Posts Tagged ‘Eggheads Quiz’
Without doubt we allotmenteers have short attention spans. One only has to flick back across the blogs of the past year to realise that we have something of the mental butterly in our genes. No story has ever lived to be re-examined on the following day, yet here we are on day three of the News of the World scandal and still banging on. More revelations of hacking into the phones of distraught families continue to appear, even families of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to have been regarded as fair game. Yesterday, as advertisers rushed to cancel contracts and readers deluged the newspaper with abuse, the current editor, Colin Myler, told journalists that the paper faces “an extremely painful period”. He was wrong. Clearly he was not aware that it has no future at all. Murdoch junior has announced that Sunday’s edition will be the last ever and all proceeds will go to charity.
One of the sub-plots emerging is the role of the Metropolitan Police. There now seems general acceptance of the fact that officers were in the pay of the Murdoch organisation and declined to investigate what they clearly knew. In the interest of national justice and reputation this must surely be the subject of an investigation that everyone trusts. That rules out the police themselves. Boris Johnson made exactly that point yesterday and his demand that the affair be investigated by the Independent Police Commission is the answer. If we cannot trust the police all is lost and the government would do well to heed the Mayor of London’s advice.
Yesterday it was the turn of the House of Commons to debate the growing crisis of corruption. Under pressure from Ed Miliband, the prime minister had no alternative than to agree to an enquiry. But, perhaps not surprisingly, he refused the demand that it be chaired by a Judge. Behind the scenes he is still battling with Nick Clegg on this. We can only assume that David Cameron is anxious to have someone in place prepared to deliver a ‘whitewash’. A clinically conducted probe would, one suspects, bring to light aspects of his relationship with Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. Meantime both Cameron and Hunt, the culture secretary, are sticking to their argument that this cannot be allowed to derail the Murdoch bid for BSkyB. The odds are that, given the hammering they took from their own MPs yesterday, they may have to change their position. But clearly Cameron is going to great lengths to avoid offending the man who, he believes, holds his political future in his hands from turning his media empire against the Conservative Party.
On that point something surprising happened yesterday. Whether by plan or sheer instinctive disgust, Ed Miliband attacked the Murdoch organisation as never before. At a stroke he earned himself, and his party, a place in Rupert Murdoch’s black book. Come the next election we can now be sure that the whole might of the Sun, The Times, the Sunday Times and Sky will be hurled against the Labour party. Plus of course whatever new title is launched to replace the News of the World. No trick will be too dirty, no invention too calculated, no punch pulled, in the camapign of revenge. He who crosses Murdoch receives no mercy.
Over the years most Labour Leaders have fretted a great deal about the press. Wilson, Blair and, to an extent, Brown all courted editors. But it was Neil Kinnock who failed to pay homage and who failed to be elected as a result. He fought the Murdoch anti-union stance at the time of the move to “Fortress Wapping”. On election day 1992 The Sun carried a front page cartoon of Kinnock’s head inside a light bulb with advice to the ”last person to leave Britain if Kinnock wins” to switch the lights off. John Major won a fourth Tory term.
Blair was more prone to shady deals than the idealistic Kinnock, and he flew to Australia in 1995 to address the annual junket for senior News International executives at exotic locations around the world. As a calculated act of homage it worked and both Times, Sun and News of the World stood by Blair almost to the end. And Blair’s travel was only the beginning, the hated BBC was pursued and tamed on sports rights and the Alistair Campbell “dodgy dossier” episode did Labour no harm with Murdoch.
The rest we know except that just two weeks ago both Cameron and Miliband attended a Murdoch ‘do’ in London, there to rub shoulders with the great man. Cameron is striving even in extremis to maintain his fawning relationship but suddenly young Ed appears to have decided that decency is of greater currency than votes and he has broken ranks.
It may be that this devastating affair and the closure of the Sunday paper will end in the collapse of the Murdoch empire’s grip on the British electorate. In that case Labour will emerge safe and purified. On the other hand he may just have signalled away any chance of power so long as Cameron is in Murdoch’s pocket.
Some commentators are today talking of Miliband having “waved goodbye to an uneasy friendship”. Maybe, and maybe he will one day regret it. But I for one respect him more for what he has done. With the police and the government impilicated in the most disgusting acts in the history of the British press, I feel thankful that one man was prepared to draw the line, whatever the consequences!
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR A NEW EDITION OF ‘THOUGHTS FOR TODAY’ FOLLOWED BY THE NEXT EGGHEADS QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I cannot recall any story having quite the impact on my allotment pals of the one now developing around the News of the World. Several, who are regular readers, said this morning that they have bought their last copy. And it seems that they are not alone. Across the country a wave of revulsion is heading Murdoch’s way, advertisers are cancelling contracts and thousands are signing up to the ’38 Degrees’ petition demanding that the government reconsider its view that News Corp is a ‘fit and proper’ organisation to become the major power in the British media.
Each day brings fresh revelations of the phone hacking scandal. Until yesterday most of us had been fairly indifferent to stories of millionaire soccer players and their kind being subjected to intrusion. Suddenly we learned of the hacking of, and interference with, the phone of murdered schholgirl Milly Dowler. Now we are told that the same callous treatment was probably applied to Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the girls killed in Soham by Ian Huntley, as it was to their distraught parents. We also learn that Graham Foulkes, whose son was killed in the attack at Edgware Road tube station, has been advised by police that his details were also in the records made by Glenn Mulcaire.
Mulcaire has gone public with a profuse apology, claiming that he was under great pressure to do what he did by the News of the World. It seems inconceivable that the editorial staff did not know. Revelations will undoubtedly pour out over the next few days since the police appear to have held for a very long time a great deal of evidence. That of course raises the appalling suspicion that they turned a blind eye. Why? Pointedly News Corp yesterday insisted that payments were made to the police during the editorship of Andy Coulson. Indeed he and Rebekah Brooks seem implicated in all that went on.
And that is why the finger of shame is panning wide to include David Cameron in its range. He was known to be a friend of Brooks, some papers today suggest that his Witney kitchen was often the venue for informal chats. What we do know for sure is that over last Christmas he and his wife were entertained at her home. What we also know for sure is that he appointed Coulson to be his close adviser, and steadfastly defended him each time accusations were made.
Yesterday the politically astute prime minister spoke publicly of his being appalled at what has happened. Strangely he also chose to say that this could not affect the decision over the Murdoch takeover of BSkyB. Perhaps we are getting paranoid here but Cameron also fired Vince Cable when he was overheard to be criticising News Corp.
Things may worsen for Cameron yet. Perhaps a cornered Andy Coulson will reveal to what extent he told the prime minister what had happened, and was happening? Be that as it may there is only one way in which Cameron can restore his moral standing. He must ask Ofcom to review the conduct of News Corp companies and, meanwhile, he must suspend the authorising of the News Corp aquisition of shrares in BSkyB. If he fails to do this the vast majority will believe that he is hiding behind self-made rules to deliver the prize sought by his friends in the Murdoch juggernaut in return for favourable press coverage.
The long established Sunday newspaper is almost a British institution. Suddenly it is a loathed one and David Cameron would be well advised to demonstrate quickly that he identifies with that sentiment.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Orange 2. Jennifer Saunders 3. Madonna 4. London and Birmingham 5. Unchained Melody 6. Goldcrest 7. 18 8. Martin 9. Cricket 10. 1940s
It has to be admitted that we chicken-keepers are to be numbered amongst the masses who help the tabloid press to rake in the cash. We have always realised that many of their exclusives are based on information obtained illegally but, to be honest, we have never been too horrified at the revelations about pop-stars and the like. They take their millions and must expect intrusion probably sums up our view, always assuming that we had one at all. But suddenly we really are horrified at what Labour MP Tom Watson yesterday described as a “despicable and evil act”.
Today’s Guardian reveals that the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone during the police hunt for the missing schoolgirl. Even worse it deleted voice mails to make room for more incoming frantic appeals to the young girl, an action that led friends and relatives to conclude wrongly that Milly might still be alive and risked destroying evidence. Small wonder that the Dowler family yesterday issued a statement describing the paper’s action as “heinous” and “despicable”. In effect the News of the World was listening to, and recording, every private word, every desperate plea for Milly to get in touch. When her voicemail box filled up, the newspaper’s employees deleted the messages left in the first few days after her disappearance.
According to the Guardian, the paper paid a private Hampshire investigator, Steve Whittamore, to track down phone numbers, two of which were “blagged” illegally from BT’s confidential records. Then with the help of its own private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, the paper began its “hacking”.
At that time the editor was Rebekah Brooks, now Rupert Murdoch’s chief UK executive. The deputy editor was Andy Coulson. Both have strong links with David Cameron, the former having entertained Cameron at her home over Christmas, the latter having been his media adviser. It seems extremely unlikely that they did not know what was happening. Indeed Paul McMullan, one of Brook’s assistant editors, is on record as having said that he personally commissioned several hundred acts that could be regarded as unlawful and that senior editors were aware of this. Former showbusiness reporter, Sean Hoare, is also on record as telling the New York Times that he was actively encouraged by Coulson to hack into voicemail. Clearly the paper had come to see itself as above the law, in fact Brooks claimed at one time to have paid the police for information.
Since this latest, and most shocking of all, revelation has come to light during the period when culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is deciding whether to nod through the bid by Murdoch’s News Corp to take over BSkyB, one would have imagined that even he would be concerned at the conduct of what will become the major media organisation in the UK. But it seems not. The only MP to speak out has been Tom Watson who told Newsnight that leaders of all parties received “plenty of hints” that something murky was going on. “That’s the biggest scandal of the lot”, he said. “Politicians are frightened of News International and they need to act”. The only other dissenting voice was that of John Prescott, himself a victim of hacking. He revealed on Twitter that he was writing to Hunt demanding he block News Corp’s bid.
But they may prove to be voices crying in the wilderness. The Labour Party stopped short of calling for a re-examination of whether News International could be regarded as fit and proper to take over BSkyB. The Conservative party did the same, an inevitability given the personal links that its senior members have with the Murdoch organisation.
Just how close are we as a society to being corrupt? We have the gutter press plumbing ever greater depths, we have police who clearly have been very reluctant to investigate, we have politicans at the top who appear to be in cohorts with the alleged perpetrators of what Milly’s grieving family call “heinous” crimes.
The sad answer is : very close indeed!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. In international soccer, what is the main colour of Holland’s shirts? 2. Who is older; Ruby Wax or Jennifer Saunders? 3. “Into the Groove” gave a first UK No 1 for which singer? 4. Which two cities were linked by the M1 whwn it first opened? 5. Which song was a British No ! for Jimmy Young, the Righteous Brothers, Robson & Jerome and Gareth Gates? 6. What is Britain’s smallest songbird? 7. How many sides are there in a pair of nonagons? 8. Which George was the main producer of the Beatles hits? 9. E W Swanton wrote about which sport? 10. Was Joanna Lumley born in the 1940s, 50s or 60s?
Albert has headed off for his annual holiday in Blackpool, all is peaceful on the allotments. Bob remarked that we only miss people when they have gone but he didn’t have a lump in his throat. Given this morning’s glorious sunshine our old pal undoubtedly now has his knotted hankie on his head and a pint in his hand. It is not his help with the chickens that we shall miss so much as his ability to start a fight in an empty telephone box, he unwittingly prevents us ever falling victim to ennui or depression brought on by the England one-day cricketers. With His Moanship away there was less chat this morning but we did notice one story which illustrated, for the umpteenth time, our various government’s ability to pour money down the drain.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a damning report on a project to replace 46 fire control centres in England with 9 regional sites. It was, says the NAO, a “comprehensive failure” which wasted £469 million of taxpayer’s money. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is accused of rushing into the project, managing it poorly and failing to follow proper procedures.
The project was launched by the Labour Government in 2004 and was axed in December last. No IT system had been delivered, and eight of the nine regional control centres remained empty. The DCLG is committed to paying at least £247 million – possibly rising to £431 million – in rent on the centres, which will never be used for their original purpose, until the final lease expires in 2035. So the eventual cost to the taxpayer could be very much higher that presently forecast.
The idea of replacing fire control centres with a small number of regional sites was controversial from the start and bitterly opposed by the fire service itself. According to Tory MP Richard Bacon, Lord two-Jags Prescott “forced his pet regionalisation project upon local fire and rescue services without proper consultation, without competent project management and without any understanding of the complexity involved”. Bacon is a member of the Commons public accounts committee which is chaired by Labour MP Margaret Hodge. She agrees. “The project, she says, was a “monumental failure of mismanagement and a careless approach to fundamental elements”. So the two parties are agreed on something!
The original estimate for project costs on this hairbrained scheme was £120 million. By last year £250 million had already been spent. By December the anticipated delay to delivery of the project had reached five years and it was cancelled by the coalition. But not in time to prevent the completion of the buildings which, on top of their initial costs, will account for another £431 million in rent and upkeep unless purchasers can be found, an unlikely prospect given their specialised nature.
How could any department waste a minimum of £469 million? According to the NAO the DCLG failed to provide leadership and handed management resposibility to management consultants. It also failed to sort out problems with delivery by the contractor. This is near-unbelievable for everyone knows that management consultants are a joke, people who can write elaborate reports but who lack implementation skills.
Hardly a week passes but we learn of yet another fiasco of this kind. How will any government ever convince the electorate that the time has come for sacrifice when it is clear that it is totally incompetent and expert only in the art of pouring money down the drain.
And expect no sackings over this. Contrast that with the treatment you would receive should you forget to file your tax return or pay your council tax. It isn’t just their constant dishonesty that has brought politicians low in the public esteem, the fact that their incompetence wastes more than the savings from a hundred painful cuts plays its part too!
A couple of my allotment mates are in despair today. They had managed to convince themselves that Andy Murray was about to become the new saviour. Now that he has failed they refer to him as a Scot, up until yesterday he was British, a born-again Tim Henman. But AM played well and is without doubt the best British player to grace Wimbledon for many a year. The problem is that he and Henman are as rare as hen’s teeth, every year we go through the ritual of watching every other so-called star mown down in the first round. Those two apart we haven’t produced a single player of real quality for generations. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) continues to pour money and effort into the structure, but it is all in vain.
A few days ago I was watching cricket on Sky when David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd asked Mike Atherton, who had been to Wimbledon, if he plays tennis. The former England cricket captain was dismissive. The gist of his answer was certainly not, tennis is an exclusively middle-class sport. He is right. You don’t agree? Well, consider the grass roots of the English game. Every major sport, be it soccer, cricket or rugby, draws its English top stars from local clubs. From there youngsters emerge, join the professionals or part-timers in the lower divisions and, if they show real promise, are quickly snapped up by the top clubs. In some cases they emerge through the academies but even then their initial grounding is invariably at local club level.
In reality English tennis has no such structure. The people who play it are almost all white and of middle-class families. And the middle-class enthusiasts know how to put up invisible barriers around their local clubs. Membership is seen as a stamp of social standing, a place on the committee doubly so. Many are less concerned with winning games than with extending their social network and meeting up with genteel friends of like persuasion.
Yes the system did produce Tim Henman but I am sure that he would acknowledge his middle-class background. The question is what would happen if you went down to the local park and pulled a rough-necked lad out of his soccer match and trundled him along to the local tennis club? The odds are that a posh bloke in a V-necked sweater would tell him that he is wearing the wrong sort of shoes. The youth then either responds with expletives and heads back to his soccer or says yes sir. In that case he almost certainly doesn’t have the makings of a world-beater.
And if you look at the big tennis showcase, Wimbledon, you find little evidence of a missionary zeal to draw in new converts to the game. Yes, a few tickets are held back for sale and people do queue for days but they are clearly already converted. The vast majority of tickets go to the clubs, this completing the vicious circle. Many attend yearly and have blazers to prove it.
I find myself in total sympathy. After all, who really wants their social haunt invaded by the sort of person who can be found at soccer matches and, to an extent, Twenty20 cricket? Suddenly “I’m off to the club for a knock-around dear” becomes “I’m going to listen to some colourful language and the chance of violence”. But the fact remains that unless our grass roots clubs open up to youth of all classes the chance of developing a rising star is very limited. Try to list middle-class, highly educated soccer Premiership stars, you won’t need many pages.
Of course Andy Murray is living proof that it can happen but he comes from north of the border where things are different. It was noticeable that during his centre-court games many of the blazers took to calling him Tim. For many of them he is a little beyond the pale, brilliant though he may be.
Who cares? Probably very few. For most people watching Wimbledon on TV is an annual excitement, one to be filed away for another twelve months once the usual British balloon is punctured by a star born and bred in a country where class is irrelevant. But we should desist from the annual LTA bashing for no coaching system in the world can produce results from so limited a field.
It all reminds me a little of the situation of cricket in the south of england half a century ago. Our top local clubs played only friendly matches, wore club ties and selected our opponents for their social participation. That has all gone and now there are leagues just as fiercely competitive as those in the north.
But there is little sign of that happening in tennis. Northern England led the way in cricket, but even here the tennis clubs are still the preserve of dear boys and darlings.
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. For which sport is Billie-Jean King famous? 2. According to the proverb, absence makes what grow fonder? 3. Who hosted ITV’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire? 4. In which country is ‘Ayer’s Rock’ ? 5. Which species of creature includes the most poisonous animal in the world? 6. Which soap family included Lisa, Marlon and Shadrach? 7. If something is biodegradable, what will it do? 8. How many noughts are in the written number two hundred thousand? 9. Every how many years is a National Census taken in Britain? 10. Where are you if you visit the Granite City?