Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Andy Gray sacked by Sky

Andy Gray was today sacked by Sky after acting as anchor for their coverage since 1992.

To say that there was no way back from his comments on womens' ability to officiate at football matches is, however, incorrect.

Gray faced a media storm, especially as it enabled opponents of Sky to give them a kicking. His comments were crude and represented the 'old boys' club' - the antithesis of the generation of family viewers Sky Sports is looking to attract.

Despite this, I think Gray's job could have been saved. Ricard Keys' immediate on the record denial was stupid, and the silence that followed was filled with the views of Karen Brady and journalists criticising Gray. If Andy Gray had shown a genuine remorse and met the official he criticised in person, he could have begun to publicly repair his reputation by admitting he was wrong and showing a willingness to change.

A visit to an anti-discrimination charity, an open letter on the Sky website - there was a myriad of options available to begin the healing process and to show some public humility.

Perhaps, in the end, Andy Gray was a victim of a position where he is asked to always stick by his opinion. Or, perhaps bosses looked over his shoulder, saw the fresh face of Jamie Redknapp and decided the time was right.

If you're interested, Andy, then I'm sure Jamie can recommend a good holiday company.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Cameron resurrects the ghost of Blair

It was interesting to read today about an 'intriguing' book name checked by David Cameron in reference to the NHS...Tony Blair's autobiography, nonetheless http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jan/17/critics-public-service-reform-grow-up-cameron

Strange that the Prime Minister would look to Blair's original plans for the NHS as aspirational. No doubt Mr Blair lacked the conviction to deliver on the NHS reforms he could have. The ones he did deliver on where a mixture of success (breakthroughs in treatment for cancer patients) and criminal wastes of resources (money spent on dubious IT projects).

The Prime Minister was actually trying to paint the critics of his plans (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12203000) such as as the BMA, as Luddites, blocking the road to reform.

The big area of contention is how big a role can the private sector play in NHS reform and what checks and balances on this can be introduced to placate the millions of public sector workers and the rest of the Coalition.

Ultimately, the NHS needs to its serve patients first and foremost and I think it's going to come down to the arguments made by Andrew Lansley and his department over how the money spent is going to improve on Labour's record. If the private sector can facilitate this then will swinging voters actually care where the services come from? I doubt it, but the millions of public sector workers will protect their ground. Meaning we will see more Union clashes for the Coalition.

One thing is for certain - Tony Blair couldn't survive losing the public and neither will Mr Cameron. Which is why I predict we can expect a surprise budget carrot to go with all this stick.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Cameron's Regional Growth Fund runs risk of Dragon's Den comparison

David Cameron and Lord Heseltine have unveiled their Regional Growth Fund - yet the announcement adds no clarity to how regional economies will benefit any further than they did under the previous Government's system of RDAs.


The reason it's not clear is that it is all rather ambiguous, it seems to tick the boxes of what regional business leaders will want to hear without the concrete detail. So we're told that regions heavily reliant on public sector spending will have a better chance of succeeding in the applications - what he taketh away with one hand...

My view is that this policy should have had clearer messaging. It's all coming across a bit Dragon's Den. The rich London kids in the middle are offering the poor people the chance to pitch their crazy 'Northern' ideas - I can imagine many of the Treasury team will find it quite natural to say 'I'm out'.

It's another example of how the Coalition isn't connecting regionally. In the North West, Vince Cable this week ran a comment in Insider magazine outlining his hope for regional growth in 2011 http://www.insidermedia.com/insider/north-west/44668-vince-cable-tells-insider-2010-was-turbulent-year/index.html

On the same day, Manchester Council leader Sir Richard Leese warned 2011 could be 'awful' as the private sector comes under pressure to fill the gap left by savage cuts http://www.insidermedia.com/insider/north-west/44800-2011-will-be-dreadful-year-sir-richard

I'm not saying these opposing views are unusual (!) but the point is these two articles came into my inbox on the same email - clearly highlighting the lack of confidence currently inspired by the current plan reducing small business rates and the new Regional Growth Fund.

Will regional business eventually be inspired by what they are hearing or will it need more than the Dragon's Den to resurface from the economic slump? I'll ask Evan Davis...