It’s only an advert?

David Cameron has been accused of sexism after he told a female MP to “calm down dear” during a Commons exchange at PMQ’s.

The prime minister borrowed the catchphrase made famous by Michael Winner, during a row about NHS reforms.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Angela Eagle, at whom the comment was aimed, said “a modern man” would not have “expressed himself that way”.

But a Downing Street spokesman said it was just “a humorous remark”.

The last time this catchphrase was used during Michael Winner’s recent appearance on Have I Got News For You it didn’t quite get the same reaction. As he answered one question, he looked up at the audience, grinned his trademark smile, and said: “Calm down dear.”

The audience stayed largely silent. Paul Merton sighed: “Glad we got that out of the way.”

If Winner was made to look a touch silly, he probably wouldn’t mind. For nearly three years now, he has been the star – and director – of a series of adverts for insurance company Esure which have been as irritating as they have been effective.

Whether crashing a car, or dressing up in drag and standing on a chair, Winner showed no reluctance to make himself look a bit foolish for the sake of publicity. And the tactic has worked: the company claims it has reached a million policies in less than four years in business.

The catchphrase has certainly made the leap into wider usage, what Francesca Newland of Campaign magazine describes as “the Holy Grail of advertising”. A spokeswoman for Esure said awareness has been amazing, with even Rory Bremner doing a sketch incorporating it (“Calm down dear, I’m just the prime minister”).

But Winner has now been shunted sideways in favour of a rodent, as the company, having established its name, tries to emphasise its online sales operation instead.

Perhaps then there is hope that a certain prime minister may be shunted sideways especially if he continues to make an arse of himself.

Now wasn’t there mention of a rodent by Ms Harman….

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Standing up to be counted

I marched for the alternative

I marched with fellow trade unionists, young people, youth organisations, students and  anti-cuts activists who all united to form a 500,000 strong ‘March for the Alternative’ on the 26th March.

Together we hoped to send a clear message to the government that the demolition to the public sector, to youth services to the NHS and other services such as welfare, are not the way to tackle the deficit and are nothing other than a politically motivated choice.

My trade union Unite, like many others organised transport for its members from all over the country, and after an early start the day began on the Embankment where the unions, community organisations and other groups formed up to begin the march. The noise was totally deafening amongst the crowd with vuvuzelas, whistles and clappers, with those marching accompanied by drummers, brass bands, samba bands and of course the hundreds of thousands of voices singing and dancing as they moved slowly through the streets of London. The streets were filled with music, with song, with banners and placards…with people.  See video here.

The route wound its way through London and eventually arrived for a rally in Hyde Park where many listened eagerly to speakers including Ed Milliband, Labour Party Leader and Len McCluskey, our General Secretary. Ed spoke and drew comparisons with campaigns such as the suffragettes whilst Len spelt out clearly the alternatives to the demolition of public services caused by the spiffs and speculators, not the workers.

Much of the media attention after the march concentrated on the minority involved in damage to public and private property and somewhat failed to highlight the reality of an estimated 500,000 demonstrators who had collectively come together from all over the country to march for an alternative. Good coverage could however be found in the Sunday Mirror and Sunday Observer.

Meanwhile we wait for the government’s response. And while we wait, we plan for the next stage of the campaign.