Stop The War march for the people of Gaza: 9th August 2014

Protest for Gaza on Oxford Street
Protest for Gaza on Oxford Street.

I don’t go on a lot of protest marches. In fact, the only big, proper protest march I have been on was the one in favour of fox hunting, when I reported on it for the Hastings Observer.

Today’s march was similar, yet different. It featured the same good-natured canter through London’s beauty spots, adorned with placards, whistles and slogans. But while that rally was defending human’s right to kill foxes for fun; this protest, in contrast, defended human’s right not to be killed (for fun, or otherwise).

I attended for several reasons:

a. Seeing those boys killed on the beach when they were having a kickabout was horrific
b. Our government has not condemned the killing of children, even those in UN shelters. We have been less critical of Israel than any other nation on earth, including the US. I wished to show that this “do nothing” approach is not a vote-winner
c. I was interested to see who was on the march, and why they were there.

When I pottered down to Portland Place, I was pleased to see that there was a significant crowd gathered. Not nearly as many as pitched up against the foxes, but still tens of thousands.

Almost the first person I saw was a young man pulling out a placard which conflated Israel’s actions with the Nazis. I asked for a photo, then explained that I found his sign insulting (idiotic, would have been nearer the mark). I was soon joined by a Jewish man who said much of his family was killed in the holocaust, and he found the sign offensive and insensitive.

We got tangled up in an extremely polite argument, in which it became obvious that the man had a very loose grasp of history, and was beginning to regret bringing the banner out. I slipped away as they carried on their debate, and am glad to say, I did not see another banner of that kind for the rest of the afternoon.

IMG_20140809_121302916_HDR

The people gathered outside Broadcasting House, in criticism of the BBC’s reporting of the conflict. I don’t think its reporting has been as bad as people have suggested. However, the BBC’s problem stems from two factors: a timidity in asking hard questions of Israel; and editorial guidelines which demand balance. That approach doesn’t work when the conflict itself is so desperately unbalanced.

(The BBC did bother to report on this protest, while neglecting to mention that it was the object of part of it.)

I bumped into a fellow QPR fan, who acted as a timely restorative after my previous encounter. We discussed another grave, internecine conflict: between Joey Barton and Adel Taarabt, before he handed me a socialist leaflet and tottered off. To my surprise, and pleasure, I noticed West Ham and Chelsea fans carrying banners in support of the people of Gaza. This is good not only because it shows football supporters standing for something more than their team, it shows how many different types of people feel strongly about this issue.

Chelsea fans supporting Palestinians
Chelsea fans supporting Palestinians

I next got talking to a mother of three from south London, who was pushing two children in a buggy, and carrying a tiny baby in a sling. She said, simply: “I hope we can make a difference. I hope we will be listened to.” We had a lovely chat where she explained her determination to come out and show her support, despite having three children. “You have got to do something,” she said.

We strolled down Oxford Street, when I noticed people were directing their ire towards Marks & Spencer. I asked a man chanting what the issue was, and he said: “They are Jewish. They support Israel.”

An elderly lady, who was marching with a friend, timidly said: “I’m a bit concerned they are just attacking Jewish businesses.”

We walked around the US embassy, which saw people shouting: “USA, shame on you” to a large, unimpressed building, with a bored-looking security guard stood outside.

As the march progressed towards Hyde Park, I found myself alongside a man who was enjoying using his loudhailer to start chants, a bit croakily by then, along the lines of: “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians.”

To which I didn’t reply: “No, I am not a Palestinian. I am Richard Purnell, a one-half Jewish, one-half Yorkshire, one-half Essex man who is putting aside his great and ongoing need for attention and applause to spend a few hours cantering about the streets of London to draw attention to the plight of the Palestinians, not to you, you mindless sloganeer.”

Which is perhaps why I don’t go on many marches.

That said, I am glad I went on this one. I saw mums, dads, teenagers, old people, business people, tourists, from just about every walk of life, walking through the streets to show support for fellow humans suffering a very obvious injustice.

I am not presuming that much will come of this protest. After all, the protest to defend an Englishman’s right to frighten the life out of foxes came to nothing.

However, simply to see that there is a groundswell of support for the Palestinians, which today is less easily ignored by our Prime Minister, made it worth it.

Del boy would be proud - chaps selling Palestine merch
Del boy would be proud – chaps selling Palestine merch
What is boils down to
What it boils down to
Orthodox Jews on the protest
Orthodox Jews on the protest

A letter to Guy Garvey, of the popular balladeers Elbow

c/o
The Middle of the Road
Manchester, England

Dear Mr Guy Garvey,

I went to see Prince in concert the other day.
He appeared in high heels, skimpy blouse,
and a manfrock made of velvet and lace,
a suggestive grin all over his face. He was
accompanied by Amazonian dancing girls,
wearing almost nothing bar a pair of roller skates.
I’m not quick to criticise, Mr Garvey, but,
between you and I, it was an absolute disgrace.

His lyrics, meanwhile, were boastful and dishonest
talking about “Purple Rain” and a “Little Red Corvette.”
If only you had helped him, he would have
come up with something decent, more modest
about meeting a slightly pretty divorcee,
at a black pudding stand in Bury market,
and driving her home in a second-hand Corsa
through normal, northern-coloured rain

That wasn’t the worst of it, I’m afraid.
After a costume change, he performed a song which,
if I am not mistaken, was called Soft and Wet,
the dancing girls pawing at his exposed, hairy chest
which display of prurience, I’m sad to say,
gave me a strange swelling between the legs
something which assuredly did not happen
the last time I saw Elbow at Manchester GMEX

I’m telling you, Mr Garvey, by the time that little imp
had finished performing I was dangerously aroused
when I got back home I had to listen to your entire
back catalogue to calm myself down

Mr Garvey. Please show Prince the error of his ways.
Have a word with him, man-to-man, over a packet
of pork scratchings and a pint of real ale. Tell him,
gently, like a portly, northern Gok Wan:

“Prince. If you want to become a man of the people,
with a string of solid yet unspectacular albums
and, potentially, your own show on BBC 6 Music
you need to follow Guy Garvey’s three-step plan.

1. Dress more ordinary, not like a girl
but in loose fit jeans and lumber shirts
2. Get rid of that funky afro; replace it with
a nice monobrow and pudding bowl
3. Stop performing like an eroticised Cocker Spaniel.
Perform sensibly, like me, as if you’re idea of fun
is reading a fridge freezer owners’ manual.”

Because watching a pop star on stage should not
undermine anyone of mixed ability. It should
be like watching telly on the sofa, with more
extensive toilet facilities. At the end of a concert,
people should know that all dreams are feasible,
all dance moves achievable, all footwear
comfortable and, something you demonstrate
brilliantly, Mr Garvey, all waistlines expandable.

Yours, dreaming of a more normal, ordinary future,

Richard Purnell

Chicken drumsticks or Kievs for dinner? - Guy Garvey has a quiet moment on stage
Drumsticks or Kievs for dinner? – Guy Garvey has a quiet moment on stage
A disgusting, prurient display - Prince in concert
A disgusting, prurient display – Prince in concert

Who’s worse – Shearer or Suarez?

A day after Luis Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini, the little Uruguayan finds himself, improbably, on the moral high ground.

Not due to anything he has done, of course. Biting an opponent is wrong. He knows that; so does everyone else.

But how wrong is it? You would think, listening to the intemperate reaction of the BBC’s suite of pundits, that it put him in the Harold Shipman league of criminals.

Alan Shearer says that Suarez should be banned “for as long as possible.” (Is that until death or does it include any potential after-life, Alan?)

I wonder what Shearer would say if Suarez had, instead of biting an opponent, which caused Chiellini almost no discomfort, kicked a player in the face when they were lying on the ground. Considering that sort of attack would inevitably have greater force and greater chance of injury, that must be worse, right?

Of course, lovers of English football will know that I am referring to Shearer’s own attack on Neil Lennon during a match between Newcastle and Leicester City in 1998. Shearer, then England captain, received no punishment for the incident. An enquiry, which heard from then-England manager Glenn Hoddle, decided there was nothing much in it.

As Shearer was England’s most important player at that time, the FA saying that he was not guilty had more than a faint whiff of self-interest about it. An England captain, it was decided, would not do that sort of thing. Shearer, reported the enquiry, “swinging out with his left leg was a genuine attempt to free himself.” Which is a bit like the old joke by Bill Hicks about the officers who attacked Rodney King, saying that if you played the tape backwards you could see the officers helping King up and sending him on his way.

Sitting alongside Shearer was Robbie Savage, who had got away with kicking opponents “so many times,” according to Thierry Henry. Savage said that Suarez should “never play international football again” which, considering he is 27 years old, would amount to a ban of anything up to 10 years.

"Yes, I saw you, but I won't say anything" Shearer and Savage in their 90s heyday.
“Yes, I saw you, but I won’t say anything.” Shearer and Savage thuggin’ back in the 90s.

That would be by far the worst punishment for any player in the history of football, worse than Eric Cantona’s nine month ban after he karate-kicked a Crystal Palace fan in 1995.

These double standards typify the British approach to punditry, where our lads are forgiven whenever they err in judgement, where the foreign player, such as Suarez, gets met with fury and calls for him to be driven out of the game. This lingering feeling of British exceptionalism, that we don’t dive, and are morally more upstanding, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, is part of the reason that other teams inevitably seem to play that little bit better against us.

(That, and our war-mongering. One of the main reasons Maradona was so motivated to do well against England in the 1986 World Cup was in response to the injustices meted out to his countrymen during the Falklands War. Therefore, while his second goal, where he took on the entire England team is more celebrated, his Hand of God goal, where he hand-balled into the ball into the net, is his personal favourite.)

Why ever would he want to cheat against blameless England? Maradona in 86
Why ever would he want to cheat against blameless England? Maradona in 86

While Shearer and Savage declare that Suarez should be banned for anywhere between life and as long as possible (whichever is longer) they should be honest and admit that this incident, while unsavoury, is no worse than the darker moments of their own careers. And perhaps they should spend less time attacking Suarez and more time contemplating why Uruguay, a country of fewer than four million people, should produce a football team which, according to the evidence of last Thursday, is comfortably better than our own.

Extremism? Or British values in practice?

I’m coming a bit late to this issue of extremism in English schools, so forgive me if I’ve not grasped the whole situation.

It appears that a few people, who originally come from former colonies, have come to Britain and then asserted themselves in positions of power, namely on the governing bodies of schools in Birmingham. Once they had gained power they began to dictate a quite different leadership style than those schools had been used to.

Apparently, this has turned into something of a furore, and certain people are saying that these extremists are not displaying good British values.

Well, to that, my grandmother, who was British herself and lived in Yorkshire all her life, would say: “Give over, lad!”

If going to a country, getting into positions of power and then telling the locals how things are done aren’t traditional British values then this isn’t the country I know and love.

Perhaps instead of knocking these people, we should applaud them for echoing our own highly effective policies which, lest we forget, built our empire and made Britain great.

Solutions to the flood crisis: an open letter to the Daily Telegraph

 

Middle-class people flooded: who is to blame?
Middle-class people flooded: who is to blame?

Dear Sir,

While it is right for leading thinkers within the Government, such as Eric Pickles, to call on Lord Smith, the chairman of the Environment Agency, to resign, rightly blaming him for his role in the flooding of homes built on a flood plain, it is clear that Smith is not solely to blame. Yes, he is responsible for spending the money the Government hasn’t given him for the dredging of rivers and maintaining flood defences.

However, while it is inarguable that Smith must go, is there not a greater culprit? We are thinking, in particular, of the gentleman directly responsible for the rain, the wind and the waves. And that responsibility, as we all know. lies solely and squarely with God.

God, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to deliver incessant rain, not on Labour voters in Scotland, the North and the Welsh valleys, but on Middle England, where the decent, hard-working, Tory-voting rich people live!!!

Let us be fair. God isn’t getting any younger, and we should all respect our elders. But when He utterly fails to discriminate between the dole-blagging Scottish and the Southern English, serious decisions must be taken.

Therefore, we modestly and meekly propose that God, while having done much good, in particularly in His creation of England, public schools and the game of cricket, should be allowed to step aside and make way for someone with new ideas, someone who knows right from wrong, right from left, and rain from shine.

That new man, we feel, should be a woman. And that woman is Mrs Thatcher. At first glance, Mrs Thatcher might be a controversial choice. For one, she is widely believed to be dead. But those rumours are wide of the mark. Yes, her earthly body has slowed down over recent years, but her spirit very much lives on.

We, the Southern Anglican Thatcher-Inspired Seekers of Freedom from Immigrants and Environmental Distress (SATISFIED) passionately believe Mrs Thatcher is the right person to get our weather systems in order so that rain pours unremittingly on the northern mining towns, and on southern England only during the latter stages of Test matches when the English cricket team is trying to stave off defeat against one of the colonies. This will ensure that this country gets back in order so that we can carry on accumulating wealth, eating roast beef and bulk-buying Barbour jackets.

Sincerely yours,

SATISFIED (Datchet branch)

All good Beatles

1-2-3-4-5-6-7
All good Beatles go to heaven
I don’t think so
I don’t think so

You think God’s gonna put up with all that hippy dippy shit?
He’s got Biggie and Tupac loungin’ in his crib
Freestyling

He’s got Jimi Hendrix blazing his guitar
And up in heaven Lou Reed’s top of the charts
I think so
Yes, I think so

I’m telling you George
I’m telling you John Lennon
Can very well imagine
That there is no heaven
Cos they’re burning
Yes, they’re burning

You think God’s gonna put up with Love Me Do
He’s got Janis and Amy singing the blues
And Ol’ Dirty

And you know that God don’t wanna be mean
But Ringo you know where you’re going with your Yellow Submarine

And as for Paul
Well, Paul, you’re an intelligent man
Or maybe not
In which case, repeat after me

1-2-3-4-5-6-7
All good Beatles go to heaven
I don’t think so
I don’t think so

John and George, just out of shot
John and George, just out of shot

 

God approved rappers: Biggie and Tupac
God approved rappers: Biggie and Tupac
Imagine there's no heaven: John Lennon
Imagine there’s no heaven: John Lennon

 

Morrissey autobiography: that joke is, now, actually rather funny

I can smile about it now...
I can smile about it now…

Miles Davis is at a dinner hosted by US President Ronald Reagan. He is sat next to a politician’s wife, who says to him:

“What have you done that is so important in your life? Why are you here?”

Miles, in his Autobiography, says:

Now, I just hate shit like this coming from someone who is ignorant but who wants to be hip and has forced you into a situation where you’re talking to them in this manner. She brought this on herself. So then I said, “Well I’ve changed music five or six times, so I guess that’s what I’ve done…Now, tell me what you have done of any importance other than be white, and that ain’t important to me, so tell me what your claim to fame is?”

You have to feel sorry for the poor woman. Invited to a presidential dinner, and forced to sit next to Miles Davis, a man who is not only a jazz musician, but who also believes that jazz music is important and his place within music of great importance. No doubt she went home and spoke with her politician husband and tut-tutted and used the word ‘uppity’ and perhaps some other less delicate words to describe the hurt that she felt at having to share a dinner table with such a hubristic and obnoxious man.

It is a similar hurt that many people, many esteemed people within the world of literature are feeling today with the publication of Morrissey’s Autobiography on the Penguin Classics imprint. This, let us not forget, is the hallowed place where all of the greatest works of literature are published: Homer, Shakespeare, Balzac and Wilde among them.
These writers are all happily dead, and have been, whilst they rest in peace, adjudged and analysed and welcomed into the canon.

And now, a songwriter, who is merely the greatest pop lyricist this country has produced, has the temerity to demand, yes demand, that his autobiography should be published, without anyone from the wider literary establishment reading it, within the realm of Penguin Classics.

Well, isn’t that just like sitting at a presidential dinner and having Miles Davis insult you to your face?

“This isn’t about the redefinition of ‘classic’, but abject surrender. Penguin has with breath-stopping cynicism flogged its crown jewel – a precious place on the roster of the world’s most enduring literary works – to the moody maverick.”

The sound Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor of the Independent, choking on his soup.

“To package as a classic a book that no one except Morrissey and a handful of fawning acolytes has read is to instantly reduce the worth of all classics”

said someone on the Telegraph who may as well, except to his mother, remain nameless.

Morrissey, just like Miles Davis all those years ago, should have kept quiet, known his place, and slunk off to the obscurity that his songwriting within the horribly besmirched and irrelevant world of pop music deserves.

Because we should listen to the literary editors and the politician’s wives. We should listen to the voices of those who contemporaneously would have said that Shakespeare was too bawdy, Dickens too populist, Beckett too repetitive, Austen too flippant, Proust too long-winded, and that Oscar Wilde deserved his prison term.

Morrissey, like Miles Davis, is revered in many countries across the globe, including England. The English establishment, perhaps taking into account his open and gleeful hatred of the royal family, still views him with disdain.

Those hundreds of thousands of us whose lives have been enriched – some would say saved – by Morrissey’s words, feel sorry for those suffering great hurt today. However, we do this with the archness and irony learnt from our hero as he marches triumphantly into the citadel known as Literary Establishment, and takes his rightful place among the greats.

What do Ledley King, Toni Morrison and Levi Roots have in common?

Martin Luther King would be happy to be displayed alongside his namesake Ledley
Martin Luther King and Ledley King: historic equals

There is a moment, familiar to all who attend poetry open mic nights, when a poet who is of black ethnicity says, “I wrote this poem for Black History Month.”

When you hear this, three things are almost certain:

1. This will not be their best poem
2. Martin Luther King will more than likely get dragged into it
3. Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey, mostly for alliterative reasons, will not be far behind.

I am not sure why this should be the case. In fact, until very recently, I didn’t even believe Black History Month was real. I had hitherto understood that what was formerly known as October was not Black History Month at all, but Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In my breast cancer campaigning days I was somewhat scornful that black historians weren’t aware of this basic factual error.

Now I am outside of the breast cancer charity arena, and more just floating around south London, it is clear that most people, particularly in the public sector in Lambeth and Southwark, are in no doubt: October is Black History Month.

A recent trip to Peckham Library manifestly demonstrated the point. There was nothing about breast cancer, but an entire display area devoted to Black History Month. As you would expect, they had works by great writers who are of black ethnicity, such as Toni Morrison and Chinua Achebe, and a biography of Mary Seacole, a courageous nurse from the Crimean War.

Also on display was an autobiography by former Tottenham Hotspur defender Ledley King, and cookbooks by reggae cooking star Levi Roots. Initially, I thought that Ledley and Levi were out of place in this company. Indeed, I presumed that the inclusion of these two trivialised the idea of a month celebrating black history.

How wrong I was.

Ledley King’s autobiography revealed that, just like his namesake, he also had a dream. Ledley dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. When I had finished reading the book I couldn’t help but think that Ledley was probably more successful than Martin Luther King, because he achieved his dream whilst still a teenager.

Again, reading Levi Roots’ literary output transformed my view of him, and his place within black history. Little did I know that the history of spicy sauces was every bit as riddled with racial injustice as slavery. It was only with the production of the Reggae Reggae sauce that black people finally emerged from the oppression of spicy sauce companies such as Tabasco and Lea & Perrins.

Historic: Levi Roots coming out from under the yoke of Lea & Perrins
Historic: Levi Roots freeing the spicy sauce market from oppression

The Peckham Library display left me in no doubt that it is much better for Toni Morrison to be grouped alongside Premier League footballers of black ethnicity rather than other Nobel Prize-winning authors from different racial backgrounds.

While artists such as Kendrick Lamar are demanding that this era be known as post-racial, Black History Month allows us the anachronistic comfort of judging people first by the colour of their skin and then, a little later, by the quality of their character and achievements. Which is, I’m sure, what Martin Luther King, 50 years on from his oft-poetically butchered speech, would have wanted.

Laura Robson: a statement to the British people :(

Happy: Laura Robson after being told Rishi Persad was waiting to interview her.
Happy: Laura Robson after being told Rishi Persad was waiting to interview her.

In the aftermath of her defeat at Wimbledon, Laura Robson dictated the following message to her legal team, to be issued immediately to the media:

STATEMENT FROM LAURA ROBSON

1. My defeat was, more than anything else, the result of not enough people shouting out, “Come on, Laura!” during the match. I will only achieve success at Wimbledon if people, ideally from a public school background who know nothing about sport, shout out, “Come on, Laura” before I am about to serve. It gives me a real boost 🙂

2. I need more fans to wear Union Jacks. This could be in suits, hats, t-shirts or face paint, but I need to see those Union Jacks, guys. It makes me feel proud to be British, and also clearly shows to my opponent that they come from an inferior nation.

3. During my match I was hurt and saddened that Cliff Richard was watching SERENA WILLIAMS 😦 Sir Cliff, I admire your songwriting, particularly Mistletoe & Wine, but if you can’t watch my matches at Wimbledon I don’t have a chance. Not one hope. Please Cliff, help a sister out 🙂

4. The BBC, particularly Sue Barker and Rishi Persad, must help me. I need you to much more constantly talk about my age, and how young I am, and how amazing it is that I can even serve a tennis ball at all, considering how I’m just out of infants’ school. Rishi, if you do not start every question to me with reference to my extremely young age, and how it all must be terrifically exciting for me, to be out playing tennis without a chaperone, I will not have a chance in my tennis career 😦

NB: Ideally, I would like to be offered a Chupa Chup lolly when I am being interviewed, but if you don’t have a Chupa Chup, any boiled sweet will do 😉

5. The rest of the media has begun to understand that because I am a white, middle-class girl who can sometimes beat foreign girls at tennis I am a NATIONAL TREASURE. Yes, I am 🙂 Please, guys, I need more of this. I need to know that I am at least as popular as Stephen Fry. If newspaper articles don’t always always say I’m a National Treasure, I will take up bulimia and tattoos and write a book about it.

6. This is really serious. If the above points are not strictly stuck to I will never have a chance in my career – there is no way I will make it by hard work and talent alone. But I’m sure they will be because we are a great nation and good at pulling together, like we did after the Amritsar Massacre.

7. Thanks for listening, guys! Remember, I can’t do it without your support!

See you next year, Laura Robson xxx 🙂

STATEMENT ENDS

Back in the saddle: Frank Skinner live (review)

The photographer has left a space for David Baddiel to be photoshopped in.
The photographer has left a space for David Baddiel to be photoshopped in.

I like Frank Skinner.

I like him because he reminds me of the 90s, that more innocent time when Tony Blair was popular, the use of combat trousers were being revolutionised by the All Saints and curtains were considered to be a perfectly acceptable haircut. (I should know, I had a lovely pair myself.)

Skinner’s contribution to that Age of Innocence was co-writing, with David Baddiel and the Lightning Seeds, the song Three Lions in which they propagated the fictional idea that England could win at football. No less significantly, he pioneered an entirely new art form: that of Witty Banter, whereby men in their 20s and 30 sit and talk (either behind desks or on a sofa) in an unscripted, hilarious way about things they know nothing about.

Considering the above, Frank Skinner’s cultural significance in a fin de siecle context is absolutely secure.

Frank Skinner giving David Baddiel a hug for having the decency to shave his goatee off
Frank Skinner giving David Baddiel a hug for having the decency to shave his goatee off

But, trouble is, he’s still alive and kicking in 2013, at the age of 55. The TV work has dried up, and he’s got a baby at home, which means he needs to get out of the house more often. Hence, this return to stand-up at the Soho Theatre ahead of a full UK tour later in the year.

Right from the off it it was clear that the dichotomy of being rich, famous and comfortable, while having a stand-up act which relies heavily on him being an ordinary, honest bloke from the West Midlands, was weighing heavily upon him.

In the first fumbling minutes of the show, he confessed to all of this in a manner as awkward and nervous as a teenager on a first date (it’s no surprise that the only person he built a bit of rapport with was a 16-year-old who had come along with his mum because he liked Three Lions).

Some of his ‘topical’ jokes were as bad as anything I have ever heard, and poorly delivered as well. One about racehorses involved in the horsemeat scandal – “One minute they were under starter’s orders, the next they were being ordered as a starter” – was terrible, and made worse by him effectively giving the punchline away in the build-up. A bit rusty, shall we say.

The gig picked up in the second half when he started to swear a bit and talk about oral sex. He also raised an important moral question: If Shakin’ Stevens developed Parkinson’s would it still be okay to call him Shakin’? As a leading moral poet – known formally as a moraletrist – I was delighted that he consulted me on this matter.

My answer was clear: Yes. Because it is factually accurate.

I wanted to explore the matter in more detail, and share with him some moral questions I have successfully wrestled with over the years (such as: is it right to call a spade a spade if that spade is indeed a spade?), but he needed to get on sprinkling comedy gold about.

It is true that this show didn’t really have a beginning, or an end, or much of a middle. But Skinner shouldn’t worry, because I have developed a three-step plan to help him out.

1. Forget the topical material. You’re out of touch, Frank, and you know it.
2. Talk about the olden days: the 90s, the Spice Girls and their opposite numbers, the Spice Boys. Those days were good and people, particularly young people who were in push-chairs at the time, should be constantly reminded about them. Three Lions was a great song, despite what it sounds like.
3. Be realistic. You won’t win any comedy prizes with this show but, with a well-organised defence and a touch of luck, you might get a quarter-final spot. Which, as Sven Goran-Eriksson taught us, is still a very good result, given the available raw materials.