Brian Monteith: Time’s up for Fergie . . and feckless coalition

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When I want to get the national and international news in the evening there is, in my humble estimation, only one programme worth turning to – Jeff Randall Live on Sky News at 7pm.

Unlike the other news programmes, it is lower on editorialising and more interested in facts, hard numbers and economic trends that tell you what is not just happening today but what is over the horizon too. Randall is usually very well researched as an anchorman and, with his wealth of business journalism behind him, gets straight to the heart of a matter rather than accepting and playing along with all the spin he’s offered.

It might be a chief executive of Starbucks or McDonald’s, or someone from the IMF or World Bank – how often would these people be asked on BBC or ITV? – but all are grilled. Then, leaving no stone unturned, an analyst that knows the subject, rather than an opinionated in-house reporter whose insight is skin deep, is asked to react to the chief executive’s comments. It never pays to waffle on Jeff Randall’s show.

It’s refreshing and required viewing for anyone really interested in what’s happening or what’s about to happen, so you can tell something by what’s in it and what’s not. Wednesday’s programme was very revealing, for two worlds collided with big news stories and Randall had to decide which was the top issue – and he chose correctly. It was the announcement of the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

The other big story was the Queen’s Speech; ordinarily a big news occasion as it determines the political course of events of the next year and, like the Budget, offers all sorts of opportunities to analyse and discuss what’s going to happen and why.

Not this time, though, for the Queen’s Speech was an anti-climax. It lasted little over seven minutes and in truth it said nothing that would impact on the economy, the deficit or the national debt – the only issue of interest to Randall was what it said about immigration and how Cameron and Clegg were proposing to try and limit immigration fraud.

Now I happen to think that the reaction to Fergie’s retiral has been out of all proportion to its importance. Claims that it is the biggest thing since the fall of the Berlin Wall (honestly) or that Fergie is football’s 
Margaret Thatcher show some people are wired to the moon or must only eat, sleep and breath Manchester United (poor souls, they should get a real life and properly follow a team that lives in reality such as Scunthorpe United or Ross County, and keep United for watching the telly).

Millions will not have their subjugated lives changed forever by Fergie’s departure, nor is there such a thing in football called Fergie-ism. He’s a winner, yes. The best British manager of all time? Probably yes. But a leader who changed the way things are done around the world? Er, no.

Even so, the story lasted for fully 20 minutes on Randall’s show, ostensibly because Manchester United are listed on the New York Stock Exchange. More likely because there was no real meat in the Queen’s Speech – and here’s the thing.

This tells us all we need to know about the coalition government and where it is going.

Clearly it is caught in a series of economic storms where at times it is becalmed and then without warning the waves are crashing in and many hands are being lost. The captain and his first mate are lashed together to the mast hoping the helmsman knows what he’s doing and can get them to brighter, safer waters. Shame he can’t read the treasure map.

George Osborne’s never done this job before – indeed, it looks like it’s his first real job, as it is for Captain Cameron and First Mate Clegg, too.

They are all freshmen at sea – and those people in other countries such as France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Ireland and so many more that they think are waving at them are, of course, all drowning.

And, with Cameron and Clegg wanting to go to different ports, unable to agree about very much, the charts known as the Queen’s Speech is useless.

Jeff Randall saw this and asked “where’s the real news?” Fergie’s departure was the big story, and then a live broadcast of the return of an Ohio kidnap victim bumped the Queen’s Speech to third spot, with the young man Jeff was interviewing in the studio about immigration being chopped to only two questions.

The coalition is finished. They know it, we know it, everybody knows it – the ship of state is pretty much drifting and is at the mercy of the seas and the gales.

We had better start rowing for ourselves for the only people that will get us out of this mess are the British public and their hard work. Leave it to our politicians? That’s not a story, that’s a tragedy.