Journal: February 2007 Archives

Quote of the day

28 February 2007

"...all they need is the endorsement of Peter Mandelson and that will finish them off completely."

Ian Davidson MP was clearly not enamoured of the stalking-horse website set up by Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn when he spoke to Channel 4 News. But it wasn't all bad for them, he's even less of a fan of the EU trade commissioner.

In an industry that gives out gongs almost on a weekly basis it seems strange that there isn't an award for Dumbest Unconventional Promotional Gimmick. You've got to wonder at the geniuses who thought planting a competition prize in a graveyard, let alone one with a lot of historical significance, was a good idea, particularly when there's a great big public park a few yards down the road.

An unnamed minister dismissed the person behind Number 10's e-petitions website as a 'prat'. Having looked through the site and what it is doing, it's hard to find any reasons to disagree. The road-pricing petition has demonstrated what a disaster this kind of site is, not just for the government but for democracy. I can't think of something better placed to convince the voting public that their views don't matter to politicians. All that's happened is that 1.8 million people found out they can't sway the decision simply by putting their email address on a form. This will, naturally, lead them to conclude that the political process is broken.

When interviewed by the BBC about the e-petitions website his organisation implemented for Number 10, Tom Steinberg defended the idea, saying: "Academic research shows people are more willing to sign a petition than engage in any other kind of political activity."

Well that's great. But what good has any petition done in the past, either to influence politicians or make people think about what their request means? They are a publicity stunt, although you kind of lose a lot of the effect by not having people take a wheelbarrow full of paper to the door of Number 10. They are not a reliable lever for influencing political decisions. They are about as effective as writing a letter to Santa Claus, because that is what most petitions are: a wish for something to happen, not something that is even close to being implementable as policy.

On the one hand, we should be thankful that Sam & Maxie's, a bar and eatery on the Stevenage Fun Park, has not descended into pseud's corner menu puff - "goujons of tender breast of chicken permeated with a light saffron-tinged marianade". But the owners of this place, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the diner in Edward Hopper's Nighthawks - and that's during the day - maybe erred a little too far towards the blunt in its guide to how well steak orders will turn up:

Very rare: Cold red centre
Rare: Cool red centre
(Too grades I can't quite remember)
Medium well done: Hot centre, cooked through
Well done: No colour, somewhat dry.

Actually, on second thoughts, I'll skip the steak.