Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy Winterval!

We find ourselves in the middle of the Christmas season and the People's Republic wishes all our (one) reader(s) greetings of the season. There are no speeches on Christmas Day by the head of state in the People's Republic - and if there was, it would be more likely to take place on the 28th of December.

For those of you that don't know, the 28th has been declared the festival of Winterval in the People's Republic ever since 1998, when the City Council decided to replace the Christmas festivities with the Winterval festival so as not to offend our any of our ethnic (or should I say religious) minorities. In 1998, Christmas was on a Friday meaning that the Bank Holiday for Boxing Day was taken on the Monday the 28th and the rest is history. Updated 30/12/2008: Just in case you are considering quoting this to prove a point of political correctness gone mad, Birmingham City Council did not abolish Christmas in favour of a made-up festival called Winterval. Please see this post for further details.

In recent years Christmas in Birmingham has taken on some traditions. The Wheel of Birmingham is now here all year round, but we see the return at this time of year of the kids train sponsered by Centro (but luckily not run by Central Trains, so it actually runs on time) and the outdoor skating rink in Centenary Square. We also see the return of the Frankfurt German Market, our twin city, where we can drink mulled wine and German beer, eat Pretzels and German sausage and buy assorted trinkets and craftwork. This year the market research really paid off as a Bluenose stall was available. Super stuff.

I wonder if there is a Brummie Market in Frankfurt?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Dick by Name...

Dick Cheney has made an unannounced visit to Iraq today to check the security situation among other things.

If he really wanted to check out the security situation surely he should have announced his visit?

Central Trains are Rubbish

Central Trains, not to be outdone by Travel WM's fare-rises last week, make their attempt to win worst public transport operator in the West Midlands today by canceling every single train because there were not enough drivers. Apparently, drivers volunteer to work on Sunday's and not enough of them did.

Yes, this is what happened. Read it again and see how ridiculous it sounds. For providing such a bad service, perhaps payment of fares should be voluntary? Thank God they have lost their franchise.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Travel WM Talking Rubbish

In the week that it was revealed Sandwell's binmen turned down an offer of a £900 bonus to work the three days over Christmas (they were holding out for £1300) Travel Wind-Up Merchants revealed price rises of 8% on their bus fares. A standard peak-time single ticket goes up from £1.10 to £1.20, but more surprisingly a 4 week faresaver for the Birmingham & Black Country goes up from £38.75 to £42.25 - a rise of £3.50. Travel WM claim it is due to the "uncertainty in global energy prices".

What about the uncertainty in the arrival times of their buses?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Strikes Averted at Brum International

Strikes at Birmingham Airport over the Christmas period have thankfully been called off. The strikes were over the dismissal of two staff that the unions took offence to. The People's Republic is glad - such disruption over the Christmas period would have been disastrous for the passengers and the city. You wouldn't see this kind of thing going on in London and Manchester.

Unless British Airways are involved.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Gun Crime Convictions

More scum were taken off our streets on Friday as the six killers of Ishfaq Ahmed were sentenced to life imprisonment. His father used to run a carpet shop on my road and appeared on the news to give an interview. He leaves behind his partner Penny Morris and a young child.

The new claimed that the killers were part of the Johnson crew, the intended targets in the shooting of Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare that hit the national headlines last year. It shows the extent of gun crime in the city, and the scale of the job that is needed to tackle it.

With more convictions like this, we'll get closer to our goal.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Mixed-Race Couples Still Face Racism

During the week the murderers of young black Christian Anthony Walker were sentenced to around 20 years each. His girlfriend, Louise Thompson understandably finds it difficult to forgive her killers and blames herself for his death.

Racism tends to be less common nowadays but one thing guaranteed to bring it out is a mixed-race couple simply walking together in the wrong area in front of the wrong people. Forget what the police and the "community leaders" say - I am sure in parts of Liverpool, as in parts of Birmingham there are racist individuals and this I doubt this is an exceptional individual. I myself have been beaten up in Birmingham City Centre for no other reason than I was walking with a white girl (who wasn't even my girlfriend) when I was just 19, yet many people would claim this City is racially tolerant (not least the politicians who can make much political capital out of diversity). I was set upon by two Asian youths but before that was given a dirty look by a white male. It is not the only time I have received dirty looks in a similar situation either.

The worst thing about this is that it is like a cancer, changing the way you think. You start getting worried whenever you are in that situation. As Louise Thompson said, ironically nothing would have happened if she had walked home alone but by walking home with her to make sure she got home ok Anthony actually made the situation more dangerous.

Even worse than that, you start looking at other mixed race couples together and start getting jealous. Why aren't they being attacked? Only my intellect keeps me tolerant, but most people act on their feelings and become intolerant.

I've realised over the years that jealousy is the reason for these attacks. These people are thinking along the lines "I don't have a girlfriend so why does he - at least I'm the same colour".

I don't always understand why God allows these things to happen, but in the case of Anthony Walker two good things came out -the parents of Anthony forgiving the killers and apparently one of the killers is going to write a letter of apology to Anthony's mother.

I think there may be some lessons for us in there somewhere.

Friday, December 02, 2005

BBC Weather Acknowledges Brum

The new BBC weather maps have caused a lot of controversy, not least with the People's Republic. Originally they were not showing the second city while showing Manchester and London although this soon changed. Now they have started showing it on the summary map, which includes such urban centres as Plymouth, Norwich and Aberdeen. Is there a Brummie resistance movement who has been complaining (the People's Republic denies all knowledge).

Meanwhile BBCi Weather are years ahead of there terrestrial tele rivals, showing the three biggest cities in Britain, London, Brum and Leeds. Or at least the biggest two; after all my garden shed is bigger than the city of London.

And I don't even have one.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Police Murder Suspect Arrested in Birmingham

They struck the first blow after July 21st and they have done it again. Earlier this week the West Midlands police arrested one of the three suspects believed to be involved in the shooting of PC Sharon Beshenivsky. This time however it was down to dumb-luck; a routine enquiry over an unrelated sexual assault uncovered the address Yusuf Jama was staying at.

Birmingham is an obvious place for many criminals on-the-run to come to due to its central location and good(!?) transport links to the rest of the country. Independence would allow us to control our borders, preventing such unwanted guests entering Birmingham in the first place.

It would also allow us to bar the other main criminals attracted to the area; known as politicians, they often come here to garner our support in this politically significant region, and then do very little for the city in return.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Farewell Bishop Sentamu

The former Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Rev John Sentamu, has taken up his post as the first black Archbishop of York, the second most powerful post in the Church of England. Now while the People's Republic considers this a demotion, we accept it is not universally regarded as such. Archbishop Sentamu fully deserves his new role after his fantastic service to the city of Birmingham, during which he offered his personal mobile number to anyone who had any information over the Aston shootings.

We wish him all the best.

Another Successful Night for Midlands Football

Birmingham City scraped through to the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup last night by beating Millwall 4-3 on penalties, hardly an inspiring result given that the Londoners are currently bottom of the Championship. Meanwhile city rivals Villa lost 3-0 to the footballing might of Doncaster, the lowest positioned team left in the competition. Every cloud has a silver-lining however; they can now concentrate on their Premiership challenge. Their challenge being to stay in it.

With Chasetown losing 4-0 to Oldham in the replay last week it appears that the West Midlands sides have peaked too early. Time to go further afield, and support Worcester City in their televised home match against Huddersfield in the FA Cup 2nd round on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Birmingham Becomes Biggest Fair Trade City

Birmingham became the biggest fair trade city yesterday, a fact which seems to have been completely missed the national press. Perhaps they were still covering the fall-out of Live 8 in London earlier this year which did absolutely sod-all for the poor, but resurrected the careers of quite a few has been pop-stars.

Fair trade can be controversial but is based on the idea of giving the producers a fairer price for their products, rather than it being swallowed up by faceless multinational corporations. On the other hand, multinational corporations can invest a lot of money in the developing world making the countries richer.

I'm sure they won't mind a little competition though.

Richard Burns 1971-2005

The People's Republic was saddened by the news of the untimely death of former World Rally Champion Richard Burns on Saturday. The first Englishman to win the world title, he died on the 4th anniversary of his win after a two year battle with a particularly virulent brain tumour. George Best may have hogged the headlines, but Richard Burns was taken in the prime of his life, at the top of his game and could well have been remembered as one of the greatest rally drivers ever if his life hadn't so tragically been cut short.

Of course football is a bigger game and George Best was more famous, but I think the real reason he got more coverage is because he was a hero of the middle-aged who write the news rather than of my generation. As a result, we also here a lot about housing booms, family credits and pension problems, but nothing about the fact that the rate of inflation used to calculate interest repayments on Student Loans has doubled over the last year.

This is one of the reasons I increasingly use blogs as a source of news.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Falling Tower of Birmingham

It took me two-and-a-half hours to get home from work on Thursday night, even longer than the usual hour-and-a-half since the clocks went back. It is high time a congestion charge was introduced in Birmingham, along with forcible re-tests for those idiots who think it is ok to block junctions so they can wait two minutes at the next set of lights five second earlier. I doubt that Birmingham City Council will have the guts to introduce the former however - another reason why Birmingham needs its own elected mayor.

The problems on Thursday were caused by panels falling from Beetham Tower, which will become the second tallest building on the Birmingham skyline after the BT tower. This is the second time something falling from the tower (last time it was scaffolding) has brought traffic to a standstill. Major roads were still closed on Saturday as a result of the incident, while a safety check on the tower was completed by abseilers (is that a proper word?). This morning it was claimed Birmingham City Council are threatening to sue the company involved for the problems it has caused.

While the People's Republic agrees that something needs to be done about this, we hope this does not adversely affect any future developments in Birmingham city centre.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Walsh Welches on Resignation

I have been proud to share my name with some great men of the past. Louis Pasteur, famous his work in microbiology; Louis Braille, famous for his work for the blind; and Louis Armstrong, the first man to play jazz on the moon.

Unfortunately I also share my name with a waste of space called Louis Walsh who sensationally quit X-factor this week because he felt "under-pressure". Under-pressure? He doesn't have any problems putting pop-star wannabes under-pressure by slagging them off for no other reason than they didn't do a Westlife song or aren't Irish. On Saturday Simon Cowell had to vote of his own act to prevent Louis Walsh from keeping the Conway sisters in for no other reason than he shares their nationality. Louis Walsh may have sold a lot of albums over the years, but this is mainly because he knows what sells rather than producing anything exciting musically.

Presumably he came back so he can continue to make a shed-load of money for leaching off other peoples talent.

Which is something he is not used to working with the likes of Westlife and Girls Aloud.

Watch it Boris!

Bumbling tory Boris Johnson has a habit of knocking Birmingham when he appears as a guest presenter on Have I Got News for You. The first time he claimed the £3 charge on the M6 toll motorway was worth it to avoid Birmingham, and last night he used the same statement with regards to the infamous RAC route-planner which decided to traverse two places in England via Ireland and France.

We don't want your snivelling apologies here Boris - we've got enough sorry excuses for (would-be) Tory MP's already.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Spend a Penny on the 50

In the Birmingham Mail this week there was an article about a protest by residents of Druids Heath over the drivers of the 50 route using the terminus as a communal toilet. Apparantly they are urinating in the hedges or into bottles which they are then throwing into the hedges.

Is this proof that the service is after all piss poor?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Come on Chasetown!

It hasn't been a good start to the season for the West Midlands Premiership teams. With just over a quarter of the season gone, the West Midlands teams occupy three of the bottom four places, with only Sunderland providing some semblance of dignity for our local footballers. Add to this the recent defeat by Villa, and Robbie Savage smirking that his team are "above the bigger club in the league", it's enough for most Birmingham City fans to take up something less boring instead.

Thank God for Chasetown. They claim to have made £5000 from gate receipts last year, which is according to David Sullivan 1/18 of what Blues pay for their three main strikers (between them) each week. They made as much money from the match against Oldham Athletic as they earned in the last 15 years. A great performance yesterday saw them earn a replay against a team roughly a million places above them in the football league. Chasetown may have a hard time winning the replay, but at least it gives us something to be proud about.

Which is more than can be said for our Premiership clubs.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Cool for Cats

On the local news last night there was a report that said Birmingham City Council were looking for a replacement for Brummie the resident cat, who retired three years ago after catching more than 2000 mice.

Presumably this makes him the most efficient council worker in Birmingham.

The People's Republic is unsure if this is the reason why there are now more rats in Birmingham than people.

Brummie, you are already missed.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Royal Duo to Visit New Orleans

As part of their itinerary of the tour of the United States, Charles and Camilla plan to visit hurricane-devastated New Orleans.

Let's hope George Bush doesn't decide to visit Tornado hit Brum to return the favour.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Death of a Legend

Rosa Parks, famous for refusing to give up her seat on an Alabama bus and sparking off a bus boycott that lasted just over a year died this week and it would be wrong if the People's Republic didn't acknowledge the death of this great woman in some way. She was an inspiration to all of us who are oppressed and unjustly treated; instead of standing there and taking it, we should make a stand up for what we believe in.

It's a pity no one organises a boycott of Travel Wind-Up Merchants. With the Government planning to stop alcoholic drinks being consumed on public transport, maybe it's time Travel West Midlands stopped people smoking drugs on the top deck of their buses. They can stop stereotyping people too; once when an inspector came onto the bus, he grabbed my bus pass out of my hand rather rudely and and gave it a longer look than he did everyone elses. I suppose the Travel WM thugs are trained to treat anyone who looks like a fare-dodger as a fare-dodger.

It's called discrimination, and perhaps next time we should make our own stand against injustice.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

US-Style NHS Forum in Birmingham

Birmingham hosted a gathering today at the ICC in which patients gave their views on the NHS.
Apparently others had been held before but certainly this is the first that made the national news and is the biggest.

Birmingham, being in the centre of the country, is the ideal place for such meetings and there should be more of them. The city is famous for being a business conference centre and the Nationwide building society has also recently announced it is returning its AGM to the city following consultations with its members.

Brum's location its greatest selling point and we should be seeking to exploit it to the full.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Violence Hits Lozells

The last couple of nights have seen violence on the streets of Lozells reminiscent of the Handsworth riots 20-years ago when black resentment at the Asian community boiled over and saw shops smashed-up and looted.

The violence 20 years ago was due to a black man being stopped and searched, but the current troubles centre on an allegation that a 14-year-old Jamaican asylum seeker was gang-raped by up to 19 Asian men after being found shoplifting in a store. The problem is there is no evidence of this actually happening. For a start no crime has been reported (apparently because the girl is frightened of being deported due to her immigration status). The only thing I have seen coming close to backing this event up is an apparent family of the friend speaking to a local reporter and claiming that the girl is in no fit state to go to the police. However, the police have since forensically examined the scene of the alleged assault and found nothing.

Any allegation of rape must be taken seriously of course but in this case it appears to be an attempt by pirate radio stations to increase their audience figures. Unfortunately in the process many people have been hurt and two have been killed. The allegation now seems to be irrelevant as idiots on both sides start harping on about alleged injustices that have taken place over the years. There is no doubt however that there is significant segregation and grievances between the communities and hopefully these event will be a kick up the backside for someone to address them.

Interestingly enough, despite all the violence the attendances at City Hospital's A&E department were significantly down over the weekend. Clearly people in the area are being a bit more careful at the moment.

They may have to continue for a few more days although hopefully this won't be the case.

Update 1: The Kaiser Chiefs were playing in Birmingham on Saturday night. They certainly did predict a riot.

Update2: It's alright; David Cameron's now in the city.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Get your Mail!

Over the past three weeks there have been some mysterious changes taking place around Birmingham. The old blue cabins with elderly gentlemen in them shouting "Get your Mail!" have disappeared and been replaced with continental-style tables with umbrellas above them and a more cosmopolitan sales-force. The historic Birmingham Evening Mail is no longer; we welcome a publication called simply "the Mail".

Of course, the reason for this change is declining sales. To its readers, this is not a surprise as the publication has declined in quality ever since being taken over by the Trinity Mirror group. The People's Republic does not want to slag off the publishers of the Mirror, being as it is one of the few national papers to be printed in the region, but the fact is that a previously decent local paper went to the dogs as it adopted tabloid-style reporting.

A fine example of this was how they "reported" the news that a consultant at City Hospital, Mr Stanley Silverman, had left a patient in theatre to help relieve the pressures on the A&E department while it was trying to hit the government target of treating 90% of its patients within 4 hours. They presented it as if they had got an exclusive interview with the consultant himself whereas in reality they had taken the quotes from the minutes of the Trust board meeting. Sh*t stirring, as we call it in Birmingham became the norm, so much so that it drowned out the decent community news that quickly became the domain of the free newspapers.

So apparently the solution is to re-launch the paper as a snazzy read with a new editor and a new reporters. The problem is it looks like something produced by a local sixth-form. The Evening Mail used to stand alongside other local publications such as the London Evening Standard, the Manchester Evening News and the Liverpool Echo. By renaming it "the Mail", Birmingham has lost part of it's history.

So sack the staff, yes. But bring back our (Evening) Mail.

Welcome to the Rudest City

A poll of eight cities yesterday claimed that Birmingham is the rudest city.

P*ss off.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Second Tornado hits Brum

There was another nightmare day yesterday for commuters in Birmingham as heavy rain brought traffic to a standstill on the way home from work, bringing back memories of that snowstorm a year-and-a-half ago. Flooding was rife throughout the city and there is currently a ford outside the delivery entrance of M&S (and I don't mean a Mondeo). To make matters worse, a mini-tornado caused damage in Moseley for the second time in three months.

Any more of this and we'll have to rename the city "Twisterville".

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Natural Party of Power

On the eve of the Conservative Party conference the People's Republic takes a brief look at the contenders for the Tory party leadership and asks if any of them can roll back the years (at least 200 of them) and take them back to where they believe they belong - which unlike the rest of us isn't opposition (or extinction).

When it comes to Conservative Party leadership races, there are a few rules one has to live by. The first is the favourite never wins (unlucky David Davis - despite claiming to be against the politics of envy this rule is mainly due to jealousy). The second is that Ken Clarke never wins (as he is pro-European and will divide the party). So the third candidate (thank you Iain Duncan-Smith) comes through the field and leads the party to disaster (or at least they get rid of him before he can). So the real question is who is the third favourite?

Enter David Cameron. One of the new "Notting Hill" set (although I've never seen him at the carnival) he believes he is part of a natural succession that began with Margaret Thatcher and continues under Tony Blair. Don't rule him out though - unlike previous third favourites he speaks a surprising amount of sense for a Tory and it can appear that he actually cares. Before you think I'm crazy I hasten to add that his wife works in PR, so he doesn't really have to.
Cameron could even be the next Prime Minister. Yes, you read that correctly a Conservative in the 21st century could become Prime Minister by winning a democratic (or the British equivalent) vote. First however he will have to convince the party that he is the right man for the job.

His main problem lies in the fact that Liam Fox is a joke. Unfortunately for Cameron, the current Conservative party are too and so they may think Dr Fox is the perfect man for the job.

Finally of course, there are Malcolm Rifkind and (snigger) Edward Leigh.

Unfortunately for them, even the Conservative Party have their standards.

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.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Convicts Punished as England Win to Lead Ashes

When I started this blog, I planned to use it mainly as an outlet for venting my views on politics and news stories with perhaps an occasional mention of sport and other topics just to make this blog slightly different and more relevant to the average person rather than mimic the multitudes of political blogs out there. However, recently politics has been increasing turning me off and the excitement of the Ashes has meant that I have dedicated a surprisingly large number of posts recently to the game of cricket.

For the third game in succession England outplayed the Aussies, but failed to win in a convincing manner. The People's Republic is not to concerned however - a win is a win whether by ten wickets or three. The Aussie attack was simply not up to scratch and they showed yet again that they are relying too much on Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. Even giving Tait the cap of the convict did not solve the problem in the short term.

The player who has really impressed this series for the England team is Simon Jones. After his injury at the Gabba two-and-a-half years ago, he has changed his whole bowling action realising he will never bowl as fast as he did in his youth. As a result he has become a lot more accurate, and I don't think comparisons with Glenn McGrath are over the top at all.

Unfortunately you can't say the same about his namesake Geraint. His place must surely be under question for the next test after numerous dropped catches and missed stumpings. I like to see a keeper who can catch the ball and whip of the bails before the batsman knows what day it is. The only comparison you can make with him is that with David James. The England selectors must realise that Chris Read must get his chance, and they must not continue to make the same mistake they made when they picked Alec Stewart ahead of Jack Russell.

But the People's Republic will not be holding it's breath.

Update: It appears David James has been dropped from the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Northern Ireland in favour of Chris Kirkland. Maybe there is hope for us after all.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Warks Win to Reach Final

So there I am watching Warks cruise to a win against Lancashire in the C&G trophy in the semi-final when suddenly some kids run past me clutching the match scorecard and a pen in their hands. I turn round to see what the fuss is about and who do I see in the Press Box behind me just having appeared? Only Warwickshire and England heroes Ian Bell and Ashley Giles, relaxing with a can of beer and a glass of wine in their hands (and after last weeks exertions, who would blame them). I overhear Ashley and he seems confident fot the fourth Test against the Convicts. He says all the pitches have been dry this summer and the Trent Bridge wicket will be hard pointing out he took six wickets there last year.

Warwickshire meanwhile didn't need their two England stars strolling to a 99 run win against arguably the favourites for the Trophy. They will face tough competion in the final against Hampshire who have a half-decent attack in Tremlett, Mascarenhas and Bichel. Before then, they must do all they can to get promoted from the Totesport second division, starting with a win in the day-night game against the Sussex Sharks, where the People's Republic hopes to have a presence.

A win will be a nice warm up for Thursday.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Convicts Win Reprieve

You know times have changed when the Aussies start celebrating a draw. Never mind the result - we whooped their ass, and if it wasn't for the Manchester weather, we would have destroyed them.

If we'd won this, not only would it have been more exciting than Edgbaston, but we also would have been only one win away from winning the Ashes. As such, the People's Republic is concerned that Australia will regroup to retain the Ashes at Trent Bridge, with us wining at the Oval to level the series 2-2 - a result we predicted at the beginning.

Given the way this series has gone however, it wouldn't surprise me if it went to the last Test.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Travel West Midlands Slightly Wound-Up

You've got to admire Travel Wind-up Merchants (or Travel West Midlands as they like to be known). After providing a sub-standard service on the 50 route where they face no competition from the railways, they have suddenly introduced a summer special ticket (on the 50 route only) of a £1.10 return after 9.30pm. This comes after re-introducing inspectors on the route in town who as well as checking tickets space the buses so that they don't all come at the same time (sometimes as many as eight previously). Sincee this has been happening, we know longer have queues going halfway down cars lane (which is useful, because the refurbishment of M&S means there isn't much pavement left anyway).

The reason? A new 50 service that started a few months back from the People's express (no relation to the People's Republic) who have fares of 75p one-way and £1 return, halving the cost of a trip to town.

It's amazing what a little competition will do.

Presumably Travel West Midlands will keep this up until they have put the new service out of business, and then revert back to normal. They have already seen off competition on this route twice, first buying out Your Bus, and then using the inspector trick to finish off Pete's Travel. Given the lack of availability of Travelcard agents in Kings Heath (who seem to have the Travelcard machines perpetually out of order) the People's Republic are hopeful that this time, the reverse might happen.

But somehow we doubt it.

Monday, August 08, 2005

What's Chinese for Deja-vu

According to recent reports, floundering Midlands-based firm Marconi are considering a tie-up with a Chinese firm.

Where have we heard that before...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Ashes Level After Thriller at Edgbaston

After a crushing two-run victory over the Convicts, the Ashes is level at 1-1.

Don't let the winning margin fool you, we were just softening them up so we could break their hearts and keep them down for the third test.

As mentioned previously, the People's Republic had a presence on the fourth day, expecting the match to be finished before the traditional visit to the bar when licensing starts at 11am. Despite the close nature of the game, please be assured that the People's Republic was never in doubt over the final result, a result due to a combination of Glenn McGrath's pre-match injury (the ball didn't come from the Eric Hollies stand, honest), a poor decision by Ricky Ponting (humid!? anyone in Birmingham on Thursday knows it was fresh - get your central heating sorted mate), a stunning batting performance on the first day (at over 5 an over - started due to Marcus Trescothick's involvement in the Twenty20 finals day perhaps and carried on by the rest of the lads), a particularly stunning performance with bat and ball form Freddie (the 9th wicket stand with 9 Aussies on the boundary and that over being highlights) and a half decent catch from wicket keeper Geraint Jones at the end (his glove may not have been on the bat, but then Ian Bell was never out). To give the convicts some credit, the two deliveries which dismissed Andrew Strauss were not bad either.

A special mention must go to the crowd for the following morale-boosting tunes:

We don't live in a convict colony
Get those f****** stars of our flag
Where's your misses gone (aknowleged by the target Shane Warne)
You should have batted first
We're gonna win 4-1

The greatest test ever? Probably - after all it was in Birmingham.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Silly Season for Terror Debates

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on London it is now silly season for those who are supposed to be getting us out of this mess. First of all, Khalid Mahmood the MP for Perry Barr has called on the chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque to resign after he claimed that Al-Qaeda doesn't exist and that there was no proof the London bombings were the work of Muslims. While not necessarily agreeing with these statements (although there is a lot to be said for the first one) it is the position of the People's Republic that those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and as one of the few Muslim MP's in the House of Commons, Khalid Mahmood should have made a better job of opposing the war in Iraq (and therefore actually representing the views of his constituents) instead of playing the dutiful British Muslim servant and backing Blair in this illegal war. Who knows, he may have inspired some disaffected young Muslims to do something more dangerous than becoming suicide bombers: he could have shown them the power of freedom of speech.

Why don't you show him how to do it Khalid?

Of course, we can't talk about useless, ineffective politicians who should resign without mentioning a Conservative or two. A fine example is David Davis, who show his leadership credentials for the Tories by making an "outspoken attack on multiculturalism". Well done old chap - with that kind of original thinking, not only will you have shored up the vote of the blue-rinse brigade, but you have also made sure that ethnic minorities who have deserted the party due to it's movement to the right post-Major will not be returning. If you make leader (and remember it's not guaranteed - there are signs that some Tories are tired of losing), surely you will have a leadership as successful as your predecessors Hague, Dunc-Smith and Howard.

Not to be outdone by this, a backbench Tory MP who I won't dignify by naming (alright I'll admit it - I can't remember his name and don't know who he is - Gerard something I think) has among other things said that if any Muslims don't like the war in Iraq, they should leave the country.

You don't really understand freedom of speech do you mate? Are you sure your ancestors have lived here for 2000 years?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Winners and Losers of Terrorism

Last week saw the arrest on Friday of the three remaining men wanted over the attempted bombings on the 21st of July. Two were picked up in London in an SAS-style raid, while the other was tracked to Italy via his brother's mobile phone. In both cases, you have to admire the efficiency of the police in the operation (particularly how they dealt the difficulties encountered when children emerged as they tried to break into the ground floor flat).

Meanwhile the IRA have announced that they are giving up violence for good, which is great news for everyone concerned. Too many innocent lives have been lost in this conflict over the years, and quite frankly, this was a move that should have been made years ago. Credit where credit is due however, to commit to exclusively peaceful means is a massive step that shouldn't be dismissed as it has been by sections of the Unionist community despite the many crimes over the years, and credit to the Prime Minister for persevering with the peace process. The Unionist community should not forget who should get the praise for this however - David Trimble. If Ian Paisley had his way, the war would still be going on, and there would be no devolved power-sharing Government.

Which is of course exactly what he wanted.

The police have said that they will not have shy away from disproportionately stopping members of certain ethnic groups as they attempt to prevent further attacks on London's transport system (funny that, as when the IRA were bombing this currently I don't remember white people being disproportionately stopped and searched). In fact, the words I think were used were "we are not going to waste time stopping old white women".

As I am not an "old white women" in the fullest sense of the phrase I have come up with some statements that we can use to embarrass the police while they protect the country from the likes of us. After all, if four of us are like that, we must all be like that.

"Thanks for stopping and searching me, you must be one of the good ones; after all, you could have shot me in the head 8 times"

"I don't usually travel on the tube. I usually take the car but have you seen the price of petrol? There must be a war going on."

"Did you know in every young Asian/black male , there is an old white women struggling to get out?"

"Can I have a receipt for that. I've heard that if you get five, you can have a discount on a new rucksack?"

Some people may think these statements are in poor taste, and they are probably right. Just make sure we are stopping and searching based on intelligence rather than base prejudice.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Tornado batters Brum

There are some days which stick out in the mind of Brummies. Where were you when the large tremor hit Dudley in 2003? Or how did you get home on that notorious day in 2004 when the roads re-froze after being gritted, bringing gridlock to the entire region? We can now add to this the day the Mid-West came to the West Midlands.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) I was at work when the tornado hit so didn't have any first-hand experience. While at work, we heard reports of many roads in south Birmingham being closed due to fallen trees. Then reports appeared on the internet claiming a tornado had hit south Birmingham, with pictures showing the area where I live with roofs ripped off. Fearing the worst, I rushed home and remember feeling the incredible humidity that followed the freak storm.

The tornado seemed to be centred on Kings Heath, the spiritual (and some would say physical) home of the People's Republic (although there was heavy damage in other areas as well including Sparkbrook an Moseley). The High Street suffered the most with the roof being ripped off Greggs and surrounding shops. A hut used as a booth at a carpark near my former school was lifted up into the air and smashed into the front of Iceland, injuring the man inside. Two people were also seriously injured at the bus stop where I catch my bus to work every morning due to branches falling in the All Saints Church compound. Many of its trees were uprooted, and damage was done to its 19th century roof and a stained glass window. The Catholic Church opposite where I worship however remained untouched.

I suppose God looks after his own!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Brum Strikes a Blow Against Terror

In a dawn raid in Hay Mills it appears that West Midlands Police, in conjunction with the security services and the Met have captured one of the failed bombers of 21st July. Obviously if this is confirmed, it is a massive breakthrough.

It was only a matter of time before the Islamic terrorist activity that has reared its ugly head was linked to the city. There is clearly a hotbed of discontent in certain areas of the city amongst the Muslim youth. Respect posters and others about Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq abound in the areas of South Birmingham where I live. A poster with a picture of the battered twin towers has also been seen with the caption "A towering day in history" in Balsall Heath.

The reports suggest that police used a taser to capture the suspect. Whereas this has the obvious advantage of not bringing in the suspect on a slab (although it has been known according to some organisations), presumably they were sure that he wasn't wearing a bomb belt that could have been set of by the explosives. Apparently though, he was wearing a rucksack containing explosives.

Hopefully he will know something about the whereabouts of the other suspected bombers, and perhaps some good can come out of the latest terror attempts.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Warm Welcome to our Baptist Brothers

The largest Christian conference in Britain for decades takes place over the next five days at various locations around Birmingham including the NIA and the ICC. Among the delegates are the former President of the United States (and peanut farmer) Jimmy Carter, and the wife of the most famous footballer ever, Pele.

We give our Baptist friend a warm welcome, and hope they will enjoy their time in our humble city.

It's all Rover at Longbridge

More details emerge concerning the takeover of the remaining assets of MG Rover by the chinese firm Nanjing. It appear the Rover brand will no longer roll off the production lines in the Midlands, and it is increasingly likely that no more cars will roll of the production line at the Longbridge plant.

Not exactly the best way to celebrate 100 years of Longbridge, but thanks for all the memories.

The Nanjing bid was the least preferred bid for the People's Republic. Shanghai Automotive, despite their role in Rover's downfall, appear to have the intellectual rights to the 25 and the 75 giving it greater scope to restart production at Longbridge. The third bid would have kept the company in British hands, and appeared to have some great ideas to develop the MG brand. It seems however that in the end Nanjing bid the most and so got the prize. We wish them well, and hope they will maintain a decent manufacturing presence in the West Midlands.

Above all, we hope thay can give us some cars to be proud about.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

1-0 to the Convicts

As predicted on this blog, the convicts won the first test, and in the end it was quite convincing.
This can be put down to a few things. Firstly the first innings batting performance of England, which was woeful, particularly amongst the so called recognised batsmen. Secondly, the bowling in the second innings against the tail-end which was tame to say the least - why didn't they take a leaf out of Brett Lee's book, and go into bouncer and yorker mode. Finally the fielding - six dropped catches against the Aussies is simply asking for trouble.

The People's Republic were sad to see the retirement of Graeme Thorpe. England's best batsman of the 90's, it was sad to see his career blighted by personal problems over the past few years. As much as it pains a Bear to say it, bringing him in for Bell in the second test may have given England some of the batting backbone they lacked in the first innings. Ian Bell will become a great player for England, but if he continues to get single digit scores as he did in the first test, the anti-Warwickshire bias of the England selectors may mean he has as short a test career as his Warwickshire team-mate Nick Knight.

The debate continues as to whether it was great bowling or a dodgy pitch which caused wickets to tumble on the first day. The People's Republic is not taking any nonsense; it is clear the pitch was not up to standard. A few years ago a similar situation at Edgbaston led to calls from some sections of the cricket establishment for the ground to lose its test status. This explains why so many 'experts' were so quick to applaud the great bowling on the first day.

If they weren't, they'd have to be calling for the suspension of test cricket at Lords.

I heard somewhere that the test at Lords has to take place before the start of the Grouse hunting season at the end of August as all the members are unavailable thereafter. Compare this to Edgbaston, where in the Eric Hollies stand the footie fans take a break from the beautiful game to give some back to any team that thinks they can psyche-out England.

It's why the England players love the ground; and it is why we'll level the series straight from the heart.

The War on Terror and Shoot to Kill

The "war on terror" is clearly being lost (of course this is not surprising, as it seems to be more about motivations rather than about actually ending terrorism). After the crazy events of Thursday where we were mercifully spared the misery of the 7th of July, Egypt also suffered a terrorist attack this weekend where as I write over 80 people have died. This takes place against the backdrop of the daily murders and suicide bombings taking place in the country that used to be Iraq (perhaps we should explain to the Islamic world that this isn't really democracy - after all, if their experience of democracy comes from Iraq since 2003 and Israel (and in particular the occupation of Palestine), it's not a surprise that they are not that enthusiastic about it).

What is just as concerning about the recent events is that the police shot dead an innocent man because he was acting suspiciously and was wearing strange clothing for the weather. Obviously we will need to wait for the full inquiry into the shooting before criticising those involved, as I'm not sure the media reports are giving a fully accurate version of what happened. The shoot-to-kill policy is undoubtedly necessary when suicide bombings are the weapon of choice of the state's enemy, but it raises real questions of how and when they can be justified in a specific instance. What constitutes suspicious activity? If a person's first language isn't English, how can this be taken into account when the police give a command, particularly if they are in plain clothes and one of them has a gun?

After all, would you like to be at the wrong end of a mistaken decision?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bring on the Convicts

The People's Republic has been anticipating the beginning of the Ashes series with some excitement for months now. Rest assured that we will have a presence at the home of Brummie cricket, Edgbaston, which hosts the second test beginning on 4th August 2005. Until then, presumably we will have to tolerate a defeat at Lord's, where we haven't beaten the convicts for 71 years.

Bring it on.

Meanwhile, the People's Republic are still puzzling over Peter Crouch's £7 million move to Liverpool. When Graham Taylor brought him to Villa for £6 million a few years ago, everyone thought he was having delusions of finding the next Ian Ormandroyd.

How did one of the biggest jokes of English football become the star summer signing of the European Champions?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Top Skatesman

The People's Republic was saddened to hear about the death of Edward Heath, the second former British Prime Minister to die this year after James Callaghan.

Edward Heath harks back to an era when the Tories were electable. A man from humble beginnings, he got to the top by hard-work and talent as opposed to the modern Conservatives who prefer to be born into their wealth. Added to this, you have to credit him for having no time for Margaret Thatcher, an attitude that even our Labour Prime Minister can't boast of. Indeed, Tony Benn's tribute was "He was well to the left of Tony Blair, that's for sure".

If any further proof were needed that he was indeed a top Skatesman, I will leave you with the following quote which he used to dismiss criticism of his handling of foreign policy:

"There are some people who believe that that the British Prime Minister should hang off the shoulder of the American President. I tell you, that is no future for Britain."


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Injustice for All

As the dust settles from the terrorist attacks in London, we reach a period where the Government pontificates about how we were always a target of a terrorist threat, that they are trying to destroy our way of life and it was absolutely, positively nothing to do with Iraq, Afghanistan or that matter any other Western action in the Middle East.

There is a problem with this analysis. It is wrong. The Islamic world did not wake up one day and say, "I know, just for a laugh we'll start bombing and maiming innocent people for no particular reason. Civilization and democracy is not for us, let's kill, kill, kill!"

On the other hand the western world did wake up one day start bombing defenceless third world countries so that they could rob the economic wealth. Alternatively they may just have wanted a military presence in the area. Often, they installed brutal dictators in these oil rich states to ensure democracy didn't flourish and the wealth stayed under their control, leaving only extremists who resorted to religion as the only ones who could fight back.

Ok, these are oversimplifications of the history of the Middle East, but the fact remains that the problems of 9/11 and the subsequent events are the direct results of Western foreign policy in the Middle East. In the same way that the IRA terrorised Britain due to the perceived injustices in Ireland under British rule, Islamic extremists are murdering innocent people to avenge (in their eyes) the injustices happening in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and other Muslim areas.

Of course this is a biased view. NATO for example helped liberate the Kosovan Muslims from Serb rule. If it wasn't for American intervention in the 70's, Kashmir would probably be completely under Indian rule. By perpetuating myths of anti-Islamic bias in Western foreign policy, Al Qaida and its fellow Islamist groups convince a seemingly unending stream of young men to give their lives for their perverted cause.

And while they continue to see the atrocities happening in Palestine and Iraq, it will be difficult to convince these young men otherwise.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Birmingham City Centre Evacuated

I don't think anyone expected the events that unfolded last night which saw the entire city centre evacuated. At the time I was at home hearing reports on the radio, but the scale of what was happening grew increasingly clear as the night went on. Despite the fact nothing was found I don't think anyone could blame the Police for evacuating the area - they certainly wouldn't have taken the decision lightly and it was obviously better than the alternative. Apparently some people spent the night as Aston University.

At least it's good for something.

It is interesting to see the response to the terrorist attacks in this city. When going to work on Friday two police officers boarded the bus I was on, but didn't check any passes or anything. While walking around Birmingham City Centre on Saturday afternoon there was a noticeable police presence which seemed bigger than usual, although there are always police visible in the city centre especially on Saturday.

I had always thought that Birmingham would be an unlikely target for the current terrorist threat. This city may have been a target for the IRA, but they were making a political statement against what they saw as the English occupation of Ireland. The Islamist threat is surely more about making headlines by attacking the centres of the West and as such London would be a more obvious target.

Only time will tell if this analysis is correct.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Shoulder to Shoulder with our Cockney Allies

The People's Republic often criticises London (in jest of course), and while not looking forward to the London-centric press focusing on the Olympic Games for the next few days, we certainly wouldn't have wanted it to be replaced by the tragic events that took place this morning.

We offer our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to all who have been affected by the attacks.

The people of Birmingham have of course experienced the pain of terrorist attack ourselves, most notably in 1974 with the Birmingham Pub Bombings, which was (excluding Lockerbie) previously the worst attack on mainland Britain.

We love to compete against London, but this is a record we neither want nor want to see passed on to London or for that matter any other city.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Frog Left in Throat as London Wins Olympics

The People's Republic had quietly been expecting London to win the IoC vote in Singapore. Call it jammy, lucky or maybe even suspicious, but London has a habit of winning contests where it doesn't have the best bid (as every Brummie will know).

It has concerned the People's Republic that an increasing amount of Brummies have been supporting the London bid in the past week, including John Hemming and Denise Lewis. They claim it is a "British bid" and because Villa Park will be hosting some football matches, it will benefit the city. They fail to realise that Birmingham deserves more than scraps of the rich man's table. We had the best bid for the millennium celebrations and the National Stadium (of course, now London will be getting some more). They even recently stole the International Motor Show of us, which contributes millions of pounds to the local economy - a few games at Villa Park won't make up for that.

In any case, London has already hosted the Olympics twice and it is time it went to another part of the country. If there are not enough hotel rooms (the excuse used to prevent a Brummie or Mancunian bid), it is time that the government invested in some of our other cities s (after all, Germany has held the games more than once but in different cities). London has it both ways; if a private company invests in London, it's the principle of market forces, but when government money is on offer, that goes to London anyway because "it should be in London" (how many times have we heard that).

The blame undoubtedly lies with Jacques Chirac. After a disagreeing with Britain about Iraq (rightly in the opinion of most people), he panicked after losing the referendum on the European Constitution and tried to divert attention by ranting about the British rebate while refusing to discuss CAP, and now criticising British food while not seeming to realise it has changed in the last 25 years.

The People's Republic has called off all diplomatic relations with Paris, and after this debacle has decided to ban the use of French words.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Birmingham's Role in Make Poverty History

The highlight of Live 8 was undoubtedly brummie band UB40 coming on and performing Red Red Wine and Can't Help Falling in Love with You. The People's Republic believes it was no coincidence that the Women's Wimbledon Tennis Final ended just as UB40 were on stage so that they were the first act on BBC1. The cockney press will fawn over the likes of Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams and U2, but we all know a class act when we see it.

Of course, Birmingham has played a major roll in trying to "drop the debt" already. We had the Jubilee campaign linking arms around Birmingham at the last G8 summit held in the UK, and the "Long Walk for Justice" to Edinburgh started in Birmingham to acknowledge this.

It's just a pity the national press can't acknowledge the role this city has played.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

As democratic as the rest of US

The People's Republic was a bit concerned when it heard an ultra-conservative had been the unexpected winner of a dodgy election, thus threatening the stability of the world.

We thought George Walker Bush had won a historic third term.

Luckily it became apparent that it was only the election of the new leader of Iran, where the religious clerics who run the country had barred progressive candidates from standing in an attempt to get a conservative victory. This differs slightly from democracy in the US, where the partisan election officials simply bar progressive voters from voting in swing states, thus achieving the same goal.

No need for any regime change there then. They're as democratic as the rest of us.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

A Right Royal Mess

This week it was revealed that the royal family cost the British taxpayer £37 million last year, which works out at 61p for every man, woman and child in Britain and includes:

1. A royal train journey made by the Prince of Wales from Aberdeen to Plymouth costing almost £45,000,
2. A further trip by Prince Charles to Sri Lanka, Australia & Fiji by chartered plane that cost £300,000,
3. Another chartered flight by the Duke of York to the Far East to promote UK interests that cost just under £125,000.

This was hailed by Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, who described this as "value for money".

Meanwhile in Birmingham a Twenty20 Vision wristband can be bought for £20. The cost includes:

1. A Lance Armstrong style Wristband,
2. Admission to all four Warwickshire Twenty20 games which normally cost £10 each,
3. Free bus travel on selected routes which serve the cricket ground after 15.00 on the day and
4. A £1.20 donation to charity

In fact, it does so much I think it might single-handedly be keeping the local economy running after the collapse of Rover.

There are a million people in Birmingham. If we save the 61p each we can buy 30,500 Twenty20 wristbands.

Not only will it provide even better value for money, but we'll provide some for the Royal Family so they can learn to use the bus.

The royals were also in the news this week as Prince William graduated from St. Andrew's University. One thing the People's Republic noticed was how his name was given as William Wales during the graduation ceremony. His surname is technically "Mountbatten-Windsor" but the story doesn't end there. Mountbatten comes from his grandfather, Price Phillip, who had to select a surname because he didn't have one. He actually comes paternally from the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg. Windsor comes from his grandmother, the Queen and originates from 1917 when George V changed the family's name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha due to anti-German feeling during the war. So his real surname should be:


The People's Republic proposes that we should remember this royal family as the House of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Ferrari, FIA f-up F1

Once upon a time there was a racetrack in Indiana. The Indycars that raced there kept falling off, so the authorities replaced the surface with a brand new one with diamond-cut grooves to increase the grip. Firestone, who supplied the tyres to some of the Indycars got some feedback and told their European brother Bridgestone about it. This proved useful, as they supplied three teams who competed in F1.

A few weeks later an F1 race took place on the same racetrack. In addition to the three teams who use Bridgestone, there were also seven other teams who used a tyre manufacturer called Michelin. On Friday practice, one of the these tyres failed unexpectedly on the banked part of the circuit, causing a crash which ruled Ralf Schumacher out of the main event on the Sunday.

Now F1 cars don't like banking. Unlike Nascars and Indycars, F1 cars are designed to race on flat tracks, and generate enormous amounts of downforce. Whether due to a dodgy batch of tyres, or the new diamond-cut surface, an investigation into the crash by Michelin meant that they couldn't guarantee their tyres for a 73-lap race. Unless that part of the track was slowed down by a chicane, they advised their teams not to race. In the litigation culture that is America, the corporations that owned the teams had no choice but to agree. Two Bridgestone teams even joined them.

Enter the FIA and Ferrari. Ferrari decide that they should not be penalised for what is essentially a problem caused by the tyre manufacturer. The FIA refuse to implement the chicane. Without all ten teams agreeing, the race would not count towards the championship. The Michelin teams ask for the chicane to be added and agree that they will not get any World Championship points from the race as it is their tyre manufacturers fault. At least the crowd will be treated to a spectacle, they argue. No say the FIA. Race at reduced speeds, use a different tyre or change your tyre every few laps. Martin Brundle, a respected former racing driver turned television pundit points out the first option could be dangerous; the second is against FIA rules. Michelin cannot guarantee the tyre for any amount of laps - after all Ralf Schumacher crashed on his first flying lap, so the third option is unsatisfactory as well. The Michelin teams are left with no alternative but to pull out of the race.

This all happens against a backdrop of a power struggle in F1. The nine teams who agreed to the chicane, encouraged by the large motor manufacturers who own them are asking for a bigger slice of the cash F1 gets in sponsorship money as well as more of a say in the decision making. They threaten a breakaway championship in 2008 after their current contracts expire in 2007. Ferrari are the only team to have signed up past 2008. Since this agreement, the FIA and Ferrari seem to end up on the same side on any disagreements. Some teams are worried the FIA may be showing favouritism to Ferrari. Some motor racing fans point to past dubious decisions they say already show this.

Only six cars start the race to a chorus of boos. Ferrari, who have been having a bad season get maximum points, which catapults them back into the World Championship. The American fans ask for a refund. Formula 1 is damaged, maybe irreparably.

Murray Walker used to say that F1 spells "if" backwards. The People's Republic would also like to point out that you can't spell Ferrari without FIA.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Critics of Women's Football Know Sweet F.A.

The women's European Championships which were taking place in the north-west of England finished today with Germany beating Norway 3-1 to take the trophy, making it the second time the Germans have won a version of the tournament on English soil in ten years.

I guess we'll just have to win the World Cup next year on German soil to even things up.

While it may have its critics, I have been impressed with the quality of the women's game. The quality of free kicks and set-pieces was particularly good; I saw one of the best corners I have ever seen from the Finnish in their game against the host nation, and if a Premiership footballer had been given the chance that Karen Carney beautifully placed in the last minute of the same game, it probably would have ended up in row Z. What the women lack in power, they more than make up for in accuracy. It was a refreshing change from the men's game in England, which relies too much on strength, brute force and physical presence.

The current England team brought back some memories as well. Faye White and Mary Phillip in defence reminded me another famous Arsenal centre-half combination, that of Tony Adams and Steve Bould. Eni Aluko burst on to the England scene in a similar way and with a similar style to Darius Vassell, and Karen Carney and Rachel Yankee are the best wing partnership Birmingham City have produced since Ricky Otto and Louie Donowa.

In any case, any kind of football where Birmingham City are the fourth best team in the land can't be that bad.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bengal's Tigers Roar in the Gardens

In one of the biggest shocks in the history of cricket, Bangladesh beat Australia in a one-day international at Sophia Gardens, a result which easily eclipses their World Cup win against Pakistan in 1999.

Perhaps the nation of convicts should go back to doing hard labour.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Wacko Jacko

According to a report in the Metro today, after successfully defending himself against allegations of child abuse, Michael Jackson plans to leave his Neverland ranch in California and move to London in an attempt to rebuild his life.

Proof if proof were needed that he needs psychiatric help.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

United, United now for sale

Malcolm Glazer has announced how he plans to make money out of his purchase of Manchester United. Among them are plans to raise ticket prices, cap transfer spending to £25 million a year, and to play a match in Tampa each year.

The People's Republic are not sure this will be enough to cover the debts made from the initial purchase of the club, so we offer Mr. Glazer the following advice free of charge (after all, we wouldn't want to bankrupt them). Firstly, to make maximum income from their yearly tour of the States and also to make sure they do not get sued for use of the term "football", we propose that they should rename the club "Soccer Club United's of Manchester" (or S.C.U.M. for short). Secondly, they should relocate to Birmingham, or perhaps even London where there will be a bigger natural fan base. Alternatively, big Mal could relocate them to Milton Keynes, exactly halfway between the two, so that they could play their new city rivals the MK Dons in a money-spinning match that would be known as "the franchise derby".

Manchester United fans may be upset over the purchase, and while the People's Republic sympathizes with the true fans that have supported the club man-and-boy for several decades, the truth is they have had it coming. Man United has been for sale ever since they put the club on the stock market in the early 90's. Their previous owner, Martin Edwards, continually attempted to make money out of the shares he inherited from his father, selling them again and again to anyone who offered a decent price and even at one point attempting to sell the club to the Devil's own company, Sky Sports. Add to this the merchandising tie-up with the New York Yankees, the summer tours to the Far-East and the U.S., and the infamous episode where they played in the World Club Championships instead of the oldest cup competition in the world, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

Of course Mr Glazer turned around the fortunes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who used to be the laughing stock of American football, but the difference is Man Utd are (were?) a successful club already.

If he wanted to turn around the laughing stock of English soccer, he should have taken over Birmingham City.

Born Again?

Today is the Queen's official birthday as opposed to her real one, which is on 21st April.

All across the country working-class people are working all the hours God sends, and only get to celebrate one birthday. Why does the Queen need two?

Is it so she can get two sets of presents each year?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Come on Tim!

While the media blather on about Queen's, in Birmingham defending women's Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and a host of other female tennis stars are playing in the DFS classic at the Edgbaston Priory Club. Not a lot of people know that Lawn Tennis was invented in Birmingham when in 1859 Major Thomas Henry Gem, a solicitor, beat his friend Batista Pereira, a Spanish merchant in a game they called 'pelota', which is Spanish for ball. Later, Batista helped form the first tennis club in nearby Leamington Spa.

The People's Republic believes it is time that tennis returned home. It's time to swap SW19 for B15. Wimbledon's already lost it's football club to Milton Keynes due to lack of support. With the support of a real crowd, instead of the strawberry-and-cream guzzling ponces that populate south London every summer, Tim might eventually win.

A beer and a balti will put some fire in his belly.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Congestion, Conservatives and the Capital

For once it seems the government have finally got the guts to implement a policy that would be good for the country, but could be unpopular. I am referring to of course, the plans to slash fuel tax and charge motorists on the roads they are driving on. The People's Republic (along with the Adam Smith Institute it seems) has long argued for this sensible approach; fuel tax is far too blunt an instrument to beat congestion about the head with, and it is only right that people who drive cars in the cities at peak time should pay more than weekend country drivers.
What is the Conservatives response to this? Well unfortunately it seems they are going to try and paint this as another tax on the "hard-pressed motorist" and will presumably bleat on about how this will force poorer drivers of the road. Warning bells ring when the Conservatives start using the poor as their first line of defence. After all, thirty-three percent of people don't even have access to the car.

The People's Republic is guessing they aren't exactly rich.

The only problem is why the government needs to use satellite tracking to monitor these tolls. Surely a few manned booths at peak-times or some sort of swipe-card system would be a better way of doing things.

Unless it was about more than traffic congestion...

Meanwhile Idiotic TeleVision (or ITV as it's commonly known) managed to surpass it's bog-standard reporting on this issue when it claimed that fuel tax, road tolls and congestion charging have had no effect on Gridlock Britain. Excuse me, but I thought that London had benefited greatly from the congestion charge, and on the only toll road in Britain I haven't heard of there being any queues as bad as those on the M6. And some people criticise the BBC...

In other news London is apparently a really good second in the race for the Olympics. Well that's where it belongs, in second (Birmingham of course is the biggest city in Britain, as far as normal people define cities anyway). I'm sure you've guessed that the People's Republic is among the 30% who oppose the bid; London often can't compete with its national rivals on projects like the national stadium and the millennium celebrations, only winning when it's fixed the result in advance. How can "the greatest city in the world" possibly compete with a city that is truly international class?

Vive la Republic!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Bronze Prize for the Gordon Brown

According to a BBCi article yesterday, one of the reasons the Americans are not supporting Gordon Brown's moves to provide 100% debt relief for the African states is that it involves selling off gold reserves of the IMF. Gordon Brown is gaining a reputation for selling gold after selling off British reserves and replacing them with paper currency (and stupidly announcing he was going to do this beforehand so the prices dropped). Why has he got such an obsession for selling off gold?

Probably because he's finished selling off the family silver...

(Incidentally for an excellent analysis of why Live 8 won't change a thing, read Dr. Madsen Pirie's article today on the Adam Smith Institute's blog)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Election Troubles

Apparently, the European Constitution is now dead (or perhaps on life support according to some European sources - I've always maintained healthcare was much better in Europe). The Peoples' Republic is wondering what is happening to the Dutch. The French have always been a law unto themselves, so voting non was not a major surprise; but nej - we could see it coming but it is an amazing turnaround nonetheless. The Dutch used to be incredibly liberal and pro-European; now they seem to have a phobia about immigrants and are starting to have second thoughts about further European integration. Apparently, some of this stems from the belief that immigration to Holland from the New Europe and those from Islamic backgrounds are threatening their liberal values. I suppose its easy to be liberal when you have sent all your nutters to South Africa, but it is a lot harder when you've got people who aren't so tolerant in the country.

Why is it that liberals can accept anything and everyone except those who don't agree with themselves?

Back in the People's Republic meanwhile, Salma Yaqoob, the Respect Candidate who slashed Labour's majority to just over 3000, has made an official complaint regarding the general election result in Birmingham Sparkbrook. The Peoples' Republic will be taking a keen interest in these proceedings, particularly given Labour's reputation for "increasing turnout" in the city. Roger Godsiff in particular intrigues us; apparently he believes there should be no more immigration to Britain.

An odd thing to have said just before an election in a constituency with so may immigrant voters - unless they were about to defect to another party and he needed to court the "tory-waverers".

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Not so Big Ben

Last night the clock that houses Big Ben stopped for only the fourth time in it's history.
The People's Republic are not surprised; if you ever are relying on something from London, you are asking for trouble. Luckily in Birmingham, we have a magnificent clock that can put Big Ben to shame.

Many Brummies would consider the so-called "Big Brum", the clock tower that adjoins the Art Museum to be Birmingham's rival to Big Ben. The People's Republic opposes this on two grounds. Firstly, the name is a problem, being an obvious rip-off of the inferior original. Secondly, there is a better clock - namely Old Joe, the 100 metre clock tower at the University of Birmingham made of red brick and named after Joseph Chamberlain, the first chancellor of the University. No one who has seen this magnificent structure in real life can cease to be amazed - it is a truly magnificent protuberance, whether seen from below or in the distance on the horizon.

The People's Republic would also like to point out it exists in a better neighbourhood than its London rival - amongst some of the greatest minds in the country, rather than the lying, back-stabbing, self-satisfying parasites who have unfortunately been given the privilege of running the country.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Mother of all Comebacks

Well, it was an exciting night of football as Liverpool lifted the Champions League trophy for the fifth time (and this time, it's for keeps). Sure, there were some dodgy refereeing decisions along the way but to come back from three goals down and win a penalty shoot-out against all the odds leaves the People's Republic feeling that the victory was as great an achievement as West Bromwich Albion staying in the Premier League after being bottom at Christmas (and being thumped by Birmingham 4-0, Liverpool 5-0, and somehow score-drawing against Manchester City despite not having a shot on goal).

It will also not surprise the reader if we point out that Birmingham City have done the double over the newly crowned European Champions this season; and so that by our laws of pseudo-transitivity (Liverpool are this season's European Champions, Birmingham beat Liverpool twice this season, therefore Birmingham are the Champions of Europe), Birmingham have managed a cup double this season (see previous post), a great achievement for a club that had previously only won the League Cup in it's 125-odd year history.

A resounding vindication of our independence policy, and a categorical refutation to those who said the People's Republic wouldn't benefit the ordinary people of Birmingham.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Finnish First and a Double Double.

Well, it's been an exciting weekend of sport. On Saturday, the FA Cup Final took place with the "Greater London derby" - Arsenal vs Man Utd, which the Gunners won on penalties leaving the Red Devils trophy-less this season. The People's Republic wonder just how long Alex Ferguson will keep his job - our belief is that he should have retired when he intended to, a couple of years ago when Man Utd were at the top of their game. With the advent of Mr. Mourinho, it is unlikely Manchester United will challenge for anything again, regardless of what Malcolm Glazer thinks. The People's Republic are unimpressed with both finalists however and with it being revealed that the Birmingham City chairman, David Gold, has just bought the oldest existing F.A. Cup for nearly £500,000 to keep it from the Germans, we recognise the "Second City Blues" as the rightful winners, making it a Blues League and Cup double (of sorts).

Who says you can't buy trophies?

In the first Monaco Grand Prix since Prince Ranier's death, "the iceman" Kimi Raikkonen romps home ahead of the rest. The People's Republic have long recognised Raikonnen as the rightful heir to Mika Hakkinen's crown and not just because he's Finnish. The press however have been going bananas over Alonso, presumably because of his passionate Latino marketability, but while acknowledging his driving talent the People's Republic are yet to be convinced. Meanwhile, at the scrag end of the points places, the 'second fiddle' clause in Barrichello's contract is invoked so that Michael Schumacher can finish seventh instead of eighth to keep Ferrari's title hopes alive. The People's Republic refuse to recognise Herr Schumacher as the current World Champion for the following simple reason:

Races should be won on the track, and not during contract negotiations.

Meanwhile, away from sport in the Ukraine, Greece do the Euro double by adding the Eurovision Song contest to their collection after surprisingly winning the European Championships last year. Javine Hylton fails to make a mark for the UK, but as well as the usual back-slapping and political voting that marks this competition, this year the bigger countries in Europe like Germany, Spain and France suffer particularly badly from the voting bias that tends to afflict them.

Despite its size and therefore chances, the People's Republic has ruled out entering the competition for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Well I finally have my own blog! I guess they'll let anyone on the internet these days. Keep coming back for the latest news, views and reviews of... well whatever I decide to write about.

From a Brummie perspective of course...