UK Election 2010: Sorry seems to be the easiest word to say

Gordon Brown is a glutton for punishment. This is the only explanation I can give for his flagellant display yesterday after the so-called bigotgate blunder. After spending 45 minutes of valuable campaign time at Gillian Duffy’s terraced Rochdale home to apologise for calling her a bigot behind her back, I can only conclude that he is a masochist. To make matters worse, he even cracked out that smile. Gordon Brown smiles outside Gillian Duffy's Rochdale house after bigotgate
What does he have to smile about at this point?

He (or rather his aides) made a grave error in not switching off the microphone on his lapel after he climbed into a waiting car, but this is the kind of thing that could be swept under the rug easily. Move on, pick a new topic (say, the economy, which you are meant to be debating tonight), and distract the public. Instead, Brown castigated himself over and over again, issuing six apologies in six hours and branding himself ‘a penitent sinner’. What does this achieve?

One conclusion to be drawn from this is that we, as a nation, have become over-reliant on the power of ‘sorry’, as if saying it enough could erase our mistakes and bring instant, total forgiveness and atonement. But ‘sorry’ is a word which suffers from the law of diminishing returns. The more often you say it, the less powerful it becomes. It is often the most stubborn characters who can issue the most effective apologies; all the more effective because of their rarity.

Gordon Brown, Radio two, Gillian Duffy, bigot, bigotgate, microphone
There goes the election...

Before the election campaign started, Brown was 10-1 to apologise for anything during the televised leaders debates. This is because the public views Brown as a stubborn ox, unwilling to concede an inch to Cameron in PMQs. This is at once his greatest strength and biggest weakness. However it could have got him out of jail yesterday – simply apologise once and move on. The apology would have been all the more striking in isolation.

Where now for Labour? Can they resurrect their wounded prize-fighter before tonight’s crucial final debate?
I’m sorry, but I haven’t a clue.

RIP The Floppy Disk: 1971-2011

Just when you thought 2010 was filled with enough completely useless things (the iPad, the Northern Line, Gordon Brown), Sony has decided enough is enough and decided to scrap producing floppy disks.

Darth Vader chops a floppy disk in half
Darth doesn't go for retro storage solutions (flickr user: nhussein)

According to the BBC, Sony still manufacture them and ship them by their millions. The rest of the market has long since gone off the floppy, with Apple abandoning them in 1998 and Dell following suit in 2003. Despite this, Sony’s decision will not come into effect until March next year.

But who is it that’s still using them? My laptop can’t read one, and I can’t remember the last scenario in which I needed less than 1.44MB of storage space.

I can remember my first use of a floppy disk though, with much fondness. My brother returned from university for the summer in 1995, with a pirated copy of Championship Manager 1994/95 (Italia edition), which was spread over four separate disks. So retro is this game that I can’t even find it on eBay!

Disks have long since passed into retro chic; these earrings would hardly look out of place in Hoxton, or on the set of Nathan Barley. However, it’s hard to imagine floppies garnering the same kind of fond nostalgia as music geeks reserve for vinyl. Perhaps it’s because techie geeks are so innately addicted to the new, whereas musos tend to live in the past. Nonetheless, I’d be interested to hear your recollections – when is the last/first time you used a floppy disk? Will you be at all sad to see them go?

UK Election 2010: First Televised Leaders’ Debate brings ‘Presidential Politics’ to UK

“Presidential Politics arrive in Britain tonight” yells the cover story in The Times today. It’s hard not to get excited about the first televised leaders’ debate on ITV tonight, but this description is indicative of a general confusion amongst the electorate.

UK Election Debate Graphic
Tonight's Line-Up (graphic by

After the last election, I asked a close relative who she voted for. “I voted Labour,” she told me “because I like Tony Blair.” As sound as that sentiment is, it was largely pointless in a consituency where Labour came a distant third with less than 10% of the vote. The glamorisation of the leaders, their wives, their houses etc. only serves to add to this general impression that we vote for the leader who we like/trust/admire the most. But in fact, depending on your constituency, you may be unable to effectively support the party of your choice.

I am a natural Lib Dem, but in my constituency of Poplar and Limehouse they lie a distant 4th. A vote for them would be nothing but symbolic. But, to come full circle, that makes tonight’s debate even more interesting. For my vote to count, I need to decide in my mind between Labour and The Tories. Oh the joys of being a floating voter in a swing constituency…

Album Review: The Automatic – Tear The Signs Down

You may remember The Automatic from such pop-rock atrocities as (what’s that coming over the hill is it a) Monster (?) and (let’s go see) Raoul, which plagued the airwaves in 2006. Since then, however, the band have undergone a major transformation with the unceremonious ditching of keyboardist/screamer Alex Pennie and the recruitment of alt-rock pioneer Paul Mullen (formerly of yourcodenameis:milo).

The Automatic, Paul Mullen, British Rock Band, Rob Hawkins

The Automatic are clearly out to prove the doubters wrong on their third record and to a certain extent, they achieve this. The eerie keys and syncopated rhythms of album opener Insides makes them sound closer to Radiohead or Muse than Scouting for Girls or the Hoosiers. Their transformation is down, in no short part, to the prominence of Paul Mullen, who joined the band in 2008 for their sophomore effort This is a Fix and has since installed himself as the creative fulcrum of the band…

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