Anorak

Broadsheets | Anorak - Part 77

Broadsheets Category

Top news from The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Indepedent and The Guardian newspapers

Happy Talk

‘IT was only a matter of time before science got involved in the perennial competition to discover whose imaginary friend is best.

”Bloody rain!”

And the winner is…the Buddhists.

According to the Times, brain scans of devout Buddhists found ”exceptional activity in the lobes that promote serenity and joy”.

The University of Wisconsin team scanned the brains of people who had been practising Buddhists for several years – and consistently found the ”happiness centre” highly active.

No doubt, they would get the same result if they tested dancers at an average club on a Saturday night, but the Buddhists’ joy is not chemically enhanced.

”The positive effects were seen all the time, not only during meditation, which suggests that the Buddhist way of life may affect the way their brains work,” the paper says.

”Other research has also suggested that Buddhists have lower than usual activity in the part of the brain that processes fear and anxiety.

”These findings may eventually allow researchers to develop meditation techniques as treatments for depressive illnesses.”

They also explain why Richard Gere looks so irritatingly smug in whatever film role he is in.

Posted: 22nd, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


The Barlaston Wall

‘WHEN the Berlin Wall was erected overnight in 1961, it not only split the city in two but divided families and friends who were not reunited for another three decades.

Barlaston 2017

However, what the Soviets can do Ralitrack can also do – and this morning’s Telegraph reports how villagers in Barlaston, Staffordshire now know how Berliners felt.

Railway maintenance work on the West Coast mainline has meant the closure of the only level crossing, cutting one half of the village off from the other.

The only way to get from one side of the tracks to the other is by a 10-mile drive or an hour long bus journey.

”On the east side of the village there is a pub, post office, village hall and a school,” explains the paper, ”while on the west there is a garage, pub, butcher and newsagent.”

Understandably, the 2,000 residents are less than happy with the arrangement.

”It’s a ridiculous situation,” says parish councillor Peter Proctor. ”It’s so frustrating seeing the shops just yards away and having to drive miles in order to get to them.”

Even worse for Sue Jones whose son Rory goes to school on the other side of the railway line.

”I work evenings and used to nip out to pick Rory up after school,” she says, ”but it’s an hour’s bus journey and I can’t disappear from work for two hours.”

The barriers on the level crossing are due to remain down for four months while the work’s being carried out – but, given the way of these things, residents should start preparing for a Berlin-like separation.

Posted: 22nd, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Minking It

‘IF you thought that the hedgehog cull in the Outer Hebrides at £1,800 an animal was expensive, it’s nothing compared with the massacre of the mink in the Western Isles.

”How about immunity if I tell you where the hedgehogs are hiding?”

In 18 months since the programme to eradicate mink from the Scottish islands began, £1.65m has been spent and only 232 animals caught (out of a population of 4,000).

That works out, by our calculations, at just under £7,200 a mink – or four hedgehogs, if you prefer.

The Independent says 12 professional hunters have been employed on the project. As well as the 232 mink, they have also caught 129 ferrets and 1,352 rats.

Conservationists defend themselves by claiming that the cull has already brought benefits, such as increasing stocks of salmon and trout.

But even with this taken into account, taxpayers are footing a bill of over £2,000 a mink.

In many parts of the country, you can get a human being culled for half that…

Posted: 22nd, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


What Mandy Did Next

‘ANYONE who believed the guff coming out of No.10 that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were as one on the euro only had a few days to enjoy their fantasy world.

Muck or brass?

Peter Mandelson made sure of that, shattering the uneasy truce between the two architects of New Labour with a stinging attack on the Chancellor.

In an interview with journalists at a West End restaurant, Mandelson claimed the Prime Minister had been outmanoeuvred by Brown on the issue of the single European currency.

He said a failure to call a referendum on the issue before the next election would damage the Labour party and do ”incalculable” harm to Britain’s trade.

The Government has said it will announce on June 9 whether the famous five tests for entry have been met – although it is a foregone conclusion that the answer is no.

That was reinforced by Brown last night in an interview with the Times, in which he set out a list of the reforms he wanted Europe to make before entry could be considered.

It had, says the paper, ”the clear implication that it would be some years before Britain’s interests would be served by adopting the euro.”

The Telegraph suggests that this will only be if, or when, Brown replaces Blair as Prime Minister.

And that, according to polling figures in this morning’s Guardian, is a big ‘if’ with 43% of voters less likely to vote for a Brown-led Labour party and only 28% more likely.

Even among Labour supporters, Brown would be only a marginal electoral asset, with 37% more likely to vote Labour and 36% less.

All of which is good news for the rest of us, who can bask in the warmth of St Tony’s reflected glory for many years to come. Hurrah!

Posted: 21st, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


A Right Charlie

‘NORMALLY it takes months, years and sometimes even several lifetimes before the Government can witness the results of a policy shift.

”What’s up, doc?”

However, Education Secretary Charles Clarke got to see the fruits of his labours on the very day that he announced that primary school should be less work and more fun.

Two pupils at Rotherfield Primary School in Islington, took the opportunity of a ministerial photo-call (called to announce the scrapping of SATs for primary schools) to stick their fingers up behind jug-eared Clarke’s head and give him a pair of bunny ears.

The Telegraph, which splashes the resulting picture on its front page, says eight-year-old Joshua James was first to make his mark, followed by 10-year-old Ryan Hassan.

The Times is also quick to applaud the prank, which it says was ”continuing a tradition dating back to Mr Clarke’s own school days”.

But, according to the Independent, the Department Of Education didn’t see the funny side, trying to persuade papers not to publish the picture, supposedly because it might get the pupil in trouble.

As it was, the boys got away with it, with their teacher blaming a photographer for egging them on.

”We are a bit annoyed by it,” the teacher tells the Telegraph. ”In the light of that, we haven’t given the boys a ticking-off.”

We should think not. Wedgies and dead arms all round.

Posted: 21st, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Parma Karma

‘IF you ever wondered what it is exactly that Europe does, wonder no more.

Does Parma ham by any other name taste as sweet?

For the past six years, it has been deciding that supermarket chain Asda can slice Parma ham at its deli counters and call it Parma ham, but it cannot slice the same Parma ham out of view of the customer, package it and sell it as Parma ham.

From now on, says the Independent, we can all sleep soundly in the knowledge that the Parma ham we buy in the supermarkets ”was not only raised and cured on the hills of Langhirano, but sliced and packaged in the region as well”.

Asda spokeswoman Rachel Fellows described the ruling, which overturns the decisions of two British courts, as ”barmy”.

But Stefano Fanti, managing director of the Prosciutto Association Of Parma, called it an important day for the 200 producers of Parma ham.

”Control over the whole process, including slicing and packaging, guarantees quality and authenticity,” he said.

Similar rulings exist on Cornish clotted cream, Stilton cheese and Newcastle Brown Ale from this country.

However, we look forward to the courts adjudicating on French letters and French kisses in the months and years ahead.

Posted: 21st, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


The Cream Goes Sour

‘ONE fat cat had his whiskers singed yesterday when shareholders voted against GlaxoSmithKline CEO Jean Pierre Garnier’s massive remuneration package.

Jean-Pierre Garnier relaxes at home

Under the deal, Mr Garnier stood to receive up to £22m on leaving the pharmaceutical giant, despite the fact that shares have fallen by a third since he took over three years ago.

But, in what the Independent describes as the largest shareholder revolt in British corporate history, almost 51% voted to reject the ‘golden parachute’ deal.

The Guardian says the vote was a ”humiliating blow” to Britain’s third largest company; the Indy says it was ”hugely embarrassing” for Mr Garnier personally.

”It marks the most serious warning sign that shareholders, who for the first time have the right to vote on directors’ pay, have lost patience with companies giving excessive rewards to senior executives,” the Indy says.

But Mr Garnier only comes sixth in the Indy’s list of the fattest cats – measured by their pay against the shareholder return over a three-year period.

The biggest bowl of cream goes to BT boss Sir Peter Bonfield, who has presided over a 71.4% loss of value at the telecoms giant – and all for the meagre sum of £3.1m a year.

Another telecoms boss, Sir Christopher Gent, purrs in at No.2, with his £3.78m package enough to guarantee a 54.5% drop in the share price.

Despite claims that yesterday’s vote could be the high water mark for fat cat pay, the Guardian warns that it is only advisory.

Chairman Sir Christopher Hogg insisted that he and the rest of the board were listening to shareholder concerns.

Which would explain why Tom Glocer, boss of Reuters also figures in the Independent’s Fat Cat Top 10. The chairman of Reuters? Step forward, Sir Christopher Hogg…

Posted: 20th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


A Costly Cull

‘ONE thing is for sure, you could kill a lot of hedgehogs on Jean-Pierre Garnier’s salary – although not as many as you might think.

WANTED: Dead Or Alive (Reward £1,800)

The Telegraph reveals today that the cost of the hedgehog cull in the Outer Hebrides will work out at £1,800 per animal – more than seven times the estimated bill for relocating them.

The cull was ordered by the Scottish National Heritage to protect rare bird populations on the islands.

So far only 50 hedgehogs have been sent to the big dual-carriageway in the sky, more than a third of which were handed in by islanders.

Just over 130 more have been rescued by animal lovers for transporting to the mainland.

George Anderson, of the SNH, tells the Telegraph: ”This exercise is labour intensive and there are not as many hedgehogs as we first thought in the area where we are looking.”

One suggestion currently being considered is to look in a different area – but that is thought to be a little radical at this stage.

Posted: 20th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Italian Driving School

‘YOU wouldn’t take cricket lessons from a Frenchman; you wouldn’t take cooking lessons from an Englishman, and you certainly wouldn’t take driving lessons from an Italian.

An Italian car park

But that is what Italy’s departing ambassador to New Zealand is doing, ending his four-year stint in the country by accusing Kiwis of being ”very, very bad drivers”.

Dr Roberto Palmieri, who has been repeatedly reported for speeding by other motorists, said people in the country tended to be too politically correct.

”New Zealand drivers are very, very bad drivers and also very dangerous because they don’t think all the time,” he said.

”The driving here is very regulated, but you drive erratically.”

Examples of this erratic driving include stopping at red lights, slowing down in built-up areas, not overtaking round blind corners…

Dr Palmieri will no doubt be relieved when he gets home to find that the driving in Italy is as consistent as ever. As consistently awful.

Last weekend alone, 56 people died and 1,000 were injured in what the country’s transport minister called Italy’s ”daily massacre” on the roads.

Posted: 20th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


A Pigeon Among The Cats

‘IN one of the most spectacular U-turns since, well, the last time Clare Short opened her gob, the Tories are recasting themselves as the party of the poor.

Drugs baron

Party leader Iain Duncan Smith tells this morning’s Guardian that society is being ”hollowed out from the inside” by the growing disparity between rich and poor.

And he adds: ”I want to be the party for the poor. I can’t think that we could possibly preside over society heading in the direction it’s heading at the moment.”

Presumably, that will mean putting a stop to the obscene pay-outs that line the pockets of the fat cats in the City.

This morning, the Independent’s heckles are raised by the news that Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, will receive up to £22m when he steps down.

The value of shares in the world’s second biggest pharmaceutical company has fallen by a third since M Garnier took over in 2000.

No wonder, says the Indy, that even the City is angry.

”It is possible – perhaps even likely – that M Garnier will become the first casualty of the latest mood of disgust over the way company bosses have seen their rewards rocket regardless of their performance,” it says.

Among the tactics used to boost M Garnier’s pay-out are overstating his age by three years and giving him a theoretical salary of £6m a year.

As it is, he has to get by on a mere £2.4m.

The Independent expects a barrage of protest at the company’s AGM today, with many big institutional shareholders preparing to vote against the remuneration package.

”The cream is beginning to taste sour for Britain’s fat cats,” it says.

Sour it may be, but it’s still cream – rather than the powdered milk many of us have to get by on.

Posted: 19th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


The Road To Hell

‘IT used to be harder for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom Of Heaven.

Things have become dull down since the Crusades

This would, of course, disqualify M Garnier and many of his ilk from eternal bliss – unless their needle-threading skills are very well honed.

But many Christians wouldn’t make the trip either, according to the Archbishop Of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

Dr Williams complains that many members of the Western Church are hereditary Christians who no longer have the same sense of joy and wonder as they do in countries where the Church is newer.

”We look at one another with boredom and anxiety rather than with the expectant joy of Christ,” he says in the Times.

”And we look, of course, at the world around us with boredom, greed, indifference, exploitation or whatever and we don’t look at it first, and foremost, as the Earth God wanted.”

Then again, if this is the Earth God wanted – with suicide bombings, fat cats and Lenny Henry – eternal bliss may not be all it’s cracked up to be either.

Posted: 19th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Egg On Her Face

‘FOR years, the highlight of the school sports day has been testing the ingenuity of kids faced with carrying an egg from one end of the sports field to the other using only a spoon.

First one to get salmonella wins

The well-positioned finger to stop the egg falling off has always prompted howls of protest, but that was only because it was so easy to spot.

However, that is now all at an end for pupils of Manley School in Sutton Coldfield.

It has decided to hold a non-competitive sports day behind closed doors, with parents banned from attending.

Head Judith Wressel said: ”Taking part in traditional races can be difficult and often embarrassing for many children, which is why we envisage a different outdoor activity event that will suit all children.”

But the Telegraph says the move has infuriated parents.

”It is political correctness gone mad,” said Rob Busst. ”They are trying to solve a problem that does not exist. Children do not become scarred for life if they lose the egg and spoon race.

”They all love being in the races and they love the fact that their parents are there to cheer them on.”

Mr Busst’s two sons, who have been practising for months with an egg, a spoon and a lump of Blu-Tac, are said to be equally disappointed.

Posted: 19th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Animal Crackers

‘ONE by one, our English traditions are dying out.

”Here boy…”

As historical origins have been forgotten, Guy Fawkes Night has slowly but surely become ”Fireworks Night” (or ”Bonfire Night” for those who still bother to burn a poorly-made effigy), and the whole thing will soon be totally overtaken by Halloween.

We here at Anorak have no great love for November 5th. It is after all, little more than an excuse to freeze to death while eating sausage sandwiches and watching a firework ”display” that is about as exciting as a magic lantern show to kids brought up in this age of computer-generated special effects.

So we are surprised to see that the RSPCA has chosen this late hour to launch a campaign for a quiet bonfire night, so as not to disturb cats, dogs, and urban foxes as they go about their lawful business of using our back gardens as public toilets.

The Telegraph reports that the organisation held a ”nice, quiet low-noise firework party” for MPs on Wednesday night, in an attempt to persuade them to ban bangers, rockets and other raucous pyrotechnics.

Eighty-seven per cent of RSPCA members want all fireworks to be banned outright, but the organisation claims that it doesn’t want to get rid of firework night altogether. Instead, it aims to make firweorks ”acceptable to animals” – which means nothing louder than 95 decibels.

How loud is that, you ask. The Telegraph says that it is the equivalent of ”the clap of a book landing from a table one metre high”.

And in case any readers are planning to drop the Chancellor’s Treasury report from tables of more than a metre in height on November 5th, just remember: we’re watching you.

Posted: 16th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Sounds Of The Seventies

‘GREAT news in the Independent! Chief Reporter Terry Kirby reports that ”a lost archive of live recordings by some of the biggest names in rock music of the 1970s and 80s is to be released on CD after more than 600 forgotten tapes were uncovered at two radio stations”.

Little Jimmy Krankie must be nearly 15 by now

And what treasures have been unearthed in the vaults of Radio Clyde and Radio Forth (for it is they)? Nazareth unplugged? The Krankies live at Hampden Park?

We can hardly contain our excitement as we skim the article for details.

Shortage of space prevents us from listing these historic gems in full. Instead, we quote Richard Findlay, chief executive of Scottish Radio Holdings. ”It is a real time capsule with some great performances,” he says.

”It’s unique. We’ve got one tape which has 60,000 people singing along to Rod Stewart doing ‘Sailing’.” It doesn’t get better than that, does it?

Place your order now, to avoid disappointment.

Posted: 16th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Dead Of Alive?

‘WOULD you know if you were already dead?

The four horsemen of the apocalypse

For those of you who spend all your time watching daytime television, this matters not.

To you, life is what happens inside the magic box. And if your own wooden box has an aerial, then so much the better.

We ask this because an article in the Telegraph says that we should have all perished yesterday in an onslaught of electro-magnetic waves, transmitted by Communist guerrillas.

The Panawave Laboratory cult, a Japanese group who believe such things to be true, are pressing on regardless, and dressing themselves and their property in white, which they say deflects the harmful waves.

The colonel for these nuts is one Yuko Chino, a woman who says that her death could trigger a holy war. Sad to say that Miss Chino is terminally ill and has only a few days to live.

So if we’re not dead now, the news is that we could be by Tuesday – but not until EastEnders has finished. Which is something of a relief…

Posted: 16th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Band Aid

‘SINCE we learned about the Arab dhow – and that he had his toothpaste squeezed for him by his personal assistant, Michael Fawcett – little has been heard of the man called Prince Charles.

The Prince and his Royal Bracelet Tier-In-Chief

But now he’s back in the news, with the Telegraph’s expose of another of the gifts that have come his way.

The paper says that the Prince is wearing a ”hippy” bracelet, a red and white woven string band, given to him while on a state visit to Bulgaria.

What’s odd is that having disposed of valuable items via the aforesaid Fawcett, the Prince should choose to keep a homespun item valued by the paper at about 10p, and wear it on official visits.

What’s more, the Times has it that the bracelet, designed to bring luck and longevity (if he gives it to mummy, he’ll never be king), has sat on his blue-blooded wrist for over two months.

And it seems he will go on wearing the martenista, as it is known in downtown Bulgaria, until he spots the first swallow, or stork, of summer.

But since most things with wings are routinely shot at by his family, we can expect the Prince to be sporting the off-cut well in to his 115th year.

Posted: 15th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Hand Made

‘IT might not be a stigmatum, but the impression of Nelson Mandela’s right hand that occupies the cover of today’s Times appears to map out his life.

An Ordnance Survey map of Africa

The handprint of the former President of South Africa seems to reveal a marked depression in the centre of his palm, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the shape of the African continent.

The story goes that while being artistic, Mandela rested his hand on a piece of paper that was covered in paint. He wiped his hand on another sheet and the image of his homeland appeared.

For those interested in owning a version of the image, the Independent says that copies of the print are now on sale – for charity – at London’s Belgravia Gallery, along with new works by the Prince of Wales.

No handprints of the Prince are revealed, chiefly on account of his hands never having got dirty.

Posted: 15th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Fish Has Chips

‘IN the hunt for alternatives to the endangered cod, fishermen have been trawling the depths and bringing up all manner of creatures.

99% brine, 1% driftwood

But jamming these aquatic beasts headfirst into cans is causing their numbers to dwindle.

The Guardian has seen evidence that the populations of tuna, marlin and swordfish have fallen by as much as 90% since the 1950s.

The man behind one report into how fish numbers are in drastic decline, a Professor Meyers, says that mankind is ”vastly over-exploiting the oceans”

”What we have now are just the remnants,” he says.

It’s a view shared by Callum Roberts, marine ecologist at the University of York, who says: ”We will be converting plankton into crabsticks before long.”

To use that promise sounds like something of a breakthrough, and a dramatic improvement of the usual stick formula of sand, fly larva and treacle.

Posted: 15th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


The Wages Of Sin

‘WITH Boris The Badger’s alibi cast in stone – ‘I’m dead, yer ‘onour’ – police are still looking for the gang that stole a Parcelforce van that was carrying GCSE exam papers.

Class dunce

The Times says that as a result the exams have had to be rewritten – so anyone in possession of an illicit paper needs to think about doing some revision, or robbing another van.

The caper could even be worked into a Charles Clarke vocational exam in ‘Crime – And How To Live Off It’.

Such a course would be a big hit with students, and doubtless take in a module on pick-pocketing, a skill that is very much in evidence in parts of Colombia, according to the Telegraph.

When that country’s president, Alvaro Uribe, went on a meet-and-greet walk around the northern city of Bucaramanga, he failed to spot that his wallet has been pinched.

Elected on a law and order ticket, Mr Uribe was, according to his spokesman, keen to downplay the incident.

‘They are poor people,’ he is said to have uttered. ‘We have to give them a second chance.’

Or a retake, as the Education Secretary might have it.

Posted: 14th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Suicide Is Painful

‘YESTERDAY’S bombing of compounds for foreign workers in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, has sent the papers into overdrive.

Murder most foul

The front-page agenda was set at 11:25, the time the Independent says that two vehicles laden with Muslim fanatics and 400lb of plastic explosives rammed a residential building.

The result of that attack and the onslaught it triggered is that at least 29 people are dead and 194 injured.

Of the already murdered, nine were attackers from Al-Qaeda, suggesting that Saudi Arabia and not Hungary now has the most suicide-prone youth in the world.

If you think that’s a glib comment given the horrific attack, it is in keeping with the Guardian’s lead column in which readers hear how ‘international terrorism, not bogeyman dictators, remains the urgent security threat’.

It depends, of course, who is under immediate threat. And while many Saudis will have died at the behest of their countryman, the dead or alive Osama bin Laden, the Times leads with the work of one so-called bogeyman: Saddam Hussein.

On the Times’ cover, a woman sits amid piles of human bones, parts of the remains of 3,000 people discovered in mass graves at the site of ancient Babylon.

The Guardian does include this macabre story (the Independent has it on page 2) but only on page 16, a million words away from yesterday’s sensational attack.

But, then, a bomb is so much more exhilarating than a tale of the extinction of 3,000 people away from the public gaze.

Posted: 14th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


When Badgers Attack

‘FROM one reign of terror now to another, as the Guardian brings news of the furry creature that put five people in hospital in the Worcestershire town of Evesham.

‘We’re not talking without our publicist here’

It seems that badger enthusiasts are dicing with injury in getting up close and personal with the black and white beasts.

This particular creature was called Boris – although Boris is now an ex-badger, having been finally caught under a crate and put down for a long sleep by a vet.

It’s a sad story of the lad who attacked after being set free from a wildlife park, where experts say Boris had enjoyed too much contact with humans and been inappropriately hand-reared.

Now Boris has bitten the proverbial hand that fed him, and, as the Times says, the legs and arms of Michael Fitzgerald – as well as forcing two policemen chasing him to seek refuge on the bonnet of their patrol car.

Nothing is heard from badger enthusiast Ron Davies, but he is believed to be only mildly shaken and more disappointed than shocked.

Posted: 14th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Short Shrift

‘STILL hurting from his victory in a television poll to find the 100 Worst Britons, Tony Blair must be something of a broken man this morning as he eyes the front pages.

A national joke

The Independent, as with all papers, leads with Clare Short, the unlovely now ex-minister who finally did as promised and resigned her post in the Cabinet.

Sadly for Tony she is not departing as quietly as Saddam Hussein, and the paper uses its entire front page to reproduce the full text of Short’s resignation statement in the House of Commons.

‘I have decided to resign from the Government,’ she begins – an opening line that she vowed would come when the first bullet was fired in the Iraqi desert.

At that point many MPs, and readers alike, would be expected to switch off. Reams of words follow – but when someone is gone, their power is diminished. Right?

Perhaps, but Short is keen to keep her mouth in working order and gives full voice to her true feelings in the Guardian, a paper she knows Tony will read.

In an interview with the Guardian, she performs the neat trick of turning demotion into victory, asking herself if ‘maybe I can help more on the backbenches’ in protecting Labour from Blair’s ‘control freak style’ and ‘diktats in favour of increasingly bad policy initiatives’.

And if she achieves that, she will doubtless restore her tarnished credibility and pave the way for a return to Government as part of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s team.

In the words of the less-than-dearly departed, Short urges Tony to start preparing ‘an elegant succession’ for Gordon Brown to take over the party and the country.

A situation that would need Tony to resign his post, a move about as likely as Clare Short ever being as important as she thinks she is…

Posted: 13th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Fatness First

‘TAKING a look at mugshots of Clare Short, it’s a wonder she ever made it into Tony’s photogenic new Labour movement.

Another fat pig

Perhaps she was there to add the common touch, to show the large of frame that you can still make it? But the heavy boned are not always wanted even in a minor role.

Take the Times’ front-page news about how health club Fitness First, somewhat ironically billed as ‘Britain’s biggest fitness club chain’, sent out a controversial memo to staff.

From the computer of one Lisa Somerville, human resources director of the firm, the internal note reads: ‘Mike Balfour [chief executive] has asked me all to remind you that uniforms should not be requested over a size 16 as this is adding considerable costs onto our merchandising budget as we have to bulk buy.’

Looking past the poor sentence structure and the cheap joke on bulk buying, the news seems to suggest that fat staff are not wanted in the health club.

But, reassuringly, those turned away by the gym can join the police force.

Staying with the fat theme, the Telegraph says that 14-stone and 5ft 8in PC Jack Montague, has been awarded £100 compensation for ‘mental anguish’ after a heartless yob called him ‘fat’.

Emerging victorious, and plump, from a youth court in Cumbria, Montague spoke through the pain.

‘Coppers have feelings too,’ he blurted out, ‘and I’m just glad the magistrates have taken the unusual step of recognising that.’

So the next time you want to insult a copper, remember that there’s something approaching a human being inside the pointy hat and bovver boots.

Posted: 13th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Photo Finish

‘SO important is looking good in today’s Britain that not turning up for a photoshoot can lead to trouble.

What grade do you want – A) A B) A C) A?

The Telegraph tells what happened to ‘star pupil’ Adam Agius, a 16-year-old student who has been expelled from his school after he rocked up late for the school photo.

Yesterday, Adam was chucked out of St John’s, a fee-paying school in Enfield, north London, and thus barred from taking his GCSE exams next week, as it is too late for the exam entries to be transferred.

For one reason or another – a hungry dog; a runaway train; a terrorist hijack – Adam failed to appear on time. When he did show, he was then told to go home by the school’s headmaster, the appropriately-named Andrew Tardios.

But now, speaking through the school’s solicitors, Mr Tardios says that a simple apology would have saved the day.

‘I was in shock at the time,’ says Adam, who claims he had no idea an apology was in order.

Now that he does, it’s too late. But why worry? These are just GCSEs and since everyone gets A grades across the board these days, it’s really no big deal.

Posted: 13th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Taking Provisionals

‘IF this carries on for very much longer, we’re going to have to close our Irish office down.

‘Shhh! I think I hear his mobile phone ringing…’

Already down to a skeleton staff, following the disappearances of Kevin Fulton, Brian Nelson and Martin Ingram – all of whom are profiled in the Independent as ‘agents and whistleblowers’ – we now can’t find Alfredo ‘Freddie’ Scappaticci anywhere.

The good news is that Freddie should turn up somewhere soon, as all the papers lead with the news that, like us, the IRA and possibly the British secret services are looking for our man in the field, or holding up a bridge.

The times says that Scappaticci is now in hiding, following an expose in newspapers in Dublin and Belfast which claimed he has been a double agent, killing and torturing for the Provisionals for 25 years while supplying intelligence to the British security services.

Being so gregarious, you’d suppose that most of us would already know what Freddie looks like, which makes us wonder why the Times has frosted over an image of the writer, torturer and alleged informant’s face.

It could be that this is how Freddie looks now, as the man the paper calls the ‘jewel’ in Britain’s intelligence crown opts for some reconstructive surgery.

The Guardian, though, is behind the Times and is stuck with showing the world Scappaticci’s full face as was.

That paper also tells us that his nickname is ‘Stakeknife’ and that he once headed the IRA’s internal security unit, known as the Nutting Squad.

But we remember Freddie as an honest hard-working hack, albeit one that has not returned his laptop. If you’re listening, Freddie, can we have it back, mate?

Posted: 12th, May 2003 | In: Broadsheets | Comment