2010 Dick of the Year: Wayne Rooney

December 31, 2010

The very last post of 2010 *sobs* I wrote this for Bright Green Scotland; it’s my nomination for 2010’s Dick of the Year. Enjoy!

I’m not nominating Wayne Rooney because of his woeful World Cup performances. As Bill Bailey has observed, the English crave disappointment, so Rooney was only giving the public what they want. The nomination is also unconnected to the revelations that he slept with a prostitute whilst his wife was pregnant.

In October Rooney said he wanted to leave Manchester United because they did not “match his ambitions”. Two days later he performed a Clegg-esque u-turn, and signed a five-year contract. The consensus was that Rooney had been “posturing” to receive an improved contract offer, taking his weekly wages from £90,000 to an eye-watering £250,000 a week.

The coalition insists that “we are all in this together”.  The salaries of Rooney and his ilk make a mockery of that claim. They are unjustifiable given that the impending cuts that will affect the poorest most, and that inequality causes corrosive social problems.

Even after tax, Rooney earns five times more in a week than the average annual salary, and will earn more in 2011 than the average person earns in a lifetime. Aditya Chakrabortty argued for the introduction of a “Rooney tax“. If this happens, maybe Wayne Rooney won’t be Dick of the Year 2011. 

Paperback Rioter’s Review of 2010

December 29, 2010

This is the seemingly obligatory end-of-year roundup. Like this blog, this review does not intend to be comprehensive or systematic, and instead hopes to be personal and idiosyncratic. With that in mind, let’s roll:

Worst moment of 2010: After delivering leaflets and door-knocking until 9.30pm on election night for Elwyn Watkins, and then staying up until 2pm waiting for the result to come in, finding out that Phil Woolas had been elected MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth by 103 votes.

Best moment of 2010: Finding out that Phil Woolas had lost his appeal, and was indeed kicked out of Parliament and barred from standing as an MP for three years.

Subject I have been unhealthily obsessed with this year: Go on, take a flying guess…

Other highlights of my year:
– My two weeks shadowing at a primary school, which I absolutely loved, and I realised that primary teaching was what I wanted to do.
– Finding out that some people actually like what I write on this blog.
– Brad Haddin getting out to make Australia 77-7 in the last Ashes match.
– I also attended my first wedding (congratulations, Becky and Nick!).

I could list many more, but that would get a bit dull for you. Basically, in 2010 I had a great time.

Quote of the year: “Yes we can. But…”  – Barack Obama on the Daily Show.

Ironic fact of the year: The Daily Telegraph and the rest of the right-wing press conducted a desperate smear campaign against Nick Clegg in the last week of the election campaign. Who would have thought that the best way to make him unelectable and discredited was to appoint him Deputy Prime Minister?

My favourite news clip of 2010: The Daily Show coverage of the BP oil spill, back in the days when you thought the leaking would never stop.

The fact that proved Test cricket is still the shizzle in 2010: I had completely forgotten that England won the World T20 cup until Aatif talked about it on Test Match Sofa yesterday.

The biggest Pyrrhic Defeat of 2010: England not being given the rights to host the 2018 World Cup. The build up to this year’s was bad enough as it is. Then when England had not been given hosting rights, the Daily Mail blamed it on the fact that our promotional video had lots of black people in it. All the talk of “passion” and the soft-core xenaphobia exhibited by some England fans after the vote was nauseating as well.

Sobering sporting fact of 2010: I have been punished for my sins in a past life by being made an Oldham Athletic fan in this one. Earlier this year our two owners, who have bankrolled the club since saving us from bankruptcy six years ago, have said they are unable to continue funding the club. Oldham’s annual turnover is less than the amount that Manchester United pay Rio Ferdinand. A striking example of the poisonous inequality affecting English football (and society) at the moment.

My five best discoveries of 2010:

1) Test Match Sofa
I cannot believe that it was only this summer I discovered this online cricket commentary station. I’ve written about them before, so don’t need to drone on about them here. Thanks for keeping me company while I wrote my thesis, chaps.

2) The Shield
I spent most of the first half of 2010 watching this TV series with my housemate John. (John, if you’re reading this, please come back! Question Time isn’t the same without you!) John glibly summarised it as “The Wire for Republicans”, and that isn’t too far off the mark. It’s a police procedural that’s absorbing, entertaining and has some damned good acting. Worth buying with your Christmas money.

3) Twitter
I set up my @goldenstrawb Twitter account last year, but only really started tweeting this year. Since then it’s helped me make some new friends, brought my attention to some very impressive blogs, and kept my sanity during Question Time (just about) by being able to live-tweet it. What’s not to love?

4) Tony Judt
I sadly only found out about Tony Judt and his work after the publicity that surrounded his tragically early death in August. I’ve been making up for lost time since then: I’ve read Ill Fares the Land and The Memory Chalet, read some of Reappraisals, and bought (but yet to read) Postwar. He is a wonderful historian and political thinker, and shall be sorely missed.

5) Tom Lehrer
It was my very dear friend Ed who introduced me to Tom Lehrer, courtesy of this song. I can’t believe I’d lived without his sense of humour for so long.

Album of the 2010: Obviously this is Elvis Costello with National Ransom. Another very impressive album, and his most interesting since The Delivery Man in 2004. Listen to the title track, be impressed, buy the album. Or listen to it on Spotify.

Song of the Year: John Hiatt, The Open Road. I found that Hiatt’s latest album as a whole was a little bit “meh”, mainly because it was all overshadowed by this opening track, one of the best songs I’ve heard in years. 

My favourite Paperback Rioter post of 2010: The Hunt for Raoul Moat did not take place. I’m quite proud of this one.

My favourite blog post of 2010: Probably Laurie Penny’s gonzo-style piece on the Millbank Riots.

My favourite piece of writing of 2010: Tony Judt’s Ill Fares the Land. I found it incredibly inspiring, especially given the circumstances in which it was written. Buy the book. Just buy it.

Five reasons to be cheerful for 2011:

1) There’s a referendum on the voting system! And you should all vote Yes to AV, as I shall be explaining on this blog in tedious detail. If you don’t, expect me to come round to your house and give you a stern talking-to.

2) The student protests: It’s nice to see some political action rather than political apathy. Keeping it non-violent, and gaining support from outside the student movement, is key for the next year.

3) The implosion of the BNP in the May elections: Obviously the rise of the EDL is incredibly worrying. But let’s just be happy that there was no massive increase in vote for the BNP as some doom-mongers had thought there would be.

4) ENGLAND HAVE RETAINED THE ASHES! We’ll hold the urn until at least 2013. In your face, Australia.

5) The detention of child asylum-seekers will end during 2011: I don’t like a great deal of what this coalition government is doing, but we might as well celebrate the good stuff they do before the cuts hit/while it lasts.

If this is insufficient optimism for you, then go and read the Independent’s 21 reasons to be cheerful.

Two inspiring quotations for 2011: both by Bertrand Russell on the subject of happiness:

The secret to happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible.


The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.

Have a great New Year.

Happy Christmas Everyone!

December 24, 2010

There’ll be an intermission on here for a bit, because I think we all need a break from politics for a few days. (I certainly do!)

Have a fantastic Christmas, and eat, drink and be merry.


(This marvellous picture comes from here.)

A little bit of made-up swearing

December 24, 2010

Having been absent from this blog for some time, I had intended to take the opportunity provided by the Christmas holiday to knock out several posts.

However, my parents have decided that the present weather is not completely incompatible with a 300 mile road journey to see family, so it looks like my views on the Lib Dems’ indiscretions shall have to wait until after the weekend.

As an entree to that I’ll reveal that I have become a little bit obsessed with the YouGov daily polls.

Watching the Liberal Democrats support flatline in single figures and the plunging Government approval ratings force the pollster to redraw the axes of its graph has engendered a certain guilty pleasure.

It was while poking around the YouGov site that I discovered this extraordinary poll on swearing on the television.

1539 people were given a list of swear words and asked whether they should be allowed on the television at any time, only certain times, or never at all. This elicited some surprising results.

Hearteningly, racial epithets were ranked up there with the dreaded c-word as the most highly offensive. Oddly, “wanker” is apparently, considered more offensive than “shit” by the British public, with 23% saying that it should be banned outright compared with 9%.

To my surprise I discovered that the authors of the poll had slipped in a word I had never heard of: “pimhole.”

Apparently, some 25% of respondents had not heard of it either, as they said that they didn’t know whether it should be permitted or not, higher than any other word. 23%, however, thought it was so offensive that it should be banned completely, placing it safely in the major league of swear words.

Imagine my surprise when I googled it to discover that it originated in an old Fry and Laurie sketch:

Merry Christmas!

Loose Cannons

December 23, 2010

A note of warning: one of the pictures on this article isn’t nice. If you’re a bit squeamish, then be prepared to scroll past it rather quickly.

At the moment it’s hard to know for certain whether “Britain’s most liberal government ever” (© Nick Clegg) will allow police to use water cannon on protesters. Home Secretary Theresa May at first said that she would not intervene to stop police from using them, then appeared to rule the prospect out.

However, police officers appear to still be in favour of using water cannons. A recent opinion poll found that 69% supported their use against protesters, as against 23% who thought it unacceptable.

Most on the left are rightly shocked that a government could even consider such tactics against peaceful protesters. There are a number of issues with using water cannons.

Firstly, the fact that soaking people in water and then kettling them – forcing them to stand in the freezing cold for hours at a time, without letting people in and out – is obviously detrimental to the health of protestors. Imagine if this happened in the freezing temperatures we have at the moment. People could easily catch pneumonia.

There’s also the fact that if you are hit by a water cannon directly in the face, the consequences can be absolutely horrific. Via The Third Estate I came across this:

(and here comes the picture)

The picture of Wagner being helped away from the melee, his eyes swollen shut and bleeding, came to symbolise what critics claim was a heavy-handed approach by police trying to break up a demonstration against the controversial revamp of Stuttgart’s main train station.

Wagner’s doctor said the patient was currently blind and might never have his sight fully restored.

On Wednesday, news magazine Stern reported on its website that Wagner, a retired engineer had been trying to help some young people who were caught in the stream of water.

In an interview to be published on Thursday, Wagner told the magazine he had raised his arms and waved at police to indicate to them they should stop. But he was hit directly in the face with such force that he lost consciousness.

“It felt like the punch of a giant boxer,” Wagner said.

Given all this, using water cannon can already be seen as an erosion of our right to protest peacefully.

However, I think there is another, more sinister, reason why water cannon should not be used, which is not really being discussed.

At most police protests over the past couple of years, some of their more contemptible tactics have only come to the public’s attention because they have been captured on cameras, or mobile phones, belonging to ordinary people.

Take, for instance, the footage of Ian Tomlinson being struck to the floor by a police officer, the camera phone footage of police horses charging peaceful demonstrators, students in a kettle being crushed by police described by a Conservative member of the Greater London Authority as a “ghastly” incident, or pictures of a disabled journalist being pulled out of his wheelchair by police officers:

If police had used water cannon on protestors, this could damage electronic recording equipment belonging to the protestors. That makes it less likely, presumably, that these images and videos would have survived.

And that makes me very scared indeed.

First thoughts on Cablegate (type 2)

December 22, 2010

What on earth did Vince Cable think he was doing? Is that how he talks to all his constituents? As far as he knew, they were two mothers asking questions about child benefit. Perhaps all Cable’s constituency meetings take a decidedly queer turn:

Random constituent of Vince Cable: I’ve come to see you about my neighbour’s garden hedge. It’s grown to a massive height, it’s invading my garden, and it’s blocking light to my prize rhododendrons…

Vince Cable: That’s very interesting. It’s a battle between you and your neighbour isn’t it? But is this the isue you really want to fight over? I’m having to pick my fights in this coalition. Did I mention I’m going to war with Rupert Murdoch….

And so it goes.

The circumstances of this conversation being leaked are interesting, to say the least. Michael White reckons it might have broken parliamentary privilege. I’m not sure on this, and even if it is a breach, it was still massively indiscreet of Cable to be mentioning a “war on Murdoch” to his constituents.

There are lots of sorry things about this issue that need to be addressed; not least Labour’s response, who rather than try and show some opposition to Murdoch have gone in for a spot of Lib Dem bashing instead.

The worst thing now is that Jeremy Hunt is now in charge of the Media and Communcations Portfolio. He seems to think that the BBC has a left wing bias.

The reason Hunt gives for the left-wing slant of the BBC is because more people at the Corporation voted Labour and Lib Dem then did Tory at the last election. Then again, so did most of the country, so not quite sure how he’s going to make political capital out of that.

Thank you Vince and your great big gob. Was it too much to ask that you KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT and then veto the BSkyB takeover? Obviously it was. You daft ‘apeth.

Ed Miliband has got it wrong. He should be calling this coalition a Murdoch-led government.

Fantastic Headlines 17, 18 and 19

December 21, 2010

Three more delectable headlines for you, some courtesy of two amazing and talented friends of the blog.

The first, from Redhead Fashionista, is from a piece of painstaking investigative journalism from the Daily Mail:

Meet the only woman on earth who doesn’t think Lembit Opik is a total creep

I mentioned on twitter that someone had got to this blog by searching for “nice and naugty (sic) Nazi”. Cue unease and slight nausea. In response I was made aware of this article from iFlicks, which poses one of the more interesting rhetorical questions:

Unerotic Nazis? Has Max Mosley never been to the cinema?

Finally there is this beauty. Given my academic interest in saints’ cults and relics I probably ought to give this issue more of a look than a laugh at the headline. For now, though, let’s just gaze in awe at this giant of a headline:

Qur’an etched in Saddam Hussein’s blood poses dilemma for Iraq leaders

If you have any fantastic headlines, please let me know in the comments.

Agony Uncle (4)

December 21, 2010

To give me some time to write all the half-formed blog posts in my “drafts” section, I’m going to upload this final Agony Uncle article. You can date the article very easily, because joking about Gordon Brown’s smile was still considered cutting political satire. I also compare long-distance relationships to bowling the perfect leg-break. Enjoy!

‘I just started dating this guy a few weeks ago. We are both final years and will be moving away from Birmingham after the end of exams. I want to know whether we will still continue our relationship after we finish university but don’t know how to breach the subject. What should I do?’

Well, congratulations on starting a relationship so soon before your finals. You obviously have the unfortunate timing of a Gordon Brown smile.

It’s a blessing in a way – it’s nice to have a sympathetic ear during exams. Everyone who does their finals has a breakdown of some sort, whether it’s just pre-exam jitters or a full-blown stressathon when your brain turns into mushy peas. My then-girlfriend was a rock during my finals, and that is something I will be forever grateful for.

There are a couple of months before you leave Birmingham to develop the relationship and see where you should take it. Do not mention the subject before exams – both of you will have enough on your minds without worrying about things like that.

If your boyfriend does not want a long-distance relationship, for whatever reason, that suggests he has some sort of commitment problem, and this would only manifest itself in other ways outside the distance problem. Yes, long-distance is hard. But there are lots of difficult but important, worthy activities. Revision. Bowling the perfect leg-break. Finding a cure for swine flu. And so on. Stick with it – it may only be for a short while.

Long-distance relationships don’t break down because of the distance, but because of other underlying problems. If your personalities clash and it turns out that you are unsuitable to be together in a relationship, the long-distance may exacerbate these problems, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there in the first place.

So put the subject forward at a later stage in your relationship when both of you will have a better idea of whether you want to continue with it. Long-distance can be crap, but can work. I know of more successes than failures amongst friends in this department. So I wish you the very best of luck!

Agony Uncle (3)

December 19, 2010

The latest release from my archives. It’s short but sweet. Enjoy!

A friend of mine from home is in first year at another university and is having trouble settling in. I am in the middle of deadline period, but I feel I should do something to help. Should I intervene, and if so, what should I say?

Well, kudos for wanting to go and also for being a good friend. This period is a stressful time generally. Not as bad as exams, when you hear people in the library saying, “I don’t understand; I’ve taken four Pro-Plus and I’m still tired”. But it’s stressful nonetheless. You should see your friend, mainly because it may get them in the habit of socialising and interacting with people again. Once you’ve done that, you can talk to your friend about their problem.

What’s the trouble settling in? It surely cannot be pressure of work. I like to think of myself as a good student, but really, first year is not the time to stress out on work. Leave the working until it actually counts for your degree mark.

Alternatively, are they being shunned by housemates and coursemates? With problematic housemates, as with any problem, there should not be any issues that a nice cup of tea and packet of digestives couldn’t fix. If the problem is more serious than this then there are avenues of complaint that you can turn to. If one of your friend’s housemates has anger management issues, university authorities should be notified.

Anyone I know at university who had problems making friends (I don’t know many; but by definition you don’t know many reclusive loners) just did not socialise enough. That doesn’t mean going to Broad Street, drinking your body weight in WKD and then sleeping with a stranger. It just means going to societies that might interest you, or talking to the person you end up sitting next to in lectures; little things like that. There will be people at your friend’s university who will make great friends for them. It’s just a case of finding them.

This coalition government is a sinister story of revenge

December 15, 2010

Imagine you’re David Cameron for a minute.

I’m sorry to have put that thought into your head. Just stop screaming and try and imagine you’re the Tory leader on May 5th, this year. What the hell would be going through your mind?

You were leader of the Opposition against a party that was morally, intellectually and financially bankrupt. They were led by a leader whom most of the country despised, and the rest grudgingly admitted was just not up to the job. Your party has been 10-15 points ahead in the opinion polls for about 18 months before the election.

Even with a massive swing needed for an overall majority in the Commons, attaining that majority still seemed possible. You would become Prime Minister on a handsome majority, vindicating your decision to tack to the centre ground during your leadership, and go down in history as an electoral genius.

Just to make sure of your victory, you get the leaders of the other main parties to take part in a series of TV debates. You might not have many policies, but the fact that you’re a much better communicator than the Prime Minister should come across easily.

Then it all goes wrong!

There was only one major flaw. You’d forgotten that a third man would have to be part of the TV debates. You didn’t even know his name until he introduced himself as “Nick” before the start of the first one. Then the cheeky bugger only goes and wins the debate, by looking at the camera and addressing questioners by their name.

Suddenly there’s a Lib Dem surge in the polls, your momentum vanishes, and you spend the final 48 hours of the campaign touring Britain non-stop to try and get that elusive majority that looked so certain at the start of the campaign, but to no avail.

There’s a hung Parliament: you haven’t won the election. You are miserable, but then a plan begins to form in your mind.

Obviously you must take your revenge on the upstart Clegg, but you know your political history. Sulking and being bitter won’t do any good, and will just make you look foolish (c.f. Ted Heath, Gordon Brown). Instead, you devise an even more cunning strategy. You will kill Clegg with kindness; drown him in candy floss.

First, you make a full, comprehensive offer to the Liberal Democrats, knowing they have little choice but to join you in a coalition.

Then you have Clegg where you want him, and you can systematically start making him the most hated, most ridiculous man in Britain.

For instance, when he says that this will be the greenest government in Britain’s history, you announce a plan to sell off Britain’s forests, raise train fares by 10% and water down emissions standards for coal power stations.

When he says that Britons will be “more liberal” at the end of this government’s term of office in 2015, you revive plans to spy on everyone’s e-mails and text messages, whilst also retaining control orders.

Then you find out that Clegg signed a pledge before the election to vote against any rise in university fees:

So you immediately annouce plans to triple them. Then you say to Clegg that it’s fine for him to abstain against the rise if he likes, knowing that if he does then he will be hated by everyone.

Then when Clegg says he is agonising with his conscience about the cuts, everyone unanimously replies that he can’t have a conscience. (note: except Peter Oborne, but you can deal with him later).

Clegg is now being pilloried by everyone. You have had your revenge. And it feels so, so sweet.


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