Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Esther's manifesto (probably)

    Alex Kasriel
    May 20, 2009

    Esther Rantzen is strongly considering standing as MP in Luton South.

    This is a brilliant idea. The 68-year-old has a very good chance of winning especially at a time when the rest of the MPs are about as popular as a food free wedding.

    She may not have won the public vote during appearances on various reality TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing and I'm a Celebrity...Get Me out of Here! but she was not unpopular. And the skill set of the former That's Life! star and ChildLine founder, is far more suited to politics.

  • Boycott the boycotters

    Marcus Dysch
    May 20, 2009

    The capitulation by organisers of the Edinburgh Film Festival is, I think, more shocking than most examples of the Israel boycott we’ve previously seen.

    Had the organisers decided off their own backs to not accept the Israeli Embassy’s money to fly in director Tali Shalom Ezer it would have been bad enough.

    But to so openly base the decision on the ramblings of Ken Loach almost beggars belief.

  • Grauniad nonsense

    Stephen Pollard
    May 20, 2009

    I have a penchant for flawed statistics. There's a cracker in today's Guardian:

    Only 6% of film directors are women, so Jane Campion is calling for an army of tough new recruits.

    Do I need to point out that this is drivel?

  • Circus, circus...

    Jenni Frazer
    May 20, 2009

    A couple of months ago my niece got married. It was a beautiful and generous simcha; naturally enough, there were many people there I did not know, most of whom, I assumed, were from the bridegroom's side. Walking through the reception area's acres of carpet I all but stumbled on a strange woman in a powder-blue suit, a handbag at her feet. She was juggling.

    No-one seemed to know who she was; eventually it emerged that she was a neighbour of the groom and that she, er, enjoyed simchas.

    So far, so bizarre. Last night I drove past Hampstead's Whitestone Pond, which for the last six weeks or so has been drained back to the concrete while various workmen stand around and suck their teeth a lot, and the poor ducks who usually live there flap about, distressed that their usual feeding place has evaporated.

  • George Baker

    Stephen Pollard
    May 19, 2009

    The 6.10 at Leicester is not usually history making. Very little in Leicester is, today.

    (I once arrived a couple of hours early for a conference in Leicester. With time to spare, I asked the woman at the reception desk where I should go. I was thinking of perhaps visiting Simon de Montfort's grave. She looked at me and said, deadpan: "Get the train to London and back".)

    But today, in the 6.10 race at Leicester, something unique will happen. A two year old called George Baker will run, trained by George Baker, and ridden by another George Baker.

  • Bombing civilians

    Simon Rocker
    May 19, 2009

    In any modern war zone, whether it's Afghanistan, Gaza or Sri Lanka, armies confront  the problem: how far to go to minimise casualties to civilians when pursuing fighters in their midst.

    There's a thoughtful essay on the subject from Avishai Margalit and Michael Walzer in the New York Review of Books, who take issue with arguments that the safety of soldiers takes precedence over civilians on the enemy side.

    They write: "Conduct your war in the presence of noncombatants on the other side with the same care as if your citizens were noncombatants."

  • Expenses again

    Stephen Pollard
    May 19, 2009

    Michael Gove seems to have provided an object lesson in dealing with the expenses furore. While others have gone to ground, he called an open meeting in his constituency last night.

    As one of those present put it:

    To call a public meeting whilst public
    anger is so apparent was a real political gamble. He submitted himself
    to his critics and showed solidity and integrity under fire and emerged
    from the evening, if not with his reputation enhanced, then at least
    with the allegations addressed and with a demonstration of openness and
    self-effacing honesty to which many paid tribute

  • No

    Stephen Pollard
    May 18, 2009

    Following the lead of John Rentoul and Oliver Kamm...

    Here is the first in my Questions to which the anwser is 'no' strand. It's cited by Paul Waugh, quoting Labour MP Jim Sheridan talking about the press standing outside the Speaker's house:

    What is this, is he some kind of paedophile or something?

  • What's up doc? No Jewish medics in ER

    Jan Shure
    May 18, 2009

    In a little over a week, on May 28, the 22nd episode of the 15th and final series of the hugely successful hospital drama, ER, goes out on Channel 4.

    Having been a devoted fan since the third series in 1996/7, I have watched a succession of medics and ancillary staff at County General in Chicago save a thousand lives. I have watched, horrified but hugely entertained as they have seized crash carts to restart hearts, as they fell in and out of love, as they fell ill, raved, roared, romanced, flirted, called the time of death, committed suicide and lost children. I flinched as they were kidnapped, shot at by marauding Congo militias and marauding Chicago gangbangers, were abducted, had burning aircraft fall on them, fell out of the sky or had a limb ripped off by helicopter rotor blades... The 15 years have seen some pretty extreme, but utterly riveting TV, acted by an extraordinarily talented ensemble cast whose most famous former member is George Clooney.

    If, like me, you have been a faithful fan, perhaps you can answer a question that has been bothering me since it popped into my head last week when I was watching The One Where George Clooney and Juliana Margulies Guest Star...

  • Late for work - but with a good excuse

    Richard Burton
    May 18, 2009

    The day began a little later than usual for some of us - because a woman almost gave birth on a train.

    Passengers travelling on the Central Line into the City were stuck for about 20 minutes as the driver gave constant updates. But left out the best bits.

    After first explaining there appeared to be a door problem with the train in front at St Paul's Station, he then announced the unexpected labour.