Watch Out! Democracy’s About!!!

So, it’s nearly time for the most exciting and unpredictable vote in years. Yes, the Eurovision Song Contest is almost upon us! As a nice little warm up though, there’s also the small matter of a General Election. When you think about it there’s actually quite a lot of similarities between the two. No really, bear with me here!

No-one really is totally keen on any of the choices available, the whole process goes on a bit too long and the voting system is just a bit suspect.

The similarities don’t stop there either. This campaign, even putting aside the personal attacks, right wing media hatchet jobs and social media trends has seen the emergence of a threat from a land far away. Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP has given everybody a bit of a scare. Likely to stamp across the Labour vote in their home territory and vilified as potentially bringing down democracy in Britain as we know it by those on the right, Sturgeon has been the breakout star of this campaign. Say it quietly but there are plenty of voters on the left and South of the Border who wish they could vote for her. Ssssshhhhhh!!! That was off message wasn’t it? The message is actually the democratic process in Scotland as a part of the United Kingdom (I know they stayed with us – No, they really did!) will spell CONSTITUTIONAL ARMAGEDDON!!! Democracy is clearly a dangerous thing.

This year’s Eurovision sees a special guest entrant, this time from the South, but also from a far away land. Australia.

Eurovision purists aren’t happy. Australia have always had a strong link and affection for the competition throughout its 60 year history. This year, to mark the 60th anniversary Australia have been given a one-off ticket to compete in the final. Hang on a minute though! They’ve actually entered a decent song which might actually win! Europeans everywhere might actually vote for it. Hardly fair that is it? Asked to enter a competition and actually trying to win it? Especially as Australia isn’t in Europe (who knew?) and what would happen if they do indeed win this year’s contest? Europe would be held to ransom by a non-European country. Not only would the Eurovision constitution descend into chaos, Australia, as winners would demand the winner’s right to defend their title in 2016. Europe might actually have to hold their own competition in Australia. What nonsense would that be? EUROVISIONAL ARMAGEDDON!!! Democracy once again proving itself unreliable and downright dangerous.

Sounding familiar?

UK General Election 2015 Liveblog

21:09  It’s almost time…

Join me from 10pm here on Election Night and bring some snacks for comment, speculation and coverage throughout the night into the wee small hours for what is set to be one of the closest elections ever. Who will win? You decide! (Probably)

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22:12  Exit Poll

Well that’s it then but it isn’t is it? No it’s just the start again. The polls are closed and now the votes are being counted. What have we done? Well, the exit polls are predicting a hung parliament with Conservatives having 316 seats, Labour 239 seats and the Lib Dems on 10. The SNP are predicte to have 58 out of 59 possible seats with UKIP on 2 and others on 25.

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22:19  Paddy Ashdown

Paddy Ashdown says he’ll “eat his hat” if the exit polls are correct and the Liberal Democrats are obliterated as predicted by them. As yet there is no official statement from Paddy Ashdown’s hat.

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22:23  Race for a Result

One of the usual set-pieces of the election is the race to have the first result in. Only Newcastle and Sunderland seem to take part in this demeaning “It’s a Knockout” style display. Let’s face it, it’s the only thing Newcastle or Sunderland ever look like winning.

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22:33  Portillo Moments

Will we get any Portillo moments this time around? Esther McVey in Wirral West will be one of the seats that will be closely watched. There could well be some high profile Labour casualties in Scotland and just how many Liberal Democrat big hitters could go?

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22:37  Snacks

Just to confirm the result of my trip to the shop for tonight’s snacks. I’ve got crisps, custard creams, Nice biscuits and Kit-Kats. Does that seem excessive? It’s a long night you know!!!

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22:43  Paul Nuttalls of the UKIPs

An early appearance of Paul Nuttalls of the UKIPs. On brighter news though he doesn’t believe the exit polls either. Although back on the downside again he’s confident of a win for Nigel Farage in South Thanet.

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22:47  Sunderland

Looks like Sunderland have stuffed up their fast count and have failed to beat the current record for announcing a result. Heads will roll. More bad news in the North East then.

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22:50  Prediction

Early prediction of George Galloway’s mood tonight: Smug.

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22:54  Result

Labour hold Sunderland South. A safe Labour seat and increasing their majority but interestingly UKIP have come second and the Liberal Democrats last with what might well be described as a deposit losing sympathy vote.

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22:57  My Prediction

My thoughts prior to the exit poll were Conservatives to be doing slightly worse than predicted, Labour to be doing slightly better and Liberal Democrats to do very badly. At least one bit of that seems to be holding up.

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23:00  Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy may well lose his seat in Parliament but has got a stool on standby at his local pub.

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23:02  Ed Balls

Rumours that Ed Balls could lose his seat!!! Shock Portillo moment on the cards?

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23:05  Eating

Alastair Campbell now says, “he’ll eat his kilt” if the exit poll is correct. There could be a lot of politicians with indigestion in the morning.

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23:10  Lead

Labour, dismissing the exit poll disappointment by proudly stating they have been in the lead in the actual election results so far for almost half an hour now.

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23:17  Result

Labour hold Sunderland Central. Liberal Democrats blushes spared by an independent candidate but still lose another deposit.

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23:21  Caution

Nicola Sturgeon, trying hard not to squeal with glee, also urges caution on the exit poll but as yet has not promised to eat any article of her clothing.

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23:24  Prediction

Nigel Farage and Al Murray predicted to challenge each other to a “yard of ale” challenge, whatever the result of the voting in South Thanet.

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23:28  Newcastle

Disappointment in Newcastle as they still haven’t declared any of their seats. John Carver denies any involvement in coaching the counters.

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23:31  Result

Labour now hold Sunderland West. 3-0-0-0-0-0-0!!!

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23:33  Farage

Farage rumoured to only have come third in South Thanet. Bloody polls!!!

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23:40  Queen Speech Fest?

A hung parliament could see a record number of Queen’s Speeches this year. Black Rod limbering up as we speak.

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23:53  Green Fact

Natalie Bennett is no relation to the late comic Lennie.

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23:54  Holding Up?

This election is dragging now isn’t it?

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23:58  Prediction

George Galloway now rumoured to be losing his seat in Bradford. Predicted mood adjusted to: Conspiratorial.

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00:04  Danny Alexander

Danny Alexander looks to be losing his seat to the SNP. He will be missed by no-one.

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00:07  The Man from the S*n

It’s OK. He’s gone. You can come out now.

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00:10  Peston

Is it just me or does Robert Peston look like he’s in the middle of a mid-life crisis?

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00:14  Snack update

First packet of crisps down and now I’m feeling a custard cream coming on. Well there’s nothing else going on and frankly I’m not resorting to pictures of dogs at polling stations!

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00:24  Exit Woes

Chester and Wirral West expected to stay Conservative if the exit polls are correct along with Southport becoming a Conservative gain from the Liberal Democrats. The whiskey bottle could be replacing the snacks.

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00:27  Suggestion

One of these elections they should replace Jeremy Vine with Tim.

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00:29  A Plea

Count faster people! I’m almost hoping to see Paul Nutalls of the UKIPs on the telly again. Almost.

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00:32  Latest

UKIP said to be “bouncy” in Canvey Island. Well who wouldn’t be, let’s be fair!

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00:35  What?

So Neil Kinnock’s son is likely to become an MP tonight in Wales and he’s married to the Norwegian PM? What sort of political Game of Thrones is this?

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00:39  Negatives All Round

The Dark Lord Mandelson is here. “All 3 parties have lost”, he says, “just some have lost more than others!” Chin up though. Remember what Nick Berry said. Every loser wins!!! Not sure how that might work though.

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00:43  Result

Swindon North is held by the Tories.

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00:46  Wirral West Update

According to the Liberal Democrat candidate Wirral West, currently held by Conservative minister Esther McVey is “very close” between Labour and the Tories.

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00:52  Theresa May

Theresa May standing by her SNP constitutional crisis line. Alan Johnson repeating the Dark Lord Mandelson’s “all 3 parties have lost line”. A whiff of central office there. Incidentally, the Liberal Democrats have lost their deposit in all 4 declared seats so far.

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01:02  Result

Conservatives hold Wandsworth. Not looking good for Nigel Farage in South Thanet. Crying into his beer perhaps?

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01:07  Dull

Good Grief! Just to prove how dull this election has been the dogs at polling stations twitter malarkey has made the BBC’s news bulletin. Scooby Doo currently unavailable for comment.

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01:09  Result

Another Labour hold in Newcastle. Looks like the least expensive result to date for the Liberal Democrats in terms of their deposit!

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01:14  Tooting

Toot toot!!! (Sorry, it’s late) Sadiq Khan holds his seat for Labour and race into a 5-2 lead.

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01:16  Neil Kinnock

“WELL ALL RIGHT!!! WELL ALL RIGHT!!!” – Oh hang on again!

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01:20  Selfish 

Neil Kinnock says that if the exit polls are right, a swing to the Conservatives is down to selfish, greedy, self-centred morons.

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01:24  Result

Battersea held by the Conservatives. MP wearing one of the most hideous green jackets I’ve ever seen.

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01:30  George Galloway Latest

“Would you like me to be the cat?”

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01:33  Early Results

Labour have held Wrexham but a 2.5% swing from Labour to Conservative, along with the exit poll doesn’t bode particularly well for Ed Milliband. Is it too early to barricade ourselves into our local hospitals?

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01:42  Correction

Mrs Kinnock is indeed the Danish PM and not the Norwegian one. I stand corrected, (Thanks Paula) although not too effected.

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01:46  Emigration

I lived in Dundee for a few years can I claim refuge in Scotland? What’s Denmark like these days too? Maybe the North can declare UDI?

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01:48  Lefties

BBC pundits wondering if Labour campaign might have been too left-leaning. Maybe it wasn’t left leaning enough though?

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01:54  Nuneaton

Conservatives hold seat and Liberal Democrats lose deposit again. Labour had hoped to gain this one but lose ground. Exit polls looking more accurate with every result so far.

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01:59  Nuneaton Curse

That Nuneaton result could actually spell the possibility of a Conservative outright win. Pollsters scratching their heads and searching for their book of excuses.

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02:04  Breaking News

David Milliband packing his bags and ready to return to Britain. Whatever might be left of it by the time he gets back. Sure it’ll be just to offer Ed some consolation.

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02:09  BBC

Kirsty Walk doing her best Norman Collier impression there. (Ask your parents)

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02:14  Results

Lib Dems off the mark with a hold in Wales and SNP gain Kilmarnock from Labour in what could well be a familiar story as the night goes on.

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02:19  Targets

Mixed messages coming out of some of Labour’s target seats. Both Labour and Conservatives think they may have Wirral West. Labour also think they may have taken Bury North from the Tories.

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02:26  Paisley Pattern?

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander’s face gave it away. In the biggest “Portillo moment” of the night so far he’s lost to a 20 year-old student. SNP gain.

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02:29  Battering

Dumbatonshire and Dundee West go SNP with massive swings from Labour 33% and 29% respectively.

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02:32  Another one bites the dust

Labour lose Falkirk and Ochil & South Perthshire to SNP. Oh and Glenrothes goes the same way too. A 35% swing there!!!

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02:40  SNP

Alex Salmond still hoping for a “progressive alliance” in the House of Commons. Looks less and less likely now but Salmond can hardly contain his delight at the scale of the SNP result in Scotland.

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02:52  Wirral West

Result due in around 25 minutes I believe. Will Esther be safe now?

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02:56  The Message

There was a clear anti-austerity message by the SNP in Scotland. No such choice in England. Interesting that Labour Chair Lucy Powell pretty much blaming the Scottish electorate for a possible Conservative Government.

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03:10  Emergency

The emergency kit-kats have come out and here comes the whiskey!!!

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03:20  Gone

Jim Murphy loses his seat in Scotland now. That’s the Scottish Labour Leader out now. Very likely that there’ll be no Labour MP’s in Scotland. Back in England Labour’s number 1 target seat in Warwickshire has seen the Conservatives extend their majority and in Wales they’ve lost Clwyd!

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03:21  Wirral West Update

Re-count rumoured. Looks like it’s close.

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03:27  Scotland

Sturgeon and Salmond have already got the builders in. Huge wall rumoured.

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03:32  Sad Times

Tessa Jowell looks depressed. No sign of Ed Miliband yet. Apparently he might not see this afternoon out according to the Guardian. I’m presuming they mean as Leader of the Labour Party.

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03:37  Huge Pockets

The Liberal Democrats are losing that many deposits they could be mistaken for an absent minded banker.

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03:49  No Energy Left

Ed Davey is now the former Energy Secretary as he loses his seat to the Conservatives in Kingston. Meanwhile, Labour’s safest seat in Scotland is lost to the SNP with a 39% swing. At this rate the BBC’s swingometer will be lapping itself.

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04:02  Left, Right, Left, Right

Still no political pundits giving any credence to the possibility that Labour might not have been left wing enough as opposed to too left wing! SNP clearly an anti-austerity party and look at their results. Look how well other anti-austerity parties have done in Europe too. There was no clear anti-austerity choice in England.

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04:12  Liberal Who?

Simon Hughes has lost his seat to Labour ending his 32 year career as MP for Bermondsey. Nick Clegg under threat in Sheffield. Another close one it seems.

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04:22  UKIPs

Douglas Carswell who defected from Conservative to UKIPs holds onto his seat in Clacton. Immediately calling for electoral reform!

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04:28  It’s Late

Surely it’s well past Menzies Campbell’s bed time?

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04:39  Cable Ties

Vince Cable loses his seat in Twickenham. Liberal Democrats learning that you can’t enter an election on the left and end up propping up a Government on the right.

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04:41  Hold

Lib Dems have managed to hold Southport though, which looked against the odds earlier on.

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04:45  Wirral West Update

As the re-count is underway, word has it that Labour think they have narrowly defeated Esther McVey.

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04:49  Ed Balls

Rumours persisting that Ed Balls may well have lost his seat.

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04:53  Clegg Watch

Nick Clegg has held his seat but he’s looking a lot lonelier.

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04:54  Wirral West Update

Result imminent…

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04:56  Clegg Watch

Looks like Nick Clegg has resigned himself to resign as Lib Dem leader.

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04:58  Irony

Tactical Conservative votes keeping Nick Clegg in his seat.

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05:00  Wirral West

Esther McVey looks like she’s out!!!

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05:02  She’s Gone

Esther McVey loses Wirral West to Labour by 417 votes. Every cloud…

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05:12  Balls Up

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls may well have lost his seat, in what would be a devastating blow for Labour and Ed Milliband.

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05:26  Ding Dong Do

Charles Kennedy has lost his seat in Dingwall. As leader of the Liberal Democrats he moved them to the left and gave them the base for Nick Clegg to build on successfully in 2010 only to throw it away by propping up a right-wing Tory party. Charles is another victim and is likely to be seen queuing outside Weatherspoons this morning.

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05:30  Significant Others

Thanet South result probably not due until 6am at least. Likely that we won’t see Ed Balls’ result for another hour or so either.

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05:37  McVey

Esther McVey talks about bitter, brutal campaign in Wirral West. Maybe some truth in that but her actions and demeanour in office didn’t do her any favours.

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05:50  Every Cloud?

Chester may turn red it seems although a Conservative victory looking increasingly more likely.

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06:03  Enough is enough

And on that bombshell…

I think that’s me done for the morning. It’s been emotional hasn’t it? Oh and a very depressed Danny Alexander has just lost his seat to the SNP now! (Every cloud again eh?). Well, another grim 5 years in prospect then. Night Night!!!

Large whiskey anyone?

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Speculating on the Speculation

The position of “Royal Correspondent” must be one of the most soul destroying things imaginable. Perhaps even worse than that of “Liberal Democrat Campaign Manager”. All those years at university studying journalism and for what? Hanging about outside somewhere or other, spending your days speculating.

Yesterday’s Royal Birth has been a classic case in point. The “Royal Correspondents” were all stood, for most of the day outside the “Lindo Wing” of St Mary’s Hospital. Waiting.

Waiting for anything to happen and filling in the gaps with speculation and speculating on the speculation with doses of the painfully obvious thrown in for good measure:

When the baby might be due (probably anytime now), what the Queen thinks (expected to be delighted), what the doctors and nurses are doing (likely to be attending to Her Royal Highness with great care and attention), when will the new arrival have her first poo (expected to be around 5 and rumoured to be potentially sloppy and on the whiffy side)…

I could go on and on and on. They did! ITV cancelled their local news coverage to speculate in this manner for a further 20 minute “special”. Look at the BBC’s poor old Nicholas Witchell. Prince Charles famously was overheard to say he “couldn’t bear” him. Nowadays, Witchell looks like he can’t bear himself. He looks dead behind the eyes. Too much speculation can do that to a guy. Too much of the blindingly obvious can eat away at someone.

I guess he goes home at the end of a hard day watching a bunch of priviledged burdens on the state, waiting for them to do something mildly interesting feeling depressed and remembering the days of anchoring the 6 o’clock news, breaking stories such as the Zebrugge disaster and sitting on lesbians.

Then again I’m just speculating.

Why I Feel Sorry for Tesco (Kind of)

I was thinking about writing this early this morning. I was going to just put the boot in rather joyously (much like everybody else practically) about their £6.4 billion pre-tax losses. Let’s face it every little may well help but the list of Tesco’s misdemeanours is rather lengthy.

In summary, Tesco simply got lost within it’s own bubble. It got too big for its boots, believing that they were the centre of everything. They became like the local ASBO kids on the estate, riding the criticism like a badge of honour, believing that they were untouchable. Perhaps for some time they were just that, but as soon as you believe your own hype, the wheels will soon start to fall off. Just ask Justin Beiber!

The Tesco machine was looked upon as decimating local communities and businesses, accused of riding roughshot over planning rules and had a reputation in squeezing their suppliers for every last penny they could. Their influence in some markets was arguably too great, in books and music sales for example. Crucially, they lost public confidence. Their prices were no longer amongst the cheapest, 8% more expensive than rival Asda, let alone Aldi or Lidl and together with reports of customer service standards slipping Tesco has now become the retail equivalent of Katie Hopkins. Except Tesco is getting its comeuppance (unlike Katie – just yet) and practically everyone is revelling in it.

In fairness, so was I.

Then I thought about the staff, around 2000 of them, at risk of losing their jobs at the 43 UK stores earmarked for closure. Whatever we think about the corporate Tesco machine, that’s 2000 ordinary workers, certainly not earning anything like millions, staring unemployment in the face. I also got to thinking about their community work and their network of Community Champion staff. I have seen, first hand, local Tesco stores providing funds, food and drink and staff time to help community projects. That doesn’t excuse all their evils of course, but I know many people who have been very grateful for this support.

Just like the banks, who created an unprecedented global financial crisis. It wasn’t those at the very top who lost out. It was the ordinary workers in the branches that had to close and the ordinary people everywhere who have suffered from the resulting age of austerity.

So, despite the initial glee at the news of Tesco’s losses, the worst ever in retail history, that I felt. It’s tinged with a little regret and the hope that lessons can be learned to put right at least some of what Tesco got very, very wrong.

Feeding the Beast. (Instantly)

Sue Perkins waved an enforced and indefinite goodbye to twitter this week as the Motor-freak Lunatic Fringe showered her with death threats on the popular social media tool. Her crime? She was linked, falsely as it happens, as the favourite to replace the prophet Jeremy Clarkson as the new Top Gear host. Clarkson’s disciples can’t bear any non-Clarkson replacement for Clarkson, particularly as Sue Perkins happens to be a woman and a lesbian. It’s probably just as well that she isn’t black or Muslim as burning effigies of her could well have littered some of Britain’s streets and social media timelines.

Makes you proud to be British doesn’t it?

You get hounded off twitter with death threats for having the sheer arrogance to be punched by Lord Clarkson for not providing any hot supper to his holiness. Then, for actually not being Clarkson or conforming to the bigotry of the Jesus of Chipping Norton, you can expect exactly the same treatment, if not worse. The story wasn’t even true, indeed Sue Perkins herself said of presenting the show that she, “couldn’t imagine anything worse than doing it.”

Ah, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story!!!

In 2015 that old media line probably couldn’t be more relevant. In the old days, before social media, the internet and making a career out of being a rent-a-gob scumbag like Jon Gaunt or Katie Hopkins there wasn’t much stuff about that was instant. Even instant stuff wasn’t that instant. There was instant coffee, but you still had to wait for the kettle to boil and stir the coffee in the hot water and even then bits of it would still float about the top. Similarly instant custard wasn’t quite so instant, you still had to get the amounts right and boil water and stir etc. Instant cameras were probably a bit more instant but then again you still had to wait for the picture to gradually appear and maybe have to shake the resulting photo about a bit, requiring some effort and possible wrist injury, for an image that wasn’t that great in the end. By today’s standards that definition of instant would probably be subject to the Trades Descriptions Act.

Nowadays, patience is thin and instant is king. People want stuff. Lots of it and they want it not in the future, not now, but then, just then. They need to access stuff “at the touch of a button”, “as quickly as possible”, “instantly”, “superfast”. There’s no time to waste, you must have your stuff now and be ready to move onto the next thing, and the next thing. Who wants to click on something more than once? Just give me it now, one click, speculate as you like, just give me it now before my finger falls off with repetitive mouse click injury.

There’s no time to actually research anything and form a well balanced view. We have 60 second news for God’s sake! There was a time when the opening titles of a news programme lasted longer than 60 seconds let alone the whole news bulletin! It’s instant though isn’t it? Forget any actual detail, or balance or heaven forbid actual facts. Here’s 5 news stories and the weather in 1 minute now go away and get back to watching Celebrity Flag Waving Extra with Stephen Mulhern.

Modern life has become a slave to the instant. The instant soundbite, the instant speculation, the instant social comment, instant news. In return everyone can react instantly too. We’re encouraged to instantly vote, to feedback instantly and so there is a prevalence to take information in instantly and to instantly like, hate, comment and worse still abuse.

There is a notion amongst a significant minority to read something on the internet, social media or to Google something and hit the first link that takes your fancy and believe everything in there and react instantly to it. I think some people must just move from outrage to outrage, spoon feeding themselves a diet of indignation and moral disbelief. Life has gotten faster and there’s no time to do any research anymore or to actually stop and think about consequences or hurt feelings. There’s a whole host of cowardly, faceless, “keyboard warriors” out there who revel in this new world of the instant and the ease of access that social media brings and joyously troll their way through anybody who doesn’t fit to their own personal tastes.

Don’t think this hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s being gleefully used against us. Corporate companies, politicians and media groups know it and use it to their own advantage. The same lies, rumours and spin used over and over again to be liked, retweeted and shared until it becomes the truth as people can’t be bothered to find out what the facts might actually be. Look at how popular Britain First has become on Facebook. It doesn’t out itself per se as the fascist, far right, thug merchant organisation that it truly is. You actually have to do a little research to become au-fait with that. However, it constantly churns out memes and messages about Britain and the flag and the armed forces and lies about how badly done to white British folk are done to compared to foreigners. People who by and large wouldn’t class themselves as racist or thugs or fascists gleefully like and share this far-right nonsense without batting an eyelid. It callously uses the image of Lee Rigby for its own nasty propaganda, fully aware that’s his family condemn them for using those images and his name for a fascist cause that he didn’t and would never have supported. Ah, but people won’t find that out though will they? They’ll just see the plausible message and the picture of a dead soldier and click like or share in a second. You don’t actually need to think about it, just scroll and click. (We won a war remember against fascism, that’s kind of one of the reasons we have an armed forces.)

Britain First Lite or UKIP as they are more commonly referred to has Nigel Farrage declaring himself as a “man of the people” and “anti-establishment”. “Oooooh! Look at Nigel there all dressed in tweed and with a pint in his hand everywhere he goes!” people say, “He’s one of us isn’t he? Wearing all that tweed and drinking pints of real ale all the time, whatever he does, anywhere he goes, ever. Ah yes! There he is, good old Nige and that glorious tweed that we all wear don’t we? Drinking ale, good British, real ale, in pints, wherever he goes, not litres like in France but proper British pints for tweed wearing, common sense, men of the people. There he is, “The Fage” educated at public school in South London and going on to work in the City, trading commodities, perhaps tweed or real ale, just like us, Mr Anti-Establishment himself, ready to ditch workers rights and really putting two fingers up to the man, ready to dismiss us unfairly with no cause to redress whatsoever…”

The Establishment are cynically luring working class people, in a time of austerity, to blame everybody but themselves for cuts in public services, low wages and an unprecedented housing crisis. Protecting their own (bankers, non-doms, corporate tax-avoiders) whilst blaming immigrants, “benefit scroungers”, attacking the disabled and the working poor. Classic divide and rule. Retweet, share, like and believe. Just don’t check the facts.

Someone on my Facebook timeline, a young, white, working class male, argued that Clarkson was “one of them” and “spoke for people like us”. That of course will be the same Jeremy Clarkson who writes for The S*n, is a close friend and neighbour of David Cameron, supports fox hunting and was one of the invited guests to the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.

There is a whole beast out there feeding us constant information in an instant. It is a bigger beast than ever before and it’s growing. It is largely unmoderated and completely accessible. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the internet and social media and that very accessibility and freedom. We are all feeding it in some form or another, I am doing it now by writing this. It is a beast though and it can bite. Someone feeds it some nonsense about Sue Perkins and the beast bites and claims another victim.

Don’t believe everything you read. Never has this been more relevant and true in today’s society. Except it should probably be extended to read:

Don’t believe everything you read, or see liked, shared, favourited, retweeted, blogged or googled.

There’s a beast needs feeding, right now! It’s hungry and ready to bite.

Quiet Brendan!!! Okay?

Brendan Rogers needs to be quiet.

In fairness, the likelihood of Brendan ever being totally silent is going to be somewhat slim. If I’m honest I’d struggle in that respect too! However, when it comes to media appearances Brendan seems to focus on talking in terms of quantity rather than quality. Rogers is like the soundbite equivalent of the 24 hour plumber. Seemingly, always on call to say something, (indeed anything!) to a media outlet at any time of day or night. Comfortable in terms of any topic, but not necessarily able to stick to it. Happy to provide a quote but not a short one. Always obliging to critique a player or performance but likely to include the words, “terrific”, “resiliency”, “to be fair”, “okay”, “group”, “mentality”, “intensity”, “technicians”,.. Well I think you get the idea. Indeed, you can probably put all those words in one sentence, possibly in any order and have an actual quote.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first. We all cringed throughout the Channel 5, “Being Liverpool” documentary. All I need to say here is “envelopes”. On top of that, some of his musings have been quite frankly a bit weird. Take the, “magic carpet ride of development”, for example or the “My biggest mentor is myself because I’ve had to study, so that’s been my biggest influence.”

I also worry about what makes Brendan tick sometimes. Apart from enjoying being football’s rent-a-quote there’s the image focus. The waistline, the teeth, the tan, the flash car, the trophy girlfriend. Of course, if the man’s winning football matches then he can do what he likes with his personal life for the majority of Liverpool fans. Indeed, I’m not one to worry about what somebody does in private per say. Yet, for someone who portrayed the family man when coming to the club to change his appearance and personal circumstances in such a short space of time, together with a love of the personal spotlight, poses a question mark for me about Brendan’s make up. You can’t take issue with the fads of the modern day player and display some of them yourself.

None of what I’ve pointed at so far though is my biggest concern.

Sometimes, Brendan can’t help himself. He can’t help but say too much and this puts him under far too much pressure. A pressure that shouldn’t exist and that he heaps upon himself. Surely being manager of Liverpool Football Club brings enough pressure on its own?

Take the Raheem Sterling situation. Whatever the rights and let’s be frank, serious wrongs of Sterling and his agent’s position, let’s be honest Brendan’s loose lips haven’t helped matters. “I think he is the best young player in European football at the moment,” he enthused last year, “He is 19 years of age and I don’t see anyone better… His overall performance has shown so much maturity and, for me, he is the best young player in European football at the moment.” Are we seriously not going to expect that direct quote  to be used in any future contract negotiation? Why did Brendan have to go that far in his assessment of Sterling anyway? What was the thought process here?

Here’s another quote regarding Sterling with Rogers talking about the initial switch to the 3-4-3 formation. “At Newcastle Raheem Sterling played as one of the wide players. So what did I get out of that game apart from a loss? I learned that Raheem probably won’t be able to play wide in what I was looking to do because he’s not in the game enough. He was on the side.” Surprisingly, Rogers played Sterling at wing-back in the very next match after this quote and in subsequent games. Why say this in the first place? Surely, the critique of Sterling isn’t necessary or helpful to start with and less so when you proceed to persist with something you’ve apparently already “learned” doesn’t work.

Okay, let’s go and show some terrific character by putting wee Sterling to one side for a moment. Here’s another senseless classic from Brendan: “Look at Tottenham. If you spend more than £100 million, you expect to be challenging for the league.” Now I don’t have to explain this one do I? We can see how silly this looks now. I could quote Rogers endlessly in making this point. He talks so much and at such length that there are web pages dedicated to his “wisdom”. He’s even been compared to David Brent. Worryingly, a list of quotes from Brent and Rogers proves very difficult to pin-point exactly who they should be attributed to! Brendan causes unnecessary problems for himself and the club by talking. Not just talking, but talking far too much.

I say all this as a lifelong Liverpool fan who supports Brendan Rogers as the manager and can see what he has done, under the current owners and their philosophy, particularly in the transfer market. Brendan has a difficult enough job on his hands without making things any further tricky for himself. He’s a young manager and essentially still learning his trade. He deserves the time to be a success at Liverpool.

Someone should have a quiet word with him though.

Sssssssssshhhhhhhhh!!! Okay?!!

ITV Leader’s Debate Liveblog

18:38  Preview Hype

The national evening news and local news are building this up as best they can. They can’t resist comparing the set to that of a gameshow. So far The Weakest Link and 15 to 1.

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19:09  Mind the Farage

Nigel Farage of the UKIPs will be hoping for a better performance this evening than his appearance on Radio 4 this morning. He couldn’t decide if he wanted no cap on immigration or a target of 30,000 or a cap of 50,000.

According to the man himself he’s done no preparation for the debate tonight. Not sure if he’ll be allowed to bring a pint onto the set with him.

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19:22  Green with Envy?

Any sort of performance from Natalie Bennet of the Green Party would be welcome. Will Green activists be wishing Caroline Lucas was actually their leader?

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19:28

Nick Clegg was the outright winner of these debates last time out. What a difference 5 years can make though! Clegg, according to a recent poll is under threat of losing his own seat. Can he turn things around here and does anybody actually agree with him about anything anymore?

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19:45  Goody Two Shoes

Apparently Ed Milliband has two pairs of shoes for tonight’s event. His advisors couldn’t decide which pair to get for him earlier so bought both. Following the “two kitchens” revelations maybe Ed just loves things being in twos. Perhaps he’s a big fan of Noah?

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19:51  10 minute warning

Just 10 minutes to go and the atmosphere couldn’t be more tense. My wife can’t find her phone and she’s going out in a minute! As for the debates well, there’s now about 8 minutes to go.

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19:57  From Salmond to Sturgeon

It’s a big night for Nicola Sturgeon for the SNP too. Her predecessor would have revelled in this tonight. Can she prove just as charismatic?

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20:05  We’re off!!!

Natalie Bennett actually sounds naturally quite annoying doesn’t she? And hey what a surprise Nigel Farage heads straight to the immagration counter!

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20:06  Clegg’s Mistakes

Nick Clegg has “made mistakes”. Something tells me he’ll likely pay for them in this election!

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20:08  Leanne Wood

Oh look! It’s Leanne Wood. You know, Leanne… Leanne Wood. I think she’s from Wales isn’t she?

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20:12  Milliband Slip

Ed Milliband looks nervous. Slipping slightly over his initial opening speech. Must do better!

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20:13  Leanne Wood

The Welsh lady wants to put more funding into public services. I like her. What’s her name again?

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20:15  Pintless

Nigel Farage looks undressed without a pint in his hand doesn’t he? YIKES!!! NIGEL FARAGE IS NAKED!!! LOOK AWAY!!! LOOK AWAY!!!

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20:17  So far, so slow

This is all very civilised isn’t it? If it carries on like this I’ll be reaching for the Blue Nun!

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20:22  Business has just picked up

Nicola Sturgeon has said “I back Ed on this.” Could this be the next “I agree with Nick”?

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20:26  Here’s Johnny!!!

Everyone is fighting for Johnny’s attention right now. Look at his face just look at his little face!!!

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20:28  Subliminal Messages

David Cameron’s podium is positioned on the far right. Is it a sign?

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20:32  The Northern Ireland Question

There won’t be one as nobody from Northern Ireland has been invited. Only Eamonn Holmes seems to have noticed.

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20:36  1st Question Done

I can’t see, based on the 1st question how anyone is going to be seen as winning this debate. It’s all a bit slow. It’s a bit gloves on and frankly a bit dull. Someone hand Nigel Farage a pint and see if he can provoke Nicola Sturgeon into a square go in the car park.

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20:42  Never Forget

Cameron may never forget how the NHS helped his kids but he may forget his kids after a few drinks in the pub.

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20:46  Health Tourism

I don’t think Health Tourism will catch on personally. Once you’ve seen one hospital you’ve seen them all really.

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20:51  This hour’s dragged

No punches have really been landed here have they? This almost makes you want to see a return of Des O’Connor Tonight.

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20:53  Northern Ireland

Nicola Sturgeon gives a shout out to Northern Ireland! Someone remembers. Eamonn Holmes can sleep easier tonight now.

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20:56  SNP 2 The Rest 0

Nicola Sturgeon has got a laugh and a round of applause. Those tough stand-up gigs in Glasgow must be paying off. Stony silence elsewhere though. SNP winning and most of us watching can’t vote for them!

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21:00  On the Attack

Ed Milliband clearly looking to attack David Cameron at every opportunity. Cameron’s refusal to debate one on one with him a tactical mistake in my view and Milliband making the most of it.

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21:11  Damned lies, statistics and Farage

Farage blaming housing crisis on immigrants now. He seems to have forgotten his beloved Thatcher’s social housing sell off in the 80s.

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21:19  Clegg Watch

Nobody has come out and said “I agree with nick yet” although Cameron has said that he has “made an important point”. If this was the cabinet Cameron would have ruffled his hair and fed him a biscuit.

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21:28  Format

I think the public should have been given the opportunity to get rid of a few of the leaders by now. Maybe a trap-door underneath them. Couldn’t some of the Northern Irish Leaders made a brief appearance by satellite, or a cameo appearance as a plinth or something?

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21:32  Tuition Fees

Nick Clegg has mentioned tuition fees. Sssssshhhh! I think he got away with it. Don’t mention the poor!

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21:35  3-0 SNP

Another smattering of applause for Sturgeon. Scotland haven’t seen this sort of result on English soil since they stole the goalposts at Wembley!

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21:39  CHAOS

In a total breakdown Clegg lands a blow on Milliband, who lands one on Cameron. It was like pass the blow out there for a minute. I almost put down the Blue Nun.

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21:42  Score

If you’re keeping score it’s SNP 3, Liberal Democrats 1, Labour 1, The Rest 0.

20 minutes left and maybe this is going to lead to a barnstorming finish!

Maybe not.

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21:47  HECKLER! HECKLER!

I just spilt the Blue Nun as a heckler gets stuck into David Cameron. Maybe there will be a late surge…

SNP 3, Labour 1, Liberal Democrats 1, Heckler 1, The Rest 0.

Vote Heckler!

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21:49  Farage

Farage looks undressed without his usual tweed outfit. YIKES!!! FARAGE IS NAKED!!! FARAGE IS NAKED!!! LOOK AWAY!!! LOOK AWAY!!!

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21:51  Late Rally

Cameron gets a round of applause too now landing a blow on Milliband with the Labour safe haven of zero hours contracts. Only putting him on terms with the heckler though.

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21:53  Clegg

Clegg basically arguing for a vote to sit on the fence. In fairness he’s low on energy now. He’s gone 2 hours without Cameron feeding him a biscuit.

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21:56  Northern Ireland

The Greens mention Northern Ireland now. Someone could at least point to it on a map or something. For Eamonn Holmes’ sake at least.

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21:59  Farage

Farage the common man. Most common men are investment bankers and esablishment figures aren’t they?

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22:01  That’s it!

The shaking hands at the end looked a bit awkward. Looked like that kind of forced politeness at a New Year party. At least they didn’t swap shirts. Nigel Farage looked undressed enough as it was.

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22:20  Millsey’s Final Thought

Well, that was a bit flat really wasn’t it? If anything Nicola Sturgeon won for me, proving why Scotland will probably overun Labour up there. Not great for the rest of us who can’t vote SNP though. Cracking surprise entry from the heckler. I imagine she will have polled well! Clegg got the bounce at the last election debate but can’t see anyone having a similar result this time. Farage looked like he needed a drink. I’ve not seen someone look that pale and sweaty in politics since Charles Kennedy heard last orders called. Cameron in two TV election set pieces now hasn’t really cut it. He’s not done badly by any means but together with his reluctance on the debate front he’s not looked strong. Milliband, similarly hasn’t done badly but has probaly been made to look better, again because of Cameron’s dithering on the debates. I wonder what the Northern Irish think?

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22:27  Millsey’s Final, Final Thought

Polls all over the place in terms of who won and who lost. Maybe that’s 2 hours that we just can’t get back. So, onto Question Time, This Week and probably more Blue Nun. Goodnight Great Britain wherever you are (except viewers in Northern Ireland).

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CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO JOIN THE LIVEBLOG…

LIVEBLOG HERE

(Debate starts at 8pm)

Today, I’m Supporting Oisin Tymon

Today, I’m supporting Oisin Tymon.

Oisin Tymon, just like the majority of us do, was going about his job as best he could. By all accounts it’s a job he’s very good at and relishes having the opportunity to do. Indeed, despite being subjected to a 20 minute verbal tirade of abuse and being punched in the face by a bigoted, bullying man-child, Tymon in the BBC Director General’s own words has, “behaved with huge integrity throughout.” Furthermore, it appears Tymon’s first thoughts were not actually about the horror he had endured or for revenge against the Establishment’s favoured beer-bellied bully. He wasn’t thinking of suing the BBC or selling his story to a tabloid. All he worried about was that he might no longer be able to continue to do his job.

The facts about what the BBC Top Gear producer endured on a patio area of the Simonstone Hall Hotel, North Yorkshire, on the 4th March 2015 are very clear and contained within the BBC’s report into the incident published today:

  • The physical attack lasted around 30 seconds and was halted by the intervention of a witness.
  • It is the case that Oisin Tymon offered no retaliation.
  • The verbal abuse was directed at Oisin Tymon on more than one occasion – both during the attack and subsequently inside the hotel – and contained the strongest expletives and threats to sack him. The abuse was at such volume as to be heard in the dining room, and the shouting was audible in a hotel bedroom.
  • Derogatory and abusive language, relating to Oisin Tymon and other members of the Top Gear team, continued to be used by the hot food, mafia mouthpiece inside the hotel, in the presence of others, for a sustained period of time.
  • Following the attack, Oisin Tymon drove to a nearby A&E department for examination.
  • It was not disputed by the Chipping Norton thug or any witness that Oisin Tymon was the victim of an unprovoked physical and verbal attack. It is also clear that Oisin Tymon is an important creative member of the Top Gear team who is well-valued and respected. He has suffered significant personal distress as a result of this incident, through no fault of his own.

The facts unquestionably speak for themselves and the light entertainment perpetrator of a violent physical assault on a respected, hard working colleague has been rightly sacked. It was the only course of action wasn’t it? To be fair if this had happened to one of us at our workplace, whilst we were trying to do our job, the best we could, we would at the very least expect the same outcome to befall our aggressor.

We would. Wouldn’t we?

Well, bizarrely not everyone seems to think so. Tymon, who had already been subject to abuse on social media, received another barrage of it again today when the BBC announced it had dispensed with the services of the Poster Boy of the “It’s Political Correctness Gone Mad Brigade.” Apparently, Tymon, according to some, deserves to die for being subject to an unprovoked attack by a moron. Apparently, it’s actually far more important that a show about cars, (which in reality hasn’t been a show about cars for years) continues with its casually racist host whatever crime he may commit against a fellow human being just trying to do his job, like any of us might try to do in our own daily lives. Apparently, this is an agenda against the Chubby Brown of a “factual” motoring magazine, orchestrated by the left-wing, liberal, Marxists of the BBC who don’t want the public to have access to the “Spiritual King” of the common sense man.

In 2011 a study of 6,000 staff revealed that six out of 10 public sector workers in the UK had either been bullied themselves or had witnessed bullying in their workplace. The majority of those polled – 53% – said they would be too scared to raise concerns over bullying in the current climate of job and spending cuts, compared with just 25% two years previously.

Right wing political parties and their cronies want to abolish worker’s rights and particularly want to scrap ordinary working people’s rights, such as Oisin Tymon’s or yours or mine to be able to do our jobs as best we can without the fear of being unfairly dismissed. They want employers to be able to do as they please. Punched in the face for trying to do your job? Well it was probably all your fault wasn’t it? You no doubt deserved it or ran willingly into the clenched fist of your employer begging for your P45!

This whole tawdry incident isn’t really about a 54 year old and his “talent” or his popularity or his contract or anything to do with him.

It’s actually about us. It’s about 2015 and where we are as a society and how we got here. It’s about what’s acceptable to us and how we behave and how we should expect to be treated. It’s about respect and values. It’s about human decency.

That’s why today, I’m supporting Oisin Tymon.

PHWOOAARRRRR!!! It’s your soaraway, sensational Liverpool Echo!!!

This appeared on the Liverpool Echo’s twitter feed the other day…

MrsMcGuiness

Now, apart from this not actually being even in the ballpark of news or even newsworthy for that matter, I find this really odd coming from the Liverpool Echo, to say the least!

This is a local paper that has, quite rightly, since Hillsborough stood against The S*n, Kelvin McKenzie and the gutter journalism that followed that tragedy. Yet here is the Echo acting as if it was some shoddy, gutter tabloid clone.

The full article wouldn’t look out of place in The S*n, The Star or the Daily Mail. “Paddy McGuinness’ Scouse wife shows off her amazing figure in series of selfies”, enthuses the headline. “The mum-of-two showed off her rock hard abs and peachy posterior in the shots,” it continues with all the jaw dropping pictures . “Christine shared a snap in a tiny neon pink sports bra and knickers…In another revealing shot, the former Miss Liverpool rocked a matching black sports bra and knickers as she insisted that: “Sweat is sexy”.”

This from the paper who revelled in The S*n’s apparent axing of Page 3. Their regular columnist Paddy Shennan in an article about this talks of surprise that “the paper was still stuck in its own perverted time warp” and likens the S*n’s stance on Page 3 to a line from a Billy Bragg song, “It Says Here” – “Where they offer you a feature on stockings and suspenders, next to a call for stiffer penalties for sex offenders.” In the meantime, whilst Shennan declares “women are still fighting for equality” we at least can take heart in Christine’s revealing tiny neon pink sports bra and knickers!

Perhaps the Echo should just be more honest and say something like, “Phwooaarrrrr! Readers chance to ogle over semi-naked celebrity wife! All the revealing, saucy, sexy shots here after all it’s OK you didn’t have to buy The S*n for them!”

What next for the Liverpool Echo? Quite apart from the mindless ramblings of whoever Pete Price happens to have met this week and has deemed his latest “celebrity friend” or who can forget “model and columnist” Amanda Harrington’s take on the issues of the day such as her “fantastic teeth whitening treatment.” How we miss Amanda’s musings. She may have been no Christopher Maloney, (incidentally, he has his own talent school. Oh the irony!) but she knew lots of words. Perhaps as many as 70.

If the Liverpool Echo is serious about its core values such as “Stand up for Liverpool and its people” and “Build trust and respect with our readers” then it can’t in the same breath churn out garbage that without the Echo banner wouldn’t look out of place in those papers that have done so much damage to Liverpool and its people over the years.

The Case for a New Smashie and Nicey

In the seventies, eighties and early nineties radio sounded a lot different. Its focus centered around DJs and their “personality”. On the whole the format didn’t really change very much and neither did the DJs. John Peel aside, the DJ would be ego driven, wacky, outspoken, cheesey or a rich, pungent cocktail of each. If you saw them at a roadshow or in a publicity photo they would be dressed with one or all of an extremely loud shirt, colourful glasses and highlighted hair. As listeners we went along with this. Frankly, we didn’t know any better or for that matter, realise what questionable activities they got up to in their spare time.

Then there was a swift awakening from our audio slumber. Video didn’t kill the radio star, but a comedy double act did! Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse created Smashie and Nicey and the truth about what we’d been fed by radio stations across the nation suddenly smacked us in the face. Almost overnight radio had dated 20 years as Smashie and Nicey ridiculed all that was supposedly (quite literally) great about the industry. Resignations, retirements and sackings followed whilst radio changed.

That change for a time was a welcome relief. Independent stations split their AM and FM frequencies, new licences were awarded and community radio stations added to a new found choice.

Gradually, however the airwaves have become somewhat bleak again. Independent stations have merged into all encompassing brands and local radio has almost become a thing of the past as networking has taken hold. It doesn’t matter which part of Britain you live in, chances are come 10am you’ll have to suffer Toby Anstis. Toby once won the Great British Lack of Personality Award narrowly defeating Nigel Mansell, Ken Barlow and a chair. In fairness, with the exception of the odd breakfast show, personality is a strict no-no in the radio industry these days. Presenters, (they’re not DJs anymore) are restricted in what they say, how much they can say and the time they’ve got to say it as stations chase the same demographic. Playlists are narrow and even the songs themselves are edited if they are deemed too long to fit the format.

I have friends who work as presenters today, many for a long time now. When they were younger it was their dream job. Now most tell me they don’t enjoy it anymore. (If they don’t what chance has the listener got?) Of course, radio couldn’t stay as it had been in the ego inflated decades of Fluff Freeman and co but unfortunately what we have ended up with today, by and large, is just plain bland. Take some time and listen to radio presenter’s links over a period. There won’t be many of them, they’ll be very short and they’ll amount to nothing paricularly exciting, funny or original. Radio Fab FM has been replaced by the Brand Bland Network.

We desperately need a modern day equivalent of Smashie and Nicey to shake us out of this new slumber, so we can once again realise just what dross we are being served, so that talent can make their mark again without fear of breaking convention. We’ve switched right across the spectrum from one extreme to the other and it’s time for change.

Harry and Paul it’s time for you to save radio. Again.