Not so easy like a Sunday morning without Andrew Marr…

13 01 2013

download“Andrew Marr, renaissance man, polymath, wise commentator, painter, runner, brilliant cook – and ace editor. Get well soon. Needed in public life.”

Polly Toynbee (Journalist with ‘The Guardian’)

Ed-Miliband-One-Nation-Mental-Health-speech“On behalf of myself and everybody across politics I wish Andrew Marr a speedy recovery, all best wishes to him and his family.”  

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Labour Party) on today’s ‘Andrew Marr Show’.

_64791958_64791956It wasn’t quite the same today…

Something, or rather, someone was missing…

A man on a scooter, who weaves his way through sleepy London town to deliver the Sunday papers through my TV screen…

I’m nothing, if not a creature of habit. My Sunday morning routine consists of lounging in dressing gown and slippers, spooning cereal and sipping tea in front of the early a.m. BBC TV.

Walkers---Campaign-Launch-001First up is the 07.30am re-run of ‘Match of the Day’ – given I’m generally too tired, these days, to sit through the late Saturday night show.

At 9.00am it is usually time to exchange one set of oversized lugs for another; crisp munching Gary Lineker’s FA Cup handle-sized appendages replaced by the sticky out ears of journalist and political commentator Andrew Marr.

Andrew_Marr__responding_well_to_treatment__after_suffering_a_strokeThe Sunday morning ‘Andrew Marr Show’, an hour long weekly look at what’s happening in the world, a review of the  Sunday papers, and interviews with key newsmakers, is  one of my TV highlights of the week. But unfortunately, today, the former editor of ‘The Independent’ and political editor of the BBC News was missing – recovering from a serious stroke, suffered earlier this week.

As the news broke of his hospitalization, many high-profile names from the world of politics and media took to Twitter to wish the political news veteran, and host of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Start The Week’, a hasty recovery.

article-0-16E7DFC5000005DC-681_634x347Although conscious, responding to medication and making progress, it will be some time before Andrew is able to return to the TV studio, but the BBC insist the show will go on, with a number of leading  current affairs presenters lined up to take turns in  keeping his seat warm.

First up, today, with the unenviable task was James Landale, old Etonian contemporary of ‘Call Me Dave’ and ‘BJ’ (Mayor of London). The Deputy political editor for BBC News, sensed he was on a loser from the start, opening with, “It’d be much better if Andrew were here,” before demonstrating beyond doubt that Andrew Marr’s are exceedingly big shoes to fill.

paxman460Landale’s somewhat hectoring manner and continual interruptions, during the interview with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, owed more to the late night, ‘Newsnight’, condescension of the ‘Paxo’ school of interviewing – stuff ‘em and roast ‘em –  rather than the more ‘easy like Sunday morning’ – coffee and croissants – style of Marr.

That isn’t to say that Marr’s courteous and deceptively easy, manner allows his interviewees to get away with anything. He is something of a smiling assassin, backing his political guests into corners with seemingly innocuous questions or feeding them enough rope to hang themselves.

vine-286Hopefully, next week, ‘Eggheads’ quizmaster Jeremy Vine, who presents his own BBC Radio 2 programme of news, views and popular music, will be more in tune with the ‘AM Show’ ethos.

Mad-Magazine-mad-on-cartoon-network-24503591-1024-768Andrew Marr may have been described as gangly, geeky and bearing passing resemblance to the face of ‘Mad’ magazine – perhaps one better suited to radio – but he is a charming, erudite, presenter with a wry sense of humour.

And, despite his 2010 Cheltenham Literature Festival, pronouncement that, “ (A) lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower nosed young men  sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting. They are very angry people” – I don’t harbour any grudges.

I simply hope he is soon fully recovered and back on his Vespa, so that my lazy Sunday mornings can get back to normal.


Nasty smell around public sector pensions…

20 06 2011

Danny Alexander (the flatulent Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury famously accused of making a stink before appearing on the Andrew Marr show) has really come up trumps this time, with his inflammatory comments about public sector workers’ pensions and the premature announcement that they will have to work six years longer (until  66) and pay more for a reduced pay out during retirement.  

Whether this is just another ill-timed venting of hot air from the flame haired politician or, more likely, a carefully laid trap to draw the unions into a battle in which the coalition government are convinced they will hold the upper hand and ultimately win, Danny boy’s pre-emptive bomb shell has effectively blown a hole through the planned negotiations over the pension arrangements of doctors, nurses, teachers, civil servants and town hall workers, igniting a justifiably angry response from public sector unions.       

750,000 are already expected to take part in strikes planned for 30th June, which would make it the biggest walk-out since the miners’ strikes of the 1980s, while on-going union ballots could lead to further industrial action, in the autumn, on a scale that has not been seen since the General Strike of 1926.     

Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, has cautioned the unions that by taking industrial action over pension reform they are playing directly into the hands of a government, as it will distract attention away from their failing economic recovery plan.

Meanwhile, Noxious Danny has already set about poisoning the atmosphere between private and public sector workers, vilifying the latter as free loaders unfairly enjoying superior pension arrangements at enormous cost to the tax payer. He always conveniently forgets to mention that public sector workers are tax payers too!

So much for: ‘unifying the country’, ‘we’re all in this together’ and ‘the big society’?

There is no doubt that with average public and private salaries now on a par and people living longer, public sector pension arrangements are becoming unsustainable, and need to be reviewed, but this should be done sensitively through consultation and with the agreed changes implemented gradually, so that employees are treated fairly.

The winds of change, emanating from the Chief Secretary, intend to cut a swathe through the existing public sector pension arrangements breazing in the ‘confirmed’ changes by 2020, just nine years away. This is a ridiculously hasty timetable. People plan and prepare for their retirement over a life-time and therefore pension reform must be introduced at a similarly measured pace.

It is blatantly unreasonable, for public sector employees in their late forties and early 50s, who have been steadily working their way towards retirement at 60, (or in some cases, such as my own, planning to take an actuarially reduced pension between 55 and 60) to suddenly be confronted with a requirement to work an extra six years for a reduced pay out.

‘Matt’ captured this beautifully in his ‘Sunday Telegraph’ cartoon (left) which has the an elderly lady patient asking the plastic surgeon if he can make her look six years older!   

Also, let’s not forget that although public sector wages have undoubtedly and deservedly improved in recent times, many opted for these jobs, at a time when average private sector salaries were significantly higher, in the knowledge that the imbalance would eventually be redressed by early retirement opportunities and a generous guaranteed pension scheme.

History suggests there can only ever be one outcome to industrial action that divides the nation in a way that this issue clearly will.

The government will cast the public sector workers as greedy, unreasonable, attempting to derail the economic recovery programme and  bring down the government, while actually revelling in the opportunity to flex their political muscle, show they’re not for turning, and remind the electorate, yet again, that it’s all Labour’s fault anyway!

I would suggest that Ed Balls has got it absolutely spot on, but the unions are caught in a no-win situation.

Significantly on this occasion, it seems to be union members rather than their leaders who are spoiling for a fight and they cannot, neither should they be, denied the public expression of their anti-government feeling.

Unions are there to support the needs and voice the concerns of their membership, and in so doing ensuring that they are treated fairly. Failure to respond at time like this would merely demonstrate how impotent they actually are.

I have no doubt that union leaders would actually prefer to sit down and negotiate a compromise solution but Danny doesn’t seem in the mood for clear the air talks! Ironically, it is the government, having recently been forced to back down on NHS reforms, that seems to be rather looking forward to reasserting itself, seemingly hell-bent on demonstrating how tough it is prepared to be, by re-enacting the power struggles of the Thatcher years – all in the name of national economic recovery.

History, I fear, will inevitably repeat itself with the trade unions eventually forced to concede defeat, and the Labour Party, by association, suffering a further damaging set back to their come-back chances.

Interestingly it is the Lib Dems, ‘Noxious Danny’ and ‘Strictly Vince’, who have been sent out to head this one up (presumably, in order to mend a few fences after claiming all the plaudits for the NHS climb down) while the ultimate beneficiaries (come the next election), ‘Call me Dave’ and ‘Boy George’, are happy to urge them on from behind. Perhaps someone should tell them it’s not a good idea to stand downwind from Danny!