Monday, 14 September 2009


It’s been claimed that if women were never given the vote, there would have been a continuous Labour government since 1945. The Independent ran a very interesting feature today about the importance of female voters to both major political parties in the UK, claiming that Labour are fast losing female support to the Conservative Party. The major reason for this is that women appear to prefer the Tories’ approach to public services.

Different groups of voters are regularly studied by parties as they give a good indication of which policies will go down well and how to structure a marketing campaign. However it’s interesting that such a clear cut gender group - as opposed to maybe trade unionists or NHS employees - are shifting towards one party. It will be interesting to see if this will make the Tories look at launching new policies with a more feminist angle than before.

However this will of course run the risk of upsetting the men. It’s a hard decision to make, certainly, but maybe the infamous ‘Get out and vote. Or they get in’ Labour poster showing Hague with Thatcher’s hair should be revived by the Tories for Cameron - to give him a female touch? Or maybe I’m stretching this a little too far now...

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The government’s proposed lifting of the product placement ban in television is great news for the industry. I firmly believe that during a recession we should be finding as many ways as possible for TV channels to make money through alternative forms of advertising, so it makes life a little more comfortable for their balance sheets. For example, the concept of serving a ‘pint of Strongbow’, rather than a ‘pint of cider’, in Coronation Street does not seem far-fetched and will hardly detract from the main storyline. It would also be reasonable to see the use of a Nokia mobile phone in an ITV drama, which may well be present in a film at the cinema anyway. Even more importantly, it gives the commercial competitors to the BBC a useful funding stream, to which the public body has no access.

There are concerns that it could be abused and over-used in certain programmes, but estimates have suggested product placement could be worth £100m a year to the TV industry, and that is something worth fighting for. Whilst there are concerns about the very future of ITV and Channel Five (owned by German firm RTL), this could just be the catalyst required to help them turn a corner and free up financial resources to concentrate on making new television or importing better shows. But broadcast watchdog Voice of the Listener & Viewer have condemned the idea, suggesting that nobody will know “whether the programme makers are in control or the marketing director”. This is a valid point. However, it is likely that the ban will not be lifted without a variety of restrictions and red tape, and as long as broadcasters are accountable to their viewers (maybe by listing any sponsors at the end of the show), I can only see this being a good development for the maintenance of British television.

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I can’t say I expected such a good start from the Toon Army. Newcastle United were a sinking ship before this season got underway and I’m absolutely amazed that they have won five games in a row - without conceding - and now sit top of the league. Yes, I know it’s only the Championship, but you can only beat what is put in front of you. Chris Hughton is doing a remarkable job, and has set a new club record of straight wins and clean sheets, so fully deserves the Manager of the Month award. He may well be the first caretaker coach to have ever won it (although if you know otherwise, I stand corrected)! I have seen the Magpies twice this season - at Leyton Orient (lost 6-1) and Crystal Palace (won 2-0) - and the contrast could not have been more different between the two games. It seemed like the Toon Army were destined for another relegation season, but they have turned it around.

Why is it so hard to predict the future of Newcastle United Football Club? I’ve supported them for over 12 years and must say it’s been interesting over that time, if nothing else. This season’s group of players are certainly a committed bunch, exemplified at Cardiff on Sunday when Alan Smith took down Jay Bothroyd, knowing he would get sent-off - but he did it for the team. Every player out there at the moment wants to get Newcastle back into the Premier League, and it’s pleasing that they might just do it. I know we’re only six games in but the signs are good. Blackpool away on Wednesday evening will be a culture shock for the players and fans, but it will be those sorts of tests which will make them a stronger side should they get promotion. It will be cold and probably raining on the open away stand - but you can guarantee there will be an obese Geordie with his NUFC-inscribed belly hanging out for all to see. That makes me proud.