Howard’s Conservatives look impressively like The Sopranos this weekend. I suppose the unfortunate Mr Flight should be pleased he didn’t leave that final meeting in the trunk of a party car. As it is he’s been despatched so quickly he’s obviously in shock. In short order he’s been fired as Deputy Chairman, lost the whip, been kicked out of the party and deselected – his political career has been brutally and efficiently terminated. From made man to dead man in 24 hours.

and in business news…

Fascinating and Troll-like Barry Diller buys Ask Jeeves. No visible logic to this deal but, then again, who predicted Diller’s epic upside from buying the lacklustre Home Shopping Network or the equally mind-blowing outcome of his dodgy-looking 2001 Vivendi pact? Diller is a business genius and he compounds his genius by staying out at the edge of his target category and thus buying in at a fraction of the mugs’ price: so it’s HSN, not QVC. Ask Jeeves, not Google, USA Networks, not NBC.

Yahoo! buys flickr. This one is interesting: can the unique, clever, geeky flickr culture survive the Yahoo! steam bath? My guess: yes. Yahoo! is a friendly acquirer. They didn’t buy OFoto or Smugmug or Buzznet or one of those really boring photo sharing services. They bought the best one. That says, if you ask me, that Yahoo! is alive and well. I can imagine a raft of cool enhancements to the basic Yahoo! service right now: expect flickr pics and tags to start showing up next to Yahoo! search results, in Yahoo profiles and on My Yahoo! pretty soon.

Lending goes P2P. I think this is the week’s most mind-blowing arrival. Zopa (a UK firm) wants to connect ordinary borrowers with equally ordinary lenders. Borrow £10,000 and you could be borrowing it from your neighbour. No, I have no idea how they got this past the Financial Services Authority either: “So, let me get this straight: you want to be a lender?” “No, we’re just going to set up person-to-person loans”. “So there are going to be thousands of lenders?” “Millions, even.” “And not a consumer credit licence between them?” “Not one.” “Hmm…”

Zopa could do for credit what eBay did for car boot sales and BetFair for those men in loud suits at racecourses. I love the idea – it’s an intriguing extension of disintermediation in an unexpected direction – but I can already hear the cries of distress from the mainstream lenders. I can also see the Daily Mail editorials once the first defaults come in and the questions in Parliament about the moral hazard produced by turning us into a Nation of usurers and deadbeats. I’m assuming the stellar personnel behind Zopa have their tin hats firmly pulled down around their ears…

Categorized as Business


On 14th September I will be having dinner at The Ivy. I tell you this, of course, purely in the interests of the kind of accountability and transparency that we responsible bloggers keenly aspire to. I’m going to be there because I’m helping to judge the Guardian Student Media Awards this year. I think I’ve been chosen because I am now so far from being a student (about half way between graduation and interment I’d say) that I can bring some distance to bear on the topic. I’ll be judging Best Student Web Site with Emily Bell who runs Guardian Unlimited.

Categorized as Uncategorized Tagged

Hon Member for West Bromwich East a bit geeky shock

I probably shouldn’t find this surprising really. Maybe it’s because the only MPs I’ve ever met looked to me like they would probably struggle to operate their own trouser buttons, let alone apply an unsharp mask. Hear hear!

I guess the risk of being the only Photoshop-literate MP is that you might wind up being required to airbrush yourself out of the group photos once you’ve fallen out of favour.

Nationalists on McCartney

Diarmid Logan posts a bunch of links to nationalist media coverage for the McCartney story. Sobering (but not surprising?) to learn that the nationalist media is not 100% supportive of the McCartneys, and that – to be honest – quite a narrow, disappointingly sectarian tone of voice prevails here. And, by the way, and if you don’t mind my saying so, it takes a blog to bring together these voices usually unheard in mainland media. I’d never have been exposed to these opinions without Diarmid’s effort to harvest the links and post them here.

Here are the links again:
Time to Stop Demonising Sinn Fein, Irish News
Killing used as political football, Daily Ireland
Sisters here, but who’s paying? Irish Echo
Unionists ‘hypocrites’ over McCartney death: Victim’s father, Online.ie
Precedent aplenty of armies shooting people, Daily Ireland
Short shrift for the Strand, Sunday Business Post
Murder used as a political football, Daily Ireland

Categorized as Uncategorized Tagged

Mr Showbiz

Do not tell me you weren’t impressed by Gordon Brown’s ninth budget performance. He’s such a showman. He’s like a movie star of the Golden Age – a brooding matinee idol – Robert Mitchum or Ray Milland (with some Methodist preacher thrown in). His delivery is quite awesome. What about that perfectly timed “…and I can do more…” (impossible to convey the subtlety of cadence here: you’ll have to listen to it). He should be on the stage – GB for Child Catcher once his leadership ambitions have been finally crushed?


Thanks to a gang of (presumably) drunken thugs in a Belfast bar, the 2nd-term Bush administration no longer has a reason to defer to the huge Irish-American vote on Northern Ireland. So Sinn Féin’s Capitol Hill access privileges have been revoked and the IRA faces an existential threat of unimagined proportions. What must it feel like for the sainted Adams and McGuinness – after a decade of the toughest internal politics and the most delicate public realignment in history – to have been so profoundly eclipsed by the McCartney ingenues? From Presidential darling to historic irrelevance in about three weeks.

Categorized as Uncategorized Tagged

Bracing wasn’t it?

Like a sort of constitutional cold shower. On balance, and setting aside the merits of the legislation itself (I know, I know…), I think last week’s strange and thrilling events in Parliament add up to a pretty good testimonial for British democracy – an eccentric, contradictory and sometimes barely comprehensible institution on top form.

Terror’s pathetic end

I may be Irish (mostly) and Catholic (technically) and a republican (instinctively) but I’ve spent my whole life on the British mainland and most of it watching the men of the absurd, Lilliputian ‘Irish Republican Army’ acting out their lethal military fantasies. With their random brutality and their scary balaclavas and their shambolic graveside parades and, more recently, their playground nastiness and backstreet persecution of the communities they own and abuse, they’ve always debased the cause of Irish unity and, more importantly, of peaceful coexistence on the Island of Ireland.

So I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised by the provos’ preposterous encounter with the McCartney family and their pathetic and inhuman ‘offer’ to shoot McCartney’s alleged murderers. What must it have been like for the sisters to sit with those Ruritanian gangsters and listen, without laughing (or crying), to their gutless justifications? It looks like we have much to thank the McCartney sisters for. They may have finally upended the whole teetering Republican racket. The damage done to the men of violence and their apologists must, surely, be terminal.

Categorized as Uncategorized Tagged

Green paper not hatchet job shock

I’ve been performing a detailed textual analysis of the Government’s BBC Green Paper – using the awesome analytic power of the ‘Find’ command (It’s easy: download the Green Paper and search for important words: if your top word doesn’t come up, write something righteous about its exclusion. You are now a pundit). I’ve read the Green Paper and the most dramatic absence is that of the much-feared post-Hutton hatchet. Most remarkably of all, the BBC’s extraordinary, exotic funding model survives and no significant proportion of the license fee bounty has been set aside for other Public Service Broadcasters.

The pop media have been reduced to discussion of the Green Paper’s fairly flaccid (and probably tokenistic) attack on copycat formats and ratings chasing in general. The proposed legislation is, unarguably, an almost unqualified victory for the Corporation but it’s also a cast iron, unmissable opportunity for forward thinkers at the Beeb (and in Government and in the legislature) to make grown-up use of the next decade-and-a-half to rebuild Auntie for the networked era.

Of course, above all else, what right-thinking people really want to know is, in the upcoming quality food-fight, will Dick & Dom’s brilliant, anarchic and entirely peurile Bungalow (already the target of Parliamentary dissaproval) survive? In our house, we hope so.

Categorized as BBC