Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • 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.

  • Why I don't blame Sir Victor

    Candice Krieger
    May 18, 2009

    Sir Victor Blank's decision to step down as chairman of Lloyds Banking Group has apparently stunned the City. Really? Surely it's not that much of a surprise. Sir Victor has faced mounting pressure to step down since Lloyds - that conservatively-run bank known for its strong dividend payouts and risk controls - took over ailing HBOS in a rescue bid last September.

    The deal, which saved the taxpayer from having to intervene, was viewed as a huge favour to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who waved aside competition concerns over the deal. The result: a superbank for Britain, and for Sir Victor, a place bang in the middle of the limelight. He initially won plaudits for preventing the collapse of the mortgage lender. But the takeover - and soaring bad debts that came with it - has since crippled Lloyds, and Sir Victor's reputation. 

    Critics say Sir Victor's decision to go was one to spare his blushes, allowing him to avoid a potentially embarrassing showdown with investors over his re-election at next month's annual meeting. Maybe. But then he has been left with little choice.

  • Yeah, right

    Stephen Pollard
    May 15, 2009

    From today's Times:

    Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, who is under
    investigation over her Commons allowances, is said by her colleagues to have
    asked Mr Brown if she can stand down from the Cabinet so that she can
    concentrate on trying to retain her marginal seat.

    Aha. The Labour version of spending more time with the family.