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.

Canterbury Tales

What on earth has happened to Question Time? Once a pillar of televisual political debate it has descended into some sort of dumbed down Wright Stuff. Whether that is a reflection on the BBC, popular culture or the state of politics in general is debatable. What is certain is that the late Robin Day would not have been impressed by what this show has become.

Last night’s episode had been built up by the Beeb themselves as a battle between the former addict and lethario Russell Brand and the acceptable face of the far right, Nigel Farage. At times the whole thing just collapsed. David Dimbleby seems to have just given up. Looking bemused at times, often not bothering to effecively chair proceedings, guests and audience members just shouted over each other.

The audience seemed to largely fall into Brand-ites, whooping and hollering at whatever he said like they were at an American stand-up gig and UKIP-ers baying for the blood of any potential immigrant within a 500 mile radius.

Canterbury’s finest were all there. The mad shouty woman, the shouty man with the stick and the classic, “now I’m not racist but…” lady. The local Head of Tourism must have been having cold sweats.

As light relief the potty mouthed, Tory diver Penny Mordaunt was there only to be reminded early doors by Dimbleby for her love of the word “cock” and she never recovered.

In truth the whole Brand vs Farage thing was an anti-climax. They might as well have re-booked that Welsh bloke from the call centre thing. Perhaps Question Time should go further and just book Anne Diamond,  Scott Capurro, any random Australian soap star and replace Dimbleby with Matthew Wright.

Buried Alive

It’s been a week of podcast controversy in and around the WWE Universe. Whilst the majority of the headlines have been concerned with CM Punk’s revelations, Steve Austin had Vince McMahon to probe via the WWE Network. As much as all eyes were focused on what Vince’s response to Punk might be there was something more revelatory in that interview which stood out for me.

Traditionally, Triple H is the notorious bringer of death to an up and coming wrestler’s career. If there is an opportunity to bury someone, Hunter is usually there spade in hand. However it was Vince’s turn to perform the last rights when he discussed Cesaro. He lacks “it” according to the boss leaving Cesaro buried alive.

You can go back and take a view at a long list of squandered potential throughout WWE’s history. You can make a case for a number of talents who literally forced themselves through the proverbial “glass ceiling” too despite, by and large, the negative shovel skills of a certain Mr HHH. (I’d suggest Jericho and more recently Daniel Bryan here for starters) Vince’s comments though will have been sure to sting The King of Swing. Cesaro has pulled off some great matches but WWE have squandered the opportunity to push him.

If one thing stands out from CM Punk’s talk to Colt Cabana (if we are to take Punk’s words at face value) it’s that WWE’s forward planning is somewhat lacking. Cesaro seems a case in point. Despite some quality in ring work WWE has had him lurch from one half hearted programme to the next. The lack of some clear direction has been key in Cesaro’s mid-card purgatory and no doubt a corporate lack of faith hasn’t helped either.

In the meantime all Cesaro can do is keep having great matches and hope Vince’s head can be turned. He might also take comfort in the fact that at least he’s not Fandango, whose re-package seems to be Rosa Mendez, new music and a shirt.

Terror at TESCO

A few months back, I popped into TESCO on my lunch break and wandered through the technology department. Amongst the latest tablets, digital cameras and video games was an arrangement of boxed television sets. Nothing unusual there you might think. However, on closer inspection I was intrigued by this display. In fact, I was a little bit concerned by the makers of these TVs, their name boldly emblazened on the box. As you might expect we’re not talking a ‘big name’ brand here. These sets were properly “cheap as chips”, except the makers seemed familiar, just not in the context of value for money technology. Who was this mysterious budget brand?

ISIS.

Yes, that’s right ISIS!

Now, I understand, thanks to our Home Secretary, that the terrorist threat is at the “we’re all doomed” level, recently increased of course from the previous “run for your lives” level. I wasn’t expecting terror in TESCO though! What was going on here? What sort of evil plot to bring down Western civilisation as we know it could involve the sale of shoddy tech at a popular supermarket? Should I report this somewhere? Surely, this is exactly the type of thing Theresa May has been guarding us to “remain vigilant” about.

In the end, I casually went and bought a sandwich, crisps and drink “meal deal”, also good value, although without the threat of terrorist activity and left the store and thought nothing of it. I figured that ISIS must just be an unfortunate brand name coinciding with the terror group of the same name.

That was until Black Friday, when the same cheap televisions, (now at seriously rock bottom prices) spawned apocolyptic scenes in the scramble for    a one-off bargain. Fighting, mauling, gouging, trampling, kicking, screaming. Oh the humanity!

Terror had truly hit TESCO and ISIS had won.

ISIS?
ISIS?

If only I’d warned Theresa May.

I’ve got Eurosong fever Ted!

It’s that time of year again. The 2014 Eurovision song contest kicks off in about an hour’s time from Copenhagen. It’s marmite quality undeminished, this year’s competition probably doesn’t have the strongest line up of songs (if that’s actually unusual) but for me is stll one of my favourite nights of the year. Here’s my view on what to look out for from each country:

1. Ukraine – The song is likely to be annexed by Russia as masked forces impound their hamster wheel.

2. Belarus – Discounted by the bookmakers at 300-1, I think this might actually be worth an each way bet. It is lyrically terrible but has an annoyingly catchy tune. Hey! This is Eurovision for goodness sake! Incidentally, replace the chorus with the lines, “Catchy tune, terrible lyrics” and you’ll be singing it for weeks!

3. Azerbaijan – Dull ballad not made any more entertaining by the trapeze act.

4. Iceland – It’s The Wiggles meets Show Waddy Waddy! Mid-table alternative vote.

5. Norway – This is a tip for some. Personally, I think it’s a dreary, monotonous ballad. Good opportunity to put the kettle on.

6. Romania. – It’s Ovi and Paula again! They came 3rd three years ago but I don’t think they’ll do as well this time around. You can always rely on Ovi for a gimmick piano and Paula for a ridiculously long and high note. Show offs!

7. Armenia – This guy could be the Armenian Dr Who! Decent chance in a Euro-phoric dance kind of way.

8. Montenegro – It’s like Dancing on Ice, except there’s no ice or Torvill and Dean or Phillip Schofield. The song? Just concentrate on the skater!

9. Poland – I don’t think the “everyday sexism” movement has hit Poland yet. Terrible song and soft porn style staging. Where’s my washboard?

10. Greece – Beware Greeks bearing songs already popular across Europe featuring a bloke from Hackney! Features the world’s first Plinth-o-lene!

11. Austria – Eurovision has to have a central talking point. In the past we’ve had the unstable transexual, the Russian faux lesbians and of course, Jedward. This year Austria present “the bearded lady”. Ok, it’s a man, in a dress with a beard, but this Bond theme styled ditty is one of the hot favourites.

12. Germany – Taking it seriously this year but the song is only OK and the singer can have tuning issues. No Bayern Munich!

13. Sweden – Powerful ballad and another hot favourite with the bookies. Went down very well on Tuesday’s first semi-final so hard to see past this one.

14. France – Ah! The French. The hilarious French. The zany, witty, comic land of France. Nul point!

15. Russia – Twins! Everyone loves twins don’t they? Well, apparently not if they’re from  Russia these days! Boooooooooooo!

16. Italy – Pink tribute act.

17. Slovenia – An angry looking woman with a flute. She could have someone’s eye out with that!

18. Finland – Bland identikit boy-band probably looking forward to avoiding paying tax in the near future, as I believe is the boy-band tradition. Allegedly.

19. Spain. – Dark horse entry from Spain who usually enter a joke act of the unfunny variety. Not a bit of it this year. Well worth an each-way bet on a strong ballad.

20. Switzerland – Roger Whittaker meets Mumford and Sons.

21. Hungary – Running, running, running to make another cuppa. Two sugars please!

22. Malta – The Corrs meet Mulligan and O’Hare. Next!

23. Denmark – Nice enough but stinks of not wanting to win and being to forced to host this money sapping contest again. Look what happened to Ireland!

24. The Netherlands – It comes to something when one of the best songs in the whole contest is a Dutch Country & Western duet!

25. San Marino – Have a lie down. You’ve come this far and you’ll need all your energy for the voting. Dull!

26. United Kingdom – Last up it’s us plucky Brits. At least this year, the Russians have slammed us in the most hated country in Europe stakes. Mid-table respectability beckons.

So, there you go. Sadly there is no man in a perspex box this year and the Belgian Go Compare man didn’t qualify. Take it easy. It’s going to be a long night!