Top news from The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Indepedent and The Guardian newspapers
‘TONY Blair knows a lot about the battle between reality and myth – although in the majority of occasions recently he has been fighting in the latter camp.
|‘I’m still, I’m still Tony from the block…’|
The existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s ability to strike against Western interests in 45 minutes, Cool Britannia, the Millennium fireball…all were products of the Prime Minister’s fevered imagination.
But when it comes to the European ‘constitution’, Mr Blair is very much on the side of the angels as an unholy alliance of the right-wing press and politicians conspire to spread yet more myths about the EU.
The Independent this morning exposes a dozen or so claims made in the past few days about the document for the lies that they are.
For instance, it dismisses UKIP MEP Nigel Farrage’s absurd claim that Britain would have to surrender its place in Nato, on the UN Security Council and at the G8 summits as ‘fantasy’.
It castigates the Sun and the Daily Mail for selective misquoting and misrepresentation, such as the former’s claim that ‘a secret clause in the constitution would give Brussels control over our oil’.
And it shows up the claims of Tory politicians like shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram’s assertion that the constitution is ‘a gateway to a country called Europe’ for the tosh that it is.
But what can one paper do when the vast majority of the national press is eurosceptic by inclination or by proprietor’s decree?
So Anorak today promises to join the battle on the side of reality and expose three euro-myths for the bunkum that they really are.
MYTH 1: Under the new constitution, Brussels will have the power to confiscate any child under the age of 18 months and sell them into slavery.
FACT: Britain has secured an opt-out from this provision, which will apply only to the 10 countries joining the union.
MYTH 2: Under the new constitution, any Frenchman or Italian will be perfectly within their rights to sleep with your wife or girlfriend whenever they choose.
FACT: This is true, but it is no more than a clarification of the existing position.
MYTH 3: Under the new constitution, it will be an offence to be seen in public with orange skin.
FACT: As this measure only applies to Robert Kilroy-Silk and Grant Bovey, it is surely one that will be welcomed across the country.’
‘THE antipathy towards anything European in this country is all the harder to understand given that our politicians have banned far more things than Brussels ever has.
|Some of Year 10 were taking things a bit far|
Smacking is next on the agenda, according to the Telegraph, no doubt followed closely by smoking, spitting, swearing and anything else beginning with S.
That will, of course, include skirts – and Kesgrave High School near Ipswich is stealing a march on its rivals by introducing the ban now.
New uniform regulations will require girls at the school to wear trousers to school from September to stop them turning up for lessons in miniskirts.
Chairman of the governors Margaret Young explained that an attempt to ensure skirts were of a regulation length two years ago had failed.
‘The impact was short-lived,’ we are told by the Telegraph, ‘and it wasn’t long before the skirts were very short again.
‘Parents might see their daughter go to school in one skirt, but they change to another shorter one at school or they roll up the top to make them look shorter. Some are practically pelmets.’
Some people might suggest that it was ever thus, but head teacher George Thomas says the ban was necessary because some girls’ skirts were impractical as well as immodest.
Now, we at Anorak are no experts in the finer points of women’s apparel, but how can a short skirt be more impractical than a long skirt?
Unless the problem is that some of the male teachers are having problems concentrating on their lessons…’
‘WHEN the Americans were stationed in Britain 60 years ago, the joke was that they were overpaid, oversexed and over here.
|‘How do I get this bloody thing off?’|
That is not something that could be said of the new generation of Yanks entering this country members of the Silver Ring Thing here to preach chastity.
The Times says 50 members of the group will arrive on Friday in the Surrey village of Claygate to warn teenage virgins of the risks of premarital sex.
But it looks as if theyll have their work cut out if reaction in the Times is anything to go by.
The paper speaks to one 15-year-old boy called Owen who asks: Whats chastity?
Nor is the message likely to hit home with Nicola, who thinks that most teenagers are mature enough to lose their virginities at 14.
And 17-year-old Tom dismissed the Silver Ring Thing members as churchy types and said he didnt know anyone who would be going.
They make too much of a deal about sex, he complained. It should be seen as more of a recreational thing.
Rather like riding a bike…’
‘SO much for the United States of Europe.
|‘I too cannot tell a lie’|
While the nation on the other side of the Atlantic cites its constitution with pride and recalls its signing in Philadelphia with feelings of brotherly love, Europeans debate the colour of the ink in the signatories pen.
Its unlikely to be orange of the Kilroy-Silk UKIP kind but, with so much conservative blue, socialist red and eco-friendly green in the inky mix, any signature is any danger of resembling a muddy coloured smudge.
What will happen to the future of European unity is being debated in the grandiose Council of Ministers building in Brussels.
And Tony Blair has, the Times says, laid down red lines in the latest Irish draft of the EU constitution, in which Britain plans to veto plans for harmonising tax and social security and to limit the powers given to the European court.
And this has upset the French and Germans, which although not bad per se – indeed, its pretty much guaranteed to make many Britishers smile – is unlikely to please Chris Patten.
The last time many of us saw the former Tory Cabinet minister was when he was waving a teary goodbye to British control over Hong Kong and his role as its governor.
But since then, the Times says, Pattens been shuttling to all the capital cities of the EUs 25 member states in a bid to whip up support for his bid to become president of the European Union.
But the stand-off between Britain and the Franco-German alliance over Blairs militaristic red lines could mean the man who would be George Washington is in danger missing out.
While the Times notes how the Germans are trying to play down any differences, the French and their leader, Jacques Chirac, are having no problem giving vent to their feelings.
Its difficult to have the representative of a country which doesnt take part in all European policies [at the head of the EU], says Chirac.
The ambitions that we had have been reduced, in particular over tax and social initiatives, by the very clear non possumus [Latin for we cannot] strongly expressed by the United Kingdom.
The French president then put the mood in a language that needed no translation, saying how Britains position presented a real problem.
Which leaves the question, if not Patten, then who? We the people of the United Europe, have, er, not the foggiest…’
‘BILL Clintons autobiography, the heavily marketed My Life, runs to 957 pages.
|How could he?|
The length will put many people off reading it, especially when they realise that Clinton can drag even the most clear and concise question out to a fine point.
(Did we ever get to find out what sexual relations really meant?)
But the good news for slow readers, and members of the Bush clan, is that the book is sure to contain many pictures of the man in the throes of action – perhaps even some of a famous blue dress, with or without stains.
But theres no stain on the Clinton character because, while doing the rounds for his book, the former US president told CBS that his four-year long battle with special prosecutor Ken Starr was a badge of honour.
Honour might not be the first word many of us think of when we consider Clinton squirming in a chair as he was asked questions about what a 21-year-old Monica Lewinsky was looking for under his desk.
But now Clinton has seen that the time is right to come clean hell, hes got a book to sell.
When asked by veteran American newscaster Dan Rather why he dallied with Lewinsky, the Times says Clinton was more candid than he has ever been.
I did something for the worst possible reason just because I could, says he. Thats just about the most morally indefensible reason that anybody could have for doing anything.
There are lots of sophisticated explanations, more complicated psychological explanations, but none of them are an excuse.
You might well scratch your heads and wonder what those scientific non-excuses could be.
Surely there is nothing too complex about a powerful married man getting his jollies with a hungry young office girl?
Clintons line is hard to buy. But sex sells and non-sex might just sell even better…’
‘AS miscarriages of justice go, there can be no bigger case of mistaken identify and plain wrongness than the lot of some of our fine lads in Portugal.
|‘Two goals in the last minute against the French and now this. How unlucky can one man get?’|
Each time its the same old story: the local, foreign police are a bunch of think hotheads who, bent on violence and culturally ignorant of British ways, mistake a cheeky bunch of rapscallions in high spirits for a mob of painfully dim pissedup hooligans.
So, its with our customary heavy heart that we turn to the Independent and catch up with Garry Mann, the so-called ringleader of a riot in Albufeira.
And Garry, who is now starting a two-year jail sentence for his part in the mayhem, is not being forgotten by the good people propped up against the bar at the Railway Hotel in Faversham, Kent.
How can he be the ringleader? asks a man not ashamed to be known as a friend of Manns. He was a firefighter, for Gods sake; these guys are the best.
How very true! That alone should secure Manns immediate release, but we fear the Portuguese will not be swayed from what passes for justice in their land so easily.
There needs to be more if we are to free The Faversham One. And help is one the way.
The Independent goes on to say: Family and friends of Mann…believe he is the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and crucially, with his shaven head and muscular firemans build, simply sticking out in a crowd.
Hes in bits, says his sister-in-law Bernadette (shaven head, heavy firemans build). Hes innocent. He wasnt even in the area when the trouble broke out.
This is getting murkier by the minute. He wasnt there! In which case, where was he? In a church? Taking tea in a cake shop? Saving a family and their pet cat from a burning building?
Or what about in a shop buying clothes?
If Mann was getting a new outfit, the Guardian has a cautionary tale for him and others like him as it profiles hooligan chic, the outfit sported by the authors of mayhem.
For anyone not wanting to be taken for a total dickhead, the Guardian lists the things you need to avoid wearing lest you be branded a hooligan and banged up in a cell.
The items are: Aquascutum cap, Hackett T-shirt, Burberry shorts, Adidas socks, Puma trainers, pint of lager, cross of St George tattoo (often emblazoned with the name of some small market town in the Midlands), stainless steel wristbands…
…large, yellow helmet, retractable hose, metal pole…’
‘ITS long been a bugbear of the English sporting hierarchy that so many of the sports in which the English excel are not part of the Olympic sphere.
|‘Will mummy kiss it better?’|
Where is snooker in the pantheon of sporting excellence? And why is there no darts arena being constructed in Athens?
At least the Portuguese have given the English enough beer on the Algarve to enable them to smash the place up and engage in what commentators routinely call the English disease.
Having calmed their pre-match nerves with a dozen or so pints of extra-strength lager a man, imbibed under a merciless sun, a group of English hooliganistas set about their sport.
The Times looked on as the signal to start the game – Its the Germans! – was given, the customary call for Englishmen to grab hold of a plastic chair, take a firm grip on a bottle neck and start to look angry.
But first a song. England Til I Die, screamed a man with a bulldog tattooed on his chest. No Surrender To The IRA, sang another. There Were Three German Bombers, came a third.
Here was Eurovision in action although the only entrants were the English.
But just as the English were getting into the swing of things, the Portuguese riot police stepped in.
The Telegraph says that running battles ensued as police fought with a rampaging mob (or team) hurling those prerequisite plastic chairs and bottles.
A dozen arrests were made, and the Telegraph tells us who they were.
These were not ill-educated and feckless young football fans from broken homes, it says, but studious achievers from comfortable middle-class homes as well as married men in settled jobs.
Cripes! These idiots are the Telegraphs target audience. And just look at the state of them – a drunken, beer-spattered bunch of narrow-minded, xenophobic berks, hooked on the war and blessed with a herd mentality.
Theres John Jackson, a university graduate, described by his tearful mum as a quiet lad. And John Parkes, an ancient history student and said by his mum to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And Andrew Williams, whose mum says how hes been brought up with a strong sense of right and wrong.
And the pick of this mum-loving bunch is Jack Hobbs, who earns the papers Victor Ludorum for his part in last nights sport.
Jacks from Oxfordshire, where he lives in a £750,000 home with his mum and dad, and is described as a lovely boy.
And thats dad, Michael, a consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist who also lectures at Oxford University. How proud he must be of his boy, as are we all!
Move over Tim Henman, Oxford and England have a new sporting hero – and hes got a plastic chair…’
‘DID anyone else notice how close the English football hooligans arrested on the Algarve last night are to their mums?
|‘One riot policeman…two riot policemen…three riot policemen…’|
We deduce from this that they are all good boys who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Their behaviour has nothing to do with a pathetic urge to untie the apron strings, whatever the cost to a Portuguese coppers face and Englands reputation abroad.
Indeed, these poor lads are the real victims and today, courtesy of the Telegraph, we learn why.
It seems that more than a million Britons may suffer from what is called restless leg disorder.
This ruins their sleep and is manifest in a creepy-crawly sensation that can only be alleviated through walking around.
Dr Wayne Hemming, the New York scientist who led the study, says that restless leg syndrome is a common cause of sleep disruption and often remains undiagnosed.
Most of the 2,000 British patients studied said they found it hard to sit down and relax and over half claimed that their daily activities were disturbed.
Some had taken to wandering the street of the Algarve at night, their involuntary leg jerks causing them to kick people and chairs as they literally itch for a fight…’
‘IN the old days, football hooligans would have found themselves dressed in khaki uniforms and sent out to fight for their country…with a gun.
|‘Three World Wars and no World Cups…’|
And such is the number of wars Tony Blair is fighting at any one time that the days of National Service could yet return.
But before they do, the Guardian has seen a report into the background to the current campaign in the deserts of Iraq.
The US commission set up in the wake of the September 11 attacks has found no evidence that Saddam Husseins regime and al-Qaeda engaged in any sort of collaborative relationship.
This is at odds with the thinking of the Bush administration. The paper reminds its readers that, as recently as Monday, US vice-president Dick Cheney was telling his supporters that Saddam had long-established ties with al-Qaeda.
The Independent heard the same address, and has also seen a poll commissioned by the Washington Post newspaper in which 69% of Americans believe Saddam was involved in the September 11 attacks.
The result is that, whether the message from the White House is correct or false, the majority of Americans believe the war was just.
But since some Americans still believe George Bush is a good leader and that London is the 51st state of the USA, we should not give the poll too much importance…’
‘SHHH! Can you hear that? Listen harder. Still can’t hear it?
|‘Tell me what you want, what you really, really want…’|
Well, we can tell you that what you cannot hear is the sound of silence. And not of the Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel variety but genuine silence, of the quiet, non-sounding sort.
And it’s coming from over there to the east, where, the Times reports, the two Koreas have turned off their ghetto blasters.
The paper says that shortly after midnight last night, the North Koreans and their neighbours in the south stopped broadcasting their mixture of slogans, insults and other antagonistic sounds over the Demilitarised Zone.
No longer will nefarious sounds designed to warp the mind and contort the senses (think of hearing the collected works of Stock, Aitken, and Waterman on loop for half a decade) be blasted across the great no-go area.
Not that the lyrics always attained the dizzying heights of I Should Be So Luck’ or the seminal statement of purpose that is the Reynolds Girls’ I’d Rather Jack.
Just listen to the closing message from the South Korean sound machine.
‘We believe, at this point, that we have faithfully served you who work near the Military Demarcation Line in our effort to open you up to the outside world by broadcasting various useful information and delightful music since we launched our programme in 1962.’
The closing address from North Korea was equally inspiring. ‘All kinds of propaganda activities within the DMZ area are being stopped. This is entirely the shining result of General Kim Jong II’s great unification ideology and guidance.’
Few will be downloading those onto their iPods to play on the beaches of Ibiza this summer.
But the absence of noise leaves something of a gap in the DMZ schedules and, while the sound of nothingness has its fans, we believe something is needed to replace it.
And surely that means it’s time to unleash the West’s greatest weapon in the war on communism.
Pick your way through the landmines and step under the search light, Victoria Beckham. The captive audience is yours.
‘Hello Korea! Day-vid and me are very solid. And here is my new single, a cover of Princess’s Say I’m Your Number One…”
‘FEELING as stressed out as a Korean border guard? Tense, nervous headache?
|‘Clearing up leaves, cooking, looking after two small kids…’|
Your brain packed with unexploded rage? Got an urge to scream out ‘Why me?’ at the top of your lungs, to crawl under your desk, to hug your knees and sob?
You do? Well, you need some serious help. We’d recommend that you take handfuls of brightly coloured pills but, not being doctors, we can only legally advise that you seek urgent medial assistance.
For the rest of you that muddle by and only occasionally have the desire to place your head through the computer terminal in front of you, the message is: ‘Go to Manchester.’
No, not to see people worse off than yourselves and so feel better by relation, but to pay a visit to the soothing environs of the Manchester Art Gallery.
The Times says that the venue has recruited two experts in stress management to choose pictures ‘guaranteed’ to leave even the most neurotic basket case at ease with themselves and their world.
So welcome one and all to the ‘tranquillity tour’, which invites city-centre workers to spend their lunch hours staring at a canvas.
‘Looking at art is a stress relieving activity,’ says Kim Gowland, an executive at the gallery, who wants the stressed out to chill out with paintings rather than rush round the shops.
Helpfully, for those readers not in the Manchester locale, the Times reproduces some of the collection’s works, including Durden’s Summer in Cumberland, Thomson’s Aeolian Harp by Turner and Millais’ Autumn Leaves.
Times readers can cut out and keep the calming snapshots in a wallet or other handy place where they can be gazed at moments of high stress.
The rest of us can buy some crayons and begin creating our own art by drawing on the walls…’
‘FEAR prevents us from doing many things with a free heart…and no profession prays upon our fears more than insurers.
|Richard Keys after theives stole his chest wig|
‘Planning a holiday?’ asks the man in the grey suit. ‘Have a nice time…but what if the plane crashes and your hotel burns down?’
‘Buying a new computer? What if a power surge causes the keyboard to become white hot and your fingers to melt?’
‘Getting out of bed today? That’s nice. But have you fully considered the implications if you were to trip over your own feet, stumble and fall through an open window and become impaled on a garden gnome?’
No, you’re worried.
But to help us, the nice insurer has a plan that for so much money a month will ease our concerns.
So what if the odds against it happening are one trillion to one – it’s better to be safe than sorry, or dead.
Just take a new insurance policy, which, the Times reports covers some modern dangers.
The paper says that Acumen, an American insurance company, is offering Britons the chance to insure themselves against becoming victims of mugging or road rage.
There are an estimated 388,000 muggings a year in Britain, a place which, according to the British Association of Anger Management, is also the ‘road-rage capital of Europe’.
But while you prepare for carefree motoring and no longer worry about taking that shortcut home through the badly lit park, underwriters at Lloyds of London have another great deal.
The Telegraph hears that men (but not women) can now insure themselves against loss of chest hair.
A new policy provides men with cover for up to £1m for permanent loss of chest hair caused by accident.
But be warned, hair loss resulting from nuclear contamination, terrorism, mass destruction, war, invasion or revolution is not covered. And neither is loss resulting from fire eating.
Although third party, fire and theft are covered…’
‘THERE is something contagious about Robert Kilroy-Silk, the new East Midlands MEP. And all the papers have caught it.
|‘I only touched his hand and the next minute…’|
There he is on the front page of the Independent quaffing a glass of what is described as English wine.
And there he is in the Telegraph sipping some more. And there he is again in the Times, draining the glass to the end.
And now here he is in the Guardian talking about what he plans to do to the European Parliament when he takes up his seat, or doesnt.
Wreck it, says the orangey one. Expose it for the waste, the corruption and the way its eroding our independence and our sovereignty.
And how will Kilroy-Silk launch his wrecking ball? Why, by wishing his colleague Nigel Farage a hearty bon voyage and waving him on his way to the heart of European darkness that is Belgium where he hopes to form a 60-strong bloc with other Eurosceptic parties.
Parties like Polands Self-Defence Party, Denmarks June Movement, Hollands Europa Transparant and the Czech Republics Civic Democratic Party.
Its all very hands across the continent, and we duly wonder if European unity could not have been hastened by all of us voting for Eurosceptic parties.
These people love to talk about the perils of a United Europe, and if they can do it a large room in Brussels while downing English plonk then so much the better.
The entire event will, of course, be televised – and, with Kilroy-Silk as host, will also give the representatives of the various parties a chance to confront their other demons, like My mother never loved me, Wheelie bins: Why? and My fathers a transsexual grocer from Copenhagen.’
‘JUST as most things in Hollywood revolve around the actor Kevin Bacon, weve noticed that Robert Kilroy-Silk lies at the centre of world politics.
|‘I don’t think much of yours’|
Kilroy is one step removed from Joan Collins, one step removed from Tony Blair (Kilroy was once a Labour MP) and two steps removed from Bill Clinton.
The step linking the orange one with the sax addict is revealed by the Guardian.
And the steps name is Dick Morris, once Clintons pollster and now the brains behind the UK Independence Partys electoral strategy.
The paper says that Morris is now in town to tell Kilroy how to gear up for an assault on the General Election.
And that could mean the sighting of the lovely Jan, Mrs Kilroy-Silk, the lady who would be first.
But before that great day, the Telegraph brings news of the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, who yesterday returned to the White House on important business.
It was the unveiling of the official Clinton portraits, one for him, one for her. And the Telegraph has shots of both paintings for us to examine.
In hers, Hillary is seen standing beside a wooden chair, her right hand resting on its back as if to steady herself after a nasty shock, while her left hand lies on the top of a bureau.
Bill meanwhile is standing before a large desk. This could be a risqué moment, but the artist has clearly studied the Clinton years in no small detail and, rather than have Clinton facing the desk, he turns him away.
If anyone is under there, the best or worst they can do is to kiss his buttocks.
Cue George Dubya Bush: Bill Clinton showed incredible energy and great personal appeal, says the President. He showed a deep and far-reaching knowledge of public policy… and so on.
Dubya then gave a plug for his predecessors book, the autobiographical My Life, before crawling out from under the desk and straightening his tie.’
‘HOW clever it was of the authorities to ban all known English hooligans from travelling to Euro 2004 in Portugal!
|Let the games begin|
Thanks to their zealous planning, the louts, yobbos, ingrates and plain dickheads who wrap themselves in the Cross of St George as they smash up everything in sight got to stay at home.
Did the Football Association not realise that one of the great pleasures for non-violent football fans, and the millions more who dont care about the national game, is gleaned from watching Gary from Staines getting pepper-sprayed and roughed up by the local plod?
The FAs ploy means that this year Gary and his mates are free to detonate their own town centres and attack their own policemen.
And the Independent has some photos from Birmingham to prove it.
Alongside a snap of English fans taunting their French rivals before their countries opening match in Lisbon is a second picture of English fans confronting riot police in Englands second city after the final whistle.
Just as Portuguese police were counting the number of English fans arrested on their unbroken fingers (only one was arrested and deported) – and the FA was starting to believe that the English disease had been cured – police were arresting 85 people in violent confrontations in England.
The worst mayhem was in Croydon, the plain south London suburb, where around 400 dolts clashed with police…and in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, where a vicar went berserk.’
‘THE future really is orange, as the advert said it would be.
|Brown is this year’s red, blue, yellow…|
Although written before all the results from the European elections were in, the papers are all of a mind that Robert Kilroy-Silks UK Independence Party has done rather well.
Campaigning on a ticket of free sun-beds for all, the Uniteds Kingdoms withdrawal from Europe and the restoration of Kilroy-Silk to the daytime TV schedules (right after Joan Collins Dynasty omnibus and Make-Up Masterclass), the orangey-tans made remarkable gains.
We now know that around 39% of us went to the polls and how the UKIP is on course to capture 12% of the popular vote, with the Conservatives and Labour on 25% and 17% respectively.
Besides meaning meltdown for Labour and the Tories over Europe, it gives the Guardians readers a chance to see how valid a YouGov poll is.
Such a poll, carried out on polling day last Thursday and now produced by the paper, suggests that Labour and the Tories will tie in first place on 22% of the vote apiece, followed by the UKIP on 20%, ahead of the Lib-Dems on 14%.
Although not bad, those results point to a significant margin of error. However, one thing the poll did get right is that when the percentage points are totted up the big two parties share of the vote is well under 50%.
This, the Guardian says, might well have something to do with voter backlash against the Government.
And it might well be a wake-up call to the Opposition, what the Eurosceptic former Tory party chairman Norman Tebbit tells the Telegraph is a way if firing a shot across the bows of the Conservatives.
But it might just be a sign of support for Kilroy-Silk in his own right.
And right on cue, here is the perma-tanned political tyro telling the Telegraph that, if Tony Blair signs up to the EU constitution in the face of so much hostility, he would be treating the electorate with contempt.
And whether you believe the electorate deserves to be treated so, such a move would do little to enhance Blairs waning popularity.
And possibly propel Kilroy-Silk even further up the political tree. Do not doubt his ambition – as the Independent says, the UKIP plans to stand in every seat at the next General Election.
What price Prime Minister Kilroy-Silk and First Lady Collins? Its a new political dynasty. And its wearing an all-over tan.’
‘LONDON has changed greatly in recent years.
|‘Anytime you’re London way, any evening any day…’|
Doing the Lambeth Walk these days is to risk life and limb dodging trucks, 4x4s and buses.
Cockney sparrows have been replaced by filthy pigeons (flyingus ratae).
If a nightingale did sing in Berkeley Square, the residents would complain about the noise and the yellow peril would be taken to the sprawling suburbs and shot.
And the best bit is that Londoners pay through the nose for the experience.
The Times has seen the annual survey carried out by Mercer, the human resources consulting firm, and learnt that London is now the second most expensive city to live in the entire world.
Taking into account such items as food, housing, entertainment, the price of a CD and the cost of renting an unfurnished two-bed apartment, researchers found that only Tokyo is dearer than London.
But then Tokyo doesnt have Ken Livingstone as its political leader. Londoners can rest assured that with Ken at the helm for a second term in office, their city will soon be No. 1.
But it could have been different – the Independent reports that more than half a million voting forms in the recent election for London mayor were filled out wrongly.
Voters were asked to mark their first and second choice for mayor down on the slip but, what with the pollution and the lack of available oxygen necessary for rational thought, many misunderstood the directions.
The paper tells us that having been asked to place a cross in one column for first choice and another in a separate column to indicate the second, over 500,000 Londoners failed to comprehend.
The paper says that common mistakes included putting both selections in one column, not putting anything in the second column, putting a cross through two boxes instead of through one at a time…
…voting for the BNP, believing Spurs will rise again, eating kebabs from vans, not travelling everywhere by mini cab, riding the Tube without two days worth of provisions strapped to a belt, talking to anyone in the street, trying to reason with a bus driver, parking a car, standing still (see pigeons)…’
‘GOT the price of a cup of tea? pleads the decrepit old crone at Birminghams New Street station.
|‘Thirty years of hurt, never stop the dreaming…’|
But before you dismiss her, remember that 30 years ago she was like you. She too arrived on the concourse with a ticket in her hand and a plan for a train journey to work.
But things happen in life. Not everything runs on time. There are delays. The wrong type of snow. Striking station staff. Leaves!
So give her a quid, because if the Government is to be believed, in 30 years time, she could be you.
The Independent brings news to anyone reading (or wearing) its pages at one of the countrys train stations that the ten-year plan to cure the nations transport problems will now arrive some time in 2034.
And thats not just before twenty to eight this evening, but the year 2034, some 30 orbits of the sun into the dim and distant future.
Those who have not gone crazy waiting for the next service to arrive may recall that at the time of their coming to office in 1997, Tony Blairs Labour party held aloft a ten-year plan for transport.
It was bright. It was bold. And, boy, was it ever integrated.
That is now just three years away, a mere blinking of an eye in commuting terms. But it will not happen. Know that it was too ambitious and will take another thirty 30 to be made real.
Of course, as the Indy reminds us all, thats at least six general elections away, and even with Tonys Blairs Teflon coating, he surely cannot still be around then.
Although the commuters at New Street station will be. And when a mass of newsprint and hair asks you for the price of a cup of tea in 2034, unfurl your 50 euro note and give until it hurts.
It might just be your dad coming home from a very long day at the office…’
”WHAT’S that, Skippy? Trapped down a disused mineshaft you say? C’mon, boy – you show me where…’
|‘You marvellous little ball, you!’|
We have known for a long time that kangaroos are highly intelligent animals – in Australia they pretty well form a fourth emergency service rescuing kids trapped in disused mineshafts up and down the country.
Intelligent they may be, but they’re not great conversationalists.
You wouldn’t invite a kangaroo to a dinner party, say, especially if you could get a border collie along instead – like Rico (see Tabloids).
But what about vegetables? Prince Charles has been talking to them for years – and we’re not talking about the dear departed Queen Mother.
And this morning he tells the Guardian his two favourite dinner companions – the brussel sprout and the leek.
Both are said to be very good listeners, always on hand with a bit of sage advice and boasting a wealth of amusing anecdotes with which to keep the prince entertained.
‘It’s a marvellous little ball,’ Charles exclaimed about the humble sprout – an opinion not shared, it seems, by his future subjects.
Not for the first time, in February the sprout was voted Britain’s most hated vegetable, although we prefer to think of it as misunderstood instead.’
‘CLEARLY, Downing Street didn’t send in enough postal votes with a X next to Labour and an ‘I Love Tony’ message in yesterday’s elections.
|‘Lord Lucan and Shergar have both gone for Labour’|
The party was heading for what the Telegraph calls ‘one of its worst electoral performances in recent memory’ as the Tories made major gains across the country.
Indeed, a poll suggests that had yesterday been a General Election instead of a European and local government election, Labour’s majority would have been completely wiped out.
According to the YouGov survey, the Tories would have got 36% of the vote, Labour 32% and the Liberal Democrats 18%, although even then Labour would be the biggest party in Parliament and Tony Blair would continue as Prime Minister.
However, the Independent thinks Labour might not even wait that long to find out, suggesting that the results would ‘provoke another bout of speculation about Mr Blair’s future and demands for him to stand down’.
The man himself suggested that the Iraq war had ‘cast a shadow’ over the elections, although that is a pretty feeble argument as the Tories also supported the war.
‘In the end,’ the Messianic One opined, ‘you have to face decisions which you think are right and you have to see them through.’
Indeed – and we therefore expect that, if more than half the Labour party think it is the right thing to do to kick Blair out, then they will also have the guts to see it through.
If they do, it is unlikely that they will use a postal ballot to make the decision after the fiasco of the experiment in yesterday’s elections.
The Times is so fixated on this issue that it has now run exactly the same story on its front page for three days in a row.
‘Postal ballot marred by fraud’ was Wednesday’s headline; ‘Postal ballot dirty tricks exposed’ was yesterday’s lead; and today we get ‘Postal voting system need fraud check, officials say’.
It’s okay, guys – we got the message the first time.
So obsessed is the Times with this issue that its readers might struggle to discover the actual result of the supposed gerrymandering in this morning’s paper.
For all the talk of ‘fraud, vote-stealing and intimidation’, we could be in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe…or indeed Jeb Bush’s Florida.’
‘BLOODY Pandas! You can hardly move in China these days without tripping over one of the lazy black and white furballs.
|‘Who’re you voting for – Michelle or Ahmed?’|
Far from having the sex drive of a eunuch judging a Vanessa Feltz lookalike contest, it seems that the giant panda has been mating quite happily away from prying eyes.
The Independent reckons that there has been a 40% increase in the panda population in the bamboo forests of southern China, although this can be partly explained by better counting.
‘We have been further, higher and deeper into panda habitat than ever before, finding panda populations that were not known to science,’ says Stuart Chapman, head panda honcho at WWF-UK.
‘Hearing about the findings was like all my Christmases rolled into one. We’ve got a second chance to save the panda and you don’t often get a second chance in conservation.’
Just ask the dodos – no-one gave them a second chance, did they?
Why scientists should be surprised to come across a colony of pandas hiding out in remote parts of China like ursine John Rambos we don’t know.
If the alternative was to have a ribbon round your neck and be sent off as a present to London Zoo where you were expected to perform a live sex show three times a day, wouldn’t you?’
‘TODAY is the big day. E-Day. Y’know – election day. What do you mean, what elections? No, not Big Brother, you fool. It’s the European and local council elections. Hey, come back…
|The most deserted place in Britain today|
First, the good news – today’s elections are deemed sufficiently important to be the lead story in three of the four broadsheet papers this morning.
Now, the bad news – both the Times and Telegraph lead with reports on how the election results have been cast into doubt by hundreds of cases of alleged postal vote fraud.
And the Independent leads with a story by Pamela Schlatterer, UK correspondent for German TV, entitled: ‘You British, the elections and your special brand of European hatred.’
And a depressing read it makes as a foreigner puzzles over the heady mix of ignorance, arrogance and downright apathy that characterises Britain’s relationship with continental Europe.
She meets people like 20-year-old Matt, who is going to vote UK Independence Party today on the somewhat dubious grounds that ‘they’re going to steal our currency’.
And Michael, a bus driver, who feels that he should vote for Ken Livingstone in the mayoral poll because he has done so much for bus drivers, but in the end ‘won’t bother’.
Schlatterer is no Brit-basher – far from it. She talks fondly about the ‘weird and wonderful ways’ of her adopted home, at one point going so far as to suggest that with better public services and more European influence on the food it could be ‘a paradise’.
But she shares the bafflement of her Dutch and German media colleagues with our attitudes towards the rest of Europe.
‘We shake our heads at a country that seems intent on denying it is already governed by Brussels in lots of areas,’ she says.
‘The deep-seated sentiment against being ‘not independent’ has crystallised into Euro-hatred and, even though the Prime Minister prides himself on being pro-Europe, under his leadership things have got worse.’
Sixty years ago, thousands of men gave their lives trying to turn back the tide of fascism that had engulfed Europe and bring peace and democracy to western Europe.
How do we repay this generation? By retreating into our ‘little Englander’ xenophobia or not being bothered to turn out to vote…’
‘THERE is one fortnight in the year when this country parades all its worst qualities for the rest of the world to see – it’s called Wimbledon.
|Half a cheek, half a cheek, half a cheek onwards…|
Full of stuffy old men with blazers, dandruff and red faces caused by a few hundred gin and tonics too many and middle-aged women with plastic Union Jack hats and an HRT-induced crush on Tim Henman, the All England Club manages to accommodate the worst of our past side by side with the worst of our present.
Except in one area – Wimbledon has failed to accommodate an ever-growing population, with an increasing number of complaints from fans about the size of the seats on Centre Court.
‘Many visitors who had paid large sums to watch top-seeded players on Centre Court were unhappy at having to shoehorn themselves into such a restricted space,’ explains the Times.
We at Anorak would suggest that £50 and a slight bit of discomfort is a small prove to pay to be able to see Tiger Timmy in the flesh.
But the Wimbledon authorities have decided to act and will install seats which are at least 10% wider as part of a £100m redevelopment of the famous court, which will include the addition of a retractable roof.
The current seats, some of which are less than 40cm wide, were installed in 1922 when Britain still had an Empire and its population could still see its feet.
The new seats will be at least 46cm across – wider than a British Airways economy seat, for example, but not as wide as the average cinema seat.
All well and good, but are these new seats really necessary? Given the thrills and spills served up on court, we would have thought spectators only ever used the edge of them when they weren’t off them altogether…’
‘OF course, the highlight of the Wimbledon fortnight every year is the rain and the chance it gives us to hear Sir Cliff treating Centre Court to an impromptu concert.
|‘We’d better make the most of it – I hear a cold snap’s just around the corner’|
But the Guardian has bad news for those of us who tune in for that sole reason the recent spell of good weather is set to last…for the next 15,000 years.
It is good news, however, for any of you who were planning on having a barbecue in the year 17004, although we advise you to bring it forward a couple of decades just to be on the safe side.
The paper quotes European scientists (in other words, a shifty untrustworthy bunch) who say that the next ice age is still a long way off.
If people say to you: the greenhouse effect is a good thing because we would go into another ice age otherwise, our data says no, we werent about to go into another ice age, says Eric Woolf, of the British Antarctic Survey.
We have another 15,000 years before that was coming.
Time enough to put some straw down round the begonias…’
‘IF you missed Venus’s transit across the sun yesterday, tough luck – you’ll have to hang around for another 243 years if you want to catch the repeat.
|Ford Transit Gloria Mundi|
Alternatively, you can pick up one of today’s papers and inspect what looks to all intents and purposes like an orange circle with a black dot on it.
Were it not for the fact that the astronomical phenomenon is reproduced on the front page of three of the four broadsheets, we might suspect that it was a particularly cunning fraud perpetrated by a six-year-old girl with a set of felt tip pens.
‘It’s gorgeous, it’s gorgeous,’ shouted out Dr Allan Chapman, professor of the history of science at Oxford University and clearly a man who should get out a bit more.
So what did the transit – to give the phenomenon its proper title – look like.
The Guardian’s Simon Hoggart was standing next to Dr Chapman and 91 of the world’s leading astronomers on top of a hill in Lancashire and describes what he saw.
At first, it was ‘a tiny black crescent, as if a mouse had begun nibbling on a Gouda cheese’.
‘Looking directly through the bigger telescopes, their lenses covered with glass so dark you couldn’t see anything except the sun, we could look at an even finer sight,’ he said, ‘as if a black bug was crawling very slowly across a lemon yellow Frisbee.’
Which of course provides a third option if you can’t be bothered to buy one of today’s paper and aren’t confident that you’ll still be around in 2247.
And where better to watch a black bug walk over your brand new lemon yellow Frisbee than on the beach enjoying this spell of sunshine.
The transit may happen only once a lifetime, but for the Telegraph a sunny day in June is even more rare – and it gives pride of pictorial place to a girl sheltering under an umbrella on the beach at Hastings.
(Incidentally, isn’t it remarkable that no men ever seem to go to the beach in Britain – indeed, in Fleet Street the sand is populated exclusively by bikini-clad stunnas.)
But the unidentified girl on Hastings beach is a role model for all of us – staying in the shade is part of the Department of Health’s expert advice on keeping cool.
It also includes staying indoors, wearing loose clothing and taking cool baths or showers.
For those who do wish to lie out in the sun, the advice is clear – wear a hat, cover all exposed parts of your body with sun cream and try to avoid being trampled by groups of overexcited astronomers.’