Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ed Miliband should fight to take Britain out of the EU

This piece of mine appears in today's First Post.

Neil Clark: Committing to a referendum on EU membership would be smart politics - and progressive

Ed Miliband has said it's important for the Labour party to listen to the people more if it is to regain power and topple the coalition at the next general election. But there’s one important issue on which the public are expressing their opinions loud and clear - and where Miliband and the Labour hierarchy are clearly not listening: Europe.

You can read the whole article here. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

British rail travel four times more expensive than on state-owned French network

The Morning Star reports (and also cross-posted at The Campaign for Public Ownership):

British rail passengers are having to fork out £4.6 billion a year more than travellers on France's public owned railways, transport union RMT revealed today.

Fares on Britain's privatised network are four times more expensive than their French equivalent, according to an RMT report by research firm Just Economics found that lower and middle-income families were being "completely priced out of the rail market" following years of fares rises.

Mmmm… I wonder what differentiates the railways in Britain and the railways in France?

On the subject of ownership of the railways, do try and get a copy of the latest edition of Private Eye, and take a look at ‘Signal Failures’ on page 9. "The government has decreed that regulated rail fares will rise 3 percent above inflation each year, but passengers in one part of the UK were promised a fares freeze last week: why? Because they live in Northern Ireland where the railways are state-owned and not privatised.”…

Aren't we the lucky ones in mainland Britain having the great 'advantage' of privatised railways!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Both Williams sisters out as day of shocks brings Wimbledon to life

Well, just when it was getting oh, so predictable...

Defending champion Serena Williams OUT- beaten in straight sets by Marion Bartoli (above).

Five-times Winbledon champion Venus Williams OUT- beaten in straight sets by Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria.

Number 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki OUT- beaten in three sets by number 24 seed Dominika Cibulkova.

Has there ever been a day of such surprises in the women’s singles at Wimbledon?

I don’t know about you, but the women’s game has suddenly become a lot more interesting than the men’s, where the top four seem to have plenty in hand over the rest.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hedge fund vultures prepare to swoop on Greece

A Greek crisis? Well, certainly for the Greek people, but not for hedge fund managers.

The Daily Telegraph reports:

Fund managers gathered in Monaco for the GAIM conference have said that depressed asset prices and rock-bottom debt instruments could be worth the risk.

Robert Marquardt, founder of Signet, a fund of hedge funds, told reporters that the Greek crisis was "certainly a great chance to make money".

As one commentor on the Daily Telegraph website puts it:

We must face off their threat, reclaim our stolen wealth and mercilessly lance this boil on the face of humanity. They truly are the most undeserving and disgusting parasites ever to infest our planet.

And that is a comment from a Daily Telegraph reader.

hat tip: Pete F on the Media Lens message board.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Guillam on anti-smoking fanaticism

Now anti-smoking activists condemn third-hand smoking – the supposed dangers of smelling the clothes of someone who has recently smoked; and even fourth-hand smoking – the idea that contact with a non-smoker who has had contact with a smoker is dangerous. At the same time, these activists push for images of cigarettes in films and cartoons to be expunged and for cigarette packets to be hidden from public view.

You can read the whole of Peter’s brilliant Comment is Free piece here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Libya war has cost UK at least £200m"

At a time when we're told that the country is broke because 'Gordon Brown spent all the money'.

More on the rapidly escalating war costs here.

What a surprise that this not-so-expensive, ‘humanitarian’ war of 'liberation' hasn’t turned out as its supporters said it would. Well, not really a surprise. But how on earth did some on the left fall for it, knowing full well the lies that were told prior to the military interventions against Yugoslavia and Iraq?

Douglas: any news on what this latest neo-con inspired war has cost US taxpayers?

UPDATE: Great piece attacking Britain's neo-con inspired foreign policy by the military historian Correlli Barnett in today's Daily Mail.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Overdose-ing on a vintage Royal Ascot

I meant to write about this earlier- but what a wonderful feast of horse-racing this year’s Royal Ascot was.

There were many highlights- the great Canford Cliffs v Goldikova clash in the Queen Anne on Tuesday’s, the epic So You Think v Rewilding battle in the Prince of Wales's Stakes and Frankel’s maintaining his unbeaten record in the St James's Palace.

But for me the number one highlight was the return to form of the Hungarian wonder horse Overdose, who ran a blinder to finish a close-up fourth (photos here and here  ) in the King’s Stand. And if the heavy rains which arrived later on in the week, had arrived on Tuesday, it's very likely that Hungary would have been toasting its first Royal Ascot success for almost 100 years.

Let’s hope that ‘The Mighty Magyar’ can make it to Paris in October and avenge one of the great sporting injustices of recent years.

UPDATE: You can hear me talking about this year's Royal Ascot on the 'Good Morning Wales' programme on BBC Radio Wales, here (the discussion starts at about 35 minutes into the programe of 16/06/11.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Brian Haw R.I.P.

Brian did not stop the Iraq war, but he will be remembered as a man who stood against it and put his life at the disposal of those who were against that hideous operation.

He will be sadly missed and his death marks the end of a historic enterprise by a man who gave everything to support his beliefs.

You can read the whole of Tony Benn’s great Guardian tribute to the anti-war campaigner Brian Haw here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On NATO's 'humanitarian' military intervention in Libya

The BBC reports:

At least five people have died in a Nato air strike that hit a house in the Libyan capital Tripoli, Libyan government officials say.

A three-storey house was badly damaged at the scene of the alleged air raid in the city's Souk al-Juma residential district.

Correspondents were later shown five bodies at a Tripoli hospital.

Nato is investigating the incident. It has admitted hitting mistaken targets in the past.

The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen writes:

Nato's mandate is to protect civilians. More questions now seem likely about what Nato is doing in Libya and what it is achieving - not least by Nato members who never agreed with the operation.

Afterwards, we were taken to Tripoli central hospital. The dead bodies of a husband and wife and a baby were in the mortuary, along with another dead man. Medical staff said they were all killed in the attack.

Another dead baby was brought in. Doctors were working on a man with a bad wound in his arm.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It Ain't Half Hot Mum racist? Don't make me laugh...

video: wiggy videos.
This article of mine appears in the Sunday Express.

THERE are some scandalous things about modern Britain.

The high cost of railway travel. The poor quality of sliced bread. The England football team. The failure of the BBC to repeat on terrestrial television one of the funniest comedy series in history due to political correctness...

I thought about It Ain’t Half Hot Mum after hearing the sad news of the death of Donald Hewlett, who played Lieutenant-Colonel Reynolds in Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s wonderful comedy.

It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, for those who have never seen it, tells the story of the Royal Artillery Concert Party in India and Burma at the end of the Second World War. The series ran from 1974 to 1981 and enjoyed phenomenal popularity, with two of its stars Windsor Davies and Don Estelle even having a No1 hit record. Yet unlike Dad’s Army, another brilliant Perry-Croft creation which is regularly repeated, no series of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum has been broadcast on terrestrial TV since 1984.

What a crying shame. “It’s without doubt the funniest series David Croft and I wrote. It’s also the show we’re not allowed to talk about,” Jimmy Perry has bemoaned.

For the PC brigade the great “crimes” of the show were that it is supposedly racist and homophobic. In fact it is neither. The Indian characters are portrayed sympathetically and the resourceful bearer Rangi Ram, played by Michael Bates, is the real hero of the show.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Amina Abdallah Arraf: A Gay Girl in Damascus- not the first human rights hoax

This article of mine appears in The First Post.

Neil Clark: The case that fooled human rights activists worldwide - not for the first time

It's the story that's had western bloggers, journalists and human rights crusaders up in arms. When Amina Abdalla Arraf, a US/Syrian lesbian blogger and staunch critic of President Assad, was kidnapped by the Syrian authorities for daring to express her opinions, more than 14,000 people rushed to join a Facebook group to campaign for her release.

Reporters Without Borders issued a press release condemning the abduction. In a short space of time, Amina became the poster girl for the anti-Assad protests sweeping across Syria.

"We ask all those who care about Amina to send this message to the Syrian embassy in your country to show the regime that the world is very much aware of Amina's case and will not let the Syrian regime get away with any harm that might come to her," declared the 'Free Amina Abdalla' Facebook site.

It's unlikely, however, that any harm will come to Amina. That's because she doesn't appear to exist.

You can read the whole article here.

UPDATE: The hoax has been confirmed. The 'Gay Girl in Damascus' was actually a Straight Married American Man in Scotland. More here and here

Friday, June 10, 2011

The song 'No Charge' reminds us when Britain used to be less greedy


This article of mine appears on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website.

Neil Clark:Those who believe the myth that 1970s Britain was 'the sick man of Europe' forget how progressive the decade was.

It's regarded by some as one of the slushiest No 1 records of all time. It's exactly 35 years ago this week that No Charge, sung by the Canadian artist JJ Barrie, got to No 1 in the British pop charts – and thanks to the wonders of BBC4, who are repeating Top of the Pops shows from 1976 on a weekly basis, we'll all be able to see it performed on our television screens next Monday.

Some won't be looking forward to it too much – in his Guardian article of a week ago, Alexis Petridis claimed that 1976 was the worst year for pop music ever.

But leaving aside debates about musical merit, what watching the repeats of Top of the Pops and other programmes from the same era on channels such as Yesterday, ITV3 and ITV4 shows us is what a less commercialised age the pre-Thatcherite 1970s were.

You can read the whole article here.

UPDATE: I have also have an article in today's First Post  on the Amina Abdallah Araf affair, which can be read  here.  More on this story later.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The joys of privatised energy companies: Scottish Power to hike gas bills by 19%

The Guardian reports:

Household budgets face further pressure after a leading energy company said it was raising gas bills by 19%

Scottish Power, which will also raise electricity tariffs by 10%, said it would add 48p to the average daily combined gas and electricity bills of its 2.4 million customers, an extra cost of £175 a year.

Other energy companies are of course, expected to follow suit.

Isn't neo-liberalism wonderful?

More on this story here.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Donald Hewlett R.I.P.

video: BigJohnCannon.

Some sad news- Donald Hewlett, who played Lieutenant-Colonel Reynolds in the wonderful 1970s BBC sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum (and who also starred as Lord Meldrum in You Rang M’Lord?), has died aged 90.

Friday, June 03, 2011

A very sad day for British racing: The Tote is sold after 83 years

After 83 years, the Tote- the publicly-owned bookmaker established by Sir Winston Churchill- is to be sold to a rival privately-owned bookmaking chain.   

For a comparatively small sum of money-the government will receive just £90m- the free-market fanatics in the coalition are selling-off another national asset.

You can hear me talking about why the sale is such terrible news for horse-racing on the BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast Show with Nicky Campbell Show here (at 2hrs 5mins in to the programme of 03/06/11), and on the You and Yours programme on BBC Radio 4 here.

FIFA fiasco: a breakaway in no longer unthinkable

This piece of mine appears in today's First Post. 

Neil Clark: It's not just the gravy train culture at Fifa that's objectionable. It's the bad decisions for football.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter said this week: "I'm the President of Fifa and with 186 votes I'm proud. Don't worry about the English". His tactic was clear: blame the whingeing English for trying to engulf his organisation in controversy and carry on governing world football for another four years.

But even if we concede that sour grapes over England's unsuccessful bid to stage the 2018 World Cup was the main reason why the FA attempted to stop this week's presidential vote in Zurich, there's no getting away from the fact that football's governing body is in urgent need of a major overhaul.

You can read the whole article here.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

My Kingdom for a horse!

Just two days to go before The Derby....
This piece of mine appears in the Daily Express.

Neil Clark: It's the sport of kings but it’s an obsession for our Queen – and this weekend she could finally have the horse-racing winner she so desperately wants...

This Saturday afternoon just after 4pm a lifetime’s ambition for a certain 85-year old lady could be realised.

She’s one of the richest women in the world. She owns palaces, vast tracts of land and fabulous art treasures but there’s one thing the Queen doesn’t own and desperately wants: the winner of the Epsom Derby. This year Her Majesty’s colt Carlton House is the red-hot favourite for the classic horse race, as long as he overcomes a last-minute injury. A royal winner in a royal wedding year would be toasted throughout the land. And for the Queen victory would be the end of a 60-year quest to win flat racing’s most famous event.