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Month: April 2011

Gary Neville hired by SkySports to fill the Andy Gray void

So SkySports have decided that don’t want to bring us good coverage of football any more. Ok I’m down with that. There can be no other explanation for this appointment. Gary Neville is woefully inept and is only a few months removed from playing football at the top flight level. I know he only played twice this season and should have seen red on both occasions only for the referee to bottle it but still, technically he played at the top-level this season.

SkySports have been doing a bit of a merry-go-round trying to fill the hole left when they hired Andy Gray with the likes of Ray Wilkins, Kevin Phillips, Big Sam and Cookie Coleman all sitting in the co-commentators chair. They seem to have not promoted Smudger Alan Smith who is a first-rate co-commentator and instead gone for a plethora of names hoping one of them would stick. This culminated with one of the worst co-commentary calls I’ve ever heard on Tuesday night with Ray Wilkins pathetically biased and woefully inept calling the Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur game. I think Ray is a first-rate pundit but clearly not good to be on the gantry.

The Gary Neville appointment had been rumoured for months and now it is official. I know there have been excellent people who have come straight off the sporting arena to become enjoyable and informative commentators. Martin Brundle is the clearest example of this but even Steve Cram, Jonathan Edwards, Andy Gray back in the day, Michael Atherton and the legend that in Richie Benaud all stopped playing and went straight into calling action live on air (although Richie did have a BBC course behind him) but still – they’ve all done a great job so why can’t Gary Neville?

The problem is his impartiality will always be in doubt. None of those guys listed above would ever have had their impartiality questioned to any significant degree even though some of them had horses in the events they were calling (Martin Brundle managed David Coulthard for example) but listening to them you wouldn’t have got that sense. Gary Neville will no doubt call a Manchester United game early in his career and the first controversial decision that goes against the team it will be interesting to see how he reacts. Also the first time he calls any player by their nickname it will grate and the rest of the watching world will call him unprofessional.

This screams of an ill thought-out decision by the new powers that be at SkySports. They want to rid themselves of the Keys & Gray era but by doing so they’ll have already pissed off 90% of their viewers and in turn everyone will be baying for Neville’s blood the moment he makes a mistake. They can laud him all they like but until he shows us he’s great – everyone will think he’s crap and not only that – biased crap at that.

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Nick Clegg and the media

After reading the excellent pice by Olly Grender inThe New Statesman entitled Clegg can’t walk on water and the interview Jemima Khan did with the Deputy Prime Minister in the same magazine it brings up some excellent points.

Whatever happens at this current juncture Nick Clegg will be vilified. If he found the cure to the common cold there would newspapers and media outlets who’d say that he was putting 1000s of people out of work who work in the cough syrup/throat lozenge/paracetamol etc… industry. This is certainly not ideal but that is the world we live in. If you listened to just the media and were unable to form your own opinion then you’d believe that he is the most hated person in world politics of all time. He is the person who made the decision to spurn Labour in the 2010 coalition talks to go with the Tories – the party who received more votes and MPs at the General Election. Coupled that with having to go back on his pledge regarding tuition fees then there are two very high-profile sets of people who dislike him.

The truth is that Labour will attack anyone who dares disagree with them. They showed during the talks to form a potential coalition that they wanted the Lib Dems to prop them up and not be in a proper coalition. They basically wanted a Labour government with Lib Dem votes. If Labour wanted a Labour government then quite simply they should have won more seats at the General Election. They didn’t and therefore the country showed they didn’t want a Labour government. They claim that the Lib Dems are now Tory stooges and they prop up a Tory government but that is what they wanted for themselves. It would have been fine that way round but it wasn’t to be.

Also the mainstream media who are pro-Tory will be anti-Lib Dem because they want to ensure that in the future there is no coalition and a full-on Tory government. The majority of the written media are led by editors who still live in a two-party world but I’m afraid that world is not where this country lives anymore. 34% of votes in 2010 went for parties other than the two main parties. As younger people takeover as editors of newspapers then the media will adapt but at this current juncture the dinosaurs are scared and hate the idea that the political world isn’t where it was. A 3rd and potentially more parties having policy influence will make it much harder to lobby and bend the laws for their own greasy needs.

The media will change. It will have to change but the mainstream media probably has a decade or two left in them to kick the Lib Dems and other parties around. So the future is here. The future is right here on the worldwide interweb. Olly makes a terrific point that social media and the blogosphere are still growing and will continue to do so. Young people these days are less inclined to vote for the same party through loyalty for life and are ready to be wooed by whatever the parties say. This means that MPs and prospective MPs will have to listen more to what their constituents think. This is surely a good thing.

These days any Tom, Dick or Harry (or Neil) can set up a blog or a twitter account and have 100s of people read what they say. This means there is plenty of opinion out there and people are willing to read what the average person thinks and not just political commentators in the rags and on the tellybox. The more people write and in turn read the more engaged the whole process gets.

In the piece by Jemima Khan, Nick Clegg shows a more human side to him. The way the mainstream media portrays Clegg he is a ruthless hard-headed man who takes no guff and has his head down doing whatever it takes to stay in power and look important. The reality though is vastly different. He is a man with a loving wife and three young children that clearly mean the world to him. He tries to pick them up two or three days a week from school and keep them living as normal a life as possible. Some Labour activists on twitter this lunchtime were attacking Clegg for his son using the word ‘Papa’ instead od dad and quite simply I shake my head at those kind of comments. His kids speak both Spanish and English and that is how it should be. Being children of parents from different background it is only right they learn both languages and are brought up knowing both parts of their heritage. Anyone who disagrees with that is someone who needs help.

So as for Clegg’s position in the media he should just keep his head down and work hard. Whatever the media says over the next 42 months or so doesn’t really matter because if three months out from the next General Election he can point to everything he has done in government then people will be able to make up their own minds.

The people of this great country will never ever again be swayed solely by what a newspaper says. Never again will The Sun be able to say ‘it was us who won it’ and never again will people vote simply because of what a newspaper says. Newspapers will still have influence but as much as they hate it – that influence is diminishing and will continue to do so. People aren’t thick and in this multimedia age it is far easier to read both sides of a story. The future for Nick Clegg and the party is deeply uncertain but one thing they need not worry about is what the mainstream media is saying today because today their opinion doesn’t count for much and come the next General Election their opinion will count for even less.

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My Postal Card came through this morning. Two decisions – Yes to AV and should I waste a vote on the Lib Dems?

This has nothing to do with my broad support for the Lib Dems but in the local elections the Lib Dems quite simply cannot win here. I live in what is called on wikipedia, ‘an affluent area within the Borough of Southend-on-Sea in Essex, England, situated on the Thames Estuary.’ otherwise known as Thorpe Bay. I always call it ‘the posh part of Southend’ when describing it to people. It isn’t really posh but it is nice and quiet and it situated by the River Thames meeting the North Sea. It isn’t posh enough for its own M&S – much to my chargrin.

Anyway the point is this is not Lib Dem territory. The Lib Dems are stronger in Southend West is areas like Leigh, Belfairs, Prittlewell, Blenheim Park and the like but in Southend East they are fighting for fourth with the BNP and UKIP. The Tories fight with a plethora of Independents at council level and it is a a big fight. Labour are a distant third but won’t be challenged by the Lib Dems for that bronze medal. So in essence the person I would most likely want to vote for is a completely wasted vote under the current system and this is the exact reason we should be voting Yes to AV.

Under AV we can still vote for who we want to vote for but if they don’t win – like in many areas of the country – you know the person you want to win quite simply cannot – then you can feel be a real part of the election process by identifying the other candidates and listening to what they have to say. By doing this we can form a much more educated decision on who we are voting for and then rank them accordingly on an AV ballot. AV will enhance our understanding of politics, policies and the people who we are voting for. Under the current system most people act out of long-standing loyalty to one party and will vote for them and that is that.

Under AV it opens up the debate and even those loyal to one party for generations can still vote for that party but also vote for other policies and people and cynically can vote against the people they really do not like with much more fervour. AV will allow tactical voting still but you will not have to stop supporting the party you so desire. I used to live in the south in staunch Tory heartlands and their only opposition were the Lib Dems. I knew many who were deep down Labour who just voted Lib Dem because it was the only way to beat the Tories. Under AV these people could vote Labour and then put the Lib Dems as second preference. Thus having the best of both worlds.

As for the absolute tripe Baroness Warsi is spouting about under AV up to 35 seats could go to the minorities. Anyone who believes that needs to stop for a second and just have a think. Most people do not support the BNP is any way shape or form. This includes the vast majority from all other parties. So is it likely in any way that they’ll gain enough second preferences to get through the 50% mark? The answer is quite obvious no. The decision by the Tory leader of the No to AV campaign to scaremonger and belittle the electorate is quite simply deplorable. Why can’t we just have honest politics about this?

If you want more choice and a fairer system where votes are weighted more equally throughout the country then vote yes. If you like things the way they are and don’t mind the fact that many MPs have a job for life then vote no. Simples as that damned meerkat would say. AV will not cost £250million to install. That is more pathetic scare-mongering from people scared of opening up politics to the people. Under FPTP the status-quo will always remain but AV throws open new opportunities and a turnover of MPs with people having far more chance of voting out MPs who are doing a poor job for their constituents. The fact the head of the No to AV campaign is an unelected official says a lot.

So I am firmly in the Yes to AV camp due to it giving the electorate far more choice and allows the voters to listen to every party and candidate with far more interest than usual. MPs will have to liaise with their constituents far more and that can only be a good thing. It won’t just be a case of ‘I’ve always voted for x party so will again or just not vote as a protest,’ which it has been for a large proportion of the British electorate. it will be more of a ‘I’ll vote for x party out of loyalty but also listen to the other parties to determine who should get my second preference’.

As an aside looking at the local election results in this area – well in the west part of Southend – when David Amess finally steps down as a local MP then the Lib Dems have a legit chance to take the seat. Amess has been a local MP for eons and that is under the current system pretty much always a good thing. Under AV it might not be as easy but even so when the Tories have to put up a fresh name to fight the Lib Dems in Southend West then I firmly believe that they will have a genuine fight on their hands and when that days comes – whoever stands for the Lib Dems will have my number.

As for who I’ll vote for in the local elections – a pointless Lib Dem vote for a vote for the seemingly popular independent. That is still up in the air. The independent has popped a leaflet through my door. No-one else has as yet…

PS: One day I’ll proof-read my blogs. One day…

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