Thursday, 29 April 2010

Can we have the election right now please?

Should be easy.  There are red, blue and yellow buttons on my remote.  There's even a green one.  UKIP can press the 'off' button by mistake because they're pissed.  Everyone else can apply for a postal vote. 

I'm too tired to do an in-depth analysis of the content, so on artistic impression, in reverse order:

3: David Cameron.  Sweaty and shifty.  Consistently answered questions and challenges with evasions and accusations.
2: Gordon Brown.  Second rather than last mainly because he didn't smile so much.  But he did shake his head rather a lot. 
And the winner is -----
1: NICK CLEGG.  A pitch-perfect blinder of a performance.  In a word, charisma.

So there we have it.  As I said yesterday, now we've got that out of the way, this is where it gets nasty.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Who's blown it best?

Given that we're in the most Presidential TV election ever (and I'm not just talking U.K. here), TV moments by the party leaders are much more important than they should be.  So who's ahead on the gaffometer so far?

Well, Clegg did a pretty good job at the weekend, explaining that he'd never ever deal with a first-but-third-place Labour ('absolutely' was his actual word - I think that's longhand for 'yes' usually, but in this instance meant 'no'), then explaining that when he said Labour he really meant Gordon, then clarifying that when he said Gordon he really meant, well, something not quite that precise.  So we'll wait and see on that one.  But he did say it all on camera, and presumably knew this, even though he might have had an 'oh shit' moment afterwards.

This can't be said for Brown, and it makes it worse for him.  Oh, when will they ever learn to make sure the mic is off before they show their true selves - in this case, tired, petulant, churlish, hypocritical and vindictive (but hey, we already knew all that, didn't we)?  Ronald Reagan nuked Russia under similar circumstances, but at least when it was leaked we all knew (or prayed) that he was joking.  Gordon wasn't joking, in fact I don't think he knows how to, unless running an accurately programmed and carefully tested brown-app.  Which he'll contrive to screw up anyway.

As for Cameron, he hasn't had quite such an in-the-face TV moment as yet, more an accumulation of mini-ones, a sludge slide rather than a volcano.  So the flop has yet to drop, at least until this time tomorrow.  After that, they'll think it's all over, but I reckon the fun is about to start.  Seven Days In May.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Effects of Ash

I visited the Datchet folk last night. Datchet is directly under what used to be the Heathrow flight path, about two miles out. The first time I went there, twenty years ago, was a hot Sunday in July, a barbeque lunch. We sat around sipping our Pimms and chatting. Suddenly a 747 roared overhead, so low you could have reached up and spun its wheels. I had to stop myself clutching my ears (and I've heard loud in my time, believe me) - but everyone else just carried on talking - they didn't even notice it! I thought then: what is this doing to these people's long-term mental equilibrium?

Last night, it wasn't like that. It was so quiet you could hear the racket of the birds as the sun set. And I thought: is the equilibrium being disturbed here? Are these folk going to suffer from this unexpected sensory deprivation? Will they be able to cope with the quietness?

They've gone to Jersey now, on a boat, to be introduced to a new puppy.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The First Debate

Against the odds, riveting TV! I started, as did we all, waiting for the first gaff, sweaty moment or watch-glance. Well, actually, I think I saw Gordon check his watch whilst Dave was speaking, about 11 mins in - the first move, I reckon, in a strategy to rebrand him as a knowing post-ironic icon. His first joke, possibly the only one of the night, came six minutes later, thanking the Tories for showing him smiling in some of their hatchet-wielding posters; he did smile, over the 90 minutes, quite a lot more than the other two, often quite disarmingly.

So, how did they do? Well, all three very well, given the circs etc. Brown was as relaxed as I've ever seen him (I chose those words carefully). Clegg played to his considerable sixth-form debating society skills. And Cameron - well, he didn't come over as all that toffish really. Although, on body language, he was definitely the worst, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here - whereas Nick and Gordon could turn sideways to give the impression of listening when anyone else was speaking, David, being in the middle, couldn't really manage this trick without giving an impression of a failed hula hoop player. But staring straight stonefacedly ahead did come dangerously close to a Nixon moment once or twice.

On content: I thought I heard a few radically new proposals from Gordon, but I'm afraid I haven't had time to read any of the manifestos yet, and there certainly wasn't any clear blue water (cliche-watch: nobody's said that yet!). The NIC/JobTax thingie came up a couple of times - I really don't understand why Gordon doesn't nail this once and for all by proving, as he can, that it will make hardly any difference to employment levels and is a blatant political ploy by the Tories' business allies - but that aside, the fact is that there really isn't much space for game-changing political tub-thumping manoeuvre. Not until we get this economy stuff sorted out, anyway. And then we won't need it.

The key buzz-phrase, though, does seem to have been 'I agree with Nick'. Let's see how that plays next time.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Election trivia

Apparently, Gordon entered his manifesto launch on Monday to the strains of 'I'm a Soul Man'. (The laws of nature are obviously no impediment to British politics). Anyway, a Guardian journalist ascribed this song to 'Gordon's late cousin, James'. Not Marina Hyde at her best, but there's a wide open goal there which I aimed a letter at, to the effect that it was cheeky of Gordo to lay claim to this song when it so obviously belonged to Sam and Dave ...

The Guardian totally missed the point and published a po-faced factual correction the next day.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Election reality fever

The options being lock myself into a cupboard for three weeks or engage, I chose the latter. It's too late to retrofit last week's hot number - national insurance contributions, in case you'd remembered to forget - (although, why not, just a quick reminder: 100+ 'business leaders' (out of how many exactly?) say that we must vote Tory otherwise they'll sack us because they can't afford the extra £50 or whatever docked from their bonuses/share options - even though they pay most of their staff less than the £20K cut-off level).

Anyway, there'll be regular, if not frequent, rants (raves unlikely, trivia probable) here for the duration. To kick off, did anyone (I ask the entire universe outside this room) see Paxman interviewing Clegg this evening? (Probably not, it clashed with Corrie). Well, Nick cleaned up! By the end, Paxo was reduced to on-mike spluttering and coughing, while Clegg landed delicately targetted judo chops (sometimes not so delicate - 'what planet are you on, Jeremy' - you could almost hear the missing f-word before 'planet') to the soft spots of the rabid pub-bore rottweiller. Lesson for Jeremy - when you've been outwitted, duck and move. I do wonder, however, why the Beeb staged the interview in what appeared to be a very clean multi-storey car park.

More next time.

Monday, 5 April 2010

New caravan

The call came from Joseph last Monday. "The van's sited. Should be able to connect the electrics, probably most of the plumbing, and Phil's moving heaven and earth to get the gas up and running on Thursday, so ..." I said I'd be down Thursday. He said "what time?" I said late afternoon. I could hear the relief, an extra few hours.

I get there about 3.30.  Joseph and Peter are crawling around under the van on tarpaulins, in Pembrokeshire rain. The entrance to this spanking new caravan is caked in mud. Nearly done, says Henry, few snags, sorry we can't connect the soakaway drains for the bathroom but the kitchen's OK. And look, here's Phil the gasman, and his lad, also called Phil.

I nod and smile, knackered after a wet four hour drive, and start to unload the car, across 100 yards of sodden grass. Normally I'd drive across to the van, but it's obvious that the car would sink in to its ankles if I tried, and I really don't want to ask Joseph to go and get the tractor to tow me out. (This happened once.)

So I unload and survey my domain while Joseph and Peter and the Phils do their stuff for me, outside in the rain. Finally everything's installed and tested, and I should be unpacking the four huge boxes and six huge bags which we parked in the living room three weeks ago when Linda, Alan and I downloaded the contents of the old caravan. That was difficult - I had to be a bit hard, discard some memories and mistakes. I told Linda to throw away a collection of champagne corks, each dated. (She didn't. The last one, I see, was September 2007.)

Finally, I'm installed, to basic camping standards. And now I can pour a drink, sit and remind myself why I did this. It's six-thirty, Thursday evening. The rainclouds have cleared and the sun is setting behind the trees on Peggy's Hill to my right, and before me is the sweep of Carmarthen Bay, from Monkstone Point across Worms Head and the Gower to the distant glow of Swansea thirty miles away - all through the panoramic picture front window. I could never be bored here. Just keeping up with the changes to the surface of the sea takes all your time.

I'll be back down there in a couple of weeks, to finish installing the fridge and the TV and the stereo. I might never come back. Come and visit me.