Friday, 30 April 2010

The election – View from America

There’s no harm in laughing at ourselves, nor at our politicians.

On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart gave a hilarious overview of the current scandal rocking the campaign for Britain's next prime minister and turned something mundane into something enthralling. See the 4 minute video here.

Election things

During several weeks of decorating and d-i-y I’ve done a lot of listening to the radio, and it has all been about the election. I know some people shout at the tv: I’m afraid I’ve become a groaner-at-the-radio. In fact there has been a real shortage of speech programmes on any topics other than politics. On several occasions I’ve switched it off and listened instead to podcasts.

It became too tedious in the first official week of the campaign when we got onto where the leaders wives were today, and to the colour of the leader’s ties. Even the Guardian has had four journalists writing on the fashion stakes of this election.

I watched with enthusiasm the first two tv leadership debates, but what a shame that the broadcasters, who worked so hard to get the debates agreed, really descended into ‘who won who lost’. They should surely have been used as an important opportunity to look at the manifestos, and challenge the leaders on policies.

My shouting-at-the-telly moment came straight after the second debate when Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark asked some pundit “….as a tv event, how was it….and lets look now at the body language of the leaders….”

Meanwhile, out in the real world, I’ve been struck by the absence of campaigners, canvassers, door knockers, and particularly roadside posters, in shops and in houses. There is just one large Labour poster visible on 1 mile of Kingsland Road; apart from that I haven’t seen any others, of any hue.

I thought it might be that in my constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch, with Labour having a 10,000 majority in 2005, the other parties decided not to seriously contest it. Then I looked more closely at my junk mail and other stuff. On May 6 we are invited to vote in 3 elections: general election, local election, and an election for the mayor of Hackney.

This translates into a choice of 28 candidates to choose from, representing a rich collection of interests. Among them are: Conservative Party, Christian Party, Communist Party of Britain, Communist League, Green Party, Independent, Liberal Party, Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrats-For A Greener Britain, Labour Party,

Direct Democracy (Communist) Party, UK Independence Party, Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”. No Monster Raving Loony Party….shame.

Campaign literature that has come through my door

One much discussed topic in the campaign has been Voting Reform. If you are interested in this and don’t know the difference between Proportional Representation, First past the Post, Single Transferable Vote, Alternative Vote and so on there are definitions here.

Travel Insurers

Following the volcanic ash-flying problems, Patrick Collinson wrote what I thought was a good piece in Money Guardian about the insurance industry’s attempts to avoid paying out. Importantly, he credited those companies that had performed well and honestly, and stood by their customers. It's rare to see the good firms praised in the press, so well done HSBC, First Direct and M&S Money. You can see the full article here.

Wizard wanted

At the National Theatre last night to see Women Beware Women (or women prefer women as the director said she called it in rehearsals). Three different mobile phones rang during the first act… silly, and so distracting, to both audience and performers. Why is it that people can’t think to turn them off before the play starts? I wonder if there isn’t some technology that can be used to ‘blanket’ a theatre auditorium or concert hall with something that removes the ‘phone signal for the duration of the play. Come on you technical wizards: let’s have some simple inexpensive device that theatres can install to let us all enjoy their performances without this kind of interruption.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

East London Line

My post of 26 February indicated a likely June opening for the new East London Line. Local press coverage more recently has indicated May 23rd. Walking past the new Dalston station last week, and seeing the barriers open, I asked at the ticket office and got a rather hesitant “May 23rd…but it might be a few days earlier…”

I couldn’t tie them down any more exactly on when, nor as to why the hesitation.

The answer came today: Boris Johnson opened the line this morning, and immediately caused a political rumpus, or as The Times called it: Electioneering row as Boris Johnson opens East London Line at ceremony. Read it here.

(Don’t doubt that he knew what he was doing).

White Van Man

What you call your business can say quite a lot about your approach. This guy looks like he might actually take care of your possessions.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Apologies for the lack of posts: I'm busy decorating and refurbishing my flat.

Normal service will be resumed soon. In the meantime you can be thankful I'm not writing about the election campaign: there is already too much of it on the radio and in the press.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


The email below appeared in my inbox last night. How nice of that lovely Mr Darling to offer me a refund of £550, especially as I’m spending money just now redecorating my flat: that will come in very handy.

But be careful JD: I wrote here some time ago about phantom withdrawals from my bank account. This is a variation on the same scam and it’s known as phishing. If I were to 'click to continue' it will either infect my computer, or will seek details of my bank accounts, pin codes and so on. A fuller explanation is here.

Revenue and Customs give this advice: HMRC will never send notifications of a tax rebate by email, or ask you to disclose personal or payment information by email. You should never disclose your personal and/or payment information in reply to an email that may look like it's from HMRC, you may well be revealing your details to a fraudulent website.

Be warned: don’t be tempted, and don’t click the link.