Blackberries, bullying and Blair: Pickles weighs in

Just for Brown (picture: Hannah Roberts)


Eric Pickles would like to throw his mobile phone at Gordon Brown 

“A Blackberry would be the perfect parting gift for our dear Prime Minister. 

The Conservative Party chairman was speaking at a panel event near Westminster on Thursday evening. 

Responding to an audience question about the potential recipients of flying office stationary Pickles added: “In my own office I have a yellow rubber banana in tribute to Mr Miliband.” 

 Also on the panel at the Total Politics Question Time event were Harrow East Labour MP Tony McNulty and Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake. The politicians were joined by  the Independent’s chief political commentator, Steve Richards, and Tory commentator Iain Dale as the chair. 

Dominating discussion was the subject of bullying in Downing Street, following the allegations made in journalist Andrew Rawnsley’s new book. 

Pickles said it was ‘worrying’ that “because [Darling] says the bleeding obvious then the forces of hell are released on him.” 

“I can’t imagine Andrew Rawnsley has made those things up,” added the MP for Brentwood and Ongar. 

“We’ve all seen documentaries on neighbours from hell but never imagined it would be in Ten Downing Street.” 

Pickles said the test for a good boss was somebody who would help you out of a mess and who you could take bad news to. 

“I don’t think I’d like to see Gordon Brown with bad news,” he said. 

But McNulty, ever the loyal Labour man, dismissed the concerns, saying that when he had worked closely with Brown over he 42 days detention issue, Brown had not raised his voice at him. 

Men in black: (from left) Brake, Pickles, Dale and McNulty


“I raised my voice, but that’s another story for Andrew Rawnsley’s next book!” 

“People lose their temper in high octane situations – shock horror,” he said. “I’m sure it will be a very nice book but I don’t believe that it is gospel.”  

“You can’t have a convivial relationship between a prime minister and a chancellor all the time.” 


Meanwhile Brake admitted we had not learnt anything ‘in relation to what goes on behind closed doors’ but said he could not imagine Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg throwing anything at his staff. 

Richards said Rawnsley was a genius ‘for telling us something we already know’ although he hypothesised that some of the stories had been ’embroidered’. 

“I would also say, so what?” he admitted. 

“I tried to get worked up and excited and I really can’t. These things are always more complicated than we see when they are written about.” 

In fact, Richards said a calm leader was the exception and not the rule. 

Citing examples of Wilson and Thatcher’s staff finding them difficult to work with, he added: “For Major they had to hide the Evening Standard from him.” 

Richards said Tony Blair was unusual for his calmness in difficult situations. 

“Blair is an aberration, during crises he was extraordinarily calm.” 

Recalling that when Blair sacked Blunkett for the second time he had been scheduled to meet the then prime minister for coffee, Richards said he had been surprised the meeting had not been cancelled. 

“I was waiting for him to cancel but there was no cancellation,” he said. ” He had sacked a close friend for the second time and he says ‘hi, how are you, great to see you’ and spoke for an hour about public service reform. 

“There was this total meltdown but he was absolutely fine, and that was weird,” said Richards. 

“There’s an authenticity about Brown’s weirdness.” 

The panel also discussed all-women shortlists for parliamentary seats, accountability and predictions for the next election, with some time reserved to discuss the future of Peter Mandelson. 

For Brake, it was ‘anyones guess’ what the oft-referred to Prince of Darkness would do next. 

“He can turn his hand to anything,” he said. 

Richards said it would not be the last of him even if Labour were to lose the election. “He sees his role to try to keep the whole show on the road,” said Richards. 

“He’s utterly tribal and will be heavily involved in choosing Gordon Browns successor if Labour were to lose.” 

For Pickles, the answer was obvious. 

“I think he will be a chat show host.”

Inspire Britain’s young people to vote? Yes we can

What did you want to be when you grew up? Maybe it was an actor or an astronaut, or perhaps a fireman or pop star? Chances are, it wasn’t an MP or even Prime Minister.

When it comes to political apathy, Britain’s young people lead the way. Generation Y may be inspired by issues like global warming or the price of an Oyster card, but you wouldn’t know it at election time. In 2005, only 39 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted in the general election, compared with three quarters of over 65s.

Teens and young adults may have been the first to rail against Labour’s decisions on the Iraq war or tuition fees, but they were curiously absent from the ballot box.

Of course, it’s not just Britain and its not just now. For years across the western democratic world, electoral turnout, and wider participation in campaigning or party activism, has been plummeting. Just as British youths were disillusioned with politics, so were American ones. Until 2008, that is.

Read the rest of this article over on The Periscope Post

Friends: not there for you anymore

“Surely you’ve seen this episode,” my dad says, as he comes into the living room to find me watching yet another old Friends episode.

“So,” I say. “You can never watch too much Friends.”

But apparently, you can. Channel 4 are axing the reruns of the popular series, fifteen years after the world first tuned into the antics of Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Joey and ugly naked guy. E4’s popular 8pm to 9pm slot wil be filled with something new from October 2011.

“It’s time to say goodbye to old Friends and welcome new ones, in the form of more comedy, drama and entertainment from the US and UK,” said Channel 4’s head of acquisitions, Gill Hay.

Forever Friends? not exactly!

Fifteen years is a long time, and after showing each of the 236 episodes around the same number of times (ish) it makes sense for Channel 4 to close the doors on Central Perk for good. But Getting Lippy was quite sad to hear the news, and wasn’t the only one as the web erupted in a show of emotion for smelly cat et al.

On Facebook, a keen fan named Daniel Wheeler showed his contempt at the decision by setting up a group to ‘SAVE FRIENDS! – E4 TO STOP SHOWING FRIENDS’.

“Lets try and get them to show more episodes!” it appeals to its 201 members.

One Benjamin Howard tweeted that hew as ‘deeply saddened’, adding that “when Richard and Judy left [sic] it was only thing that kept me going between 5-6 :(“.

“devastated […] who doesn’t love eating their dinner in front of Friends?!” said SpannerBristow.

Over on the Watch With Mothers blog, the vitriol was intense as the noted the ‘horrific news’ that Friends would no longer be there for us.

“Clearly, you only meant “I’ll be there for you every day, twice a day for 17 years and then that really is it.”

“Call that commitment, do you? Damn you, Friends! Damn you all to Hades!”

“What will we do when there’s nothing else to watch on an evening?” mourns blogger Joseph Seager.

“I might have to buy the boxset,” he said.

So it seems someone will be emerge a winner from this then.

Lost without the web?

Is Lostpedia the greatest invention known to man?

If you’re a Lost fan, one who has undergone five series of agony for what one hopes will be the ultimate payoff, you might well agree.

If you’ve never seen the show, which started back last Friday, or stopped watching so early that you think Jack’s biggest problems are polar bears and Sawyer, then you might think: what?

Lostpedia, for the record, is essentially Wikipedia for JJ Abrams disciples. It’s a forum detailing everything – or at least, almost everything – known about the episodes, the characters and the themes.

Like Wikipedia, it’s user generated which means any crackpot with a theory about why the island moves or who exactly the smoke monster is can post an explanation.

Essentially, it’s the height of geek-dom. Not only are Lost fans fervent followers of a wierd sci-fi show, they actually spend other time reading and talking about it. One way ticket to loserville, right?

Except, if you’ve actually seen the show of late, you’ll know that Lostpedia, and all the other recaps and theories espoused on websites around the world, are pretty crucial.

Lost is perhaps the most complicated and implausible TV show around, and certainly the only one I’ve ever felt the need to ‘revise’ before the start of the new series.

It’s torturous, often not very enjoyable and highly addictive, and it needs the companion guide.

Remember when you studied Shakespeare at GCSE. You read the play, but you’d probably also watch the film version, perhaps see it on stage and invariably refer to the York notes study guide. Lost is exactly the same – you can’t just watch it – which is why it couldn’t have survived without the internet.

Fifteen years ago, Lost may not have made it to series six with so many viewers, not to mention such a high profile, because everyone would just have given up. Oceanic 815 would still have crashed, but you’d never have invested in finding out what happened.

Lost: a series for the online era?

Sure, back in the pre-web days we could discuss a dramatic episode or deconstruct a particularly complicated film. But the opportunity to analyse, and analyse some more, and then some more; that’s a function of the endless beast that is the internet.

For a show so complicated – time travel, good versus evil, a wierd hippie commune, not to mention the Jack, Kate and Sawyer love triangle – if you didn’t have something to help you digest it all, you’d have to give up.

Without the internet, Lost fans would need a help-line with desperate fans phoning up in a panic: “why is Charlie back from the dead, who was Cindy again, when did Adam tell Hurley about the guitar case.”

There are 5,980 articles on Lostpedia – it actually went up by one while I clicked on the site – and the content will just keep on growing. The show, to most fans relief, is ending this season, but it’s unlikely to answer all the questions. According to co-creator Carlton Cuse:

“Obviously, not every question’s going to be answered […] some people are going to be upset that those particular questions don’t get resolved. But we felt that if we tried to just answer questions, it would be very pedantic.”

This will lead to deranged, suicidal thoughts by losties everywhere, but also to plethora of online activity. Mark my words, when the final episode wraps, the internet will be swarming with theories, observations and emoting, not to mention they inevitable fan fiction.

So there you have it; Lost, the official TV success story of the web age.

Ironic really, for a show set on a desert island with little technology to speak of.