Category Archives: celebrity

Tom Jones is the antithesis of a father

Tom Jones’ estranged son is currently sleeping on the floor of a homeless hostel and is desperate to meet his father. What has Jonathan Berkery ever done to deserve the pain Tom Jones has cruelly inflicted on him?

What is there to be said about a terrible man like Tom Jones? To be blessed by great good luck, and the fortune that goes with it, and yet not lift a finger to help a child of his in distress is beyond contempt. Knowing that his child is reduced to sleeping rough on winter streets and yet still remaining indifferent beggars belief . It plumbs the depths of human callousness. How can he sleep at night?

When, despite everything, that child forgives all the years of needless suffering inflicted on him by the self-centred narcissist; writes letters and begs only for his father to extend a hand of warmth, friendship and recognition; yet is met only with icy indifference, then the contempt I feel is total.

Jones’ one night stand had the same consequence as Boris Becker’s, but how differently Boris faced up to his responsibilities. For Jones, his sense of responsibility is zilch. He poses as a warm-hearted, fatherly figure on the BBC’s The Voice when he is nothing of the kind. Indeed, he is the antithesis of a father.

It is time people like Tom Jones were exposed and cast into the wilderness of public esteem.

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The cruel betrayal of a lost generation

Last week I went with a friend to see the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. It was very good, with spectacular special effects and some surprisingly mature themes for a movie based on a comic book superhero.

Among the many ads before the movie, there was an Olympic-themed one which promised the world to the Batman audience. It blared out that old mantra – with which we are all regaled today – that each of us is possessed of “amazing abilities”.

The media pumping out of the London Olympics hint at much the same thing – that the contestants are ordinary people, who through dedication and hard work have turned themselves into godlike Olympians. Well, maybe some have, but the vast majority are gifted with that something extra: the ‘X Factor’, let’s call it.

Perhaps the worst offenders of this insidious rubbish of ‘prizes for all’ – that we each have got what it takes and that we are all winners – are the teachers’ training colleges, pushing their skewed and fanciful notions of education and throwing out so many of the tried and tested old certainties. And let’s not forget the politicians who, as always, have let them get away with it.

Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but most of us are ordinary. We are not winners, born with great intellects or reservoirs of Olympic-winning genes. We plod along making the best of what we’ve got, paying the bills – though even that gets ever harder these days – and not nurturing any illusions as to our ‘amazing abilities’.

Propagating this cruel myth was that disastrous charlatan Tony Blair, who, along with his many other sins, set out to raise university entries to wholly unrealistic levels. He and his political and academic cohorts insisted that no fewer than half of us had the ability to benefit from a university education, when the truth was that by far the majority would have suited vocational qualifications. In order to achieve their purpose, they dumbed down and degraded qualifications year after year while, all the time (surprise, surprise), trumpeting the ever rising number of passes.

Employers saw it differently, though, as did even the universities. They complained that the entrants reaching them were not fit for purpose, that they lacked even the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, and that they had to spend precious time and resources in getting them over this initial hurdle before they could even begin to put them to work.

Our society today not only faces economic meltdown, but it is peopled with individuals with wholly unrealistic expectations. Wives expect perfect husbands and husbands expect perfect wives; the magazines tell them so. Divorce is easier than ever! If you’ve fouled up, try someone else. Why bother seeing if you can identify what’s gone wrong? Worry about the kids later!

School leavers – little emperors and empresses to their parents – are shocked that their teachers, who promised them so much and waxed lyrical about their abilities, have lied to them. These unfortunates, who were conned into spending precious years chasing Mickey Mouse degrees due to their lack of ability, are shocked all over again when they find that the world of work is not the least impressed that they are a graduate in achieved a BA in Golf Management, Surf Science or Third World Development.

Unable to get jobs, in so many cases, and certainly not ones commensurate with what they were told their degree would bring them, they look with horror and depression  at the mountain of debt they were encouraged to build up while they were chasing moonbeams. Half their working life will be spent paying off those worthless degrees. This has to be the cruellest deception of them all.

Realism is the thing most lacking in our young people today. It is not their fault; parenting skills, the ability to discipline along with standards of probity have all evaporated. With, in so many cases, couch potato, disinterested parents who bought them off from troubling them, what role models did they have? Bad tempered expletives were, everywhere, the order of the day. And those who should have known better outside the house made a bad situation worse by further indulging them and encouraging false expectations.

Then along came the lottery millionaires followed in quick succession by Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor, Big Brother and the ‘Victoria Beckham factor’  (i.e., marry someone rich). Anyone can strike it lucky! Fame is the name of the game. Just look at what happened to Victoria, Jade Goody and Jordan! Why bother with the hassle of applying yourself to your studies when you can achieve it all and more by a lucky and lucrative break into the dream world of Celebrity?

Victoria – who admitted to never having read a book (though, would you believe, she’s currently into Fifty Shades of Grey. Watch out, ‘Goldenballs’, she’ll be coming with the cuffs next!) – couldn’t even sing, and poor Jade couldn’t string a coherent sentence together.

Tragically, there is not a lot that can be done for the present, lost generation, so cruelly betrayed by the left-leaning liberal establishment. But hope is on the horizon for the next. Reforms are in train which may well turn things round. We must pray that they will, for a chill wind is blowing from the East, which promises only to get chillier.

One thing only will save us: a knowledge-based, productive and hard-working workforce, as it alone has any hope of competing. The cosy world of an easy, unopposed living which the West has enjoyed for half a millennium is coming to an end. May the best man (or woman) as they are saying this very day at the London Olympics, win.

Our PR-obsessed leaders today don’t cut the mustard

Last week was a disastrous week for the Cameron government, not because of anything the opposition did to it, but what it did to itself.  An issue was presented to parliament of such importance that ninety-one of the Prime Minister’s normally loyal supporters could not, in all conscience, back the government line.

The rebellion concerned reform of the House of Lords. Should we get this wrong – as ‘devolution’ has so tragically shown – and all sorts of genies would be out of the bottle which could never be put back. The Lib Dem’s proposed reforms would land us with an unworkable setup between the two legislative houses and a second chamber, stuffed full of third-rate has-beens who couldn’t cut the mustard in the first house: the Commons. Patronage – itself one of our crippling ills – would, as a result, have been reinforced even further.

No one argues that the House of Lords (which, we should not forget, does a surprisingly effective job) does not need sorting out to make it more democratic. But the great conundrum is how, and we have been pondering that question for a hundred years. All we know is that if we get it wrong there will be the most grievous consequences, as we now realise with devolution, which threatens the very integrity of our country.

The Liberal Democrats want the reformed House of Lords to adopt the very system of proportional representation which was so soundly rejected by the public a year ago with – you may not be surprised to learn – beneficial results for themselves.

We would end up with two forms of democracy in our country, with the new one claiming a more genuine mandate. It seems a given that there would be serious clashes between the two house with each claiming the greater legitimacy; we would end up with the same sort of paralysis which so blights the life of Congress and the Senate in the US today.

Why does the PM test his party in the way he does? Why does he not realise that in a matter of such monumental importance he cannot expect party loyalty to override what so many in his party are convinced is for the greater good of the country? Is keeping the Lib Dems onside worth splitting his party for?

Little by little the evidence piles up that our leader – despite his good intentions – is not over-blessed with sound judgement. And the same applies to his chancellor, his deputy and so many more of his appointees. Remember Andy Coulson, the Downing Street photographer, and Liam Fox’s antics?

For a start, it was foolish – when people were feeling incredibly angry at what the moneyed classes had done to them – to stuff his cabinet with millionaires and public schoolboys, some from his own alma mater Eton College. It was Bullingdon brought to Whitehall, as many perceived. Didn’t he realise that his own privileged background raised eyebrows for some, and that to surround himself in cabinet with more of the same sent out the wrong signals? To reinforce this whole perception of privilege was crass in the extreme.

The government we have today is the most out of touch with ordinary concerns since Palmerston was sending out his gunboats. I’d put money on half the cabinet not knowing within 30 per cent the price of a loaf of bread, a pint of milk or a litre of petrol. Indeed, the Deputy Prime Minister was over 50 per cent adrift as to what a pensioner got. What a shower!

The trouble is that hardly any of them have first-hand knowledge of the workaday world the rest of us inhabit. They move seamlessly from Russell Group universities into think tanks and policy institutes before beginning their journey up the greasy pole. Once ensconced in the Westminster bubble they purport to know and understand the issues that concern the rest of us.

They disburse gargantuan sums of public money without suitable qualifications and experience, with none ever having headed up a public company; and they legislate on matters of which, in so many cases, they have no real experience. They live in the British equivalent of walled communities and don’t know within a million miles what it is to live on a sink estate.

On top of these shortcomings, they are too young. Occasionally, a boy like Alexander the Great or Pitt the Younger can confound the norm, but history is exceedingly short on such prodigies. (Both, as a matter of interest, had incredible fathers.) What is needed in our rulers is men of proven ability who have made their mark in the world.

Here, in our neck of the woods, we have such a man in Gary Streeter: son of a farmer, former solicitor and once Chair of Plymouth City housing. In defence of what he saw as an overriding public interest (rejecting the proposed Lords reform) he waved goodbye to any preferment in the Cameron government, which he could reasonably have expected as a senior MP and former Shadow Minister. That’s what I call guts. It is also high-minded and noble.

Everything today is so shallow. We even require our leaders to look telegenic, be bubbly and have a Tony Blair perma-smile, if possible. Say goodbye to ever getting a Churchill or an Attlee again, the miserable sods. May the Lord preserve us! How will we ever get out of the sort of crises they got us through? We could do with one such right now. But remember: he can’t be ugly, fat or have a speech impediment – like Churchill – or a clipped, staccato delivery like Attlee. No, no, they must be of the sort that can entertain us on breakfast television.

The demise of titans

We are about, I think, to witness the fall of two imagined titans: one from the world of showbiz and the other from the world of politics.

The first is Simon Cowell – a latter day phenomenon of the small screen – and the second is Nicholas Sarkozy – the man who promised a Thatcherite revolution and who dreamed of being a little emperor like that other interloper from Corsica, Napoleon.

Cowell, who I will concede has admitted making serious mistakes in the past, has now got himself into a mindset in which he believes he can do no wrong and that everything he touches today will, inevitably, turn to gold.

But many now argue that he showed very poor judgement in jettisoning Sharon Osbourne in favour of Dannii Minogue – I’ve asked why, myself, many times – and that Sharon would have been a much more feisty and entertaining judge.

Now we come to his greatest error of judgement: the decision to co-operate with Tom Bower in the production of a biography.

Had he troubled himself enough to read just one of that distinguished biographer’s works, he would have realised in an instant what little good to his carefully crafted image he would do him.

Long ago I read his expose on the publisher, Robert Maxwell. What an annihilation of that monster it turned out to be! Although I haven’t read his recent work on Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One boss, it was so unflattering that Bernie came to believe that if only he had co-operated with the writer, Bower couldn’t have helped but to have come to an appreciation of what a truly wonderful man his subject really was: and so he advised Simon accordingly.

Suffice it to say that Bernie is not any longer flavour of the month with Simon.

The truth is that if you’re going to submit yourself to the laser-like investigative eye of Tom Bower, you’d better be as normal and squeaky clean as it’s possible to be. It turns out that Simon, as many of us suspected, is neither of these things.

He has offended that largest constituency of his – his legion of adoring women fans. Even his often cruel put-downs of X-Factor contestants were forgiven because they were viewed by many as no more than the truth, and were seen as the honest response of a man who abhorred humbug and insisted on telling it as it was.

They managed to convince themselves that inside his callous exterior he was a pussycat; one even with a heart of gold. It was, after all, well known that he was crazy about dogs. What was less well known was that he had a huge problem with humans.

Many of Simon’s female admirers wanted nothing so much as for him to find the woman of his dreams who would help him settle down and produce lots of little Simons. But they didn’t know that he was in the grip of myriads of the strangest habits; that he was afflicted with a degree of narcissism that would have made Narcissus himself blanch; and that he saw women, even a wife, as nothing more than appendices to his overweening lust for power and wealth.

Poor Mezhgan Hussainy, who ecstatically agreed to become his wife, was on a hiding to nothing and would suffer only humiliation before – like so many others – she was cast aside.

Women, it seems to Simon, are seen as trophy objects to be used and discarded at the will of the great showbiz Don Juan. But what they must never do is come between him and that drive for dominance on the small screen.

Will it be the big screen next? The much hyped tie-up with the deeply unattractive Sir Phillip Green was meant to sweep all before it. Whatever happened to that?

Worrying developments for Simon recently must be the fiasco game show ‘Black & Red’. But worst of all is dear old sclerotic Auntie BBC stealing a ratings march on him with its hugely successful show ‘The Voice’. Has Simon finally peaked?

As for the little emperor Sarkozy, who delights in lambasting all things British and playing the sulky schoolboy by insulting our own prime minister: he too seems in danger of getting his comeuppance.

The pity of it is that in demonstrating its contempt of its coarse, bling-loving president, the French electorate are about to plunge the eurozone into its worst crisis yet.

Even Sarkozy’s lovely trophy wife, Carla Bruni, doesn’t seem able to help as she is held in almost as much contempt as is her husband.

In ordinary circumstances, presenting the French nation with a little baby emperor would have earned a few Brownie points – the loving family, doting father and all that – but even baby Sarko hasn’t seemed to have helped. Even our own Wicked Witch of the West, Cherie Blair, did achieve a slight, if temporary, softening of her image when baby Leo came along.

Why the socialist, François Hollande, will rock – perhaps even sink – the eurozone boat is because he wants to prescribe for France more of the doctrinaire spending madness that got us all into this mess in the first place.

No chance under him of cutting loose from that ridiculously uncompetitive 35-hour week! And his pursuit and confiscatory tax policies on high earners is certain to unleash an exodus of the very people that France needs most to pull her out of her largely unacknowledged quagmire.

It says it all that the man cannot even recognise the demographic time bomb of a low birth rate, an ageing population and longer life expectancy that is forcing the rest of the developed world into raising its retirement age.

One of the few, modest achievements of the would-be new broom that Sarkozy promised for France – increasing retirement age to 62 – is to be struck down and go back to where it was.

Mon dieu !

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