Monday, 1 March 2010


Is it time to panic, David? All is not as we expected. Labour are fighting back. With Gordon Brown expected to name the election date shortly, the odds on a Tory majority are getting longer and David Cameron is getting worried. At a conference in Brighton yesterday, he conceded that the party has not yet done enough to convince voters to elect them. The polls show the Tory lead is now just two points ahead of Labour. Surely the electorate won’t let Rupert Murdoch down after The Sun so dramatically switched allegiance to Mr Cameron [pictured in the Daily Mail] last year? It could happen.

The main reason for the lull in an otherwise continuous advancement in support for the Tories over the last few years seems to be that people still don’t know what the party is about. So much of politics is about image and press relations nowadays that voters are missing out on how different parties will affect them at ground-level. It has been something of a running joke over the last few years that nobody knows Cameron’s policies and he just seems like a nice chap. However, the recent ‘I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS’ posters tried to combine the good image he has built up with some real policies.

So what will happen in the next general election? Labrokes are offering 4/7 on a Tory majority, 7/4 hung parliament or 10/1 Labour majority. Nick Clegg still holds an interesting role in helping a party into government, although it is questionable whether Cameron would agree to a Liberal Democrat coalition if it was offered. If the Tories want to get in, they must maintain the good image they have been building up over the last few years but now ensure this is matched with some real, hard-hitting policies. That is what will get them into parliament. At the moment it looks like 7/4 is a good price.

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The future of the BBC is currently as uncertain as ever ahead of a general election. We have had a good indication that the Tories want to scrap the BBC Trust (its regulator), oppose top-slicing the licence fee and want to cut down the whole organisation. The Guardian today looked at the various cutbacks that could be made, including spending more on BBC2 drama and documentaries, improving local radio for older listeners, scrapping 6Music and the Asian Network and cutting down BBC Online and BBC Magazines.

There has been much discomfort from listeners over the proposed closure of 6Music. Pitched as an alternative station like XFM was when first launched, it hasn’t attracted the listeners they expected. Their target market of 20- to 40-year-olds is already well covered by Radio 1 and 1Xtra; stations which also fulfil the BBC public remit of providing live music to a younger adult audience. I therefore think it would be the right decision to close it.

But the closure of the Asian Network could be too politically sensitive for them to go through with it. Although it is not getting good enough listening figures, it is the only major part of the BBC that gives the corporation a direct link with many ethnic minority licence fee payers and should therefore stay. The third point on radio - about improving local stations for older listeners - sounds fair. The BBC needs to keep that older market who tend not to listen to their national radio output so much.

I have a friend who works at BBC Worldwide and asked her last month what she reckons on its future ownership and structure. “Who knows?”, she said. Nobody does know what will happen to it. The sale of a few titles from its magazines arm such as Radio Times or Olive sounds like an interesting idea, but surely when RT is doing so well at the moment they won’t drop it. The commercial part of the BBC has always been a divisive topic, but they must ensure that cuts or funding reallocations across the organisation are always done with the consumers’ interests at heart.

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Boring. I’ve had enough of Wayne Bridge v John Terry. Sort it out, lads. If you really don’t like another footballer, some players believe the best way to settle it is just to punch them and get sent-off; like Jean-Francois Christophe did to Nicky Bailey during Southend v Charlton last Friday! I would never advocate violence, of course, but Amir Khan would have been proud of the Shrimpers midfielder for that one - right in the stomach. Isn’t refusing to shake hands just a little bit childish? Chelsea v Manchester City on Saturday was certainly the only time I’ve paid attention to the player presentation ceremony and it didn’t disappoint for drama.

I feel sorry for Terry. He obviously made a big mistake in sleeping with his team-mate’s ex-girlfriend, but apart from that he has been a great role model in the English game and a solid captain for Fabio Capello. It’s amazing how one mistake can ruin your career. Bridge is being unprofessional for not going to the World Cup, in my eyes. He is clearly unable to forgive and forget, and sees private and professional lives as convergent. It’s time to sort this out before it derails our chances of glory in South Africa this summer. Bridge is the best left-back we’ve got if Ashley Cole remains injured and his private life - or Terry's - should not enter into it.