Monthly Archives: November 2008

Reality MP

Peter Mandelson last week became the latest MP to comment on the goings on of reality TV, with his backing of Strictly Come Dancing’s John Sergeant.Photo by Helen Catt

“John Sergeant should not bow out. He has become the people’s John Travolta and he should be a fighter, not a quitter.”

It follows Andy Burnham’s comment about X Factor evictee, Laura White.

I think it’s time the tables were turned.

In the spirit of fairness, let’s make Len Goodman Speaker of the House.

 ‘Well, Alistair, your paso’s got passion but I don’t think much to your 45p tax rate’

Or put Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan in the Shadow Cabinet to buzz in when an opposition speech gets boring.

Or have Gordon Brown conducting PMQs from inside an insect-filled tank.

It’d certainly liven up BBC Parliament if nothing else.


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It’ll take more than a hairdryer to get me playing sport

The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation have apparently cracked the dilemma of why women don’t play sport. The answer is: hairdryers.

Hmm, this smells to me like a spurious PR survey.

According to figures from a recent survey, cited in The Times, over half of those questioned said that they would do exercise if they could dry their hair afterwards.

I’m not sure it tops my (extensive) list of why I don’t play sport.

In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s nestling somewhere between:

 “Because I prefer sitting on the sofa eating biscuits (or, in fact, my own eyeballs) to panting my way round a hockey/netball/you name it pitch”


“Because I have as much grace as the love-child of Bambi and John Sergeant.”

For those of us who are rubbish at sport in all its forms, exercise is just one long, sweaty Hell (or ‘Sporture’, if you will) which even a cut and blow-dry from Nicky Clarke would not tempt me into.

A couple of paltry hairdryers certainly aren’t going to cut it (no pun intended). 

Survey highlights

Still, a quick glance at some other stats from this survey does make me think that it might not be entirely scientific.

Take this illuminating tidbit, for example:

“80% of women believe that sport should be more like shopping”


Doesn’t that mean ‘an activity which involves little or no physical exercise’?

Or are they envisaging attaching a pair of heavily reduced Jimmy Choos to the front of the running machine, just those few steps out of reach?

Or building a replica Saturday morning Primark experience with punchbags and hurdles?


Even more interesting is the revelation that:

“20% of women think that M&S would design the most female-friendly sports facility, followed by John Lewis and Boots”

M&S is not exactly the first name that springs to mind at the word ‘sports facility’.

Knickers, yes. Pseudo-pornographic food halls, also yes.

Olympic-quality sporting venues, probably not.

So I shall rest easy that I am unlikely to succumb to this particular magic-bullet for female laziness.

Now, if they can design a facility that removes all necessary skill and physical effort from sporting activities, you can count me in. 

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Could the I-Ball grenade camera be the next frontier in war reporting?

The I-Ball

The I-Ball

camera capable of being fired from a grenade launcher is currently being developed for the Ministry of Defence.

But could it also be the next step for war reporters?

In the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, we have seen an increasing desire to be ‘in the thick of the action’.

We, the viewers, no longer want reported action; we want to be virtually there as it happens.

We got used to seeing Ben Brown in his flak-jacket and 3-day-stubble crouching in holes in the desert or Rageh Omaar doing a piece to camera as missiles exploded into masonry above his head.

Or even, as the BBC memorably showed us at the outbreak of the Iraq conflict, real-time thermal images of Baghdad as US missiles screamed towards the city in the first wave of ‘shock and awe’.

Where can war reporting go from now?


Imagine, then, the possibilities of a device that can take you even closer to that action.

The I-Ball could provide that opportunity.

It is a small, round camera that transmits high-quality pictures from the moment it is released – either by grenade launcher or simply thrown into a room.

It is even designed to compensate for rolling and tumbling to give soldiers a clear idea of who or what is awaiting them.

Clearly this technology isn’t going to be cheap enough initally. But then again, neither were mobile phones twenty years ago…..


With a live feed from a camera like the I-Ball, we, the viewers, could be finding out what is around the corner at the exact same moment as troops on the ground.

Voyeuristic? Certainly. Exciting? Undeniably.

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World Toilet Day: a PR stunt flushed with genius?

Courtesy of Water AidTomorrow is no ordinary day. Oh no, 19th November 2008 is…World Toilet Day.

Or so Water Aid would have it anyway.

Yes, lining up with such PR-powered additions to the festival calendar as National Sausage Week, is a whole day dedicated to the humble invention of Sir John Harrington.

 No, Fact-fans, it wasn’t Thomas Crapper.

One can only guess at what the slogan should be.


The aim of this event is to raise awareness of areas of the world which lack sanitation.

According to the charity, which works in the field of water and sanitary provision, 2.5 billion people do not have somewhere private, safe or hygenic in which to go to the toilet.

Disturbingly, it also says that just 1 gramme of faeces can contain 10 million viruses and one million bacteria.

That does shed a whole new light on the age-old urban myth about pub peanuts/restaurant mints. 

PR Crazy

The Water Aid PR team though appears to have gone slightly round the bend (sorry, couldn’t resist) with its strategies for World Toilet Day.

Firstly, there is the truly stomach-churning online game, Turdlywinks.

Players are challenged to flick digital faeces into one of six toilets, with misses making nasty brown splashes.

When you get really good, there’s even a ‘boss’ toilet to defeat.

It’s actually surprisingly tricky – try it for yourself.

Or if you prefer your games less virtual, there’s always Poopla.

As Water Aid themselves describe it (and no I’m not making this up):

Play Poopla with friends or colleagues. By getting people to throw fake poos into a life-size model loo you remind them of how lucky they are to have a toilet!

As a former PR person, I find myself lost in admiration.

Full marks for breath-takingly revolting creativity and chutzpah, Water Aid.

Even if you are making me feel slightly queasy.

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UPDATE: Children in Need newsreaders’ dance

And here is this year’s effort:

BBC Newsreaders’ dance 2008

Who knew Ben Brown had been hiding quite such a luxurious chest rug under that flak-jacket all these years?

For more see Oh dear. It’s the Children in Need newsreaders’ dance

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Oh dear. It’s the Children in Need newsreaders’ dance

If you’ve never wanted to see Jeremy Vine in fishnet stockings or Andrew Marr in hotpants (and I believe that includes most of the sane population), look away now:

A BBC Newsreaders’ Classic from 2002

Children in Need’s annual BBC telethon, hosted by Sir Terry Wogan, is in full swing.

That means that, shortly, the BBC Newsreaders will be too.

Among the most eagerly anticipated/dreaded of the celebrity sketches that make up the seven-hour televised appeal show is the Newsreaders’ Dance.

Traditionally, the usually straight-laced faces of BBC News don tights, sequins and spandex to arythmically gyrate in an effort to raise donations.

Sex Appeal

With the arrival of Natasha Kaplinksy and the rise of the so-called ‘autocuties’, the newsreaders’ dance took on a slightly sexier theme.

As well as the Bond sketch above, we’ve had Chicago (think Fiona Bruce in a corset) and a tribute to Bananarama.

This year though promises less flesh and more sparkles.

According to The Mail on Sunday, the skit will be Abba-themed in honour of the year’s blockbuster Mamma Mia!


Reaction on the paper’s website has been mixed.

Some are looking forward to the annual ‘musical’ interlude.

M T Hatcher from Canley, West Midlands said:

You have to give credit to the newsreaders. Every year they make themselves look like utter clowns for the benefit of others. If only more people were as charitable and selflessly spirited as these people.

Others,though, think there are more useful ways the stars could get involved.

Andrew Paton from Bearsden in Glasgow commented:

Oh God!!! it’s that time of year again….Please girls just donate some of your huge salaries to the kids and put it away……



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MPs should spend more time in front of the dispatch box, not the gogglebox

Photo - Helen CattThe Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, has today spoken out against the eviction of Laura White from last week’s X Factor.

The 21 year old singer from Bolton had been tipped to make it all the way to the final.

This is a matter of enormous national importance, a travesty of justice that should not go uncorrected by the highest powers in the land.

And why has he stopped there? Where is his mighty stand against the towering wrong that put Rachel Stevens in the bottom two on Strictly Come Dancing?

Or his raging condemnation of the cruel regime of Dancing on Ice which imposes a four-hour daily workout routine on helpless Emmerdale Star Roxanne Pallet?

If not Burnham, what MP will stand up for the downtrodden rejects of reality TV?

Oh, sorry Lembit, I forgot about you.

Reality Politics

Actually, Burnham’s comment was a quip designed to make a point.

And a very good point it was too.

Saying that MPs are often tempted to talk about what they wanted to see on the small screen, he added:

“Mainly we should resist that temptation to comment on editorial matters.”

Here, here Minister.

Gordon Brown and David Cameron’s recent comments on the Ross-Brand-Sachs scandal were, in my view, totally out of place.

I would expect the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to be concerning themselves with far weightier matters in a time of financial crisis.

Yes, the BBC is publicly funded but it is not a Government body and its editorial judgements should not be a matter for Parliament.

Getting involved just smacks of taking gratuitous pot shots or worse, an attempt at being ‘down with the people’ – a form of political ‘Dad-dancing’.


Unfortunately, Burnham’s excellent point got buried by his subsequent addition:

“Although the temptation is great in my case having seen the wonderful and talented Laura White very harshly voted off X Factor on Saturday.”

Cue such headlines as ‘Culture Secretary Andy Burnham Slams Laura White’s X Factor ejection’.

Oh dear. The age of irony is dead.

I’m a Politician, Get Me Out of Here

Still, it looks like there could soon be even more reason for the Rt Honorable members to be tuning in.

John Sergeant, the BBC’s erstwhile Political Correspondent, is still affably tangoing his way through Saturday nights with all the grace of a crippled rhino.

And today The Sun announced the new line-up for I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

Wending their way toward a bush-tucker trial will be former Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick and ex UKIP MP Robert Kilroy-Silk.

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