Monday, May 24, 2010

Mutley the Dog

I'm wearing my rubber basque to write this piece because I think Mutley would have liked it that way. It chafes but that's OK, and the howling monkey on my shoulder is giving me a headache but that's OK too. I don't blame it for howling. Like the rest of the blogosphere it misses Mutley the Dog. It took me a while to process the information when Merry Weather left her email telling the world Rob had died, and that she was broken-hearted. I've got the message now though.

On his Alloted Span blog, Rob described himself as
"...a rather kind and open minded person".
He said: " is important to record ordinary everyday life as well as those of the rich and famous, I realise that I am not very well known - but one day I might be. I am an acute observer of human life - but I do realise I take everything a little too seriously..."
On the blog that brought him a cult following,Mutley the Dog's Day Out, he reflected on the town of "Bridport", its pies, the pints of Old Lesbian, and his new job as "Tourism Supremo attracting visitors to see the many sights, such as the gallows, the needle-park, the prison ship and the tyre fire as well as the mutants and radioactive super-beings" as well as his efforts to become an internet millionaire.

I considered this talented man my friend. But on what basis? This is cyberspace - not reality after all. But the relationships you make in cyberspace feel pretty real to me right now.

Mutley was my friend:
*because his comments about embarrassing packages of goods he'd sent me made me laugh.
*because his supportive comments - indeed any of his comments - made me feel better.
*because his writing made me envious.
*and his blogging made me wish I'd breasts like torpedoes.
Mutley was my friend:
*because we emailed each other at a point when he was down, then I was.
*because I tried to get him an agent and it didn't work out but should have.
*because I always hoped we'd meet.
*and because he helped me when trolls crawled out of cyberspace to monster me, and he barked at them and chased them away. He was that kind of guy.

And I'm sorry too that Merry Weather is broken-hearted because she's my cousin and I love her. No further explanation necessary.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fair Deals and the Fairer Sex

Haven't seen much point adding my tuppence-worth to the punditry explaining in excruciating detail that we have exactly no idea of what's going on, but for what it's worth, and speaking as a Labour voter, you have to be kidding guys if you think a Lib-Lab pact has moral authority. It doesn't. Suck it up. We lost. Let's elect another leader, regroup and win - for real - next time. (And if I was a Liberal Democrat, I would help a minority Conservative government gets its Queen's Speech through and leave it at that. Just say "No". "No" to seats in the Cabinet and "No" to a coalition. A coalition is not going to end well for the Liberal Democrats. They'd end up feeling dirty courtesy of the unavoidable spending cuts, and just hating themselves in the morning.)

Oh, and regarding the next leader of the Labour party, I heard Harriet Harman's interview on Newsnight when she said she had no plans to stand - in effect, reserving her position. I'm backing Harriet. I think David Miliband is a star performer and I wouldn't underestimate the charm of Andy Burnham, but I am outraged - I don't say that lightly - I mean outraged at the invisibility of women during the election. Around one in five MPs are women. Well, hurrah bloody hurrah. Are we supposed to draw comfort from that? I always presumed that time moves on and women are considered equal and it will all work out well in the longterm. How gender-stereotypically passive of me.

And it's not just the MPs, look at the media. The BBC's excellent Laura Kuennsberg and Sky's Kay Burley do their bit. There's a handful of well-known women lurking in the columns of the newspapers like Jackie Ashley, Mary Riddell and Polly Toynbee. But where is everybody else? And it's our own fault. The talented Gaby Hinsliff bailed out as a political editor because she wanted a life. At the point I could have gone for a political job, I put my family first and turned my back on the 60-hour-weeks. It is no better in the new media. Scan the recommended reads of pundits, there's only ever a tiny smattering of women's names. Why is that? Do we make the presumption we are not worth listening to, so we might as well not say anything? Are we too busy tatting to blog our reaction to the changing world around us? Surprise! Women are outnumbered anywhere it counts. Today's Guardian has six pictures of nice men - one of whom may be the next leader of the Labour party. Some of them are wearing suits. One has a briefcase. Two are in shirt sleeves.

Harriet Harman is obliged to stand. Cometh the hour, cometh the woman, Harriet. Now I'll have to join the Labour party.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I've seen the future and its name is David Miliband

When I studied for O-levels (I'm dating myself - shoot me, I'm middle-aged) we had to answer essay questions which began "Compare and contrast..." So, that's what I did today. I drove down to Durham university to compare and contrast David Miliband and Nick Clegg. Miliband was on in the morning and Clegg was the star turn of the afternoon. A coup for Durham on the last full day of campaigning. (The Tories offered Lord Bates. Durham turned him down. Presumably because no one knows who he is.)

My Durham visit was like travelling into the future in my own personal, oak-panelled time-machine. Miliband, Labour's Foreign Secretary (and love-interest of Hilary Clinton), is generally tipped as one of the frontrunners in any Labour leadership contest. Lord Peter Mandelson reportedly believes he should be anointed in the job rather than have to go through the ignominy of standing for election. Just hearing that, makes you want to hate Miliband - yet that's impossible because watching him makes you think what might have been had he been leader this time - more importantly, what might well be, next time. Perhaps it's a generational thing? Gordon looks old, and Miliband is such a good fit against David Cameron and Clegg.

The students didn't give him an easy ride, but he listened attentively and handled such issues as Afghanistan and torture and human rights abuses with conviction. He was impressive and persuasive and a great communicator. Above all, he was substantive.

Then there was Nick Clegg. Cor blimey. As the excitable audience at the Durham Union waited for him in the upstairs room (much as I imagine the apostles waited for the Holy Spirit to come among them), outside a 10-deep Clegg-manic crowd gathered with helium-filled balloons and orange diamond placards. There was even a woman in a bunny costume with a sign saying only Labour would preserve the ban on hunting. (They must have been fresh out of fox suits.) When Clegg arrived, and again when he left, there was cheering and jeering. (The jeering came from the Tory supporters by the way - I wouldn't want you to think the Liberal Democrats had gone off him.)

Perhaps the stage-managed nature of the event itself would have been less noticeable if I hadn't seen Miliband do his thing to a student audience in the self-same room just hours before. Nothing was left to chance. Miliband had stood with benches of students in front and to either side of him. The fourth side of the square was finished off by the time Clegg appeared with more rows of fresh-faced students. Also the audience was stacked with lines of Liberal Democrat students. You could tell they were Liberal Democrats because they wore tee-shirts advising us we could make a difference and they had beards. Even the girls. (That's not entirely true, but you get the picture.) This self-selecting audience meant the questions were, by and large much easier, which was a shame, and when they weren't that easy, (for instance on MPs' expenses and tactical voting), Clegg came across as tetchy. Also Miliband had spoken to the students, but from the angle I was sitting at, it looked very like Clegg was speaking directly into the camera again when he gave his opening address. (I could be wrong on that, but even so, his message about what to do if you were feeling let down by the other parties was patently not aimed at these first-time voters.)

I'll admit it. I was disappointed because I thought Clegg was very likeable during the debates and I was impressed by his straight talking. But his eve-of-poll hustle for votes in Durham was an exercise in style.

Having said that, he is cute. Gathered in a little conclave of university journalists and the regional press, I momentarily forgot to concentrate so impressed was I by his clean-cut features. I went off him again, however, when he wouldn't answer my question on whether he could work with David Miliband in a Lib-Lab pact. He preferred my question on how he felt to be the story of the campaign. (It's nothing to do with how he feels, he's just pleased the Liberal Democrats have brought the campaign to life because whatever happens the most important thing of all is that people are starting to develop trust and an enthusiasm for politics again. I believed him - really I did.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Day After Tomorrow

Is it me? But since the horror of Gordon Brown imploding in Rochdale and that last TV debate, I'm drumming my fingers on the kitchen table waiting for it all to be over. Suddenly, the day after tomorrow can't come soon enough because the politicians are beginning to annoy me. And there is no escape. I took the children shopping in Newcastle on Saturday and got caught up in a Liberal Democrat rally. That is to say we spent 10 minutes gathered around Grey's Monument waiting for Paddy Ashdown to finish his cup of tea and pret bar in Pret a Manger while he watched us wait, and 15 minutes yawning through his speech about the history of voting reform and how exciting everything is now Nick Clegg's virtues have been recognised. Courtesy of this election rally by the way, I can exclusively reveal that the Liberal Democrat candidate for Newcastle North, Ron Beadle, looks like a weeble in a suit. I contemplated going up to him and giving him a push to see if he rocked backwards and forwards but I didn't for fear Lord Ashdown felt obliged to kill me with his bare hands.

My "you're-beginning-to-annoy-me" list includes:
*The Camerons curled-up together waiting to be called to govern the country.(Sorry Sam, but yuk.)
*Cameron telling us that it's not as though he's complacent about the results, it's just he can't wait to get started. (Hubris, dear boy, hubris).
*Nick Clegg sitting down to tea with Colin Firth for a heartthrob-to-heartthob chit-chat. ("You're very beautiful." "No, you're very beautiful." "I honestly think you're more beautiful than me..." etc.)
*Politicians holding forth on tactical voting. (Do they think the voters are idiots that they have to be instructed where to put their cross?)
*Lord Mandelson. I don't know about anyone else but I've definitely heard enough from the spin-meister. (He's going to be around forever isn't he? Forever and ever?)

The only one who isn't annoying me is Brown who just makes me want to hide my head under a cushion, because he's a decent man (you may not know this but his father was a Scottish minister) and it's all gone so horribly wrong.