Posts Tagged ‘Shock Waves’
The usual ribaldry was notable for its absence on the allotments this morning. There are many soccer fans amongst us and everyone seemed reluctant to chat, everyone seemed lost in a world of their own. Most of us have seen Gary Speed play, not surprising since he became one of the Premier League’s most enduring stars with stints at Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers before ending his dazzling career at Sheffield United last year. In all he played 535 matches in the Premier League, still the third highest of any player. But none of us had ever actually met Gary, as happens with all popular spectator sports we had watched him so often that we felt as though we knew him. His sudden death has shocked us beyond imagination.
Gary had gone on to become manager of the Welsh national side and had, in a short time, transformed the prospects of a team so often cast in the role of also-rans. On Saturday several of us tuned in to ‘Football Focus’ and listened to Gary and other commentators discussing the reversal of his team’s fortunes. He subsequently went to Old Trafford to watch the Man Utd game against Newcastle. We now know that just hours later he took his own life in the garage of his house at Huntingdon Hall, near Chester.
In any circumstances the sudden death of such a talenetd and popular star of the constantly publicised world of football would have caused shock waves. It was hard to take in when the news of his death broke and our first assumption was that he had suffered a heart attack, something that can happen to the fittest. When we learned of the reality it was, and is, simply impossible to believe.
The Football Association of Wales wsa quick to describe the loss of “someone so young and talented” as a huge loss not only for his family and friends but a nation as a whole. Gary was, the spokesman said, a hero in Wales and everyone liked him for his gentleness and knowledge of the game. Fellow players were quick to express their own sense of loss
Robbie Savage, Gary’s former Welsh team-mate who is competing in the BBC show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ revealed that he had spoken to him only the day before his death. He reported that he was upbeat, they were laughing together and discussing the dancing challenge. “Don’t get a two off Craig” (Revel Horwood, the Strictly judge) was Gary’s parting shot. Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, withdrew Gary’s close friend Craig Bellamy from the Anfield match against Man City, Bellamy was too upset to play.
Ryan Giggs, another of football’s legends, described Gary as “one of the nicest men in football and someone I am honoured to call a team-mate and friend. Alan Shearer described him as “a magnificent, fun person and a wonderful family man – he lit up every room he entered”. Bobby Gould and John Hartson could only cling to each other and cry. Right across the game large numbers reeled from the shock news and wiped tears from their bewildered faces. Why, why why? they cried.
Reoprts tell that neighbours are equally astonished, all talk of a friendly, happy man who always “had a chat”. In common with everyone else they had detected no sign of Gary being other than his usual humorous, cheerful self. And that impression is reinforced by colleague in the TV studio on Saturday, who have revealed that Gary was talking with excitement about the next show and the sporting prowess of his children.
Inevitably everyone who knew or admired Gary Speed is casting around for an explanation of a tragic event. The ghastly gutter press? They have quickly denied any involvement. Pressure of a manager’s role? Maybe, but Gary had brought quick success to a downtrodden team and was the fan’s favourite. Depression? Another maybe for many sportsmen, like many of the rest of us, have succumbed to the hidden but deadly destroyer.
Perhaps we will never know. But one comment above all others echoes in my mind. Kenny Dalglish said that “these things make football secondary”. How right he is.
Of course none of us is immortal and in the midst of life we are in death. Now, for whatever reason, Gary Speed has gone and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Louise and family at what must feel like a living nightmare.
It seems that there are a few shock-waves rolling around the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. On the face of it the senior coalition partners have every reason to feel satisfied for, despite the severest cuts to public services in our history, the Tories are still neck-and-neck with Labour. But for them a very threatening situation appears once one examines the breakdown of the projected support. In short, whilst the Tory support from men is holding firm, the opposite is true of the women.
In the latest ICM poll there was merely a modest lead for Labour amongst men (26% against 24.5% for the Tories). But amongst women at large the difference is more pronounced (27% against 21%). And when you examine the breakdown further there is a real shock. Amongst women aged 55 and over the number “dissatisfied with the way Cameron is doing his job” has leapt from 27% at the start of the year to 48%. These are election-changing figures. So what is happening?
Probably the first reaction from the Tory spin-doctors was that the prime minister’s unfortunate comments to two female MPs has turned women off. But the decline was recorded before he did that. It may be that his apology didn’t help, but the chauvanism was not the prime cause. However he was probably ill-advised to claim that he identifies with the problems women have “around the kitchen table”. His remarks sounded patronisng and unreal given that he lives in a very different world and his wife markets bags for prices greater than the average household income.
YouGov polling suggests that the huge fall in the support of women came before Cameron’s “calm down dear” moment. Yes, there may be some relationship between Cameron’s perceived attitude to women and their withdrawal of support, but he missed the point completely when he remarked that he is not “a sort of all right luv, I’ m down the pub tonight bloke”. No one thought that he goes around in a string vest, sinking pints and smoking roll-ups. It seems that many women see him as a posh boy with a default setting of condescension to the fairer sex, which he sometimes fails to hide quickly enough.
But the real issue is that the coalition is dominated by men who, not surprisigly, take a male view of what should be cut. The services hit most severely have been things affecting, primarily, women and children. And there are perceived injustices on women’s pensions . Even on announcements made to woo back the disaffected there are clear signs of masculine judgement ; to close libraries and baby clinics is fine but the policy of bin collections is the priority. That is almost certainly not how many women see it.
The truth is that the Conservative Party of today is dominated by men. Only 16% of their current MPs are women and a study by the academics Sarah Childs and Paul Webb (‘Sex, Gender and the Conservative Party”) concludes that Cameron backed away from his earlier determination to feminise the Party. This was, they say, a “major missed opportunity”. Given more women around the cabinet table it is unlikely that leaving Labour to talk about child tax credits, early learning centres and healthcare would not have happened. The latest reports showing the decimation of nursing would have been challenged for, whilst not all women are nurses, the cause resonates more clearly with them than with men. Likewise all children-directed benefits.
A few days ago I was talking to a senior Labour politician in London. I asked him if Labour can possibly win the next election. He replied yes, because by then Yvette Cooper will be the prime minister in waiting. Far fetched? Perhaps not, for she was noticeably the star at the recent Labour conference. And it was also being leaked that Ed Miliband is about to promote Emma Reynolds, Rachel Reeves, Liz Kendall and others.
We blokes of the allotment are just as guilty as Cameron of often not recognising the importance of the female view. But then we are not running the country. He is, and all the signs are that he has totally misread the importance of the female approach to issues that men dismiss so easily.
He will continue to do so at his peril for the Sarah Childs and Paul Webb study illustrates clearly the enormous impact on seats gained given a big swing in the female vote!
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEN RULE?
Even Eric Pickles, not perhaps the greatest champion of women’s rights, was shocked to discover that civil servants have spent over £250 million on inappropriate items. In his speech to the Tory conference big Eric may well highlight, as an example, a visit to a gentlemen’s club for a ‘staff away day’. It cost the taxpayer £5000 and the ‘club’ featured ‘Amber Topaz’ and ‘Lady Beau Peep’!
Some one up there has turned off the tap! To walk to the allotments minus a brolly was little short of a miracle, and we set about our work of clearing the mud in a brighter mood than for some days. There have been moments when I wished I were a hen, able to stay in the dry with a near army of fogies attending to my every need. Then again I would never have the chance of being invited to a David Cameron birthday party as was Rebekah Brooks in October.
This latest revelation about our very strange prime minister plus the sad but very convenient death of the whistleblower Sean Hoare, who made clear that Andy Coulson was a key figure in the hacking scandal, could well have occupied our tea break but Phil had a different Cameron tale to tell.
His nephew is employed by Derby based carriage builder Bombadier. Thousands of British jobs there are devoted to building train carriages and there was considerable optimism about the future. It was widely expected that the company would be given the task of building rolling stock for the £6 billion upgrade on the Thameslink rail route, an order guaranteed to provide continuing employment for thousands.
Those thousands are now laid off and face a very uncertain future. Given the firm’s excellent quality and reliability record, the government created shock waves of giant proportions when it announced that the massive contract was to be awarded to German firm Siemens. Outrage soon followed but Mr Cameron and his Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, proceded to claim that their hands were tied. At Prime Minister’s Questions last week, Cameron said that “we were bound by the criteria set by the previous government. In this case the procurement process was designed and initiated by them”. At first hearing it sounded a weak explanation for the sacrifice of so many British jobs. Upon examination of a leaked document it proved to be a barefaced lie.
Someone in the Transport ministry decided to reveal all by releasing anonymously a copy of the “Invitation to Tender”(ITT) for the Thameslink Rolling Stock Procurement Programme (TRSP). The document reads ; “The issue of this ITT in no way commits the Secretary of State to award the TRSP to any person or party. The Secretary of State reserves the right to terminate the competition, to award the TRSP without prior notice, to change the basis, the procedures and the timescales set out and referred to in this document or to reject any or all Proposals and to terminate discussions with any or all Bidders at any time”.
In other words the point of the process was entirely proper, to oblige the British Bidder to offer a competitive price. Predictably the government is now defending its decision to sacrifice thousands of skilled jobs, and to destroy an important British enterprise, by claiming that it would have been at risk of contravening EU procurement directives. Experts have dismissed this excuse, but even were it to be valid we have to ask ourselves about our real priorities! Since the vast majority of the people believe that we shouldn’t be subject to EU law anyway, it seems decidedly odd to sacrifice so much for fear of Brussels becoming irritated.
Former Treasury Minister Geoffrey Robinson said that the document proved that ministers were free to decide. They were free, he said, to “put the national interest first”. He ended with a plea that the decision be reversed to “save a vital British industry”.
Sadly his plea is likely to fall on deaf ears. The multi-millionaire Hammond is not renowned for viewing British manufacturers favourably, and Cameron has become totally preoccupied with explaining his extraordinary relationships with Coulson and the Murdoch clan.
Job creation should surely be an absolute priority for any British government, particularly at a time of recession. Instead we have one happy to see thousands more skilled workers cast on the scrap heap and to defend its failure via a tissue of lies!
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