Panel of experts
Reporter: John Hardcastle
Date online: 29 June 2010
Following England’s disastrous exit from the World Cup I was watching the BBC panel of Lineker, Hansen and Shearer dissect our national team’s uninspiring performance. For some reason I chose that moment to reflect upon a purely local ‘disaster’; that of Paul Rowen’s surprise drubbing in the general election. In a rare moment of clarity I realised that what had then been lacking to account for this unexpected outcome was the opinion of a panel of experts to analyse and explain the result.
Here in Rochdale, we may not have Lineker and Hansen but we do have the Regal Moon. Within its portals, expert opinion on almost any subject under the sun is brought to bear by a semi-residential ‘think-tank’ who meet daily to study the major issues affecting the world and to deliver their judgements upon them. These are available to all for the price of a Wetherspoons pint.
The first two or three tables on the left as you walk in are usually taken up with sports enthusiasts. Here, the contents of the day’s tabloids are studied in great detail and yesterday's performances on track, field or motor-racing circuit are not only examined in great depth, and a strategy for repeating any future defeats offered, but, if you are lucky, you will be given the winner of today’s 3.30 at Kempton into the bargain!
Over on the right, the political pundits have pulled two tables together and are hard at work assessing events both local and national. They are an eclectic bunch including within their number an ex-councillor, two freemasons, a defrocked priest, two recipients of Job Seekers Allowance and a dark, moody chap who wears an electronic tag on his ankle and has to be home well before dusk.
The political pundits are a raucous crew and have to be warned to keep the noise down by the bar staff from time to time. When discussing the latest political topic, whether it be the fiddling of expenses, the increase in VAT or the comedic posturing of Messrs Clegg and Cameron, the only real difference of opinion tends to centre around whether or not it is best to take them out and shoot them up against the wall or resort to good, old-fashioned hanging en masse. All agree that they are a bunch of crooks, although the freemasons demure slightly on the basis that they feel that the Tories are not quite as crooked as Labour.
The crowd over at the bar are concerned with the Metrolink extension. One chap, who commutes to the Regal Moon from Castleton on a daily basis, is very enthusiastic as he has calculated that it will knock six minutes off the return journey thus allowing him time for another half pint at the very least. Others are less sure about the benefits and wonder if yet more pubs will be demolished in order to bring the tracks into the town centre.
There is still talk of this year’s general election, although the memory of it is fast fading. Some are of the opinion that Paul Rowen lost because his white hair made him look too old for the job. Others cling stubbornly to the bizarre notion that Simon Danczuk’s campaign was bankrolled with secret funds by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, although how and why are not fully explained apart from the fact that both have foreign-sounding names.
The panel of experts meets daily from as early as 7 am, although it is usually 11-ish before the main body is assembled and the debating chamber begins to buzz with animated conversation. It is rather like the Rochdale Online forum but with beer and cheap food.
You all know what Clint Eastwood said about opinions. In the 1971 film ‘Dirty Harry’, Inspector Harry Callaghan offers us the immortal line, “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got one.” Nowhere, in Rochdale at least, is this more apparent than in the Regal Moon.
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