Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Politicians being huffy isn’t a new thing in NI as the health crisis proves, our lot refuse to work together for common good

US President Donald Trump and wife Melania at Clarence House
US President Donald Trump and wife Melania at Clarence House
Justin Trudeau at the NATO reception
The Peloton exercise bike advert
Greta Thunberg

By Lindy McDowell

Did Trump really take the hump at the NATO conference? More to the point, even if he did head off in a huff, how much should that really matter?

Headlines from the conference this week have focused not on what you might think would be the big picture - what was actually agreed and progress, if any, made - but on a small clip from a soiree at Buckingham Palace.

In it a group of his fellow leaders of the intergovernmental military alliance (along with Princess Anne whose hairdo alone could repel a Scud) can be seen apparently having a laugh at Mr Trump's expense.

They were caught on camera - and an open mic - sneering at the President's long-winded question and answer session with the Press.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian PM, is seen making a face as he talks about something said which, he claims, caused the Trump team's jaws to hit the floor. Emmanuel Macron of France nods enthusiastically.

When the notoriously thin-skinned Donald left the conference the following morning without speaking to the media the common assumption was he was off in a sulk.

Later he sort of confirmed this by describing Trudeau as "two-faced" and then tweeting a controversial pic of the Canadian PM wearing blackface. Two-faced indeed.

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Trump had earlier laid into Macron after the latter had called NATO brain dead.

And it's hard to imagine he wasn't just a little put out by Boris Johnson orbiting him like a magpie round a cat.

BoJo was concerned that being photographed with the US president (accused of wishing to gobble up the NHS) would damage Tory election chances.

On all sides then, a bit juvenile. Especially those European leaders sniggering over the canapes unaware that their conversation was being recorded.

If these boys can't spot an open mic in the near vicinity how are we supposed to have confidence they'll notice an incoming ballistic missile?

This was a meeting of the West's premier military alliance reduced to the equivalent of a spat between competitors at the local garden fete over who deserved the rosette for Biggest Pumpkin in Show.

Trump may be the frontline NATO narcissist but he isn't its sole ego-warrior. They're all jostling for the prize there.

And sadly that's what the story became this week. Not discussion about the need for NATO or its worth or its cost.

Instead we got analysis from body language "experts" about whether Trump was tetchy or Trudeau keen to make amends.

But we don't need body language experts to tell us that it's always all about them - leaders pushing their own agendas. Although in fairness in this case, despite their division they were still prepared to hang together for the common good.

Which brings us to our own lot back at home.

In the run-up to the election next week the big story in Northern Ireland right now is the inescapable evidence of public services collapsing around us.

Health workers, dedicated professionals who have put heart and soul and unappreciated hours into the NHS have been forced this week into industrial action that has already caused real difficulty and distress.

We have no Assembly or Executive to address this.

Politicians being huffy with each other isn't such a new thing. As this week's NATO fallout has shown it's often just a diversion from the real story.

But the Stormont stand-off is on a whole different level. It's causing real harm to some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

Perhaps this week's industrial action will finally start to bring things to a head.

But the inescapable reality that's been staring us in the face for ages now is that the Assembly has failed.

Our politicians refuse to work together for the common good.

Their political epitaph will be that their pre-conditions were more important than human life.

It's over. Time for Westminster to take control.

Climate summit in Madrid just plane crazy

Environmentalists were meeting this week in Madrid to discuss climate crisis brought about by careless use of the earth's resources. I'm not sure how many were there in total - apart from Greta Thunberg - but maybe hundreds, thousands. All requiring trans-global transportation. Not everybody has a boat like Greta. Would it not have cut down a bit on the emissions if they'd just stayed home and used Skype?

I watched the Peloton ad several times this week in order to take offence. But honestly, I’m still not feeling it

In case you missed the furore over the promo for the exercise bike that costs more than a second-hand car (and requires monthly running costs), it's been described as sexist, a horror movie and dystopian.

Not good, then.

I was expecting The Handmaid's Tale with pedals.

Such was the social media backlash that shares in the company took a pounding in the immediate aftermath. Pretty impressive for a commercial that lasts less than a minute.

It features a woman being given one as a surprise gift for Christmas.

She does a vlog charting her efforts - including one very early morning rise to fit in a session - and this she plays back the following Christmas to thank her husband and to report on how it has "changed" her.

Except that it hasn't. She was rail thin and as athletic as an Olympian to start with. And there is no discernible difference after her year as Bradley Wiggins.

Throughout though she does have an unhinged look in her eyes which has led some critics to - rightly - compare her demeanour to that of a woman being held hostage.

Her husband is castigated as "controlling" since he bought her the bike in the first place and obviously meant it, the brute, as a signal that she needed to shape up...

Are we not taking this all a wee bit too seriously?

It's not the alleged sexism in the ad that shocks me. It's the price of the thing.

We’re going OTT on the festive tat

Christmas is great and I love it. But sometimes you do get the feeling that there's just too much of it. Among the new must-haves for Christmas decoration I've noticed this year are covers like big flat Santa hats you pull over the back of your chairs to add to the festive ambience. Do we really need such stuff? And how much of this tat is destined to end up in landfill?

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