31 May 2007

Tonier than thou

As part of his plan to have his own career mirror the rise of Tony Blair, David Cameron has now reached his very own "Clause Four" moment. Remembering how Tony Blair faced down the unions, Cameron now has his very own dinosaurs of the 1922 Committee to vanquish - proving himself not only a man for change, but a strong leader.

The parallels are striking - The Labour Party never came anywhere near to enacting "public ownership of the means of production", any more than a Conservative government has built any grammar schools in the last 30 years. Yet each clings to its unenacted policy more out of a sense of identity than anything else: "if we don't stand for this, then what do we stand for?" No doubt the answer will dawn now as it did then: "whatever it takes to get elected."

I just hope he stops before he reaches his equivalent of the Iraq war.

29 May 2007

The Middle East Roadmap: park and ride

Exciting developments in the war on terror, as the leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Ramallah has been detained by Israeli security officials.

Apparently he was arrested while having sex in a car just a few hundred feet from late PLO leader Yasser Arafat's grave. My friend Phil reckons this could be the terrorist who has been dogging the peace process for some time, but of course Hofflimits would never stoop to make such a joke.

Given Mossad's record of using "honey traps" in the past, it is perhaps surprising such captures are not more widespread. The alternative is that this warrior from the frontline of Palestinian resistance can bring mayhem and destruction down upon the enemies of Islam, but is still too embarrassed to bring girls home to his parents' house.

Might this suggest it's worth sending women agents into Afghanistan to approach Osama Bin Laden with the promise of a snog round the back of the Tora Bora mountains?

Do as I say, not as I do

Sometimes being successful isn't enough - you want respect too. So McDonald's this week launched a campaign to remove the term "McJob" from the Oxford English Dictionary, claiming that the term is insulting to the thousands of staff working in the service sector. First invented 20 years ago by Douglas Copeland, McJob has moved from its original coinage of a "slacker job" to come to mean the more general: "unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector".

If this sounds a little Big Brother-ish for you, here's another Orwellian concept McDonald's seems to have mastered: doublethink. Check out this website offering a challenging career in fast-food retail that is "so much more than a McJob". That's a career with, er, McDonald's. Posted on their own website.

http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/ - click on "careers"

I guess you could call that McHumbug.

24 May 2007

Shoot: the messenger

Ronaldo, Andriy Shevchenko, Steven Gerrard, David Beckham and Phil Neville. Not an odd one out contest, but just some of the footballers who have taken a stand against the kidnap of Madeline McCann.

Astonishingly, their no doubt heartfelt pleas at recent football matches have failed to reveal her whereabouts. When criminals stop listening to our footballers, then you know the world has truly become a rotten place.

23 May 2007

Listen with interest

Senator John Edwards is probably best know for two things: not becoming the Vice president of the USA in 2004, and for not going to be President in 2008. Given that this also applies to 5,999,999,998 other people, he must have some other quality that makes people at the University of California want to hear him speak.

Sen. Edwards was at UC Davis to talk about poverty - apparently, he's against it. So strongly against it, it seems, he insisted on getting paid $55,000 as a precautionary measure, to prevent any outbreak of poverty affecting him personally. In case you may have missed that last point, that's $55,000 for talking about poverty, not curing it.

Defending its decision, UC Davis officials pointed out that Edwards was a "speaker of interest that people in the community were clearly interested in" [sic]. Given that he racked up nearly $300k last year from just nine speeches at US colleges, Sen. Edwards is cetainly a speaker of considerable interest: at least $10,000 a year, I'd guess.

20 May 2007

Avoiding a scan-dal.

Here at Hofflimits we are a pretty law abiding bunch, though even I was taken aback by an example of Tesco's commitment to lawful trading on Friday night. I was queuing at one of the "self service" tills - where you scan your own purchases into a computer and pay the machine at the end. A clever way for Tesco to get you to do their work, but clearly open to abuse were it not for the monitoring of purchases by a Controller, who monitors all of these tills at once from a screen off to one side.

As I queued at such a till, a woman in front was scanning her goods and packing. In point of fact, her teenage daughter was scanning the food while she packed the bags. All was fine until the Ubercontroller realised three beers had been purchased - which requires her nod to make sure the transaction is legal. The thirty-something woman may have been the purchaser - indeed the one paying for the goods. But because her daughter had been the one who scanned the beer through the till, she was attempting to commit a crime.

Fortunately for the moral safety of the community, our Controller leapt into action. She made the woman unpack her shopping to find the beer, cancel the beer scanned by the daughter, and made the mother re-scan the very same beer through the till again before the transaction could be completed, all the while repeating her stock answer to all questions: "it's not my fault". Mercifully for the rest of the queue, she resisted calling the police to arrest the daughter.

So although Every Little Helps, that doesn't mean Every Little Helper.

17 May 2007

Things you won't find on eBay...

Turning to more serious issues, the theft was reported today of a blue-throated Amazon parrot who delivers a high-pitched squawk if Manchester United are mentioned within earshot. The bird doesn't appear to have any other talents, apart from speaking his name, but the owner believes that the bird was stolen to order, which is an interesting concept:

Customer: "I'd like to buy a parrot that shrieks whenever I say 'Manchester United'."
Pet shot owner: "Sorry, sir, I've just sold the last one."
Customer: "You couldn't tell me the address, could you?"

14 May 2007

Blair's legacy: taking the Michael

A good many trees have been pulped to pass sentence on the passing of Tony Blair from top political office by the fourth estate. The double-edged sword of personifying a political movement means you can gather its plaudits, but also risk taking flak for things that were probably beyond your control. But whatever the rights and wrongs of ten years of New Labour, we'll always have Enfield South.

In 2007, as a re-invented writer and broadcaster, and acceptable face of contrite, 21st century conservatism, Michael Portillo now seems a benign character, cuddling up to Diane Abbott on the sofa for Westminster TV chit-chat. It's easy to forget what a repugnant, oleaginously self-aggrandising little turd he really was. Like Grand Admiral Durnirtz at the end of World War Two he was the last defender of the Poll Tax who talked with an SAS swagger and combined hatchet-faced, New Right thinking with a peculiarly charmless charisma. When the Major government fell, he would be the man to lead the Conservative party back to the promised land.

For those of us who had reached a quarter century without being able to remember another party in power, May 1997 was a giddy time. I was probably one of a large number of people who couldn't quite believe the Conservative party would ever be out of government, in the same way you can't quite ever believe you will leave school as a child. I can still remember at about 3a.m. on election night, when the results for Enfield South were beamed across the country, the collective roar of the country when Stephen Twigg was elected ahead of the Heir Apparent.

Of course dreams turn to ashes, and promises are forgotten like sweet nothings in a debutante's ear. Money is wasted, expectations are disappointed, hopes are dashed and we all grow older. The jury may be out on Tony Blair's true achievements. But do you remember the look on Portillo's face?

09 May 2007

I felt the news today, oh boy...

Why do you watch the news? To keep informed of current affairs? How very old-fashioned. Today it's not enough to "read all about it" - you have to feel it too.

Take the desperate story of the abduction of a British girl from a Portuguese holiday resort. It is revealing about the extent to which we, in the UK, accept media demands to be made the focus of all investigations, like a gluttonous child in its insatiable demand for fresh material. There can never be too many shots of distraught parents, photofits of suspects or pictures of the victim. Not for prurient reasons, you understand, but in the name of a public service, armed with their ever-present asinine question: how do you feel?

When such a story breaks in the UK, local police believe the more information that is released, the higher the chances of finding the child alive. The fact that this is also serves the agenda of the British press doesn't come into it. So when the Portuguese police don't play ball, the self-righteous, mercenary media dress up their professional frustration as a lack of concern by the local police. Why should the Portuguese police feed the British press corps? How does it help their investigation to keep the British public hundreds of miles away up-to-date with every false lead, random sighting and unsubstantiated rumour? How does it help our understanding of the story to be told on the hour, every hour that there are still two crushed parents in the Algarve with no news of their missing daughter, live via satellite.

It is a slow-cooker of emotion that is always threatening to boil over, as rolling news coverage demands that its stories expand to fill the dead air. And where there is nothing concrete to say, we resort to impressionism; we have to be made to feel the anguish of bereft parents 24-hours a day, just to show we care, unlike the Portuguese police. As with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, you need to react emotionally to the news, or get pilloried as inhuman - what do you mean you didn't pull your own hair out and chain flowers to some railings? You heartless bastard.

01 May 2007

Give us a clue

Naturally Tony Blair is upset to be leaving office. But not half as upset as he is about who will succeed him as Prime Minister. So when he annouced the inevitable today, he couldn't even bear to mention his name, as if the very words 'Gordon Brown' would ensure the succession would come to pass, like a performatory utterance.

Instead he opted for a parlour game, when he said:

"In all probability a Scot will become prime minister of the United Kingdom, someone who has built our economy into one of the strongest in the world, and who, as I have said many times before, would make a great prime minister for Britain."

Ooh, hang on, I know this one. Is it John Reid?

Incidentally, what's with the "Scot" reference? If the front runner had been Gerald Kaufman, would Tony Blair have announced that a Jew would be the next Prime Minister?