Matthew Norman: A polygraph test for pompous politicians

Mr Balls took such umbrage at Fraser calling him a liar over Labour’s spending
plans that he carved precious time from fixing the education system to ring
him for a chat. “You should not call me a liar,” he thundered. “Take
that post down now.” Understandably bamboozled by this quaint notion
that hacks are honour bound to obey peremptory commands from government,
Fraser then became bogged down in a “Yes you are a liar/ No I’m not/
Are so” debate with the flavour of an All Souls symposium. There is a
simple way to avoid such nastiness. Where I previously proposed that any
political interviewee, on whichever medium, must first agree to be strapped
to a polygraph, technological advances render both their consent and the
electrodes redundant.

The software company X13-VSA offers a voice stress analysis product which is
apparently close to foolproof in detecting lies. Every political hack should
download the software, available at $299. Those eager to test its efficacy
might use as a makeshift pit canary a tape of Gordon Brown denying that he
ever contemplated sacking his Chancellor.

‘Mad’ Mel’s pot boils over

Meanwhile, our leading amateur epidemiologist gets her knick knacks in a rare
twist over being teased by Peter Preston for predicting that Ann Widdecombe
would become Speaker. On her captivating blog, “Mad” Mel Phillips
counterstrikes with the most passionate denunciation of a false charge since
J’Accuse. She did not predict this, she explodes, merely expressing the
hope. One hesitates to suggest this about a great journalist whose
doggedness effectively destroyed Jonathan Aitken, but might Peter have begun
Mad Mel’s Daily Mail piece before running out of puff half-way? He wouldn’t
be the first. Mel wonders whether he is “just a sloppy writer with no
concern either for accuracy or sense.” Fine words from the queen of
transference who terrified Mail readers about the fictitious link between
MMR and autism.

Swine flu scare stories

With new cases predicted to rise to 100,000 per day, concern mounts for our
swine flu pandemic naysayers. Several top opinion formers dismissed it as a
scare story when those pictures of face mask-clad Mexicans surfaced, and not
just the usual cabal of geniuses who hail any summer rainfall as certain
proof that climate change is bunkum. Sir Simon Jenkins, for example,
regarded the WHO’s global pandemic warning as a cynical attempt to justify
its budget. He did go on to point out this strain was not dangerous in its
current form, and thankfully that’s still the case. But if it does mutate
into something more menacing, beneath the masks will be egg on many faces.

Thursday night delights

Thursday late nights on BBC1 are an unmitigated joy. Andrew Neil’s links on
This Week are now so dementedly mannered that they bring to mind the
I’m-mental-me-totally-bonkers, Dave Lee Travers manqué great uncle who
misapprehended your raw panic for enchanted wonderment at Christmas parties
as a child. As for the show that precedes the Adonis’s gurnfest, Question
Time has reclaimed its role as televisual Ovaltine after the high excitement
over MPs’ expenses. The recent appearance of a tabby cat on the set hinted
at an obvious antidote to the narcosis. Four words suffice. Release the
studio panther.

Good golly, Miss Mollie

Speaking of pussies, a sombre note as we mark the passing of Mollie Sugden,
left. There has been talk of transforming Michael Jackson’s ranch into a
giant memorial, but such is the affection for Are You Being Served? in the
US that traumatised fans are planning an Elvis-style shrine for Mrs Slocombe
and the gang. Grace BrothersLands is scheduled to open in Alabama in the

Kick him while he’s dead

Still with Jacko, finally, it fell to Jon Gaunt to strike the perfect note in
The Paedo Gazette (formerly The Sun), by fixating on the child interference
angle. “It is never too late … to send a clear warning to others that
they will never get away with their heinous crimes,” wrote Gaunty of a
deceased man never convicted of anything. “Even in death.”
Precisely how he means to pursue Mr Jackson is not made clear, but the item
is on its way to the Afterlife Department at Bletchley Park, and should be
decoded within a fortnight.

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