Something for the Weekend: On and on and on

Dreary weather outside: check. Nice cup of tea and some biscuits: check. ABBA: The Definitive Collection on random shuffle: check. Then let’s rock and roll.

Loading up on the Something for the Weekend DVD player today: Norman Baker gets musical; MPs bring the pork home; flippertygibbets; a couple of bears; and more!

» Good Week

It’s been a good week for geeks who like fun in the workplace as global IT behemoth Google has opened its new European HQ in Zurich.

While continuing Google’s tradition of free lunches for employees, and destroying a proverb at the same time, the building also has a slide to the cafeteria (which you can see in action), firemen’s poles for quickly getting between floors, an aquarium for relaxation, a Cluedo-style library and meeting “pods” in the style of igloos.

» Bad Week

It’s been a bad week for MPs who want to keep their expenses under wraps. The House of Commons authorities have lost a Freedom of Information case and been ordered to publish detailed breakdowns of the expenses claims of 14 Members of Parliament, including Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Ming Campbell.

The Commons also published the Additional Costs Claims Guide – aka the “John Lewis list” – detailing what are considered reasonable claims for a given item, including £750 for a hi-fi, £10,000 for a new kitchen, and £750 for a TV. The good news is that the cost of a new bathrobe cannot be claimed for under this scheme. Hurrah.

» Also in the news

Elliot Spitzer swallows his pride and resigns as Governor of New York over a prostitution scandal.

France’s last veteran of the First World War, Lazare Ponticelli, has died in Paris at the age of 110.

Tough on crime: a bear has been convicted of stealing honey in Macedonia. Like an Eastern European Ronnie Biggs, the bear remains at large.

Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox has given birth to a son. Let’s hope he will use his father’s surname, Cyzer, as he’s been named Isaac.

» Word of the week: Flibbertigibbet

Tony Blair’s former right-hand man, Jonathan Powell, had politicos reaching for their dictionaries this week. He identified one of Blair’s weaknesses as a tendency to change his mind:

He said: “I take a very strong view, once you’ve decided to do something you should really stick to it and see it through and he would sometimes be a bit of a flippertygibbet about things and change his mind.”

Dictionary.com defines the marginally more common spelling of flibbertigibbet thus:

A silly, flighty, or scatterbrained person, especially a pert young woman with such qualities.

Tony Blair: a pert young woman.

» London: Part 1

Excitement at Something for the Weekend Towers! After this campaigning column’s endless nagging, the “To be launched next month” button that promised the long-awaited boroughs section of Boris Johnson’s London Mayor campaign website has finally gone!

Hold on, though. The boroughs section still hasn’t materialised. Should we take this to mean that the Boris team are no longer confident of it being arriving in March either? Boris, you’re running out of time.

Speaking of running: Boris deserves a pat on the back, as he’s running a mile for Sport Relief. We wish him and all the other runners taking part the best of luck.

And yet we can’t help reminding ourselves that the Liberal Democrats’ candidate for London Mayor, Brian Paddick, is tackling the London Marathon next month. That’s more than 26 times the distance Boris is running. We can only deduce that Brian will put 26 times the effort into running London that Boris would.

(You can sponsor Brian online to help one or all of his three chairities: The Stroke Association, The Down Syndrome Educational Trust and The Elton John Aids Foundation.)

» Norman Baker left me on Friday

Blogger, presenter and writer Andrew Collins (pop fact: he was a contestant on Telly Addicts many moons ago) has spotted an Evening Standard story about Lewes MP Norman Baker. It is important that you know that I’m wearing a Shed Seven T-shirt as I type, because Norman is accused of being a closet Shed Seven fan. Here’s what he is on record saying:

“The electricity wasted while a television set is on standby is costing consumers thousands, and is damaging the environment.

“If truth be told, the Government’s record on climate change isn’t getting better. On energy efficiency we are still chasing rainbows. Going for gold we are not.”

These sentence, as the Standard points out, contain no less than five Shed Seven song titles: On Standby, Truth Be Told, Getting Better, Chasing Rainbows and Going for Gold.

Although the story refers to Norman giving a speech in the House of Commons, this appears to be a press release from 2005, reproduced on a Norwich Union website.

According to Norman, it was “Completely coincidental.” And as Norman isn’t one for conspiracy theories, we’ll leave it there.

» “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?”

As the Labour Government continues its drive to dispose of recycle our ancient liberties, it’s worth plugging the Magna Carta section of the British Library’s website.

You can view a copy of the document in detail, read a translation, and hear from the British Library’s well-titled Head of Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts.

» London: Part 2

There are, of course, some fringe candidates running for London Mayor in May. Let me introduce you to Winston McKenzie.

Winston has been a Labour Party member, and a parliamentarty candidate for Veritas (so he was the other member!), finishing seventh of nine candidates in Croydon North in 2005 and losing his £500 deposit. He tried to get selected as the Tory candidate for Mayor, and having failed there is making an independent bid for office.

His official website has an interesting Google search listing:

Winston McKenzie google search result

The main plank of Winston’s campaign is opposition to the congestion charge, which he calls “a virus”. But there is no mention of his transport policies in his official campaign video, which focuses on some broader themes:

Next stop: the Eurovision Song Contest.

(Like Eurovision? Why not take a Eurovision Mini Cruise? Yes, it’s real.)

» Drastic funding reform

Nick Clegg wants to see caps on donations to political parties to help clean up politics. But while he’s in favour of radical reform of the political system, he’s not quite as radical as the Guardian erroneously suggested this week. As they explained:

We rather overstated the extent of Nick Clegg’s call for a cap on political donations. The Liberal Democrat leader’s proposed limit is £25,000, not £25.

» Rasher early day motions

EDM 1097 reads:

That this House congratulates the British pig industry on its high production standards, its continued commitment to animal welfare and on the provision of the best in pork, bacon and ham to consumers; notes with concern that high animal feed prices mean that pig farmers are losing more than £20 on every animal raised, posing a serious threat to the future of British pig production; further notes that shoppers have said they are willing to pay more for high welfare British pork, and that 70 per cent. of imported pork has been produced under conditions that would be illegal in the UK; welcomes the National Pig Association and British Pig Executive’s campaign – Pigsareworthit.com; and calls on the Government to help ensure that increases in retail prices flow down the supply chain to Britain’s pig farmers.

Congratulations to the tabling MP: Richard Bacon.

(And well done to the British Pig Executive for having such a great name.)

Chicken Yoghurt, meanwhile, has noticed an unfortunate comparison:

Number of MPs signing Early Day Motion 401 in support of Iraqi Employees helping the British Military: 79

Number of MPs signing Early Day Motion 1756 in support of the Canadian bears helping the British Military: 207

» How good at you at paying attention?

Find out by Doing the Test.

» Facebook groups of the week

The campaign to prevent Mehdi Kazemi from being deported to Iran, where he could face execution for being gay, is in the Save Mehdi Kazemi!!! group, which links to an online petition.

Like War Poets? Then join War Poetry.

Forcing kids to pledge an oath of allegiance to the Queen is ridiculous! means exactly what it says on the tin.

Simply on the grounds of electoral maths, Bet I can find 100000 people who don’t want Boris (BoJo) as Mayor of London should be able to achieve its aim (although my experience of similar groups is that it probably won’t).

» Coming up

Nick Clegg will be speaking at London Region Conference on Tuesday evening, and he’ll be on telly doing PMQs on Wednesday at 12pm. Rumour abounds that he’ll also be appearing on this week’s Late Edition with Marcus Brigstocke on Wednesday from 10.35pm on BBC Four.

» And finally…

“people care for nothing
no respect for human rights
evil times are coming
we are in for darker nights”

Insightful political commentary from ABBA there. And here’s the source of lyrics in live performance from 1981:

* Something for next weekend? Drop us a line at [email protected]

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