Hit & Run: MPs and Lords pull together
Thursday 11 June 2009
The Annual House of Lords vs House of Commons Tug of War, sponsored by Macmillan Cancer support, has been part of the English season for 22 years but this time the humorous potential was huge. In the College Garden of Westminster Abbey on Tuesday night, wits speculated about how many of the Commons team would later claim for the rope. Well-heeled charitable type wondered if the Commons Fees Office would allow expense claims for sweat bandanas and accidental hernias.
Bubbly-swillers and patrons then surged forward to the tug-field, craning their heads to look, as 16 chaps in sports kit picked up a rope. Their first reaction was: My God how young MPs are these days! (Is that David Miliband?) But no, it was the boy choristers from the Abbey competing against those of St Paul's.
Hostilities began. A demure group of cheerleaders called the London Rockets modestly wiggled their pompoms. Competing sponsors and firemen strained, cursed and dug in their heels. In the third match, the Household Cavalry Regiment (an octet of farriers who shoe the queen's horses) yanked merry hell out of the spindly team from RAF Cosford by the expedient of marching slowly backwards, yelling "Left! Right! Left! Right!"
The next match pitted the Macmillan Women's Team against the Houses of Parliament Women's team. The latter were a slender, underfed bunch, like the fourth form at Malory Towers. "Where's Bessie Braddock when you need her?" muttered an Irish wag beside me. "Or Gwyneth Dunwoody? Or Clare Short? Or Ann Widdecombe?" The evening's host Jeremy Vine interviewed the handsome soldier who coached the Parliamentary ladies. "What advice did you give the women?" "I told them to get as close to horizontal as possible," said the coach. "And what did you say to them about the actual tug-of-war?" inquired the saucy Vine.
Lords vs Commons was the finale. Eight lords a-tugging, including Lord Jones of Birmingham, the patriotic ex-CBI chief, and Lord St John of Bletso, a spit of Max Mosley, squared up to the bulk of Graham Brady (Con, Altrincham and Sale West) and the gravitas of Eric Joyce (Lab, Falkirk), the first MP to claim £1m cumulatively in expenses since 2001.
It didn't help the Lower House. Even cheered on by Kay Burley off the telly, they were trounced by the superior tactics and avoirdupois of the Lords. And what did the audience think about the MPs as they watched? Bunch of lightweights. John Walsh
Katrina gets Wired
Hurricane Katrina – still fresh in the minds of New Orleans residents, but perhaps, after four years, fading into the background for the rest of us – is about to be back under the spotlight. David Simon, creator of The Wire, has started work on Treme, his HBO series about the city's musicians, many of whom live in the neighbourhood of the same name. It's expected to reach screens next year, and will star Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters of The Wire.
Before that comes author Dave Eggers' new book Zeitoun, due in July. The non-fiction story of a Muslim-American family during and after the disaster, proceeds from Zeitoun's publication will go towards the continuing Katrina relief effort. In the meantime, occupy yourselves with Brad Pitt's body art – the actor has a tattoo on his back symbolising the failed New Orleans levee system. Pitt's Make It Right foundation is financing the construction of new homes for Katrina victims in the city's Ninth Ward. Tim Walker
Bust a Beyoncé move
Take one male pop act and put them in black leotards. Then, make them dance, with plenty of hand-shaking and crotch-wiggling. Film it, post it on the net and, bingo: the new album promotes itself.
The dance routine in question is Beyoncé's, from her video for Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It). Now a video of Joe Jonas, of clean-cut group The Jonas Brothers, performing the dance with rather less panache than Beyoncé, has amassed half a million hits on YouTube. Jonas' efforts come after Justin Timberlake's infamous take-off of the same moves, on Saturday Night Live. The routine, incorporating both tap and hip-hop, borrows from a 1969 performance by American dancer Gwen Verdon on The Ed Sullivan Show, directed by Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse.
So can the average, flat-footed, non-famous chap do the same boogie at their local Saturday-night disco? It would seem so. "Anyone can do the basics," says Shaun Niles, a professional dancer who has appeared on stage with Nelly Furtado and Rihanna. "Hold your right hand over your face wit h the palm facing you. Then flip it. That's the ring part." Post the results online and fingers crossed for sales of the new album... Rob Sharp
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