THIS week we’ve had the manifestos, the first ever leaders’ debate and the closure of all UK airspace bacause of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.
Saturday 10th April:A day of no campaigning but a little bit of blogging, with the publication of our paper taking apart the Tories’ marriage tax policies - Fami-lies: Why you can’t trust the Tories - revealing how Cameron and Osborne are hiding their plans to cut the vital services that, over the past 13 years, have helped families to help themselves. In the evening, off to the Soho Theatre with the boys to see “Eric's Tales Of The Sea”, about a submariner called Eric, telling tales of the seven seas...
Sunday 11th April:A politics-free day, a day out seeing the sights, strolling the tow path along the Grand Union Canal from Haggerston Park to Camden Lock via Angel, starting out in Columbia Road Market and ending up in Camden Market.
Monday 12th April:It’s manifesto time, Labour are first up, promising “A future fair for all”. The launch looks great, shame about the intro (dumbing down or what?!) and the press conference, in which hacks were heckled and booed, and the prime minister cheered. Brown shouldn’t have had any of it. At the 2005 manifesto launch, at the Mermaid Theatre in Blackfriars, Tony Blair politely slapped down the clowns sitting next to me who tried to do the same; big, big mistake from Gordon. In the evening, out on the doorsteps in Welsh Harp, great response, as usual
Tuesday 13th April:Tuesday, and it’s the Tories’ turn, as they unveil their “invitation to join the government of Britain” at Battersea Power Station, cold, empty and lifeless, “a power station that doesn’t generate power”, as Nick Clegg put it.
Wednesday 14th April:Wednesday, and the Liberals have their say, pledging “fair taxes, a fair chance, a fair future and a fair deal”. At night, chill out, watch “The Day of the Jackal” (the original). Oh yeah, and it was my birthday! :P Wednesday also produced the best picture of the campaign:
Thursday 15th April:Debate time! Build up dominated by the Icelandic volcano eruption, but come the evening, and it’s all eyes on Manchester for the first ever prime ministerial tv debate. Running the live webchat on Left Foot Forward, which is also being carried on Labour List, Liberal Conspiracy, the New Statesman, Political Scrapbook and the Young Fabians blog; inundated, but not too many trouble makers, somehow manage to get through it all and still enjoy the debate.
Friday 16th April:All hail King Clegg! You gotta admit it, the Westminster School Cambridge boy done good; Gordon also did well, statesmanlike and authoritative; Cameron, by contrast, was hopeless. All those anecdotes, especially the one about meeting “a black man”. Wow! Real man of the people eh Dave? For more David Cameron anecdotes, check out this gem of a generator: http://www.fridgemagnet.org.uk/toys/dave-met.php - too funny! In the evening, a Tandoor mixed grill, delicious!!
Saturday 17th April:Spend the day in Barking & Dagenham, delivering newspapers for Hope Not Hate’s day of action taking the fight to the BNP. An absolutely sensational day: 541 people delivering 91,000 papers. Spent the morning in Dagenham, and the afternoon in Rainham. In between, a truly remarkable lunch, not just the food - a superb curry - but the entertainment, an impromptu performance from Billy Bragg, inspirational, emotional, educational. No video’s yet been uploaded, but here’s what one of the songs sounded like:
As well as meeting Billy, got a lift in the Cruddas-mobile and saw Gerry Gable, the Gerry Gable, who’s been fighting Fascists for the past 60 years. Take the train back to Fenchurch Street and find a pub just in time to see the second half of Spurs’ demolition job on Chelsea, which, coupled with United’s win over City, makes it just about as perfect a sun-drenched Spring Saturday a Nazi-hating United fan can have.
Sunday 18th April:Glance the Sundays, watch GB interviewed by Andrew Marr, see George Osborne make a fool of himself on the Politics Show and write a couple of stories before heading out to join Dawn Butler on the doorstep. Visit a residential home, talk to some big, big Labour supporters, one of whom praises Peter Mandelson, telling me that without Mandy there’d be no Labour government. Spot. On. A supporter for 50 years, ever since he came to Britain from the West Indies in 1961, he regaled us with tales from the past, and added that he doesn’t need a postal vote, saying:
“I’ll hobble all the way to the polling station to vote Labour, ain’t no one gonna stop me votin’ Labour!”
One of those inspiration people, the reason why you go into politics, to deliver for them, and for people like them, to give a voice to those who have none, to offer a future that is fair for them and for everyone; for the many, not the few.
Wembley, FA Cup Semi-Final: Tottenham Hotspur 0-2 Portsmouth (After extra time) AVRAM GRANT’S Portsmouth defied the odds to book an FA Cup Final date with Chelsea on May 15, extra time goals from Frederic Piquionne and Kevin-Prince Boateng seeing off their FA Cup-winning manager Harry Redknapp’s below-par Spurs.
Following a fifth round win over bitter rivals Southampton and today’s semi-final slaying of the man who won the cup for Pompey two years ago, Grant, who believes he was “harshly treated” by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, will hope to complete the fairytale by beating his former employers.
Portsmouth, who were relegated on the eve of today’s showdown, become only the fifth team who have been relegated to make the FA Cup final; on all four previous occasions - Manchester City in 1926, Leicester City in 1969, Brighton and Hove Albion in 1983 and Middlesbrough in 1997 - the relegated club has lost.
After a goalless 90 minutes, in which Spurs dominated - the excellent Gareth Bale causing problems down the left flank, Peter Crouch off target with several headers - Pompey took the lead in the 99th minute, Piquionne taking advantage of Michael Dawson’s slip to finish neatly from eight yards.
It was the umpteenth time over the two semis that a player has lost his footing on the newly relaid Wembley pitch. It was always bound to happen that eventually it would lead to a goal, though had Tottenham keeper Heurelho Gomes reacted quicker Piquionne might never have scored.
Within minutes of the restart Spurs thought they had levelled, Peter Crouch hooking the ball into net only for the goal to be ruled out for the slightest of fouls on David James, the relieved Pompey keeper hardly appealing, ditto his back line.
Then, as Spurs poured forward in a desperate attempt to take the game to penalties, they conceded one, Wilson Palacios crashing in to the back of Aruna Dindane four minutes from time, another decision that could have gone either way, another decision that went against Spurs.
Boateng, one of three Spurs old boys in the Portsmouth line-up, rifled in the spot kick, low and to the left, just beyond Gomes’s reach.
Anyone who still thinks the FA Cup doesn’t matter need only witness his joy, and the passion of his and Piquionne’s celebrations (see pictures above and videos below).
For Spurs fans, having wallowed in Schadenfreude at Arsenal’s Camp Nou stuffing in midweek, there’s the small matter of fourth place to fight for. The Lilywhites face the Gunners on Wednesday, followed by Chelsea and Man United in their next two games, with a potential winner-takes-all clash with City in the penultimate game of the season.
For Pompey and Grant, meanwhile, it’s a month of preparation, five games, virtually practice games, but against opponents who’ll be giving it their all, matches in which to hone formations, try different things, rest key players and leave no stone unturned ahead of the final.
What a way for all the star names who’ll be leaving Fratton Park to sign off, make history and end the most topsy-turvy of up-and-down seasons in style.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you there’s no more magic in the old competion.
WOW! What fun it’s been; the starting gun’s been fired, and we’re off, all set for the closest election campaign for decades. Let the games begin! :)
Saturday 3rd April:A politics-free day, it’s all about the IPL, and the stunning six-fest in Madras, followed by the faboulously named Mumbai Indians putting Deccan to the sword in Bombay - a game which saw 176 fewer runs. Quite a margin over 40 overs’ play.
Sunday 4th April:Looks like the nasty party have risen from the dead. Manage to get up early and put the boot into Chris “no gays, no blacks, no Irish” Grayling, secretly recorded telling a group of right-wingers (it’s always a secret recording isn’t it?) that BNP b&b bigots should be allowed to bar gay couples from their premises. In 2010. From the man who could, in a month’s time, be home secretary. Un-be-lievable.
Monday 5th April:Get out and about on the doorstep, great reception; no one mentions the national stories, it’s all about local issues, as it always is. Evening news bulletins abuzz with news the pm has confirmed he’ll be off the the Palace in the morning to seek a dissolution ahead of an election, as expected, on May 6th.
Tuesday 6th April:Back to work (albeit working from home) after the Easter break, glued to BBC One as Mr Brown goes to see the Queen. Every inch the statesman, he emerges from Number 10, surrounded by his Cabinet, to proclaim the contest officially on. Mr Cameron, meanwhile, is on his own, surrounded by Tory placemen. Wonder if he’ll be standing shoulder-to-shoulder anytime soon with his front bench team, especially his shadow Chancellor and shadow home secretary?! Buzzing, hit the doorsteps again, public seem not to be as excited as us hacks. Some of those that answer aren’t even aware there’s an election going on; but they say they’ll vote Labour, assuming they vote at all.
Wednesday 7th April:Off to the Commonwealth Club to see Lord Mandelson. Genius, sheer class, Mandy rips into the Tories, accuses them of sitting alongside “xenophobes & homophobes” in the European parliament and says they haven’t changed at all. After blogging the day away make it back in time to go door knocking again, whereupon I speak to a 60-something chap who asks me, and I quote:
“You’re not campaigning for that Teather woman are you? She’s unbelievable, I can’t stand her, coming round with her little clipboard telling us she wants to hear our concerns and then doing nothing. She’s a ghastly little woman.”
What can I say? The man knows his onions! Think I’ll put him down as strong Labour! :P
Thursday 8th April:The first Victoria Street press conference of the campaign, and again, Mandy’s the star of the show. Watching on News 24, you notice even the presenters are cast under his spell. Another day’s blogging followed by a trip to Mayfair to meet the prime minister and several key cabinet ministers at the inaugural “GB on the road” interactive Twitter event.
Friday 9th April:The national insurance row rumbles on, with the Tory spin beginning to be picked apart, their coalition of the conned falling apart - Dragons’ Den star James Caan saying our plans “would only add £15 to the cost of employing someone,” and “wouldn’t realistically be enough” to put him off filling a vacancy that needed filling. Good end to a good week. Roll on the next four!!
LOIUS van GAAL compared himself to President Obama last night in his post-match interview following Bayern’s stunning away goals win over United in the Champions League. When asked if the German giants could march on to Madrid he replied “what was it Obama said - yes, we can! We can do it, we can go all the way.”
A more apt comparison, however, may well be not with Barack, undoubted God-like genius that the US President is, but with our very own First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade and Lord President of the Council - Baron Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and of Hartlepool in the County of Durham. Or just plain Peter to you and me.
The reasons are many, and not just that van Gaal looks like Mandy, with the swept-over right parting and flowing locks, which must surely be dyed... No, what most binds them together is their serial comebacks from the brink, their repeated success over the years, a love for Europe and a penchant for shining on the greatest stage, the one on which they were born to perform.
Mandy’s comebacks from being unfairly forced to resign from the Cabinet, not once but twice, and his triumphant return from Europe to become the de-facto prime minister are well known, his confidence, class and character imbuing genuine belief in the Labour party that it can bounce back from the near-certainty of defeat 18 months ago and triumph over the Tories.
Van Gaal, meanwhile, has become the first manager to take three teams into the semi-finals of the Champions League, having won it with Ajax in 1995 and guided Barcelona into the semis in 2000, via a thrilling 5-1 extra time win over Chelsea (just thought I’d throw that one in!) As for combating adversity, he endured torrid times at Barça, and failed to qualify Holland for the 2002 World Cup, only to return stronger and more determined.
But enough chatter, onto the bigger picture, the scintillating, heart-pumping action in the Champions League this week, with the games at Old Trafford and in Bordeaux going down to the wire and Camp Nou witnessing one of the finest displays of forward play the game has ever seen.
It’s nigh impossible to pick a favourite moment from the week, there were so many, but if you pressed me, I’d go for Robben’s stunning strike for Bayern, the sweetest of volleys; just look at the way (above right) he keeps his eye on the ball - perfectly delivered by Ribery - sets himself, swivels and squeezes the ball home, reminiscent of Zidane (above left) in the 2002 Final, though not as good.
As for Messi? Well, words cannot do him justice, no poet yet born could put into prose the sheer, unadulterated quality of his performance on Tuesday night (see link below), all four of his goals worthy of winning goal of the month, his gorgeous chip over Almunia the highlight of the match. Class. A cert for world footballer of the year, who would bet against him lifting the World Cup in 13 weeks’ time...
EXCLUSIVE: Grayling to be Chancellor after election
CHRIS GRAYLING is being lined up as Chancellor in the event of a hung parliament. Secret plans drawn up by civil servants this week, details of which have been leaked to this reporter, reveal the gaffe-prone safe-pair-of-hands shadow home secretary will take the reins at the Treasury to help steer the economy back on track.
The news is bound to be a blow to both Alistair Darling and Vince Cable, both of whom assumed the job was theirs for the taking. Grayling is also a shoo-in for the role if the Tories win a majority, Conservative leader David Cameron having finally lost patience with “boy” George Osborne, the shrill, stuck-up little weasel loathed by one and all.
The final straw for Mr Cameron is believed to be the back-of-fag-packet calculations on the effects of a reduction in National Insurance contributions, torn to shreds this morning by the government, Lord Mandelson saying:
“Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne are peddling a deception...
“[Osborne] is like a kid in a sweet shop, who thinks he can just grab sweets from every jar without paying for them.”