Run with Eric + Tourism

Let battle commence: Ireland take on Europe, England take on South Africa and London take on bloody everybody

Looking at all kinds of news stories over the course of the week, you can't help but feel there's a lot of hostility in the world. As a highly-opinionated budding journalist, I like to think I'm adding to that.

Sarkozy upsets the Irish
London upsets the tourists
Pattinson upsets the balance of the English cricket team

Sarkozy upsets the Irish

The most amusing news for me this week was the EU’s understanding and diplomatic response to Ireland’s snubbing of the Lisbon Treaty. Ireland’s general public said ‘no’ in a referendum on June 12, and this week Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France and kind-of-President-of-the-EU-until-the-end-of-the-year, basically told them to try again and get it right this time.

Strangely, the response to his response hasn’t been that positive. The Irish are very proud of their referenda – any potential change to the Irish constitution must go to a public vote – and having sent a serious message to the EU and helped Poland and other member states to throw a spanner in the works they don’t really fancy the ignominy of being treated like an unruly child. After all, the power is theirs. If they keep saying no, the Lisbon Treaty can’t go ahead. Simple as.

Sarkozy has recently tried to explain his position, arguing that the EU needs to operate and can’t wait on the Irish forever because, “We will need to know a little in advance under which legal system, Nice or Lisbon, we will be making these decisions” (the wonderful irony there, of course, being that the Irish rejected the Nice Treaty as well). But the Irish have made a decision. It wasn’t a maybe. It was a no.

The bigger question for me is whether they should have had a referendum in the first place. The basis of Western democracy is that we have the power to elect people to make decisions for us, and then complain when they do. An attractive loophole is that if a massive issue arises, we can vote directly on it (theoretically). But for a referendum to make any sense, the issue can’t just be sufficiently important, but sufficiently simple as well.

The (brilliant) comedian Marcus Brigstocke put it well in his Planet Corduroy tour: “Yes, ask us questions we couldn’t possibly know the answer to. Please ask me something, I am utterly unqualified….I can tell you what the dividing line will be between the ‘Yes’ and the ‘No’ camps: it will be whether or not you had a shitty French exchange when you were a teenager.”

And he’s completely right. My bet is that very few Irish voters know the ins and outs of the monolithic slab of paper that is the Lisbon Treaty. They’re effectively voting on whether they like the EU or not. Now that’s OK if you’re voting on whether or not to join the EU or even the Euro (even if you can’t know the in-depth economic details, it’s a sufficiently big decision for the public to have a right to vote on it), but not in this case, perhaps.

London upsets the tourists

The Sunday Telegraph has revealed that London is an expensive city for a tourist. The world continues to spin on its axis.

This cannot come as a surprise to anyone who has ever tried to do the tourism thing in London. “Two tickets to the London Eye, please.” “Certainly, sir. That’ll be £390.”

Sorry, that’s a gross exaggeration. As if anyone working for the London tourist trade would be as deferential and polite as to call you ‘sir’.

Anyway, the study calculated that for a family of four to take an open-top bus tour and visit the city’s top nine tourist attractions (including the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and Tutankhamun live in person at the O2) would cost, in total, £550. If you’re looking for a comparison, Rome would cost only £216 for an equivalent day out, New York £376 and Paris – including the Eiffel Tower, Disneyland and the Louvre – £386. Riots not included.

You could argue, reasonably, that you’re paying for better attractions. Dublin may cost less than a third of the price on the same axis, but the tourist spots include Trinity College Library and the birthplace of George Bernard Shaw. Without any disrespect to Dublin, that’s not quite on the same scale as what London has to offer.

But this is not to excuse its extortionate prices. Madame Tussaud’s costs £27 in Hong Kong and £50 in Berlin, but £85 in London. There’s no excuse for that kind of overpricing. Maybe it’s hard when they’re stopping you walking in the street to take photographs and constantly asking the way to the Houses of Parliament, but you’ve got to treat tourists with a little respect.

In my extremely biased view, London could learn a thing or two from Cardiff. Not only does it have free prescriptions and free hospital parking (hurrah for the Welsh Assembly), but free museums as well. London claims its museums are free, but only when they feel like it – one-off exhibitions cost a bomb.

Of course, not everything in London costs money, and seeing the city’s undiscovered delights is definitely the way forward. It also might persuade tourism bosses to drop their prices at little. And for me at least, while Westminster Abbey’s great and everything, few experiences can top a walk through Hyde Park with a 99 and having a healthy political debate with a complete stranger at Speaker’s Corner.

Not that I stole the ice cream, obviously. I did have to pay for that, I suppose.

Pattinson upsets the balance of the English cricket team

In sport, Padraig Harrington defied the weather to retain the Open, Lewis Hamilton defied his own team to win in Hockenheim and South Africa beat the English cricket team into a bloody pulp.

With questions over Hawk-eye and sportsmanship just on the first day, controversy was at the forefront and no more so than in the shadowy figure of Darren Pattinson. You may well ask who. The Grimsby-born, Australia-raised 29-year-old’s selection ahead of a plethora of proven stars and promising hopefuls can only spell bad news for English cricket.

Not that it’s Pattinson’s fault, of course – he was as stunned as anyone else to be called up for the English national side. And not just because he has a broad Aussie accent. After all, Kevin Pietersen was born and raised in South Africa, not to mention former English greats such as Tony Greig, Allan Lamb, Graeme Hick and Nasser Hussain all hailing from the southern hemisphere. No, the problem with Pattinson’s selection isn’t his nationality – it’s his pedigree.

When Pattinson walked onto the pitch just weeks short of his 30th birthday, he’d played just 11 first-class matches in his career. Yes, 11. Ever. Two years ago he was a roof-tiler. You simply cannot throw such an inexperienced player into a Test Match and expect him to do well.

Much was spoken about England’s decision to go with a five-pronged bowling attack, but it was hardly a sharp one. In fact, it had as much penetration as a spork. What with Andrew Flintoff playing his first Test in 18 months and Monty Panesar extracting little spin from the typical Headingley pitch, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad had a tough enough job without Pattinson chucking down harmless wobblers.

This is not to mention the adverse psychological ramifications of such a random selection. Steve Harmison expressed concern that Pattinson was selected ahead of him. Matthew Hoggard mentioned the possibility of international retirement. How it must feel for the likes of Harmison, Hoggard, Simon Jones, Chris Tremlett and Kabir Ali (6-58 for Worcestershire at the weekend), knowing they’re effectively next in line for a place only for Pattinson to come in from nowhere. It’s not even about Muggins’ Turn; to pick Pattinson on form alone (29 first-class wickets this season at an average of 20.86) is crazy, especially when Harmison has taken 40 at 23.1, and knows a bit about Test cricket.

Pattinson just isn’t good enough for Test cricket – or at least has not been given the time on the county circuit to prove he is. He’s inexperienced. He’s Australian. He can’t bat (a problem, given England’s tail). And at 29, he’s not one for the future. Why pick him?

He also dropped an easy catch. Maybe he’ll fit in after all.

[Monday’s edit: incredibly, the selectors’ idiocy has been surpassed by that of Kevin Pietersen, who, required to bat for at least a day to give England a chance of a draw, hit 4 4 1 4 before getting himself out. 13 from 5 balls. Just what England needed.]

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Let battle commence: Ireland take on Europe, England take on South Africa and London take on bloody everybody + Tourism