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Archive for September, 2008

The shame of football

Tonight the last Barcelona derby played in the Olympic stadium of Montjuic, home of RCD Espanyol for the past four seasons, has brought shame to more than one FC Barcelona player, among them some well known former Arsenal superstar with a love for arrogance.

I don’t want to bore you with the details of one of the craziest football matches I’ve seen in a while, and I bet you I’ve probably seen more  than you have, but the attitude of some of Barcelona’s players have been less than gracious. As Barcelona won a controversial match, to say the least, Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique decided to celebrate the goals cheering to the same Barcelona hooligans who ten minutes earlier had thrown a number of flares down the terraces into the Espanyol crowd.

Sometimes the limelights don’t allow us to see through the responsiblity of some players in the aggrandisement of hooliganism in football stadiums. Henry, Messi and Pique tonight were an embarrasment to the entire football nation and should be punished by the Spanish Football Federation, the UEFA and the FIFA. In Spain we have a term for great football teams, we term them ‘club señores’. The FC Barcelona tonight has shown why it is not one of those.

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Obama v McCain debate: an analysis

Yesterday I struggled to stay up to watch the first US presidential debate on CNN (unlike in 2004 BBC 1 wasn’t showing it) but I managed to watch it all and certainly wasn’t too impressed. Both candidates stuck to their messages and there was little interaction between them, more than a dialogue it was a series of independent statements from both of them.

Having said that I think Obama’s team did better at crafting what messages they wanted out there (middle class tax cuts, Iraq, Afghanistan and Russia). He did have an awful moment when he called McCain first Jim, then Tom and then claimed he was in Congress not in the Senate. But overall he came out much better than McCain who was certainly quite nervous despite being a seasoned (I would say over-seasoned) politician.

A couple of times I saw a chance for Obama to make a little fun of McCain but he made a pass which I though it was a shame. Happy to have seen Zapatero mentioned in the debate by Obama (he won me over with that one : )

Anyways, there is a great analysis on why polls give Obama a victory in the debate over at my favourite polling site, FiveThirtyEight, not to be missed!

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Key week ahead for Labour

A Guardian-ICM poll today puts Labour up three points just 9 behind the Tories in the narrowest lead for Cameron since April. This is obviously good news, it means Brown has managed with his conference speech to crawl out of the hole of being seen as a lame duck PM.

The Tories are preparing for what is probably going to be a much tougher conference than they expected. They wanted to hammer the last nail in Labour’s coffin, now they are thinking more about regaining momentum. Their entourage, the likes of Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale, are sticking to the old Tory narrative, but unless they are backed up by a tour de force by Cameron et al in Birmingham next week it won’t work for much longer besides for the already converted.

In the current climate we need two things. First of all for the media, as Hopi Sen rightly points out, to start quizzing Cameron on real substantial issues. He has had an easy ride on policy detail for two years now, but this time around their conference will be the biggest of the two main parties (more money, more lobbyists, more journalists, more of everything) so the media should start asking them tough questions like the real political alternative they are. But it is also important, and this is my second point, that Labour sticks to their new narrative of fairness and do so united with one voice. Please let’s avoid any mistake like last year’s pathetic stunt in Iraq, as Brown said serious men for serious times.

Labour won’t be able to change the potential sucess or failure of the Tories’ conference. They simply need to trust that their plan for Britain’s future is better and say so with one voice next week, you know why? because it is.

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Tighten your belt Her Majesty

According to the Indy the Government has denied the Queen an increase on the amount of public money provided for the financing of both her official duties, the so called Civil List, and the maintenance of the different royal palaces. The Queen’s advisers asked for an increase on the existing £7.9 million Civil List or the settlement of a £32 million bill for palace maintenance.

Good on the Government to do so. The fact that these were secret talks means that the Government stood its ground and kept its promises on public spending discipline behind closed doors, where it matters, not just in front of the cameras.

At a time of financial difficulties the Queen should show some solidarity with her subjects, that money can be put to better use.

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Loved it!

Great, great speech from Gordon Brown today. Certainly the best Brown performance I’ve seen. He was at ease delivering the speech. In the personal touches he was warm but not cheesy (unlike last year), in the big picture/vision section he was firm and inspiring, in the policy sections specific and comprehensive and in the politics of it all he was defiant and delivered some great attack lines on the Tories. But the most important bit is that this speech has drawn the battleline in the right way for Labour: statesmanship versus showmanship and experience and substance versus inexperience and oportunism.

I think if Labour spinners and Ministers can keep the momentum and for once the MSM gives the man a fair treat we could see a substantial change in the opinion polls. The hot potato is now on the Tories hands, let’s see what they can do.

My favourite quotes from the speech were:

‘No time for a novice’

‘If I’m too serious, there is a lot to be serious about’

‘Being on the side of hardworkin families is the only place I’ve ever wanted to be, and from now on it’s the only place I will ever be’

‘Why do we always strike for fairness? Because fairness is in our DNA’

‘The mission of our times- the fair society, the cause that drives us on – and we will win, not for the sake of our party, together we will win for the future of our country’

Top stuff. Brown has risen to the occasion and demonstrated he can deliver under pressure. Congratulations Mr. Brown.

UPDATE: you can read the full transcript of the speech here.

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Comparison of the day

Brilliant post from Dizzy here.

UPDATE: Minutes to go to Brown’s speech, one can feel the pressure of so much momentum building up

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Back in London after earning a quick buck giving a lecture in my hometown’s university and bringing back some nice food and wine. The starting date for my new job has been postponed until the end of conference season which means I get a chance of lying in my sofa and watching the full coverage of Labour conference.

In this space I’ll be commenting on little details from the conference that may (or may not) escape others’ minds. As many other blogs are commenting on the big issues I thought this might make a more interesting addition to the debate in the blogosphere.

In this spirit, has anyone noticed the little scolding from Alistair Campbell to David Miliband? In the Daily Politics special on BBC2 Andrew Neil was interviewing Campbell and when asked about the ‘Heseltine comment’ he said: ‘I’ve known David for many years and he has a brilliant future and in fact a brilliant present as the Foreign Secretary of a Labour government, we all need to focus on supporting Gordon and winning the next election’. That sounds to me like a ‘stop fooling around and get to work’. The great party operative Campbell is, glad he’s back advising Labour.

More later…

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