Media

TV Review: The Sunday Politics

15 Jan 2012 at 18:20

The main question from a viewer’s perspective on any new TV show is this: Is it better than what went before? On the basis of the first ever Sunday Politics I would say the answer is a cautious yes. Andrew Neil is now without a doubt the best political interviewer on British TV, and this programme brings out the best in him. In the show he conducted one studio interview (with Michael Gove), a double header on Scottish independence, and a shorter interview with Alistair Darling, also down the line. The viewer learnt something from each. There were no histrionics and no attempt by Andrew Neil to dominate. He’s a class act. He’s a multi approach interviewer, by which I mean that unlike some, he hasn’t got a default mode. If he needs to turn up the aggression he will, but only if necessary.

There was also a film report from Giles Dilnot, a political reporter who is carving out his own niche. I love his sardonic style and he has a great ability to explain a complicated subject in an accessible way. Ah, there’s that word – accessibility, so beloved of today’s BBC. To must of us it means dumbing down. But I am delighted to say that the Sunday Politics is not a dumbed down programme. If anything it has ‘dumbed’ up, if you see what I mean.It respects its viewers and doesn’t feel the need to go for the lowest common denominator.

The regional opt out concentrates more on discussions with two MPs, which is probably more reflective of the need to cut costs, and in my area, the South East, there was a slightly dated discussion on rail fares and a film about a new grammar school being opened.

The programme concludes with a panel discussion with three “new generation” political commentators. Except, that’s not quite true. If Rowenna Davis is a political commentator, I am a Dutchman. She’s a Labour councillor and totally signed up to the Miliband project. That doesn’t mean that what she said wasn’t interesting, but she’s not a commentator in the sense that Ann McElvoy or Peter Oborne are. Most people who comment on politics have their own viewpoint, but I’d suggest that if you are an elected representative for a political party, you don’t quite qualify, no matter how interesting your writing might be. I thought Isabel Oakshott was the most interesting of the three (declaration of interest: she’s a Biteback author – but then again, so is Janan Ganesh – he’s writing a biography of George Osborne) and made some prescient points. Janan Ganesh was calm and reflective and I suspect will become the star of the panel. He just needs to let himself go a bit.

Is it a good idea to have the same three people on a panel each week? Well, it worked for Newsnight, with Danny Finkelstein, Olly Grender and Peter Hyman, but those three gelled personally and all had worked for political parties. I wonder whether these three will gel in the same way or bring the same level of experience and insight. Time will tell.

So overall I liked it, and I also like the revamped Daily Politics. The only think to carp about? The awful title music. Yuk.

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Radio

Why I Cried On the Radio Last Night

13 Jan 2012 at 18:25

Yesterday evening on LBC I achieved two firsts. I spoke to one caller for a whole half hour, and fifteen minutes later I wept. Live on radio. Really.

Like Alastair Campbell, I have always been a little lachrymose. I have even been known to shed a tear watching Emmerdale. Perhaps it was the after effects of a rather emotional conversation with a work colleague earlier in the day, I don’t know. But yes, I really did break down. And then felt rather embarrassed about what had happened. But as I write this some hours later, I no longer do. Because I was only reflecting what much of the audience must have been feeling.

If I tell you it was Caroline Flint’s fault, you’ll probably think I am making a political point. But you’d be wrong. Caroline gave an interview to the Evening Standard yesterday, in which she spoke movingly of her upbringing. Her mother was an alcoholic. Reading it, and thinking back to my own rather idyllic and perfect childhood, I wondered what on earth it must be like to live with an alcoholic. And of such thoughts are radio phone ins born.

It didn’t get off to a good start. The guest we had booked didn’t pick up the phone. Bugger. So I went straight to a caller called Sue in Twickenham. It wasn’t her real name. Sue had had an alcoholic stepmother. She had run away from home at the age of 15. This was back in 1975. And so started a call that was to last around 25 minutes. Sue’s story was graphic, moving, and also inspirational. We got to 8.15. ’I’ve got to hear more from her,’ I thought to myself. Almost at the same time my producer Rebekka said in my ear ‘take her past the travel’, so I did just that. It’s not really the done thing, but she clearly had a lot more to say and wanted to say it. And so we went on. And on. Indeed, I was sorely tempted to take her beyond 8.30, but when it came to it, I decided that we had to let others on. Sue had provoked quite a reaction. I reluctantly let her go. She had told me some very personal stories, but she had a message which needed to be heard. As soon as I handed over to the newsreader I ran into the gallery and grabbed the phone receiver off the Assisant Producer, Will, and quickly thanked Sue personally for contributing so wonderfully to the programme in a way none of us could have anticipated. Needless to say the emails, texts and tweets were flooding in from people who had been affected by Sue’s words. Little did I realise what was to come.

Next up was Darren in Walthamstow, a 29 year old, who confessed to drinking a bottle of brandy a night. Both his parents had been alcoholics. His girlfriend wouldn’t move in with him because of his drinking, yet they were to be married next year. They had been together 12 years. ‘What does that tell you, Darren?’ I asked. ‘What does that tell you?’ I asked in an almost Nolan-esque manner. ‘That she loves me,’ he replied. I love this job at times like this.

The texts were piling up, and the 8.45 travel was beckoning. I read out a couple, and then came another one. I rarely read texts before I read them out loud. I’m assuming my production team have vetted them for suitability. This was the next text.

Today, I came home and saw on our fridge. “Please don’t drink anymore, I’m really worried about your health” written by my seven year old daughter. I figured she wouldn’t ever find out, so I opened the fridge. But I found another note on a can that said: “So you’re going to drink anyway?”

I can’t explain it, but as I read the text I could feel the tears welling in my eyes and my voice cracked. I had to stop after the word ‘daughter’ to collect myself. I ploughed on, but could feel myself going again. I stopped again. I was now worried about breaking down completely. Not good. This had happened once before during a phone call about dementia, but I had someone else in the studio to keep it going while I gathered myself. This was different. But it was a text for God’s sake! So I went slightly early to the travel. When we came back I reintroduced the subject again and merely commented that I hadn’t expected to be quite so affected. After all, I know nothing about alcoholism and don’t know any alcoholics. I don’t even drink.

In retrospect I think it was Sue’s phone call that did it. As a presenter when you take a call like that you can feel emotionally drained by the end of it and you know that in radio terms, you’re slightly living on the edge.

At the time, I felt a bit embarrassed by my reaction, but as I type this at 2am I no longer am. All I did was reflect what much of my audience were feeling. It’s not weak to weep. It’s not an unmanly thing to show emotion. And if it happens again, I won’t go to the travel early! Rebekka was very keen to reassure me I shouldn’t feel I had reacted overemotionally. ‘Cracking bit of radio,’ she said. I’ll take her word for it.

I had joked to Rebekka before the programme that we should retitle our 8 o’clock hour, the Misery Hour. Because so far this week we have covered shoplifting, miscarriages, hospital food, and today living with alcoholics. Quite what we’ll do on Friday night, I dread to think! But I suspect many of those who tuned in tonight will be making an appointment to tune in to find out. At least, I hope so.

Anyway, you can listen to Sue’s phone call on our new Bitesize Podcast feature. At the end (about 25 minutes in) there’s also the bit of me reading out the text.

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TV/Film/Theatre

Film Review: The Iron Lady

11 Jan 2012 at 18:40

I am probably one of the worst possible people to review this film objectively. I know some of the main characters personally, and Margaret Thatcher is my political inspiration. But I am going to give it a go anyhow.

When I first heard about this film, the initial publicity suggested it would be a complete hatchet job. I had visions of me become so irate I’d walk out of the cinema. The idea that a film which highlighted Lady Thatcher’s state of mind was not something I thought could ever be done tastefully. And how on earth could Meryl Streep ever play her?

I came out of the cinema in Tunbridge Wells half an hour ago. It was full. A sign outside said that all showings of this film had sold out today. Wow. In fifteen years of going to that cinema I have never been in a full cinema. I was tonight. And half the audience was under the age of thirty. Wow.

To be honest, part of me was really looking forward to seeing this film, but part of me was dreading it. I half expected to be in tears for most of it, and half expected it to make me angry. In fact neither happened. I felt curiously unengaged emotionally. At no time did my eyes moisten, and let me tell you, I will cry at an episide of Emmerdale. I’m not saying that many of the scenes failed to move me, but it was the performance of Jim Broadbent, playing Denis Thatcher, which rather ruined many of the moments. Broadbent didn’t play Denis Thatcher, actually. He played his Private Eye caricature. Don’t get me wrong, Broadbent is a brilliant actor – one of Britain’s best, but his performance meant that a potentially Oscar winning film doesn’t actually deserve to get nominated. Some of the scenes involving him were just unimaginable. In one he storms out of the room, when Margaret tells him she is standing for Leader of the Party, shouting: “All you ever care about is your ambition”. It simply. Did. Not. Happen. Indeed, it was he who urged her on. I could go on.

The Iron Lady is not a Biopic. Yes, it contains important episodes from her life, but it leaves out so, so much. That is maybe inevitable, but some of her greatest moments were left out. Nothing about the Cold War. Very little about the miners’ strike. Nothing about her battles with European leaders. Again, I could go on.

And so to the dementia. If one good thing can come from this film it will be to widen the understanding of dementia and alzheimers. It was dealt with sympathetically, and although it dominated the film far too much, I can see why the director used it in the way she did – as a path back to episodes from Lady Thatcher’s life. Yes, you can question the appropriateness of doing it this way, but it never made me squirm me in my seat. And I thought it would.

Everyone has praised Meryl Streep’s performance, and rightly so. It was stupendous. And yes, it could be Oscar winning. She got her voice, she got her dress, she got her movement. The only slight error was that she didn’t quite get her gait. Margaret Thatcher walked quickly, in very small steps. Matthew Parris once described her walking like a pigeon. There were moments when you actually thought you were watching Margaret Thatcher herself.

The Falklands section was the strongest, without a doubt. Her “Iron Lady” image really shone through. It didn’t happen in Tunbridge Wells, but when she says “Sink It”, I gather some audiences have cheered. Her interaction with Al Haig was vintage Thatcher.

There were lots of little inaccuracies which jarred with a political geek like me. Both Francis Pym and John Nott appeared in 1990 scenes. Nott left Parliament in 1983 and Pym left Parliament in 1987. Margaret Thatcher did not wear a hat while making speeches in the House of Commons as Education Secretary. Margaret Thatcher did not run after Airey Neave’s car when it was bombed. She wasn’t there. Again, I could go on. Some of the scenes were exaggerated. The 1990 Cabinet meeting in which Thatcher was rude to Geoffrey Howe did indeed happen. But in this scene she comes across as a demented lunatic. I know enough people who were at that meeting to know it didn’t happen like that. Perhaps the dramatic licence was needed to make a point. This was, after all a movie, not a documentary.

But this is to carp. Overall, I enjoyed it immensely. Any neutral in the audience will have left the cinema thinking better of Margaret Thatcher than when they entered it, It was a very sympathetic portrait of her, and her aims in life. It enhances an understanding of her motivations and actions, so as a devoted Thatcher supporter, I suppose I couldn’t have asked for more.

I know many Conservatives are admirers of Margaret Thatcher are nervous about seeing this film. They think that by doing so they will somehow betray the woman they admire. They shouldn’t think like that and they need have no fears. This is a film which is far from perfect, but it is not a film to be avoided.

At the end of the film, the entire audience stayed sitting and waited till the credits had finished before leaving. That doesn’t happen very often. And it spoke volumes.

Go and see it and make up your own mind. I may have written some negative things in this review, but that’s what film reviews tend to be, don’t they? But let me tell you a secret. I really liked it, despite its imperfections.

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UK Politics

Is Parliament Becoming Relevant Again?

11 Jan 2012 at 18:36

I remember one day during the summer of 2003, while the Hutton Report was in full swing, appearing live on Sky News for a full half hour, live on College Green. Much as I like hearing the sound of my own voice, I did question why Sky had thought my pearls of wisdom were worth so much time, when surely a politician would have been more relevant. “No, you don’t get it,” said a friend of mine. “They think youre more likely to say something interesting nd not tow a party line.” That example showed how irrelevant parliament and politicians had become. That the media should consider the words of a then relatively unknown commentator to be more interesting that a parliamentarian was an indictment of the depths to which parliament’s reputation had sunk.

But I wonder whether things are starting to change and that Parliament is becoming relevant again. In the last year I think there have been a number of setpiece parliamentary debates which have gripped the country. Various select committee hearings have captured the imagination. Now you may think I am going slightly over the top here, and perhaps youre right, but I do think that the media in general are covering parliament as an institution in a way they weren’t five years ago.

Earlier today I went to a breakfast reception in Parliament, held by the BBC Political Unit, to mark the launch of the new Sunday Politics programme. BBC News head honcho Helen Boaden and Andrew Neil outlined the content of the new show, and also talked about the new hour long Daily Politics. It is quite clear that MPs will be front and centre of all these programmes, with the punditerati playing a sideshow role. The regional optouts will no longer have talking heads – they will be 15-20 minute interviews with two loccal MPs. The Daily Politics will have a Yesterday in Parliament feature followed by a live debate with two of the protagonists. Each Monday there will be an MPs’ panel looking at the week ahead.

OK, some of this will be driven by the need to cut costs, but I believe that another reason is that MPs have begun to make themselves relevant again. They are saying things of interest, which to be honest wasn’t always the case. Actually, it still isn’t to a large extent, but the media have identified a large number of MPs who are willing to stretch party loyalties and be themselves. I know, because I invite them on my LBC show too.

Some MPs have got to the point of appearing almost embarrassed to trot out the latest line given to them by the party spin doctors. Long may that continue. And in large part this is due to the 2010 intake who have quietly hallenged a lot of political and parliamentary conventions. They are a very talented intake and subconciously have taken on board the need for Parliament to restore its reputation. So far, I think they have made a good start in helping it do just that.

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UK Politics

Is Diane Right? Are Black Cabbies Racists

7 Jan 2012 at 18:43

Apart from Diane Abbott’s far left allies (yes, I mean you, Lee Jasper), most people think she made a big mistake with her apparently racist tweet on Wednesday night. I make no apology for admitting I was among the first to point out that if a white Tory MP had said the same about black people, there would have been hell to pay. All she had to do was issue a quick apology and say that she should have used the word ‘some’. But she didn’t do that until she was forced to by her less than pleased leader. So the lesson is – and it’s something I learned on Twitter the hard way – is that if you say something you know in your gut is wrong, just apologise quickly. It’s less painful that way.

Abbott is now under fire for another tweet in which she reckoned that it is difficult to get a black cab to stop for you if you’re black. The papers are in full cry this morning, as are London cabbies. Well, in this case, I have a little more sympathy for Diane Abbott. A few months ago we were discussing racism on my LBC show and a cabby came on and admitted he wouldn’t stop for a black youth. I was rather shocked by this, but then another cabby came on and said the same thing. They had both had bad experiences – one I think had had his passenger run off without paying and the other one had had a fare which had puked up. I pointed out that I was fairly sure they would have had the same issue with white youths too. Neither had an answer. Rather bizarrely a black lady then came on the phones and said that if she were a cabby she wouldn’t pick them up either.

What is perhaps more interesting is that Diane should automatically assume that cab with a yellow light on doesn’t pick her up because she is black. Let me let you into a little secret. I reckon on one in 10 occasions when I hail a black cab, the cab just sails on by and doesn’t stop. It could be my Loden coat which puts them off. It could be that they don’t like LBC presenters. Or more probably it’s because they don’t actually see me. I’ve lost count of the number of cabbies with tunnel vision, who don’t seem to notice anyone hailing them on the pavement. So think on Diane. It may look like racism to you. And in some cases it may well be. But it could be that the cabby is daydreaming and thinking of what he will do when he knocks off. Just a thought.

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Humour/Satire

A Look Back on 2012

31 Dec 2011 at 18:45

As we look back on 2012 it is with some trepidation that we look ahead to 2013. Who could have foreseen the momentous events which changed our world over the last twelve months? It’s not just Britain which has changed, but the whole world order. The collapse of the Euro led to the completely unforeseen destruction of the American economy following the hidden exposure of US banks to the European, in particular, the French, banks. The Chicago riots in September led to outbreaks of violence all over the US which mirrored those in Paris and Madrid earlier in the year in everything but the scale of wanton destruction. The rest of the world watched in horror as former French President Sarkozy was dragged from his retirement home by a lynch mob and kicked within an inch of his life. Ironically it was a passing off duty SAS member who stepped in to save his life. The British tabloids had a field day with headlines such as The Sun’s BRITAIN SAVES FRENCH PRESIDENT (AND IT’S NOT EVEN FROM A GERMAN).

Having looked set for a second term, US President Barack Obama went down to a humiliating defeat to President Sarah Palin, who had been a last minute draftee at the Republican Convention. She doesn’t take office for another three weeks, but already, her appointment of Secretary of State Schwarzenegger and Vice President Larry Hagman look set to mire her presidency in controversy.

At home, Britain’s £100 billion bailout of the Republic of Ireland was approved by the Dail, as was the Act of Union, under which Ireland reverted its currency back to the Pound and ceded foreign and defence policy to the United Kingdom Parliament after 90 years of full independence. In return the United Kingdom agreed to let Ireland represent it at the Eurovision Song Contest.

In domestic politics, Nick Clegg was overthrown as LibDem leader but allowed to remain in the Cabinet by the Prime Minister. The new LibDem leader, Chris Huhne, gave a moving acceptance speech from his cell in Wormwood Scrubs. Meanwhile the Labour leader David Miliband continued to make progress in rebuilding his party from the mess in which it had been left by his brother, Ed, whose decision to resign in February and take up the position of Lecturer in Quasi-Socialist Studies at the University of Luton was described at the time by the leading (sic) leftwing commentator Laurie Penny as “a body blow to the feminist agenda”. Indeed.

Yesterday’s release of the 1982 cabinet papers have understandably led today’s news agenda. The fact that Margaret Thatcher came within an inch of using nuclear weapons against Argentina during the Falklands War came as a shock not just to historians, but also surviving members of her cabinet. “I’d have resigned if I had known,” said Michael Heseltine. “It would have saved all that bother later.”

In sport, the 2012 Olympics went off without incident, but there was a disappointing medal haul from British participants, with only 72 year old Mrs Enid Rankin winning a bronze in the new Olympic sport of synchronised stairlift racing. Manchester City swept all before them to win the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the League Cup and ended the season selling Carlos Tevez to Scunthorpe United for £2.50 and a box of Tetley teabags. England again flattered to deceive at Euro 2012 in the Ukraine, going out in the group stages. Fabio Capello’ successor was named as Mr Sid Higginbottom, manager of non league side Neasdon United. But it wasn’t all gloom and doom in British sport. Andrew Flintoff came out of retirement to lead England to victory in the All England Beer Drinking Test series.

2012 was the year that publishers started to abandon hardback books with eBooks outselling hardbacks for the first time. The BBC pulled out of televising all live sport and announced that the money saved would be pumped into yet more reality TV shows – the latest being “The Jesus Factor”, hosted by Ann Widdecombe. But it was good news for the X Factor as Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole returned to rescue the show. “It were a reet laff the laast time and I’m looin fowod to getin’ stook in agen, way aye man,” commented Miss Cole. Meanwhile, Channel 5 was still reeling from the controversy caused by Sally Bercow’s second appearance in the Big Brother House, after it was discovered she had smuggled in her husband, the Speaker of the House of Commons, into the house in her suitcase. Conservative MP Keith Simpson described it as a “constitutional outrage” and demanded the return of Parliament.

And in Norfolk, defections to the Conservatives on the County Council continued apace with the entire LibDem group crossing the floor. “If we are going down, we might as well have a taste of power before we do,” said their group leader, having taken advice from local MP Simon Wright. The first Police Commissioner election in Norfolk was won by Mrs Doris Bonkers, the UKIP candidate from Watton. Her campaign slogan “Deport all criminals to Suffolk” proved remarkably effective.

And finally, Norwich City ended the season in a UEFA Cup spot after they won their last ten matches, including a remarkable 7-0 thrashing of champions elect Manchester City in which Grant Holt scored a double hat­-trick in 20 minutes. The celebrations were slightly marred by the sight of Delia Smith jumping into the team bath after the match while screaming ‘Let’s be ‘Avin youse’.

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Iain talks to Kate Adie about her new book on women in the First World War.

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UK Politics

Twelve Predictions For 2012

30 Dec 2011 at 18:48

OK, here’s the ten predictions I made last New Year’s Eve in my Eastern Daily Press column. Let’s see how many I got right…

Norwich City make the play-offs but fail to win promotion WRONG Norman Lamb becomes a Minister in a government reshuffle WRONG Several Norfolk councils enter talks to combine back office functions RIGHT The British people say no to AV – as does Norfolk RIGHT Two Norfolk MPs become government ministers RIGHT A Norfolk person wins a reality TV show WRONG (I THINK!) Nick Clegg survives a LibDem leadership coup WRONG David Laws wins back a Cabinet place WRONG Labour stage a massive comeback in the 2011 Norfolk council elections WRONG Bruce Forsyth finally gets a knighthood RIGHT

So, not a very good performance. In 2010 I got 7 out of 10 right. Let’s see if I can do better this year…

1. Boris Johnson will win the London mayoral election

2. Vince Cable will leave the Cabinet

3. At least one country will leave the euro

4. Simon Cowell returns to the X Factor and invites Cheryl Cole to join him

5. West Ham will be promoted

6. Sarkozy loses the French presidency

7. Obama beats Romney to win a second term

8. John Humphrys leaves the Today Programme

9. The Independent becomes Britain’s first free national newspaper

10. England fail to proceed beyond the group stages at Euro 2012

11. Sam Allardyce succeeds Fabio Capello as England manager

12. Britain wins fewer gold medals at the Olympics than it did in Beijing

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Katie Price

Iain talks to model and novelist Katie Price about the 5th volume of her autobiography.

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TV/Film/Theatre

The Fast Show Is Back. Which Is Nice

27 Dec 2011 at 18:50

I am a huge fan of the FAST SHOW. It was, in my humble opinion, one of the funniest sketch shows ever to grace our TV screens. So when I heard it was returning, I was very excited. That was until I heard it was only going to be online. ‘Bound to be rubbish’, I thought. Anyway, it was only yesterday that I remarked to my partner that I hadn’t seen anything about the FAST SHOW episodes on the internet. ‘Oh’, they’re all on the Fosters Youtube channel,’ he said. Which was nice. So I just watched them all. All six of them. Suits you, sir. And they didn’t disappoint. Many of the old characters are back, and they introduce a few new ones, including an ancient Jazz singer with dementia. Making fun of dementia is something which could easily go wrong, but this kind of works. I’ll get my coat.

Indeed, watching these six episodes was very much like making love to a beautiful woman.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale's Washington Diary

From Iain Dale's Sunday morning programme in Washington DC for the US presidential election.

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UK Politics

What Should I Do With My Money?

18 Dec 2011 at 18:51

Perhaps even by writing this blospost I will be accused of scaremongering, but I don’t think I am alone in wondering about the consequences of a banking collapse.

Back in 2005, when I was a parliamentary candidate, I remember walking down Cromer High Street on a Friday afternoon with 16 pence in my pocket. My credit cards were maxed out. My overdraft was at its limit and I had used up all my savings. In short, I wasn’t far way from hitting rock bottom. How on earth had I got myself into this position? One thing I did know, I would never allow it to happen again. After the election, I sold our cottage in Norfolk and used the profit (thank God there was a profit!) to pay off all my debts. I quickly got myself back on my feet and between then and now have built up some savings. Not a huge amount, but enough to make use of if a rainy day ever approached.

The banking crisis of 2008 shattered many people’s confidence in the whole financial system. Regulation had failed, and as far as I can see, little has changed to improve it. I don’t want more regulation, I want better regulation.

The euro crisis has brought back bitter memories of 2008. It seems to me that the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone could indeed herald a second banking crisis, which in Europe could be far more badly hit than three years ago. Why? Because of a domino effect. It is argued that British banks are slightly insulated by this, but I wonder how many people really believe this. We may be located a few more dominos down the track than France or Germany, but does anyone seriously doubt our banks would esape unscathed?

Alistair Darling promised that anyone with savings of up to £85,000 would have their savings protected. But how firm would that guarantee be in the future? Can we rely on it? Of course, that only refers to savings in a deposit account – not a business account. If a major bank went under, businesses would be decimated.

I bank with Lloyds TSB. I don’t have any accounts with European banks. If I had, I would now be closing them and moving my money. I have no idea how many people are thinking in the same way, but if they’re not, ought they to be? It’s the great unspoken subject at the moment. It’s like the Fawlty Towers sketch – Don’t mention the war. I did, but I think I got away with it. We don’t talk about our money in polite society. It’s not the way we British do things. Well I do want to talk about it, because like most people, I suspect, I am beginning to get a little nervous.

There is a part of me that wonders if my money wouldn’t be safer under my mattress. Pauline Neville-Jones, when she was on the Murnaghan programme on Sky News this morning, reckons that it is entirely possible that if there was a collapse of several banks, the rest would just shup up shop – shut their doors and prevent people from withdrawing money. If you read Alistair Darling’s book, Back From the Brink, you’ll know how close we came to that point in 2008. The cashpoints were hours away from having the plug pulled. The government is said to be making contingency plans for civil unrest in the event of a banking collapse.

So I ask again. What should people do, who have a modest amount of savings? Trust the government guarantee? Or something else? Buy gold? Buy something else? Withdraw it and stick it in a safe?

Perhaps Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, should dispense some wise advice on this subject. Because I am buggered if I know what to do.

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Personal

A Tribute to Gary Speed & A Plea on Depression

27 Nov 2011 at 18:55

Yesterday I read a heartfelt article by Stan Collymore about his ongoing battle with depression. Last night I watched a documentary called ‘We Need to Talk About Dad’ about a family coming to terms with the fact that the father had hit the mother over the head with an axe – an apparent spontaneous act, which he can’t explain to this day.

About half an hour ago I heard about the death of Welsh team manager Gary Speed. Apparently he has taken his own life. I’ve never met Gary Speed and I therefore find my own reaction to the news a little strange. I feel absolutely devastated by it. Here is a man who, on the face of it, has everything. Just like Stan Collymore. Just like the father in the documentary. And yet behind closed doors none of us know what goes on. We don’t know what we are capable of. We don’t know what others are capable of. How could someone, no matter what pressures they are under, do what Gary Speed has done? How could he do it to his wife. To his two teenage sons? It’s too early to analyse. It’s too early to even understand. But it’s not too early to think. To mull. To try to come to terms with something that is so shocking it almost defies logic.

I am sure we all send our heartfelt condolences to Gary Speed’s family. We pay tribute to his wonderful record as a professional footballer, and we think of the fans of the clubs he played for, who will be shocked, appalled and devastated by his death at such a young age.

We don’t know exactly what caused Gary to take the ultimate step, but it may well be depression. Some people, to this day, not only think depression is something invented by people of weak minds, I hope they will think again. Think about German goalkeeper Robert Enke. Think about Stan Collymore’s ongoing battles. Read Alastair Campbell’s diaries. We all need to try to understand more about depression.

RIP Gary Speed. You were a hero to many. While the manner of your passing doesn’t befit the career you enjoyed, you leave with our respect, admiration and sympathy.

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