'How dare they judge'

SNIGGERS, nudges and raised eyebrows erupted as soon as Susan Doyle stepped on to the Britain's Got Talent stage - and that was just the judges.The moronic audience pointed and tittered at the woman in the gold dress, old for her years, with grey unruly frizzy hair and unplucked eyebrows.

SNIGGERS, nudges and raised eyebrows erupted as soon as Susan Doyle stepped on to the Britain's Got Talent stage - and that was just the judges.

The moronic audience pointed and tittered at the woman in the gold dress, old for her years, with grey unruly frizzy hair and unplucked eyebrows.

'What does she think she's doing on the stage?' you could almost hear them hiss to each other. Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan all eyed her with derision.

Like second nature, each and every person in that auditorium judged Susan Boyle by her appearance, instantly labelling her batty, poised to break into their football terrace chanting 'off, off, off' - because she wasn't glamorous. Because she had the temerity to walk into public view without a veneer of gloss and gleam.

Then Susan opened her mouth to sing and as she hit every note of I Dreamed a Dream, like fickle puppets, lobotomised performing seals, the gormless lot all stood up, clapped and cheered and turned near hysterical.

From a jeering baying mob they became her biggest supporters. Frumpiness forgiven because she had talent. Incredible talent.

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The judges - as if they hadn't been unnecessarily cruel already and the people who should be trying to quash the obsession that looks and gloss are everything - told her that the crowd had been laughing at her before she sang. Ridiculing her.

Vocalising surprise that something so amazing could come out of a woman who looked like her was outrageous.

I wanted to wring their scrawny necks. The audience, the judges.

What does this attitude teach children - the biggest audience of BGT? It teaches them to bully, tease, deride and, frankly terrorise, people if they look different.

How dare they?

How dare they judge a woman for choosing other priorities and values than getting dolled up and preened?

But most importantly, how dare anyone laugh at another so freely?

What if Susan hadn't sung like an angel? Justification for the nastiness?

It turns out that Susan was bullied at school because of her looks. It must have taken gargantuan strength for her to get up on that stage. There is a multitude of Susans out there, whose lives have been made a misery by bullies.

Today bullies are legitimised because they're an 'audience' with such little talent they have nothing to offer but insults.

We've had enough of glossed and preened empty talentless vessels. We want real people to succeed because of merit.

By all accounts Susan is a remarkable person as well as a singer - remarkable in her warmth of character, in what she gives to others.

She's good where it counts - in the heart. Something the thick audience and overpaid judges could learn.

ANOTHER storm in a teacup in Westminster.

Why should anyone be surprised that the Prime Minister's advisor was involved in silly emails and proposed smear campaigns? It's what politics at the highest level is all about.

Everyone who rises to the top in politics knows the game when they sign up - and what a big game it is. For many of those scrabbling for the top, it's exactly the game, the intrigue, and the in-fighting and petty politics that drew them into it in the first place.

The people I always feel for during these shenanigans at the top are the rank and file MPs.

The MPs like Bob Blizzard, John Gummer and co, doing the job they're paid to, dedicated and hard, for the right reasons, putting their heart and soul into representing their constituents.

They are as far removed from the rumpus at the top of the party as we are but, in the public view as MPs, they end up being tarred by the same tainted brush. Gravy-trainers on the fiddle.

Politics throughout history has attracted two polarised characters - those fascinated and fired by the machinations, the power, the gossip and the tactics and those with a genuine heartfelt will to serve.

We get to hear too much about the former but don't hear enough, or give credit enough, about the work of the latter.

SO Russian Kristina Rihanoff has been doing a sneaky raunchy rumba with Italian stallion Vincent Simone, Rachel Stevens' partner in the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing.

I suppose you take fun where you can get it if you've been dragged across the floor like a sack of spuds and pushed round the dance floor by John Sergeant.

IMAGINE the scene in the home of king and queen of self-congratulation, Sting and his wife Trudie Styler?

While the rest of us invite friends over for a meal and a chat, they invite 20 of 'like-minded souls' and 'some of the brightest creative minds we know' for a week of 'social consciousness and creativity' at their Tuscan farmhouse to 'rethink how change happens in our society' - and actually write this on their invitations.

If your toes aren't already curling with the excruciating pretentiousness of it all, the rest of the invitation is equally painfully cringeworthy.

Trudie goes on: 'I'll be clucking like a gorgeous mother hen, ensuring that we'll be fed and wined to the max, sun-kissed and stimulated into oblivion/presence - you choose!' The mind boggles.

Wouldn't these 'creative minds' do better to get out and meet the real people in the society they're hoping to change rather than wallowing in their millions in the 700 acres of woods and lakes of the Sting estate and gazing at their own navels?

SO the Obamas are leap-frogging the real puppy stage to start their dog-owning experience with a six-month-old that, presumably, is already housetrained and has the basic obedience skills.

Lightweights. I liked the idea of the President trotting his new baby into the White House garden in the middle of the night and scooping his morning accidents while his puppy tugged on his pj bottoms.

I CAN remember 20 years ago last Wednesday as if it were yesterday. Finishing an essay about the French Enlightenment in my attic flat in the student suburbs of Sheffield, I was watching TV coverage of the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

My flatmate was at the game, at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground across the city.

It was a gloriously sunny day and I'd been into the city centre that morning where the red and white of Liverpool fans had been fluttering from cars and around fans' necks as they made the most of their day out. Cheering, laughing, enjoying the sunshine in high spirits.

The brilliant sunshine had brought the darkest day.

My flatmate was safe but three fellow students at the University of Sheffield were among the 96 killed, two young men and one woman, popular and well liked, snuffed out before their lives had even begun.

Sheffield was a dark place for weeks. At university, just before final exams, black-covered tables were set up with books of condolence. Flags at half mast, we lit candles. A bursary was set up in their memory, their contribution never forgotten.

Twenty years on, the families of the 96 dead are still fighting to force police to acknowledge that changing officers' statements amounted to a cover-up.

Lessons in football were learned from that terrible day and the game has never been safer.

But, as police close ranks in the wake of the G20 death and the words 'cover up' are uttered again, have the police as an institution and as individuals learned lessons from that terrible day? Tragically, it appears not.

HIGHLY educated example setters with the future of our children in their hands chanted 'no more Sats' wearing t-shirts bearing the slogan 'NUT - No Useless Tests.' I can think of a replacement word for 'test' - teachers.

This is the problem I have with teachers. They spend so much time with children they can end up acting like them.

We look to teachers to demonstrate decorum, self-restraint and win arguments with intelligence, quick wit and erudite points - not chanting, shouting and acting like mindless louts.

MY mother-in-law is 80 and feels guilty every time she uses her bus pass. She's been known to try to avoid concessions and pay the full fare, arguing the toss with bus drivers, she feels so strongly.

Her view is that she is lucky to have more than the state pension to live on and can afford to pay her own fares.

She would prefer the money to be spent helping those who really need free travel - elderly people on the basic pension, young families, people in real need.

When I wrote about bus passes a couple of weeks, pensioners wrote in affronted that I should suggest they didn't deserve it.

Many old people on low incomes do deserve passes - because they need the financial help. But many don't. Incomes of pensioners vary as widely as incomes of working people.

Like child benefit, these benefits should be means tested. Why should a millionaire's family receive the same in child benefit as a family struggling to make ends meet? Why should they receive child benefit at all? They don't need it.

Bus passes should be issued to those in real need of free travel and then the state might be able to provide those extra benefits like long-distance coach travel recently withdrawn because the whole scheme got too expensive.