Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I Ventured In The Slipstream Between The Viaducts Of Your Dream

Well this took far longer than usual, dear blog reader. But, at last, here's the latest bloggerisationisms update. As Bill Bailey might say: 'It's a bit like being smacked around the head with a piece of furniture from Ikea. It hurts, but you've got to admire the workmanship.'

ITV's new drama series Prey topped the ratings outside of soaps on Monday, according to overnight data. The John Simm led drama was seen by an average of 5.7 million punters at 9pm. Earlier, another new series Gino's Italian Escape appealed to 2.7m at 8pm. On BBC1, Bang Goes The Theory attracted 2.8m at 7.30pm, while Panorama brought in 2.3m at 8.30pm. Crimewatch was seen by 3.3m at 9pm. BBC2's World Snooker Championship coverage scored 1.1m at 7pm. That was followed by Restaurant Wars with 1.1m at 8pm. The final episode of Rev had an audience of 1.1m at 10pm. On Channel Four, Britain's Most Extreme Weather was watched by 1.5m at 8pm. One Born Every Minute garnered 1.7m at 9pm and Rupert Everett's Love For Sale appealed to nine hundred and eighty seven thousand at 10pm. Channel Five's Secret History Of UFOs drew eight hundred and fifty six thousand at 9pm, followed by Aliens: Are We Alone? with seven hundred and sixty five thousand at 10pm. The BBC3 documentary My Brother The Terrorist was seen by three hundred and thirty eight thousand at 9pm. On BBC4, Only Connect brought in eight hundred and nineteen thousand at 8.30pm, followed by the new - extremely grim but bloody good - Welsh drama Hinterland with seven hundred thousand at 9pm. On Sky Atlantic, the latest episode of Game Of Thrones thrilled eight hundred and thirty one thousand at 9pm.

ITV's new breakfast show, Good Morning Britain had its ass beaten by the BBC's Breakfast on its opening day, scoring just half as many viewers as its rival. The first show, starring Susanna Reid, had an average audience of seven hundred and sixty eight thousand viewers over two-and-a-half hours. BBC Breakfast had almost double that figure, with an average of 1.5 million punters tuning in. Good Morning Britain's figure was also less than its predecessor, notorious breakfast TV flop Daybreak's average launch ratings of 1.02m back in 2010. Good Morning Britain's first day audience is, however, a marginal improvement recent figures for it's predecessor. Helen Warner, ITV's director of daytime, claimed that she was 'pleased' with the performance. 'The launch was a fantastic team effort, and we are focused on building a strong breakfast brand going forward.' Over the last year, embarrassing fiasco Daybreak had struggled in the ratings against its BBC rival, with an average audience of five hundred and ninety thousand. The five-minute peak audience on Monday for Breakfast was 2.1 million, while Good Morning Britain's highest five-minute peak was 1.2 million. Peak and average viewing figures only give a snapshot of the breakfast audience, given that most people often only tune in for a short period of time. The more accurate 'daily reach' figure adds up the total number of people watching at any time during the broadcast. For BBC Breakfast, the figure is currently 6.8 million. On Daybreak, which ended in shame and ignominy last week, it was 2.3 million. Good Morning Britain will be hoping to improve on that figure - though measurements for Monday's episode are not yet available. The new ITV show is hosted by four presenters, including Reid who left BBC Breakfast earlier this year for a rumoured four hundred thousand smackers salary. Her colleagues include Sky Sports presenter Ben Shephard, Sean Fletcher and Charlotte Hawkins. The first edition ran fairly smoothly, although there was a sticky moment when the weather presenter referred viewers to the Daybreak website during the 07:45 update.

BBC1's latest drama Happy Valley opened with over six million overnight viewers on Tuesday. Sarah Lancashire's new crime drama vehicle was seen by 6.3m at 9pm, up by nearly two million from last week's Jamaica Inn in the same slot. The Comedy Playhouse special Over To Bill was watched by 2.3m at 10.35pm. On BBC2, the World Championship Snooker coverage continued with 1.1m at 7pm. The Big Allotment Challenge dipped by two hundred thousand punters week-on-week to 1.7m at 8pm, followed by Watermen: A Dirty Business with 1.1m at 9pm. ITV's Champions League coverage of Real Madrid's easy win over Bayern Munich scored 4.3m at 7.30pm. On Channel Four, Embarrassing Bodies interested 1.2m at 8pm. Mr Drew's School For Boys appealed to 1.4m at 9pm, while Last Chance School brought in eight hundred and thirty eight thousand at 10pm. Channel Five's Nightmare Neighbour Next Door had an audience of 1.4m at 8pm, followed by Behind Closed Doors with eight hundred and twenty four thousand viewers at 9pm. The Mentalist continued with one million punters at 10pm. Good Morning Britain lost one hundred thousand viewers on Tuesday (or, an eighth of its initial audience), attracting an average audience of seven hundred thousand, less than half that of rival BBC Breakfast which had 1.5 million.

Doctor Who has appointed two new scriptwriters for the upcoming eighth series. Wallander writer Peter Harness and Being Human's Jamie Mathieson have both confirmed their involvement on Twitter. Harness has previously written scripts for Channel Four's City Of Vice, BBC1's Case Histories and the movie Is Anybody There? Mathieson is best known for writing the 2009 comedy FAQ About Time Travel, while he has also written episodes of Being Human and Dirk Gently.
A bunch of mouthy Scottish fishermen have claimed that a website link on the end titles of MasterChef gives 'the wrong advice' about eating cod. What a right load of old crap. As though anybody actually gives a stuff about nonsense such as that. Fishing crews are - according to a typically rancid shit-stirring and trouble-making piece by some absolute louse of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star - 'furious' with the popular BBC show for linking to the Marine Conservation Society website for advice on 'sustainable fish' in the end titles. The MCS lists cod as 'a fish to avoid', claiming that stocks in the North Sea, the Irish Sea and West of Scotland are among the 'most depleted.' But the Scottish Fishermen's Federation - for such a thing does, indeed, exist - claims that the advice is 'a kick in the teeth' for fishing crews. Not, lads, a kick in the teeth would, actually, involve, you know, actual teeth kicking. This is something different. The SFF chief executive, Bertie Armstrong, whinged: 'We've had a lot of bad reaction from skippers because Scottish fishing has tried extremely hard to be sustainable. Our beef about the Marine Conservation Society traffic light list of guidance is that it is superficial and illogical. If anybody buys fish in the United Kingdom then it has been fished within a quota and is entirely sustainable. That's the measure of it.' He added: 'MasterChef put a seal of approval on the Marine Conservation Society's list of fish to eat and our problem with that is that it is a superficial assessment. We think the Marine Conservation Society list of colours is superficial and misleading. It doesn't help.' A spokeswoman for MasterChef, wearily, said: 'We are very keen to give out the right advice with regards to sustainable fish. We refer to the Marine Society guidelines but we appreciate this is an ever-changing situation and welcome any updated information based on new research and findings.' She also told the Scotsman newspaper - which was also trying to stir up trouble over this utterly nothing story - that cod has not been banned from MasterChef; as, indeed, anyone who has been watching the current series will know, it was used as an ingredient on an episode as recently as last week. She added that the link to the MCS was 'a guide for viewers to find out more information.' And that if you want to eat cod with yer chips and batter, dear blog reader, that's entirely a matter for you.
A review of the BBC's news output has found it to be 'trusted and highly regarded by audiences' but suggests that some viewers can find it 'distant.' Conducted by the BBC Trust, the review also expresses concern that 'younger audiences' use of broadcast news is continuing to decline.' It says that 'there is a risk that they may not turn to the BBC as they get older, as has traditionally been the case.' More than nine thousand people were consulted as part of the review. The BBC's governing body looked at the performance of all of the corporation's UK network news and current affairs across TV, radio and online before drawing its conclusions. The report found that 'audiences think the BBC does significantly better than other news providers in providing up-to-date news giving in-depth coverage and covering a wide range of stories.' It said that 'four out of five UK adults watch, read or listen to BBC News each week, with BBC TV news alone watched by two-thirds of adults.' According to the review, however, some audiences feel that BBC News is 'distant' in its editorial agenda and tone and think it should do more to offer 'fresh perspectives.' The Trust has set out 'a number of actions' that include 'making more use of regional and local reporters on national network news and making further progress in creating a more diverse workforce both on and off air.'
Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads and Dragons' Den star Theo Paphitis are among those former clients to have severed ties with Max Clifford after the celebrity publicist's convictions for sexually assaulting teenage girls. And, they've been doing so faster than you can say 'Who? No, not me mate, I hardly even knew the bloke.' Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads, who has been 'personally represented' by Clifford for more than a decade in relation to his TV formats The X Factor and Britain's Got Toilets, extremely sacked the seventy one-year-old Clifford mere hours after Clifford was found very guilty of eight counts of indecent assault on Monday. Paphitis, whose lingerie brand Boux Avenue was one of the convicted paedophile Clifford's top clients, also hurried to distance himself from the millionaire PR man according to the Gruniad Morning Star who seemed to think this was all extremely funny. Which, to be fair, it was. Paphitis, the newspaper states, is 'understood' to have terminated Boux Avenue's account with Max Clifford Associates in late 2013, even though a photo of Paphitis still featured prominently on Clifford's company website up until Tuesday. The website, MaxClifford.com, appeared to have been taken down on Tuesday afternoon as high-profile clients rushed to disassociate themselves from the convicted paedophile and all his sordid doings. Clifford is facing the prospect of jail when he is sentenced on Friday over eight counts of indecent assault concerning four victims, including a girl of fifteen. A jury found Clifford extremely guilty of the assaults at Southwark Crown Court on Monday. He was cleared of two further counts and jurors failed to reach a verdict on one additional count. During the trial, Clifford told journalists that the trial had cost his PR agency about one million smackers in lost business. And, we're supposed to, what, feel sorry for him? He also conceded this month that a conviction would mean 'at least a couple of clients will no longer be clients because [they are assisted] by me hands-on', one of whom is Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads. The company, which the convicted paedophile Clifford founded at the beginning of the 1970s and has a staff of eight, moved from its Mayfair headquarters to a more modest office in Weybridge last month in a sign that Clifford was dealing with the financial burden of an expensive criminal trial. Meanwhile on Tuesday, bewildered old Des O'Connor also refused to lend his support to Clifford, an alleged 'close friend' going back decades. The television presenter gave evidence on behalf of the publicist at the trial, describing him as 'pleasant, friendly, helpful, kind.' A spokeswoman for O'Connor said: 'He was asked to appear as a witness and he appeared. He's not making any comment.' Asked whether O'Connor would distance himself from Clifford or stand by him, the spokeswoman added: 'He's not making any comment.' So, that'd be a 'yes', then? Staff at the Royal Marsden hospital in West London, where Clifford was a patron, also on Tuesday said that the publicist had 'not been involved' in the hospital 'for a long time' and was 'no longer a patron.' During the trial, jurors were told that Clifford raised 'a significant amount of money' for the cancer-specialist hospital, where one of his clients, the late Jade Goody received treatment, and organised visits from celebrities including the boxer Muhammad Ali, boyband Westlife and former tennis champion Pat Cash. Immediately after the verdicts two Surrey-based charities, Shooting Star Chase and The Woking & Sam Beare Hospices, said that Clifford would no longer be their patron. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations, which represents publicists in the UK, said: 'This has been a sad and shocking case with repercussions for many. While public relations has not been on trial here, we believe that as a champion of our members' professional interests and a body that works in the public interest, we should put on record that we believe that the actions of Mr Clifford should not be considered as damaging to, or associated with, our profession. Mr Clifford has never signed himself up to industry recognised professional standards, nor is his line of work akin to anything that is undertaken by credible and accountable public relations professionals. There is also no evidence that he has ever engaged in what the CIPR and our members understand as modern public relations activity.' Well, you know what they say, dear blog reader, there are many people who firmly believe that the quality of a person can most easily be judged by the company that they chose to keep. Case in point ...
ITV has pulled the Law & Order: UK series eight finale from this week's schedules. Repeat To Fade was intended to be broadcast on wednesday evening at 9pm, but it will now be replaced by a repeat. The episode - written by Richard Stokes - charts the investigation into the stabbing of a young woman. In a statement, ITV said: 'A change has been made to tonight's schedule in light of recent news events, and a different episode of Law & Order: UK will air on ITV this evening.'

Jon Sopel, the lead anchor of BBC World News, has been appointed as the corporation's new North American editor. Sopel will replace Mark Mardell, who is to become presenter of Radio 4's The World This Weekend and will also present The World At One on Fridays. 'What is decided in Washington affects the whole world, and it will be a great challenge to report on the workings of The White House and Congress – and of course follow the next presidential election,' said Sopel. Yer man Sopel, who was also a chief political correspondent for BBC News, has presented the BBC's coverage of the last three US presidential campaigns. Sopel's appointment comes as part of a wider reshuffle at BBC News, with Katya Adler, the world affairs correspondent, taking over from Gavin Hewitt as Europe editor. 'These appointments are designed to strengthen the BBC's key foreign news team,' said Jonathan Munro, the head of newsgathering. 'Jon has years of experience in covering stories of huge significance at home and abroad. He has delivered countless exclusive interviews, and been on location to witness some of the biggest events of the last two decades. Katya will bring a whole new dimension to our coverage of European affairs, at a time when the nations and institutions of Europe face a series of defining decisions.' Ian Pannell has been appointed international correspondent.

Yahoo has announced two original TV series that will be shown on its website and mobile app. It makes Yahoo the latest technology firm to join the fast-growing market for digital video content. Companies such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Microsoft have been looking to compete with traditional TV programming to attract viewers to their platforms. Some have even been signing deals with Internet service providers to stream videos faster and more smoothly. On Monday, Netflix announced a deal with Verizon - one of the biggest Internet service providers in the US - which will see Netflix servers connected directly to Verizon's network, resulting in faster speeds. 'We have reached an interconnect arrangement with Verizon that we hope will improve performance for our joint customers over the coming months,' Joris Evers, spokesman for Netflix, said in a statement. The firm had agreed a similar deal with Comcast earlier this year. Yahoo said its first two original series will be comedies titled: Other Space and Sin City Saints. The firm said that it has five hundred million streams on Yahoo Screen in the US since it launched its comedy line-up on the website seven months ago. 'We are continuing to build our library with universally loved comedy such as Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central,' Kathy Savitt, chief marketing officer on Yahoo, said. Yahoo added that its two original series will also be available to viewers on Apple TV and Roku. However, the company is likely to face growing competition. Earlier this month, Amazon agreed a deal with HBO that will allow US customers of its streaming service, Amazon Prime, to watch HBO's TV shows, including The Sopranos. It is the first time HBO programming has been licensed to an online-only subscription streaming service. Amazon Instant Video has also announced a series called The After - a post-apocalyptic drama by The X-Files creator Chris Carter - among other commissions. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to launch two SF series - Halo and Humans - on its Xbox Live service over the coming months. Sony is developing Powers, a series about detectives investigating people with superhuman abilities, for the PlayStation Network.

The Bletchley Circle's Sophie Rundle has admitted that she was 'gutted' by the show's recent cancellation. ITV announced earlier this month that the period mystery would not be returning for a third series. Due to declining ratings, obviously. 'It was a real shame because we would've loved to have come back,' Rundle - who played Lucy in the drama - whinged to the Digital Spy website. 'I think we were all gutted.' Well, they would be, clearly. Getting the tin-tack from an underperforming show which has been extremely binned, frankly, who wouldn't? However, the actress admitted that the cancellation by ITV was 'not totally unexpected. In the climate that we're in at the moment, it's really hard to get shows re-commissioned,' she said. And, getting a few more viewers might help too. 'Doing a second series was a complete bonus - we only thought we were doing a one-off drama.'

Julie Walters has been cast in Channel Four's upcoming drama Indian Summers. The actress is one of several casting announcements for the ten-part period drama, the channel confirmed this week. Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Jemima West and Nikesh Patel have also joined the cast along with Roshan Seth, Lillete Dubey, Alexander Cobb, Craig Parkinson, Fiona Glascott, Amber Rose Revah, Aysha Kala, Olivia Grant and Edward Hogg. Indian Summers will be set in 1932, in the backdrop of the Himalayas and tea plantations of Northern India. It will follow the decline of the British Raj and the beginnings of modern India, told from both sides of the cultural divide. Filming will begin in the summer, to be broadcast on Channel Four in 2015. The broadcaster said in a statement: 'As Indian Summers begins, the stories of promises, secrets, politics, power, sex and love play out as the British Raj begins to falter and a nation opens its eyes to the possibilities of freedom.'

The great David Threlfall, Nico Mirallegro and Ashley Walters have been confirmed for new BBC drama The Ark. The one-off drama, from the makers of Death In Paradise, is a retelling of the biblical story of Noah. Threlfall, so good recently in Not Like That, Like This will star as Noah his very self, while Joanne Whalley will take the role of his wife, Emmie. Commenting on his role, Threlfall said: 'The story jumped off the page at me from the first reading. It's not just a family saga but the first family saga. It takes its inspiration from many faiths and speaks of values which should be shared across all cultures. It was something I immediately wanted to be part of.' Emily Bevan, Hannah John-Kamen and Georgina Campbell have also been cast in the drama, which has been written by Hustle's Tony Jordan. The actor's playing Noah's three sons, Ham, Jam and spam are not, at this time, known. Belinda Campbell, the drama's Executive Producer, said: 'The Ark is a timeless tale which will touch those who are both familiar with the story from the Bible, as well as those who are seeing it for the first time. Warm and humorous, it tells the tale of the impact on a family when an ordinary man undertakes to do an extraordinary thing.'
A Britain's Got Toilets act has called for a boycott of the show, despite making it through to the second round. Wookey Hole Caves Turbo Jets leader Gerry Cottle criticised the talent show over their treatment on Saturday's broadcast. Writing 'an open letter' to circus acts across the UK - presumably, because he's too skint to buy some stamps and make it a closed letter - he explained that Wookey Hole Caves Turbo Jets' performance was 'altered' for the TV version, being educed from two minutes to twenty seconds and their music being replaced. He whinged to the Wells Journal: 'We were asked to perform on Britain's Got Talent and the researchers came down to see the show when we were in Hammersmith last year. They asked us to do our spectacular cycling act which culminates in seven people riding one bike. The act is normally seven minutes long but we were asked to devise a two-minute version for TV. We choreographed an act for them using modern upbeat music. An instrumental version of 'Bom Bom' by Sam & The Womp and on the night we were given three 'Yeses' and thought we would qualify for the next round.' Cottle also whinged about Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's comments, saying: 'To make things worse Simon Cowell said I don't like circuses and I don't like clowns, even though there were no clowns in the routine. If that was not enough as the troupe walked off he also said - I hate those type of acts. If Simon Cowell doesn't like circuses and he hates these type of acts, why on earth do his researchers contact every circus in the UK asking them to perform on Britain's Got Talent? They are just like lambs to the slaughter and this will seriously damage our business.' Well, you didn't have to go on the show, mate. Nobody held a gun to your head. Albeit, it should be noted that the thought of Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced chef from Crossroads being pursued through the streets everywhere he goes by a phallanx of angry clowns is, undeniably, an intriguing one.
Craig Ferguson has announced he is quitting his late-night US talk show after almost a decade in the job. His announcement on The Late Late Show comes just weeks after David Letterman revealed that he would be retiring from his CBS show. Ferguson's show is broadcast immediately after Letterman's, at 12:35am on weekdays, and Craig had once been considered a strong contender to take over the earlier slot when Letterman retired. But, earlier this month it was announced that Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert had got that gig. On his show, Ferguson obliquely referred to Gwyneth Paltrow's separation from Chris Martin, saying: 'CBS and I are not getting divorced, we are consciously uncoupling. But we will still spend holidays together and share custody of the fake horse and robot skeleton, both of whom we love very much.' CBS's NIna Tassler said that Ferguson 'infused the broadcast with tremendous energy, unique comedy, insightful interviews and some of the most heartfelt monologues seen on television.' The network said that it wants to continue with The Late Late Show and is looking for a new host. Ferguson started his career on the British comedy circuit as the character Bing Hitler - yer actual Keith Telly Topping saw him live in 1989, still one of the funniest comedy gigs I've ever been to - following a short-lived period in a 1980s post-punk sub-Postcard group called The Dreamboys alongside his good mate yer actual Peter Capaldi. Whatever happened to him? Ferguson subsequently moved to Los Angeles in 1994 and became a US citizen during his tenure on The Late Late Show. He already has a new job lined up, hosting the game show Celebrity Name Game later this year.

Worthless, full-of-her-own-importance waste-of-space Fearne Cotton is 'to meet up with McBusted for a new two-part ITV2 series'. Which tells you just about everything you need to know about the truly appalling state of what Britain's most watched multichannel considers to be 'entertainment' in the Twenty First Century, dear blog reader. if you even consider for a second watching this wretched pile of steaming turd then your next move should, probably, be to seek a lobotomy.

The Big Bang Theory has reportedly proved too much for Chinese censors, who have pulled the popular - and, quite funny let it be said - American sitcom from the Internet. Fans hoping to watch the hit show on legal streaming website Sohu in China are greeted with a message which stated that it is unavailable 'due to policy reasons'. All episodes were removed from its services, apparently on the orders of the State Administration for Radio, Film, and Television. The censors last month warned that they would be 'tightening up' on imported dramas, and told websites that US and British TV shows must be 'audited' before going online. Broadcasters who fall foul of the rules face having their equipment, profits, and licences taken away. And, getting the bollocks smacked with a bamboo cane. probably. However, some have dared to criticise the rules for 'being inconsistent.' Which probably means they're first up a'fore the Correction & Chastisement Committee. Whilst The Big Bang Theory is rated for general viewing in the States, Games Of Thrones, which is R-rated for its liberal violence and nudity, is freely aired by State broadcaster CCTV. Media consultant Peng Kan told local website ECNS: 'The fuzzy standards are always a problem. They don't give you an explicit criterion beforehand. But when you make a mistake or when they think you make a mistake, you'll get caught.' However, reports that CCTV is planning its own translations of The Big Bang Theory suggest that the decision to block the online episodes may not be based on protecting public morals alone. Translation service CBM says that it is working on a version of the episodes for CCTV which would be made available in 'an active, healthy and clean way.' The Big Bang Theory is one of the most popular online imports in China, especially among younger people, attracting over one billion views since it first appeared on Sohu TV.
And still the phone-hacking trial continues, dear blog reader. Jeez, it's had a longer gestation period than Apocalypse Now, this bugger. Anyway, in the latest developments, the Prime Minister's former, if you will 'chum', Andy Coulson has denied he ran a 'slapdash' and 'careless' operation at the Scum of the World in which police officers were casually - and illegally - paid for royal directories and the Home Secretary had his phone hacked. The former editor admitted that he 'might' have been 'careless' on occasion, but that this did not amount to being guilty of the several criminal charges he is currently facing. Others beg to disagree. The prosecution, chiefly. The lead prosecutor Anthony Edis QC made the 'careless' accusation after the former editor admitted that he 'didn't pay enough attention' to e-mails in which apparent criminal behaviour was being openly described by his reporters. The former editor of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World was told in an e-mail that a story the paper was planning to run on Prince Harry's health had been 'scammed from Helen Asprey', the private secretary to Harry and his brother, William. Coulson denied that this was a reference to hacking. He also denied that e-mails from his royal reporter, Clive Goodman, about paying police officers and about the young princes didn't raise 'alarm bells' about activities in his newsroom. Edis put it to him that Coulson had already testified he was 'a risk averse' editor. 'Slapdash and careless,' Edis suggested could be added to that description. 'Were you a slapdash and careless editor?' Edis asked. 'I do not think I was slapdash. I think with hindsight, I displayed some carelessness, I would agree with that,' Coulson said. He is facing three charges in the hacking trial at the Old Bailey, one that he conspired to hack phones and two relating to the extremely corrupt payment of public officials. He denies all three charges. Asked if the admission that he was 'careless' was an admission that he 'couldn't care less' about illegal activity at the paper, Coulson responded: 'I do not think it's right to say I didn't care less, but I think on occasion I was careless.' He added: 'I did my best. Having being presented with all of this [as a result] of this very long investigation, I accept that I did not do enough. It doesn't mean I was party to it,' he said. He was earlier accused of 'hiding' a corrupt payment to a police officer for a royal telephone directory in the 'bent system' at the Scum of the World. The former tabloid editor has denied sanctioning a payment to a police officer for the confidential internal directories after e-mail requests from his former royal editor. He told jurors that Goodman's request for payment for seven hundred and fifty smackers and a previous one for a thousand notes during his editorship was 'another example' of Goodman's alleged habit of 'exaggerating' his 'sources' and Coulson did not then and does not now believe Goodman's source actually was a policeman. With hindsight, Coulson said he wished he had 'paid more attention' to Goodman's claim that he was paying a public official, but said that he didn't pay heed to it because he wouldn't have thought it was true. Coulson said that if he had been the type of journalist who paid police, investigators would have found many more incriminating e-mails in his inbox. 'There was thousands of e-mails going in and out of my system, thousands of decisions. If I was a journalist, or if I was an editor who thought it was okay to pay police, you would see tens of thousands of [e-mails requesting] paying police,' he claimed. 'Seriously, you would have found more,' he repeated under cross examination by Edis. He said that the cash payments were 'a lot of money', but not in the context of the scale of payments the paper would have made to alleged 'sources' for alleged stories. Coulson accepted that he 'should have looked harder at the provenance' of the royal phone directories. 'Perhaps you should have called the police, should you, do you think looking back?' asked Edis. 'I think if I had called police, based on the fact that I don't believe it was a policeman, I think they would have told me I was wasting my time.' Earlier, he admitted that it was a risk that others were hacking at the Scum of the World at the time David Blunkett's voicemails were intercepted by his chief reporter. Under intense questioning from the judge, Coulson claimed he felt that if anyone else was involved in the illegal activity, they would have brought it to his attention. Seeking clarification to this attitude to hacking when Coulson was told by Neville Thurlbeck of the Blunkett hacking, Mr Justice Saunders asked: 'In this particular case, Neville Thurlbeck decided to tell you that he had telephone hacked. As you also said, that's a breach of the editor's code. The editor's code is incorporated in the contracts of journalists. Doing something like that could have ended in his dismissal?' 'Dismissal, no. Disciplinary action, yes,' replied Coulson. 'So it looks like Neville Thurlbeck did not take that [PCC editor's code] too seriously,' asked Saunders. Coulson replied that Thurlbeck felt the alleged 'public interest' justified his actions. Saunders asked if, when Thurlbeck phoned Coulson on 21 July 2004, he had prefaced his hacking confession by telling his editor 'I have done something terrible.' 'He didn't use the word terrible,' claimed Coulson. 'Weren't you concerned that other people in the newsdesk weren't having the same wrong view?' Saunders asked. 'No,' Coulson replied. 'Neville Thurlbeck is a senior reporter who considered that he was justified in hacking the voicemail of Kimberly Fortier,' Saunders asked of the hacking of Blunkett's mistress at the time. 'He was wrong,' said Saunders. 'Yes,' replied Coulson. 'Was there not a risk that other people on the newsdesk were doing exactly the same thing because they also got it wrong?' 'It was a risk, I felt, they, rightly or wrongly, they would bring it to my attention of the lawyer or me,' replied Coulson. If that was the case, then why didn't he do something about it, the judge asked. 'In hindsight, I sincerely wish I had, but I did put in place the school of excellence,' Coulson claimed, referring to a training course journalists were required to take on the paper. Coulson has been accused of 'inventing' the public interest justification for exposing Blunkett's affair with a married woman in the Scum of the World to cover the illegal phone-hacking which proved he was having the relationship. Edis accused Coulson on Monday of 'fabricating' his defence for listening to the former Home Secretary's intimate voicemails left on Kimberly Fortier's phone ten years ago. The former Scum of the World editor denied that this was the case and claimed that after he listened to part of the voicemails, it appeared there were 'several reasons' to reveal Blunkett's affair. He said that Thurlbeck, who played the messages to him, felt that Blunkett was 'distracted in his job as Home Secretary and that he was sharing information that he should not be sharing, that these together provided some justification' for publication. Coulson said that one of the alleged messages allegedly related to a terrorist arrest and to a visit Blunkett was making to or from GCHQ. There was also a message indicating that Blunkett was considering making the affair public himself. 'That had nothing to do with you at all, that's up to him [to expose his affair] to decide, not you to decide,' Edis said. Coulson said 'rightly or wrongly' that 'if someone is considering taking it public anyway' that influenced his thinking about publication. At this point the judge interjected: 'About to give up their own privacy?' Edis intervened: 'So you will do it for them?' Coulson replied, grumpily: 'I've explained my decision.' He also admitted to lying to Blunkett about his 'sources' for the story. Initially he told jurors that he was 'disingenuous' with Blunkett and preferred to using that instead of 'lying.' After repeating this, the judge intervened again, asking him firmly: 'Were you telling a deliberate untruth? Yes or no?' Coulson paused for a moment and then answered: 'Yes.' Earlier Coulson had claimed that he did not know at the time hacking was a criminal offence, but he did know it breached the Home Secretary's privacy and this could have risked an injunction or high court privacy action post publication. Edis pressed him further on his claim that he thought publication of the story in August 2004 was 'justified' because the Home Secretary was sharing sensitive information about terrorist arrests. But none of this was in the story, Edis said. 'If it's in the public interest, this is something the public want to know, that's all it means [public interest], so if it's something in the public interest, you need to tell them don't you?' Edis asked. 'I agree,' Coulson replied. 'This public interest stuff is just an invention by you built around voicemails,' Edis said. 'If terrorist arrests had mattered to you in the slightest, it would be somewhere in the story, but it's not is it?' Coulson replied: 'I did explain. It's my mistake.' A week ago Coulson admitted for the first time that he had listened to Blunkett's voicemails in 2004 and after initially telling Thurlbeck to 'stop' his investigation, he was eventually persuaded that there was a 'public interest' in exposing Blunkett. Cross-examining Coulson, Edis also challenged him on this claim that a message which Coulson said he had heard about the Home Secretary travelling to or from GCHQ was in the public interest. 'So, hold the front page – the Home Secretary has been to GCHQ, is that what you thought?' Coulson replied: 'The Home Secretary revealing his whereabouts – it might be sensitive information.' Edis responded: 'The Home Secretary's whereabouts very often are a matter of public record in this country' adding 'you thought this is a cracking story?' Coulson replied: 'I certainly thought it was a story, I certainly thought I was something I had to give proper and serious thought to.' He said that it was his decision alone to hide the origin of the story as hacked voicemails although he did get legal advice from a News International lawyer who told him that he was 'concerned about the breach of privacy.' Edis put it to Coulson that it would have been the 'simplest thing in the world to say "look David, we have you on voicemail."' Coulson said this would have led the paper down an 'aggressive' path. He was asked if a News International lawyer advised him to keep the voicemails from Blunkett. 'No, it was my decision,' said Coulson. Edis put it to him that the reason he had not revealed the hacked voicemails to Blunkett was 'in order to avoid legislation.' 'In part,' replied Coulson. 'You've been trying to suppress what had been done ever since, haven't you?' Edis asked. Coulson replied: that he had not. Coulson said he did not tell well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of the Sun, about the Blunkett story, even though call records showed they were in contact at the time. The court has heard they enjoyed an on-off sexual relationship over nine years which resumed around the end of 2003 and continued intermittently until around early 2007. But Coulson said there were professional no-go'areas. "There was a closeness but that did not extend to the sharing of each others' exclusives,' he said. 'There was a clear line drawn.' Coulson has admitted he did not 'apply his mind' enough when a Scum of the World reporter got illegal access to the phone billing records of Prince Harry's former girlfriend Chelsy Davy. He told the jury that when he received an e-mail to that effect in 2005, he did not 'reach the conclusion' that it meant the paper had phone records belonging to the royal's girlfriend. Edis put it to Coulson that the e-mail shows '[Clive] Goodman got access to private telephone records relating to Chelsy.' Coulson replied 'I accept if you take the sentence in isolation I might reach that conclusion' but he added that the e-mail was 'loaded with other information.' The e-mail said there were sixty calls and texts from Davy to Prince Harry in one month. 'Chelsy is driving Harry nuts, we've been having a very quiet look at this independently,' the e-mail said. Coulson accepted that 'from this distance' it could mean the phone billing records were being checked which he admitted 'might have been part' of what he described as 'the dark arts' used by investigative journalists on the paper. But he said that he did not apply his mind to what the 'telephone records' reference might have meant or where Goodman might have got them. Asked by Edis if he would accept that the records were 'an intrusion' into Davy's privacy, Coulson replied: 'To my mind, it fell into the data protection area. There was a lot of confusion on that area and I think there continues to be a lot of confusion on this in the industry.' Pressed on journalists getting accessing to private phone billing records, Coulson said: 'I didn't apply my mind enough to that particular area. I accept the word "traffic" was occasionally used in the paper and I didn't apply my mind to precisely what that meant.' Coulson also claimed that he did not know an e-mail from Prince Harry to his private secretary seeking help on an essay about the Iranian embassy siege when he at Sandhurst had come from a hacked voicemail. He said that Goodman 'did not show' him the 'transcript' of the voicemail which was read to court. Edis asked if 'with the young royals' it was 'any investigation method' was 'fair game.' Coulson denied this was the case, citing e-mails that showed the Scum of the World had shown 'restraint' in relation to the two princes. He also denied, again, having heard a voicemail from Sienna Miller apparently declaring her love for Daniel Craig. The jury was told of an e-mail to Coulson in which a journalist told him that the reporter who has already admitted to hacking Craig's phone should 'be a byline on the story.' Coulson was told in the e-mail that 'Dan has played a crucial part of the story. He reignited the interest through his checks.' Coulson said a journalist 'making his checks certainly didn't raise concerns with me.' Earlier, Coulson has denied that he was 'an incompetent editor' after claiming he 'knew nothing' about budget pressures on the hacker Glenn Mulcaire's one hundred thousand smackers-a-year contract. Coulson told the jury that he was not 'involved' in a decision taken the day after a budget meeting in 2005 in relation to Mulcaire's company Nine Consultancy. Coulson also admitted that David Cameron would 'probably not' have hired him as his spin doctor (and, if you will, 'chum') had the Prime Minister 'been told' that Coulson had listened to David Blunkett's voicemails. Coulson said that 'it may be right, if I explained [to the Prime Minister] what I explained to the jury now, the job wouldn't have been offered to me.' Coulson admitted that he knew of - and was a party, after the fact, to - at least one instance of hacking at the Scum of the World, telling jurors that he had listened to the then-Home Secretary's intimate voicemails in 2004. Coulson was hired by the Prime Minister to be his, if you will, 'chum' in May 2007, months after he quit as editor of the Scum of the World and took 'ultimate responsibility' for the extreme jailing of the paper's former royal editor Clive Goodman and the phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire, even though Coulson claimed that he had 'no knowledge' of their illegal activities. The jury heard that he went on to become the Head of Communications at Downing Street after the Tories came to power as part of a coalition in May 2010 but that he resigned in January 2011 after the phone hacking scandal blew up big-style. Under cross-examination, Coulson was asked: 'If what you had done in relation to Blunkett became public you would never have kept that job would you?' Coulson replied: 'I can't say for sure. I think it may well have meant I didn't get the job. I can't say that with certainty. The media temperature around this issue is considerably higher now than it was then, but it may be right, if I explained what I explained to the jury now, the job wouldn't have been offered to me.' He denied being 'part of a continuing cover-up' when the Gruniad Morning Star and the New York Times reported on more widespread hacking at the Scum of the World in 2009 and 2010. Edis asked if Coulson 'offered any information' following the Gruniad's exposé in the summer of 2009. He said that he did not. He was then asked if he covered the hacking up. 'I did not cover anything up,' Coulson claimed. Did he offer any information up in September 2010 after the New York Times article about phone hacking? 'Yes, with a large number of false allegations, yes. That caused a huge wave of publicity,' replied Coulson. He was asked about a private breakfast meeting he had with well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, then the chief executive of News International, on 14 January 2011 at The Halkin Hotel, days before he resigned from No 10. Edis asked if well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks had told Coulson that News International's long-term position had changed and it was now co-operating with the police and 'the three e-mails implicated [a journalist who cannot be named for legal reasons] in phone-hacking in your time were going to be released to the police.' Coulson replied: 'I can't remember her giving me that sort of specific information.' Coulson repeated an earlier assertion made in front of the jury that he had 'made up his mind' to quit Downing Street over the Christmas period and that he had not told well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks, his former lover, of his decision. Edis asked if well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks told him that 'evidence was about to released' which meant 'the single rogue reporter' position which News International had held, publicly, for four years 'was about to be blown out of the water.' 'I don't know. I don't think she did,' claimed Coulson. Earlier Coulson admitted that a News International lawyer, who also cannot be named for legal reasons and who he had consulted over the Blunkett voicemails, 'made a mistake' by not raising 'alarm bells' about potential criminality back in 2004. The jury heard that the lawyer did raise concerns about privacy but not about a criminal dimension. Edis asked Coulson if he had 'a big row' with the lawyer after his royal editor Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were arrested two years later on similar offences. 'I just wonder if you think [the lawyer] had underperformed.' Coulson said that he thought the lawyer had 'made a mistake.' The trial continues.

The odious Patrick Mercer, a former Conservative frontbencher, has dramatically resigned his seat after he was allegedly caught allegedly asking questions in parliament allegedly in exchange for thousands of quid from an allegedly fake lobbying firm. Allegedly. His resignation will trigger an automatic by-election in his Newark seat, likely to be held after the European elections next month in which UKiP is currently leading the Tories in the polls, prompting questions about whether Nigel Farago might choose to stand for the seat. Though Farago soon told the BBC that he would not consider standing. MPs on the cross-party standards committee decided at a meeting on Tuesday to recommend that Mercer should be suspended from parliament for six months when it publishes a report into the allegations on Thursday. The magazine The Week first reported the committee's decision on Tuesday afternoon. Mercer has been sitting as an independent MP after he resigned the Tory whip last year in the wake of the allegations made after a Panorama investigation. Mercer won the seat with a comfortable majority of sixteen thousand at the 2010 general election in which a UKiP candidate came a distant fourth. But there may be nervousness in Downing Street that UKiP could put in a strong performance in a by-election in the wake of the European parliamentary elections. Farago has previously said that he would be prepared to stand in the by-election after next month's European elections. But the UKiP leader, who declined to stand in the Eastleigh by-election where the party had a strong base, appears to be acting cautiously in regard to Newark where his party came a distant fourth in the 2010 general election. The recommendation of a six-month suspension by the standards committee is one of the most severe penalties that can be imposed on an MP. Mercer resigned the Tory whip last year 'to save my party embarrassment' after he accepted four thousand quid from undercover reporters posing as lobbyists. He subsequently failed to declare two thousand smackers of the money. Journalists working for Panorama recorded Mercer agreeing to set up a parliamentary group to campaign for the return of Fiji to the Commonwealth. Panorama reported that Mercer has submitted five parliamentary questions in relation to the new group.

Meanwhile, a UKiP council candidate has extremely resigned his membership of the party following sickly racist remarks about the former comedian Lenny Henry. William Henwood tweeted that Henry should emigrate to 'a black country' and compared Islam to the Third Reich. He did so after the fomrer comedian said there should be more black and ethnic minority people in creative industries. UKiP said that comments by Henwood, from North London, 'did not represent' the party's views although they then tried to deflect criticism by whinging about the media's reporting of Henwood's comments. A party spokesman said that it had been 'mutually agreed' Henwood should leave the party. Asked about his tweets, Henwood, who is on the council candidates' list in Enfield, told the BBC: 'I think if black people come to this country and don't like mixing with white people why are they here? If he (Henry) wants a lot of blacks around go and live in a black country.' Ignoring the fact that Henry didn't 'come to this country' he was, in fact, born here. Henwood's comments provoked condemnation from senior figures in other parties, with Conservative Health Secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt calling them 'absolutely disgusting' and saying they were racist. Which might well be the first time the vile and odious rascal Hunt has said anything this blogger actually agrees with. Congratulations, Henwood, I never thought anybody could ever say owt which would make that happen. I hope you're satisfied.
The Italian judges who reinstated the guilty verdict against twice convicted murderer Amanda Knox say that she delivered the fatal knife blow to British student Meredith Kercher. Explaining their ruling, the judges said that Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, killed Meredith 'after a violent argument.' Knox and Sollecito were originally convicted of the murder in 2007. They were acquitted on appeal in 2011, but that ruling was extremely overturned in January. Knox, who is currently in the US, was sentenced to twenty eight years and six months in pokey for her dreadful and wicked crimes. Her former boyfriend received twenty five years. Both had pleaded not guilty. Explaining its reasoning on Tuesday, the appeals court in Florence said that the victim's wounds indicated multiple aggressors. The judges said they believe both Knox and Sollecito wielded knives, as another man, Rudy Guede, held the victim down and committed a sexual assault. But it was Knox who 'delivered the only mortal blow', striking Meredith Kercher with a kitchen knife, presiding judge Alessandro Nencini concluded. The prosecution had originally argued that Meredith was killed in sex game which had spiralled out of control. But in its explanation, the appeals court agreed with a later theory that she was killed after a violent quarrel. It said Knox and Miss Kercher had 'fought over money' on the night of the killing. In a statement on Tuesday, Knox said the court's reasoning was 'not supported by any credible evidence or logic.' Both Knox and Sollecito are expected to appeal against the latest decision. The trial will now go back to Italy's highest court, the Court of Cassation, which could uphold or overturn the verdict. If it upholds it, officials are expected to begin the lengthy process to extradite Knox from America, where she returned on her release from prison in 2011. Meanwhile, Guede is already serving a sixteen-year prison sentence after being convicted of Meredith's murder at an earlier trial.

The charity that represents Wikipedia in the UK has condemned edits made from government computers after more incidents of vandalism emerged. The BBC has discovered that the phrase 'all Muslims are terrorists' was added to a page about veils. Another edit deleted text in Cherie Blair's entry about the flat-buying scandal that made headlines in 2002. The Liverpool Echo last week revealed that insults had been added to the entry for The Hillsborough Disaster. Stevie Benton, from Wikimedia UK, told the BBC: 'We find this kind of vandalism appalling.' Wikimedia UK is the local arm of the global Wikimedia Foundation, the charity set up by the online encyclopaedia's founder Jimmy Wales to support the thousands of volunteers who edit and maintain Wikipedia. 'Wikipedia is the encyclopaedia that anyone can edit,' Benton added. 'This openness has led to an enormous reference work of great value. While vandalism does occasionally happen we are grateful to the many thousands of volunteers who write, edit and organise the content.' In an e-mail, the Cabinet Office reiterated its statement on the matter. 'The amendments made to Wikipedia are sickening. The behaviour is in complete contravention of the Civil Service Code. It is entirely unacceptable.' It added: 'The Civil Service Code applies at all times, and we take breaches very seriously. We have already announced an investigation to examine offensive edits to Wikipedia, and will look at other concerns raised.' The BBC found more than a hundred instances of inappropriate editing, vandalism and deletion made by computers accessing Wikipedia through the two IP addresses known to be used by government machines. A change made to the entry for 'veil' in October 2006 added: 'It should be noted that the word Veil, when the letters rearraged [sic], spells "evil". Since the Veil is mostly worn by Muslims, and all Muslims are terrorists (with the argument for this being that all terrorists have been Muslim), this fact should be dually [sic] noted by all.' The comment was removed by a Wikipedia volunteer just six minutes after they were first posted. Nasima Begum, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Council of Britain, told the BBC: 'It is these types of attitudes that create an unnecessary climate of fear and hostility. It is shocking and cause for great concern that inflammatory comments like these should be sent from someone within the government.' As well as vandalism, large passages of text were found to have been deleted. In 2002, Cherie Blair made a public apology after it had emerged that she had bought two flats, at a discounted price, with help from the convicted fraudster Peter Foster. Paragraphs about the incident in Blair's Wikipedia entry were removed by a government PC in October 2005. Later, a different user would revert the changes, arguing that they were 'relevant to the subject's reputation.' Other edits made by government machines included: In the entry for The London Bombings, links to websites detailing a variety of conspiracy theories were added; the article for former Prime Minister Tony Blair was deleted in its entirety and replaced with the words 'he should be assassinated'; homophobic insults were added to the entry for the odious and risible Daily Scum Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn and the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver also had homophobic insults added to his page. Benton praised the work of Wikipedia editors in correcting the changes. 'Edits of this nature are removed very quickly by the volunteers who write and edit Wikipedia,' he said. 'Often in a matter of minutes.' Edits made by government computers have come under close scrutiny following the Liverpool Echo's report showing how insulting remarks about Liverpool fans were added to the page detailing The Hillsborough Disaster. The changes were identified by analysing edits made by two IP addresses - 195.92.40.49 and 62.25.106.209 - known to be connected to the Government Secure Intranet. The GSI is used to allow government machines to connect to the Internet securely. The Cabinet Office has admitted that, due to the nature of its computer network, it would be 'almost impossible' to track down who is responsible for the offensive remarks. A spokesman said: 'We are exhausting every option. Anyone with information should contact the Cabinet Office.' Unlike most people's home Internet connections, where an IP address can often be used to pinpoint one particular computer, large organisations tend to mask individual machines for security reasons. It is also possible to 'spoof' IP addresses to make the source of a connection look like it is coming from somewhere else. However, several of the offensive messages were made prior to the government IP addresses being publicly disclosed in 2008. Government machines were also used to vandalise, or troll, on several pages, including: In the entry about indie band The Libertines: '[T]he more astute critics correctly identify the band as scum' and added a remark about lead singer Pete Doherty's drug use; comments about the footballer Wayne Rooney that said he was 'currently knocking off "queen chav" Coleen McGlochlin' (the couple have since married); the deletion of the entire post for Irish politician Christopher Byrne, replacing it with simply 'is a sexy beast'; the changing the entry for the BBC presenter Peter Levy to list 'Adolf Hitler' as an ex-partner and describing Arsene Wenger as being 'made of clay.' Mind you, that last one could have an element of truth to it.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Newcastle United's manager Alan Pardew still believes that he has 'a long-term future' at the club despite six consecutive defeats and growing unrest - which is now bordering on outright mutiny - amongst fans. A number of Magpies supporters vented their hot frothing anger during a comprehensive 3-0 defeat by The Arse on Monday. 'I know they're disappointed and angry at the moment that we haven't got a result,' said Pardew. But he added: 'I'm looking at the job as a long-term opportunity for myself. That's how you have to focus.' The Magpies started the year only four points off a Champions League position. During the first half of the season, they had defeated The Scum at Old Trafford for the first time in the league since 1972 and had also recorded back-to-back wins over Moscow Chelski FC and Stottingtot Hotshots. By the halfway stage of the season they were eighth and had thirty three points from nineteen games. But since the departure of influential midfielder Yohan Cabaye to Paris St-Germain at the end of the January transfer window, the Magpies have picked up only nine points from a possible thirty nine. On Monday, goals from Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud ensured that Newcastle's miserable run continued. They had failed to score for the fifth time in six matches and have now found the net just thirteen times in their last eighteen games. Fans at the Emirates Stadium carried banners stating 'Pardew out' and chanted 'six in a row' in reference to their worst run since 1986-87. Other chants included 'Alan Pardew, it's never your fault' - a reference to a recent press conference in which Pardew attempted to blame the media for the team's recent form - and 'You're nothing special, we lose every week.' Pardew, who was given an eight-year contract by owner Mike Ashley in 2012, said that he could understand the supporters' feelings. 'I've got the greatest support in the country but not when you have six defeats next to your name,' he said. 'It's not comfortable and it's a pressure that's on us all.' Yeah. But, mostly, you mate. 'It's important if you're leading a group to be strong. The media don't leave you alone and you have to show character.' Pardew, who returned to the touchline on Monday following a seven-game ban for sticking the nut on some hapless Hull midfielder, has not given up hope of finishing the season 'on a high' and called on the supporters to 'get behind the team' for Saturday's home game against Cardiff. Because, of course, they haven't been getting behind the team every single game since Christmas no matter how inept or downright bastard cowardly the performances have been, haven't they? Jesus, Pardew pal, a tip. When you're in a hole, it's probably a good idea to stop digging. Personally, this blogger thinks it's likely that Pardew will be gone sooner rather than later - although, it genuinely wouldn't surprise me if Ashley decided to keep him just to piss the supporters off in another bit of 'I know better than you' type cock thrusting of which the odious fat Cockney flogger of dodgy sorts gear seems to specialise in. There's also the question of Pardew's lengthy contract and how much it would actually cost the club to rid itself of him - although one imagines that some performance-related get-out clauses have been built into the small print. Ashley, after all, isn't that stupid. Is he? But, sadly, whatever happens very little will actually change. Any manager at Newcastle United is going to be hamstrung by the demands of the owner - which, as they have been publicly stated are, a top ten finish (which for all of the utter shite that Pardew's team have served up for the last four months they still might, just achieve - and, to be honest, most of us would've probably taken that, happily, at the start of the season), forget about the cups (they're not important, apparently) and spend as little money as possible on new players but find young'uns that we can sell for a profit after a couple of years. That's Newcastle's position now, just as - broadly speaking - it's Villa's and Stoke's and West Brom's and West Ham's. That's the league we're all playing in now - eighth to fourteenth. As long as Ashley stays at Newcastle - and that's basically, until he can find a buyer, which probably isn't going to be any time soon - then any manager he employs is going to be faced with much the same situation. If anybody thinks for a second that with Pardew gone Ashley is suddenly going to get ambitious and go out and hire a Mourinho or a Van Gaal or anybody else in that sort of league, then they're sadly deluding themselves. It certainly appears that Pardew has lost the dressing room and is incapable of inspiring his players to anything other than surrender before kick-off so he may well be gone in the summer. But, the next bloke, whoever that is - various media commentators have suggested Moyes. Aye, dream on - is going to have exactly the same problems (if not more given the squad they will be inheriting). Starting with what happens when Loic Remy pisses off in the summer. The thing that really grates this blogger's cheese about this season is the way in which, effectively, from Christmas onwards, everybody at Newcastle has been on their holidays; the players, the management, the ownership, the lot of them. You need about thirty six to thirty eight points to avoid relegation from the Premier League, that's the first thing to which everybody looks at the start of any season; Newcastle were just about there on Boxing Day (they had thirty three points after a 5-1 win over Stoke). Since then, they've all just been going through the motions. Sadly, that's what happens when you have limited ambition, once you achieve your bottom line, you don't look for anything more.

The drummer for the - really lousy - German rock band Scorpions has been sentenced to a month in jail in Dubai for offensive behaviour, according to local media. It is claimed that James Kottak, an American national, was convicted of 'insulting Islam', raising his middle finger and 'being under the influence of alcohol.' Kottak admitted to drinking alcohol but denied the other charges. The reported incident occurred at Dubai airport on 3 April, when Scorpions were en route to Bahrain for a concert. Kottak was arrested following a disturbance in the transit hall, the National newspaper reports. The court heard that he started swearing and talking about 'non-educated Muslims', then flashed his middle finger. Witnesses also testified that they heard Kottak shouting that he would not travel with a group of Pakistani and Afghan passengers. Denying the charges, he said: 'I did not curse Muslims or Islam. I would never do such a thing even if I was drunk,' according to Gulf News. However, he admitted drinking alcohol without a licence and was fined Dh2,000 (which is about three hundred quid), reports said. Kottak is expected to be released and deported in the coming days as he has been in custody since his arrest. Best known for their wretched power ballads, including the 1990 hit single 'Wind of Change', Scorpions have released more than twenty LPs since they formed in 1965. None of which are much cop. Kottak joined the band in 1996.

This Morning is used to its fair share of bewildering stories and outrageous moments, but the show's latest guest shared an intimate occurrence which must have left viewers more than touch befuddled. On Tuesday, a woman appeared on the programme as part of Supernatural Week, claiming that she had sex with a ghost - not once but twice - adding that it was 'really, really pleasurable.' Natasha Blasick - who is, obviously, not mental nor nothing - told hosts Phillip Schofield and The Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley that she 'felt someone enter' her room one night but could not see who or what it was. 'I could feel that somebody was touching me and the hands were pushing me against my will and I could feel the weight of the body on top of me. I couldn't see anybody but I could feel the pressure, the energy, the warmth pushing in different directions.' She added: 'The first time I was very confused by all of that but then I just decided to relax and it was really, really pleasurable. I really enjoyed it - this is what happened.' Alleged 'psychic' Patti Negri - who is also, clearly, not mental nor nothing but who may well be a complete charlatan claiming alleged supernatural powers which many believe do not exist - was on hand to defend 'spectrophilia' - sexual arousal of ghosts - and refuted claims that the non-consensual experience could be seen as assault.
Some truly dreadful news, now: Bob Hoskins, best known for his roles in The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, has died of pneumonia at the age of seventy one. Bob's agent said that he died on Tuesday in hospital, surrounded by family. The actor won a BAFTA and was Oscar-nominated in 1987 for the British crime drama Mona Lisa, in which he starred opposite Sir Michael Caine. Bob had announced that he was retiring from acting in 2012 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. 'We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Bob,' the actor's family said in a statement. 'Bob died peacefully at hospital last night surrounded by family, following a bout of pneumonia. We ask that you respect our privacy during this time and thank you for your messages of love and support.' Sir Michael, a close friend who also appeared with Bob in the films Sweet Liberty and Last Orders, remembered Bob as 'one of the nicest and best actors I have ever worked with.' Dame Helen Mirren, who memorably played his screen wife in The Long Good Friday, also paid tribute, describing Bob as 'a great actor and an even greater man' whose 'inimitable energy seemed like a spectacular firework rocket just as it takes off. When I worked with him on his iconic film The Long Good Friday, he was supportive and unegotistic,' she added. 'I had the honour of watching the creation of one of the most memorable characters of British film.' Those sentiments were echoed by Timothy Spall, who appeared with Bob in the BBC drama The Street. He said that Bob was 'an adored man and a deeply respected and admired actor [who] was able to make people laugh and cry.' Stockily built and adept at playing both light and heavy roles, Bob became an international star of the cinema after a long career in the theatre and on television. Robert William Hoskins was also regarded as a quintessential Cockney, despite the fact that he was born in 1942 in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. His mother Elsie, a nursery school teacher, was evacuated there during the Blitz and returned to London with him shortly after his birth. Growing up in Finsbury Park, the young Bob battled dyslexia. He also got into literal battles with local toughs, one of whom left him with a knife wound in his stomach. 'A common misperception of me is that I am a tough guy,' he said in an interview in 2007. 'You don't end up looking like me if you are a tough guy. I just have a big mouth with little to back it up.' After school he started training as a commercial artist and, later, took a variety of jobs, including Covent Garden porter, circus worker and deckhand in the Norwegian Merchant Navy. He became an actor completely by accident. One evening in 1966, he was waiting in the Unity Theatre bar for his friend, the actor Roger Frost, to finish an audition. Whilst drinking at the bar, Bob was given a script and told 'You're next.' He did the audition and got the part, with Frost ending up as his understudy. Frost recalled that 'Bob was a natural. He just got up on stage and was brilliant.' The audition led to him working for five years in repertory theatre, where his roles ranged from Shakespeare to a fire-eater. Bob joined the Royal Court Theatre in 1972, had a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych Theatre in 1976 and enjoyed a successful run at the National Theatre, notably as Nathan Detroit in its 1981 revival of Guys and Dolls. On the small screen, he appeared in small roles in the likes of Softly Softly, Play For Today, Van Der Valk, The Main Chance, Thick As Thieves (a curiously little remembered sitcom in which he co-starred with John Thaw) and Rock Follies. His first major television success was in On The Move (1976), a BBC educational series intended to tackle adult illiteracy. Each episode featured a running storyline in which Bob appeared as Alf Hunt, a furniture removal man who had difficulty reading and writing. A proud but sympathetic character, Alf would open up to his friend Bert, played by Donald Gee, about his fears and frustrations. His progress as he sought help attracted a huge following well beyond the show's expected target audience. Up to seventeen million viewers watched the Sunday tea-time programme, according to George Auckland, who would subsequently take charge of the BBC's adult education programming. It was Alf's very human drama - and, specifically, Bob's captivating performance - that drew them in. A national campaign to tackle illiteracy was boosted by the series. On the Monday after each episode, says Auckland, 'there would be queues around the block' at adult literacy centres. There's a strong argument, he says, that this makes Bob Hoskins 'the best educator Britain has ever produced.' Auckland recalls a scene, reminiscent of Bob's famous closing shot in The Long Good Friday, 'in which you can see the exasperation on his face' as Alf struggles with his homework. Writing in the Gruniad, Mark Lawson noted approvingly that Bob 'gave Alf a vulnerability and poignancy far beyond the requirements of a public information short.' In the same year, Bob came to even wider attention in Dennis Potter's period drama Pennies From Heaven as the sheet music salesman Arthur Parker. Later, he played Iago in Jonathan Miller's production of Othello. Pennies From Heaven became a cult favourite in the United States and established Bob there as a star, though he would later say the role of Parker had been 'very painful' to play. Only five feet six inches tall - he described himself as 'a short, fat, middle-aged man with a broken nose and a bald head' and his leading ladies, like Cheryl Campbell in Pennies From Heaven often towered over him - Bob was soon being forecast as a successor to Edward G Robinson and James Cagney. The connection was cemented by his properly unforgettable performance as Harold Shand in the 1980 classic The Long Good Friday, in which he played a ruthless London gangster with dreams of redeveloping the Docklands but who ends up a victim of his own elaborate schemes. 'Remember, scare the shit out of them, but don't damage them. I want 'em conscious and talkative. And lads, try and be discreet, eh?' It's just one of numerous sparkling lines of jaundiced poetry that Bob delivers throughout the movie in an amazing double-act with Mirren (it was a star-making vehicle for both of them). As he memorably notes as he's being driven off to his death at the hands of the IRA at the film's climax: 'What a diabolical liberty!' Yet Bob almost missed out on one of his most memorable roles. When he was offered the part of the pugnacious Shand he was still afflicted with a tape worm, contracted while shooting Zulu Dawn in South Africa, that had required a stay in hospital. Directed by John Mackenzie, The Long Good Friday was produced for just nine hundred thousand pounds. Although initially designed for the cinema the production was eventually financed by Black Lion, a subsidiary of Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment for broadcast - heavily cut - on the ITV Network. Before the planned TV transmission however, the rights to the film were bought by George Harrison's Handmade Films for a - hugely successful - cinema release. It went on to become one of the most important and influential British gangster films ever made. Bob's Hollywood career was further enhanced by The Cotton Club in 1984, though that role too might well have eluded his grasp. Speaking on Desert Island Discs in 1988, the actor recalled getting a phone call after midnight from a man introducing himself as Francis Ford Coppola. 'I said "And this is Henry VIII. You've just woke my kids up - thanks very much" and I put the phone down,' he revealed. Bob won the best actor award at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival for Mona Lisa, in which he played an ex-convict hired to drive a high-class prostitute around London. Neil Jordan's gritty yet sentimental drama would also win Bob a BAFTA and saw him receive his only nomination for an Academy Award. Two years later, he was memorably cast by director Robert Zemeckis as a bumbling private detective in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Bob would later admit to being driven to distraction by the demands of working with a non-existent co-star - a cartoon rabbit added after his live-action scenes had been completed. 'You have to learn to hallucinate,' he told Desert Island Discs host Sue Lawley, revealing he found himself imagining animated characters for months afterwards. 'There were weasels and rabbits all over the place - I couldn't stop it.' The years that followed that 1988 hit would see him take on a range of roles - a pirate in Steven Spielberg's Hook (and its sequel, Neverwhere), a serial killer in Felicia's Journey and a cameo as himself in the Spice Girls film Spice World. He also took up directing, first in 1988 with The Raggedy Rawney and again in 1995 with family film Rainbow, and became synonymous with the phrase 'It's good to talk' after appearing in a British Telecom advertising campaign. Bob was offered elocution lessons early in his acting career but chose to retain his recognisable London accent. 'If I'm going to present something as real, I have to cling on some reality myself,' he explained. On film, his credits also included Mermaids, Mrs Henderson Presents, Nixon (in which he was superb as J Edgar Hoover) and Made in Dagenham. His last film role was as one of the dwarves in 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman. In a 2007 interview with the Grunaid, Bob spoke of his regret at appearing in Super Mario Bros (1993). He revealed that despite being generally praised for his performance on the film, he was extremely unhappy with it and was greatly angered by his experiences making it, referring to it as 'the worst thing I ever did.' Bob also had a small role as a rock band's manager in the Pink Floyd film The Wall. He was slated to be a last-minute replacement in the film The Untouchables if Robert De Niro had not decided to play Al Capone. When De Niro did decide to take the role, the director Brian De Palma mailed Hoskins a cheque for twenty thousand dollars with a 'thank you' note, which gave the actor one of his favourite and most oft-repeated stories. 'I phoned him up and said "Brian, if you've ever got any films you don't want me in, son, you just give me a call!"' Dame Judi Dench, who starred opposite Bob in Mrs Henderson Presents, told the BBC News website: 'I'm so very sorry to hear this news, and am thinking of his family at this sad time.' The film critic Jason Solomons called The Long Good Friday 'a great Londoner's movie. London ran through him like a stick of rock,' he added. Tributes to the actor have appeared swiftly on Twitter, with BAFTA saying it was 'deeply saddened' to learn of his death. Vicky McClure, who worked with Bob on Shane Meadows' 1999 film A Room For Romeo Brass, said: 'He was one of the best. I feel honoured to have met & worked with him.' Sherlock creator and actor Mark Gatiss, who appeared as Rat opposite Hoskins' Badger in a 2006 adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, tweeted a picture of the two together, praising Bob as 'a true gent and an inspiration.' James Woods, who starred with Hoskins in Nixon, tweeted: 'what a terrible loss. A great guy and a superb artist.' Samuel L Jackson also spoke of his sadness at the news, saying: 'Truly saddened by the passing of Bob Hoskins. A truly gigantic talent and a gentleman.' Bob is survived by his second wife, Linda, and four children Alex, Sarah, Rosa and Jack.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day. This Thursday sees the very welcome return of yer Uncle Scunthorpe's Record Player at the Tyneside for another eight weeks of quality groovy listening.
The opening night features one of the greatest, and most beautiful, records ever made, and a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping, Astral weeks by Van The Man his very self. Tasty.

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