Nonstarters: a really sweet father-daughter business that's still rubbish

This week's worst kickstarter video.

This planet is beset by problems. Uncontrollable industrial proliferation, religious intolerance, carpal tunnel syndrome, fossil fuel dependency.

But the real threat may be discarded tennis balls. In fact, if we don’t turn them all into chairs soon, the last human action may be a single hand thrust desperately from a bumpy yellow sea.

That is, at least, according to the Tennis Ball Chair project, whose founders tell us some 400,000,000 of the beloved spheres are hurled into the dark places beneath the earth each year.

I don’t want to scoff at legitimate concerns about resource waste. I just don’t think tennis balls are a significantly large enough part of the problem to incite consumers to want to buy a solution.

I also don’t want to scoff too much at the naivete of this pitch, because it’s actually a really sweet effort by a father and daughter to go into business together.

Unfortunately, it’s still rubbish:

The target market for this product is a fragile scrap of venn diagram confluence space connecting “people who play phenomenal amounts of tennis”, “people who are worried about the tennis ball waste crisis”, “people who can be arsed to save up 56 tennis balls, drill holes in them and make a chair” and “people who don’t really mind sitting on a bunch of tennis balls”.

Even if America’s tennis balls were all turned into furniture (and that would mean 7 million chairs per year), I imagine that most would end up in landfills later down the line anyway. Because, really, who’s going to pass these things on to their grandchildren?

Altogether, this project smacks of a good father building a ramshackle business rationale around his daughter’s realisation that “I guess you could make a chair out of tennis balls” to make a summer project that she’ll remember fondly for the rest of her life.

Sadly, it also reminds us that even in the soft-focus world of kickstarter, capital doesn’t change hands based on how sincerely the pitcher wants to do something.

Tennis ball chair project. Photograph:

By day, Fred Crawley is editor of Credit Today and Insolvency Today. By night, he reviews graphic novels for the New Statesman.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.