. Just the sort of programme to occupy me for fifty minutes..

10) Jennifer Ellison. The former Brookside actress promoted her way into the top ten last summer with a bizarre cover of Transvision Vamp's Baby I Don't Care, then got dropped. However, her pop career might be back on the go after she won some cookery show earlier this month. Be very afraid.

9) Adam Rickett. Out of Coronation Street and appearing starkers in his debut video should have been a recipie for Hitsville. But all the spin and substance couldn't alter one fact - Adam can't sing to save his life. I think he's crawled back to Florizel and been involved in a gay kiss. About time, too.

8) Caprice. The walking clothes-hanger had a mercifully brief pop career during 2001. It consisted of the aptly-named Once Around The World, which sold almost as well as something that sold three thousand copies. The only redeeming feature: the song provided some much-needed songwriting royalties for Chesney Hawkes

7) Nick Berry. Amazingly, Every Loser Wins provided this Eastenders "actor" (we use the term in the loosest sense) with three weeks at number 1 in autumn 1986. The phrase "Why" springs to mind, swiftly followed by "Aagh, shut this load of sycophantic crap up!" The follow-up limped to number 62, but Nick would return to the top ten with a cover of Heartbeat in summer 1992. In a poll of music critics, the worst years for popular music always seem to be 1992 and 1986. Coincidence?

6) 30 Odd Foot Of Grunt. Who? Good question. Apparently, they're led by some bloke called Russell Crowe. Now, I've never heard of him, unless he was Vicki Lickorish's sidekick on Saturday Superstore circa 1985. Anyway, apparently this Odd group had a minor release in 2002, coz that's what VH-1 played. Next!

5) Samantha Fox. This is alarming. Three UK top ten singles in 1986 and 1987, and a regular appearance in the US charts as recently as 1989. If Stock Aitken and Dennis Waterman didn't write and produce all her work, I'm not sure who did. Foxy (as she's not known) shot to fame by exposing her large boobs in the mid-80s, and made another large boob when her band couldn't beat Londonbeat, Deuce, or Love City Groove to become the UK Eurovision entrant in 1995. Last seen on some late night ITV show or other.

4) Sid Owen. Another Eastenders "actor", had an in-and-out hit with Good Thing Going in 2000. In the video, he looks alarmingly familiar, but I can't quite place who he looks like. It's not quite Daniel B'dingplant, but someone like that...

3) Rik Waller. Aka "the fat one off of Pop Idle." The whole point behind Waller's success was that we, the Grate British Public, wanted to kill the format at birth, and see Simon Cowell's publicity machine manfully promote a decent karaoke singer to globel supermegastardom. Sadly for us, a throat infection forced Waller to pull out early in the finals series, but that did give the chance for Darius Danesh to become a star. Rik has since waltzed out of Celebrity Fat Fit Club, and lost Back To Reality - his finish in that show became a personal best.

2) Naomi Campbell. Another clothes-hanger who thought she could sing. In summer 1994, with singles sales exploding, la Campbell thought she could have a massive hit with a turgid ditty called Love And Tears. It entered the chart at number 40 with an anvil, and her singing career fell away even faster. The short-lived hitmaking career lives on, though - each year, an awards ceremony to honour the worst in British music is named the "Naomis" after her.

1) One True Voice. If this slot were "Celebrities who should never have sung on record," it would be won by Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne, for crimes against music. However, it's not, it's "Disasterous Pop Careers", and there cannot be a bigger disaster area than One True Voice. In 2002, ITV's Popstars programme ran with a trust. The show would find two bands - one made of ladies, one made of gentlemen, and pit the two against each other. The female band became "Girls Aloud", who picked up on a track Louis Walsh had lying around after Orchid (featuring Louise Griffiths, future Star Academy contestant and Mrs Jenson Button) flunked. Sound Of The Underground won at a canter. The male band, "One True Voice" got Pete Waterman as their manager, an obscure Bee Gees track, Sacred Trust, and limped in a distant second, almost beaten by Emma Nem. The second release was delayed to June 2003, and Shakespeare's Way With Words scraped the top ten, after which the band were unceremoneously dropped, and the band split.

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posted 24 Jun 2004, 19.48 +0100


Fri 25 Jun 2004

It's not fair

Chas Goldsmith, the UK's attorney general, has said that planned military tribunals for those unlawfully detained at Guantanamo Bay are "unacceptable".

Geoff Hoon, still the minister for war, quickly poured cold water on any moves to bring the British home, saying it was important to be "realistic" about UK influence with the Pentagon. "We can certainly set out what is the position of the British government. We can certainly, as we do on a regular basis, affect the way in which the United States sees those issues. And, er, that's it. There's no way we can hold their spoof president as hostage against our chaps, no sirree."

More clearly, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said: "The logic of the attorney general's position is overwhelming. The remaining British detainees should be immediately returned to the United Kingdom. If there is evidence to justify doing so, they should be put on trial. The British government cannot shirk its responsibility to its own citizens. If the positions were reversed, the clamour from the White House and Congress would be loud and persistent. The British government should now consider taking legal action in the United States to compel the return of its citizens."

Amnesty International's UK director, Kate Allen, said: "Lord Goldsmith's remarks are welcome, though belated. We've been saying for over two years that holding people in legal limbo at Guantánamo Bay is indefensible and that governments around the world should be united in saying so to the US authorities.

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posted 25 Jun 2004, 21.24 +0100

Decent songs on the Hot 100

Stop laughing at the back, such things do happen from time to time. Here's a short list of those you might find there right now...

3: The Reason - Hoobastank. Still #1 on legal digital download sales, and briefly a #2 hit overall.

22: Heaven - Los Lonely Boys. Just about a Real Hit now, making the top 20 in both digital and over-the-counter sales, and top 30 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

26: Don't Tell Me - Avril Lavigne. Down from its peak of 22 last week, but still perfectly listenable.

28: My Immortal - Evanescence. Peaked at 7 back in April, but it's not leaving the hit parade in any hurry. The big breakthrough at AC radio.

40: Here Without You - 3 Doors Down. A number 5 hit back in November last year, then spent forever in the top ten. Deserved to be a minor hit here.

42: Ocean Avenue - Yellowcard. Top ten digital track, so people are putting their money where their mouth is (or their ears are.)

56: Slither - Velvet Revolver. Now top of the modern and mainstream rock charts, but down ten on downloads.

59: Accidentally In Love - Counting Crows. Amazingly, only their third Hot 100 hit.

68: Mayberry - Rascal Flatts. I can't go through the entire 100 without picking out at least one country song.

79: Love Song - 311. Ten weeks between 72 and 89 for the Cure cover. Cure covers are good.

83: Float On - Modest Mouse. Up to number 3 on the mainstream rock list, and doing decently at sales. The song of the summer is up seven to a new peak, but it's not the best song on the 100...

90: 8th World Wonder - Kimberley Locke. Top 10 sales, top 20 AC. It's been as high as 49.

100: Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand. Yay! Just outside the top 10 modern rock, top 20 digital, top 40 OTC sales. The best Glasgow rock band put themselves into the big time with the best song on the 100.

Elsewhere ... top of the over-the-counter sales is all right for my friend Brendan. That's All Right climbs ten places to the top, and gives Elvis Presley his third best-seller in as many years. The Black Eyed Peas' Let's Get It Started is 2 on the digital charts, but falls short of the 100, as does the new #11 there, Bam Thwok by the Pixies.

Elvis, Pixies, Franz Ferdinand all having big hits? You'll be telling me the Greeks are winning at football next.

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posted 25 Jun 2004, 22.00 +0100


Sat 26 Jun 2004


Blair intervenes on the men illegally held in occupied Cuba. Sadly, the leader of the free world has had to go cap in hand to the antipresident of that occupying power, and hasn't told the moron "Return them, or we ignore you and your monkeys." The news has emerged as part of the UK government's defence to a court order that would direct policy on the matter. Opposition leader Charles Kennedy also gave evidence to the court, and testified that Fuzzy Lumpkin said all the Brits could return, if the UK government requested it.

The spat over Cliff Richard records seems to have been a pre-planned publicity stunt, but has shown the UK public's continued favour for the total and utter king of rock 'n' roll, and the patronisingly rubbish way that modern radio is run here. Remember: Radio 10 Gold, 1008 from Thursday.

Italian police go on trial to-day over a brutal attack at the 2001 G8 summit and the subsequent cover-up of the viciousness.

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posted 26 Jun 2004, 16.22 +0100

Date for the diary

July 15. By-elections in Leicester South and Birmingham Hodge Hill.

Leicester South has been solidly Labour territory for most of the years since the war, only interrupted in 1983, and that was by a majority of just 7 (SEVEN). Labour are fielding their former council leader, and defending a 30% majority over the Conservatives. The Lib Dems won 46% in the local elections last year, and appear popular amongst the relatively large Islamic groupings in the constituency.

The (notional) result from the constituency at the European Elections - allocating Leicester's votes equally across all three seats - was:

Lab 7867
UIP 5548
C   5151
LD  4471
RES 2683
BNP 1766
G   1747

The Unitedkingdom Independence Party will not be standing in this election; the party with "a financial warchest unparalleled in British history" (leader Roger Knapman) is claiming "lack of money" and still keeping a straight face. BNP and RESPECT both expect to stand, the Greens may not.

Meanwhile, Birmingham Hodge Hill falls vacant to allow sitting MP Terry Davis to become President of the Council of Europe. Back in 1977, the Stechford seat (as about 70% of it then was) fell from Labour to the Tories on a 17.6% swing - that by-election was called when Woy Jenkins vacated the seat to become President of the EEC. The votes cast at the three-member Council election were:

LAB 23,043 (9)
LD  17,585 (9)
C    7,305 (9)
UIP  2,788 (3)
PJP  2,712 (2)
BNP  2,398 (2)
IND  1,770 (2)
G    1,403 (3)

Labour are defending a 44% majority over the Tories, 56% over the Lib Dems. The BNP will stand, Greens don't expect to, and the UIP is - once again - pleading poverty. Much will turn on the People's Justice Party, an Islamic grouping that lost both its council seats, including one in this constituency, earlier this month. If the PJP stands down and advises its supporters to vote Lib Dem, there's just the whiff of an upset.

It should be mentioned that Washwood Heath, where the PJP lost their seat, may yet become the subject of an election petition for fraudulent postal voting. The Lib Dems have already lodged a formal protest over Aston, where a Labour candidate was allegedly caught filling in postal votes on an industrial estate at the dead of night. Allegedly.

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posted 26 Jun 2004, 17.43 +0100


Sun 27 Jun 2004

Sunday morning

Good: Playing for Palestine, a BBC World Service documentary on the revived Palestinian football side. Explaining how they have to train in Egypt, how the Israeli team are so fearful of their new opponents that they won't let them train, how half the side is made up of the Palestinian diaspora and is based in South America, and how the side almost beat Iraq in World Cup qualifying recently

Odd: Patrick / Paddy O'Connell. The genial Irishman is Paddy when he's hosting Celebdaq and Eurovision, but Patrick when sitting in for Fi Glover on Broadcasting House. This is going to be a recurring theme.

Bad: I knew there was a reason why I didn't watch The Record, BBC Parliament's review of the week in parliament, on Sunday morning. It makes me far too annoyed. Not with the gits in the Lords voting to open civil partnerships up to anyone, rather than just homosexual couples - my view is that the state has no place in legitimising couplings or unions, and would be best to leave marriage to the church. (That disestablisment would be required is another good thing, and sod the antidisestablishmentarianistics.) No, the bit that got my goat was a spokey from the Federation of Gypsy Women, who pointedly refused to answer the question of why travellers shouldn't empty their own chemical toilets. The sort of obfuscation that gives travellers as bad a name as politicians.

Very bad: There's play on the middle Sunday of Wimbledon, and the BBC hasn't cleared its schedules. No coverage on BBC-1 or BBC-2 before 12:30, and only on-and-off coverage after that. Those of us with digital television can see five matches at once via the multi-screen thingy, but the 75% of sets without digital television can't do that. Slapped wrists.

Good: The rain holds off for long enough for me to do some gardening.

Very good: Getting from the train station to Reading Pride would be a trivial task - under the bridge and it's the big green space.

Most excellent: I knew there was a good reason for watching C-Span on Sunday lunchtime. Dick Chainsaw advising an opponent to go fuck himself (or, as C-Span so charmingly puts it, perform an anatomically impossible operation) is worth the fee for BBC Parliament on its own. Wonder if the UK will ever get a highbrow breakfast programme like Washington Briefing. Given that the BBC Parliament programming budget is about two hours per year, I doubt it. Shame.

Surprising: The Sindie suggests Labour MP to defect ... now. Jane Griffiths (Lab, Reading East) has a 12.81% majority over the Conservatives, and picked up a 2.6% swing in her favour at the 2001 election. If the swings at local council elections over the last few months were played out on a national level, Reading East would be a battleground seat; if the sitting MP were Conservative, she might just be able to hold on to the seat for the other party. There's a huge local story, involving a bitter falling out with Martin Salter (Lab, Reading West), including Ms Griffith's de-selection as Labour candidate, beans being spilled to national organs, accusations of the race card, and other entertaining shenanigans. The last member to cross the floor from Labour to Conservative was Reg "Reg" Prentice in 1977; since then, Alan Howarth (1995) and Shaun Woodward (1999) have moved in the opposite direction.

Curious: The Obs runs a list of 80 for the next 25 years. Those tipped for the top include the thoroughly unentertaining Jimmy Carr (a flavour of the month if ever we saw one), Pete Doherty of the Libertines (he'll either be dead by 30 or huge), and others. We rather gave up after seeing Shaznay Lewis (washed up already) tipped for stardom, when her flame has already gone out.

Silly: Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy) - the second best record on a fairly disappointing Gambo show yesterday. It's by Big & Rich, it's on the North American country charts, and it's entertaining. Best record on the show was Clay Aiken's This Is The Night, which has to be the best chart-topper of the last couple of years.

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posted 27 Jun 2004, 13.42 +0100

Chart week 26

You can tell it's summer by the number of greatest hits albums and reissues around. This chart excludes compilations, albums over 2 years old, and releases that are out on Corrupt Disks. Of this week's top 20 sellers, the no compilations rule excludes six, and the No Corrupt Disks rule eliminates nine. Those out include the Streets, Outkast, the Beastie Boys, Faithless, and Anastacia - acts whose disks have been found in a corrupt state, but without warning on the packages. As Corrupt Disks don't play on all CD equipment, as the Official Chart Company rules require, their sales must be removed from the chart.

All of this politicising leaves Keane at the top for week seven, Joss Stone in the runners-up position, and Badly Drawn Boy's One Plus One Is One the highest new entry at 3. Kanye West and the Corrs round out the top five. There are good climbs for Britney Spears (9-6), Franz Ferdinand (13-9), George Michael (18-15), and the Black Eyed Peas (32-24, as the new single gains severe airplay). Slumps for Slipknot (15-25), Hoobastank (17-29) and Kristian Leontou (19-32). The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra exits from position 14, Emma Bunton from 21.

Other new entries: 16 Orbital The Blue Album - they had three top tenners in the mid 90s. 18 Alan Jackson The Very Best Of, which qualifies because he's never had a hit album before. 20 Kings of Convenience Riot On An Empty Street. 21 Wilco A Ghost Is Born, surprisingly smaller than their two previous albums, plus the Mermaid Avenue project that launched them here. 23 Brian Wilson Gettin' In Over My Head, his third solo hit album in ten years. There are re-entries at 30 (the Streets' original album, I've not heard any claims that this is corrupted ... yet!), 31 (Jamelia) and 33 (Twista)

No such silliness on the singles chart. Breakout act of the year McFly claim their second number one in three months, Obviously is a wonderful slice of "never going to get the girl" angst that is so life-affirmingly optimistic. Britney and Mario Winans drop to 2 and 3, Outkast come in at 4 with Roses - it's two places higher than "Hey Ya" entered, but one place lower than it eventually peaked.

Other recommended new hits ... Beverley Knight Come As You Are, Belle and Sebastian Books, Blink 182 Down, the Zutons Remember Me, the Alarm New Home New Life.

On the dodgy cover front: a bunch of media slappers have recorded Rod Stewart's Do You Think I'm Sexy, to which the answer has to be "Not as much as we though N-Trance were in 1996." Flopstars losers Phixx have covered Duran Duran's Wild Boys, sadly without any of them drowning in the video shoot. Junior Jack's Stupid Disco uses the vocal riff from the Pointer Sister's valedictory 1985 hit "Dare Me!", and still sounds very fresh. And Scottish girlies Lemonescent cover Free's All Right Now, which makes us wish they wouldn't, because it isn't.

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posted 27 Jun 2004, 21.24 +0100

Weather in week 26

A very unsettled week, sunshine and showers almost every day. Wednesday and Saturday were particularly wet, while Friday remained dry, and Sunday would have done apart from an unexpected thunderstorm around 5pm. With only Friday reaching 20 degrees, the cooling degree count for the week was 0, the total for the summer thus remains at 57.

Next week... more of the same unsettled weather.

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posted 27 Jun 2004, 21.28 +0100


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