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Saturday, April 29, 2006 

The week that was.

The popular press still can't beat Blair, even with an open goal.

Labour must be wondering whether anything else can possibly can go wrong in just one week. Beleagured by Clarke's incompetence, stunned by the reaction of the usually rather staid Royal College of Nurses to Patricia Hewitt's patronising manner and rhetoric that things have never been better in the NHS, they've now got two more uncomfortable stories to cope with.

Peter Law, the independent candidate for Blaneau Gwent who overturned a Labour majority of 19,313 to win by 9,121 votes, sadly succumbed on Tuesday to the brain tumour which had nearly stopped him from standing in the constituency. Good news for Labour, you would have thought, who were humiliated and angered by the decision of Law to stand against the party he had been a member of for decades. His "Judas" type betrayal in Labour's eyes was directed at decision to impose an all-women shortlist, and not only that, but with a Blairite with impeccable credentials at the top of the list. For a constituency that had previously been represented by Anuerin Bevan and Michael Foot, as well as Llew Smith, neither went down well with the local membership. When their protests went unheeded, Law stood as an independent socialist candidate, and found himself expelled from Labour, along with a number of other activists who supported him.

Time for Labour to heal the wounds you would think? No chance. The local activists stay expelled, even though Labour has apologised for the all-women shortlist, and chose a popular local councillor to contest the seat. It seems that Law's agent is likely to hold up his legacy by standing as an independent, and Labour will once again likely lose thanks to their original arrogance.

All very local you would think, not much for Westminster to be embarrassed about. That was until Law's widow mentioned that he had been offered a peerage to try to get him to stand down. The story has since been confirmed by other friends of Law, who said he had told them a similar tale. It's certainly got Peter Hain worried, who is secretary of state for Wales as well as Northern Ireland, as he's issued a categorical statement that Law was not offered a peerage to step down. He in fact calls it a lie, which is sure to help mend the differences between the expelled activists, friends of Law and the Labour party. The Independent and Guardian both point out that "elderly" Labour MPs are often offered peerages to get them to vacate their parliamentary seats so that someone younger and maybe also more malleable to the Dear Leader can be parachuted in. What neither points out is that the Blairite candidate for Blaneau Gwent, Maggie Jones, formerly of the trade union Unison and a pal of Cherie and Tony, was herself given a peerage for her traumatic experience on general election night.
Also missed out is that she was none too sporting in defeat, blaming a "sympathy" vote for Law's victory. Certainly makes you think that Jones was given the seat that Law could well have had himself had he not been so "stubborn". Also gives a glorious insight into how badly the second chamber needs to be reformed, even if at the moment it is holding out against the worst of this government's excesses.

Then we have today's story, which again makes one wonder whether the police were tipped off about the possible whereabouts of a tiny amount of puff for media purposes. John Reid, that unreconstructed opponent of the smoking ban, who said that one of the few pleasures of some of those on council estates was having a smoke, is needless to say, entirely innocent of any suggestions that it was his. After all, as the "sources" make clear, "hundreds of people" have visited the house and it "could" have been there for 20 years. Convincing arguments all. Perhaps that's what my brother should have told the police when they knocked on the window of his car at 3am in the morning, searched it, found a tiny amount of weed and proceeded to arrest him despite the law saying that having small amounts of the Class C drug is not an arrestable offence. When he didn't come along quietly, they kicked his shins and then gave the backs of his legs the same treatment. He was later fined. Guido also notes that a legalise cannabis protestor had previously sent Reid a small amount of the drug through the mail. Whether it's connected is anyone's guess.

Which brings us to the the third of those attempts (after Blair and Clarke's pre-emptive attacks on the Guardian, Observer and Independent on Sunday and Monday), and by far the most successful. It makes you wonder about the press in this country when they're presented with an open goal involving all those issues which they usually never shut up about, such as immigration, crime and incompetence, that they're more obsessed with the ups and downs of John Prescott's underwear. It seems almost beyond doubt that he's been taking one for the team, apparently already having decided that he was to leave his job once the Dear Leader has also left his. To add insult to injury, his affair with Tracey Temple has attracted the biggest scumbag in the country, Max Clifford, to sell her story to the Mail on Sunday for a sum not less than £100,000. In quite possibly the most hypocritical statement made by a man ever, he said:
It's difficult to describe what it's like when suddenly masses of photographers, journalists turn up on your doorstep and day after day you are reading a lot of things in the national press which are totally untrue about you which is very damaging and very hurtful.

Yes, the Hamiltons would be familiar with what Clifford describes. After all, Max Clifford was heavily involved in the allegations of rape made against them by Nadine Milroy-Sloan, which were completely untrue and resulted in her being jailed for perverting the course of justice. That's not to mention the dozens of other prurient cases which Clifford has had a hand in, including the honeypot trap set up for David Blunkett. Other websites have also been speculating about other possible affairs after Trevor Kavanagh, the Scum's ex-political editor and arse-licking Murdoch lackey went on 5 Live and said:
Learning that John Prescott's had an affair is a bit like learning that Simon Hughes is gay. I mean, everyone knew he has affairs. He's had a string of affairs throughout his life and this has come as no surprise."

Except to his wife maybe. Despite some sharp editorals, and general consensus that Clarke must go, all it takes is for an old man to be revealed to have had an affair and for the England football manager's job to be up for grabs to relegate a story to the far inner pages of the tabloids.

The only tabloid that today leads on Clarke's woes is amazingly the Express, which has gone the longest time for quite a while without putting Diana on the front page. Both the Moron and Sun lead on the England manager position, with the Sun revealing that some manager you've never heard of before has had an affair you couldn't give a shit about even if you knew who he was. The Mail goes with Prescott, mainly because it's having to hype up the kiss and tell story from Temple for tomorrow. What it does show is that the Labour spin machine can still work when it needs to, and it's going to have to go into overdrive if anything is going to be salvaged from next week's local elections. That Clarke still hasn't gone yet makes clear that the populist media can still be put off the trail by being thrown a few juicy bones.

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