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Monday, 29 December 2008

Marta’s little adventure – or lessons for people in the “hospitality” industry

Here are some hotels to avoid in Turin – and one to visit.

My partner Marta went home for Christmas, as she always does, to Lecce in Puglia.

It was quite an undertaking, as it often is – especially since Alitalia, which has been going broke since the Middle Ages (and richly deserves to – whoever heard of pilots in a bankrupt firm being chauffeur-driven to the airport?) was cancelling flights at random.

So after a nightmare work week and no sleep for 27 hours she flew from Stansted to Turin to wait there all day before catching the train for a 13 hour trip in the evening.

Still having work to do, she set out to find a hotel with a wi-fi connection.

At the Jolly (comically misnamed) she was quoted a price of €5 per half hour – and you have to log in and out every half hour. No thanks.

At the 5 star (awarded for rapacity) Majestic, €35 an hour. A joke, surely.

Why should Best Western be rebranded Worst Western? “This service is only for hotel guests,” said an amazingly rude cretin who didn’t even want to take her money.

Finally at the little Mercure Stefania and friends made her welcome –and charged her less. They apologised that their lobby wasn’t big enough, fed her with biscuits and coffee and hoped she would come back. So she went and bought them some chocolates.

Bravo, Mercure – and let’s hope the recession throws the rest of you out in the gutter – your natural destination.

Marta was also lucky at the station – two chivalrous heroes risked life and limb by jumping onto the train before it stopped to make sure she got a seat – but not so lucky at Bologna: a one and a half hour delay.

When she got home she had just enough time to shower and freshen up before going to see a client. What a girl!

If any of you are going to Turin- or you know anyone who is - now you know where not to stay.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The Heaviest Element Known to Science

Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of morons promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

That's from a site called Disaboom, sent to me by Alain Pierre.

I will save another excellent joke in bad taste for after Christmas as it doesn't go well with that one.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Countries get the rulers they deserve.

Between them the great Bliar and the Bloated Haggis managed something extraordinary.

In the eleven years since they took over, besides transforming a massive financial surplus into our greatest burden of debt since the end of the second world war (twice as big as that of any other European country but concealed by financial chicanery) they managed to spew over 3,600 laws. Almost one every day.

This achievement is all the more impressive as at the same time the only laws any of us give a damn about - the ones aimed to deter thieves, catch murderers and so on - are being flouted as never before.

Up and down the country the guardians of justice have set about discouraging Carol Services, protecting terrorists, hounding market stall holders, fining motorists and taking care of all those other things dear to the politically correct and scorned by the sensible.

At the same time countless new bodies have been set up - like one of the Haggis's most brilliant "initiatives" - the ludicrously incompetent Financial Service Authority. This priceless exemplar of bureaucratic buffoonery, which totally failed to predict or prevent the financial catastrophe we will all be paying for indefinitely (except me because I'll be dead long before the bill is settled) has reported that its fees could rise by almost £100m to around £400m in 2009 as it "improves supervision of banks".

Very droll. They couldn't supervise a piss-up in a brewery. In fact the total bill for supervising the financial services industry will almost triple to £900m next year. And this is just one of the countless similar bodies set up to supervise all manner of things badly and provide jobs (with pensions) for parasites.

And what does the British Public think about this sort of performance? They think Gordon Brown is a good man to steer us through troubled times.

The man who left "New" Labour such a massive financial surplus to piss away on failing to achieve anything except debt, worse education, more crime, and a couple of unwinnable wars was that old fool John Major.

Remember him? To me he looks like a genius by comparison. Not known for his wit, he commented on Brown's current popularity rather aptly a few days ago, more or less as follows:

"You don't hire the man who just burgled you to come back and fix your alarm system."

Oh, but you do if you're the British voter.

God help us all. Another eleven years and we'll be worse off than Romania. (Where incidentally I met a lot of pretty smart, educated people earlier this year. Here I see that half the kids can't read and write.)

The last country that achieved what this lot have managed was Argentina in the '40s. Juan Peron took the fourth richest country in the world and beggared it. His creed was fascism. Gordon Brown's creed is Get Gordon Brown elected. That will do just as well.

Which begs the question, what is Cameron's creed? Get Cameron elected.

Enough spleen for today. Happy Christmas everyone.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Watch out, jerks about!

"You will want to discover cutting edge knowledge from two thought leaders," was the message I just got from somebody called Spindelman on Facebook.

This asinine piece of patronising jargon was "sent to the members of ZnaTrainer Saturday Blog Radio Interview's The Flow Doctor."

I don't recall signing up for this, which must be something to do with blocked toilets.

It went on to threaten me with losing my job and the assassination of my business as follows:

"Find out what Applicititus is and why it can kill your business and get you fired.

Be There Or Not - The Choice Is Yours.

The Ones Who Are, Will Be Out Of The Recession Before You."

This barrage of tripe was signed

Warmest Regards,

Michael & Zna

I don't believe I want to discover anything from people who can't write decent English, but I must admit I never heard of anyone called Zna before.

As I haven't got a job, and I'm as busy as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest - which always happens when recessions occur - that barrage of mindless tripe didn't really hit the spot.

And Applicititus is an invented name designed to appeal to gullible psycho-inadequates.

So, no I don't think so. You didn't have to send me the message twice. And please don't send me warmest regards. I've never met you.

Just as a postscript to my piece about airport advertising lunacy, when I got back to Heathrow last night the place was festooned with posters for the Guaranty Bank, with the line: Proudly African. Truly International.

Then it listed the countries involved, which included Nigeria, famed for being the most corrupt place on earth and Sierra Leone, famed for being a good place to have a civil war, with the line "Wouldn't you rather bank with us?"

Are you out of your mind, you lunatics? I'd rather bank with Northern Rock. And certainly not with a bank that pisses away its depositors' money on posters like that.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Do I detect somebody being “creative”? Oh dear.

Life is full of laughable little details.

I’m writing this in Zurich en route from New York to Vienna where I hope not to bore some bankers to tears.

The high point of my trip so far was on one of those little trains that whiz you from one terminal to another. There I was, standing morosely in a jet-lagged haze, when just before we jolted to a stop there suddenly came the amplified blast of an Alpenhorn – you know, like an ordinary horn but MUCH louder. This certainly got my attention, especially as it was followed after a brief pause by a very loud burst of choral music and then, just as I was recovering, the amplified sound of a cow mooing.

There was no explanation for this cacophony. I decided it was either a huge practical joke or some sort of Swiss welcome. But at 11 in the morning after a seven hour flight, I can tell you this sort of thing does nothing for the equilibrium.

You can just see how it came about, though, can’t you? The airport people, not content with doing their job by providing a little box that takes you quickly and quietly from one terminal to another probably decided they should do something to symbolize Switzerland. So they called in some denim-jacketed creative consultants who, after a number of demented meetings, came up with this surreal idea – cows, alpenhorns, a burst of loud choir music – then after handing the airport people a handsome bill left smiling in search of the next mug.

This is on a small scale how those scamps at Wolf, Olins managed to rip the London Olympics people off with that hideously ugly logo; but the utterly pointless and airlines somehow seem to go together.

Before boarding at JFK whilst knocking back some Sam Adams beer I saw a poster for Lufthansa. It featured a man smiling vaguely, the way you do when the photographer says, “smile”. The words accompanying this were: “Speaking the international language of international connections. All for this one moment.”

“What moment?” I wondered. The one where you realise you’re at the wrong terminal? The one where you get a dry sandwich wrapped in plastic that you can’t get into? The one where they tell you the flight’s an hour late?

As if this drivel were not enough, there was another line: “There is no better way to fly than Lufthansa”. And in the good old fashioned way, from those neanderthal days when they thought repetition was a means of persuasion, the Lufthansa name was displayed four times in the poster. Probably the sad sods think this is how you build a brand. Not really, mein herren.

This poster was all over the place, and is all over the world. What folly. Does it give a single coherent reason for choosing Lufthansa? Who thought it up? Who approved it? Who sanctioned such a waste of money? Isn’t there a recession in the airline business? Why not use the money to bribe their stewardesses to smile? God knows they ought to try to occasionally.

Now we’re on the subject of stupid advertising I haven’t the patience to go into that pompous drivel from HSBC about how the world would be so much worse if we all agreed about everything (good reason to choose a bank, right?) but this sort of bollocks at airports reminds me of one of Dr. Johnson’s better insults about Sheridan:

“Why, Sir, Sherry is dull, naturally dull; but it must have taken a deal of effort to become as we see him now. Such an excess of stupidity is not in nature”.

All this nonsense is indeed stupid, ineffably stupid; but it takes a great deal of effort to piss away money in so many pointless ways.

Interestingly, one firm that doesn’t indulge in it is Ryanair. They are obsessed with a) making their planes on time and b) selling things. They don’t waste a penny on branding. They appear to be doing quite well.

By the way, the girls on Swissair do smile. Thank you, ladies.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Aren’t you a genius yet? Shame on you!

How fortunate we all are to live in a period when giants stride the earth, I thought this morning.

I was sitting here in Brooklyn’s fabled** Butler Street writing some copy for a client when I heard that “plink” that denotes the arrival of an e-mail.

What was it? It was an invitation to learn from a “world-renowned” copywriter. I get them every day, sometimes more than once. Many of them invite me to have something free, which is nice. And every now and then I learn something I never knew.

Of course, these helpful folk are not ALL world-renowned. Some are world famous, which means the same, I suppose. Many are superstars. A few, more modest, are ”A-list”. A surprising number make millionaires with a rapidity and frequency one can only marvel at. A fair number are legendary, though I have yet to come across one who is mythical. A strange omission, because that often seems to fit the promises made.

On top of all that, the level of inspiration in our ranks is such that a surprising number are geniuses. Even I have been called a genius, which gives you an idea of how devalued the word has become since the days of, say, Shakespeare or Mozart.

All this stuff is what my old boss David Ogilvy stigmatised as “flatulent puffery,” and I date the start of it to the day some twenty years ago when some silly woman came up and addressed me as a guru. I told her I was a pundit, though I doubt if she knew the difference.

But these ludicrous overclaims about a fairly simple skill whose value grows in inverse proportion to educational levels – certainly in the U.K. and U.S. – make it very hard to talk convincingly about what one does.

I have just started working on a little venture with a long-time partner who has won so many awards that about ten years ago when I asked him how many he had, he said he stopped counting after 150.

What the hell level of genius do I put him at? Intergalactic superstar? He is just very, very good and quick. How do I position what we offer without sounding mentally deranged?

I guess I have to settle for being a cherished antique. Maybe I should point out that Verdi wrote one of his best operas at the age of 80 - and sell by analogy. But many readers don't know who Verdi is, let alone what an analogy might be. And then I remember my friend Herschel Gordon Lewis who is even older and more talented than me.

Tough stuff. But I find that recessions always drag the clients blinking out of the woodwork into the harsh light of the real world.

** Very ordinary and almost unknown. You can get crack at the end that is nearest.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Medical miracles

As I'm lying sick in bed, I found this very helpful this morning.

At a medical conference, an Israeli doctor boasted, 'Medicine in my country is so advanced, we can take a kidney out of one person, put it in another, and have him looking for work in six weeks'.

A German doctor said, 'That's nothing! In Germany, we can take a lung out of one person, put it in another, and have him looking for work in four weeks'.

A Russian doctor said, 'In my country medicine is so advanced, we can take half a heart from one person, put it in another, and have them both looking for work in two weeks'.

The English delegate, not to be outdone, said 'Hah! We can take two arseholes out of Scotland, put them in 10 & 11 Downing Street and have half the country looking for work within twenty-four hours'

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Sick, sick, sick

I'm lying in bed feeling sorry for myself. I'm good at that.

Someone in my family I thought I could rely on has let me down badly - more on that when I overcome my rage. But the real problem is November. After ten speeches and seminars in sundry places around Europe, plus the usual amount of copy to write, I've ended up with a filthy cold.

I think it was the snow and wet in Latvia, where I croaked away for five hours - but amazingly 99% enjoyed it say the reviews. They must like a good laugh over there.

But have you noticed how your mind makes strange connections when you're a little feverish? Mine did when over a 24 hour period I saw a piece about Hutch, the suave 1930's pianist from Grenada who had an affair with Edwina Mountbatten and then news of the dreadful slaughter in Bombay (which is, by the way, what many locals still call it).

I stayed in the Taj hotel every time I visited India. It really deserves the name Palace - magnificent. I used to do laps of the pool before I started work each day.

But why the carnage? You might blame Edwina's husband, Lord Mountbatten (sometimes called Mountbottom - can't think why), who presided over the handover that led to partition and the creation of Pakistan. Or maybe Nehru (with whom Edwina also had an affair, busy girl) or Jinnah, the Muslim leader. What is certain is that up to a million died in the massacres that took place - which puts the current drama in perspective.

You can certainly blame the fact that at partition the state of Kashmir with nearly 80% Muslim population remained under Indian control. This crazy arrangement caused predictable enmity between the two nations and has inspired most of the terrorism including the latest outrage.

And if there were British terrorists, you can blame the way our government encouraged so many to immigrate from Pakistan, just as with the West Indians, only for the locals to greet them with racism. Yes, they've been encouraged by religious fanatics, but this would never have worked if they weren't alienated to start with.

The older I get the more I hate religion, race and patriotism. They cause almost all the world's miseries, and always have.

That's enough gloom for today, but as a footnote, Hutch also had an affair with Cole Porter. Why do so many people imagine promiscuity began in the '60s? Because they're not educated, that's why.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Good advice, good food - and a little light music

Back in September my friend Rowan Gormley said a couple of things worth remembering in his hilarious talk at our EADIM seminar in Brussels.

1. Never fall for other people’s bullshit
2. Never fall for your own bullshit

The first comes in handy when some Iconic/Legendary/Superstar /Wunderkind (delete whichever doesn’t apply) promises all you have to do to get disgustingly rich while you sleep is buy a course/set of DVDs/be “mentored”/attend a seminar etc., etc.

The second comes in handy whenever you start feeling pleased with yourself, which happened to me in Warsaw this week. It was at the leading Polish business school, and apparently I got the biggest crowd they’d ever had.

This was not because of me – but because three students did a great marketing job. So I don’t feel that smug, but I do feel grateful. Thanks, Kamila, Rafal and (I never got the other name – shame on me).

Rowan, by the way, is the man who set up Virgin Money, Virgin Finance and Virgin Wines with Richard Branson. Besides being a brilliant speaker, like many good folk he is also an excellent copywriter. But I’m biased.

On an entirely different topic, yesterday my partner cooked an amazing meal. It is a speciality of Puglia: mussels with cannellini, tomatoes and garlic. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Over dinner I heard a recording of Moody’s Mood for Love by Amy Winehouse. I was once very unkind about her in this confessional. I apologise. She may be a foolish, sad girl, but she sure can sing – and she knows her jazz.

Moody’s Mood is fiendishly difficult to do. I first heard it in 1964, sung by King Pleasure – a forgotten name who was one of the pioneers of vocalese – singing words to well-known jazz solos. Another great exponent is Annie Ross, of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross – incredibly, still singing in her mid seventies.

I will never forget when I was about 18 I went to hear her sing in the local dance hall in Ashton under Lyne. She sat and talked to me right through the interval when she wasn’t on. God, she was beautiful –and how kind to spend time with star-struck teenager.

Funny how thoughtful gestures like that stick with you all your life.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Thick? Callous? No shame? Clueless? Can’t accept responsibility? You should do well at stalag Haringey - or maybe in the government

If you're unfamiliar with what's going on in Britain I should explain that a 17 month old baby - called "P" - was tortured to death by his so called mother and lovers (one of whom was a Nazi fan) in Haringey, a North London suburb.

On the Haringey website it says: "The safety of children and young people is a matter for everyone - not just those who work in the child protection service.

If you are worried about a child for any reason, contact us and talk about your concerns. Please do not keep your worries to yourself."

This is a mistake obviously. What they meant was "The safety of children and young people is a matter for everyone - except those who work in the child protection service.

If you are worried about a child for any reason, don't waste time talking to us because our boss doesn't think it's any of her business. Keep your worries to yourself."

You see, this little baby died from repeated beatings despite being on Haringey's "at risk" register. By the sound of it, I imagine, you just have to move there to get on that list - and get the help of "social workers".

Mind you, you're not much better off further North. This happened two days after social workers in West Yorkshire were criticised for failing to save four-year-old Leticia Wright, who was tortured to death by her mother, Sharon Wright, and her boyfriend, Peter McKenzie-Seaton

Social workers had, it seems, 60 chances to spot and stop the torture of baby P – and did nothing. The Director of Haringey’s Children and Young People’s Service since April 2005, Sharon Shoesmith, refused to apologise or resign over the baby’s death.

She said she was just a “facilitator”. Of what? Torture, apparently, since the department she so clearly fails to run did nothing to stop it.

When sixty years ago the Nazis defended themselves against slaughtering millions in their holiday camps they said they were just following orders … it was never their responsibility.

People nearby would say they didn’t know what was going on. They had excuses, too - and one was very compelling. They would say it was nothing to do with them; but more to the point, they couldn’t have stopped it if they tried, which would have been very dangerous anyhow.

But what about people who are paid to stop appalling cruelty, and can't be bothered, or even say "it's nothing to do with me"? At least the people who turned a blind eye in Germany were not employed to prevent it.

But Sabah al-Zayyat, consultant paediatrician was. She - the last doctor to see Baby P alive, two days before his death - didn't notice a broken back and ribs. She thought the baby had a cold. And the examination "could not be completed" because the baby was “miserable and cranky”. What a surprise, and how awful that a doctor should have to deal with cranky babies. It shouldn't be allowed. Sabah used to have a senior job at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, by the way. Bit of a worry.

Then there is Maria Ward appointed social worker for Baby P on February 2, 2007, and making her first visit 20 days later. Baby P’s mother reassured her that she was OK. Four days before Baby P died, Ms Ward found him in his pushchair with chocolate all over his face and hands.

The chocolate was to cover up the bruises. Ms Ward was happy to leave the boy with his mother because she appeared to be "co-operative and properly supported" whatever that means. She still works at Haringey Council.

And how about Paulette Thomas, the health visitor who saw the boy only four times in six months but did a one-year check and reported “no concerns”. Gilly Christou a “team manager” – what a team! - at Haringey Social Services, reported in March that the baby “appears to have a high pain threshold”.

She said: “It is concerning he does not seem to react to danger or pain. Only his mother can stop him, he does not seem to stop himself”

What a dreadful bunch. Are they graded for stupidity before being taken on?

You just know, don't you, that those responsible at higher levels were warned, but did nothing. A lawyer acting for M/s Nevres Kemal, a former social worker at Haringey, wrote to then health secretary Patricia Hewitt - and three other ministers in the shambles she ran - calling for an investigation into the authority's failings in dealing with child abuse cases.

"Statutory child protection procedures are not being followed. Child sex abusers are not being tackled," said the letter sent to Ms Hewitt last February. Did Hewitt do anything? A glance at her record will give you a sure-fire answer. Like a good Bliar Babe, she ordered an enquiry, and all those bodies with meaningless initials that clog up the running of this country started passing the parcel.

The letter was passed to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), which wrote back suggesting the matter should be referred to the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) which regulates social care in England.

"Our records show that we received a letter dated February 16th 2007 that was forwarded to us from the Department of Health, detailing an employment tribunal issue with Haringey Council, and containing an allegation that child protection procedures were not being followed in Haringey," the department said. (Who the fuck pays all these useless minions? We do.)

"The permanent secretary of the DCSF has looked at the reply and is confident that the proper procedures were followed." Well, that's OK, then. If the procedures were followed, how could anything go wrong.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) said it raised the allegation directly with Haringey at a formal meeting and was satisfied the council had dealt properly with the case.

The rot clearly infests Haringey, because this the second such case in 8 years. There was a dreadful scandal after eight-year-old Victoria Climbie was maltreated and murdered by her guardians in 2000, and everything (the procedures, anyhow) was tightened up. Or not, as the case turned out.

Good to know that those of who work in the real world will be helping to pay the guaranteed pensions of creatures like Shoesmith. Dare we hope that if by some happy accident someone gave her a good slapping a nearby policemen will say "Sorry, Miss, I'm just a facilitator."

Sorry, Rich, you're wrong about Obama

A few years ago I did a seminar for Kendall-Jackson, the big wine-maker.

The attendee who paid most attention was Jess Jackson, the firm's 70 plus billionaire boss.

Before that, in my first board meeting at the Ogilvy group, I noticed that David Ogilvy took more notes than anyone else.

There's a moral there. The best people study more.

I may not be an Ogilvy or a Jackson, but I try to keep learning, especially about the new media.

This morning I read that Rich Schefren claims that the real reason Obama won was better social marketing. I quote:

Since the conventions, blog posts mentioning Obama outnumbered those referencing McCain by more than 3 to 1.

--Obama's number of MySpace friends grew steadily over the past few months while McCain's remained relatively flat. By election day, Obama had almost 4 times the number of friends McCain had

--While those MySpace figures are remarkable, the Twitter stats are even more eye-popping. Obama had nearly TWENTY FOUR times the amount of followers that McCain had.


And it doesn't end there. I found similar numbers for FaceBook and YouTube usage as well, with Obama clearly outpacing McCain.

Obama's tactic was a masterpiece--targeting the younger, more technically literate crowd (many who had never voted or even bothered to register) and hit them right where they live--on social networking landscape.

The subsequent result was a MASSIVE following that grew larger and larger by the day. And those same people made a huge impact at the polls.

So what does this all mean? ...

Well, what it means, as usual, is that good ole Rich is about to sell me something - which comes as no surprise.

But what it also means is that Rich is appealing to all those simple folk who like to think there is a nice easy pat answer (and solution) to everything, and who keep buying all these "I'll make you rich" nostrums.

Of course, Rich will give you very good advice, as do most of the others like him. But sorry, nothing in life is that simple. Not even remotely.

First of all, it was not just the "younger, more technically literate crowd (many who had never voted or even bothered to register" that swung it. It was also the older, black, not very literate crowd - like the 103 year old man whose example was often quoted.

And it was not just social marketing. It was overwhelming TV advertising. It was being black but not too black. It was being a better speaker. It was "the economy, stupid". It was reaching into neighbourhood churches. It was not having Sarah Palin. It was guilt about race. It was many things.

By coincidence, last week I did a one hour webinar for my Eadim students called "Your army" which dealt with the way so many people think one weapon will win a war. I didn't mention Obama. I started by quoting Sun Tzu and suggested 10 different weapons you can use to achieve your ends, to a variety of audiences.

The real problem with most marketers was well put by Neitszche. "To a man with hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Bliar's friend does it again

I must apologise.

I was going to write about the £12 million the great Bliar has earned from making speeches since he left this country in the shit and in the gentle care of the Prudent Haggis.

I was thinking of likely titles. "How Dubya and I found victory in Iraq and Afghanistan" seemed a runner. Or "Cherie is right. I really am a better leader than Winston Churchill" and perhaps "Why Silvio always gives me a big wet goodnight kiss when we stay at his villa".

Then of course Silvio Berlusconi spoilt my plan rather as he is busy running what's left of Italy by excelling himself, with his remark about Obama being "good-looking, young and tanned". This is what passes for wit amongst racist ex-cruise ship crooners and it produced a wonderful riposte in the form of a banner carried by one of the many thousands who marched in protest: "Better young and tanned than a bald dwarf."

Nobody knows where Tony's friend got his money from, but everybody knows that each time he gets into power he passes laws to prevent himself being investigated and prosecuted. Poor Italy.

The country reminds me of the famous saying about another country - Mexico - also full of wonderful people betrayed by corrupt politicians and unbelievably vicious criminals. "So near to the United States, and so far from God".

By the way, have you seen "Gomorra" the absolutely wonderful film about the Camorra in Naples? Those are the kind of people Berlusconi appears to favour. As soon as he got into power the first time he dismissed the heroic (and often fatal) efforts of the honest magistrates of Italy. What an utter shit. When you mix with people like that it says something about you.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Nouns into verbs ... good enough for Shakespeare

Here's a bit of trivia for you.

My partner was just taking the piss out of something she was reading, which ran: "When I chaired my first session, I tabled a resolution ...."

Then she burst out laughing and said, "And did they then wardrobe something and desk something else?"

I took her to task instantly, pointing out that we work in an industry where people don't try anything, they "trial" it.

I don't know why I find this habit of turning nouns into verbs irritating, because Shakespeare did it all the time.

I just got that off my chest because I've been writing all day long and my brain is frying.

My next piece will be about the Bliar's £12 million and how he earned it ...

Saturday, 1 November 2008

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

That is from Emerson, and occurred to me because after being so rude about religion, I found something a month or so ago, by a bishop whose name, I shamefacedly admit I did not note.

But The Church of England comes out with so much politically correct hogwash today that it was a blessing to find something not just good, but inspiring.

Here it is. I think very appropriate for these troubled times. I was very moved.

A COUPLE of years ago I was due to lead an assembly at a Church of England comprehensive school that I visited regularly. This is a tough gig: seven or eight hundred adolescents, crowded into a hall first thing on a Monday morning and forced to endure a hymn, a prayer, a worthy talk and, usually, a ticking off.

On this occasion my anxiety levels were particularly high since I had not really prepared anything much to say. It was the beginning of Lent and I had a vague idea about encouraging them to take something up rather than give something up, but as I walked to the school I became all too aware that my situation was similar to driving in the fast lane of the motorway, with no petrol in the tank, and realising you’ve just gone past the services.

But these moments of panic can also be moments of prayer, moments when we are more open to the wiles of God. And it was almost as I got up to speak that a crazy idea was suddenly born within me. I stood up and found myself saying something like this:

‘We live in a crazy, frantic world. Our world is full of movement and noise. Even this morning, in the few hours since you woke up, you have probably filled your time with the radio, the TV, the computer, the PlayStation; you’ve probably phoned someone and texted half a dozen others. As you got dressed, washed, showered, ate your breakfast and came to school, noise and busyness have accompanied your every move.

I believe many of the world’s problems are caused by our inability to sit still and to be quiet and to reflect. I believe that, in this season of Lent, we should try to give upbeing so frantic, and we should take on some moments of stillness.’

Then I stopped, as if I had lost my thread (actually, it felt as if the thread were being handed to me inch by inch, and even I was not aware what was at the end). And I said to them, ‘Hey, you don’t know what on earth I’m talking about, so let me give you a demonstration. Let me show you what I mean. This is what I’m suggesting you do, each day in Lent, for exactly one minute. It will change your life.’

I then picked up a chair, placed it in the centre of the stage, and slowly and carefully sat down upon it, with my feet slightly apart and with my back straight and with my hands resting gently on my knees. And, for a minute, I sat still. I didn’t say anything, and I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t even consciously praying. I was just sitting there. And I breathed deeply, and I thought about my breathing. And when I reckoned the minute was over, I stood up.

But before I could say my next bit, there was a huge, spontaneous round of applause. Now, I had done lots of assemblies in that school. On many occasions I had slaved over what I would do or say to capture the imaginations of young people. But I had never had a response like this. In fact, in the days that followed, I was stopped in the street on several occasions by parents who told me that their child had come home and told them about the priest who took assembly and just sat on the stage in silence for a minute and then suggested they might do the same thing.

Because, when the applause died down, that’s what I’d said. I just suggested that sitting still, being silently attentive to things deep within ourselves and things beyond ourselves, would make a difference. You didn’t need to call it prayer. You didn’t need to call it anything, because it would be in these moments of sedulous stillness that God could be discovered.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Will this idiocy ever stop?

If you're in the marketing/advertising game, you're probably familiar with the expression "beauty parade".

It's applied to something called pitching - one of the most stupid ideas of
all in a business that's not short of them. Nonetheless, almost every major marketer follows this exceptionally wasteful practice. In fact a large and lucrative industry has grown up to extract money from them.

If you're not familiar with the epic pointlessness of it - and even if you are -
here’s pretty much how it usually goes.

1. A large firm gets a new marketing director.

2. Among the many things he or she does – like changing everything his predecessor did, good or bad – one is to change the agency, good or bad.

3. The aim is often, but not always, to get old friends in. And always to prove that whatever the previous marketing director did was wrong.

4. A statement is then issued to the Trade Press. These media are for the most part so bum-numbingly dull that the only thing of interest to readers is what might make money. So the statement - printed almost verbatim because trade journals are usually happy to get material they can publish without having to write or think - produces a torrent of phone calls, e-mails and letters from agencies

5. The client is either too busy changing everything, too idle or too ill-informed to know which agencies might be good at the job, so a firm of vultures is hired (at some expense) to suggest who should be allowed to "pitch" for the account.

6. These firms who help on such occasions are rather like estate agents, fulfilling no useful purpose but increasing costs all round. Quite impartially, of course, they suggest (usually too many) firms who have paid one way or another to be put on such lists and who seem on the face of it to be qualified.

7. Vast sums of money, far too much time, and altogether too many dreary meetings attended by altogether too many people are devoted to the agencies putting together proposals and the clients reviewing them.

8. A “short list” is created of firms the client likes the look of - maybe because their reception areas look like smart restaurants, or because they trot out so much quasi-academic drivel that they must be clever. To be fair the client may have been drafted in from an entirely different industry because of some "vision" someone has had, and has yet to understand the business fully anyhow.
9. More meetings take place, much speculative creative work is produced at great expense, and then in a series of presentations (with more meetings to talk about them) the client decides who will get the account.

10. This is often determined by how much the client likes the "strap-line". This is usually a boastful, fatuous or downright lying statement the client likes the sound of which will either achieve nothing or actually infuriate those it is supposed to persuade. Good examples are "Tax doesn't have to be taxing" for the merciless bastards at the Inland Revenue or "Make the most of now" for the twats at Vodaphone. Such lines should only be used if you can prove they increase sales - but that's another subject.

11. Often the client has a committee to review the work, largely composed of people who know nothing about marketing, and who have certainly never had to risk their own money – a very healthy and educative experience, by the way. Sometimes they "mark" the agency using a ludicrous check-list which has nothing to do with results ("8/10 for being the kind of people I could get on with").

12. Quite often the cost of all this charade goes up further because the creative work is researched. This usually gives absolutely no indication of whether it will work, and often is 180 degrees wrong, because customers have no idea of what they will do until they are actually asked to part with cash.

13. The account is assigned.

14. Much mutual back-slapping takes place, and the client is taken to some fashionable, if overpriced eateries, owned by millionaire cooks who pop in between broadcasts to cast their refulgence over dazzled diners and scream at the chefs.

15. Since the agency selected knew even less about the business than the client, it is now asked to produce more work which reflects something slightly more related to the facts. This is then run and either works or more often doesn't, though nobody is quite sure because there is no intelligent attempt to find out.

There are other ways of choosing agencies which I won't go into in any detail, but they are based on other barely relevant theories like who will charge the lowest fees or that the client has done a deal to "align" itself with a particular agency all over the world. In the first case, you get what you pay for, and in the second a lot of hardworking people at the lower levels get pissed off by having to deal with a bunch of arrogant agency people they didn't choose and don't like.

So now you know one or two good reasons why so much marketing fails - and also why people keep chopping and changing their advertising, often for the worse and for no discernible reason.

If you want your marketing to work, just find the people who appear best qualified, based on proper research by you – if you are the person responsible. Don't delegate to people whose careers are not on the line in the way yours is.

Then get the two or at most three agencies who have the best record of getting measurable results, preferably in similar situations, and can explain exactly how and why they got them, to create work you can test.

Once you appoint the winners, keep testing their work against that done by others, but don't threaten them constantly with the thought of losing the business.

Any fool should know all this, but clearly many don’t. Some, who work in “general” advertising - i.e. the kind that doesn’t bother too much with results - say this is because they can’t measure them or, even more fatuous, say they're only interested in brand building, results can wait.

This is all bollocks. All you have to do is ask people to respond in some way to your messages – the only way you know someone read or watched or heard them. If they have, you're building your brand. If they haven't, you're not. And don't believe it can't be done. It can, even in stuff not primarily designed to get a response. At the simplest level, use your website visits as a measure.

One of my clients spent the better part of a year going through the process I have just described. They ended up with some pretty good work (not by us, I should explain, as we refuse to take part in these costly charades). But I think they were quite lucky, even though they are pretty smart people.

What has really distressed me over the years is how little results - which I would have thought were the onlything that counts - seem to matter to people.

A few years ago someone at one of the Scottish banks told a crowded meeting that every single time they had used us, we had bested their incumbent agency. We never got the business, and I am delighted the bank in question is in the toilet. They deserve it. If I could push their chairman's head down in it I'd be delighted

More recently, we comprehensively bested another agency in a whole series of tests - so much so that client said he had never seen anything like it. Did we get the business? No. I hope to see them in the same place as the bank.

And in another case a client moved his account because he used to work for the boss of another agency. It took their creative people two years of trying to beat the copy I wrote for them.

This little cri de coeur is based on one of the helpful marketing ideas I send out regularly, so if you're on the list, you'll get a more polite version eventually. I just think it's important enough to post here, because the way the economy is, we really can't afford this kind of wasteful bullshit.

Monday, 27 October 2008

I feel such a fool, Gordon . You're a financial genius really

The great economist Keynes said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?"

I remembered this when Gordon B, with one bound, saved the world. All the experts who'd been saying he was bloody useless suddenly decided he was really a financial mastermind because at last he got something right, even if he had it wrong to start with.

"Which experts do you mean, you miserable old curmudgeon?" you ask. Why, the very experts who before they decided he was bloody useless stated with equal certainty that he was a financial titan, a paragon of prudence.

All the world's statesmen suddenly decided he was genius, too. (They're the ones who thought the Bliar was brilliant, by the way)

Well, I may be wrong but I am consistent. I always said that slimy Tony was innately dishonest, and I've always said Brown was a financial nutcase. And in the paper two nights ago he didn't let me down.

"Gordon Brown vows to spend his way out of the financial crisis" I read. This means, in English, he is going to spend our money to do so.

This is the money that was sloshing around by the billion before he got hold of it 11 years ago, all of which - and more - has been squandered on schemes to improve the health service, lower the crime rate, better the schools or calm down quarrelsome fanatics in Iraq and Afghanistan. None of them have worked.

Come to think of it, the stock market doesn't seem to have recovered yet, so maybe he hasn't saved the world after all.

Mind you he has, to be fair, succeeded gloriously in reducing our pensions - though not those of public servants whom our contributions subsidise. Did you know that, by the way? Yes. They laugh - we pay.

Then I read in the same paper two wonderfully juxtaposed statements.

First, "More public sector jobs will be created." And - the great bloated haggis's own words: "The way the economy prospers is by rewarding effort and enterprise."

We all know what a great contribution to enterprise more public servants will make, don't we? Just think: they could export great steaming mounds of politically correct bullshit to the waiting markets of the world.

I can see boatloads of it being shovelled onto the waiting wharves in far off places. Ill-written, jargon-clotted manuals on gay and transgendered monitoring will be read gratefully by civic servants in Mumbai. The abstruse skills of rape co-ordination as practiced in the back-streets of the Midlands will be studied avidly in those parts of the Indian Subcontinent or Nigeria where today they do it in such a regrettably random fashion.

Nice one, Gordon. Did you ever think of trying marketing by the way? I know Cameron was in PR, which explains why he's such weasel. But you're such a bozo I often wonder whether you wouldn't do well as, say, marketing director for Barclays. They change them pretty frequently, so maybe they could fit you in. If you just changed all those stupid "Hole-in-the-Wall" signs outside we'd be ever so grateful**

Note to overseas readers. A while ago Barclays Bank hired a new marketing director. You might think his job was to make more more money for them, but his main stroke of genius was to festoon the branches with silly signs which attempted to speak in the "customers' own language".

So all the cash machines were renamed Holes in the Wall. How this improved their profits one cannot imagine - I imagine it blew a small hole in them, as it certainly cost a lot of money. I often wonder whether it occurred to him that we like our bankers to talk like bankers, not drunks in a pub.

Why the markets crashed - the truth

If you want the real explanation (and the funniest) watch this.

These two men have been making me laugh for over 40 years. Try to ignore the extremely posh English accents if you're not from here; just listen carefully. You will like it.


Friday, 24 October 2008

The triumph of horseshit

I am just recovering from doing a seminar followed by a grand dinner in Almaty, which - as you all know, don't you? - is the biggest city in Kazakhstan.

This country is startlingly unlike the funny film that made so many Americans look so ignorant/racist. There are no less than 100 nationalities living here, because comrade Stalin shipped a lot of people here than he didn't like - in large numbers. How bizarre that so many people in Russia see the murderous old bugger as a hero.

So as a result of his forced migrations there is an amazing variety of looks here, from the original locals who look oriental - and often very striking - to most of the others who look European. Anyhow, they are very hospitable (and smart) people and do seem to like a drink or too, I was pleased to discover. In fact the only disconcerting thing for me is that the national dish is horse, which for no very logical reason I don't care for. I recommend the goat.

Meanwhile, I got a couple of messages from friends to remind me just how full of horseshit the wacky world of capitalism is.

My Aussie partner Mal tells me that "A mate of ours was dis-established by his company today. In other words the bastards fired him." And one of my old colleagues send me a quote from a database "guru" who felt impelled to tell the world that:

"Qualitative research is essential to get to the heart of customers and understand how they think, feel and act through the mediation of thalamus, cerebral cortex and amigdala.

I recommend one on one in-depth interviews and the creation of consensus maps, the consensus being portrayal of how customer segments or communities relate to your marketing communications, brand and/or product, as well as the category in general.”

I suppose some mugs will read this twaddle and say, "I don't quite understand that but it sounds very deep. This man can help me. After all, he is a professor."

No he can't. If you can't understand it, don't buy it. These guys charge by the syllable.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

A sad confession

I normally pride myself on supplying my own jokes, but this one is just too good to ignore: http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/business/government-takes-60%25-stake-in-al%11qaeda-200810141322/

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

What America’s politicians really, really don’t get about the art of persuasion

I get at regular intervals messages from a liberal friend in San Francisco (where else?)

Quite a few are very funny – and currently most are aimed at McCain and Palin.

I’m staying with my son in Brooklyn. His wife watches Bill Maher, who makes lots of jokes about McCain and Palin. They’re funny, too. Jon Stewart is hilarious along the same lines.

But this is all just political masturbation. It pleases those involved immensely, but gets no useful results.

These messages simply confirm people in their prejudices. They do nothing to persuade (if they are seen by them) Republicans – in fact they probably strengthen their views.

And I wager they do little to sway the undecided – indeed, they build sympathy for those attacked. Lots of people will relate to Sarah Palin, for instance.

If you want to persuade, start with where people are – what they are thinking. Not with what you are thinking.

Sympathy with the shortcomings of your opponent will go a lot further, spiced with the odd damaging disclosure.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

My prayer for the recession

Good times breed bad habits – as we have all discovered, or – as the gentlemen on the left observed, “prosperity doth best discover vice; adversity doth best discover virtue”. More about him in a minute.

Here are few things I hope will be curbed in the coming months.

1. Wankers running tinpot businesses who call themselves “Chief Executive Officer”.
2. Anyone not in the armed forces or something similar calling themselves any kind of Officer, especially a Chief Officer
3. Idiots talking about Brand Values, Brand Equity and so on who don’t know what a brand is.
4. In the same vein, twats explaining that it doesn’t matter that you got no replies, it affected awareness.
5. Tarts of both sexes who never opened a book on marketing being employed at agencies and ending up running them - often into the ground.
6. Ditto at clients
7. Ignoramuses who keep asking me if long copy works.
8. The same fools asking me “does this work when selling to business?”
9. Overpaid tossers getting jobs as marketing directors, changing things for the sake of it, screwing everything up then getting another job.
10. This especially in respect of financial institutions like Barclays Bank
11. People who know less than the square root of fuck-all about marketing being allowed to employ marketing directors, and not checking their credentials properly, which explains the above
12. The phrase Human Resources, and the practice of employing people in that role who have all the humanity of a Gestapo officer.
13. Good company names being replaced by ones nobody understands – e. g. Aviva and LV (which used to mean Luncheon Vouchers – and probably still does to most of what used to be Liverpool Victoria’s elderly customers.) See 9 above.
14. Big organisations paying millions to have stupid designs nobody understands disfiguring the streets – e.g. the Olympic logo.
15. All compliance departments, who should be violently assaulted every hour until they realise their pestilential activities are only supportable if somebody sells something, and that neither their job nor their limited talents run to writing copy.
16. All use of the word strategy and variations applied to trivial matters like what should go in a headline.
17. Payment of ludicrous sums to anybody who specialises in anything “online” because the buffoons who cough up don’t realise that customers don’t grow a second head when they sit in front of a computer.
18. Witless, cod-philosophical slogans plastered all over the world, as in “Make the most of now” or “I am who I am because of everyone” – maybe more appropriately rephrased as “I write this kind of drivel because I’m an arsehole.”
19. All of us telling people what we’re doing now on those bloody social sites as in “I’ve just farted” or “Drayton Bird has just farted and hopes nobody notices”.
20. “Gurus” who keep telling me I’ll be disgustingly rich in 3 months if I only buy their astonishingly expensive set of DVDs, plus notes with free stuff worth three zillion dollars/turn up to/listen to their free seminar – and “don’t believe those other crooks who say the same thing, ‘cos I’m the honest one.”

Oh. Who is the gentleman in fancy dress? Sir Francis Bacon, whose essays are among the best-written things in the English language. Some people think he wrote Shakespeare. He was Attorney-General to Elizabeth 1 and James 1.

He also nearly had his head chopped off for taking bribes – but he was a lawyer, after all. His defence was he took the bribes but did nothing. What a scamp. He would have done well in Nigeria. Or Italy for that matter, and quite possibly working for Ken Livingstone, London’s cheeky former mayor.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Fancy an interesting job?

If you want to know what has been done with the money you have paid in tax, apart from propping up banks that can’t count, go no further than the jobs pages of The Guardian.

Because there are the jobs that Gordon (and before him, the Bliar) created. What I like most about them is the titles. For instance in Walsall, a small town in the Midlands of this great nation, the community has the invaluable assistance of a Teenage Pregnancy Support Worker.

There’s an interesting job for you, propping up pregnant juveniles as they stagger out of the pub. But not half as good as that of Rape Co-ordinator, which office is filled in one of the London Boroughs. What essential task does this individual fulfil, I wonder? Suppose I am planning a few rapes, and I want someone to coordinate them for me, will this person do the job, or do I have to carry on working it out for myself? It’s a funny old world.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Underpants and Aussie politics - a fond reminiscence

Your're not going to believe this, but life really is stranger than fiction.

My second wife, Anna, was actually born Aroha Te Paora, and was a descendant of chief Honi Heke, the last man to start a shooting war with the Brits in New Zealand.

I can't recall if I have mentioned her before, but she was startlingly beautiful, and, she left New Zealand and went to Australia to seek her fortune. There, after a series of improbable adventures, she became involved with Lionel Murphy, a lawyer and politician.

Lionel, with whom I once had a drunken lunch in the Bistro in Sydney, became Attorney General in the Whitlam government. He and Whitlam, in the great Labour tradition, hated each other and eventually Lionel got thrown out of his job becoming, if memory serves me right, Chief Justice on New South Wales.

New South Wales has a great tradition of corrupt politics, and Lionel was accused of doing something dodgy and about to be hauled up for it when he died. Having seen him on the sauce, I'm surprised he lasted that long.

All this sprang to mind when I read about Matt Brown the minister of police in the current New South Wales Labour government who has had to resign because, as the party leader said, there had been "too many reports of you in your underpants for me to ignore". It seems the sprightly fellow had mounted the chest of fellow MP Noreen Hay and simulated the sexual act.

After wondering fleetingly if Noreen has big tits, I thought how much more fun politics are over there. I haven't been since February. Must hurry back before I miss anything else.

Over here all we get is a lot of chat about which mug will inherit the Brown "legacy" aka a mountain of debt from the king of financial prudence.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

"If their brains were gunpowder they couldn't blow their noses"

As a lover of the well-turned phrase, I've always liked that one, but I'm just re-reading P. G. Wodehouse and being reminded just how funny he is.

He summed up one character's I. Q. thus: "Had his brain been constructed of silk, he would have been hard put to it to supply sufficient material to supply a canary with a pair of cami-knickers."

That being the case, the chap in question - one Archibald Mulliner - would probably been ideally suited as a senior marketing man in one of our dwindling number of banks.

This occurred to me when I saw, a few minutes ago, a commercial touting the mortgages offered by one of these lumbering behemoths - Natwest, to be exact. Is it possible that any of those responsible have their heads so firmly jammed up their arses that they don't know that people in this country are not exactly gagging for mortgages, or indeed anything else the banks have to offer.

Of course their advertising agency will a) be happy to make the money, and b) too idle or stupid to give them good advice; but don't they know that when you have demonstrated to all and sundry in the most spectacular fashion possible that you couldn't run a brothel on a troop train the wise course is to keep quiet until everyone's forgotten. God, what idiots.

Incidentally, a few years ago when I was handling American Express the head of their bank commented to me that he had never met so many stupid people as he found at the top of the U.K. banks.

And now that we're on the subject, I remember asking Robert Heller over lunch one day why he thought the banks were so useless at marketing. He said they should have stuck to what they were supposed to do - managing money. But of course the sad bastards can't even do that properly.

Mind you, they're all still up to their dirty tricks. Barclay's just ripped off one of my flastmates £44 for being £8 over her limit. They really have mastered the art of negative PR, haven't they? The way they behave their reputations must be at about the same level as paedophiles'. But more stupid.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Comedian of the week ... He-e-e-e-r-e's Patrick!

Email marketers, doncha love 'em?

Step forward, Patrick McGlone of cvent.com who sent me the following quite astonishing message, headed (unbelievably):

Lunch Seminar - Best Practices for Event Management, Web Surveys and Email Marketing

This strikingly imaginative heading was followed by Complimentary lunch seminar and then a rather curt greeting:

Charles, (Er, who?)

I hope all is well at Drayton Bird Associates Ltd. Cvent has enjoyed having you as our customer and we look forward to continuing to work together in the future. We are very excited for the upcoming year, as we will be releasing several new products and services.

As a valued customer, we'd like to invite you to a complimentary Cvent luncheon and product seminar in Greater London. While this is primarily a sales presentation, hundreds of our existing customers have attended and told us that these product seminars have helped them to discover new product features and enhance their use of the Cvent system.

So this is best practice?

Apart from the way they are so excited about what's happening to them - a sort of corporate masturbation, because who gives a shit ...

... I have never heard of Cvent. If I have ever done business with them, I can't recall it. And they certainly don't know me, because my name is Drayton. In fact just to help out cretins we call our firm Drayton Bird Associates.

This all prompted me to wonder what worst practice might be. Could it be starting messages with something more creative, like "Hello, Fuckwit"?

Anyhow, this majestically useless piece of incompetent drivel (which they sent me not once but three times) ends with the following dangerous suggestion: Also, please do not forget about Cvent’s Referral Program! If you refer a colleague or associate to us and they become a Cvent client within 6 months, we will extend to you a £125 reward of your choice.

No doubt this inspired approach to the concept of best practice gets plenty of mugs to come along, but to me it looks like spam, and I am trying to think of three marketers I really hate ...

For instance there is a man called Paul Liesching who ripped us off big time a couple of years ago with a thing called Teddiphone ... but he's too smart to fall for this, I'm afraid. He was certainly too smart to pay us what he agreed.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Advice from two millionaires

I greatly fear my old boss thinks I’m an idiot – so I’m going to change, starting now

A while ago I went to have dinner in New York with him. He was CEO of the Ogilvy Group when I adorned the worldwide board as all-round buffoon and trouble-maker.

He asked me:

“Do you make any money out of your blog?”

I replied, “No, I just do it for fun.”

He gave me that special look he reserves for idiots. I gathered that (not for the first time) he thought I was making a mistake.

Since his apartment alone is worth about twenty times more than me, he's probably right.

So I thought I would tell you about the www.eadim.com course we ran in Brussels two weeks ago. (If you're not in marketing, stop reading here)

We never promoted this event much outside Europe – not even in the U. K. – though I did ask people who read this blog about it.

Anyhow, to my astonishment, two people flew in from Australia, and one from South Africa to attend, so I guess that was a mistake on my part (again) – not promoting it in more countries, I mean.

It was such an exhausting experience (and we have a fair amount of work to do for clients anyhow) that it's taken us this long to recover and look through the comments

One delegate (who actually runs the direct marketing association in Latvia) said:

“Extremely valuable week. Probably the second most valuable after I learned to read and count”.

The same man commented that if the week had ended on Tuesday (after two days) it would have been worth it.

“Thank you a lot once more for such a nice week. I could not sleep yesterday because of all these ideas were rushing in my mind” – a senior Credit Card Manager from Austria

“It was the most valuable week of my life. I learned a lot and I’m very pleased that I had the opportunity to be in Brussels together with so talented speakers.” – a PR executive with Volkswagen in Romania

“I liked the top quality and experience of the speakers from so many different places and backgrounds and how amazingly consistent they were. No contradictions or ambiguities.” - a senior car insurance marketer from Portugal.

"I was humbled by the level of expertise and entrepreneurship on the course ... and that was just among the students! EADIM is for people who are serious about wanting to get ahead." – an English copywriter

“It was a great opportunity to network with the best in the industry.” - an Australian entrepreneur

There were pages of comments like that. It reassured me that there is a market for people who realise there is more to direct marketing than pumping out a stream of "who else wants to be a squillionaire in three months" e-mails, getting your friends to do the same and sharing the spoils.

I suspect that what people liked was the fact that they saw speakers who are just not on the circuit.

One of the best liked (and the average rating was just over 90%) was Rowan Gormley who has started three businesses with Richard Branson. His description of his first conversation with that gentleman and how they worked together was just hilarious.

For me the most interesting contribution came from someone who was not actually there. The week before on the spur of the moment I went and did a 58 minute video interview with Peter Hargreaves, chief executive of an investment firm worth about £780 million.

He and his partner started it in his spare bedroom with a borrowed typewriter. The day I interviewed him his results were 42% up - as the rest of the world of finance was collapsing.

What a fascinating and very funny man. He's written a book which I've read in draft, but which is not yet out. What he had to say about big companies, banks, meetings and how to handle people was worth the week on its own.

And guess what? He still writes a lot of his own copy - which is one reason why I've never been able to get enough work out of his firm.

If you want to know when we plan the next event, tell me and I'll keep you informed. Who knows - you could even get a good deal.

Numbers are limited to 40 maximum because people liked getting to know the speakers personally. We hosted a dinner for a different group of delegates each night so they could do so.

The downside, of course, was having to listen to my dire jokes.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Eurostar blazes! But not with any competence, believe me

Well, I bet you thought you'd got rid of me - no blog for quite a while ... and just as you thought it was safe to come out, here I am again.

For the last week I've been in Brussels doing our first EADIM seminar. It's been the best of times and the worst, because the speakers have been magnificent - and the delegates far more knowledgeable and sophisticated than we ever expected. What's more, two came from Australia and one from South Africa, which is pretty encouraging.

But today we finish ... then we have to get back to London ... via Eurostar ... if it's running. It is the worst of times. We have nowhere to stay. Plane flights are a major rip-off. It costs £900 to rent a car and drive back to London. Thanks Hertz.

I have no idea what will happen, because the monkey at Eurostar in charge of telling people what's happening is 100% bloody useless. Their website tells you the square root of f**k all. Their phone service is studiously vague.

Welcome to the information age, where everyone has the technology - but nobody has a clue.

Maybe they should hire an astrologer to predict the time when trains might run again.

No wonder the damn trains are practically empty. Wankers.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

"Difficult social issues" said Mr. Bean, with typical British understatement

I let fly a snort of rage the other morning, thereby plastering my computer screen with quivering snot.

The cause was Mr Bean, deputy governor of the Bank of England, who had said "millions of families will be put under social strain because of the present economic crisis." How very perceptive. If all one of our leading financial experts can say is what anyone with an ounce of sense has known for months, why doesn't he find a job more fitted to his talents - like cleaning toilets?

What is putting millions of families under a lot of strain is the unbridled greed and incompetence of bank bosses paid million pound salaries plus million pound bonuses for doing a 125% shit job.

I think masked vigilantes should way-lay the creeps who run the banks as they chortle their chauffeur-driven way home, then empty their wallets before pushing them under passing buses.

Number one target should be Appleshite who screwed up Northern Rock and is still being paid hundreds of thousands for relaxing while he works out how to spend his million pound pension. After him should be "Sir" Fred Goodwin - famous for his love of firing lots of people, but markedly unwilling to quit himself. He should get a dose of the medicine he so relished pouring down others' throats.

If there were any justice (which I assure you after my experience with the divorce laws there isn't) every one of the slobs would have their homes repossessed and be put out on the streets, in somewhere appropriate - say, New Cross - to see how long they survived dealing drugs. Forget Big Brother. That's my idea of a reality TV show.

They only get away with their shit because of the craven attitude of those who should be exposing and punishing them. This includes the media. The other day the TV programme Despatches, normally excellent, did a good job on the current crisis, then fell at the crucial last fence.

The reporter had tried and failed to get any of the rogues responsible to talk to the cameras - including Hector Pants who runs, or rather failed to when it really mattered, the Financial Services Authority and like all the bankers got a fat bonus for causing the maximum possible misery to those he is paid to protect through sheer sloth.

In the end he - the reporter - was reduced to talking to a hatchet-faced cow who talks on the banks' behalf for The Central Bankers Lying Trust or something similar. When asked why none of these greedy toads had been fired she said, straight-faced, that we needed men with experience who know what they are doing in times like these. Experience of what? Financial masturbation?

Sheer, unalloyed, disgraceful bollocks - but the reporter said absolutely nothing. I mean on that basis we should let Mr. Pants run the economy ...

I know it's quite unreasonable, but what I sometimes wonder is:

1. If the government can retroactively tax oil firms because of their profits - which are, by the way no more nor less than they have ever been - prices are relatively lower now than 30 years ago...

2. Why can't they tax the banks for their obscene rapacity? And stop them paying silly money to overpaid incompetents?

Is that so impossible? If they can chase, however ineffectually, people who don't pay child maintenance, why not?

Mind you, since those who run things in the country couldn't locate their own arseholes without three coordinated SatNavs, fat chance.

Monday, 25 August 2008

The great Olympics heroics

“We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality," wrote the historian Macaulay.

Well, I think the British public in one of its periodical fits of Olympiamania takes a bit of beating. It’s hard to determine which is more tedious: the howls and lamentations when we get fewer medals than Bechuanaland or the torrent of nationalistic self-congratulation when we get lots – which seems to occur about once every 100 years.

Before any of you start sending poison pen e-mails in response to that, this is not to demean the achievement of those who won. The degree of self-sacrifice and determination required to get a medal hardly bears thinking about. But I think the great steaming torrents of slobbering praise bespattering all the national press trivialise those achievements.

Anyhow, I see some gormless Sun journalist thinks we must “pay tribute” for this to “a man who two years ago had the courage to stump up £500 million for our top athletes … Step forward, Gordon Brown.”

Just a couple of points of order here.

Does anyone with an ounce of brain think this success all came about suddenly within the last two years? I would imagine it takes a just a teeny little longer than that to become an outstanding athlete.

And how much courage does it take to “stump up” other people’s money. All Gordon had to do was wake up one morning and think “what can I do today to make myself marginally less unpopular? How about throwing a few million at the Olympics? Maybe the great British public will fail to notice these are their millions, silly buggers.”

Every winner of anything at the Olympics seems to have been described as a hero (or heroine). What is true heroism? I took time to think about this over the last weekend, when my partner arranged a surprise trip to Dorset for my birthday.

In a memorial outside the churchyard in Beaminster – a small county town – I saw engraved the names of those who died fighting in the First World War. Maybe there were 150 in all. But whole families had been near-wiped out. 10 members of just one family - the Pooles - died in battle. Two other families lost eight. Several lost five or six. God, what a price was paid to win that pointless war.

I think there were two V.C.s won by that small band of men. Amazing. Now they were heroes.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Finally revealed! The literary inspiration that drives our glorious leaders

It is said that Beethoven and Schubert were walking down a street one evening when they heard someone nearby playing Mozart.

“You and I will never write anything that good,” said Beethoven.

I recalled that anecdote when the other day I read this:

“Like all of us sinners, General Betrishchev was endowed with many virtues and many defects. Both the one and the other were scattered through him in a sort of picturesque disorder.”

Every time I read something that well written, it lifts my heart.

It is from “Dead Souls”, by Gogol, which I never read until now because the title sounds gloomy, when it is actually a comic novel.

I also found in the book a description of a ramshackle Russian village which was clearly the inspiration for something very familiar to anyone who lives in this country.

This village was owned by a mad colonel. Now I will quote:

“The village was scattered all over: construction sites, reconstruction sites, piles of lime, brick, and logs everywhere in the streets. There were some houses built that looked like institutions. On one there was written in gold letters: FARM IMPLEMENTS DEPOT, on another: MAIN ACCOUNTING OFFICE, on another: VILLAGE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE; SCHOOL OF NORMAL EDUCATION OF SETTLERS – in short devil knows what was not there!”

Anyhow, when the hero wanted to get something done, the colonel said:

“In that case, put it in writing. It will go to the commission for diverse petitions. The commission for diverse petitions, having made a note of it, will forward it to me. From me it will go on to the village affairs committee, where all sorts of decisions and revisions will be made concerning the matter. The steward in chief together with the whole office will give his decision as soon as possible, and the matter will be settled.”

The hero suggested that things would take too long that way.

“Ah!” the colonel said with a smile, “there’s the benefit of paperwork! It will indeed take longer, but nothing will escape: every little detail will be in view.”

Does this sound familiar? Gogol goes on to explain that:

“The commission for diverse petitions existed only on a signboard. Its chairman, a former valet, had been transferred to the newly formed village construction committee. He had been replaced by a clerk who had been dispatched on an investigation to sort out things between the drunken steward and the village headman, a crook and a cheat.”

The hero’s guide (an official for special missions) explained to him:

“Everything here is senseless. Here, you may be pleased to note, the building commission directs everything, disrupts people’s work, sends everyone wherever it likes. The only ones who profit from it are those on the building commission.”

And so it goes on, a small village bedevilled by bureaucratic bullshit and corruption, with high-sounding jobs for rogues and idiots. Clearly the model for our current government.

Please, dear reader, don’t imagine I think things will be better under the Conservatives. They will only improve when someone comes along who thinks less about policies, visions and photo-opportunities, and more about simple, sensible ways to get things done. Unfortunately very few of the people in politics today have had jobs where getting things mattered.

They are nearly all professional bullshitters and have either done nothing but politics - a sort of extended course in dishonesty - or worked in things like the law or teaching.

Success in the first mainly requires an ability to deal in half-truths and get overpaid for it; in the others, as we can see from the present state of education, there is no skill involved - just stunning incompetence and an intimate knowledge of the politically correct.

Cameron was in PR - which is a real worry. I rather miss Prescott, who may have been an illiterate drunk but did at least provide a little entertainment now and then.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Whenever you feel tempted to feel sorry for the wretch ….

Read what Steven Ashworth of Dumfries wrote about Brown in a recent letter to The Sunday Telegraph:

“This is the man who has wrecked the nation’s occupational pension system; this is the man who refused to implement a High Court ruling to compensate pensioners; this is the man who sold half the nation’s gold for $275 an ounce (current price $930); this is the man who callously abolished the 10p tax rate; this is the man who has mortgaged every citizen for decades to come, with his profligate borrowing and spending. And, this is the man will receive a pension of £95,000 a year at the end of his political career.”

I am only sorry Mr. Ashworth didn’t mention that this is also the man whose impeccable (and of course, prudent) judgement about where to spend and where to save money sent British soldiers to die in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he richly deserves to take early retirement. Let us hope his principal adviser, Prince Ballsup, joins him with a mission to teach reading and writing - but, not, we trust, arithmetic, as the locals would end up thinking 2 + 2 = 7.6, unless it's already been counted three times in an attempt to mislead people.

Monday, 11 August 2008

By their fruits ye shall know them

That little line from The Sermon on the Mount is a good way of saying never mind the waffle, look at what it produces.

In the case of our educational system, now under the caring, if utterly mendacious hand of Prince Ballsup, the rotten fruits come in the form of drivel like this:

"Specialist providers of Integrated Quality Management Systems, mhl offer a range of cost-effective and proactive route solutions from full on-site support to one-off consultancy projects."

I have no idea what a route solution is, but what they don't offer is English. They tend to be rather big on apostrophes, though.

That pile of poo was part of an e-mail I got from one of their "proactive" wankers the other afternoon. It is not his fault he can't write in his native language, as today's teaching produces people who have been urged to express themselves whether they can think and write or not.

That being so, I won't mention his name, but this is what he was trying to sell me:

MHL Support Ltd was setup to help Directors of company's with the ever increasing demands made on company's in the area's of employment law, health and safety law, and ever more relevant, environmental legislations , which are due to change in the next few months. Over the last 8 years MHL Support Ltd has grown to the UK leading outsourcing company. In 2006 we became part of the Bibby Line Group.

MHL Support ltd, as you will see in our demo work with some of the UK largest company, but also cater for small to medium company delivering outsourcing in both fields, from HR to training for Health & Safety etc. We are ISO certified and as are all companies and organisations contracted alongside MHL.

What a gormless twat! Don't they vet people before they hire them to see if they have some glancing acquaintance with their native tongue?

I replied:

Thank you, XXXX,

Here’s the deal.

How about if I offer lessons in English in exchange? Then you would know when to use the word “companies” as opposed to “company’s”, “areas” instead of “area’s” – and for that matter, “set up”, rather than “setup” and not “some of the UK largest company” but “some of the UK's largest companies”.

On second thoughts, it would be a bad deal. Why should I imagine your firm can advise on something really important if they can’t even cobble together a literate e-mail?

Good luck in your future career. If I were you, I would start by going out and shooting your teachers."

By the way, Bibby Lines who own mhl used to have ships, I think. They probably sank them all by accident and decided to go into selling bollocks to the gullible. And that's what's sad about all this. This bollocks will sell - to people as ignorant as those who sell it. The illiterate guiding the illiterate.

By the way, on the matter of route solutions, I was talking to some poor sod doing telemarketing for Lloyds, one of the useless banks I deal with, about what had happened to some money I thought was coming my way and he said (really) "I'll get our back-end investigation department to look into it."

Oooh, I'd love a few inches of that, dearie.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Yet more Ed Balls-ups

Some 30 odd years ago I met a lady who was a granddaughter of the Lion of Judah – the Emperor Haile Selassie.

She clearly inherited some of his courage, for she had survived 8 years being imprisoned and tortured by the Mengistu regime, a bunch of criminal Marxists who then ran that sad country.

(I sometimes wonder how Marx would feel if he could see the villainy and misery inflicted in his name - just as I do of Jesus Christ and Mohammed).

Anyhow this lady was living with a Dane, and was applying to stay in Denmark and become a citizen. One thing she had to do was learn Danish, which seemed reasonable to me, and is the only comment I going to make, if obliquely, on the subject of immigration here.

I was reminded of this requirement when reading that ETS, the consortium of American con-artists who caused the recent SATs marking cock-up, have been rewarded with a contract for English language tests for immigrants.

In the topsy-turvy world of "New" - strikingly like "Old" Labour - no qualification beats sheer incompetence. I can almost hear the dialogue now.

“Hello, I’m the Minister for Education, Ed Balls. I understand that besides being ace bullshitters you're fucking useless. Can you prove it? You can? Good show. I’m a fucking useless bullshitter too. We sound like perfect partners.

“How about sorting out who should be allowed to stay here under our latest set of insane regulations? Since you’re not English you should be perfect. We tried to get some Nigerians, but they’re too busy screwing their own people and sending our letters promising millions to idiots (Gordon's replied to three this week) and Mugabe’s printing banknotes night and day. Too tired, poor chap.”

An editorial in The Oldie which covered this subject, also points out that:

“Similar questions arise over the senior executives of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the ill-assorted body of academics and big businessmen who awarded the controversial marking contract to ETS in the first place.

The chairman of the QCA is Sir Anthony Greener, once in charge of the cigarette manufacturers Dunhill and a man knighted for his services to the drinks industry. They do not seem especially relevant for deciding what should be taught in our schools.

The QCA's chief executive is a man called Ken Boston, who is paid £328,000 a year after recently receiving a 15 per cent pay rise. Mr Boston is an Australian who, in addition to his generous salary, has the run of a nice flat in Chelsea and is allowed six business-class flights - costing between £3,000 and £7,000 - back to Australia every year.

It may be that there is no one in this country who could do the job as well as Boston. But we could save quite a lot of money in expenses if we hired a British citizen to take over.”

Ed Balls-up was the mastermind behind Gordon Brown’s management of the economy, which I see some fools among the “opinion-forming classes” still think was good.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

On turds - an apology

I am not the first person to comment on my stupidity, but I am often the last to notice it.

However, I noticed that half way through my last piece I mistakaenly changed the reptilian Adam Applegarth's name to Appleyard.

I aplogise to all Appleyards.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet". The same principle applies to shit, I imagine.

So let's all stop work.That's bound to help

This chap is Derek Simpson who runs a big union called Unite.

As you can see from his glowing countenance, whoever else is suffering from the present troubles, it is not Derek. But he plans to make sure everyone else does.

In a newsletter headed "A striking difference" he is full of glee, saying:

"Under normal conditions, an edition of @ctivist might contain one or two reports of pay disputes. This one includes seven."

They are all making a similar point: a cut in living standards is unacceptable. And with inflation now touching 4.6% - the highest for 16 years - they are right to make that stand for decent pay.

They are also right to ignore the calls by employers organisations for pay restraint. Council workers must not pay the price for a crisis that big business has caused.

By bidding up the price of oil to $150 a barrel, speculators in the oil futures markets are doing far more to push up inflation than council workers in Hackney.

Yet little action or pressure is brought to bear on international traders.

Irresponsible lending by finance companies has created far more economic instability than any action by NHS physiotherapists.

Yet Adam Applegarth, the man whose disastrous business strategy brought Northern Rock to its knees and now threatens the jobs of thousands of Unite members walks away with a £1m pay off.

How can this be justified?"

Now I'm with you about Applegarth, Derek. And for that matter about the useless wretch who is walking away with a huge bonus for failing to sort out the railways. Not to mention the Great Bliar, who has done extremely well from promising everything and delivering nothing.

Not long ago The Economist ran a perceptive editorial about privatised profits, socialised debts. The vultures- e.g. Appleyard of Northern Rock - take the profits, we carry the can.

Unite's solution - strikes by public service people - has been tried before a few times, most spectacularly during the Callaghan administration.

It was public service unions that left us with unburied dead and so on. Unite's leaders are just another kind of vulture, sitting in their headquarters and between drinks arranging chaos that solves nothing. Strikes are the modern economic equivalent of the medieval practice of bloodletting; they solve nothing and eventually kill the patient. Unite's members may go on strike; Derek will still get his fat pension; he has nothing to lose.

What Unite and the other unions are fighting for is the right to secondary striking and all the other folly that brought Britain to chaos and were a Godsend to Mrs. Thatcher.

I resent furiously the fact that over the last 11 years nearly a million new people have entered public service, often in meaningless jobs - leaving those of us who work with higher taxes, lower pensions and more hours to work to pay for them all.

If Unite wants to fight for anything, it should be something that prevents the Appleyards and for that matter the directors of public bodies like Railtrack or great bureaucratic tangles like the Royal Mail from grabbing big money for incompetence.

But not for a return to misery.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Legal wit – and waste

I have (and I apologise) bored you with moans about my divorce a couple of times, but one story about the changing attitudes in legal circles amused me no end.

I was asking my lawyer why it seems almost impossible to get really emphatic, no-nonsense advice. I found the constant request, “Can we have your instructions” without being too firm on what they should be, rather wearing.

If someone comes to me for my advice then they get it, hot and strong. That’s what I’m paid for. What if I just said, “Well, you could do this, or you could do that and this might happen or that might – what do you want to do?”

But apparently lawyers nowadays are so frightened of doing the wrong thing and getting the pants sued off them that they have nearly all turned into frightened pussy cats.

The difference was pointed up to me by a friend who was in practice for many years, but has now chucked it in. He told me about a choice letter sent by one solicitor to another in the good old days.

It read, in total: “In reply to yours of the 22nd, kindly fuck off. P.S. Rude letter follows.”

Good stuff. The world has gone downhill.

A seasonal joke

A driver is stuck in a traffic jam going into Central London. Nothing is moving north or south.

Suddenly a man knocks on his window. The driver rolls t idown his window and asks, 'What's happened, what's the hold up?'

“Terrorists have kidnapped Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. They’re asking for a £10 million ransom.

Otherwise, they are going to douse them with petrol and set them on fire. We are going from car to car taking up a collection.”

The driver asks, “On average, how much is everyone giving?”
“About 2 litres”.

“Now just high-tail it on out of here, you pesky critter” said the Mail Marshal at Seiko Watches

One of my readers who works at Seiko often fails to get his normal helping of perceptive social comment from me because the Mail Marshal there stops it dead.

Something about unacceptable language, apparently. Amazing.

So I thought I might for once, raise the tone of this emission (that’s not rude is it?) with wise words from The Economist.

They commented recently the U.S. economy is based on private profit and social debt. When the money is made all the capitalist pigs have their snouts in the trough. When it is lost, taxpayers have to bail them out.

What adds insult to injury is that the rogues responsible all waltz away with massive pay-offs.

This is true here too, only in the U.S. everything is bigger and better. They have trillions of debt where we have billions; their crooks walk away with millions, ours with hundreds of thousands.

Nevertheless, should the creep at Northern Rock have been allowed to walk away with a fortune when people lost their jobs and we bailed out the firm? And should that ex-adman be so richly rewarded for not sorting out the Royal Mail.

For that matter, should the useless head of Network Rail, a man called Coucher, have a year end pay of £1.2 million when the organisation has done such an appalling job?

Well the answer is, he met the targets set by the “Regulator”. What kind of regulator is that? The only possible answer can be a stupid, inept useless regulator. One who is blithely unaware of the concept of competence, let alone profit and loss. One who did not rise through merit but was appointed by politicians whose only skill is in trotting out tripe and getting freebies.

But then the whole show is run in a very odd way. Take the chairman, Sir Ian McAllister. At Christmas, when thousands of passengers endured day after day of misery, that little porker was enjoying an extra long Christmas break with his family at his £1.5million home saying he'd "only get in the way" if he went into work.

Amazingly, this smug, podgy twit gets £250,000 a year for a three-day week. He said his presence in the office was unnecessary. If so, why not get rid of him? He also said: "Sometimes you have to know when to stand back and just let the experts get on with it."

What did the experts get on with? Network Rail failed to finish £415 million of engineering works by December 30 as planned. And Ian was knighted for "services to transport" on the very day they got a record £14million fine for making passengers' lives a misery over New Year. How come Hitler never got a Nobel Peace Prize?

But you can always rely on one factor: Wee Gordie Broon, the mastermind behind the stupid public-private lash-up that is Network Rail, which has neither social nor private responsibility.

And today I noticed another brilliant decision.

This country is in serious financial trouble so we’re going to give £30 million to the Palestinian Government. I wonder how much will reach the poor, betrayed masses there. One thing is for sure: it will all come from the betrayed masses here.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Wine-lovers' cartoon found in "The Oldie"

'The difference? Well Sir, the Barolo is ripe, rich and round, with lots of spicy, earth-scented black cherry and berry flavors, hinting deliciously at chocolate on the smooth finish, while The Blue Nun is more nylon underpants, skid-marks, ITV, thick crockery, hinting at being kicked all over the street by violent witless oafs for absolutely no reason.'

Caption - EJ Ruane, Dublin

Why we are all fed up with the idiots in charge

Here is a quote from Rod Liddle, the leading bottle-thrower in The Spectator.

“A charity called Help for Heroes, which raises money for wounded British soldiers, asked Portsmouth City Council for a £500 donation towards a proposed ‘fun day’. The council declined the request, saying that to have given money ‘could cause offence to ethnic minority groups living in the community who may also have experience of injury/violence due to the war’. They’re my italics, by the way, not the council’s. It’s just that it made me laugh so much that wine shot out of my nose and my girlfriend thought I was suffering a seizure or an embolism and so I felt moved to endow it with emphasis and thus grandeur.”

If this were just an exceptional example of how far the governors are removed from the governed one might ascribe it to the peculiar horrors attendant upon living in Portsmouth. But it is not.

On page 9 of the London Metro, I read that a man was fined by the brainless sub-Gestapo who run Ceridigion Council for smoking in his own van. (By the way, I suspect that Ceridigion is what we used to call Cardigan).

On page 15 I see a gardener was told to hire a truck by the morons at Leeds City Council because a tiny branch was too big to go in his rubbish bin. I guess that was their weekly contribution to the environment. (Query: how many town hall fuckwits could you cram into a garbage truck?)

On the same page I learned that a former policewoman was arrested on race charges for telling noisy students to go home, because two of the little pricks were Asian and might have been offended. This is what they call in the U.S. "playing the race card".

Who will benefit from all this? Step forward a beaming David Cameron. I well remember that this sort of bureaucratic lunacy destroyed the Labour government in the 1950’s. People just got fed up with the “we know better than you” attitude always associated with Labour, old or new.

Can you imagine how much good it did Cameron to be photographed the other day after his bike was stolen in Notting Hill? So much so I wonder if the devious sod arranged it all.

But what a revealing contrast with fat Gordie whizzing round the world telling the Israelis and the Arabs how to arrange their affairs when he can’t even decide which side his dick should hang, let alone run anything. Shaking hands with Obama won't help, by the way, dear.

And how much more appealing a man who rides a bike looks if you've just seen the £725,000 bill we all got after the great Bliar did his gala farewell how-far-am-I-up-my-own-arse tour of the gullible parts of the world.

If only we could imagine Cameron won’t change when he gets into office. Highly unlikely. He’s a politician. But how could he be worse than this lot?

Maybe that was unwise. Mark Twain said that the chief purpose of each new administration is to make the last one look good. But then again, could anyone be worse than Bush?