Posts Tagged ‘London’

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We wish we could claim that headline as our own, but we must credit the Daily Mirror, who amongst people – well, pretty much the whole world, actually – spotted a plastic water bottle nestling incongruously in the latest set of publicity shots for the iconic British soap-opera-cum-drama.

As plastic water bottles don’t come along for another 60 years or so after the supposed era of the show, the mistake has been gleefully picked up on by the worldwide media. Well, it’s either a silly mistake, or it’s the best possible little publicity ploy they ever dreamed up.

Anyway. “Oh joy of snobbish, asparagus-fork-waving joys. Downton Abbey is back,” said the Daily Mail’s Jan Moir. “At first look, the fifth series appears to be just as glorious and gloriously silly as ever.”

The Times’s Alex Spence says viewers can expect the latest series to be “less gloomy” than the last, which featured a death, rape and the aftermath of World War One, adding: “The series premiere, screened for journalists in London yesterday, depicted a lighter, happier mood around the estate than during the last series.” That’s good news for the Wellthisiswhatithink household who were threatening rebellion the show had become so relentlessly gloomy. And let’s not forget there was a probable murder hinted at in the final episode, too.

“There are enough parties and drama to do the Roaring Twenties justice,” reckoned Express reviewer Elisa Roche. “The brilliant series opener will leave viewers dreaming of owning a luxurious wardrobe and a well-stocked pantry.”

Meanwhile, the Telegraph remembers Labour leader Ed Miliband’s quip that the Tory party reminded him of Downton Abbey’s “out-of-touch” aristocrats and says “It would appear the dislike is mutual.” Anita Singh wrote: “It opens in 1924, the year Ramsay MacDonald became prime minister [in Labour’s first government], and the Earl of Grantham makes plain his feelings on the matter: ‘This government,’ he warns, ‘is committed to the destruction of people like us and everything we stand for.'” Well, goodness. It was bad enough when he was pissed off at Lloyd George.

michelle

“It is the rise of socialism that threatens to destroy the world’s favourite English country house for good,” agrees the Independent’s Adam Sherwin. But he adds that despite the foray into politics, life goes on as normal: “No opportunity for plot signalling is avoided – an early-hours house fire is inevitably used to expose who has tip-toed into the wrong bedroom.”

However, nearly all papers were most fascinated by the publicity shot of the Earl and his daughter, Lady Edith – played by Hugh Bonneville and Laura Carmichael. The Mirror takes the pun prize all round, describing it as a “real dampener”.

Anyway, be that as it may, we think the big news is that by the time Series 5 rolls onto our screens in January, Lady Mary is no longer mournfully turning down every suitor and is right back in the dating game. Good news. The ineffably beautiful Michelle Dockery would be worth watching reading the phone book in our quietly besotted view. Seeing her trip the light fantastic with a string of handsome beaus will be quite charming.

Apparently Ms Dockery is not at all posh in real life, indeed she’s an Essex girl originally and currently lives in the East End of London, and likes nothing better than a quick pint in her local pub to relax. Really, who knew? Our type of gal, dammit.

As always, to enjoy our huge list of bloopers, cock ups and downright F*** Ups from the world of media and advertising (amongst other things) just pop “F*** Up” in the Search box top left on this page, and press Enter.

The Guardian reports that the Mayor of London (and probably Britain’s most popular Conservative politician, a possible replacement for Prime Minister David Cameron) has issued a strong condemnation of the former prime minister’s views on the Middle East.

Boris JohnstonBoris Johnson, (seen left) said the former prime minister is unhinged in his attempt to rewrite history and is undermining arguments for western intervention in Iraq, the London mayor claimed in an extraordinary personal attack on the former Prime Minister. (Photograph: Stuart C Wilson/Getty)Blair took to the media over the weekend to make the case for a tough response to the extremist insurgency in Iraq, insisting it was caused by a failure to deal with the Syria crisis rather than the 2003 US-led invasion which he helped to instigate.His intervention was met with widespread criticism from Labour figures and others as extremists posted pictures apparently showing the killing of dozens of Iraqi soldiers by jihadist fighters.

In his condemnation of Blair the London Mayor accused the ex-Labour leader of having sent British forces into the bloody conflict in part to gain personal “grandeur”.

Exactly echoing what we said a couple of days ago, Johnson said in his Daily Telegraph column that Blair and then-US president George Bush had shown “unbelievable arrogance” to believe toppling Saddam Hussein would not result in instability which resulted directly to the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis and hundreds of British and American troops. In fact, the figure of Iraqi losses is well over 500,000, according to a range of impeccable sources.

He suggested there were “specific and targeted” actions that could be taken by the US and its allies to deal with latest threat – as Barack Obama considers a range of military options short of ground troops.

But he said that by refusing to accept that the 2003 war was “a tragic mistake”, “Blair is now undermining the very cause he advocates: the possibility of serious and effective intervention.

“Somebody needs to get on to Tony Blair and tell him to put a sock in it, or at least to accept the reality of the disaster he helped to engender. Then he might be worth hearing,” Johnson concluded. And he is exactly right.

Unhinged? You be the judge.

Unhinged? You be the judge.

 

As to whether Blair is actually unhinged, we couldn’t possibly say. But there is something about the messianic glare that overcomes his eyes when he is defending his position that we find quite disturbing to watch.

The row over the events of 11 years ago came amid suggestions of serious atrocities being committed in the militants’ advance.

Taking on critics in an eight-page essay on his website, Blair rejected as “bizarre” claims that Iraq might be more stable today if he had not helped topple Saddam.

The former premier – now a Middle East peace envoy – said Iraq was “in mortal danger”, but pinned the blame on the sectarianism of the al-Maliki government and the spread of Syria’s brutal three-year civil war, not on the instability created by the West’s invasion of Iraq.

“The choices are all pretty ugly, it is true,” he wrote in a push for military intervention – though not necessarily a return to ground forces. “But for three years we have watched Syria descend into the abyss and as it is going down, it is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us, pulling us down with it. We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save the future. Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force. Every time we put off action, the action we will be forced to take will be ultimately greater.”

Former foreign minister and United Nations Depity Secretary-general Lord Malloch Brown urged Blair to “stay quiet” because his presence in the debate was driving people to oppose what might be the necessary response.

Clare Short, one of a number of MPs who quit Blair’s cabinet over the 2003 invasion, said he had been “absolutely, consistently wrong, wrong, wrong” on the issue, and opposed more strikes.

Catching Fire premiere, London

Catching Fire premiere, London

If you didn’t already think Jennifer Lawrence is a sweetheart, then this little clip of her at the red carpet Premiere of the new Hunger Games movie in London last night will convince you.

Instead of merely grinning inanely and looking smokily at the cameras, Jen spots a little disabled girl who is crying by the barricades, asks for them to be moved, and goes into the crowd to chat, sign an autograph, have her photo taken, and then gives the kid a couple of Jen-sized squeezes and a kiss.

The sweet act seems to cheer the child up.

Nicely done, right there. This 23 year old young lady seems so down-to-earth and ordinary, despite being (obviously) extremely pretty and awesomely talented. Really, what’s not to like?

catching fireWe’re not all that keen on the new short hairdo, but it seems to be a current trend with starlets to lop off their locks.

Change is as good as a rest, I guess.

The Silver Linings star also strives to be a role model when it comes to body image, admitting she fought for her Hunger Games character to have a more realistic figure in an effort to set a positive example for young women.

“We have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing [in The Hunger Games] … girls see enough of this body that they will never be able to obtain,” she explained. “It’s an amazing opportunity to rid ourselves of that in this industry. And also I think it’s better to look strong and healthy and I feel like Kate Moss running at you with a bow and arrow wouldn’t really be scary.”

Now the 23-year-old Oscar winner has gone one better, openly slamming body bullies and insisting she’d rather eat than try and conform to Hollywood standards.

“You look like you look, and be comfortable. What are you going to do – be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That’s just dumb,” says the Oscar-winning starlet. “Screw those people! We have to stop calling each other ‘fat’.”

We are officially impressed.

assange-wanted-poster_53We were rather circumspect in reporting late last night that Julian Assange had been arrested while visiting a medical specialist, and indeed, now, rumours that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested in London are “false,” the whistleblower website said on Saturday UK time.

Indymedia UK had reported that Assange, the 41-year-old Australian who sparked a diplomatic row when he was granted asylum by Ecuador, was arrested while secretly visiting a medical clinic five minutes from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

“Sources close to this reporter have confirmed that Wikileaks founder and international fugitive Julian Assange has been arrested by Scotland Yard detectives at a private medical clinic located just a five minute drive from the Ecuadorean Embassy,” Conal Urquhart wrote in an article posted on Friday.

But Wikileaks vehemently denied the story, tweeting that “Reports of Julian #Assange arrest are false and derive from a fabricated story.”

“Such media smears are common,” Wikileaks tweeted. “Reader beware.”

Indymedia UK has since ‘hidden’ the spurious article about Assange’s arrest, citing a breach of editorial guidelines. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since last June.

He entered the embassy in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on charges of sexual assault.

The charges reportedly stem from Assange having unprotected consensual sex with two Swedish women, which can be considered a crime in the Nordic country under certain circumstances.

Assange has refused to go, asserting that Sweden’s record of sending persons wanted by the USA to America for detention or trial meant he would be laying himself open to “rendition” against his will, possibly to face execution, and has offered to meet Swedish prosecutors in London where he believes his deportation to the USA is less likely.

Assange rose to international prominence after Wikileaks began leaking and publishing hundreds of thousands of classified US military and diplomatic cables, many of them detailing atrocities committed by US troops and local authorities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange has been hailed as a champion of free speech and transparency by progressives around the word, and even by some libertarians like US congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul. He was voted Australian Journalist of the Year in 2011 by his peers in the prestigious Walkley Awards, and Wikileaks has even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

But he has also been vilified by reactionary forces, especially conservative American politicians, some of whom have called Wikileaks a “terrorist organization”. Former Arkansas governor, presidential candidate and Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee has gone so far as to call for Assange’s execution.

Max Bygraves

Max Bygraves

When I was a child, I was often taken to the Pier Theatre in Bournemouth to see “Maxy” – his career started out with him being called Wally, ironically enough, given the change in the meaning of that word in the intervening period, as his first name was Walter – either in a variety show (remember them?) or playing a lead like Buttons in a pantomime.

A family entertainer. There used to be lots of them, although they now seem an endangered species.

My dear old mother adored Max. He was whimsical, funny, and clean (mother was a bit of a puritan on the quiet) and had a beautiful and peculiarly accented voice which was utterly unmistakable.

His punchline, “I wanna tell you a story” was instantly recognised, impersonated and repeated around the Anglophone world. Only bad luck prevented him becoming as big a star in the States as he was throughout the British Empire.

And now, he’s dead, of the same disease that took my Mum – Alzheimers – in World Alzheimer’s Awareness Week, too.

Max seems to have been following me around the world. We used to live in the same town – Bournemouth, or “Costa Geriatrica” as my friends and I called it – although if I recall correctly he lived in a clifftop mansion right in the middle of the swankiest bit of town overlooking the sea, with a Roller parked in the drive, and we lived in a modest bungalow a few streets back from the sea in an unfashionable suburb.

Max Bygraves as "cheeky chappie" Max Miller

Max Bygraves as “cheeky chappie” Max Miller

Then again, he was a megastar, and I was the son of a widow who worked as a school playground attendant. But when Maxy smiled at you, it was obvious, despite his legendary “tightness” with money, that the warmth of his love for his audience matched that of theirs for him.  Then Bygraves and his wife moved from Bournemouth to Queensland, Australia, in 2008. She died there in 2011, aged 88. I hope they both enjoyed the sunshine.

Tight with money?

Yes, so it was rumoured. Like many who make it big in entertainment, he originally came from straightened circumstances. Bygraves was born the son of poor Catholic parents in London. He grew up in a two-room council flat with his five siblings, his parents and a grandparent. His father was a professional flyweight boxer, known as Battling Tom Smith, and a casual dockworker. Presumably money came into the household sporadically. He attended St Joseph’s School, Paradise Street, Rotherhithe, and sang with his school choir at Westminster Cathedral.

War-time found him an apprentice carpenter by day and, by night, entertaining in local air raid shelters. With two younger sisters evacuated, a brother serving and his docker father often posted to ports throughout Britain, the flat seemed spacious.

The docks proved to be a magnet for enemy bombers and took a pasting. Infuriated by a near miss whilst repairing war damage, he volunteered for the RAF two months before his eighteenth birthday where he appeared in well over 1,000 RAF concert parties acquiring on the way the title of the ‘Best Act in Fighter Command’ as well as being Aircraftsman Second Class 1212094 and doing his share of guard duties on draughty airfields.

His peak year as a singer came in 1958. His two most famous hit singles, “You need hands” and “Tulips from Amsterdam” both went to number 3 in what we used to call “the hit parade” and were played constantly for a generation. When he later morphed into a game show host he just built his popularity further. His two most famous songs can be heard here:

Max Bygraves started in show business with impersonations of Charles Chaplin and Max Miller. As a boy, he had seen the legendary entertainer at the New Cross Empire. “He was magic to watch. There was nobody to touch him,” says Max. His namesake was much later a poignant guest on Eamonn Andrews’ ‘This is your Life’ which featured Max in 1963.

At much the same time he found himself sitting next to Charlie Chaplin whilst waiting for a haircut at Ivan’s in Jermyn Street!

After being de-mobbed from the services, Max learned his trade in the 200 variety theatres that, together with radio, made up the popular entertainment world of the day. He had become a top act by the fifties, as well as making his name in radio at a time when audiences made up half the nation, and television was in its infancy.

Max Bygraves and Judy Garland

Max Bygraves and Judy Garland – his fellow stars loved him as much as the public.

The London Palladium was then the world’s premier variety theatre, attracting the world’s top acts. His first appearance there was to deputise over three shows for the long-established Liverpudlian comic, Ted Ray, whilst still carrying out an engagement at the Finsbury Park Empire.

This was in 1950 when Dorothy Lamour somewhat improbably adorned the top of the bill following her success in the Road films with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Max seized his opportunity and impressed the great Val Parnell and was rewarded with seasons starring Abbott and Costello and then Donald Peers. All in all he appeared in fourteen shows at the Palladium in ten years.

An appearance on the Palladium bill with Judy Garland led to an invitation to appear with her at the Palace Theatre, New York. Max opened there on his 29th birthday and went on tour America in 1950-52 (when he took along the entire Bygraves family). Son Anthony’s first claim to fame at the age of five was to be rescued from drowning from a Hollywood pool by actor James Mason and Frank Sinatra accompanied by Ava Gardner (and an anxious dad).

As one of the first UK imports into the US from the world of variety since Harry Lauder, Max made a raft of friends amongst the top rank of American stars including Milton Berle, Clark Gable, Jack Benny, Jimmie Durante, and many other superstars of the time. All of which made for a rich vein of anecdotes to be mined for his various books.

Garland poster

What a line up. I can hardly imagine what a show like this would cost today.

It was only a prolonged strike by the Musicians’ Union which prevented him taking over the Jackie Gleason Show on prime time television during the great man’s absence on holiday. Having run out of dollars (this was the time of exchange controls), he spent some time in Bermuda preparing and waiting for the strike to end. How differently things may have turned out if the dispute had been settled earlier! Eventually a young family and heavy commitments at home caused him to abandon his ambitions in the new world and return home where he was already a headline act and stardom beckoned.

He starred in a number of West End shows like ‘Do Ra Me’ which ran for eight months of 1961 at the Prince of Wales but found the constraints of musical theatre, where each performance had to be identical and the cast were dependent on each other for their cues. Max was happier to evolve and develop a performance, reacting to audiences and circumstances. He found himself working the club scene more as variety theatres morphed into bingo halls and rock and roll took over the entertainment world.

The decades passed with television keeping him in the public eye with summer seasons in the UK followed by winter tours in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Canada. Max managed to circle the planet no less than thirty times during his career.

Max’s first TV performance was transmitted live in 1947 from Alexandra Palace. This was eventually followed by a multitude of guest appearances on shows like ‘Saturday Night at the London Palladium’, and ‘The Black and White Minstrel Show’. 1972 saw the start of the series ‘Max’ with band leader Geoff Love, a much-loved (if you will pardon the pun) partnership that lasted over fifteen years. This success lead to ‘Max at the Royalty’, and ‘I Wanna sing you a story’ and then ‘Singalongamax’.

These programmes often attracted audiences in the region of 25 million apiece, enormous by present day standards, and they also helped generate huge record sales.

It is not widely remembered that Max had a film career of sorts. His feature films included ‘Charlie Moon’ (1954) and ‘A Cry from the Streets’ (1960) where he drew no salary, successfully gambling on garnering a percentage of the profits. These led, many years later, to a long meeting in London with famed film director Alfred Hitchcock, who liked what he saw in ‘A cry from the streets’, when he was offered a part in the film ‘Frenzy’. A variety date in Manchester proved impossible to shift and the part went to another. Hitchcock did promise to consider Max for a part in his next film but ‘Frenzy’ proved to be his last and he passed to the great projector room in the sky soon after.

Max Bygraves’ first appearance at a Royal Command variety show was before George VI in 1950. It was scripted by Eric Sykes who remained a close friend (and who died very recently as well) and was followed by no less than sixteen further Royal Variety appearances.

His first Royal Command appearance in 1950 led to him join radio’s ‘Educating Archie’ which made him a household name and where catch phrases like ‘Big ’ed’, ‘Good idea…………son!’, and ‘I’ve arrived and to prove it I’m ‘ere’ passed into the language and are often repeated today, fifty years later, without realisation of their origins! The show ran for 11 years on BBC radio (the main writer was close friend Eric Sykes) and was also the springboard for a golden age of top names including Julie Andrews, Eric Sykes, Beryl Reid, Harry Secombe, (who sat at the next desk to my father at school in Swansea), Hattie Jacques and Tony Hancock.

Max was awarded the OBE for his services to entertainment. Thanks for the memories, Max. Sleep well.

Australian Journalist of the Year 2011. In my CONSIDERED opinion, this man is the greatest force for political good in fifty years. I also believe the USA wants to execute him.

Ecuador says it wants to grant asylum to Julian Assange, but the British government has refused to guarantee safe passage for the WikiLeaks founder.

Mr Assange has been holed up in the embassy for weeks as Ecuadorian officials assess his asylum application.

The WikiLeaks founder fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London weeks ago after exhausting all avenues of appeal in his fight against extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges.

British authorities have reportedly threatened to storm the Ecuadorian embassy in London if Mr Assange is granted asylum.

In a press conference this morning, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said the country wanted to grant asylum, but could not do so until his safety was guaranteed.

“Today we’ve received a threat by the United Kingdom, a clear and written threat that they could storm our embassy in London if Ecuador refuses to hand in Julian Assange,” he said.

Assange’s mother Christine said she was furious that British police may be sent in to seize him, and claimed they would be acting on behalf of Washington.

“What the US wants, the US gets from its allies, regardless of if it’s legal or if it’s ethical or in breach of human or legal rights,” she told reporters in Australia.

“We’re all lackeys.”

But Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said this morning the matter is out of her hands.

“Our role in this is only a diplomatic one, to make sure Assange has support that he needs for consular issues. It’s not something we have any legal role that we can play,” she told Sunrise.

Mr Assange and his supporters fear that extradition to Sweden will be the first step in a process to get him to the United States to face unknown charges related to the WikiLeaks website, where a sealed indictment is waiting.

Reports are now coming out of London that police are surrounding the Embassy, and the British Government claim the right to enter it and take Assange by force.

Wellthisiswhatithink says: The great un-answered question in this situation is why the Swedish police insist on extraditing Assange “in order to question him”.

If their interest was genuinely to question him, given his unique circumstances – having deeply politically discomforted the governments of the world, especially the most powerful Government in the world – then what is to stop them questioning him in London?

Assange has repeatedly said he would be happy to submit to questioning in the UK, which is subject to the European Court of Human Rights (Sweden is not) and in any event is MUCH less likely to extradite him to the USA than Sweden, with its higher levels of public scrutiny, and much greater resistance to extradition generally.

The insistence on extradition to Sweden (to face questioning over behaviour which, at least in part, would not constitute a crime in most jurisdictions) must therefore be about something else.

Clearly, Blind Freddie could see that what it is about is getting Assange to America, in order to jail him for life, or worse. The charade of a trial for Bradley Manning currently taking place would hardly enourage anyone to believe he would get anythign resembling a fair trial in the USA.

Hypocrisy abounds at the Olympics, once more …

Sprinter Kim Collins is on his way home after the St Kitts and Nevis Olympic Federation pulled their greatest athlete out of the London Games citing disciplinary reasons. The 36-year-old, who won the 100m world title in 2003, was notable only by his absence with his lane empty as the 100m heats got underway at the Olympic stadium on Saturday.

A furious Collins said he’d been withdrawn from the Games for visiting his wife at a hotel and would never again run for his country, a small Caribbean nation, complaining he had been shown a lack of respect.

I reckon he looks one way cool dude. Actually most of them do. I must say, I really admired their ties when they were in the opening ceremony – even tweeted about it. I want a St Kitts and Nevis tie! Want!

“I could be wrong but I don’t see why it should be such a problem,” Collins said. “I would have better luck if I went out with some chick and came back and there wouldn’t be a bit of a problem. I honestly don’t see what is the big deal. I’m a grown man with kids, about to have grandkids.”

The St. Kitts and Nevis team said it “regrettably announced” that Collins, who it described as a “national hero,” was leaving the Olympics. Obviously seeking to de-focus on the “he visited his wife, oo-er missus”  side of the story, they commented:

“Mr. Collins departure is down to his repeated absences from training sessions and also for refusing to respond to repeated phone calls and emails by team manager and coaches,” it said in a statement. “Furthermore, Mr. Collins did not make an appearance for registration for his events at the Olympic Village (on Friday) as requested.”

Collins will not be hanging around in London for the 200m and sprint relay, having had the chance to race in the 100m wrenched away from him.

“I’m about to go and change my flight and go home,” Collins told a London radio station. “And see my kids who I haven’t seen for a while. For me it’s a done deal. I’ve been disrespected for too long for too many years.”

The opening ceremony flag-bearer for his country was apparently expected by his national federation not to leave the Olympic Village.

Whereas, if he had stayed, and presumably cheated on his wife, he would have been able to enjoy using as many of the 150,000 free condoms distributed to the athletes by British maker Durex as he liked – that’s 15 rubbers per athlete, so presuming they only use them with another person, that’s a lot of shagging going on, right there – not to mention the other miscellaneous makes of donated condoms floating around, (if you will forgive the mental image that rather unfortunate pun brings to mind), including the rather wonderful Boxing Kangaroo condoms donated for the Australian team, with the great slogan “For the gland downunder”.

Caroline Buchanan

So, random sex with some wired young athlete in the village so you can both get to sleep without Stillnox, no problem. Nipping to a nearby hotel for a bunk up with the missus. Scandalous, you’re out.

Snorts.

Anyhow, thanks to easy-on-the-eye Aussie BMX-er Caroline Buchanan, and her Twitter feed, we now know what the Aussie baby stoppers look like, or at least their dispenser.

Young Australians? Having sex in London? “Shurely shome mishtake?”, as Private Eye would have had it.

Roo Rubbers. Come on, admit you’re whistling a Men At Work song in your head right now.

Anyhow, Collins took to Twitter to vent steam over his sacking. In one tweet he remarked: ”Even men in prison get their wives to visit,” he tweeted. ”6 athletes and 9 officials. That ain’t enough to make some people happy. Omg.”

We hear ya, bro.

(Thanks to Yahoo and countless others)

Reuters reports that two topless women painted with the slogans “Olympic shame” and “No Sharia” protested in front of London’s City Hall on Thursday to draw attention to what they called “bloody Islamist regimes” taking part in the Olympics.

They were members of Ukrainian women’s rights group Femen, which has staged numerous topless protests across Europe, including at the Euro 2012 soccer tournament in Poland and Ukraine where their concern was prostitution in host cities.

“The regimes are fascists of our time, they treat women like third-class citizens,” said protester Reza Moradi, without specifying any countries. “This is what we object to, this is what they are protesting against.”

Smeared with fake blood and wearing floral wreaths on their heads, the two topless women ran around the entrance of City Hall in central London for around 10 minutes chased by a third protester before being covered up and led away in handcuffs by police officers. A spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had no immediate comment.

This is not apparently not offensive.

This is not apparently not offensive.

Even this is apparently not offensive.

This is offensive. Hell, yes it is. But not for the reasons the police used.

So my question is this. Why were they led away by police officers? What law were they breaking? Why is it legal to go topless on a beach, but not outside City Hall? (Had it been New York, it would have been legal, by the way: see below.)

Most importantly, would they have been led away if they had been men, topless? Would they have been breaking any law?

After all, topless men – often with bodies that really shouldn’t see the light of day – are very common at British football matches, and in British parks, and so on.

So why is it an arrestable offence for a woman to be topless, and a man not?

Why is a woman’s body offensive, and a man’s not? Is it because female breasts are somehow “dirty”?

Why is it a furore if Janet Jackson reveals a nipple (still covered) or Madonna, but not if Mick Jagger does it?

Is it because female breasts are an erogenous zone? So it’s really all about our paranoia about matters sexual, yes? But surely that is not reason enough, as I know plenty of men who consider their own nipples to be erogenous too.

I think I have made my point. Or points, if you get my meaning.

Nipples? Tits? Get over ‘em, already.

So there’s this young guy in London called Mark Powell who creates the most astonishing drawings on the backs of envelopes using a common-or-garden ballpoint (biro) pen made by a company called Bic. Like this:

Un-f**king-believable. What talent.

I don’t know why he chose that medium. But I do know genius when I see it.

All done with the cheapest of implements and a huge amount of patience.

When you see what passes for art nowadays, I sincerely hope this guy is making squillions. But I bet he isn’t: well, yet, anyway.

Anyhow, take 5 minutes and see more here http://markpowellartist.com/ Seriously, do it now, it’s worth it.

I also note that the originals are about three hundred quid each, although prints are available too. Now I am not exactly flush with funds, Dear Reader, but I reckon three ton to be a snip when you look at the time and care involved, and I am going to get one. Maybe two.

See: I think this guy’s work might go viral – and they’ll be going for a lot more than three hundred in the near future. You heard it here first. So don’t blame me if you miss out.

Remember, I am the guy who said, on the first hearing of “Roxanne”, that Police (then utterly unknown) would be the next super-uber-band. And who on seeing Keira Knightley in “Bend it like Beckham” opined “She’s going to be the next huge acting star from the UK”.

See, I can pick winners. Oh, want to know who the next world’s biggest soccer star is going to be? A young lad called Adam Lallana, playing for Southampton. He’s going to set the English premiership alight next season, no matter how Saints themselves go. Just remember who told you.

It certainly seems so. Coming on top of losing the appallingly mis-handled referendum on PR for the UK Parliament, they also recently lost Council seats in the UK by the bucketload, confirming that it is they, rather than the majority partner in the governing Coalition – the Conservative Party – that is wearing the opprobrium of the public for the austerity measures currently wracking the country.

 

From smiling chumminess in the garden at No 10 with his new mate David Cameron to contemplating the worst Council election results in his party’s history – is this mid-terms blues or is the party really over for Nick Clegg?

 

As nobody ever expects the Tories to do anything but ruthlessly “cut, cut, cut” when they are in power, (especially when they inherit Government from an utterly profligate and incompetent Labour Government), and the Liberal Democrats have for years portrayed themselves as nice, warm, wooly middle-class people who are in favour of just about everything sugary and nice and against anything nasty and pooh-bum-ish, then when they were pitchforked into the maelstrom of handling an economic crisis this outcome was, of course, utterly predictable.

As the inestimably wonderful Tony Benn once said to me over a beer in Harrogate  – although, as a teetotaler, he was drinking a mug of tea, of course – “The people don’t want us to be the Bastards, Stephen, they know we’re no good at it. If they want the Bastards, they’ll go for the proper Bastards. The ones who do it naturally. Left wing parties have no job being Bastards. Not you, not Labour.”

And he was spot on.

I sent an email to a friend commenting that the very good Lib Dem candidate for the London mayoralty really shouldn’t have come fourth behind the Greens. He commented by return:

You think London is bad? In Edinburgh (where the Lib Dems were the largest party until Thursday), one Lib Dem candidate received fewer votes than “Professor Pongoo, the Six-Foot Penguin”.

Well, I have endured some pretty awful election results as a Liberal in my time. However, I am pleased to say I was never beaten by a Six-Foot Penguin, no matter what his level of academic achievement. It reminds one fearfully of the wonderful Monty Python “Election Night Special”.

Eerily prescient. Anyway, since almost the very day that the deal was done between Clegg and Cameron and the Coalition came to power, worried Lib Dem campaigners with generations of experience have been tearing their hair out to convince the left-of-centre party’s central leadership that they need to be effectively – note, effectively – differentiated from their bigger Coalition partners or inevitably face an electoral backlash of considerable proportions.

The problem is, the Lib Dem leadership (with a very few exceptions) generally seem to show every sign of being perfectly convinced that the Government’s parsimony is the only way forward for Britain, when what was needed, of course, was an intelligent re-direction of spending priorities away from massive, flabby bureaucracy but back into the economy, to ensure adequate investment in national infrastructure which would duly trickle through to a variety of private enterprises.

Yes, the country must live within its means, or at least, very close to them. Ultimately, all countries must. However, there was and is still a deal of work to be done deciding exactly what that entails. Economies are like hungry bellies – they need feeding or they grind to a halt. Private business just doesn’t pick up the slack. Sticking up a few stadia for the upcoming Olympics will not cut it: on the basis of its transport infrastructure alone, for example, the UK lags far behind its European competitors. What was needed was a measured, thoughtful re-direction of investment. What Britain got was a wholesale panic shut down of Government spending.

In short, Clegg has singularly failed to convince anyone that his party is doing a smart job of ameliorating the Government’s excesses, or of creating smart outcomes that lock in a future for Britain as an innovative, manufacturing nation. He is now a figure of sarcastic fun, and electorally tainted – probably, in my opinion, damaged goods beyond repair.  There will be a gradually growing pressure for change within the party from the “ABC”  tendency – “Anyone But Clegg”  – not that many of the leading Lib Dems look well poised to take over.

In the historic scheme of things, the Lib Dems will recover from this experience – eventually – although they may have reached their modern high water mark at the last two general elections. In future, what positive effect they have on legislation is unclear, and probably subject to the concomitant electoral success of an eclectic bunch of nationalists, greens and anti-European bombasts, who will all make uncomfortable ginger-group colleagues.

(Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the UK Independence Party is that they are not the British National Party, which did very badly at the Council elections. However, those who enjoy watching the fringes of British politics might like to consider this story before they try and keep their kippers and toast down.)

In my opinion the Lib Dems should have resisted joining a coalition and supported legislation on a case by case basis, playing honest brokers between the two major parties, and demonstrating what it is that makes them different from the big boys.

Yes, it would have been messy, untidy and complicated, and the arrangement would have been roundly criticised for not being “stable”  enough.

But on the other hand the British public might have learned something about non-majority Government, (as Australia has in the last two years), and they would have kept their soul, and their uniquely independent and refreshing view of the political landscape in the UK. I know I will be accused of 20-20 hindsight, but I did say it at the time.

In the end, though, the lure of the Government benches was too strong. Being treated like grown ups for the first time in three generations was a heady brew.

Sadly, though, the hangover may go on for a very long time.