Wednesday, 21 November 2012


Sometimes people try to think too complicatedly answering when you rebuke them that things just aren’t that simple.

Rowan Williams is one such although the morning after that synod vote on women priests he delivered as blunt and monosyllabic a scolding as I’ve heard.

I’ve always thought asking people to think outside the box was an invitation to not answer the brief. I like working within the confines of that box which is usually there for a reason. Like only in the box is acceptable.

OK pussy?

Monday, 19 November 2012


We are in strange and uncharted times when virtually every institution on which we’d counted is under attack or rotting to death.

Is it so surprising in our increasingly open society in which the speed of communication is instant, transparency is the norm and there’s an absence of certain things being sacred anymore that one after another the old order is disappearing?

We’re seeing the equivalent of Chalara fraxinea cutting a swathe though, banking, the police, the church, parliament, the BBC, old fashioned media, big tax dodging companies and the offshore rich whose hidden wealth disaffected bankers keep revealing.

If we don’t all of us believe in the power of the people to put the boot in without any fear of reprisal, think again.

An old favourite of mine who in his heyday usually seemed a step ahead, Chris Patten, now seems unable to hold a catch.

The church is bankrupt financially and morally and it’s with concern we even wonder if Justin Welby mightn’t end up like George Entwhistle some 55 days into his archbishopric. (Just don’t let him go on the Today programme – ever).

As the ill attended vote for police commissioners was held we find a lot of old Chief Constables under arrest or being investigated and a bunch of officers in Kent charged with rigging crime figures.

When you can’t trust the police or priests it’s a bit sad. Actually the “trust what they say” figure in the Ipsos Mori Veracity Index 1983 – 2011 shows the clergy have plummeted from 85% believing in their truthfulness to 68% - below doctors (who come top with 88%), teachers, professors, judges and scientists. The police at 63% come next. Vicars used to be way out in front.

And according to You Gov the decline in belief of the BBC journalists to tell the truth fell 13% points in the past fortnight.

Unsurprisingly but depressingly 80% of the public actually expect politicians to lie.

The time has come a bit, like a mugger sidling out of the shadows, when we are all being asked what our values really are.

The God we worship can’t just be profit, votes or share of audience. Over the next few months Google, Amazon, Apple, Starbucks and the rest are going to be hammered. And whistleblowers will make a symphony of sound to rival Eric Whitacre.

Watch that Ipsos Mori Veracity Index – it’s the one that really matters.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012


The Pope’s become an Anglican, Ducks are walking around in high heeled shoes and, strangest of all,  Giles Coren has given up drinking.

His father Alan Coren, the funniest columnist I’ve ever read, would be distraught.

Here are some reasons I loved this man apart from that very lived–in face, things he wrote:-

On the Dutch:
“Apart from cheese and tulips, the main product of the country is advocaat, a drink made from lawyers”

On an Italian about to say “no”
“A long, soft sigh, one of those very Italian sighs that express so much, that say "Ah, signor, if only this world were an ideal world, what would I not give to be able to do as you ask, we should sit together in the Tuscan sunshine, you and I, just two men together, and we should drink a bottle of the good red wine, and we should sing, ah, how we should sing."

On Dennis and Margaret Thatcher and those poor landmines
“Does not even the most sexually democratic of us, among which number I unquestionably count myself, not choke back the tiniest sob at the sight of poor old Denis stumbling along behind, struggling pitifully to hold his trilby on, as the PM strides across Goose Green with the wind managing only to make her hair look more Medusan, and the very mines praying she will not crush them under-heel?”

And on dying
“In the days when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, I know one boy who won't be sweating. I intend to raise my coffin-lid briskly, throw a few things into an overnight bag, and, whistling something appropriate, prepare to meet my Maker.”

And share a glass of this stuff whilst Giles sips a glass of Hildon water. How sad.

Monday, 12 November 2012


Taxi drivers in Brighton are different to the ones in London because so many of them seem to do it as an eccentric hobby. One said to me, his CD player playing Verdi very loudly “if you don’t like opera you can bugger off.” Another was doing GCSE Spanish to keep her daughter company.

The distinctive Brighton cabs proving the concept of safety in numbers

The other day I came across one who talked about oxymorons. The local Council are introducing radical and expensive traffic calming measures at a local roundabout with seven roads leading on to it. This cab driver and I discussed it, me with the theory that anywhere so palpably tricky called for great care and good manners. However this seems a minority view. The driver leaned across looking over his left shoulder as they do and said ‘whenever they say “road improvements” you know to means traffic jams or worse’. And so it was we began talking about oxymorons.

I’ve no idea what this means but I think we should pepper Britain with them to encourage people

Like “military intelligence”, “school food”, “National Health”, “tough love” (a way of justifying being beastly like that antiquated lie “this will hurt me more than it hurts you.”).

But there are three that are currently in constant use that worry me more.

“Business Plan” –or works of self-deluding fiction as I call them yet a lot of people spend a lot of time doing them very carefully.

Depressing? Yes and very, very boring. 

“Creative Workshop” – Dickens and Picasso would have loved these (not). In truth creativity and conferences of executives are by very definition at odds.

“Negative Profits”- which I love because it’s so obviously a lie. Here’s tough love again, here’s any phase which sounds positive but contains a problem. Like “stock adjustment” which means “we’ve run out.”

And finally “sell by date” which demands the response “not necessarily”. This is the single, greatest cause of food waste in the world.

But none of these quite evoke my ire like T-Mobile. My wife uses them. She pays her bills always and on time. Her latest cheque has been banked by them but they are saying it hasn’t been and are hounding her. This is made worse whilst they are asking her to check it and provide proof of payment.

Good brand name, shame about the disconnect.

“Life’s for sharing” says their website – which is not so much oxymoronic as moronic from people who seem to think they are right and their customers are wrong.

And as my taxi driver said “don’t get me on to customer service. Just don’t”.

Thursday, 8 November 2012


The enclosed intrigued me. The sheer economic pressures of what Martin Luther King called “the fierce intensity of now” takes smiles off faces and puts steel into behaviour. Today I got a request (well nearly, very nearly a demand) for £215 from Barnado’s to identify and rescue a child vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

The latter days of Obama campaign plus Sandy plus a lot of money concluded the affair.
Moral: get the money in….then get them out….get them voting (however reluctantly)…

Before the election – “we need your money ….now!”

"Friend --

In a few hours, I'm walking into a budget meeting with the rest of the campaign management team.

By the time we walk out of that room, we'll have decided exactly what kinds of resources we can get to organizers on the ground and which attacks we can beat back in the last three days of this election.

This is seriously your last chance to help decide what that looks like. Your donation will determine which attacks get a response -- and which don't.
According to our records associated with this email address, you haven't chipped in to this campaign yet. So this is it, the very last call. If you care about the outcome of this election, now is the time to show it.

Please give $5 or more, and help while you still can:

Please hear me when I say this is serious, and the decisions we're making are very concrete -- and final.

Give what you can, and let's make sure we win.

Thank you.

Ann Marie

Ann Marie Habershaw
Chief Operating Officer
Obama for America

After the election – phew!!!

Friend –
I'm about to go speak to the crowd here in Chicago, but I wanted to thank you first.

I want you to know that this wasn't fate, and it wasn't an accident. You made this happen.

You organized yourselves block by block. You took ownership of this campaign five and ten dollars at a time. And when it wasn't easy, you pressed forward.

I will spend the rest of my presidency honoring your support, and doing what I can to finish what we started.

But I want you to take real pride, as I do, in how we got the chance in the first place.

Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests.

There's a lot more work to do.

But for right now: Thank you.


Monday, 5 November 2012


”Did you hear the one about the Mormon underpants?”

I’ve been watching the US Presidential Election in fascination. It started (it seemed) as Sonny Liston against Cassius Clay and then Cassius began to show feet of clay and a kind of sterile aloofness.  David Clark who used to advise Robin Cook in the late 1990s put it well:-

“I still care about the election result, but not in the way I used to. A decade ago….decisions taken in the White House were life-changing…. but all of that is now for the history books, because …America is now a country in decline…. the most important world-changing events today are happening in spite of America, not because of it.”

It’s hard to judge things from this distance although I recall driving across Massachusetts and Virginia in 1992 and hearing Ross Perot beating up Bush and Clinton on the radio and beginning to think (fantastically) that Ross could win. Being close to the trees doesn’t mean you see the wood.

Unelectable with those ears

It was in 1992 that James Carvill, Clinton’s campaign manager coined the campaign slogan, “the economy, stupid”. It turned out to be a winning thought. And I’ve been somewhat in a minority (actually the only person I’ve recently met) who though Romney really ought to win….so long as his focus was on the economy, jobs and reclaiming American pride.

He put it quite well when he said:-

“And this President wakes up every morning, looks out across America and is proud to announce, 'It could be worse.' It could be worse? Is that what it means to be an American? It could be worse? Of course not….. What defines us as Americans is our unwavering conviction that we know it must be better.”
In truth he – master of outsourcing at Bain – could plausibly claim to know his way around the jobs scene and be capable of being an equally adept master on insourcing which is precisely what the USA needs as unemployment remains at around 8%.

Worthy of Don Draper

Obama’s trouble is he’s too worldly and urbane for a lot of Americans. Strangely in a land where the Buffetts, Trumps and Gates are such formidable wealth accumulators Obama seems strangely unmoved by money and in this respect he’s very un-American. His faux pas – they happen on the campaign trail – is ironic because in a way he does think America has to move forward not back:-

"My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world.
I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it."

He’ll probably win, helped by a commanding storm-performance and because of what Nick Curtis of the Evening Standard discovered in his recent trip to America

“Everywhere we met voiced opinions more nuanced and thoughtful than anything uttered in the campaign.”

But I still have the funny feeling that “the economy stupid” could pull it off.

Here’s the real story about America