Saturday, March 31, 2007

Greatest foreign film?

A tricky question posed in yesterday's Guardian - what gets your vote as the greatest foreign film? They want your top three non-English language films. Where does one start?
I can pick a top one, as my favourite film of all-time also happens to be French: La Haine. It took my breath away when I first saw it and continues to do so today. It's also as relevant today as it was on release 12 years ago (can it really be that long?) as it follows three young friends around for the 24 hours following a riot in the banlieus of Paris. As well as a powerful narrative it's also beautifully shot. Apparently, the average shot length in Hollywood is two seconds. In this film it's fifteen. And you notice it.
Picking two more is where the problems begin.
One that has to make the top three is Zatoichi. It's got everything. A blind swordsman (the eponymous Zatoichi, played by director Beat Takeshi), deadly geishas, one of whom is a bloke, moments of comedy intermingled with Peckinpah-esque blood and gore in some fantastic fight scenes and all topped off with a massive group tap-dance. You tell me what else you could possibly want.
Takeshi also starred, but didn't direct, in the fabulous Battle Royale. Ninth grade classes are selected at random and sent to a remote island. The last person standing after 72 hours wins. More than one survivor and everyone gets it. And it's basically a love story. It really has to be seen to be believed.
I couldn't put Amores Perros in my top three. It's three stories in one, with a common theme of dogs. The first, I like. The third is the most interesting by far. However, the middle one is just bloody irritating.
For something totally off the wall, try Belleville Rendezvous. A Tour de France cyclist is kidnapped by some sinister gangsters so his grandmother and his dog set out to rescue him. It's an utter delight of an animated picture.
Not really any language, but most definitely French, is the silent treat that is Monsieur Hulot's Holiday. It's physical comedy at it's finest. Jim Carrey - watch and learn.
Breathless is a cinematic icon and it's easy to see why. Stylish, brooding, enigmatic. Pick any slightly pretentious term and it'll fit.
I could mention Les Diaboliques, He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not, Run Lola Run, Le Conseguenze dell'Amore, The Motorcycle Diaries, Jeux d'Enfants, Delicatessen, Life Is Beautiful, Cinema Paradiso, El Mariachi, the hugely powerful and moving Paradise Now, The Three Colours Trilogy (Blue, White and Red) and that's before you get to the massive body of work of Pédro Almodóvar, of which Bad Education, Tie Me Up Tie Me Down and Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown stand out for me. But I'd be no nearer to picking one more to make up my top three. And I'm rambling now. Can you tell I'm enjoying this?
36 is fantastic. The two real heavyweights of modern French cinema, Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Depardieu, face off as rivals for the top police job. Whoever nails a notorious group of armed robbers will get it and neither will stop at anything to get one over the other. Taut, tense, gripping. Absolutely top notch stuff, and my heart sank when I heard the Americans were remaking it. Why bother?
Another foreign language film remade to great success was Infernal Affairs. In making it into the Oscar-winning The Departed, Martin Scorcese managed to add fully 50 minutes to the running time. I cannot imagine what he's put in there. I don't particularly want to find out, as the original is a masterpiece. And I think that's going in as my number 3.
Ask me again in a week's time and it'll probably be different, but I think my point is: don't be afraid of subtitles.

Notes from today's diary

12:45pm. Switch on the early Premiership game.
12:51pm. Realise I have absolutely no interest in what is being played out before me and switch off.

Spot the difference

Those captured Marines in Iran. It's all a bit fishy how one minute they were in Iraqi waters and the next in Iranian territory, especially as it was Iran's data that put them in Iraqi areas in the first place. And for all the televised apologies and confessions are distasteful and make you wonder what it's a smokescreen for, they appear to be well treated, fed, not beaten or mutilated (as Terry Jones points out in today's Guardian, in complete contrast to Iraqi prisoners of the coalition). And as Europe threatens to take 'appropriate measures', the mind wanders to whether that stretches to another unlawful and misguided invasion.
Asylum seekers in this country, meanwhile, are being treated utterly despicably. Locked up in a high security facility for the crime of being vulnerable. Denied access to medical care or even semi-adequate housing. A policy, say MPs, of making asylum seekers destitute on purpose.
I think we've got real problems when people seeking our help are being treated far, far worse than people arrested on suspicion of unlawful trespass into the territory of a separate sovereign nation.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Bloody silly

I love cricket. It's great. I can (in theory if not in practice) spend hours watching it. But when you apply a certain amount of thought to it, it's a damn silly game isn't it?

Don't watch that, watch this

Thinking of going to see Mr Bean's Holiday? Why bother, say I. I can't think of any reason why Rowan Atkinson can improve on Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot, the shining example of Jacques Tati's brilliance.
We can take solace though, friends, as Atkinson has said this is the end for Mr Bean. Hallelujah!

Listen to this

Mark Thomas: My life in serious organised crime.
Laugh out loud funny.

Ministry of Justice

The Home Office is to be split. Plans for this have been circulating for a while now and finally it seems about to happen. The plans don't appear to be about to solve any problems though. I applaud the splitting of policing and sentencing, but I worry that John Reid's new role will give him far more time to concentrate on foisting ID cards on us all and making sure any dodgy-looking Brazilian electricians are dealt with most severely.
I find myself in the worrying position of agreeing with David Davis (shan't happen again, I'm sure) when he says that the Home Office has been run well enough by previous home secretaries in the past when there was much more to the department's mandate. If so, then this split is a searing indictment of the abilities of Reid and his immediate predecessors; Jack Straw and David Blunkett.
It all appears to be a grand exercise of rearranging deckchairs. Whether it pays any dividends in future or not, we shall have to wait and see.

Inadvertently amusing

I have seen today a new film advertised: "The Last Mimzy".
Fellow students of Roger's Profanisaurus will know why I find the title of this family film extremely amusing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

All I want for Christmas...

...is me two front teeth. So the song goes, and it's a reasonable enough sentiment. However, that may be a pipe dream for many if two reports into NHS dentistry are anything to go by.
The problems in finding dentists taking on NHS patients are well documented enough. Demand is clearly outstripping supply massively. The new contract, which minister Rosie Winterton was on the radio this morning defending, ties dentists to the same amount of NHS work as the previous year minus five per cent. Which is nonsense. People don't have problems on a strictly annual basis and this is the major flaw with the target culture in place across the health service. Taking an example from my own life, an exemplum if you will, I recently had to visit my dentist (NHS, naturally) for advice on a problem with my jaw. It's never happened before and probably won't happen again, but this will be a factor in future targets for the practise I attend. I guess I was lucky to get in and see someone before the practise had used up all their NHS hours and had to stand people down as a result.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bloc Party

I have just listened to Bloc Party's album 'A weekend in the city' and I'd ike to review it. I really would, but as soon as the music stopped I forgot everything about it. It goes in one ear and out of the other, leaving little to no trace of it ever having been inside your head. Normally, you would recall something about the music you've just been listening to. I can't describe this album as it has no qualities to report on. Even the term 'bland' would give it credence that it probably doesn't warrant.
As soon as the album was over, I had Mogwai's Folk Death 95 rattling round my head, which shows what a lasting effect Bloc Party had on me.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

One thing worse than HM opposition...

...is no opposition at all. Russia, well Putin, has been a worry for a while. Filling his cabinet with ex-KGB bigwigs never filled me with confidence. The posturing over fuel supplies to neighbours who criticise him, the trade disputes with Georgia, Moldova and Poland for spurious reasons, the deaths of Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko and Ivan Safranov, the backing of the dictatorial Belarusian government.
That would all be worrisome enough. The fact that the Kremlin have their hands on the pumps of most of Europe's oil and gas supplied as well makes it more so. If ever there was a reason to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, this is it. Put ethanol in your petrol engines - veg oil in your diesels.

Only Fools And Horses

No matter how often the BBC repeat the episode where Del falls through the bar, it's still not funny.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Warming to the Lords

I suppose it's a sign of how hateful this regime has become that I'm actually warming to the Lords. They seem to be doing the job I expect of a Labour (as distinct from New Labour) government to do, this time rejecting plans for jury-free trials. But it is still an odd thing - the House that is - and subject to reforms of it's own at the moment. On principle, I'd go for an elected upper chamber, but that runs the risk of having those not deemed good enough by the electorate to sit in the Commons being the only people standing for elections to the upper house. A wholly appointed House is open to something along the lines of, oh let's pick something at random, cash for honours, although I can see the point of experienced parliamentarians being appointed.
For now, though, they continue to be a pain in the government's backside and for that, whatever one's thoughts on the existence of the Lords, they should be applauded.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

They can try, but it won't work

McDonalds want to redefine the term 'McJob'. They have no chance, the same as if they tried to redefine 'Johnny No-stars'. Once a term such as that is in the public domain, you can't get it back even if the reason for it's emergence in the first place has gone. In this case, I don't believe the public perception has changed over the crapness of working at McDonalds, so they've even less chance. All it does is make them look like a faceless corporation desperately trying to generate some positive publicity.

Thought for the day

My thought for the day is that Radio 4's Today 'Thought for the day' slot is a broadcasting anachronism. It follows a strict pattern. Introduce topic - normally a news story, say "and that's like God", and then ramble on for two minutes on an irrelevance.
This bloke is better.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Personalised services

President Blair wants us to have services tailored by ourselves to fit our every whim. It will not work. Neither the budget nor the will exist for this to happen.
He wants people to choose hospitals and schools. Here's a revolutionary thought: maybe people just want to go to the nearest one to them. And while "better technology will allow patients to book appointments", this better technology isn't even in the pipeline. The whole National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in the NHS has been, and continues to be, nothing more than a license to print money for those contractors chosen with precious little required by way of return for the cash.
Increased competition is a fine economic theory. I'm not sure it works in education or policing, especially the latter. More competition in policing? By which criteria would a police force be judged? That is my main concern.
This country has a population in excess of 60 million. Where is the budget to provide 60 million separate sets of public services? Where is the desire for such? This is pure soundbite politics, but this is the age in which we live.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Laugh out loud moment

Apparently, only the Tories can save the NHS. Oh my sides. I shall shortly require hospital treatment myself for that. I don't disagree that New Labour have made a total balls up of it, however that has been by implementing policies the like of which the Conservatives would be proud.
But then that's the beauty of opposition. You can pick as many holes in the actions of the government without actually having to come up with an alternative plan of action.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St Guinness' Day

Happy St Guinness Day. A diddly diddly dee, blarney blarney, craic. Bah. A day when everyone, at the whim of one of the biggest brewers in the world, seek out any modicum of Irish heritage and somehow feel the need to drink Guinness - a stupid drink with a stupid and unnecessary pouring ritual - for one night only.
I've nothing against Ireland or Irishness, but Guinness' shameless marketing makes me sick. Sicker than copious amounts of their sludgy produce. And those bloody jester hats want burning.

Bloody Nose Day

I don't like Comic Relief. It was it's big thing yesterday and I studiously avoided the lot. I don't like this forced, guilt-trip into donating to charity. I will pick and choose my charities thank you very much. Whatever, or even if, I donate to any charities is nobody else's business and I'm not about to advertise my generosity (or lack of) by wearing a sodding nose. Bah.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Coke zero

It's an odd thing to market your product as 'zero' when your main rivals established equivalent is called 'max', but even stranger to do so with shite adverts. One has just been on the TV. "The beautiful game (they mean football, if you didn't know) without the nasty challenges". What? I only go to football to see nasty challenges. I admire rock hard defenders doing what they do best. Take the robust challenge on the fringe of breaking the rules out of football and you'd have a mere shadow of the game.

Stop meddling!

I can't decide if the proposal to abandon draws in football is more or less stupid than the bonus point system introduced in Rugby League recently. I don't understand where the impression that a draw isn't a valid result comes from and I certainly don't see the appeal of tacking on a shoot-out to a league game just for the sake of it. It's an attempt to fix something that's never even looked like being broken.
On balance, I think it's slightly - only slightly - less stupid than the bonus points in RL as it doesn't go to the length of rewarding teams for losing, but it's still totally pointless.

Lamest duck in the pond

In the face of the biggest rebellion of your own MPs since taking power, relying on the opposition to get your ridiculous legislation through the House? That would make the platform upon which you stand rather shaky, if it were not already swaying violently in a stiff breeze. These are the actions of a premiership on the very last set of it's wobbly legs.
Who are we trying to deter anyway? France? Israel? The USA? Actually, there might be a point to that last one.

Years of price hikes

Efforts to ease overcrowding on trains were announced yesterday with the revolutionary idea that more capacity might do it. Genius. Today though, we learn that the long-suffering paying customer will fund it. In no other realm of business would this be accepted. The train operators run an inadequate service and expect those already thoroughly narked by it to cough for bringing it up to code. I would have thought investing some of those profits would be a better way to go. Either way, yet higher fares will not do anything to persuade people out of cars, thereby making a mockery of any pledges to ease congestion and/or polluting emissions that the government may make.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Word of advice

If you don't want a headache, nausea and bruises from head to foot, don't slip at the top of the stairs and smack your head on every step on the way down, knocking yourself unconscious for two or three minutes.

I did, so you don't have to. Pass the paracetamol

Monday, March 12, 2007

Zimbabwe on the brink

More ructions in Zimbabwe. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested at the weekend following a meeting which was broken up by armed officers who shot one man dead. The authorities aren't known for treating detainees particularly well and Mr Tsvangirai has been a constant nuisance to the ruling party for many years now.
The growing dispute within the ruling party, Zanu-PF, over the direction Mugabe is going in is threatening to break up the party. This public meeting saw the coming together of opposition groups for the first time in a long time - since the 2000 elections really. Since then, the continued oppression of dissenting voices took it's toll, and a split into two factions has not helped forge a way forward for those opposed to Mugabe. They seem to now be singing from the same hymn sheet as the situation worsens still in Zimbabwe. Perhaps now they can become the force they threatened to be at one time in the lead up to the 2000 elections, but they'll need support.
The US condemnation of the arrests at the weekend is welcome in this regard, but the deafening silence from it's neighbours, particularly South Africa, and the UK is troubling.

Unclean Bush

With Bush on a tour of Latin America, telling all and sundry how to run their affairs contrary to the Venezuelan model, he will visit Guatemala. His trip will see him visit the ancient Mayan site of Iximche, ancient Mayan capital until the Spanish invaded nearly 500 years ago. It's not gone down too well, with Mayan leaders planning to perform a cleansing ceremony once he's left to clean the bad energy he brings. I would very much like to see this replicated across the rest of the world where plants his warmongering feet. I can see a platoon of cleaners polishing the Mall after a visit to Buckingham Palace in my mind.
There's not long to go now before America gets rid of this dangerous imbecile. The only worry is which dangerous imbecile replaces him.

Chirac: No third term

In a slightly odd statement, Jacques Chirac has said that he won't be seeking a third Presidential term. I didn't realise anyone had asked him to. In many ways, this is akin to Stan Collymore's retirement from international football, which came many years after his last appearance for England.
In fact, it would probably serve Chirac better to get re-elected. Laws were introduced by him to protect the serving president from prosecution, mainly because he's a crook and didn't particularly want to be indicted. Once he steps down, he's wide open and I would hope and expect some charges to be levied against him.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Not a racist. Apparently

When is a racist not a racist? Good question. Patrick Mercer would have you believe that the widespread use of racist language and the complete acceptance of that as some kind of normality marks him out as someone who isn't racist. Rubbish!
What bothers me even more is that while he's apologising for having perhaps caused offence, he doesn't seem to have taken into account why that offence may have come about. Just because such terms are commonplace in military circles does not mean it's right and neither should it be treated any differently.

And this will get less coverage in the papers than the Big Brother race row some weeks ago. Which is just stupid. But then I suppose the populous votes with, if not their feet, their telephones. The turnout was higher in some Big Brother votes than it was at the last general election, and for that fact, I despair.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Renewing Trident

As has been mentioned before in these pages, Trident is up for renewal and the proposals are due to be debated imminently. Of all the dissenting voices I expected to hear, Mikhail Gorbachev wasn't one of them, welcome though it is.
I think the most telling point in that article comes from Menzies Campbell when he says that delaying a decision until 2014 to allow Britain to lend leverage to the next round of non-proliferation talks. A very good point, if not as far as I might have gone. Replacing Trident would totally undermine any moves to stop (for example) Iran and North Korea from developing weapons and would also give us no leg to stand on re chelping about the US wiping it's massive, collective arse all over Kyoto and other treaties the Bush regime decided didn't suit.
I think what annoys most is the number of New Labour MPs who have quite conveniently ditched their previously held CND credentials in the rush for votes.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wealth creation

The term "wealth creation" is one you tend to hear a lot. Todays' example was in the ongoing debate over the charitable status of many independent schools (This is a side issue to the main topic of the rant, but the guy on the radio this morning supporting independents claimed at one stage that one third of independent school pupils get assistance with the fees. He runs a school of 800 and had to admit that just 65 of his pupils got assistance. Not quite the 33%, but never mind eh?).
Anyway, wealth creation. For me, it's like matter. It can't be created or be destroyed, merely shifted about. Witness the export of call centre jobs to (e.g.) India and now Łodz in Poland (according to today's Gazeta). Move the jobs there because it's cheaper and you eventually have to pay them a similar wage to that that you would here. Then you look for the next area where you can find cheap labour. And so on, and so on, and so on. It's just one massive, global pyramid scheme and at some point it will crumble, just like pyramid schemes the world over have done in the past, albeit on a radically smaller scale.

Solving the question of illegal immigration

I don't know why it's not been thought of before. Send people text messages to warn them their visa is about to expire. Who comes up with these things and do they draw a salary? If so, then I've got loads of totally pointless and impractical things for the government to do - you could e-mail people to watch out for flooding when it rains, for example - and I'll set up a PO Box to receive the cheques that will no doubt follow.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Yes it's that time again, at least according to my employers who have just sent an e-mail round asking for designs for this year's corporate e-card.

In fact, as we're getting in the festive season already, what better time to publicly unveil my christmas song? Here it is, and if there are any musicians out there wishing to collaborate on a tune, get in touch.

Once-a-year drinkers have filled up the pub.
There's a 3 hour queue to get into a club.
I just want a pint. I want to wind down.
How d'you do that when it's so packed in town?

The shops start the season in bloody September,
but the mince pies are useless by mid-November.
And if I hear Slade just one more time
I'll take up a new hobby of violent gun crime.

CHORUS:
Stuff your face. Drink. Crap paper hat.
(Merry christmas. I love you)
Can you not say you love me without buying me tat?
Lager, gin, vodka, champagne, port and beer.
(Merry christmas. I love you)
Can you not say you love me the rest of the year?

(segué into Silent Night)
Silent night. Holy night.
Game of charades ends up in a fight.
(back to main melody)

It won't snow at christmas. It'll bloody rain.
Drought warnings will follow again and again.
Your huge light displays should come with a warning
that you're contributing so much towards global warming.

Right wing press would have us think christmas is banned,
but no such conspiracy has ever been planned.
Rampant commercialism. Complete farce.
And Destiny's Child can come kiss my arse.

CHORUS

(segué into O Little Town Of Bethlehem)
O little town of Bethlehem
between two states you're tucked.
Israel says jump. The US says how high
and Palestine gets fucked.
(back to main melody)

Office party. Drink. Photocopied arses. More food.
Spending time with co-workers when you're not in the mood
to pass time with these people all through the year,
yet now you're expected to share lots of beer.

It's all over. Your liver aches. You're no longer flush.
You've feasted so much you even make Bacchus blush.
Your faux-sentimental rictus grin fades away
but it'll be back for next year's Christmas Day.

CHORUS (x2)

(fade)

FIN

Merry Christmas everybody!

Taxing pollution

As far as I recall, all three main parties have made noises about taxing pollution/emissions etc - and road pricing comes into this as well - both as a means of encouraging cutting emissions as well as a revenue generator.
But it can't be both. New Labour, the Lib Dems and Conservatives all say they'll fund other tax cuts with increased taxation on environmentally unsound practices. If the intention is to disincentivise something which pollutes, then when that disincentive kicks in, your budget will have a hole in it. That or the well off continue to do whatever this hypothetical activity is while everyone else has no choice in the matter, which is hardly a traditional Labour or Liberal policy.
Road pricing has flaws in exactly the same way. So much money is to be made out of this and so much made from duty on fuel and other taxes relating to car ownership, it's not in the government's interests to make people take to the buses or trains, particularly as any revenue generated there goes straight to shareholders, not the public purse. And in turn, it allows bus and train companies to create the illusion of running a desirable service when they are packed, forcing the price up artificially with no responsibility to upgrade anything, as road and rail repairs come under Whitehall's remit.

This has obviously been very carefully thought out, but not for the soundbite and headline reasons. It's a cunning way of winning votes by appearing very concerned about the planet rather than a cynical grab at new revenue streams.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Favourite footballer - slight reprise

Following my previous bit about footballers with something else, comes this interview in the Observer with Lilian Thuram. That marks him out as something above your average footballer, as well as being one mean defender. Which is always good. Seems that Barcelona have a monopoly going on.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Clone Roses at Holmfirth Picturedrome

Following the saving of the Picturedrome - well, not saved so much as definitely not being turned into a Wetherspoons, it is still in trouble - the Clone Roses were in town. And the place was jumping.

It was a hell of a gig actually. Had pretty much everything - a scuffle broke out at one point and some local pubeheaded yoof knobhead decided lobbing a bottle stagewards was a good idea.
They played all the hits and have the mannerisms of the Stone Roses down pat.

The big difference between these guys and the Stone Roses is that the originals were complete rubbish live and these aren't. And that's what gets me about tribute acts like this. They're talented musicians - very talented - so it baffles me somewhat that they set themselves up as a tribute. It'd be a bit sad if aping another band paid more than doing your own thing.
But for all my issues about tribute bands in general, it was cracking. The support was good too - a ska-influenced band whose name I didn't catch.
Good band, cracking night. Recommended.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Stuck in the middle

The ongoing spat between two irritating billionaires has left millions of cable TV customers without several Sky channels. Considering there hasn't been a reduction in my bill as a result of getting less content I'm a bit miffed, moreso that than actually losing the channels which don't carry that much I would go out of my way to see. What's even more irritating is the very public and schoolboyish* name-calling all across the media. The back page of yesterday's Guardian was an advert from Sky saying how it was all Virgin's fault. Go to where one of the channels was previously to be found and you get a ho-ho-hilarious message from the wags at Virgin saying how Sky 'took their bat and ball home'. Oh my sides.
But it'll all be alright. Why? Because the National Consumer Council are going to make a 'super-complaint'. Super.




* - Well it would be schoolboyish, but in my faded memories from school, this is more like pulling the hair of a girl you really fancy. I reckon Virgin and Sky should get a room. They protest too much.

Sarkozy woes

In politics as in sport, it's all about peaking at the right time. Segolène Royal was struggling some weeks ago, publicly claiming not to know the number of nuclear submarines in the French fleet among many other foot-in-mouth moments. She has managed to overcome her gaffes with some relatively inspiring TV appearances and now that resurgence is to be combined with the travails of lickspittle pursuivant Nicolas Sarkozy, among which, instead of admitting he didn't know, he got the number of nuclear submarines in the French fleet wrong. Really, knowing that figure is a moot point, but somehow these things seem to matter when it comes to election time.
With the first round of the election next month, Sarkozy still holds sway in the polls, but the momentum is all with the Socialists.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Britain's greatest sportsperson

Tanni Grey-Thompson has retired. I don't think she's ever really got the plaudits she's deserved over the years, as successful performers in fringe areas of the sporting radar rarely do unless they're royal. Sixteen Olympic medals, eleven of them gold, and six marathon wins. That's a hugely impressive total and only really tells half the story. And she's a decent person to boot. I once offered to help her off a train, initially not realising who it was and, on doing so, quickly went all schoolboyish and blushing. I'd only gone and asked the world's premier wheelchair-bound athlete if she wanted help with her chair... Bloody idiot. She was very gracious anyway.
All the best to her in her future career. If anyone ever gets near the amount of medals and awards she's won, they will be a very tired person at the end of it.

Victim statements

The scheme by which relatives of the victims in murder and manslaughter trials get to make a statement in court if they wish may be extended. Pardon my cynicism, but what is the point? The statement has no bearing on the verdict or the sentence, so what purpose does it serve? I don't understand the reasoning as to why it's essential, as Charlie Falconer and Harriet Harman have both asserted, that the victim's family have to have a say somewhere.

Essential books

A new list. Whoop de doo. Books you can't live without indeed. My arse. Books of which people have recently seen a TV or film adaptation more like.