Jeremy Clarkson ‘MP’ – Should stars be in the commons ?

At one time, politicians and Members of Parliament, were depicted as powerful, intelligent and passionate individuals, motivated to changing their constituencies and campaigning for the beliefs of their party manifestos. Today, it seems a generation of citizens relying so heavily on TV and celebrity culture are looking to support and vote for more familiar faces.

Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson declared his intention to stand as an Independent Candidate on Twitter, asking his followers to feedback on their thoughts. Clarkson wrote “I’m thinking I might stand in the next election as an independent for Doncaster North, which is where I’m from. Thoughts?”

Although it might not entirely be serious, it does bring about the question of whether the tide is shifting towards who voters want to stand and represent their views. Expenses scandals, wage increases and tough policies on budget cuts have led many to question who they want to lead the country and who they want to stand in their area. The rise of the UK Independence Party has shown how even a party with little funding can attract a keen following.

UKIP gained well in the 2013 local elections and has risen significantly in the polls. Policies which tackle immigration and the debate over Europe have gained support over the U-turns and dithering of the coalition government. However, to me, it seems that the success of UKIP is to be temporary rather than long-lasting. The current manifesto is a simple argument against government policies which have proven controversial which is why the party have become ever more popular in recent months. However, let me dig back to 2010 General Election. Third running horse Nick Clegg made a promise about university tuition fees. When arriving in Government that policy was comprehensively broken and so much of the hype and support that the Lib Dems had in 2010 has since been wiped away. The same, I fear, I will happen to UKIP.

So does this mean that all independent candidates should give up? Not necessarily. In Jeremy Clarkson’s case, he is a controversial figure. On the BBC’s Motoring show, Top Gear, the presenter is known for his outspoken comments about the Government and their actions; these are generally supported by the studio audience, a reflection of the millions who watch Top Gear around the globe. So certainly he is on some kind of level with the voter. As much as I enjoy Clarkson, it would be hard to see how he would create his own policies without reference to bigoted points such as “everybody who drives below 70mph will be blown up”. His controversy on Top Gear which make the weekly headlines is unlikely to make him a serious candidate, but some of his thoughts and interests do reflect the ‘national interest’.

Could we be seeing Jeremy Clarkson in the Commons ?

Could we be seeing Jeremy Clarkson in the Commons ?

An opinated figure, there have been previous campaigns for Jeremy Clarkson to be Prime Minister, thanks to his somewhat eccentric ideas yet the campaigns have been dismissed by Downing Street. However, the character of Clarkson would be ideal as a politician. He openly states that he “sits back” and waits for the criticisms of every Top Gear episode and he is certainly familiar to making the headlines. His hard faced and stubborn approach which has beckoned him a legion of fans make him suitable to the modern day politics of spin, controversy, blunders and media. But what about his thoughts? Although many sceptics dismiss him entirely, his thoughts expressed on Top Gear are often sensible. Ever since the first series of the motoring show, he has campaigned for the axing of the M4 Bus Lane. He has challenged former transport ministers about speeding on the roads, questioning whether it is just another way of taking money off motorists. His interview with John Prescott was intentionally a ridicule but the former Government minister was left trembling and dismayed by Clarkson and his audience.

Whilst the familiarity and persona of Clarkson may make a good MP, I’m not sure about his policies and manifesto. Of course, there have been celebrity culture links to modern day politics. Former GMTV presenter Gloria De Piero switched from sofa to backbench, joining the Labour Party as the MP for Ashfield. There have also been many a celebrity endorsements. John Cleese, Daniel Radcliffe, David Tennant, Gary Barlow, Lord Sugar and more have all publicly supported a respected party, usually through public broadcasts. The idea is to create a profile and personality to a political party. If someone the voter follows on the television is suddenly supporting a party, the mass following can be convinced to vote. Vital when voting figures spiral down every election. Familiarity to the party is key and using famous faces is the way to do it.

Of course there have been attempts to bring politics into the celebrity culture. Nadine Dorries MP used the “I’m a Celebrity…” programme to raise her profile and supposedly raise interest in politics through the TV medium. Of course the moments when she did speak about her political beliefs were edited out. The result was a humiliation. Figures such as Lord Sugar blend their political roles and celebrity lives seamlessly, whilst some MP’s become renowned for their reputation. During the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London in 2012, Chancellor George Osborne was unceremoniously ‘booed’ by the strong crowd.

It is probably very easy to gain a reputation in politics. Doing one thing alone can last a lifetime. John Prescott’s punch on a voter for instance. Today, as generations and the population grow, so does the interest in celebrity lifestyle, showbiz and gossip. Little consideration for the politics of Westminster and local government. It’s a shame. The suggestion by Top Gear’s infamous host will be supported by his strong following because of their interests and desire. It will probably never happen. But it does bring a very good question about the familiarity of our representatives. Despite the scandal and sleaze, not all of our MP’s should be tarred with the same brush, but if Jeremy Clarkson can intend to run as a Member of Parliament, who else can. Raising their profile, connections and general familiarity is key ahead of the next election for the members.

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Have we fallen out of love with our seaside ?

A heatwave to rival similar temperatures in 2006 made the summer of 2013 very memorable indeed. Memorable for being outstanding compared to recent seasons of rain, wind and cold. So whilst the sun may have lifted the moods of millions up and down the land, I believe that as a nation we have fallen out of love with our seaside. And it’s easy to see why.

If you think of seaside, the first resort that comes to mind is Blackpool. Once a thriving coastal hotspot, thousands of workers flocked from the factories and hardships of working class life to relax and escape during the industrial revolution. The 1800’s and early 20th century was really when Blackpool boomed and was a must visit place. New infrastructure including railway stations allowed the mass population to travel to the coast to take in the “healthy” sea breeze, take part in leisure activities and visit new attractions including the piers, Blackpool tower and of course the famous illuminations. Today a fairly large question mark hangs over our seaside resorts – are they in decline?

Industrialisation and the motorisation period did bring benefits to coastal resorts, namely as people could now access them. But as the development of aeroplanes and the popularity of flight increased, more and more people have fled British resorts altogether and headed abroad for their holidays. Resorts such as Benidorm offer a new environment for British holidaymakers, high-rise buildings, sandy beaches, blue waters and a certain hot weather. As the age of flight took millions around the globe, package holidays offering cheap vacations abroad, the decline of the British seaside had begun. It became more affordable and more attractive to holiday abroad than to holiday on the British coast.

All is quiet at Brighton Beach

All is quiet at Brighton Beach

The illuminations in Blackpool not only signal the end of the Summer season but also represent a seemingly outdated nostalgia on the coast of the Irish Sea. My memories of visits to Blackpool are night-time trips to “The Golden Mile”, walking in the cold and wind, in awe of the bright lights, trams and fairgrounds. Very sentimental. I have only really visited Blackpool once in daytime light and frankly I wished it was dark so I couldn’t see the town. It is a shame but too many of our resorts, Blackpool, Brighton, Morecambe, Clacton-On-Sea and the rest have built up a reputation of shabbiness, uncleanliness and general disappointment. And furthermore why would any family choose to holiday on the British coast when 46 of our beaches have been labelled as “health hazards”?

The theme of decline continues. A study by the Office for National Statistics concluded that Skegness had the highest level of deprivation out of a total of 57 large and medium-sized seaside towns in 2010. Once resorts that flourished with tourists are now in dire need of help when it comes to health, disability, poverty and employment levels. Blackpool, which still brings in more visitors than any other seaside resort, had the second highest deprivation levels. Despite that, tourism and council leaders still suggest that more people year-on-year are choosing to retire at the seaside as the air is fresh and health benefits are significantly better than in land towns and cities. Nevertheless the take off of package holidays abroad and cheap deals elsewhere have driven tourists away from the coast.

It is beyond transparent as to understanding why tourists choose new styles of holidaying. Camping in Britain is on the increase across the countryside (which can be completely exquisite when the weather is right) namely because it is cheaper and perhaps offers more family bonds and a different sense of adventure. City breaks have become popular. I’ve visited Bruges, Berlin, Glasgow and Edinburgh amongst others for my ‘getaway’ and they are truly magnificent. My favourite are European cities; they offer a buzz in a mix of traditional architecture and modern infrastructure. It’s also become apparent that cruising, once reserved for the elite, is now a hot favourite amongst families choosing to combine everything. Beaches, great weather, luxurious accommodation, great food and interesting locations to dock at, it is no wonder that taking a cruise has become a real sense of adventure, exploration and genuine excitement. And of course, the traditional beach holiday to The Canaries, Portugal, Costa Del Sol and beyond are affordable in any one of the hundreds of package holidays available. Everything to do with holidays has modernised, from accommodation to the way we actually get there, yet the British seaside resort still seems stalled in an era of low expectations.

Whilst the British seaside may have become a little stagnant, lets not forget that actually it is quite an iconic place to visit. The annual day which sees ‘soaring’ mercury leads to the newspapers printing impressive images of hundreds of people crammed onto the beach basking in the sunshine which is great. Nowhere does seaside food better than Britain – Fish and Chips for a start. Beach huts which parade the beach perimeters are a lucrative business and the trams at Blackpool are instantly recognisable. But then again the littering of arcades and gambling businesses on the seafront take the shine from our resorts, as do unclean and poorly maintained buildings, and let’s face it if we are comparing a British seaside hut to the extraordinary sky rise towers of Europe, Asia and beyond then something has gone wrong. Yes, there are good sides to our resorts but everything is very minimalistic compared to our foreign cousins.

Benidorm is popular with foreign tourists.

Benidorm is popular with foreign tourists.

I visited Blackpool this year for the first time in a blue moon because I wanted to see first hand if anything had changed from what I remember and what I had researched. I’m afraid to say it hasn’t. The lights are still as underwhelming as ever in comparison to other life experiences, the row of children’s arcades are simply unattractive and buildings including the ‘Sandcastle’ are monstrous. It really was no surprise when it was revealed by the Blackpool tourism board that £372,000 was lost from the switch on of the lights. People aren’t interesting in visiting a place with a less than fantastic reputation in the cold to see some fairy lights. Regardless of how long the tradition has continued for.

There is evidence that our resorts are attempting to adapt to the 21st century. Part of the promenade at Blackpool is very modern and spacious for visitors; Some of the fleet of traditional trams have been replaced by the inter-city type tram and there is a growing celebrity culture associated with our coastal resorts. For me it’s too little too late. Our seaside towns are going to have to work in overdrive to pursue old reputations away and convince thousands that visiting and holidaying in the big coastal resorts is an adventure to rival other types of holidays.

Many, I’m sure, will continue to flock to our coastal resorts as it is cheaper than going abroad. But for that you get no security in the weather, little to do and a donkey walking along the beach. I’m positive there is still some love for the seaside; It’s like an old friend. Today, there is so much more to see and do and parts of the world to explore. I know what I’d be choosing. I’ll get booking those plane tickets right away.

For more on the study by the ONS on seaside deprivation see http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/aug/21/english-seaside-towns-deprivation

Gove out of touch ?

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Less than 24 hours after criticising teachers for planned strikes, Education Secretary Michael Gove has put his foot in the deepening hole again. This time he has suggested that children need their own bedroom to study, despite a controversial government policy that effectively forces children to share bedrooms in the so called “bedroom tax”.

Mr Gove defended comments by minister Nick Bole saying people need a “room of one’s own” adding that “There are children, poor children, who do not have a room of their own in which to do their homework, in which to read, in which to fulfil their potential.” Today, the minister has come under fire again for his comments which have been described by some critics as being “hypocritical”.

The government’s highly divisive Bedroom Tax expects that children in council or housing association accommodation should share a room and that same-sex children should only have their own room when 16 years old. If the rules of the policy are broken then the family household is deemed to have a spare bedroom and benefits to the family can be cut by up to 14%.

So it’s a question of who the government ministers actually want to support? There is much speculation from voters that those represent the country are out of touch and surely the latest gaffe from Gove is a clear indication of unprofessionalism toward working class families. Essentially, if Mr Gove wants children to develop, read and remain enthusiastic about education, then these taxes and funding cuts hanging over the heads of working class families are going to need to be abolished. The comments from what appears to be a deluded Education Secretary are very much out of touch and look to favour those of middle and higher social classes. For those children fortunate to have a bedroom each, there is a sense of development and freedom, but the comments are ill-timed given financial situations, economic and infrastructure issues and negative representations toward certain sectors of society.

It isn’t the first time Mr Gove has been left red faced and embarrassed. His U-turns on his own education policies including the scrapping of a new GCSE format, the English Baccalaureate and homework guidelines. Headteachers have called for a calm as the new school term begins, suggesting that too many shake ups and U-turns on the curriculum have left students the victim of uncertainty and confusion, inevitably reflective in this year’s national exam results. The latest comments suggesting teachers should “see the error of their ways” in the wake of an announcement of strike action before Christmas have certainly sparked anger from teachers and unions across the land. The contradictory words about the need for one bedroom per child is certainly downgrading toward struggling families and complete ignorance toward his government policies.

It has been an uncertain time for the PM and his ministers over the weeks. Recently losing out the vote on military action in Syria led to suggestions the government was ill informed and quick to make hasty decisions. With no backing from MP’s the vote has been deemed a landmark for UK politics. As the uncertainty continues and a general election looming in 2015, what Michael Gove has done is send the current coalition further into a deep grave.

ITV to revive Albert Dock ‘This Morning’

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ITV has announced that its flagship daytime programme ‘This Morning’ is to return to its original home, Liverpool’s Albert Dock, albeit for a one off special programme.

The broadcaster announced that hosts Phillip Schofield, Holly Willoughby, Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford will present the 25th Anniversary programme from the banks of the River Mersey on October 3rd. Original presenters, Richard and Judy, will also join in the celebrations, whilst the floating weather map will also make a return with Keith Lemon expected to take over the duties.

Executive producer, Miles Jarvis, said the “team have worked very hard on the plans” and encouraged viewers to be a part of the celebrations. Editor of the show, Adam Vandermark also added that “our whole family of talent are really excited about this special anniversary show – there’ll be plenty of surprises and memories shared – and it’s going to be extra special returning to where it all started.”

This Morning broadcast its first series from the Albert Dock in 1988 and continued there until 1996 before moving to London to attract more and bigger guests to the programme. The dock saw many a mishap, including a miming singer and the infamous streakers who invaded the weather map.

Today, Liverpool’s Albert Dock is home to a selection of restaurants, bars, apartments, novelty shops and The Tate Liverpool.

Visit the ITV Press Centre and imediamonkey for more details about the 25th anniversary series.
http://www.itv.com/presscentre/press-releases/morning-returns-serve-special-silver-service
http://www.imediamonkey.com/2013/09/02/this-morning-returning-to-albert-dock-for-25th-anniversary/