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    Let me start off by stating, to be absolutely clear, that I am not trying to knock the Irish here. I have the utmost affection and respect for Ireland and its people.

    I am also proud of my own Irish heritage, even if it does mean that I am physiologically unsuited to any climate other than a predominately wet, windy and overcast one.

    Magical memories of childhood visits to the Emerald Isle have imbued me with - among other things - a lingering love of the smell of burning peat.

    So much so that I have even gone as far as importing hand-cut turf from Donegal to my home in London just so that I can enjoy the nostalgic aroma from time to time.

    And when I listen to Fields of Athenry, a folk song that tells the story of a husband put on a prison ship to Australia after steeling corn to feed his starving family during the Great Famine, I am rarely left without a tear in my eye (both of pain and shame).

    I also used to think the pride shown on St Patrick’s Day was one of the most wonderful things,

    Read More »from St Patrick’s Day has become a cringeworthy festival of consumerism
  • Nicola Sturgeon’s focus on pacts and deals masks a broader agenda: flooding parliament with Scottish nationalists in a bid to accelerate the drift towards independence.

    The first minister’s speech today is entirely focused on the potential role the SNP could play in hung parliament negotiations today.

    That is what this election is all about, after all. With the Scottish independence issue sorted for a generation after last year’s No victory, we can all forget about nationalism and concentrate on what is at stake on May 7th - who governs the country for the next five years.

    When the stakes are the future of our country, that thinking is horribly short-sighted.

    A new poll out today points to a truth not many in Westminster are prepared to admit right now: this year’s election is only going to pave the way for another referendum in the future.

    The University of Edinburgh survey found 69% of people believe Scotland will eventually leave the UK. That’s only marginally higher than the 59% who

    Read More »from How a flood of SNP MPs could lead to independence
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    It’s official: racism in Britain has ended.

    That’s according to Nigel Farage, who says UKIP would scrap the now “irrelevant” anti-discrimination laws the country first adopted in 1976.

    In an interview for Channel 4 with former equality and human rights commissioner Trevor Phillips, he said the laws barring race bias were outdated.

    “I think the employer should be much freer to make decisions on who she or he employs,” he said.

    “I think you should be able to choose on the basis of nationality, yes. I do.”

    “If we’d sat here 40 years ago, having this conversation, your point [on the need for anti-discrimination laws] would probably have been valid. I don’t think it is today.”

    And, of course, who would know better to say that racism has ended than an old white man whose party’s support base is 98% white?

    The absurdity of Mr Farage’s claim beggars belief.

    It comes only a day after it was revealed that the number of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds who have been unemployed for more than

    Read More »from Racism IS still a problem, Mr Farage and wanting to scrap anti-bias laws shows just how deluded UKIP are
  • Farage’s call for anti-discrimination legislation to be axed is just the latest race row to engulf Ukip in recent months.

    Just last month, the BBC revealed footage of a Ukip councillor in Nigel Farage’s constituency, speaking about her dislike of people with “negroid features”.

    The Ukip leader himself has also been involved in a number of similar rows. Last year he caused a huge storm after admitting that hearing foreign voices on the train made him feel “awkward” and uncomfortable. He was also forced to backtrack after suggesting that he would not want to live next door to a group of Romanian men.

    These rows have damaged perceptions of the party. A poll last month found a big increase in the number of people who now perceive Ukip as racist.

    The Comres poll for ITV found that 44% of voters believe Ukip are a “racist party” with just 36% disagreeing. This is up twelve points from last year.

    This is a big problem for Ukip. While Ukip are the most trusted party on the subject of immigration,

    Read More »from 'BNP in blazers': Race rows risk Ukip's return to the fringes
  • Note posted to Reddit by Claire Hudson, left for her by a customer. (Imgur)Note posted to Reddit by Claire Hudson, left for her by a customer. (Imgur)


    A couple dining at Mac’s Grub Shack in Spring Hill, Tennessee, left a tip to remember.

    After finished their burger, beers and hot dogs, they left a handwritten note scrawled on the back of the receipt for waitress Claire Hudson to find.

    It read:

    “Today is my brother’s b-day. He would have been 36 today. Every year I go eat his favourite meal (hot dogs) and tip the waitress his age. Happy b-day Wes.”

    Sure enough, the couple left a $36 tip.

    "I’ve been a server for several years and this is the best tip I’ve ever gotten," Hudson, 25, told “Not because of the money, but because of the meaning.”

    "I was in tears when I read it," Hudson said. "I had to go in the back of the restaurant and compose myself before I went out to my other tables."

    She posted a photo of the note on Reddit.

    "I love Reddit and felt like it was a great picture that should be shared," she said. “I had no idea it would get that much attention! I think it’s fantastic that so many people liked it, but I

    Read More »from Customer leaves touching note, tip for waitress in honour of late brother’s birthday
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    Modern art is an acquired taste, experts say.

    And, I would add, if you do have a taste for it and would like to buy some, you will also need to have acquired stupefying amounts of money.

    Today we have once again been reminded of the eye-watering sums modern art can fetch after it emerged that a Mark Rothko painting – consisting of three stripes of red, black and orange layered over a red background - is expected to sell for £35million at auction.

    Now, if you’re one of the world’s growing band of billionaires, you might argue that, at just £11.7million a stripe, No. 36 (Black Stripe) is a bargain.

    But, to me, the estimated bid at Christie’s auction house in New York only highlights how wealth is utterly wasted on the rich.

    I mean, I’m pretty sure I could knock out a pretty similar piece – with few discernable differences – in an afternoon.

    Failing that, my two-year-old son is coming along nicely in finger-painting and I think he could make a good stab at it if enticed with sufficient

    Read More »from Rothko’s ‘masterpiece’ worth £35m? Stripe me, no! My toddler is a better painter
  • Britain almost ceased to be six months ago. Both its main political parties are now proposing spending cuts so severe they threaten to fundamentally change what we think of as the state.

    These seem big, even existential issues for a country to face. And yet the election campaign is composed of tiny, soap opera-like tittle-tattle. Yesterday’s inane Tory poster, showing Ed Miliband in the pocket of Alex Salmond, typified it. Conservatives believe they’ve found a red line and are trying to push Miliband over it by making everything about a possible SNP pact.

    Labour believes it has found a red line over David Cameron’s refusal to do the TV debates and has spent the last week publicising it as much as possible. Where coverage is not about these twin issues, it is designed to seduce the core vote: on economic issues for the Tories, on the NHS for Labour.

    This is a big, historic moment in British history, but future students will not be much bothered by the reaction of MPs or political parties.

    Read More »from The British public deserves a better election than this
  • If current trends continue, the Conservative party are set to lose their last remaining Scottish MP.

    Lord Ashcroft’s latest polls suggests the party are within just one point of losing to the SNP in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.

    It would be a sad demise for a party which was once the dominant electoral force in Scotland. Yet far from trying to rebuild the ruins of his party north of the border, David Cameron instead seems intent on torching the last few broken remains.

    Speaking to a group of activists over the weekend, the prime minister outlined what he believes is the greatest threat facing the country.

    "If you thought the worst outcome in this election is a Labour government led by Ed Miliband, think again," he told a group of Tory activists.

    "You could end up with a Labour government led by Ed Miliband, propped up by Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party.

    Pausing to allow his activists to boo, he went on.

    "You cannot let the people who want to break up our country into

    Read More »from David Cameron is now the greatest threat to the Union
  • The hunt for David Cameron’s missing backbone has begun, or so I read on Twitter today after the Prime Minister ducked out of a head-to-head TV debate with Ed Miliband.

    The Tory leader’s “final offer” is a single live debate with a minimum of seven participants - more than a month before we go to the polls.

    Of course, there are several good reasons why Cameron might want to dilute his and the opposition leader’s airtime to just 13 minutes during the 90-minute show.

    First of all, he would have to defend a dismal record that includes the most sustained collapse in real wages for 159 years, a failure to cut the deficit, borrowing £245billion more than planned, provoking an NHS crisis, allowing the number of workers with no reliable hours to rise from 168,000 to 1.8million, cutting benefits to the most vulnerable people and forcing a million more people to rely on food banks while reducing the tax rate for millionaire bosses and boosting their profits by actively promoting this rising tide of

    Read More »from TV debates: Of course Cameron is chickening out - so let's write a constitution and ensure no PM can EVER duck them again
  • Why would a leader regarded by both his supporters and his detractors as prime ministerial try to avoid TV debates?

    Political leaders usually spend election campaigns fighting on their strengths. For the Conservatives, they have very clear poll leads on the economy and their leader. So why would No.10 be so wary of an event which should play firmly into their hands?

    Actually, Cameron’s de-facto refusal to take part in the TV debates is part of a pattern of avoiding scrutiny. As prime minister he instantly scrapped the monthly Downing Street press conferences Gordon Brown used to hold – events at which, for all his faults, Brown did not leave until everyone in the room had a chance to ask a question.

    When Cameron is forced to take questions after a speech, he limits them to three or four at most - and those only from broadcasters and perhaps one print journalist. He almost never subjects himself to tough, searching media interviews. His preference is always for light-touch TV appearances.

    Read More »from Cameron won't debate because he has no record to defend


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