Thursday, 19 November 2009


A small number of people have complained about the M&S Christmas ad, in which actor Philip Glenister enthuses over a model in her underwear. But
A spokesman for Marks and Spencer said: "We're surprised by the ASA complaints regarding Philip Glenister's appearance in our TV ad.

"Our research shows that his on-screen character in Ashes to Ashes is extremely popular with our customers and his lines in the ad are in keeping with that role."

Which translates as "we thought we could get away with a bit of sexism by dressing it up as irony hiding and behind a character who is thirty years out of date."

Interesting side issue: did M&S pay to use Glenister's "on-screen character" or just Glenister?

Not humiliated, honest

So Tony Blair isn't to be EU president. But then, according to the Guardian, he didn't want the job:
It is understood that he would have been unsure of taking the post when the Swedish government, which holds the rotating EU presidency, indicated in a paper on Wednesday that the president would have little or no role in foreign affairs.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

How to lose votes and alienate people

According to the Guardian, not only did Gordon Brown call Rupert Murdoch after the Sun attacked him over the allegedly misspelt letter,
"...he has the most enormous personal regard for Rupert Murdoch," the prime minister's official spokesman said.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The sympathy vote

Who knows how the Sun managed to obtain a recording of Gordon Brown's phone call to Jacqui Janes? But I agree with the Guardian's Michael White that what the paper did in publishing it was pure cynicism in its new campaign to bash Labour and back the Tories.

I also agree with Sue Arnold, writing on Comment is Free last night that Brown is being unfairly pilloried for something that is a combination of his own concern for people and his poor eyesight:
Personally I'm deeply impressed that someone who can only read large print and is gradually relying more on aides to help him at official functions writes personally by hand to the bereaved relatives of British soldiers killed in action. He could go for the sympathy vote by publicising his sight problem but he's not that sort of chap. Besides, who needs sympathy? I've given up using my white stick because I'm fed up with being helped to the other side of roads I don't want to cross. Maybe Jacqui Janes should try re-reading the PM's letter with her eyes, her perfectly good eyes, on the message not the medium.

Monday, 9 November 2009

What was that all about?

By way of a couple of quick updates on the Iraq Inquiry...

Yesterday, on Comment is Free, I did a blog piece on Thursday's seminar, hosted by the Inquiry on the evolution of international policy up to 2003. It seemed to me that the Inquiry members must now be in no doubt that the war was about regime change, not weapons of mass destruction (wmd). I suggested that if the Inquiry could get Tony Blair to admit this early on, it could save a lot of prevaricating, dissembling and contradiction.

Just posted on Iraq Inquiry Digest is an excellent piece by Brian Jones, formerly of the Defence Intelligence Staff, giving his view on the development of policy up to 2002. He takes the view that US policy was about a lot more than wmd and increasingly (if not always) about regime change and that UK policy was mainly about keeping onside with the US. Read more here.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Secrecy at the Inquiry

It looks as if the Iraq Inquiry is going to be a lot less transparent than was promised.

This morning, on the Iraq Inquiry Digest and Comment is Free, I have analysed the protocol that the Cabinet Office has published, setting out the terms on which the government will disclose information to the Inquiry and the circumstances in which the Inquiry will be allowed to publish such information.

In both cases, the rules are a lot more restrictive than the statements made by Gordon Brown when he set up the Inquiry in June. In spite of a promise that an Inquiry by Privy Counsellors will be allowed to see absolutely everything, the government is now saying that "confidential" information will be withheld.

Similarly, although it was promised that only national security reasons would prevent the Inquiry publishing such information, the government has now given a long list of reasons, beginning with the infinitely flexible "public interest", why it might block publication. The Inquiry has to seek permission to publish and every piece of information and the government has a veto.

I've asked the Inquiry how it reconciles this with its statement that
It is the Committee’s intention to publish all the relevant evidence except where national security considerations prevent that.
In my view, the two are entirely incompatible. We'll see how long the statement remains on the Inquiry website.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Helpful advice from the police

I've had a very helpful leaflet from my community police team, letting me know that there is drug dealing taking place in the local park. If I want to buy any drugs, I'll know where to go. Apparently the action the police are taking to combat this is to have officers (and CSOs) conducting high visibility patrols in the area...