Wednesday, 20 May 2009

I declare...

Manchester United will win the Champions League final. There´s been much pant-wetting over this Barça team over the past few weeks, especially round these parts. But, I´m gonna put my hand up and say something controversial: they´re overrated.

Let´s take a quick look book over the past couple of years, shall we? First off, this season, La Liga has been shite. Valencia. Shit. Sevilla. Shit. Villareal. Shit. Atletico. Shit. All of them, utter garbage. And above all... Real Madrid are shit. And yet, this Real side, that has conceded 12 goals in their last 3 games, that should´ve lost to Getafe at home, if that lot knew how not to take comically awful penalties in the 90th minute of big games, that couldn´t even get near Liverpool, despite announcing beforehand that they´d piss all over them. A team whose best player is Arsenal and Chelsea reject Lassana Diarra. They´re terrible. And you know what? They´ve cantered into second place after a mid-season run that saw them take 55 points out of 57.

And yet, give them a reasonably effective coach, Van Nistelrooy, with Guti and Robben actually playing regularly and well, and they beat this same Barça side (more or less) the title last year.

Barça have had one challenge this season. Beating Chelsea. And they shouldn´t have. They should have been dead and buried, long before Iniesta´s speculative last minute drive. They´ve ropey first-choice defenders, most of whom are injured. They´ve two fantastic midfielder and one great forward. But I don´t think Yaya Toure, the 2009´s Thierry Henry or Samuel "rich man´s Andy Cole" E´too will exactly scare Vidic and Ferdinand.

Manchester United on the other hand have actually won a difficult league, have a midfield that seems adept at suffocating creative types like Iniesta and Xavi, and the best defence in, well, the world. Oh, and the best attacking player on the planet (and a few other good ones). So they´ll win next week.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


Is anyone else struck by how every attempted to explain exactly why MPs need such generous expenses actually makes you feel more annoyed? 

The greed of it is unsurprising. It´s when they justify it I start to wonder what planet these people live on. Like if people fronted up and said, "look, it´s an un-monitored expenses accounts. I got carried away and put stuff on it that I really shouldn´t have, I´m sorry". We might understand, we all feel the pressure of money, whether we´ve got a lot of it or not, and if you had such an arrangement you´d sure as fuck be tempted to put everything under the sun on it, government-funded or not. 

Then someone turns round and tells you, I need all these housing expenses so my husband can live and work in Southampton, whilst I have a constituency home in Luton and another house in London for attending parliament  (to give one example that was cited approvingly by David Aaronivitch) gave us. She needed all these houses to do her job and have a normal family life. 

But the thing about the lives that the rest of us live is that they´re full of compromises. If you find a good job in a different city, you have to make choices; are you prepared to change your life for the opportunity? Are you prepared to compromise your family life by commuting or living somewhere else? Or cause a massive upheavel by all moving to the new place and hoping that your partner finds another job? You weigh your options and you make the best choice for yourself and your family.

Being an MP shouldn´t exempt you from life´s difficulties. It shouldn´t be the case that because you are a Member of Parliament all of your problems must be solved at public expense. If you don´t want to away from your husband all the time, don´t take that constituency in Luton, or alternately move your family to Luton. Don´t expect the rest of to the foot the bill for you splitting your life in three places. Her argument isn´t that outrageous, it´s just that it´s her deciding to remove herself from the idea that she should ever have to endure the normal compromises of life. She takes home a salary that is far in excess of her constituents. It´s not an outrageous request that the cost of doing her job should be re-embursed to her. Beyond that, it´s not our problem how she organises her life.

And it´s the impoverished bewailing of the difficulties of their actually rather luxury lifestyles that really grates, more than the actually greediness.