Golf Players

Moses, Jesus and a bearded old man play golf.

Moses takes his club and with an elegant swing sends off the ball.   It goes up in the air with a superb parabolic movement and falls directly…   into the lake! Moses is not at all disturbed, he raises his club and at this   moment the water opens up, leaving him a passage through which to make his   next strike.

It is now the turn of Jesus. He takes his club and with perfect   panache he sends the ball toward… The lake, where it falls on a large water   lily. Unperturbed, Jesus starts to walk over the water to the ball, and from   there he makes his next strike.

The little old man takes his club and, with a total lack of style as   if he had never played golf in his life, he sends the ball flying off toward   a tree.

The ball rebounds on the trunk then again on a branch.

From there, it falls on the roof of a house, rolls into the gutter,   descends the drain-pipe, and falls into the sewer from where it is travels   through a channel into… The lake.

But after arriving in the lake it rebounds on a stone and bounces   finally onto the bank where it stops.

A large frog which was sitting just at that place swallows it.

And suddenly, in the sky, a sparrow-hawk descends on the frog and grabs   it, including of course, the ball. The bird flies above the golf course, and   the frog, becoming giddy, ends up vomiting the ball… which falls perfectly   in the hole!

Moses turns then to Jesus and says to him: “You know, I just hate playing with your father!”


George Galloway’s win in Bradford West is a humiliation for Ed Miliband and a lifeline for David Cameron

No matter how bad things get for David Cameron, there is a sense that they will never be truly calamitous until the Labour Party can get its act together.

The government has been suffering its worst week since the General Election, but just in time here comes Labour to the rescue. The sensational victory of George Galloway in Bradford West is a disaster for Ed Miliband. Galloway didn’t just sneak a win; he thumped Labour, got 56 per cent of the vote and secured a 10,100 majority.

Lucky old Cameron. Labour’s position had seemingly been improving on the back of the Government’s Keystone Kops creation of a fuel crisis, the donor scandal and a botched budget. The Opposition had opened up a 10pt lead. In such circumstances, Bradford West is the kind of seat Labour should be winning comfortably.

Labour spokesman are blaming Big Brother, ascribing Galloway’s victory to his celebrity, which results in part from him pretending to be a cat (wearing a bright red cat-suit) with Rula Lenska in an infamous scene from the dire reality TV show. Another Labour MP said it was all about Iraq. Perhaps that is a lingering factor, but the invasion of Iraq was nine years ago.

Galloway surely has a point when he says that%

Read more….

David Cameron needs friends in the North – here’s how to win them

First it was horse-gate. Then came donor-gate. Now it’s pasty-gate. The Tories’ ambition to become a party for the whole country – and not just for the wealthy few – has taken a pounding in recent weeks. Each of these stories has its amusing side, of course, but they hit the Conservatives in a sore spot: their difficulty breaking through in the North and the Midlands, and among ordinary working voters. If the party can’t do these things, it won’t win an overall majority at the next general election.

It is often asked whether the Cameroons understand working voters outside the South. It’s telling that if you ask a Westminster journalist what “Tory modernisation” was about, they’ll talk about hugging huskies (and hoodies), promoting greenery, and padding around the office without your shoes on. This is a misleading stereotype. In reality, the efforts to reassure voters on the NHS and to restore a reputation for economic competence were much more important. That first phase of modernisation succeeded enough to make Cameron prime minister, but not to get him a majority. That’s because – and in light of recent events and the message they’ve sent, this is key – the most important part of the j

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George Galloway has exposed the void at Labour’s core and left it fighting for its life

This morning the Labour Party is no longer fighting to win the next election. It’s fighting to stay in existence.

George Galloway’s win is the most catastrophic result for the Labour party since Roy Jenkins and the SDP’s challenge in Warrington in 1981. Though in Warrington Jenkins lost narrowly. Gorgeous George is again off to Westminster.

There are mitigating factors, of course: turnout, demography, local issues. But they are sidebars. In a safe Labour seat, in the middle of the worst period of austerity for a generation, following a catastrophic Budget, at the end of a week in which the Government appeared to be falling apart at the seams, Labour has lost. And, most devastatingly of all, lost to a threat from the Left.

There are some people in the Labour movement who have been warning for some time of the looming threat on Labour’s Left flank. They – sorry, we – have also argued repeatedly that Labour’s small opinion-poll leads and previous by–election victories masked a growing political and structural vacuum at the centre of the party, one that the movements more militant elements were preparing to fill.

Read more….

George Galloway and the rise of sectarian politics

Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability. It is hard not to feel a batsqueak of admiration for George Galloway. Most British people like to see mavericks beating the system, and Gorgeous George has smarmed his way through personal, political and financial crises that would have brought down almost any other public figure. His self-belief is like some inexorable force of nature.

It is none the less depressing to watch him creating identity politics in Great Britain. When candidates seek office by growing beards, proclaiming their dislike of alcohol, ostentatiously adopting Muslim phraseology and focusing almost wholly on foreign policy, they do little to encourage national cohesion.

I have seen confessional and ethnic politics at work around Europe. In little pockets across the Continent, parties have sprung up to represent linguistic minorities and irredenti communities. They are always complacent and frequently corrupt, for nothing is more deleterious to democratic engagement than the belief that you have to vote for ‘your’ party. Candidates take voters for granted; voters stop caring about manifestos.

We have so far, thank Heaven (or ‘Masha’Allah’

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Hillary Clinton in Middle East push to end crackdown in Syria

It said Defence Minister Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Foreign Minister Saudi al-Faisal and the kingdom’s intelligence chief, Mogran bin Abdul Aziz, also took part in the meeting but gave no further details.

Clinton is due on Saturday to hold talks in Riyadh with ministers of Saudi Arabia’s five Gulf Arab neighbours – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – before broader meetings Sunday with Arab, Turkish and Western officials in Istanbul.

The Friends of Syria meeting in Turkey follows the inaugural one Clinton attended in Tunis at the end of February – a response to Western and Arab failure to win Russian and Chinese backing at the UN Security Council.

Aides said Clinton will discuss how to make President Bashar al-Assad comply with a new plan to end his crackdown on a pro-democracy movement, study further sanctions against his regime and consider ways to aid the opposition who will be in Istanbul.

On Thursday, Assad said he would “spare no effort” for the success of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan but warned the proposal would only work if “terrorist acts” backed by foreign powers stopped.

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George Galloway’s shock by-election win leaves Labour with lessons to learn, says Ed Miliband

The Labour leader said there were lessons to learn from the shock result in which the Respect candidate won with a majority of more than 10,000.

Mr Galloway described his victory as “the most sensational victory in British political history” while claiming the rejection of mainstream parties represented a “Bradford Spring” uprising.

Mr Miliband said he would personally visit the constituency as the party tries to reclaim its hold on the seat.

“It was an incredibly disappointing result for Labour in Bradford West and I am determined that we learn lessons of what happened,” he said.

“I’m going to lead that. I’m going to be going back to the constituency in the coming weeks to talk to people there about why this result happened.

Read more….

Fuel strike: anger over government advice grows as woman burnt in petrol accident

Labour peer Lord Harris called for Francis Maude to resign after the woman, named locally as Diane Hill, suffered 40 per cent burns when she tried to pour petrol into a jug in her kitchen after her daughter’s car needed refuelling. The gas cooker was on and the petrol caught fire.

Mr Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, had told motorists earlier this week they should keep a jerry can in the garage to cope with a potential fuel shortage.

Lord Harris tweeted: “This woman was following advice from Govt Minister Francis Maude & ends up with 40% burns. Disgraceful. He shd resign.

Labour MP Karl Turner also joined calls for Mr Maude to resign in wake of the incident if it is linked to his earlier calls for people to keep a jerry can of fuel.

Read more….

Galloway hails “Bradford Spring”

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)

The shock news for a Friday morning – George Galloway has won the Bradford West by-election for Respect, taking 18,341 votes – or 56 per cent.

Labour, who had held the seat, were humiliated – dropping to second place with 8,201 votes, or 25 per cent, down 20 per cent on the 2010 election result. The Conservatives lost almost as much, coming third on a particularly low 8.4 per cent – 2,746 votes. The Lib Dems came fourth on 4.6 per cent, just 1,505 votes – losing their deposit. Turnout was 50.8 per cent.

Galloway, with no sense of irony, is calling this the “Bradford Spring”, not to mention “the most sensational result in British by-election history”. He says he won because the people of Bradford rejected the “path of treason” of Tony Blair’s wars.

Word on the street in Bradford last night was that Labour expected to win and had laid plans for Ed Miliband to appear there for a victory lap today. You can imagine the calculation: Government in disarray, Tories in chaos, Labour triumphant.

But no, and now gorgeous George is back in Parliament and Labour is nursing a terrible setback. Harriet Harman says that “there’s no denying” that it’s a terrible result for Labour, while Baroness Warsi on Today poured scorn on Labour’s inability to win votes in such a typically safe seat. As a No 10 source says: “The byelection is a shattering defeat for Labour.”

A caveat: it’s a by-election, it’s Bradford, and the contest is overlaid by the complexities of race and communal politics. Mr Galloway’s Bradford spring won’t last long, but will leave some difficult questions about how Labour’s relationship with Asian voters and the power of politics tinged with extremism.

In the meantime it brings to a shuddering halt the fuel panic media bandwagon, as we turn our attention to Mr Miliband’s difficulties, for the next few hours at least.


That said, the newspapers, which came out before the by-election results, are full of stories about the panic buying of petrol, as the Coalition’s strategy of telling people ‘not to panic, but sort of panic’ completely failed.

The Daily Mirror has splashed on “Everybody was Kung Fuel fighting”, the Sun goes for “Total Panic” and the Mail calls it “Pandemonium at the pumps”. Our headline is slightly more restrained – “Ministers blamed for fuel shambles as panic grows” – and you can read our splash story here.

Thus concludes a bad week for the Government, from cash-for-access through pasties and now onto fuel; in presentation terms, at least, this week has been disastrous. Craig Oliver gets a namecheck in The Times and you sense that the knives are out for the No 10 communications director. As they report: “he has difficult relationship with several other key media figures at No 10 that are tarnishing the reputation of the Conservatives.”

I also detect inter-Coalition politics, with what looks like the Lib Dem end briefing against the ineptitude of its Tory colleagues. Then there’s Labour and Unite; the energy secretary Ed Davey will meet the hauliers to keep pressure on the unions to reach an agreement and avert a strike. The Mail meanwhile points out the Unite chief handling the drivers is Labour’s Treasurer.

Then there’s David Davis and the internal Tory wrangling – yesterday, DD told The World At One that working class voters “resent” privileged Cabinet ministers: “They look at the front bench, they see them all very well dressed, well turned out, well fed and perhaps feel that they are in a different world to them.”

I’ve blogged about what this week means for David Cameron; it’s not ultimately about class, as now seems to be the current argument. As Bagehot notes, the problem is not that Mr Cameron too posh, but that he is too grand. His problem is that since becoming an MP he has accumulated more enemies than friends on his own benches, and now finds there are too few folk willing to come to his aid, and too many willing to stamp on his head.

In our leader, we point out that all this wouldn’t be so bad if the economy were recovering, but it’s not: “The fuel panic has been an unwelcome distraction from the overwhelming priority of getting Britain growing again…Unless the Government gets this right, it will not be out of touch, but out of office.”

The Guardian agrees – they say that: “This past week may yet be seen as the moment the wheels started to wobble.”


Still, George Osborne is trying to get the Government onto the back foot. The FT has a fascinating story about the Chancellor’s political strategy.

Apparently, Mr Osborne intends to outline his plans for further cuts after the 2015 election to eliminate the structural deficit by 2017, and he is calling for Labour to do the same, something made all the more urgent by the news from the OECD yesterday that Britain is very likely to enter a double dip recession.

As the newspaper reports, “senior Tory and Lib Dem officials are looking to complete a tough spending review by the autumn of 2013, setting out detailed plans for 2015-16 and 2016-17” , including the £10 billion more of welfare cuts announced in last week’s Budget.

As the paper adds: “Mr Osborne and Mr Clegg believe the detailed fiscal choices could be painful for Labour, including a choice on whether to support big new welfare cuts – generally popular with voters – or to focus on other spending cuts”.

I’m sure the Treasury’s overworked staff will love that. The strain there is illustrated in another FT story: the Treasury is struggling to hold onto staff, while the average Treasury employee is just 32 years old, compared with an average of 47 across Whitehall. That story is part of a p2 look at the department, which also reports on how badly prepared it was for the financial crisis.

Last year, George Osborne seemed quite aware of the strain that Government is putting on the Treasury, as he complained that our tax code is longer than India’s. This year, however, his finance Bill is the longest in history, at 686 pages.


The FT’s splash is important, too. And it’s bad news for the Government’s nuclear power programme: two German companies, Eon and RWE, pulled out from multi-billion pound plans to build new nuclear power stations in the UK, leaving our energy strategy “in tatters”. That means that the Horizon project to build reactors at Wylfa in North Wales and Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucester are now much less likely to go ahead.

In the Guardian, Juliette Jowit provides some useful analysis of what this means for British energy strategy: this is a “a blow”, but not a “meltdown”. “The announcement will be a reminder to ministers that they cannot be complacent about their commitment when relying on private money to build essential national infrastructure.”


Interesting news from Liam Byrne, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary; he’s considering leaving the shadow cabinet and indeed Parliament to stand for Birmingham’s mayoral race, if Birmingham votes yes in the referendum on whether to actually have a mayor in May.

That would put Byrne up against the formidable Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart, as well as former Labour MP Sion Simon in the race for the Labour candidacy. The brilliantly named Sir Albert Bore, who is chairman of the Labour group in Birmingham City Council, may also stand.


Latest YouGov/Sun: Conservatives 35%, Labour 42%, Liberal Democrats 9%; Government net approval: -31%


Glyn Davies again, doing well: “Feel so unimportant. No-one has asked me when I last bought a pastie. Feel as ignored by society as those who have never been ‘hacked’.” Diddums.


In The Telegraph

Neil O’Brien: David Cameron needs friends in the North – here’s how to win them

Jeremy Warner: Why a Brics-built bank to rival the IMF is doomed to fail

Con Coughlin: The West will pay a terrible price if we leave Afghanistan in the lurch

Leader: Ministers must get their priorities right

Best of the rest

Philip Collins in The Times (£): I’m a Labour member, but I can’t vote for Ken

Bagehot on his Economist blog: Pasty-gate is a proxy for Tory angst about class, but class is a proxy for the anger of the Tory right

Martin Wolf in the FT (£): We badly need public funding of political parties

Bruce Anderson in the FT (£): Cameron should look to the future, not to the pasty


Today: EU finance ministers meet for ECOFIN in Copenhagen

Today: Housing minister Grant Shapps announces the Government’s response to Mary Portas’s report on the British high street