AS the gaggle of screaming mostly teenage fans at New Street station in Birmingham reached a crescendo, a passer-by was well within her rights to ask the question. “Is there a rock star?” she queried in response to the Justin Beiber-esque mania that had gripped the always busy but seldom crazy train station.
Well he does has big floppy hair, loves a stage and his arrival always causes a stir but the unlikely reception was for Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson whose arrival in the northern Labour-city of Birmingham was this week likened to the famous platform arrival of Vladimir Lenin who stepped onto Finland Station in St Petersburg to begin the Russian Revolution.
And in many ways the arrival of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in Birmingham late last year (2012) is the start of what could be a great upheaval this year not just for the Tories but British politics in general which is as desperate for a hero as Canberra’s federal parliament is for respect, appreciation and talent.
Latest 2 of 19 commentsView all comments
Right. The Olympics are nearly over. We’re galloping like Kibah Tic Toc towards the Closing Ceremony.
We’ve spent the past couple of weeks on the edge of our seats, willing on The Missile to go that little bit faster, cheering for our new sailing heroes and relishing in (finally) pipping our new arch-rivals, Kazakhstan, on the medal tally.
We’ve also watched a bloody lot of equestrian, the only sport where a) the competitors have the same name as the sport itself and b) where participants wear tuxedos. Oh, the dressage, it’s just been mah-vel-lous. And after this comprehensive period of study, it’s time to settle the debate: is it really a sport?
Latest 2 of 77 commentsView all comments
Seven years ago London was a very different place. The GFC hadn’t hit and most people were pretty positive about their lot (albeit with a healthy dose of British scepticism thrown in).
And the city had the chance to hold the greatest show on earth – the Olympic Games. Sure, there were plenty of people who thought the games were going to be too expensive, and with all those extra tourists, the London Underground would be mightily uncomfortable in the middle of summer.
But as the IOC announcement approached, there was still a huge excitement and positivity in the streets. People believed in their town, and many people thought it was a sure thing that London would host the 2012 Olympic Games.
Latest 2 of 8 commentsView all comments
It’s always entertaining when a political figure with no real responsibilities other than winning votes makes a high-profile foray into the delicate world of foreign affairs.
Unshackled by anything resembling real authority over such things as military or security policy, opposition politicians are free to blunder in to say, Chinese-American geo-political sensitivities, without concerns they might accidentally spark an explosion in the Taiwan Strait.
You only have to look at how quickly Bob Carr hit the “delete post” button on his Thoughtlines blog when he went from interested private citizen to Foreign Minister in the blink of a cursor.
Latest 2 of 38 commentsView all comments
In one of the world’s most impressive displays of bristling military might, the UK armed forces are creating a £600 million Olympic ‘ring of steel’ that includes installing surface-to-air missiles on apartment building rooves.
There’ll be an aircraft carrier with 800 Royal Marines, Navy ships, RAF helicopters, private security, and 13,500 service men and women – more than are deployed in Afghanistan, according to the Daily Mail.
The Thames will be filled with laser-equipped sharks. Graeme Garden will be in charge of intelligence. The Ministry of Funny Walks will train a handpicked squad of bobbies. Dad’s Army will be brought out of retirement to shepherd small children across the road.
Latest 2 of 71 commentsView all comments
They’re calling it the “mother of all mega malls”. Frank Lowy’s Stratford Westfield; home to seven miles of shop windows, 300 outlets, 70 restaurants, 5,000 car spaces and 50, 000 lights.
Sounds like hell. But you’d check it out, you know you would. People love to shop.
Fast, convenient and completely mind-numbing. Shopping has become the ultimate lifestyle activity; shopping malls the modern equivalent of the town square.
Latest 2 of 88 commentsView all comments
Dear Comrades, It is sadly not surprising that the freedom-fighters in London have been denounced as “rioters’’ by the right-wing media machine.
These brave revolutionaries have risked their lives or at least other people’s lives to create a new socialist utopia.
But, as always, the dark forces of capitalism have sought to crush their spirit and incarcerate their bodies _ at least for a few hours until they make bail.
Latest 2 of 66 commentsView all comments
In trying to identify the causes of the London riots, we could start by reflecting on the comments from former Greater London Council police advisor Lee Jasper in analysing the mindset of the youths on the streets.
In a finger-pointing monologue on The 7.30 Report on Tuesday, Mr Jasper argued that the one group of people who should definitely not be blamed for the riots were the rioters themselves.
“We’ve seen huge levels of austerity cuts in many inner city areas that are leading to a great deal of anxiety and concern,” stated the one-time advisor to former London Mayor “Red” Ken Livingstone. “Unemployment continues to rise and there is a sense of anxiety but also a sense of moral crisis in the country. I think because of the MPs scandal, the corporate tax dodging issue of huge multinational companies, the News International corruption cases with the metropolitan police and phone hacking, there is a kind of failure really of people in power to uphold the kind of moral standards that we all aspire to. And as such, this has had an effect around the country.”
Latest 2 of 325 commentsView all comments
Watching the chaos over the past few days, it has become clear that what is happening in London boils down to the have-nots pillaging the haves.
The riots are no longer just about the shooting of London resident Mark Duggan by police officers.
The partner of Duggan has denounced the riots, saying they are now far divorced from the protest that started it all:
Latest 2 of 285 commentsView all comments
This morning, my wife and I packed overnight bags and left East London for work, not knowing if the area would be safe enough to return to it in the evening. There is a 15-minute walk from the tube station to our house (right past the shiny new Olympic site…), and there’s every chance that walk could be filled with violence, rioters, muggers, police and burning buildings.
Overreaction? No. Last night we watched in amazement on TV as several districts around us, then all around London – then all around the major cities of England, turned into arenas of chaos, violence and looting. And flames.
News helicoptors flew from one enormous blaze to another, all night. England has seen nothing like this since Hitler was bombing us. From our lounge, we could hear the sirens all night.
Latest 2 of 492 commentsView all comments
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” the English lit great Samuel Johnson famously once said.
A whole bunch of people seem to be tired of London life lately. Or at least intent on mindlessly smashing the great city to pieces.
The past 72 hours haven’t been pretty. The Guardian is calling it the Battle of London. We’ve seen pictures of double-decker buses overturned and engulfed in flames. Looters smashing their way into stores. Rioters hurling planks of wood at bobbies. Buildings that survived two world wars destroyed by rioters.
Latest 2 of 220 commentsView all comments
By now many of you will be royally sick of marriage talk - and it hasn’t even been consummated yet (ahem). But it’s still going to dominate the whole day… and the next, and the next, so we thought we’d give you this space to indulge or vent, as you see fit. Are you excited or nauseated? Bored? Pissed off at the Chaser ban?
Here’s a thought for all you Royal Wedding pundits out there; the only surprising thing about today’s big event is just how much the world collectively knows about it. Without even trying it’s possible to evaluate Prince Harry’s post-wedding-party breakfast menu and tell you why the bride’s sister, Pippa, has strung disco balls around the throne room.
Or how much the plonk they’re serving at the reception goes for in the aisles at British supermarket Tescos and why Kate’s honeymoon clothes are more than just a bit ordinary for a future Queen.
Latest 2 of 123 commentsView all comments
Every time there’s a party, there is someone who misses out.
As the attending list on the cruelly public Facebook event grows, so too does their rage.
The host, they decide, is either jealous, rude, or trying to sleep with their partner/sister/all of the above. The truth, however, is that quite often the poor, uninvited soul simply doesn’t bring anything to the table. They’re boring, lame, and have a tendency to break furniture and cry after two beers and a packet of Pringles.
Latest 2 of 16 commentsView all comments
It’s a balmy seven degrees in London today so it would be pretty chilly on the roof of St Paul’s Cathedral in Westminster. Good thing that there is a lot to think about.
A convoy of British fire trucks will take to the streets to mark the 70th anniversary of the “darkest day” of the London Blitz; when German forces dropped 10, 000 incendiary bombs on the city, starting 1500 fires and adding to the already tragic loss of thousands of lives.
Hundreds of people are expected to gather around the city to remember a very significant day in the nation’s history.
Latest 2 of 52 commentsView all comments
The city of London was blitzed by the German airforce today in 1940. It was the first strategic attack on British soil and aimed at destroying industrial targets and civilian morale. Approximately 43, 000 people were killed.
And it’s Tuesday, so what’s on your mind?
Latest 2 of 27 commentsView all comments
Everyone’s got pet hates. Mine include sniffing milk to “see” if it’s still ok to drink, spitting in public streets, couples who refer to themselves in the third person and people that persist in holiday countdowns on their Facebook updates.
But just because this is my list, that doesn’t mean that all Australian people want to throw up when they watch someone’s nose nestle into the lid of a communal carton of milk or clears their throat and deposits the contents onto the street.
Latest 2 of 30 commentsView all comments
Welcome to Wednesday at The Punch.
Today in 2005 three explosions on the Underground left 35 people dead. Al-Qaeda later issued a videotaped statement claiming responsibility.
But over to you: what’s on your mind today? Comments here are for whatever’s on your mind. Punch on.
Latest 2 of 9 commentsView all comments
I had to check that the date on the paper wasn’t April 1. Under the headline “Tanfastic – Time to strip off as spring hots up” readers were breathlessly warned that: “Sun-seekers should gear up for the hottest day of the year today as temperatures reach a balmy 22 degrees.
“The unrivalled hot weather – 76 degrees Fahrenheit – follows a mixed Easter weekend of blue skies dotted with showers.”
I can’t now recall whether the temperature reached the “balmy” heights of 22 on that April day but the story marked the beginning of the annual season for predicting that Britain will have a scorching summer.
Since then people have been warned to expect to “swelter” during a “blistering” summer.
Latest 2 of 2 commentsView all comments
Moving house is thirsty work. Once I’d dropped both bags on the floor and decided in which corner to shove a severely neglected surfboard it was time to check out what my new south London neighbourhood had to offer.
Top of the list, naturally, was a good pub. Even though global warming is predicted to turn London into Cairns-by-the-Thames it’s still worth having a reliable boozer at hand for that odd changeable day.
To my alarm, when I walked into the nearest pub on the Old Kent Road the battleaxe of a barmaid was actually a battleaxe of a receptionist. The pub had been turned into a doctor’s surgery.
A private school for girls nearby my new home has taken over the pub next door and most of the convenience stores in the area once had taps and bar stools. One supermarket chain is reported to be in talks to buy 200 pubs in a single deal. There must be one hell of a growing pile of sticky carpets somewhere in London.
Latest 2 of 5 commentsView all comments
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…