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Technological illiteracy (TB’s), hubris (mine), loathing of Downton Abbey, (mine) and a question (Dave, Nick and Ed)

Posted on 4 October 2012 | 1:10pm

To the Institute of Directors this morning and a speech to a large room full of experts from public and private sector, at a conference organised by software specialists KANA.

It is always good to get an audience laughing before going into serious stuff like economic mayhem, political shambles and transport fiasco. So I told a few stories taking the mick out of Tony Blair’s (until recently) technological illiteracy.

The time an unemployed Geordie beat him on a series of tests in a computer class. The time he greeted Microsoft boss Bill Gates with the small talk gambit of ‘how is your mainframe doing?’ His first text message, which was the word ‘this’, followed by his second ‘this is amazing’ and his third ‘you can send words by phone and everything’ (2007!!)

They laughed well enough, and on we moved to serious stuff and a q and a, of which more later.

But first, hubris … you see, I took the mick out of him, but not long after came a technological cropper myself. On my way home, I dropped into a shop near King’s Cross, called Kilts For All, to collect a new kilt and all the works for a wedding on Saturday, at which I am playing my bagpipes.

One sale having been made, they tried another on me, and asked if I fancied a new tweed suit. I snorted with derision, not wishing ever to look like an extra from Downton Abbey, a programme I cannot abide for its (IMHO) celebration of Tory paternalism and creator Julian Fellowes’ yearning for the kind of class structures his friend David Cameron appears intent on reintroducing for the modern age.

Undeterred, the Kilts For All team – who provide kilts and other Fancy Dan stuff for Downton btw – pressed the jacket and waistcoat upon me. It fitted ok, felt not bad, and I got director Victoria Jacobs to take a snap, which I sent to my partner Fiona and my daughter Grace (who tries to be my style advisor), with the simple message ‘Yes, or No?’

They would realise instantly it was a joke, I thought, as I am highly unlikely to wear the kind of thing that Tory toffs do (though in fact when she saw it, Grace thought it rather cool).

However she was not the only one to see it, as instead of sending the photo to her and Fiona’s emails, seemingly I hit the ‘tweet’ button on my iPhone, which sparked some fairly predictable responses about beagling, hunting, used car and double glazing salesmen, Minder, Guy Richie movies and this, my favourite, ‘you look like you’re fresh from deflowering the parlour maid’. … Now my technological illiteracy comes in handy because, No, I don’t know how to put the photo on here, so if you’re not on twitter, tough.

All this, I suspect, because I took the piss out of my old boss. Oh well, at least the new kilt suit (which I have just tried on) looks good, and I will tweet a picture from the wedding.

Now back to KANA. (the full stop is part of the logo) where one of the questions was this … ‘Is David Cameron doing anything right, does Nick Clegg have a future, and is Ed Miliband electable as Prime Minister?’

And I thought, what a great question in which, in very few words, to open the space for so many answers and so much debate.

I will answer it in my next blog, but in the meantime would welcome your answers to the same question. Now off to practise the pipes.

** PS KANA. is the Japanese for women’s wrestling, and I thought that might be the thinking behind the company name. I learned that in fact it was the name of the founder’s dog. So I may well, in this spirit, rebrand my professional work as that of ‘MOLLY.’

  • Duncan Phipp-macintyre

    To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core.
    More the apple of discord – as Eris offered it “to the fairest”.
    Such question, such division on such a glorious autumnal day.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Mixed fortunes.
    The whole question of Ed Milband should be put to bed forever.
    Of course he would make a very good PM. We should not allow the Tories to frame the debate in this way.
    80% of the press is against Ed no matter what he says or how he looks.
    Ed Miliband has taught economics at Harvard. He has PPE degree from Oxford.
    He has been a member of the cabinet. Cameron did not have any experience like this – and it shows!
    Ed Miliband is honest, nice, decent and intelligent.
    Tories want to replace Cameron with Boris Johnson.
    Lib Dems want to replace Clegg with Vince Cable.
    Labour does not have a leadership problem.
    Polls after Ed´s brilliant speech show that people now think that he is prime ministerial.
    Only problem has been that the voters have not known him well enough.
    In 1970s Labour cabinet ministers were happy when the Conservatives elected Mrs T as the leader. Ministers believed that she could never win an election.
    Same mistake has been made again. It is a grave error to underestimate Ed Miliband.
    Nick Clegg, of course, is a loser. It is only a question of time when he will be replaced as a leader.
    People feel cheated.
    Broken election pledges like the NHS, child benefits, frontline cuts etc.
    Labour would now win with 370 seats! The Tories would get only 227.
    Changes of Labour overall victory are 77%. 3% for the Conservatives.
    Of course, anything can happen – and it usually does!
    Johnson and Cable can come in. The Tories might do a deal with Ukip.
    Yet 8.5m people say that they are sure to vote Labour 2015.
    To win a majority Labour needs 11m votes. So Ed Miliband needs to find 2.5m votes.
    Cameron needs an extra 4.5m votes.
    Labour has 14m possible voters – the Tories 10m. Miliband needs only 20% of the Labour possibles.
    Only 6m of Labour´s 22m potential supporters consider voting the Tories.
    New Labour lost 5m voters. Only 1m defected to the Tories.
    People who believe that David Miliband would bring the victory have made a wrong analysis.
    Ed Miliband is best placed to bring back leftist Lib Dems and former Labour supporters.
    New Labour lost 4m voters under Tony Blair.
    Labour risks the victory if it tries to chase lots of Conservative voters.
    Centre ground is now further the left than in the New Labour era.
    Ps. More about David Cameron later.

  • I think Ed has done a superb job at the conference. The “one nation” idea was quite brilliant.

    Personally I now have no doubt that Ed is the right stuff for PM. I have been very much on his side since he became elected leader of the party. In fact I voted for him in the leadership elections.

    We all knew Ed. M. has the intellect. Over the past two years he has shown he has the personality that is required. He has been through the most gruelling press negativity and he has survived and even flourished. He has shown now that he also has the gravitas and the imagination that is required.

    I think that what we now want to see is some well designed policies that reflect the One Nation theme. I think this will be forthcoming.

  • Anonymous

    Dave Cameron – hopeless, gormless, all over the shop full of nothing, hasn’t a clue.

    Nick Clegg – deluded, has as much future after 2015 as a blacksmiths chocolate tongs.

    Ed Miliband – is not the finished product yet, but is developing nicely, PM material.

  • Is Cameron doing anything right? I struggled with that one! Not a lot on policy. But he seems to be able to keep the coalition together which is “right” in his terms if not for the country. Of course Clegg has a future. Probably not in politics but he will be rewarded with something – that’s the way the establishment works. Is Ed electable? Possibly. He seems to be beginning to articulate the anger and despair about the have it alls and the rest. However the solutions might be too radical for his courage or too distorted by the media to be acceptable. I hope not – and I think it is worth the risk. How many chances will we be allowed to make fundamental change? Go for it Ed.

  • Anonymous

    This really is a very funny story. Now see Alastair in this beagling video:

    You mean you didn’t spot him?

    As to the rest of the blog, Cameron is doing everything ‘right’ which is why he is hated. Though he is still not right enough for the UKippers. Ed is becoming interesting.

  • Mark C

    I have been a Labour voter in the past but lost a little faith under Gordon Brown. Wasn’t sure about Ed when elected but coming round to him. His performance was excellent and, although a little way to go, he’s turning into definate PM material.

  • jim brant

    Never mind the politics, just thanks for your comment on DA. I was beginning to think I was the only one. Barbara Cartland without the social conscience (!!).

  • Robert James

    Cameron has proven once again that you can’t trust the Tories. The way he (mis) handled the Mitchell thing was astounding but it finally allowed the electorate to see we aren’t all in it together. The govts disdain for public sector workers has become obvious. The fair share rhetoric that they continue to spout is just a smoke screen for cuts, taxes and job losses. They have cut every department yet still public borrowing is rising. Yet we raised overseas aid. How many more nuclear powers do we need to give aid to before someone realises we are borrowing money to give it away! At this rate some African rock band will be organising a benefit concert for us! The lib Dems will go back into obscurity, the Tories will slide across to the despatch box, a move made easier by the pockets they have greased, and labour will take the reins before this horse has bolted. We don’t want old labour. We don’t want new labour. We just want a labour who will stand up for what is right, protect its own electorate before it tries to impose its beliefs on foreign countries paid for from our taxes and most importantly a labour who will once again create jobs, and return the Great, in Great Britain. Is EM the one to do this? Yes. But only if he gets rid of most of his front bench. They are the weak links.

  • Dave Simons

    Season of missed opportunities and callow barrenness?

  • MS

    Cameron is doing very little right, which is problematic for me, sitting to the right of centre. He is falling into the trap of strong rhetoric and little substance, a short-term strategy that can occasionally be used in opposition but is unsustainable in government.
    The Liberal Democrats will unfortunately not recover until Nick Clegg resigns. For the apology to work, it should have been timely and better constructed for TV. More talented politicians could have potentially capitalised on this but NC left it too late and communicated it poorly.
    Regarding Ed Milliband, sadly few will be comfortable with him as a future PM, despite his strong performance at Conference. His image, occasional opportunism and lack of charisma will fail to convince the potentially huge percentage of swing voters looking for anything other than DC. David Miliband returning to the front bench or assuming leadership will be the only way for the centre left to regain power.

  • Gilliebc

    Is Cameron doing anything right? No
    Does Nick Clegg have a future? No. Not in the UK. But probably has a future in Brussels.
    Is Ed Miliband electable as PM? No. But will probably get there by default, in as much as many governments tend to loose elections rather than oppositions actually winning them. With the exception of 1997.

  • reaguns

    “1. ‘Is David Cameron doing anything right, 2. does Nick Clegg have a future, 3. and is Ed Miliband electable as Prime Minister?’”
    1. Yes, education reform. And… no that’s it.
    2. He shouldn’t have, when you break a manifesto promise so flagrantly, I would hope you would be done for in a democracy (though if it had been a promise to do a less left liberal thing like cut taxes, he’d have got on fine. Also Cable will replace him and he broke the same promise.)
    3. Yes. But he needs to open his good ideas to scrutiny. There are so many holes you can pick in his speech the other day. Stopping speculators buying firms removes discipline from boards – something we need like a hole in the head. Education to 18, good. Tech Bacc – good (though still a two tier system). Apprenticeships – good. But he then said he will stop companies who didn’t train apprentices from poaching trained employers from those who do – so what does that say to the guy doing the apprenticeship? he is not allowed to leave for more money?! Thanks Ed?! The whole point of doing it is to make people more valuable – if the training company doesn’t recognise that value financially then they deserve to lose the apprenticeship.
    Look at Barack Obama – his ideas are fewer but have far less holes in them, for whatever reason they come under sterner scrutiny. Mitt Romney is a tougher negotiator than David Cameron. And people think these guys couldn’t handle PMQs?! Puh lease!

  • Anonymous

    Newsnight at the moment, know Croydon, loved it, still in love with it. Anyone remember that Tony Blackburn advert as he did decades ago, when he lived in Croydon? I do, at least. Loved my time living there, it is in my heart. Heart was well swelled when they managed to shove through the tramline through fucked-up red tape, through obvious flat Planet Earthers. Brilliant public transport. Needs extending, further north, into that Lahndahn.

    Song for Croydon, which I hope is succinct,

    The Ship, Brighton Road, past the nineties new precincted Brighton Road, before the flyover to Taberner House, Croydon Counci HQ, tidy scene remembered..

  • Anonymous

    I know this is offtopic, but in recent weeks I have been sent a load of afghan music made music, and it is brilliant. As with when I made great friends with a Palastinian, Mo, short for you know who, we appreciated each other with each others honesty. Last time I saw Mo is when he pulled up in a car with his welsh wife, in Cardiff, when I was dragging my daughter to see our sites. It was lost on Siân, but she was only fifteen then.

    Anyway, the song I was sent. I know if I went to Afghanistan, I would be doing ok, I have that understanding. After all, I did well with the english, didn’t I?

    Song sent anyway, lovely us euros violins, by the way,

  • Cameron:
    Still looks and sounds like a prime minister when presenting himself in the media
    Probably an effective chair in cabinet
    (however more people day by day realising this is not enough without any clear vision/strategy etc)
    Always been in an impossible position politically
    Only hope of staying in place is a second Con/Lib coalition, and all of this was probably predictable form the start
    He’s done the best he can given the cards he’s been dealt, and if the Liberals continue as a potential partner in coalitions will be looked back on historically as a pioneer
    Impressive speech
    Not done quite so well in post-speech interviews
    More than anything needs to come across as credible, and this was where there were a few holes in the speech, which were picked up in the interviews
    Looks more like a Prime Minister than a month ago, but still lags Cameron in this respect
    Looking good, needs to keep up the momentum, and more than anything else needs now to ditch any lines which make headlines but which leave him open to a loss of credibility

  • Delegate

    Great speech at the Kana event. If you are going share more of your views on the policatical leaders can you “do Alex Salmond” as you hinted at yesterday.

  • Bob Mann

    Thanks Alastair for a memorable talk at the KANA(dot!) conference yesterday. All without any technology (ie Powerpoint)!

  • Anonymous

    The surprising new fruiting raspberry bush this year, via vistings wild birds to my back garden, in their shit, has been more impressive.

  • Anonymous

    Notice my Sheffield connection to Clegg, as in steel city, where he has helped them as their MP in no way, nowt! ach, seems I am lost on some…

    Sheffield, Sheffield forgemasters?

  • Hello Mate, I hope you do stand for MP I always thought you were one of
    the few people in New Labour who understood its core beliefs.

    People are underestimating Cameron’s ruthlessness, yes he is a pillock
    and a disaster for the country but, it
    should be remembered that he won the conservative party leadership against all
    odds and when he steps up and plays the humorous blokey thing it works for him.
    He is also without any particular moral compass and is interested above all in
    remaining in power. When the election comes he will not move to the right but
    move well into the centre as by then it will be too late for the far right of
    his party to bring him down. When that happens the centre will not hold space
    for both him and Milliband. The floating Mail, Mirror and Sun readers along
    with the disenfranchised working class who once elected Margaret will as ever
    decide who comes into power, not the politicised activists. Policies and
    politicians increasingly become at least to the non-political mainstream voter
    ever more indistinguishable from each other dominated as they are by the Oxbridge,
    white, never worked for a ‘real living’ professional politicians of all the
    major parties. When the differences between policies need a calculator to
    explain them people turn to a more easy determinator in deciding who they will
    vote for and that is their perception of the personality of the leader.

    So then we have Ed! I am a member of the party have been most of my
    adult life (even through all the pain you buggers put us through) I was also a
    senior full time official for a trade union for ten years so know all about
    lions being led by donkeys, and people being promoted beyond their abilities. I
    haven’t met Ed Milliband personally though I know many hardnosed senior people
    in the movement who supported him, including in my own Union. I have to accept
    therefore that within a meeting room or a political debate he is impressive and
    dynamic. Sadly, that doesn’t translate through the numerous television footage
    and interviews I have watched.

    The question I do always find myself asking is, if I was facing the sack
    and needed a good FTO or Shop Steward would I choose Ed Milliband. No sorry I wouldn’t.
    Oh I know his heart would be in the right place, I know he would want the best outcome
    for me, I know he would wring his hands and it would trouble his conscience if
    he couldn’t get it. But is he the person who would stand up against the might
    of the bullying employer? Is he the person who would take the blows meant for
    me? And would I have the belief that I could trust him to stick to what he said
    when we actually get in the room, or
    rather cut a deal and tell me it was the best I could get? No! Sorry Alastair,
    I will vote for him and campaign for a Labour result but sadly it will be with
    the feeling that I am being led not by a charismatic, dynamic leader, but by
    the milk monitor.

    Cleggy, Alexander and Laws will probably start a new orange party and do
    the same sort of damage that Shirley & Co did to Labour for twenty years.

    Oh and who are you kidding, you
    really did want that tweed suit didn’t you!

  • Anonymous

    Ironically, Tudor Rose pub in Old Coulson was one of the most interesting pubs I have entered, red rose as Henry Seven the taffie. Had many interesting discussions there, especially with old army fellas that settled there, after Caterham barracks. See, I noticed things! I could have easily drawn up an army there, if needed.

    Was in the TA Royal Sigs next door, when I was at a loose end then. : )