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!

How life imitates Yes, Minister (2)

August 17, 2010

Do you remember the Yes, Minister episode where there is a brand-new hospital with over five hundred administrative staff and no patients?

I had that mind when I saw this story:

The Welsh assembly is speeding up school closure consultations after public frustration over £110,000 committed to a primary which will have no pupils when term starts next month.

It seems that, as Basil Fawlty might have said, “It’s the law of Wales! Nothing to do with me!”

I somehow don’t think there will be Cuban refugees coming to stay at the school anytime soon, though.

Some TV recommendations

August 8, 2010

First, if you haven’t watched Sherlock. Do so, now. (well, at the end of reading this, obviously). Benedict Cumberbatch auditions for the part of Doctor Who, and succeeds amazingly.

A thought-provoking documentary was Our Drugs War, shown on Channel 4. I do intend to blog on it, but not before I’ve watched all of them. For now, watch the first episode and be sure to watch the second, which is on tomorrow.

Have a good week, and may your God go with you.

How life imitates Yes, Minister

August 4, 2010

You might have noticed by now that I have a slight obsession with Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. If I ruled the world (or, less ambitiously, if I controlled the curriculum) I would have pupils watch it in schools, so it could be a “crash-course” in British politics and how government works.

After highlighting how James Hacker must be the inspiration behind Zac Goldsmith’s recent interview, I recently saw something else that struck me with its similarities to Yes, Minister. (Of course, this whole government has been an eleven-week run of The Economy Drive from the show’s first series.) Via this Julian Glover article:

On the Treasury website there is a little list of ideas for cuts, picked from 60,000 sent in by public workers. The second suggestion is that “office stationery orders should be centralised”. Poor things. A few discount staples won’t save them.

Which reminded me of a scene in A Question of Loyalty, where Hacker is called before the select committee to explain various examples of government waste. Betty Oldham MP brandishes a book by a former civil servant who complains that all orders of stationary have to be placed centrally, with Hacker’s Ministry for Administrative Affairs. Then a conversation like this ensues (I’m quoting from memory here):

Hacker: That seems quite sensible. There can be great savings to be made with bulk ordering.

Oldham: He then goes on to demonstrate that it would be four times cheaper for civil servants to simply buy what they wanted from the local stationary shop.

I’ve no idea whether central ordering of staples will help cut the deficit or not, but as Glover indicates, it feels a bit like trying to put out an inferno by peeing on it.

The Lib Dems in government (part 1.5)

August 1, 2010

I spent tonight catching up on some television. Nick Robinson’s “Five Days that Changed Britain” is an enjoyable, breezy tour through the coalition negotiations. I’m not sure it tells us anything we didn’t know already; for me it confirmed the views I put forward here.

Given the unattractiveness of the other options, I don’t think Clegg had any choice but to enter coalition with the Conservatives. Anyone who keeps bleating that the Lib Dems entered the coalition seems to ignore this simple point: what else would you have done in Clegg’s position? None of them have a convincing answer.

I must admit, I had no idea how cack-handed Labour’s coalition arrangements were. Here’s my transcript, from about 22 minutes in:

Nick Robinson: The Lib Dems must have seen an extraordinary contrast. The Tories had presented them with a detailed policy document with 11 separate policy positions with a series of compromises, whereas the Labour Party came in with not very much.

Peter Mandelson: Well, they may have been prepared for the possibility of a hung Parliament and coalition, which we were certainly not prepared for.

Sometimes you have to love Mandelson’s sliminess. He is obviously trying to imply that, “we didn’t prepare for a hung Parliament because we were confident of winning the election”.  In actual fact, as he later “revealed” in his memoirs, they may not have prepared for an entirely different reason.

Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, proposed at a cabinet meeting last October that the party should fight the election around the three Fs of Future, Family, and Fairness.

Darling suggested the campaign should be dubbed “fucked”, Alexander proposed “futile”, and Mandelson opted for “finished”.

Ed Balls, part of the negotiating team, also confirmed that Labour prepared nothing in advance, had no negotiating document and didn’t even know who would be in the room with him. These facts just confirm what I’ve been driving at since the coalition was formed: Labour was not, and is still not, fit to govern.

On this theme, Ed Miliband was on Newsnight this week accusing Lib Dems of reneging on some pre-election promises. Amongst these was the VAT rise (fair enough) but he also claimed that the Lib Dems said they wouldn’t “prop up the Tories”.

I’m not quite sure what he is getting at there, except incoherent spluttering. Seeing as Nick Clegg was quite clear that he would first open negotiations with whichever party had a popular mandate, what else was he supposed to do? Ed Miliband, and Labour, needs to grow up.

Have you heard about The Silence?

July 14, 2010

I’ve missed tonight’s episode because I returned late from cricket, but if you have a spare few hours this weekend you could do worse than watch The Silence  which has been on BBC1 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night.

It’s a drama about a deaf girl who witnesses a murder. Genevieve Barr, who plays Ameila, is actually deaf herself, and gives a fantastic performance. The supporting cast is good too – there’s the always wonderful Gina McKee, and Douglas Henshall (the guy from that so-awful-it’s-fantastic Primeval, who looks disturbingly like Paul Collingwood). It’s these performances, plus the sub-plot of Ameilia ‘learning to listen’ after getting her cochlea implant, that make this a thriller worth watching if you get the chance.

This review is an interesting take from someone who is deaf. Obviously there’s a mix of views in the comments, and not everything about the programme is realistic, but if you are unsure what to watch on telly now that the World Cup’s over then just reach for the i-player…


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