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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
No more consensus politics.
Topic: Politics

I'm not a fan of consensus politics, so I'm pleased to see the Conservatives at last turning up the heat on Labour, now that Brown's economic management of the UK is exposed for the sham that it always was.

That said, even I am bowled over by David Cameron's latest speech to Muslim community leaders, forcefully warning them of what to expect if Brown wins the next election.

Vote Conservative!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008
It started as a joke.
Topic: Poker

Several years ago, when I used to read UK poker discussion forums and find them amusing, someone posted a brilliant spoof. The background was that there had been a card room manager from Estonia named Andres Burget, who'd been advertising his festivals on sites like the Hendon Mob and Gutshot. After a couple of years of this, someone decided it would be amusing to spoof it, with a joke press release about a card room manager in Moldova telling the world to come to the 'Golden Sow' casino in Chisinau.

At first I thought it was unkind to parody the unfortunate Estonian, but every time I read it, it got funnier and funnier. I laughed for days. It was a bit like what Borat did to Kazakhstan, but much funnier because of its brevity. Burget took it badly and never posted details of his card room again. I'd forgotten about it until yesterday, when I saw this in the latest edition of Poker Europa magazine, issue 106, page 36:

Moldova joins poker scene

Latest country in Europe to become pokerised is the former member of the USSR, Moldova. The tiny country, population 4 million, saw its first (and only) card room open in the capital Chisinau in September. The card room is in the Casino Europa near the city centre. Adventurous players in search of new action can contact poker boss Igor Letic on e-mail: or phone +373 69 818 338

There's much I should probably be writing about today - the banking crisis, Obama etc. But just now, I'd like to welcome Moldova to the poker world! Good luck Igor.

_ DY at 1:43 PM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 11 November 2008 1:49 PM GMT
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Friday, 24 October 2008
Sarah Palin's barometer.
Topic: Politics

Stopped by Cafe Nero for tea with the Beirut Correspondent today to chew the fat about the economy and the election. He's convinced that Palin pulled a masterstroke in the VP debate by subliminally connecting Obama to the economic mess, using the word 'barometer'. Check out her opening statement where she uses it twice -

You know, I think a good barometer here, as we try to figure out has this been a good time or a bad time in America's economy, is go to a kid's soccer game on Saturday, and turn to any parent there on the sideline and ask them, "How are you feeling about the economy?" And I'll bet you, you're going to hear some fear in that parent's voice, fear regarding the few investments that some of us have in the stock market. Did we just take a major hit with those investments?

Fear about, how are we going to afford to send our kids to college? A fear, as small-business owners, perhaps, how we're going to borrow any money to increase inventory or hire more people. The barometer there, I think, is going to be resounding that our economy is hurting and the federal government has not provided the sound oversight that we need and that we deserve, and we need reform to that end.

The theory, in case you haven't guessed, is that barometer sounds a bit like 'Barack Obama'. It sounds far fetched I know, but I can't help wondering why she used that word rather than 'litmus test', 'acid test' or one of the many other phrases that mean the same thing. The Beirut Correspondent is a big believer in the theory of phonetic ambiguity and can always be counted on to talk about the benefits of a 'new direction' on a second date with a woman he fancies.

_ DY at 6:15 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 24 October 2008 6:21 PM BST
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Monday, 20 October 2008
Vive la France!
Topic: Politics

From the Times:

A “one-night stand” and an angry husband have endangered the career of the French head of the International Monetary Fund and dismayed President Sarkozy as he seeks to put a French stamp on a new world financial order.

Err ... surely this does put a French stamp on a new world financial order?


_ DY at 8:44 PM BST
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Friday, 26 September 2008
What's the ideal experience to be president?
Topic: Politics

I've had some laughs seeing people criticise Sarah Palin for her alleged unpreparedness for high office. It amuses me because she's got more executive experience than Obama, McCain and Biden. She's a state governor, was a town mayor for six years and chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for a year. It may not be much, but it's streets ahead of the rest of the field.

It's an unusual election, this one. For the first time since 1952, neither the incumbent President nor the incumbent Vice President is a candidate. What's more, there's isn't a state governor running for the top job. Americans tend to chose governors over senators. Most recent presidents were former governors: Clinton (Arkansas), Carter (Georgia), Reagan (California), Bush Jr. (Texas). That's a pretty mixed bag in terms of actual performance on the job.

So what's the ideal experience for being president? I don't have an answer to that and would like your opinion. Being president requires being commander-in-chief, so you'd think a military background would help. But Ulysses S. Grant won the Civil War for the Union side and yet is not considered one of America's better presidents. He couldn't or wouldn't stop financial corruption. A knowledge of the outside world seems important, but George Bush Sr was director of the CIA and got booted out after one term, partly because he reneged on a promise not to raise taxes. Governors are involved in their state's budget and thus have experience of financial matters, but can be naive or uninformed about the external threats to their nation (Palin only got a passport in 2007, so she could visit US troops in Germany and Kuwait).

What's the right career path? Ideally you should have served in the military, had an overseas posting that required learning about the world outside the US (Ambassador, CIA maybe) and then become a governor with budget responsibility. You should also know a lot about the lawmaking process, ideally through a training in law. But is this remotely possible?

I don't know, but I do know that 'experience' is a dirty word this time round. Watch how Obama tries hard to avoid using it in this hilarious clip (around thirty seconds in):

So where does that leave us? We're supposed to be impressed with Joe Biden's experience. This includes:

1) Defending the Nato bombing campaign in 1999 by declaring on television "Slobodan Milosevic is getting the living hell kicked out of him."

2) Telling a meeting of his staffers just after the 2001 terrorist attacks that to show the Arab (sic) world that the US is not aiming to destroy it: "Seems to me this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran."

3) Proposing an unwanted and unrequested proposal for a partition of Iraq into three states, which was completely and utterly rejected by all parties in Iraq and which made him extremely unpopular in the country.

4) Recently informing a television interviewer that: "When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed," ignoring the fact that the crash happened in 1929 when Herbert Hoover was president and that television was still in its experimental stages.

Words fail me that it's come to this.

_ DY at 6:40 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 26 September 2008 6:44 PM BST
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Saturday, 13 September 2008
The Golden Age fallacy.
Topic: Misc.

I've been arguing with idiots again. I'd really cut down on this, since I gave up reading the Hendon Mob and Gutshot forums a couple of years ago, but I got drawn in again on the AOL comments section today. If you think that the people who write on the BBC's 'Have your say' page are morons (and I do) then wait until you've read the comments on AOL stories. On a recent piece about immigration, someone actually wrote 'Bring back Enoch Powell'. I kid you not. This sort of thing is so commonly parodied that you forget that such idiocy still exists.

I got involved on AOL today after reading a story about rural house prices and seeing some old git giving it the 'In my day blah blah blah' crap. Apparently in the past people saved for housing. Well I never. Anyway, after reading how young people are supposed to 'SACRIFICE!' I said:

"I love it when people who bought houses when they were at low multiples of average earnings start lecturing those of us born later to 'sacrifice'."

I went on to say that I wasn't wanting anything to be given to the young, just a more liberal planning regime. I won't bore regular readers of this site with any more detail; you know the score. Anyway, at the end I said: "The baby-boomer generation is perhaps the most selfish in history". There are clearly a lot of people around who don't know what the term 'baby-boomer' means because the next comment I got back from Mr "SACRIFICE!" was to tell me that I should be grateful to them for winning two world wars. LOL. Anyway, when I went on to explain what I was really addressing the generation born after that, I got taken to task by someone called 'Baby Boomer' who said, among other things:

"WE Sir, are the children of heroes. When we were at school in the 50's and 60's we were taught by heroes (in my case by a decorated ex-RAF officer with a DSO and DFC and two bars from The Battle of Britain in 1940) We looked up to these people because they had something to say...and we listened . In fact we we are the last generation that got told to "sit down shut up and listen" and (without wailing or making a complaint) and we got a stiff belt around the ear if we didn't. We actually went to school in school uniform because that was just the way it was. We also went there to LEARN and NOT to " take on" the system like some barrack room lawyer or to "know our rights" over the wearing of inappropriate clothes, religious head dresses, make up and jewellery."

I don't know when kids stopped wearing school uniforms. They still do where I live, but it's the stuff about respecting the older people that sounds false to me. I'd love to think it was true but I suspect there's a huge element of selective memory here and to present my rebuttal, I'd like to call four witnesses to the court. Their names are John, Paul, George and Ringo.


Watch how these four young men, born between 1940 and 1943 (slightly older than the textbook boomers) treat Paul's grandfather; not a lot of respect for the older generation there. Later there's this classic exchange with a war veteran at around 4 mins 50 seconds into the clip:

Johnson: 'I fought the war for your sort.'

Ringo: 'Bet you're sorry you won.'

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

UPDATE: Note that John Lennon clearly 'snorts coke' at 2 mins 26 seconds. Later we see Paul and John, then in their twenties, harassing teenage schoolgirls. Ringo is shown smoking. Fat chance you'd see any of that in an S Club 7 film today.

_ DY at 8:08 PM BST
Updated: Saturday, 13 September 2008 8:32 PM BST
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Wednesday, 10 September 2008
Stop this Madness! (parts one and two).
Topic: Poker

Stop this "Double-Chance" Madness.

The first double-chance tournament was the Pokermillion in November 2000 that John Duthie won. Roy Houghton had the idea that players who'd travelled from as far as Australia and America to the Isle of Man should have the option to protect themselves from being knocked out in the early stages of the only big buy-in tournament of the week. Thus he devised the format in which players are allocated only half their intial stack at the outset, with the option to take the second half at any point in the first three levels. Unfortunately festival organisers have adopted the idea without knowing the reasoning behind it.

In the last two 'double-chance' tournaments I've played, half the players at my table took their entire allocation before the first hand was dealt and half of the rest took theirs in the first twenty minutes, without having lost their whole starting stack. Is there really a demand for this format? The whole point of double-chance is to give some possible extra play for people who've travelled across many time-zones to play a big buy-in main event. It's completely pointless in mid-week £500 London-based freezeouts where all the players live within the M25.


Stop this Max Buy-in Madness.

Why do no-limit cash games in Britain all have maxinum buy-ins? I've asked this question to countless dealers and floor managers and can't get an intelligent response. The reason is that they are all copying what they consider to be normal practice, which in fact originated online. Few people seem to know the background. It's worth explaining.

The first online poker games were all limit-bet structured. Initially they were all hold'em. Later came seven-card stud. It was a long time before anyone offered 'big bet' poker (pot-limit or no-limit). By my recollection, the first site to do so was one that I'll hazard 90 per cent of you have never heard of. It was CCC poker (the online operation of the Concord Card Casino - an Austrian bricks and mortar poker business). The first big-bet game they offered was not hold'em. It was Pot-limit omaha. There was no maximum buy-in.

Because the skill differential between novices and experienced players is so big in PLO, the seasoned players all bought in for large stacks and proceeded to wipe out the beginners. I recall people in the Vic telling me of the thousands they'd made very quickly from people who thought that a queen high flush or a small full-houses was a big hand. Very soon there was no more game. The beginners had been wiped out. Therefore the next sites to offer 'big-bet' games decided they needed to blunt the good players' edge and figured that a maximum buy-in was the best way to do this. The practice was adopted by all others sites for no-limit and pot-limit games.

If you ever fancy driving yourself insane, ask the players at your table why the max buy-in exists (it never did when we played pot-limit). You won't believe the utterly bogus explanations you'll hear. As things stand, I see little good reason for max buy-ins in bricks and mortar poker clubs. I certainly don't understand the argument that it's to make the game less 'intimidating'! It's no-limit hold'em. It's meant to be intimidating.

And in any case, you can only lose what you sit down with!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008
The wisdom of Kirsty Allsopp.
Topic: Misc.

I saw an unintentionally hilarious interview with Channel 4's 'property expert' Kirsty Allsopp in the London Lite newspaper about a month ago. Sadly I was not able to find it online.  In it she answered various questions about the credit crunch and gave some stunningly stupid answers. Asked about whether buy-to-let was still a good investment opportunity, she ended her reply by saying 'It was never about making a quick buck anyway'. Huh? What planet has she been living on? That's exactly what most people thought they were getting themselves into, especially in the last four or five years of the boom. Asked about the prospects of a given area, she said something along the lines of 'I'm not a believer in buying in specific areas. I'm more interested in buying specific properties'. That's all well and good, but her show is called 'Location, Location, Location'!

However this is as nothing to her masterpiece at the Channel 4 website, where she's surpassed herself with this incredible analysis of the current fortunes of the property market. The money quote:

"Your house isn't worth less than it was, but people aren't buying."

Words truly fail me.

She really seems to think that the slowdown in the market is due to Stamp Duty. She's utterly delusional. It's incredible that to be able to sell someone a few grand in shares you have to pass exams and be qualified, but you can advise strangers on the biggest investment decision they will ever make and be a total ignoramus about Economics. Allsopp reminds me of the person who claims to have had ten years experience, but has actually had one experience that's lasted ten years.

_ DY at 2:45 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 12 August 2008 2:53 PM BST
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Sunday, 20 July 2008
Hellmuth rants.
Topic: Poker

I realise that 'Hellmuth Rants' must be the 'Dog bites Man' headline of poker journalism, but bear with me on this. I've met Phil a couple of times and he was very polite on both occasions. He's not always like that however, mainly because he has unrealistic expectations of how consistently he can win in a game where luck is a big factor. He seems to have a deep-seated insecurity about how he's perceived, which leads to a constant need for acclaim. He likes to suggest that his antics are for show, but I'm not convinced that this is the case. More likely is that he's making virtue of necessity. I don't think he can stop.

In a recent posting he relates how brilliantly he played in the Main Event of this year's WSOP and deserved better than to finished 45th:

This earns the usual opprobrium that he always attracts, with some extra added for his continued involvement with the scandal-hit Ultimatebet. I doubt that any of this will hurt his feelings, nor lower his standing among those who do rate him. To pick on someone's known weaknesses achieves little if you're determined to damage their reputation. What hurts more is attacking their strengths. If you can prove that someone's chief strength isn't really that good, you've swept the rug from under their feet. That was why revelations of George W. Bush's drink-driving conviction and the fact that he didn't serve in Vietnam didn't stop him winning two elections. Everyone knew those were his weakneses. But when John Kerry 'reported for duty' at the Democrat's Convention in 2004, the Swift Boat Veterans were able to derail his bid for Commander-in-Chief by undermining his strength: the fact that he had three purple hearts from his service in Vietnam.

Hellmuth's chief claim to fame is that he is the 1989 World Champion. It surprises me then that none of his many detractors point out that along the way he benefited from precisely the same luck that he berates others for receiving. This YouTube clip from the action on the final table that year shows two hands:

The first shows him claiming to have folded a pair of tens (spades and clubs) pre-flop in a three-way pot against Johnny Chan (99) and Don Zewin (AJ). He's folded by far the best hand here, hardly something to be proud of (you can see the hand start at the end of part two of the series). Against those hands, with no further betting, he would have had an equity of roughly 44 per cent. Bizarrely the commentator says 'And Phil Hellmuth is delighted to be out of this one!'. Heaven knows why. A jack and an ace win the hand for Zewin and this brings us to the second hand, where Zewin skillfully makes a sort of anti-squeeze play to get all his chips in holding tens against Phil's ace-ten and a pair of twos held by a short-stack. Phil gets lucky and catches an ace on the flop to eliminate two opponents and get heads-up with Chan.

Zewin's equity was over 50 per cent against both opponents ... and he could have survived a loss to the twos. Hellmuth got lucky here. Don't let him forget it. Next time he charges off about how unlucky he is in the WSOP, remind him how Zewin outplayed him.

_ DY at 9:46 PM BST
Updated: Monday, 21 July 2008 1:22 PM BST
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Friday, 4 July 2008
Victoria Coren online.
Topic: Poker

Victoria Coren has kindly informed me that she now has a website featuring her work. It has archives of her Guardian and Observer columns (if you can find them) and its own blog. Check the latter now to learn of her progress in the $1,500 HORSE event.

She's asked me for my thoughts on the site. The content is impeccable of course, but I find the text rather small. The presentation may change in due course.

Wishing her all the best in the main event.


Tuesday, 10 June 2008
It won't be fun for the people who lose their jobs either.
Topic: Politics

Check out this story from yesterday's FT:

UK heading for steep rise in unemployment.

I can't get over the first sentence:

To add to the concerns of hard-pressed British property owners who already face falling house prices, rising petrol costs and higher utility bills, the UK's labour market is on the verge of a turning point that will bring a significant increase in unemployment.

Is there anywhere else in the world where a story about thousands of people losing their jobs is presented as bad news because of the way it affects the property market for others? I find it incredibly revealing about what is wrong with this country.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Strengths and weaknesses.
Topic: Television

I saw an hour or so of "The Apprentice" on YouTube this week. Until then I can honestly say I'd never felt the slightest curiosity about it, even though the show is very popular with some of my friends. That all changed when I read about a scandal in the press concerning one of the recent candidates on the show and realised that I knew his parents. His name is Michael Sophocles. I won't go into detail about the 'scandal', as having seen his antics on the show, I think it's perhaps the least embarrassing thing about him. It's bad enough that he claimed to be a 'good jewish boy', only to reveal that he no idea what 'kosher' was. It got worse when his aggressive celebration over some minor triumph drew a look of total horror from Alan Sugar's sidekick. To cap it off, he turned into Ricky Gervais when he decided to dance in front of the cameras.

Watching the few clips I found online, I was reminded of what I hate about the job-hunting process in this country. It's the interview process. It's not that I hate interviews personally. I'm actually rather good at them. It's just that I do not think that they are an adequate way of filling vacancies. I've never grasped why so few employers bother to devise a test of the skills required in the job and measure candidates' scores. I got the last formal job I did (night-shift editing) by doing a test that required me to proof-read some documents and précis some long articles. The 'interview' for the job was just a drink in the pub afterwards. It was my score on the test that mattered.

The show does test candidates' abilities across a range of skills. That should be enough. But instead there is also a 'made for TV' bit where he grills people in a group about how they did. Almost invariably they bitch about their colleagues and exaggerate how well they did. Few realise how bad they come across when doing this. Does any of this change Sugar's mind? Well frankly if it does, he's a fool.

Is he all that good a businessman anyway? I don't associate Amstrad with high quality. It's nowhere in the same class as other consumer electronics companies. Its e-mailer device was a joke. As this article points out, Sugar's wealth is mostly .... wait for it ... in property. 

Like most British people whose wealth has increased in the last couple of decades, it's the inflation of asset prices that's propelled him. It's a running joke between myself and 'the Beirut Correspondent' that he would go on Sugar's show and do nothing, before telling Alan Sugar 'I'm doing what you do. I filled in a mortgage application this morning to buy some properties and I'm going to hope they rise in value'.

Reflecting on the show this week, I've come to the realisation that Britain's corporate management is not a source of strength, but a weakness. It's the political stability that this country offers that's held us up so long. All manner of wealthy and successful people have come here because of it. Add to that our relatively flexible labour market and low taxes, and that's it.

Watching "The Apprentice" this week has only confirmed my worst fears about the quality of management in this country. Second rate people hire other second rate people. They get on well in interviews. It's no coincidence that our two greatest comic creations, David Brent and Basil Fawlty, are incompetent bosses. We laugh because it's true.

_ DY at 5:40 PM BST
Updated: Wednesday, 4 June 2008 5:48 PM BST
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Wednesday, 14 May 2008
Economics 100
Topic: Politics

Take a look at the speaking notes of Caroline Flint's 'Papers for Cabinet Meeting':


The media have focused on two parts: paragraphs two (...falls in price later this year - at best down 5-10% year-on-year) and six ("We can't know how bad it will get.") But other parts deserve as much attention for what they reveal about the average Labour politician's level of understanding of economics and the overall way in which they think.

Check out paragraph five:

"Underlying demand for housing remains high and the fundamentals of the economy are sound. But the market is being affected by the global credit crunch, which is making it difficult for many who would like to buy to do so."

It's breathtaking that drivel like this can be uttered in a cabinet meeting. In Economics, 'Demand' means demand backed up by the ability to pay. I'd like to have a Lambourghini but I can't pay for one. It doesn't matter how much I want it, I can't have it. So in economic terms I have no "demand". Now that banks and building societies are no longer giving 100 per cent mortgages and are instead expecting a deposit of anywhere between 10 and 25 per cent, the level of demand had dropped dramatically. Twenty-five per cent of a £300,000 house is £75,000. How many people have that much free cash in their current accounts? Demand is not high.

And then there's the mention of the 'global' credit crunch. This is yet another attempt to present the problem as something totally external to the UK. Of course Britain is not immune to things that happen overseas, but it's naive to suggest that there isn't something wrong here too. There are plenty of British 'sub-prime' borrowers who've borrowed far more than they can afford.

Then there's paragraph four: 'Repossessions are also rising, although we need to remember that the 2007 figure was still only around a third of that in 1991.'

Why on earth is this the relevant comparison? The credit crunch didn't really kick off until the second half of last year. The Northern Rock run was in the second half of September! The housing bubble of the 1980s peaked in August 1988, so a fairer comparison would be with a point earlier than 1991. If the ratio quoted is 1 to 3 now, I think that's an indication of much worse to come.

Paragraphs six to nine are clearly written by with immense faith in the ability of governments to influence events and spare the suffering of the overstretched. There is talk of 'measures' and help for first time buyers. Please God No! Have they learned nothing?

And then there's the part in bold near the bottom: "But it is vital that we show that at this time of uncertainty we show [sic] that we are on people's side."

It really does say 'we show' twice. It's a very revealing typo. It's all about show with New Labour. And in case there's any doubt, Labour has to show that it's on 'people's side'. Well that's a relief. I thought they were on the side of the insects. But sarcasm aside, WHICH people's side are they one? Well from the tone of the note, they are on the side of those who are overextended in the property market - those who've taken on huge debts. I don't recall the government ever caring about people who stayed out of the market because they didn't want to take on unsupportable mortgages. They don't appear to care about future homeowners, just existing ones. So if we follow the logic here, they would favour measures to benefit buy-to-let gamblers (sorry ... investors) at the expense of non-owners who'd like to see a fall in prices.

It's pathetic that cabinets ministers are being briefed by someone with less than a sixth-former's understanding of economics.

_ DY at 3:44 PM BST
Updated: Wednesday, 14 May 2008 3:51 PM BST
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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
The whistle is the warning.
Topic: Poker

There was much fun to be had at Neil Channing's post-win celebration in Holborn last month. Not just because of the free booze and food he laid on, but for the chance to see who turned up in a suit. It's a curious fact of life in the poker world that the people who are the most smartly dressed are the ones most likely to be seeking to borrow money.

With one exception, the evening didn't disprove my theory. Though when I saw Paul Parker dressed in a suit, I did express my concern. He knew the cause of my distress and assured me that the suit didn't mean he was on the nip. He gets a pass.

One person who clearly does understand this principle is the woman in this YouTube clip -

Clearly she's spent a long time in the Vic and knows what she's dealing with.

Talking of YouTube, I love the way the 'Related Videos' section works. I once looked at an interview with Meir Kahane and got offered 'Natalie Portman upskirt video'.

_ DY at 8:18 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 13 May 2008 8:25 PM BST
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Tuesday, 22 April 2008
London's Mayor
Topic: Politics

I'll be on TV tonight. Don't worry, it's not a repeat of 'Bar Beat'. I'm in the audience for ITV's "You Decide" show in which the three main candidates for the job of London Mayor took questions from the public. You'll be relieved to learn that I didn't ask a question.

The real shock of the night for me was the lack of security. My name was not on my ticket. Indeed I don't think the friend who acquired our tickets ('The Beirut Correspondent' from an earlier article about Lebanon) even had to forward my name at all. I was never frisked or searched and never went through any kind of metal detector. I've had more trouble getting into pubs. Anyone who got a gun into the studio could have shot the politician / policeman of their choice.

You'll see most of what was recorded on the show tonight. It's a one hour broadcast and they didn't record much more than that. I'll be interested to know how much of the audience noise comes across. Two seats to my left was a very pretty blond right-wing Tory who shouted 'Liar' at Ken more than once. With a bit of luck that'll get the camera pointed at me at some stage. If you do see it, ask yourself whether Alistair Stewart's introduction of Ken Livingstone was a bit biased (against him). Boris and Brian didn't seem to get such a hard landing. I'll be curious to know whether they include the question from the black man in the audience who said that Boris had claimed that blacks had low IQs. This turned out to be a reference to an article by 'Taki' in the Spectator during the period in which Boris was editor. I also want to know whether anyone clapped when Ken took credit for bringing London the Olympics. I'm sure some of us jeered.

In a lot of ways, the whole thing was a waste of time. The warm-up man asked us during the interval whether anyone had changed their mind. One hand went up in a crowd of about three hundred. Of course the studio audience isn't representative of Londoners as a whole. I didn't hear anyone speaking in Polish for instance. Viewers at home, who don't have a strong political allegiance may look for more subtle tonal clues. From where I sat, Ken was the one who looked like he wanted the job the most. The other two had a certain hollowness to their conviction. Ken had a mildly better grasp of detail, but that is inevitable given that he's the incumbent and has had to deal with the day-to-day issues for eight years. Boris has a flustered look about him which is endearing in many ways, but which makes it look like he doesn't have an answer to the question even when he has. At one point, Ken lost his cool a bit and ranted about SUVs and sports cars having no place driving through London. If you've ever dreamed of driving a Lotus or a Porche through Knightsbridge, there's no place for you in Ken's utopia. Alas I think he said that after filming stopped when they took extra questions from people who'd not been selected during the recorded portion.

The problem with the whole debate, if it can be called that, is that the job is so narrowly drawn that it's hard to have wide differences in ideology. The show was split into four parts - Transport, Crime, Housing and Fitness for Purpose. Inevitably all were in favour improving the first, decreasing the second, increasing the third (hurray!) and claimed to be most fit for the job. Thus the whole night was spent on technical matters about the costs of restoring Routemaster buses, the best methods to reduce anti-social behaviour on buses and how to punish councils that fail to build more houses. The audience didn't believe Boris's tranport costings or Ken's crime figures. These are of course matters of fact rather than opinion or judgement.

Sadly nobody suggested that there was no need for a London mayor.

ITV, 10.40pm

_ DY at 12:53 AM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 22 April 2008 1:13 AM BST
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