Saturday, May 31, 2008

This week's news round-up

The week's news reassessed by Johnny Taronja

There is now general agreement on the idea that Labour's crisis is irreversible. If you ever thought that the Blair years were lined by fairly tame sections of the press (though there were notable exceptions, especially after the Iraq 'adventure'), the same sensation is much more palpable now. The moment the removal man carted the last of Blair's belongings out of Number 10, the lid was off. The entire press became magically aware of the cost of living in the UK and everyday they can be heard banging on about overpriced eggs, council tax, demented electricity bills and repossessions. All true, by all means, and it's refreshing to read about people's real problems but it's the sudden change in tack that looks suspicious. The real issue is why the UK's account-busting cost of living rarely made front page news before summer 2007. It goes to show how non-existent Gordon Brown's clout on the press is.


This week every paper has carried estimates of how much those fatter bills are affecting British families. But as they also reveal the simultaneous multi-millions profits of energy, telephone and water companies (as well as supermarkets - but that's a different story) they all stop short of telling it like it is. Apart from the Mirror's Paul Routledge. "I've never seen a clearer case of private gain before private interest" wrote the legendary columnist in the Friday paper. One case, in particular, rings familiar. "Ian Livingston, the new boss of BT, will get a £7m pay package if he meets financial targets. That should be no trouble, given the legalised larceny of £18 a year 'fines' imposed on customers who can't pay by direct debit".


Economic gloom aside, Britain is undergoing an unprecedented surge in violent crime. Hardly a day, literally, goes by without depressing stories of stabbed teenagers, shot passers-by and fatal beatings. "Time for radical measures" is the phrase of the day. You get Sir Ian Blair pleading for mothers to badger their sons: "Are you carrying a knife, love? Oh and don't forget your packed lunch", or heroic stories of mothers grassing up their own yobbo kids. But as The Guardian reported a pioneering police project (Operation Leopard, the name is), "Harass a hoodie: how Essex police take surveillance to the streets", there they are - the civil rights activists complaining of "civil liberties implications". Stalking and filming criminals and yobs may not be the most noble thing to do, but when you get dozens of people dying every month in parks and outside McDonald's for no reason, it's time for emergency measures.


I am glad the press decided to rip apart king-of-football-mercenaries Nicholas Anelka. Like a sulking child, the overpaid Chelsea forward refused to be amongst the official five penalty takers in the crucial shoot-outs of last week's Moscow final. The reason? He had been played out of his favourite position so, right in the midst of the most vital moment in the history of Chelsea FC, he thought he'd get his own back. At who, exactly? The manager? His team mates? Chelsea supporters? I suppose buying players who happily swap teams like revolving doors carries a massive element of risk and Anelka's career tallying about 300 different teams in less then ten years is odds-on.

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