Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Dead Man Walking

I'd like to begin this blog post, if I may, with an anecdote about an eccentric Dutchman by the name of Louis van Gaal. The use of this particular anecdote will make absolutely no sense to begin with, but stick with me, OK?

For those of you who don't know, Louis van Gaal (or LVG, if you prefer) is a rather odd football manager from the Netherlands. Currently manager of Manchester United, he previously managed the German giants Bayern Munich, and it is here where we begin:

Van Gaal has mellowed with age somewhat, but not entirely. At Bayern Munich, one of the most bizarre of his outbursts occurred early in the successful 2009/10 season. Striker Luca Toni, who was sold by the club in the summer of 2009, detailed the following incredible anecdote:
“The coach wanted to make clear to us that he can drop any player, it was all the same to him because, as he said, he had the balls. He demonstrated this literally by dropping his trousers. I have never experienced anything like it, it was totally crazy. Luckily, I didn’t see a lot, because I wasn’t in the front row”.

And so onto Jeremy Corbyn.

For those of us who predicted that Jeremy Corbyn would be a disaster as leader of the Labour Party, this should be a period of smugness. But there's no satisfaction on my part.

I'm not a Labour Party member, because I don't particularly fancy giving any political party a chunk of my money every month, but I have voted Labour at every single election since I turned voting age, I identify myself as a Socialist, I believe in Labour's cause, and I hate the Tories more than I hate peanut butter.

Believe me, watching the Labour Party tearing itself apart isn't a time of celebration. It just makes me feel sad.

As for Corbyn himself, I like him. I really do. He has his beliefs - many of which I agree with - and he's a throwback to the older, better, Labour. He just isn't a leader, and that's why I wouldn't have voted for him and didn't have any confidence in his time as Labour premier.

The discontentment with Corbyn's election among the Labour MPs began on Day One, and has been bubbling away ever since. Unwavering belief in his leadership has been in short supply, and that's putting it kindly.

All this has reared its head at the time when Corbyn faces his first big test as leader - the issue of Syrian airstrikes. Corbyn, as I'm sure you know, is the UK's new celebrity pacifist, and refutes David Cameron's claims that airstrikes against IS/ISIS/ISIL/DAESH/whatever the fuck they're called today are necessary.

Amusingly, his shadow cabinet largely disagree with him - including his foreign secretary, Hilary Benn. This issue will be put to a vote tomorrow, and with the support of Labour MPs, David Cameron will win, and bombing over the Syrian skies from UK jets will begin.

First big issue for Corbyn, then, first logjam.

Newsnight reported two interesting nuggets the other night. Firstly, Labour MPs have already spoken to legal experts, trying to determine that if a coup is sprung, Corbyn can't just place himself on the next ballot and win again.

Secondly, Newsnight heard from well placed sources that this coup is already being lined up for just after the upcoming by-election in Oldham West. Corbyn hasn't even been leader for three months.

It's clear that there is terminal disharmony between shadow cabinet and leader - and it cannot continue. All in Westminster know it.

What's happening to Jeremy Corbyn is a long, torturous, painful death. He'll try and hang on, and hang on, and hang on, until he's finally forced to resign/booted out, with the whole sorry shambles leaving Labour in chaos for months.

Question: what can he do? Answer: not a lot - he's fucked either way.

But let's go back to Louis van Gaal. Because here's something that Jeremy Corbyn can do - he can show his bollocks.

Not literally - I'm not asking him to display his testicles to Angela Eagle - but to do the political equivalent. On the issue of Syrian airstrikes, he should have put his foot down. We know his view - he's against them - so rather than giving his MPs a "free vote", he should have taken charge.

"I'm the leader. Here is my decision. We're the party of opposition, I'm opposed to it - we vote no. Back me, or fuck off. We'll carry on without you."

Political suicide? Maybe, but here's the point - he's dying on the job anyway. If you're gonna go down, go down swinging. In short - be a leader, Jeremy. Because right now, the Labour Party is sliding its way into being a pressure group mired in complete chaos.

I see the irony here, by the way. Asking the nation's #1 pacifist to take "the nuclear option" is pretty ironic. But if you open the "How To Win a General Election" booklet, Page 1, Paragraph 1, Sentence 1, says this:

"Everybody needs to be on the same page."

Forget about anything else. If you can't get this right, you don't stand a chance of winning. Voters aren't stupid - they know when a party is in disarray.

It's time to take charge, Jeremy. It's time for the big fight. Prove me wrong, and be a leader.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Marconi Didn't Die For This

Hello again. Fancy hearing about the shittiest radio programme of all time?

Course you do.

My Friday night began normally enough - Assassins Creed on the XBox, Hall and Oates greatest hits on Spotify, a nice glass of iced water on the go (don't tell me I don't know how to live) - when a tweet popped up on the eyePad which caught my eye...

I quite like Lynsey Hooper, she knows her stuff and seems like a cool cat, and I've been an on/off talkSPORT listener for years.

So, as 10pm edged closer, I had a decision to make. Could I really abandon "Kiss on My List" for somebody called Terry Tibbs?

I decided that the answer was "yes" - a decision which will go down in history alongside boarding the Titanic or that time I drank a glass of port on the night I started taking Citalopram as the worst choices EVER made.

Because "Talk To Me", hosted by 'Terry Tibbs', his 'son' Lionel, and featuring poor old Lynsey Hooper as "the studio guest", was the worst radio programme I have listened to in my 28 years of being on this planet.

You may think I'm joking. Or exaggerating. I am not.

I've been listening to talkSPORT for decades, and I've experienced the good (Hawksbee & Jacobs, the late Mike Dickin, James Whale, Ian Collins), the bad (Rushden & Glendenning, Patrick Kinghorn, Ronnie Irani) and the downright bizarre (Champagne and Roses with Gerald Harper, George Galloway), yet nothing in those latter two categories comes anywhere close to this.

Nothing on ANY other radio station comes anywhere close to this, either.

So, let me tell you all about it. 'Terry Tibbs', apparently, is an alter ego of somebody called Kayvan Novak, who, apparently, fronted a comedy show called 'Fonejacker'. No, me neither. Novak was born and educated in London, so naturally he supports Liverpool.

The show begins with Tibbs, in a rather bizarre accent I can't really place, rambling on about Slovakian chewing gum, or something. Ordinarily I'd have already switched off by now, but I soon begin to realise that this is so extraordinarily shit I can't. I literally can't.

Throughout the show 'Lionel', with an increasing hint of utter despair in his voice, beseeches the listeners to call/text/tweet/email into the show - anything to give them some material to work with.

Nobody does. The only calls are plants - presumably Novak's mates, or members of the production crew - who engage Tibbs and Lionel in bizarre conversations which tick precisely none of the boxes that constitute good radio.

20 minutes in they bring in Lynsey, like a Wulfrunian lamb to the slaughter. So far we've had precisely 0.00% of the billed "Terry Tibbs hosts the nation's funniest football phone-in", but I'm optimistic that that will soon change.

It doesn't.

Lynsey Hooper is well known for co-creating "The Offside Rule"podcast, which is a podcast specifically created to make neanderthal men understand that women like football too, and they get it, and their opinions should be treated with respect.

As such, Tibbs and Lionel pick up on the pioneering work Hooper has done in this field, by barraging her with questions about her private life, such as which footballers she fancies, and whether a player has ever tried it on with her.

As you can imagine this is fascinating stuff, which Lynsey plays along with gamely until the "lads" ask her what her relationship status is. "I don't know if I want to say that" she quietly replies, and if you listen closely you can actually begin to hear the will to live swiftly leaving her body as she does so.

More hilarious bants swiftly follow as Tibbs screeches the "O" in newsreader Lisa O'Sullivan's name in an faux-orgasmic way whilst she's on air, chalking up another victory for misogyny in the process.

Do I need to go on? During the two hours(!) this pile of excrement is on air, the sole highlight - and I use that term loosely - is the occasions when Novak's cod accent keeps on fading, transforming him from an Arabian-esque ranting cleric to, amusingly, sounding peculiarly like Bob Mills.

Into the second hour we go, and at this point, a Twitter search for "talksport terry" brings a smile to my face:

(There were more, but you get the picture)

After a crude impersonation of the Chinese segway rider who felled Usain Bolt the other day - so you can add racism to the list of everything that's wrong with this show - I begin to notice something. Lynsey has disappeared. Where has she gone?

From 11pm to the time I finally gave up on this shit sandwich - 11:43pm - Lynsey is AWOL. "She was only booked from 10-11pm" I consider, a logical conclusion that still doesn't stop me fantasising about her exiting the studio and coming back with a Kalashnikov, 16 rounds of ammo, and a severe loss of temper.

I'm not going to go on. I won't even mention the toe-curling phone interview with an American "naked life coach" or something. Remember folks - this is "the nation's funniest football phone-in"!

Instead, here's a link to the whole sordid, depressing, amateurish, embarrassing, shameful, putrid affair: http://talksport.com/radio/listen-again/1440795600#

Listen to that, and whilst you do so, remember - this is a national radio station with over 3 million listeners.

To conclude, you might be wondering why I care. Why do I care so much about a terrible radio programme on at 10pm on a Friday night when every normal person is out clubbing, and why do I care so much to ramble on about it for god-knows-how-many-words.

My answer is a simple one. Think about all the talented radio presenters out there, on local radio stations, who work their fucking arses off to hone their craft in front of 17 listeners and a small dog called Kevin. They'd give their right arm to present on talkSPORT - even at 10pm on a Friday - to host a show which could be informative and entertaining.

Instead, talkSPORT serve us this pile of cold sick. Shame on them, and shame on me for listening to it.