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Iconic Moments

Moments that change people's perception of the world they live in or that reinforce prejudice and irrationality or moments that are simply misunderstood and have unintended consequences, moments given more prominence by the media than they deserve and therefore lead to unnecessary harm.


Rivers of Blood - Enoch Powell

enochIn 1968 Enoch Powell was a Tory MP in opposition to the Wilson government. He was an outspoken critic, passionate about any topic he found wrong. He found the Race Relations Bill that Labour were proposing to introduce very wrong. He addressed the subject of immigration at a meeting in Birmingham in April 68.

Reading through his speech, we see Powell is at pains to make the point that the British public had not been consulted on the issues of the proposed Bill. At root he foresees a trend that we have become accustomed to now, a world in which the politicians make massive social changes, unaware or unconcerned about the consequences of their decision making.

He never did talk about "rivers of blood". What he actually said was: "Like the Roman, I see the River Tiber foaming with blood." He spoke for over an hour and only that one sentence, distorted by the press, is ever remembered but read what he says, it comes out of the blue, at the end, unexpected, like a poke in the eye.


Gordon Brown - Done for by a bigot

In April 2010, Gordon Brown 'done for himself' by describing Gillian Duffy,gb labour voter and pensioner, as a "bigoted women" because she dared to quiz the cheerless twerp over immigration. Brown stupidly left his microphone on when he drove away from the encounter with Duffy, which was part of his meet the people election campaign. Brown asked his aid, "Who put me with that bigoted woman?" He was not pleased, he was less pleased to have his conversation in the car played back to him, live on the radio, an hour later.

The next day, he went back to Gillian's house to apologise, it didn't wash and Brown disappeared from the public gaze.

Ironic Justice: Forty years after Enoch's fall from grace, Brown joined him over the same subject! TOP


Blair's Folly

domeThe Millennium Dome some how seems emblematic of the New Labour years, a costly and grand empty gesture. Tony Blair called it "a triumph of confidence over cynicism, boldness over blandness, excellence over mediocrity" - he then passed the pipe he was smoking to John Prescott, who continues to babble such nonsense to this day. For a long time no one wanted to buy the empty Dome but eventually 02 acquired it for a song (pun intended) and changed its name and now everyone's forgotten about the tragic Dome.

The Dome was open for a year, according to the NAO, it cost just short of £800 million, mainly funded by the National Lottery. The Dome was costed at £400m but stands quite low down on the Labour's list of silly spending.

The Best We Could Do: Blair managed to delude himself that an empty hi-tech circus tent was emblematic of British achievement at the turn of the century. For some reason, the British public didn't buy into his delusion.



Mary Bale - Catwomen

Bank worker, Mary Bale had her fifteen minutes of fame in August 2010. Mary stopped to stroke a cat who was sitting on top of a wheelie bin. After stroking the cat, Mary walked a few steps away then turned on her heals, picked up the cat by the scruff of its neck and popped it in the wheelie bin. All of this was caught on the cat owner's CCTV camera.

Mary was later fined £200 with court costs but worse she had to suffer the rage of cat lovers across the nation; she received a number of death threats, inspired by a brainless Twitter hate campaign.


Commit a crime, commit murder but in England do not harm a pet animal.

Lola back from the bin: Mary couldn't explain her impulsive attack on the cat but animal lovers decided the impulse was cruelty. Local mice have told Blast-It that Lola is not averse to a bit of cruelty herself.




Neville Chamberlain

In 1938, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain went to Germany to secure pieceneville for Britain. He came back waving a piece of paper, his reassurance to the nation, claiming his meeting with the Fuehrer was a resounding success and that there was no need for further worry about war with Germany.

A year later, Germany invaded Poland and Britain declared war on Germany. Mr Chamberlain was disappeared like Mitt Romney.


Famous last words: "I believe it is peace in our time."


A Pledge Too Far

clegg_pledgePeople often say that politicians are out of touch with the electorate, Nick Clegg, LibDem leader and Deputy Leader of the ConDem Coalition, is out of touch with himself. In 2010, he made a pre-election pledge to oppose any increase in tuition fees for university students. Following an inconclusive election for all concerned, he did a deal with the Tories and promptly forgot his tuition fee pledge, ie. the one that got his party the student vote. He told a BBC TV interviewer: "You need to be careful. I should have been more careful perhaps in signing that pledge at the time."

You either believe in something or you don't, being careful has nothing to do with taking a principled stance. Before Clegg reneged on the pledge he said that a suggested fee of £7000 would be a "disaster". But clearly not as disastrous as being sidelined from government for another century.

Clegg now considers £9000 a year for tuition fees fair and progressive, that's £5,200 more than when he made the pledge.


The MMR Panic

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published an article in the medical journal Therubella Lancet. The article claimed to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

This article scared a lot of families considering vaccination for their children, leading thousands over the coming few years to not have their children vaccinated.

The campaign against vaccination was promoted heavily by the press, some 1200 articles were written on the topic by non-experts.

Investigation into Wakefield's claims found that he had cooked the books, his claims had no scientific basis. The damage was done, thousands of children died needlessly for want of a simple injection to prevent measles, mumps and rubella.

Andrew Wakefield was finally struck off the medical register, 10 years after his article appeared in the The Lancet - that tells its own story. And the panic he created continues in South Wales today.

The power of lies: Wakefield's lying had a global impact, fuelled by ill-informed press support for his theories. And it was not only the MMR vaccine programme that was affected, many parents became averse to all forms of vaccination. (Image: rubella virus, just so you'll know it, the next time you see it.)



Sir Peter Viggers

duckhouseThe MPs' expenses scandal revealed that our politicians were small minded, deceitful and a duplicitous bunch. They bought new kitchens, decorated and furnished their homes and gardens.

The rules said that expenses should be claimed for carrying out their work as members of Parliament - most just fiddled the books. Viggers stands out because his claim for a duck house really made the public sit up and pay attention to the behaviour of our out of touch political class. Beyond the duck house, Viggers claimed for over £30,000 of gardening services in a three year period.

Viggers skulked off following scrutiny of his expense claims, including 'flipping' and excessive mortgage interest claims - he escaped prosecution.

Viggers Duck House, £1,665: Viggers tried to claim for the duck house on expenses but was told to get lost. Due to the media coverage, the duck house vanished from his pond - it was auctioned for charity. TOP

Spend Spend Spend

In 1961, Viv Nicholson, won £152,319 – that's £5 million in today's money, andviv.n she spent it all in just four years. The press asked Viv what she was going to do with the money and she famously said: " I'm going to spend, spend, spend."

Viv appeared on the cover of The Smiths single 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' and that just about sums up her story - lots of drink and unhappiness.

Miserable or not, Viv was iconic enough to have a successful West End musical based on her life. And an award winning BBC Play for Today, written by Jack Rosenthal, told her life story.

The Power of Repetition: Tony Blair tried to use the power of repetition, with his education mantra but Viv will be remembered long after he's gone.

Footnote: Age 75, in 2011, Viv said she was happy.



The Assassination of J F K

President Kennedy was shot whilst on a trip to Dallas, in November 1963. The jfk reason for his shooting and who did it remains a mystery.

The official story, according to the Warren Commission, is that lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, did the deed. Oswald was captured in no time at all and never did have his day in court, he was conveniently shot in turn by Jack Ruby on his way to the courthouse. The shooting was shown live on television - several times - but Ruby successfully appealed against his conviction - how did that happen? Whilst waiting for a re-trial, Ruby was done for by heart failure.

The conspiracy theorists have a number of suggestions as to who killed John Kennedy; it was a mob hit, it was the CIA, the KGB, cross-dressers at the FBI, it was the Cubans, it was right wing supremacists or Zionists. One thing from the evidence seems pretty clear - there is no way that Lee Harvey Oswald, using a rubbish old rifle, could have taken the shots from the Book Depository. Someone else must have been shooting from the Grassy Knoll.

"Ich bin ein Berliner": Kennedy went to Berlin to have a look at the nice new wall that the Soviets had built across the city, to protect the people of the East from western decadence, and announced to a crowd of a million people " I am a Berliner." All a bit strange, in some parts of Germany, a Berliner is a jelly doughnut?

The Year of the Vuvuzela

vuvuzela2010 was the year that English football was thoroughly humiliated at the South Africa World Cup.

Someone tied Wayne Rooney's boot laces together and his team mates didn't tell him. Poor Wayne, spent the bit of the tournament England was allowed to play in, passing the ball to the opposing teams.

Fabulous Fabio kept popping up on TV with his post-match thoughts but the TV companies couldn't find anyone who could translate bollocks, so we made our own minds up.

And TV service providers were unable to deal with the number of customers asking for assistance - to deal with the wasp nests inside their televisions.

What fools we were: What fools we were, the noise was coming from thousands of Vuvuzelas, tuneless plastic toys blown by the 'locals'. Snooty commentators told us that it was all part of the Culture - making a hideous, unrelenting and pointless noise - really?




Suffragette Martyr

The suffragettes were radical, violent, prepared for imprisonment, and even emily_davison death to secure the vote for women. (Finally achieved in 1928.)

They attacked parliament, they attacked the police, they burnt and blew up buildings, they assaulted government ministers and they went on hunger strike, some died.

The death of Emily Wilding Davison, however, made her a martyr to the cause. On Derby Day 1913, Emily ran in front of the horses, attempting to catch the reins of the King's horse, she was trampled. The horse was unhurt.

Whilst Emily lay dying of her injuries at Epsom Cottage Hospital, she received a torrent of hate mail from animal lovers, concerned at the harm she may have caused to the horse. TOP


The Profumo Affair

keelerMP, John Profumo's brief affair with 'call girl' Christine Keeler, ruined his career, caused a prime minister to resign and brought down the Conservative government in 1963.

Profumo met Keeler at a Lord Astor party in 1961, little did he know that she had some dodgy connections, including Russian spies, drug dealers, violent gangsters and a pimping osteopath.

The affair between Profumo and Keeler lasted only a few weeks but the damage was done. Challenged about the affair in parliament, Profumo lied. In March, he said there's been "no impropriety whatsoever", in June, he quit.

Nothing has been proved.... except perjury: Keeler ended up in prison on a perjury charge, related to an attempted murder (hers) and the pimping osteopath was silenced by the spooks. TOP



The Black Death

The Black Death, spread by a rat flee, wiped out a third or more of the population of the British Isles in the 14th Century, the majority died betweenrattus rattus 1348 and 1350.

And that little rat flee changed the medieval world, prices rose, in particular the price of labour, land use changed and the population became mobile. The Church had fewer answers than the medics as to the cause of the plague and this led to a more questioning attitude amongst the peasants.

For a brief while it looked as if the whole world was being turned upside down, were we witnessing the end of feudalism, no, sorry, it took a while (about a 100 years) but the barons gained the upper hand again, once it was safe to leave their castles.

Rattus Rattus: Please note, the rat pictured may not be the one responsible for spreading the plague? In the history of naming, an identical double-barrelled name is rare, in fact, apart from the rat, only Boutros Boutros-Ghali and New York New York qualify. One wit suggested that the rat was named on a Friday afternoon. TOP


World Wide Web

tim berners-leeAs iconic moments go, this one is more special than most. Working at Cern, Tim Berners-Lee was thinking about the problems of information management and sharing information with colleagues. He drew himself a diagram, detailing the flow of information around a Web of computers, where documents would be accessed using hyperlinks. Tim created the first web page, detailing how his Web would operate. This was 1989, the Internet had been around for 20 years but the public were not invited to use it, until Tim proposed his Web. Then he and his co-workers created the first browsers.

Tim's creativity laid the foundations for the Web we use today but one fundamental event occurred in 1993 that made open access and the freedom of the Web possible. Cern placed all rights to the Web in the Public Domain - the World Wide Web was born.

Tim is still working to protect the freedom of the Web and be in no doubt, many governments across the world have designs on curtailing the openness we currently enjoy. TOP


Rock Around The Clock

They say that American DJ Alan Freed first used the term 'rock and roll' to describe the music he was playing back in the early 50s. Whatever he was playing, nobody was listening here in the UK.

Young and old alike were being served up a diet of safe and calm crooning, from the likes of Johnnie Ray and Nat 'King' Cole.

Then, in the middle of the decade, a film arrived from the US, The Blackboard Jungle, and playing under the credits, Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets.

Teddy Boys throughout the land went on the rampage and not a few cinemas had their seating rearranged, suffice it to say, the kids had had enough of crooning.

bill haley

That's Bill with his Comets, he's the one with the kiss curl, 30 years old and an unlikely teenage icon but credit to him, he was still touring and milking Rock Around The Clock well into the 1970s.

Whatever happened to Brylcreem - well, actually it's very much still available but the kiss curl is not much seen these days. TOP




The Hand of God

In 1986, Argentina won the World Cup and Diego Maradona was named as Player of the Tournament.hand of god This added insult to injury for the England side, who were beaten 2-1 in the quarter final by Argentina. Early on in the second half of the match Maradona jumped in front of Peter Shilton and knocked the ball into the English goal with his hand.

Referee Ali Bin Nasser and his linesman failed to see Maradona's cheating antics, and so did those who considered the cheat a worthy candidate for Player of the Tournament. Worth noting that Maradona's teammates knew what he had done and initially didn't go near him for the usual roll on the the ground for hugs and kisses.

Maradona later claimed the goal had been scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God". Liar!


The Fosbury Flop

fosbury flop

At the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games the high jump was largely a scissor-kick affair, that was until Dick Fosbury arrived to jump. Dick soared over the bar at 7' 4 1/4", no one else came close.

Ten years later the scissor-kick technique had been consigned to the history books. As was the western roll, as used by the 1964 winner Valeriy Brumel. Fosbury's best effort using the western roll was a lowly 5' 4".

Mysteriously, Dick didn't take to being famous. Fosbury disappeared from the public gaze, never to compete again. TOP