Something for the Weekend: Ticket to ride

We’re back after the parliamentary recess and positively brimming with news, so let’s jump right in.

Tony Blair, Fare Dodger

Former president Tony Blair has been caught on the Heathrow Express without a ticket. He was, as the First Post puts it, “doing a Queen” and travelling with no cash or cards, but had forgotten the £24.50 pocket ticket money that an aide had given him.

Heathrow Express said that even former prime ministers – including Blair, who opened the £550m Heathrow Express service in 1998 – must pay for the train service. “Our policy is that everyone pays regardless of who they are.”

So, of course, the ticket inspector waived the fare and let the cash-strapped former PM travel for free.


David Cameron whipped out one of the most awful puns ever committed to Hansard this week. Facing Gordon Brown at Prime Minister’s Questions, he informed the Commons:

The Labour peer, Lord Desai, said that the Prime Minister’s leadership style is like porridge. Another week like this and it will be Cheerios.”

Apparently Dave has a cereal for every occasion, so we can look forward to “Given the Government’s propensity for leaking secret memos, maybe they need to switch to Shreddies,” “Once they’ve reclassified cannabis, they should take a serious look at Special K,” and “Does the Prime Minister have Crunchy Nuts in the morning?”

Boris Johnson denies making inappropriate comments about Coco Pops.

The Real Hustle

A businessman attempting to buy London’s Ritz hotel was lured into a con straight out of the BBC TV series Hustle, the Guardian reported last week.

Businessman Terry Collins appeared to have secured a great deal when two men claiming to be acting for owners the Barclay brothers offered the hotel for the knockdown price of £200m. Unfortunately, once the £1m deposit had been handed over, the intermediaries turned out to be a former lorry driver and an unemployed construction manager, who went on a rapid spending spree.

Dumb headline of the week

This BBC story is now headed “7/7 ‘inspired airline plotters'”. Initially the headline was “Airline plotters played tennis”.

Seeing double

There’s an unusual pair of entries on the list of nominated candidates for Wigan Borough Council’s elections on Thursday. Scroll down to the Orrell Ward and you’ll see two candidates called Richard Clayton, both listed at 110 Church Street, one standing for the Conservatives and one as an Independent.

The Daily Mail explains why:

Leaving his wife for another woman almost 20 years his junior was always going to cause more than a little friction between Tory councillor Richard Clayton and the rest of his family.

But when his son, also called Richard, heard that his father had moved in with his mistress – living in a house just 25 yards away from his parents’ former home – it was the final straw.

Richard Clayton jnr, 38, was so incensed at his father’s behaviour that he decided to try and oust him from the council seat he has held for the past four years.

Meanwhile, in London

Some fun courtesy of the campaign for Mayor of London. First off, our friends at the English Democrats, whose candidate – Hampshire’s Matt O’Connor – gave up this week. Here’s their unintentionally funny “party political broadcast”:

The Sun, in its own inimitable style, has chosen three bikini-clad “lovelies” to represent the three main mayoral candidates under the headline “Page 3 cheers for electioneers“. In case you’re not sure who’s representing whom (or they forget), their bikinis are colour-coded.

The Livingstone team have put out this “Londoners for Ken” video:

Its description on YouTube is “Watch other Londoners explain why they’re backing Ken for re-election”. Notice anything missing? That’s right – in nearly two-and-a-half minutes of Londoners explaining why they’re backing Ken, not one person actually does.

Off at tangent now. Poet Luke Wright, who I saw at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, writes poems. One of these is called The Rise & Fall of Dudley Livingstone Esq.:

Journalist, family man, Tory,
A little bit of Jack The Lad with a pinch of Jackanory.
From a lineage of land-owners who always shot on sight,
But savvy enough to know not to boast about being an Etonite.

Instead he stuck to shooting off his pen in periodicals
His wit would warm like sherry, so his right-wing doggerel,
Didn’t seem so extreme and he found being green
Meant you could say Send them back! and it wouldn’t sound
so obscene…

You can read the whole thing on Luke’s site, where you can also buy it on CD.

Entirely unrelated to that poem, here’s some news about Boris Johnson. This week, the Tories held an opposition day debate in the Commons about crime in London. A great opportunity for Boris to show off how a Conservative Mayor would tackle crime in London (badly, we suspect, but that’s not important right now). So what did Boris do?

He turned up for the opening speech from the Tories and intervened a couple of times to show he was there before disappearing. 501 MPs ended up voting on the debate, but Boris wasn’t one of them, having stayed around for just 40 minutes of a three hour debate. Obviously crime in London is an issue Boris cares passionately about.

Obligatory Doctor Who bit

The BBC has won a high court case over Dalek publishing rights. The row centred on BBC Worldwide’s 2001 publication The Dalek Survival Guide. In his ruling, the judge demonstrated how up-to-date with popular culture the bench has become:

Mr Justice Norris said: “The daleks first became known to humankind in 1963 when they appeared in the first series of Doctor Who.

“They were some of the most engaging and enduring creations of the fertile mind of the late Terry Nation.”

Fact of the week

One of the Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords sang in the Westminster Abbey Choir at the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, as Lord Wallace of Saltaire’s updated biography reveals.

Wanted: Ministers’ fingeprints

Privacy International and No2ID have taken out adverts in Underground stations and pub toilets offering a £1,000 reward to anyone who can lawfully obtain the fingerprints of Gordon Brown or Home Secretary JacQui Smith.

You can see the “WANTED” style poster on the Privacy International site.

Harman hacked

Harriet Harman’s blog claimed she was defecting to the Conservatives this week, as reported by Guido Fawkes. The BBC picked up on the story, but got a bit confused about a previous case of “hacking” they chose to draw parallels with:

Last year, Conservative housing spokesman Grant Shapps was targeted by hackers who broke into his YouTube account to post a message under his name saying the party could not win the Ealing Southall by-election.

Those with longer memories than the nation’s favourite news service will notice two problems with this report. Firstly, the message was posted from Grant Shapps’s account by someone posing as a Liberal Democrat in order to claim that we had no hope in Ealing. And secondly, very few people believe that the account was hacked at all.

Giant steps are what you take

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin was the second man on the moon, way on back in 1969. Sadly, not everyone believes the moon landings really happened, and sadly Buzz doesn’t take too kindly to it:

Also in the news

The founder of a company providing sperm to lesbians has been jailed for fraud and forgery. The company went into, er, liquidation a while ago.

South Gloucestershire police swooped this week – on the members of a bowls club.

Al Qaeda internal politics from the LA Times: behave badly and you’ll get a nasty memo.

And finally

We return to London (good news for the rest of the country: the mayoral election ends this week). Some wag has re-edited the Newsnight debate as an episode of Rainbow:

* Something for next weekend? Email us at [email protected]

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