Saturday 30 June 2012

No reason for David Beckham to play at the Olympics

I've been annoyed this week, hearing the overreaction in some quarters on the decision to leave David Beckham out of the GB Olympic football squad.

You have a 37 year old footballer in the twilight of his career not being selected for a sporting team many people in this country have no interest in watching or supporting.

Football shouldn't even be in the Olympics anyway, along with a number of other sports like tennis. The idea of a 'British' football team is also a totally alien concept to fans in this country.

Including Beckham in the Olympic squad would simply have been an elaborate PR exercise. I thought the Olympics was about sporting excellence?

I've got nothing personal against Becks. He's had a great career, been a positive role model, and an ambassador for football and sport in this country. But if you make a purely sporting decision why should he be picked?

I've heard voices of disappointment, the supporters who say he did so much to help bring the games to London. But for me if that's the case, why don't we get Seb Coe to put on his spikes again and run the 1500m based upon his own efforts in securing London's victory in winning the Games.

Including Beckham is just pandering to our celebrity obsessed culture, it's not what the Olympics is about.

Why don't we allow the Games to be about unknown British athletes having the chance to make names for themselves, rather than being overshadowed by a semi retired footballer who has attracted endless amounts of media attention over the last 15 years.

Beckham really should quietly Exit Stage Left!

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Nightmare on Newsnight for Chloe Smith

At work today, my manager asked me whether I saw Tory Treasury Minister Chloe Smith's interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight last night.

I said no, before asking who she was. He then described how embarrassing her performance was, as she struggled to answer questions on the government's u-turn on fuel duty rises.

My manager said he found it so painful to watch, he had to turn the tv over. After hearing this I decided to check out the interview for myself on Youtube.

I did manage to watch it in full without turning away, but it was uncomfortable viewing as Paxman ripped her to shreds!

My immediate reaction was - if you're a government minister, you should know your brief and if you're appearing on Newsnight to be interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, you'd better know your stuff!

The journalist in me couldn't help but admire Paxman's questioning - this is what journalism is all about; holding those in power to account. Paxman's a legend!

But having read various comments and opinions I'm beginning to have a little more sympathy for Chloe Smith.

Yes she was out of her depth and didn't know enough about the policy, but clearly she shouldn't have been put in that position in the first place. It was like she was some sacrificial ministerial lamb thrown to the wolves in order to protect those higher up in the Tory Party.

Although it was a humiliating experience for Smith, I wondering whether in the long term her appearance will reflect worse on the Tory Party.

She already appeared on Channel 4 news earlier in the day and struggled with Krishnan Guru-murthy's questions, yet still they allowed her to take on Jeremy Paxman.

It smacks of a certain arrogance from the top of the party, when senior figures refuse to put themselves forward to defend questionable policy u-turns, and instead get ill prepared novices to do the job instead.

Poor Chloe, I wonder where her career will go from here, but some senior figures in the Treasury really need to take a long hard look at themselves.

Sunday 24 June 2012

The decline of Western Civilization: Is Kim Kardashian really to blame?

In today's Sunday Times News Review section, their main feature was on US reality tv star Kim Kardashian.

The article came out in support of the Mail Online's favourite celebrity following heavy criticism of the star by a head teacher of girls boarding school.

At a speech last week, Dr Helen Wright, headmistress of St Mary’s Calne, in Wiltshire, said:

“The descent of Western civilisation can practically be read into every curve (of which, you will note, there are indeed many). Officially the hottest woman in the world? Really? Is this what we want our young people to aim for? Is this what success should mean to them?”

I hardly think history books in 500 years time will be devoting chapters on how Kim's curves contributed to the decline of the West during the first part of the 21st Century.

In making reference to arguably the biggest reality tv star in the world, Wright has attracted the attention she was looking for in her speech. But is there really any point in attacking those people who have made their names through celebrity culture?

I understand the argument that too many people are obsessed with celebrity culture, and that the sexualisation of women in society means many girls aspire to be physically attractive as an end in itself; but is that the fault of celebrities like Kim?

If Kim Kardashian didn't exist we'd have someone else in her place. This tells me there must be a market that already exists that allows people to become celebrities in the first place.

Wouldn't it be better to focus on the culture and attitudes that exists in society that allows people to exploit the demand for celebrity.

You could argue that the Kardashians are actually positive role models in a business sense.

They've turned themselves into a hugely profitable brand and exploited a market that is obsessed with the lives of the rich and famous.

I admit I watch a lot of reality tv rubbish. I can waste hours of my life watching the likes of the Kardahians on E Entertainment. In saying this, I justify it all by reminding myself that I do watch Question time and Newsnight. This evens things out!

The Kardashians are you're classic reality tv stars. I remember my mom saying to me once 'You've never heard of the Kardashians?' I was like 'no who are they? What are they famous for.'

Of course they're not famous for anything really. Kim, her two sisters and brother are the children of Robert Kardashian, one of the defence lawyers in OJ Simpson’s 1995 murder trial.

Kim became famous in her own right after appearing in a sex tape with the rapper Ray J before she and the rest of the family became household names through their reality tv show Keeping up with the Kardashians.

With reality tv, you have the chicken and egg syndrome of which comes first. Is our interest in celebrity culture down to the fact that it's forced upon us by the media? Or is it a case of the media only responding to the public's demand for celebrity gossip and lifestyles.

If reality tv didn't exist I don't think I'd be demanding to watch that sort of thing, but if you're going to make this sort of thing available then yes I am going to watch it.

The real issue though is that the media wouldn't focus on celebrity culture if it didn't make money. It's a profitable business model for sections of tv and publishing industry. Perhaps this is the area we need to focus on more rather than those who make the fame from celebrity culture.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Euro 2012: Why I'm watching England with indifference

After 26 years of watching mediocrity and underachievement. I've refused to get excited by this current England team. I've decided to adopt an attitude of indifference.

I quietly applauded the opening goal against France, and was surprisingly entertained by the Sweden performance, but my overall feelings about the team could be summed up with French style shrug of the shoulders.

I've realised that this is the way forward when it comes to supporting England, and I may continue with it for the next 35 years!

Despite tonight's 1-0 victory against Ukraine, I still refuse to get excited about England's prospects. Ok, we've made it to the Quarter Finals for an intriguing game against Italy, but it's still only the quarter finals.

It's like me going to work and performing one of my basic tasks in my job description and then telling everyone who will listen that I'm a world beater! I'm not - in reality I'm just doing what's expected of me.

A quarter final appearance is really the minimum we should expect from any England team, even if expectations were low this time round, many of us thought getting out of the group would be an achievement.

After the 2006 World Cup I decided that I would only believe in England if they reached a Semi Final of a major tournament. Get to the semis you can start believing, anything before that means nothing.

I'm sticking to that decision despite the growing expectation that started to develop after the Sweden game, and the ridiculous hype surrounding Wayne Rooney's return after his suspension.

My message to any other England fans is to embrace indifference, don't be surprised or upset by anything that England do, ignore those in media who you know will go over the top.

Just enjoy the tournament (so much better than the World Cup) and if England some how make it to the final, then just perhaps we can start getting excited.

Sunday 17 June 2012

My Olympic tickets have arrived!

My Olympics tickets arrived yesterday.

I was one of those people who amazingly got tickets when the very first ballot of tickets were made available.

Not only that, I've done well - two tickets for a morning session of athletics at the Olympic stadium, which will include the 100m qualifiers!

Now that the tickets have arrived I'm beginning to get that real sense of anticipation and excitement that the Olympics are really happening and I'm going to be going.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Leveson inquiry - David Cameron's evidence

How embarrassing it must have been for David Cameron this week at the Leveson inquiry.

I can only imagine how awkward it was, to hear former News International Chairman Rebecca Wade's text message read out which said:

"I am so rooting for you tomorrow, not just as a personal friend but because professionally we're definitely in this together."

This was sent to Cameron just before his speech at the Conservative Party conference in 2009.

Hearing this and thinking about other evidence I've heard from politicians, it reminded me again of how too many of our political leaders both Left and Right of the political spectrum became too close to the Murdoch Empire - but it's not just that which bothers me.

There's the issue of why so many of our political leaders have felt the need to form such close ties and even pander to the Murdoch press to get them onside. Why is this?

Maybe I'm being naive here but it's not the Murdoch press or any other news paper which elects governments in this country, it's us the electorate.

I think one of the mistakes that politicians have made during the last 20 years is in believing that the press and particularly Rupert Murdoch have more power and influence than they really have.

Nobody's denying that the press don't have some influence, but it's almost a self fulfilling prophecy where the press have gained influence because politicians keep telling themselves that they have influence.

Everyone remembers the famous 'It was the Sun wot won it' headline after the 1992 General Election. But the headline only ran for one print run after Rupert Murdoch said he didn't like the headline.

Ever since then, politicians and the public have believed that the Murdoch press hold this great influential power.

With the phone-hacking scandal and subsequent Leveson inquiry, some politicians are now fighting back, putting the boot in with the Murdoch press now on the defensive.

How quickly they forget. The press should be there to question and hold to account the actions of our leaders. The politicians should acknowledge the role played by the press, but they should get on with the task of governing - without constantly worrying about press opinion and desperately trying to form closer relationships with the media. In the long run it isn't in anyone's best interests.