Robert Hampton

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April 2010

5th April 2010


I haven’t been blogging much recently. I wish I could say that this was due to me having more important things to do, but that would be completely untrue.

The looming general election might provide some material for me, but at the moment all I have this well-timed demonstration of old-school Tory unpleasantness, so I will leave it at that for now.

Also, you could follow me on Twitter, where I’m posting all sorts of interesting stuff:

Just argued with my sister over whether vegetarians can eat fish. I say they can't, she says they can; but that's because she is WRONG.

7th April 2010

Flying Corpse

A headline you don’t see every day is “Dead man caught checking in at airport”.

TWO women tried to smuggle a dead relative on to a plane at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

The corpse was pushed in on a wheelchair – complete with sunglasses – to try to fool staff at the check in desk at JLA.

But as his two companions attempted to check him in for a flight to Berlin on Saturday, staff became suspicious and alerted the authorities.

The two women were arrested after their bizarre attempt was uncovered.

The ECHO understands the 91-year-old German national had died a day earlier, and an attempt was being made to smuggle his body back to his homeland.

How on earth did they think this was going to work? What happens when they go through security? What if some of the check-in staff wanted to talk to the old man? Would they have set up some sort of impromptu ventriloquist act?

It is, of course, fairly awful for the airport staff caught up in this mess, and for the unfortunate taxi driver who became an unwitting undertaker for the day. But none of that stopped the Liverpool Echo — and, to be fair, almost everyone else — from making comparisons to Weekend at Bernie’s.

The bemusement deepened following an odd interview given to the BBC by the two women — who have been charged with failing to report a death — with the winning quote, “My Willi is my god. I [have loved] my Willi for 22 years.”

The news has travelled round the world, with hundreds of reports on Google News, and thanks to doing this search, I now know that there is a procedure in place for deaths in flight. Reassuring.

The news, in case you missed it: two women tried to take a CORPSE onto a plane at Liverpool Airport.

12th April 2010

VICtory is mine

It’s probably not escaped your attention that I am something of a computer geek. What you may not know is where it all began. For that we need to go back to 1989 or thereabouts, when my seven-year-old self was thrilled to see that my dad had been able to source a computer second-hand for me.

Enter the Commodore VIC-20:-

VIC-20 keyboard
This picture released under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence. Original by Pixel8/Cbmeeks.

Read the rest of this post »

15th April 2010

Posted by at 8.14pm | Books, It's My Life | No responses

I’ve just finished reading The Prostrate Years, the latest addition to the Adrian Mole canon. I won’t give a detailed review, except to say that Sue Townsend is still as adept an author as ever, and if you enjoyed the previous entries in the series, you’ll like this one. The book picks up the diary of Adrian Mole as he turns 40 and copes with the stresses of middle age.

I feel some sympathy with him, despite being a full 13 years younger. The last week has seen me falling asleep in front of the TV, poring over an Experian credit report and comparing ISA interest rates on MoneySupermarket. When did I get so old?

17th April 2010

Climbing the Greasy Poll
Posted by at 10.30am | In the News, Politics | No responses

The first election debate took place on Thursday. If you missed it, it’s available to watch in full on YouTube. I recommend you do, as it was amazing television.

The LibDems were always keen for the leaders’ debates to take place and give them much-needed exposure. But they seem to have exceeded all expectations: not only did the instant reaction polls, held straight after the end of the debate, name Nick Clegg the clear winner, but a subsequent YouGov poll showed a massive boost in support for the “third” party:

The poll puts the Conservatives in the lead on 33% (down four), the Liberal Democrats on 30% (up eight) and Labour on 28 (down three).

It’s only one poll of course, and there’s still a long way to go until the only poll that actually matters, namely the one on 6th May. Even so, that’s an incredible result. Even more incredible is what Parliament will look like if those poll numbers are translated into Commons seats, according to Sky’s expert:

The Conservatives would have 244 seats (up 34), Lib Dems would have 103 (up 41), Labour would have 271 (down 78) and the remaining 32 seats would be taken by other parties.

Labour would still be the largest party with 271 seats despite being third in the popular vote, because of the distribution of votes in 2005 and the application of uniform swing.

So the party in last place in the popular vote still comes first in the election? That’s not democracy, that’s Bush v. Gore.

Still, it’s shaping up to be a very interesting campaign. I hope you’re registered to vote!

18th April 2010

How I spent my Saturday afternoon
Posted by at 11.58am | Trains | No responses

Cheshire Day Ranger ticket issued on 17th April 2010

A hilarious tale of quaint Cheshire villages, near-forgotten railway lines and a security guard named Kevin — read the full account over at the Mersey Tart blog.

19th April 2010

Pushing the Vote Out
Posted by at 7.55pm | Liverpool, Politics | No responses

Boundary changes at this election have moved me from the old Garston constituency and placed me on the edge of Liverpool Riverside. It is a safe Labour seat which has, unfortunately, become notorious for its low turnout at successive elections.

Radio 4’s Sunday morning magazine Broadcasting House sent a reporter to Liverpool, accompanied by Jo Philips (author of Why Vote?), to try and find out why people here are so uninterested. You can listen on the iPlayer for the next 6 days (the relevant section begins at 0:17:42).

I acknowledge the problems in parts of the constituency, but it’s depressing that a city supposedly famous for its outspokenness and political campaigning is so apathetic when it comes to politics.

20th April 2010

Easy to get angry about… difficult to spell
Posted by at 11.48pm | Politics | No responses

My MP, Louise Ellman, scores 90 out of 100 on the authoritarian index, voting in favour of ID cards, control orders, holding the DNA of innocent people on record, and various other unpleasant things – the criteria are listed here.

Anti-authoritarianism and the protection of civil liberties is a key part of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. Just saying.

21st April 2010

Nation building
Posted by at 5.05pm | Trains | No responses

The German state railway operator DB Regio is poised to take over Spanish-sounding but resolutely British company Arriva, adding the latter’s bus and train operations to a portfolio which includes Chiltern Railways, the Tyne & Wear Metro and stakes in WSMR and London Overground.

DB have been quietly building a small empire in the UK public transport world, and they’re not the only one. Abellio, part of Dutch state rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen, own a 50% stake of Merseyrail and Northern Rail. Meanwhile, French operator SNCF, via its Keolis subsidiary, is a partner in the Transpennine Express franchise. Keolis also hold a minority stake in Govia who operate three rail franchises.

Turns out Britain’s railways are being nationalised — it’s just different nations who are in charge.

22nd April 2010

Smear Cam(eron)paign
Posted by at 11.38pm | Politics | No responses

A little nugget buried in a blog post by Nick Robinson:

I now learn that political reporters from the Tory-backing papers were called in one by one to discuss how Team Cameron would deal with “Cleggmania” and to be offered Tory HQ’s favourite titbits about the Lib Dems – much of which appears in today’s papers.

The same post also confirms that the Telegraph’s front page splash (about Nick Clegg accepting donations into his personal bank account) is completely without substance — the LibDem leader did not pocket any cash for himself, he declared the donations to the Electoral Commission and he actually paid a further £700 of his own money out on top of this.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail did what it does best: taking quotes from an eight-year-old Guardian article completely out-of-context in a half-arsed attempt to question Clegg’s patriotism.

As the Guardian reports, there is widespread panic in the right-wing press at the prospect of the Liberal Democrats denying the Conservative party the win they supposedly “deserve”.

When people are asking questions like “could Murdoch lose Britain?” you can see why they’re worried.

29th April 2010

Britain’s Bigot Talent

Whatever the outcome of the election, surely one of the defining images of the campaign will be the image of Gordon Brown sitting in the Radio 2 studio, listening to the playback of his “bigot” comment and looking, as the Guardian put it, utterly wretched. It just seems like a metaphor for Labour’s election campaign generally: hopeless, miserable and on the verge of giving up.

There was an even better image from the day, though, and it was the reaction of Gillian Duffy when she was told what the Prime Minister had said about her behind her back:

Screengrab from BBC News

Is Gillian Duffy a bigot? On balance, no. She was expressing concerns a lot of people have about immigration. I don’t agree with her, but the correct way to engage with people on the subject is through rational, reasoned debate, not name-calling.

Should Gordon Brown be vilified the way he has for a thoughtless comment uttered in the heat of the moment? No. Has the press reaction been predictably over the top? Yes. Will this change the way people vote? Probably not as much as you think: a new poll says half of the electorate don’t think worse of Brown after the incident. (this poll was commissioned by the Sun but the result not published by them — fancy that!)

The third debate starts on the telly soon. I fully expect David Cameron to attempt a lame gag about the incident.