Take Me To Your Leader Writer

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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Thursday 28 October 2010

A voice in the wilderness

I spent an hour wracked by indecision as I squirmed through Nicky Campbell's Five Live phone-in this morning. I guessed the subject would be Europe and sure enough it was. And as usual the airwaves were dominated by ridiculous people ranting on and on about "Europe" and how those foreigners are ripping us off and how much better it would be if we could break away and stand alone "as we did for thousands of years" (one caller said that, honestly).
Whenever there is a European phone-in I agonise over whether I should join in. Yesterday was even worse. By 9.15 Nicky Campbell was saying that while they always tried to achieve a balance between the sides in any debate, no supporters of the EU wanted to speak.
This was marginally improved when brave John from Swansea called to be duly howled down, showing why pro-Europeans are loathe to put their heads above the parapet. It was, as Nicky Campell said, like being held up against a wall and having spittle hurled in your face, but that is the level of debate the anti-Europeans operate at.
The balance improved when Geoff Meades, the Press Association's Brussels correspondent, came on to be followed by an articulate, intelligent young former researcher to an MEP who explained the case calmly and rationally.
There will be more, much more, about Europe on this blog. When David Cameron and William Hague have actually begun to see sense, it is time the British people were given the real facts.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Horseradish, runner-bean chutney and madness

When we arrived at 5am at Gatwick airport on our way to spend a week with our Italian friends Clare and Mario, I had taken a few little gifts for them. There were jars of hot horseradish sauce, runner-bean chutney and Geeta's mango chutney, all things which they love but can't buy in the Umbrian supermarkets.
These innocent delicacies lasted as far as the security screening. I had made the mistake of putting them in hand luggage and was pulled aside and asked to open my bag. That makes you feel guilty for a start, as if you have somehow inadvertently packed a kilo of cocaine. So when the jars were produced in front of me, I said: "Yes?" I wasn't going to deny they were mine.
But they weren't allowed on board. Why? They were paste, apparently, so couldn't be carried in hand luggage. I asked if the security guard thought I would attack the pilot with the horseradish. It was, after all, hot.
It didn't much matter to me that the jars were all confiscated - I hope the security people enjoyed them with their roast beef (actually I don't - I would be delighted if they choked on them). But the episode highlights the lunatic way in which checks are carried out at airports.
Which is why today I found myself doing something I never thought I would - applauding the chairman of British Airways, who has criticised the supidity of airport security checks.
I clearly wasn't going to blow up or hijack the plane with my runner-bean chutney. And no one will convince me that if terrorists are really determined to attack a flight they won't find a way to do it that doesn't involve secreting explosives in a jar of horseradish sauce.
I now use trains for domestic destinations as well as trips to Brussels because I can't be bothered with the security hassle.
The terrorists have won by changing the way we live. Sensible security is inevitable but the authorities have cravenly given in to make air travel an unpleasant obstacle course of belt and shoe removal in the spurious name of protecting us.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

The day the music died

It must have been in 1979 that a colleague on the Daily Mirror who had just returned from a trip to America approached me in the newsroom, placed a pair of headphones over my ears and said: "Listen to this." That was my first experience of the Walkman.
Now, 31 years later, obituaries are being written for this revolutionary personal stereo, made obsolete by the i-pad, i-phone and presumably other methods of playing a soundtrack to your life while on the move.
How different it all was in those days. No mobile phones except for a few the size of a bungalow; no internet; no emails. And how different politically, too.
Mrs Thatcher had only just come to power and it was difficult to take her seriously. Though it was a lot harder to take the Labour Party seriously in the months ahead.
The Walkman Years were marked by the irresistible rise of the Thatcher right, melding seamlessly into New Labour.
When it comes to gadgets, we are beginning to realise that they have a finite existence. How long will the newspaper survive? Or petrol-driven cars? Progress nowadays moves with exponential speed and nothing can be guaranteed a future.
But politics and politicians change very little. Some are a bit better, some are a lot worse. They keep on keeping on, though.
And we let them. Just like The People have let them throughout the ages.