Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Party Line

82-year-old hitherto Nazi-fleer Walter Wolfgang received a hero's return to the Labour Party conference after being ignominiously man-handled out of the arena yesterday by over-zealous party stewards. To add insult to injury, he was held under anti-terror legislation. I gather he was very lucky not to have been shot dead on site by the Police as he clearly bore the hallmarks of a suicide bomber - at 82 he could have given up the ghost at any moment (the fact he probably wouldn't have taken anyone else with him is a moot point). It was interesting to hear the Prime Minister apologise, stating he was not in the centre at the time (and thus implying it had nothing to do with him). The incident came a day after Mr Blair's speech, in which he talked about changing the law's emphasis from making sure the innocent are not wrongly convicted to protecting law-abiding citizens.

I see. Tony Blair is the law-abiding citizen. Walter Wolfgang and Jean Charles de Menezes are the innocent people.

I think I preferred things the old way.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Bright Future for Motor Sport

Fernando Alonso became the youngest ever formula 1 world champion today, ending the 5 year consecutive reign of the reigenmeister Michael Schumacher. Of course but for a more reliable car it would (and should) have been Raikkonen; however the important thing is that we no longer have to be bored senseless by that clinical German storming home to win every race with his stage-managed team wins. It is my belief that Raikkonen will in the long term win more World Championships than Alonso and come to dominate a more competitive series in the future.

The future certainly looks like bright for international motor sport as the A1 series, which is the equivalent of the world cup of Motor Sport according to its creator got under way at Brands Hatch with Nelson Piquet Junior winning it for Brazil in the first round. The People's Republic believes it has a better comparison; the A1 series is the socialist equivalent of F1. While F1 allows teams to dominate with ever increasing budgets being spent on technological innovations that in the long term benefit us all (e.g. power steering, ABS), it also bores us with the rich teams constantly outperforming the poorer teams and its inherent predictability (in recent years at least). Meanwhile the A1 series forces everyone to race with cars of equal competitiveness, allowing and even encouraging genuine driving talent to win the day.

It will be interesting to see which becomes the more popular genre in the future.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Fuel Crisis? What Crisis?

We cannot end this week without saying a big thank you to all those people who tried to bring the country to a standstill through selfishness and stupidity by panic-buying fuel ahead of the planned protest that didn't materialise on Thursday. Ironically, on the day of the motorway go-slow prices were slashed by the supermarkets which meant that these idiots had actually filled their tanks with overpriced fuel.

I always thought there should be a tax on stupidity. I guess taxes on motorists are the closest thing we've got.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It Was Brum What Won It

They may have won it and celebrated in the capital, but let's face it; the Ashes came home thanks to Birmingham. On the morning of the 4th August 2005 at Edgbaston two events changed the whole momentum of the Ashes and led eventually to the change in destination - the injury to Glenn McGrath and the decision by Ricky Ponting to put England into bat without his best pace bowler. The two tests won were both in the Midlands; and let's face it, our two worst performances were both in the Capital.

It was a privilege to have been in the crowd on the final day of what turned out to be the greatest test ever, in what turned out to be the greatest series ever. The test will be brought up for years to come; the scorecard will be as familiar as the 937-7 declared or whatever it was at the Oval way back then with Len Hutton's contribution of 374. Just like then, we turned over a seemingly invincible Australian side to win back the Ashes after the best part of two decades.

As well as the euphoria of the win, I must admit to feelings of sadness as well There are three main reasons. Firstly the loss of Test cricket from terrestrial telly to Sky, and in particular the loss of Channel 4's excellent coverage. Sure, they annoyed us with the racing on Saturday, and the early finishes on weekdays to accommodate Friends and Hollyoaks for the evening schedule, but let's not forget the fantastic innovations like HawkEye and the Analyst which brought a new level of understanding to the game.

As frustrating as they have been it is also sad to think that we will probably not see Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne bowling live in this country again. Both masters of their respective arts if not the best ever, I personally could watch Shane Warne work his magic (on the wicket) every day. The crowd at the Oval had it right - we do wish he was English. We wish him well for the future, and hope his personal problems don't bring an early end to one of the finest cricketer's of all time.

Finally we bid farewell to the old sage, Richie Benaud. After 46 years, he brings down the curtain on his commentary in this country, and despite costing Warwickshire the C&G trophy (see Boycott Bangs On), again we wish him all the best for the future. A man of principle, he refused to take the Murdoch dime and commentate on coverage that is not free-to-air. It's part of his charm, and part of the reason why we love him.

All in all then, the series ends with some mixed feelings. I guess the thought of beating the convicts in the Cricket and the Rugby will however cheer me up.

Now let's win it on their own turf.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

With Us or Against Us

This week saw protests outside a Birmingham firm accused of selling shackles to the Americans that are now being used in Guantanamo Bay. Given that there are a few people in Guantanamo from the region who were arrested fighting the Americans in Afghanistan, it appears that some Brummies took the George Bush soundbite "in the war on terror, you are either with us or against us" a bit too seriously.

The lawyer for some of the detainees in Guantanamo joined in the protest wearing an orange jump-suit, and said on Channel 4 News that the one of his clients looked down at his shackles and saw the words "Made in England" printed on them.

Doesn't it make you feel proud to be English?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Boycott Bangs On

It was bad enough watching Warwickshire lose to Hampshire today in the C&G final (a final I believe we would have won without the injury to Ian Bell and the "Benaud Break") but Geoff Boycott's commentary truly took the Yorkshire Pudding. While making a valid point about not bringing the inexperienced Chris Tremlett into the final Ashes Test should Simon Jones not recover from his injury, he then spoiled it by saying Darren Gough should be brought in to replace him.

Bring in a retired injury-prone Yorkshireman into a vital Ashes test? Carry on like this Geoffrey and people will start thinking you're biased.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Birmingham "not in Premier League" of European Cities

David Milliband visited the City today ahead of "no-holds barred" conference on what Birmingham needs to compete with similar European cities. While making the comment above, he praised Birmingham trailblazing move to bring culture to the city ahead of many other cities in the country, but said that it was not enough alone to make a city great. He also pointed out that although the city has a great sense of identity, this was not necessarily enough to make a directly elected mayor work.

Although it is refreshing to see a minister speak frankly (and for that matter take an interest) in the city, we at the People's Republic believe that a directly elected mayor is needed for the Brum. For a start, there are far too many councillors, and as the biggest council in Europe, we need a problem solver similar to Ken Livingstone with who the buck stops. The right candidate with a proper vision could revolutionise the city's economy, and put us where we belong in the country and in the wider European picture. We hope these no-holds barred talks produce an outcome that Birmingham needs.

After all, it could be the first step to independence.