Friday, September 30, 2005

And there's still some nastiness in the Conservative Party!

A recent posting by a fellow Labour blogger:

So while I was at Labour party conference, talking about social justice and equality, it seems that Ann Winterton was doing her best to join the BNP:

Her latest remarks appeared in an article for the Congleton Guardian, in which she expressed sympathy for the families of the victims of the London bomb attacks in July.

In it, she wrote: “We live in times of tremendous change but the United Kingdom is still, thankfully, a predominantly white, Christian country.”

Thanks to TRP for blogging about it and showing that some members of the tory party have got values (still hope we beat you at each and every general election!).
-----------------------------------

Thanks to Jo Salmon there. Shows that the Conservatives are a long way from dealing with their millitant extremists!

Jo's blog can be found here: http://www.josalmon.co.uk/

Birthdays

As many of you know, today is my thirtieth birthday, although if I want to be pedantic, it isn't for another hour at least (at the time of writing, and don't trust the post time. It's a good few hours behind GMT).
I suppose that's just me wanting to hold onto the last vestiges of being twenty-something, although it feels strange being 30. Feels as if I am young and old at the same time. You find that you take stock of your life, before and the future, and muse over the fact that you have the odd grey hair and can remember BBC Micro Computers, CD Players being the brand new revolutionary thing, the UK having just three television channels (although Wales and the Channel Islands had four), the Muppets being based in the UK, rubix cubes (annoying little things), Tom Baker playing the lead in Doctor Who, and one of John Lennon's last songs ((Just Like) Starting Over) being in the charts, and therefore realising you have lived through a whole generation!
But that's sort of nice in a way. Being old enough to have a sense of nostalga but young enough not to be old.
So what did I get! Well my brother got me a book on George W. Bush's ideology, and 'Christianity for dummies', a friend got me a T-Shirt, my sister got me a DVD showing the highlights of 'Live Aid', my Mum got me 'School of Rock' on DVD and my Dad will be getting me an Mp3 player.
Oh and some friends got me £20 worth of book tokens, which has come in useful. As indeed have the books and the T-Shirt ;).
Oh and this happened the day I was born. I know it says 'Oct 1st', but a no of references say Sept 30th.
And I don't even like Boxing!

By-election results

(Press Association)

It was good that Labour kept their seats in the by-elections yesterday. In the Parliamentary seat of Livingston, caused by the death of the former Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, and in the Scottish Parliamentary seat of Glasgow Cathcart, caused by the resignation, under disgrace, of Mike Watson.
In the age of greatly reduced majorities for Labour in by-elections, sometimes even defeats, it was good to know that Jim Devine held Livingston with a majority of over 2,000.
Although it would have been interesting to note how many more votes would have been in his favour had it not been for Wednesday's incident.

Walter Wolfgang

(BBC Online)
I was disgusted with the way Walter Wolfgang was treated on Wednesday, and it was one of those few moments I was ashamed to be in the Labour Party!
I appreciate that we need tight security, that stewards have a difficult and thankless job, but to treat an eight-two year old like that was disgusting and despicable, and totally out of place in a civilized society.
I also appreciate this kind of slapdown started as a way to help make sure the hard-left didn't hijack Conferences, that everything had to be organised, but this has gone to the other extreme. Hugh Gaitskell managed to deal well with hecklers, so did Michael Foot, so did Dennis Healey, why can't today's politicans.
Those who advocate any form of bullying in defence of the Party leadership are shoring up trouble for themselves. In the long term they will, and know it, face the wrath of the Party. I appreciate many, including the Prime Minister, have apologised to Walter Wolfgang, but those directly responsible for yesterday's incident should be made to publicly apologise, which will be downgrading and horribly humiliating, but then they shouldn't have done it in the first place.
Not only that, but given yesterday's news coverage they have landed priceless propoganda onto the plate of the other main parties, plus the Tory Press. I sincerely hope that harsh and hard lessons are learnt from this which aren't casually forgotten.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Being born on anniversaries..

(Photos BBC Online)

As some of you know, tomorrow will be my thirtieth birthday.
As some of you will also know, given some of the media coverage, tomorrow will also be the fiftieth anniversary of James Dean's death.
Whilst I appreciate this is a simple coincidence (I think my parents were hoping I would be born on my Dad's birthday, which is a few days from now), sharing your birthday with the anniversary of the death of an iconic figure is slightly irritating for some reason.
That said, I should count my blessings. As my brother pointed out, he was born on August 31st 1979, and it was his ill fortune that Princess Diana died on his eighteenth birthday.
And, no offence meant, but imagine people coming over to wish him happy birthday and all they talk about is this tragedy!

Twenty-seven years ago today!

(Courtesy of Wikipedia.org)
It seems to be a week of anniversaries, as I will explain in the next two or three postings.
Particually is this is a year when a Pope died and a new one was elected, I suppose it is worth pointing out that it was twenty-seven years ago today that Pope John Paul I was found dead in his bed, after having reigned as Pope for just thirty-three days.
He died of a massive heart attack at around 11PM the night before, although some conspiracy theorists believe he was murdered to prevent him initiating widespread reforms.
What seems to be more likely though, is author
John Cornwell's assertion
, following an investigation, that he died of a 'pulmonary embolism' (a particular form of heart failure), and had severe circulatory and other health problems that few knew about when he was elected Pope. He was overwhemled with work, having had little administrative experience, and this added to the depression he was plunged into when elected Pope, feeling that he was unworthy of the post.
Not a good cocktail for a man in his sixties who had an embolism two years before and who took medication for low blood pressue.
In any case, he was a gentle and unassuming man and very popular in the month he was Pope. He was the first to refuse a papal coronation in favour of a simple inaugural service, and was liked for his ready smiles and warm personality. He had also written a popular book when Patriarch of Venice, Illustrissimi, where he wrote letters to famous people in history, as well as fictional characters as diverse as Don Quixote to Pinnochio (I have a copy myself and it is definetly worth a read).
In short, he showed in the short time he was Pope, how important it was for the Papacy to have a keen sense of pastoral humility. Something that his successor, John Paul II, had a degree of. One hopes that Benedict XVI will show more of his human face in the course of his reign.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tory leadership contest!

(BBC Online)

So, the Conservative Party has opposed the changes to the leadership election rules, which would have meant that the rank-and-file will not have been able to have a say in the election of a leader!
To be honest though they are in a Catch 22. To vote for the changes would have meant taking ordinary members democratic right to choose their leader. For rank-and-file to agree to that would have meant that they wanted power at the expense of self-respect. Something some sections of the Conservative Party are old hands at in any case.
To vote against them, which they have done, means that they will likely pick the most right-wing candidate of the lot (given past experience), and therefore make themselves even more unelectable. If they vote for the most populist, centerist candidate, i.e. Kenneth Clarke, then that shows that they lack principle, given that they voted so decisively against him before, and that they will put power above all else. Something the recently-deceased right-wing academic, Maurice Cowling, would have been proud of!
This however, does not mean that Labour should rest on their laurels, far from it! It is true that a Brown premiership will help revitalise the Party and bring more into the fold, but the Conservatives are like a Pike in shallow waters, and capable of causing great damage. Their members are a determined lot and it will need a fourth general election victory and gaining some pivotal seats to cause great psychological damge and make them face up to the fact that the long-term effects of Thatcherism are more of an albatross than an asset, and that to win they need to be a One-Nation Party!
Which will be difficult for them, because after the SDP debacle, Labour made sure it returned to that fold and made themselves very comfortable and popular there.

Spam

(Wikipedia.org)
A major, major, irritant with me!
I suppose in the world we live in it is to be expected, although I am not talking about the meat (I am incidentally one of those wierd people who loves spam food, unlike many others), I am talking about the electronic garbage variety.
It is bad enough having a spam filter on e-mail without all of this, but it never occured to me (although I am not surprised) to get a whole load on the comments pages on my blog!
Some are amusing, some are irritating, and some are downright insensitive. I got two after a very serious piece on my blog that left me wondering if any member of the armed services, or a war correspondent has a blog, with the typical entry being:

Last Tuesday we did another raid on the town of *****. To describe the horrors on paper or here, on this blog, would not adaquetly describe the horrors of that day. Two of my best friends were blown up, bodies of women and children littered the road, houses were burned. We were lucky to escape with our lives.
I am sorry, I cannot write any more at this time..


Followed by an entry on the comments page:

Hi there, I love your blog, maybe you want to have a look at mine, 'Scandanavian Log Fisheries', where you can buy haddock for just Three dollars a-piece! We are based in Caineriver County, Alabama

I do delete spam messages on my blog out of principle, and I know I am not the only one suffering, but to those who do spam, and are bothering to read this!
Give me a break. I am not interested, I check my blog on a very regular basis and I delete spam messages, so hardly anyone else will read them!

Thankyou.

Tony's Speech

(BBC News Online)

I suppose, esp given the fact that a lot of other politically-minded bloggers have done so, mention my thoughts on the Prime Minister's speech yesterday.
I have to say that I am a skeptic when it comes to 'The Project', so any talk of further Globalisation and reform of the public services which amount to more privatisation, is one that does not rub well with me. That said I am an open-minded skeptic. If this is for the good of the country in a way that does not damn the disadvantaged and penniless, as Thatcherism did, then I am content. We certainly have a far better and sensible government than the boom and bust years of Thatcher and Major, with high unemployment, two painful periods of recession, high interest rates, millions suffering from negative equity, and businesses folding at over a thousand a week in the late eighties and early nineties. Plus, and this important, the PM did pledge to protect the NHS and he did boast of the quiet advances the government have made in the last eight years.
Certainly, whilst we have our problems, we are a more global nation. And certainly, aside from Iraq, we are a credible force on the World-stage, with our calls to help end world poverty, in combatting terrorism, in trying to help make a real breakthrough in Northern Ireland, and in taking more of a lead in Europe.
Not only that, the Prime Minister reminded us that this is the first time Labour have won three general elections in a row, and what's more with credible majorities.
I did have one real major gripe with the proceedings though. The ITN digital channel had a 'Gordon Cam' in the top left-hand corner of the screen, so we could see his every reaction to the PM's speech!
Bit cheeky I thought.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Two new links

Have added two more websites to the Links column.
The first is for Bloggers4Labour, which I thought I ought to put down, given that I am a member of that group.
The second is for Wikipedia, which I also thought I ought to put down, given that I almost constantly refer to it here.

Return of the Champions

(Queenpluspaulrodgers.com/Danny Clifford)


One of my ambitions, in life is to attend big rock concert with a big name attached. The closest I have reached this ambition was last year, when Bono of U2 gave a speech on third world poverty at the Labour Party Conference.
Okay he didn't sing, but he gave a good speech saying that aid to Africa was to do with justice, not charity. He gently harranged us, and what's more he got a standing ovation twice. Once before he spoke and once afterwords.
Fact is, a lot of us gave him a standing ovation at the start because we could not believe we were in the same room as the man with the shades! Many of us had never even clapped eyes on a major rock star in the flesh. What shocked me was that I found my brain going through all the thoughts that I usually ridicule in a lot of fans: 'I'm in the same room! I can't believe it! I am in the same room as Bono! Bono is in the same room! Bono of U2! I am in the presence of a major rock star! I'am so unworthy!' Ad nauseam.
Then the great Bono himself said: 'You may bow!'
We laughed, sat down, before he added. 'I apologise if I am a little nervous, I am not used to addressing crowds of less than eighty-thousand!'
But anyways, I am digressing here. I simply wanted to point out my lack of experience, i.e. zilch and zero, of attending major rock concerts.
This is partly because I am picky about who I like, but nontheless, one of my big regrets was that I only really appreciated Queen as a band after Freddie Mercury died. As a teenager, I just wrote him off as an arrogant ponce, and in any case their last concert with Freddie occured when I was just eleven years old. A bit young to attend really! So I thought that I would never enjoy the spectacle of a Queen concert first hand.
I still haven't, although if I could have the time and money, I would have swiftly booked tickets for Queen + Paul Rodgers 'Return of the Champions' this year. That said, the live version of their tour is out on CD this week.
Some have criticised Queen's decision to go back on the road again, and that is fair enough! The argument being that without Freddie, Queen are not Queen. This is also somewhat tempered by the fact that bassist John Deacon has decided that he has retired, so Queen now basically consists of Brian May and Roger Taylor.
However, the assertion from Queen is that Paul Rodgers is not replacing Freddie and that what is going on here is a jt-tour. In some respects this is very true, some classics of Paul Rodger's like 'All Right Now' bear this out.
So is the CD worth buying and are they worth seeing live? I am not sure about the latter bit, but the CD is definetly worth buying if that is anything to go by! I have just heard samples of it online, via the Queen website, and one thing is sure, Queen still deliver the goods.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Gone but not forgotten...

It goes without saying that in the past year the Labour Party has lost three of it's great movers and orators: James Callaghan, Robin Cook, and Mo Mowlam.
Whilst Callaghan's death was not entirely unexpected (He died the day before his 93rd birthday), Mo Mowlam's (after a brief illness), and Robin Cook's (a heart attack) were a shock to many of us who feel that they had much left to offer.
They will be well and deservedly remembered.

(BBC News)
Callaghan for his forty-two years as a Labour MP (many of which were spent in the high echelons of the Party), as well as his time as Prime Minister from 1976-1979, where he helped save the British economy during the IMF crisis.

(BBC)
Mo Mowlam will be remembered for her involvement in helping to bring about the 'Good Friday' agreement during her time as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Robin Cook, for his time as Foreign(BBC News Online)
Secretary, as well as his principled resignation from the cabinet over the Iraq War.
Doubtless this afternoon at the Labour Party Conference, there will a minutes silence for all the Party members who died last year, with these three prominent in people's minds.
However, at this time someone else springs to mind, the person I was thinking of last year when, as a delegate, I stood in the main conference hall, observing the silence.
The person I am thinking of was a great influence to me, with regard to Labour politics and she did a great deal to encourage and support me, and I never got the chance to properly repay her, so maybe I can here.
Her name was Tammy Wilband. She was never an MP, never even stood for Parliament (although she was shortlisted for, and came in third place, the seat of Camarthen East shortly before her death), was not even an 'old hand' as it were.
She was simply a close friend of mine from University who tried to get me to join the Labour Party, whilst I was trying to get her more involved with Church life (This was in the year 1997, and like Government Minister, Alun Michael, my University years were spent with the Christian Union and not tussling in student politics), we both had mixed results.
That said, her constant nagging paid off and five years later I joined the Party as a twenty-seventh birthday present to myself. She was surprised, but enthusiastic. She was then the only friend who went out of her way to help me when I twice stood for district council, coming to stay for the odd weekend so that she would help me canvass and leaflet every available street in Baldock Town. She even invited me to the interesting 'An Evening With Alistair Campbell' at the Royal Festival Hall. The following walk across the bridge to the House of Commons where we had drinks with my then boss, Geraint Davies, would have been romantic had it not been for the fact that she was gay and I saw her as a sister-figure.
Tammy was also an ardent Blair-loyalist, but that didn't stop her from making a stand. So whilst I, who takes a more critical stand towards the Prime Minister, dragged my feet at the start of the Iraq War. Tammy went on the first major march in London, protesting against it.
She died last year, at just twenty-seven years old, after a freak accident caused by a diabetic blackout she had on the London Underground. Then, as now, I have thought of her and feel how unfair it is that her life and career was cut-short like that, and her firendship is one that I still keenly miss. There are not many people of my age you can say for certain, as ending up as an MP, but of Tammy I am certain it would have happened, sooner or later.
So whilst we honour those famous politicans who have died in the last year, let us not forget the ones we knew and loved, whatever their political colours, who were not so well known.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Vatican Blues

(Associated Press)
Like a lot of people, when the last Papal conclave took place in April, I kept a close eye on what was happening. One reason being that the election of a Pope is a strange archaic practice that happens about a handful of times in one's lifetime, and another reason being that, after the human dyamism of Pope John Paul II, I was intrigued to see who would succeed him.
And like many, I went 'Oh no!' when the Cardinal Deacon mentioned Cardinal Ratzinger's name. The reason being that he has such a hardline reputation.
But I was, like many, prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt for a number of reasons. As a Christian (although I am a non Catholic), I prayed over this election, millions around the world prayed about this election, and the Cardinals prayed over this election every time they were about to vote (Benedict XVI was elected after three ballots). On that basis who was I to question the strangeness of God's will, after all many of us have breaks in life that none of us really deserve. He also said he was prepared to be a listening Pope and this post has chnged previous pontiffs for better or worse.
So I was rather saddened to open up a copy of The Guardian newspaper this morning and read a report on page 18 that the Vatican are allegedly going to ban gays from joining the Catholic priesthood, whether they intend to lead a celibate life or not.
I hasten to add though that this is an allegation, the source is allegedy from a leak by a Vatican offical who has seen the document in question. That makes the current debate on what may or may not be proposed to be hearsay, so this makes the following argument academic.
It has been acknowledged, reluctantly, by the Catholic Church that they have had major problems with sex scandals in the priesthood and this document will allegedly help 'purify' the Church. I sincerely hope, in which case, that the document is not true.
It goes without saying that this is a highly sensitive issue, and in many respects I can see where the Vatican are coming from with a sympathetic view. After all, they feel they are following centuries of Church teaching imubed with God's will and how dangerous it can be to challenge that!
But are they? This document, if it exists, can well end up hurting the very people and institutions it is designed to protect. Many homosexuals join the priesthood with a full intention of being celibate. Many also join because they feel it is a pastoral vocation that God has given them, and many join because they feel protected and able to live their lives in that context. If we lived in a fair, tolerant, and helpful society, many would find their role to play less harsh and less lonely. It is bad enough with heterosexual ordinands unable to join because they feel a call to marriage.
I am choosing my words carefully because I want to draw attention to this in a way that Christians and non Christians of varying degrees can look at this sympathetically, and see how un-biblical and un-Christian such a document can be. It is true that some people are more sexually-orientated than others, but we are all sexual people to varying degrees and we can all be very vulnerable in that respect. That vulnerability needs our compassion and concern, even when we feel that their behaviour falls below our, and/or God's standards. Obviously some behaviour, such as paedophilla, deserves the full punishment of the law and is a harsh abberation of nature. But other modes of sexual behaviour, such as promiscuity, may well be morally wrong, but the people concerned need our understanding and compassion, as well as our criticism.
I know what it is like to be heterosexual, single, and celibate and it is tough. I also have, and have had, close friends who are lesbians who have struggled and juggled with their faith and their sexuality. I suppose what we do have in common, admittedly to very different degrees, are harsh pronouncements from the Church which sometimes lacks compassion or realistic awareness of the situations involved. All in all it goes a long way from the parable of the Good Samaritan or the woman caught in adultery. A vibrant working Church should be pastoral as well as prophetic (and I don't think some American Churches are prophetic enough when they fail to support some suffering minorities (such as Palestinians, or those suffering under third-world poverty) in the World). In the same way a Church should be prophetic as well as pastoral. In short Christ was able to be both and I doubt very much that this document, if it exists, honours that.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Fifty Years On..

(Guinness Publications)

I suppose I was a bit premature on mentioning longevity records a couple of weeks ago, as the 2006 edition of Guinness World Records is now out in the shops!
But, having had a browse through it does seem more compact of late, and lacking in the extensive useless information that I have always appreciated.
But why the fascination with world records? I know why I am fascinated, it's because my brain is sadly wired that way. I am the sort of sad geek who can recite all the US Presidents, English Kings and Queens, and Russian leaders off the top of my head as a party piece (tis true, honest!). I can even tell you something about most of them.
But I honestly don't know who won the last FA Cup without looking it up! Although admittedly the facts and figures way of thinking has come in useful in my work with the Labour Party, as well as Church, and even, strangely enough, in my past life as a Coffee Shop Team Leader!
But why others are fascinated is beyond me. As several editions say, most records are highly perishable, so I honestly can't get the desire to be a world-record holder. Unless it is to be a first in something, and most of those involve risking life and limb!
So is there any use for such a book coming out every year?
Well according to Wikipedia, this is how it started:

The first edition was published in 1955, commissioned by the Guinness brewery after a debate between Guinness managing director Hugh Beaver and hunting partners over the fastest species of gamebird could not be settled with existing reference books. It was researched by Ross and Norris McWhirter, twins and noted British athletes and journalists, who at the time ran a fact-finding agency in London. When the book became a surprise hit, many further editions were printed, eventually settling into a pattern of one revision each year, published in October to coincide with Christmas sales

The whole article can be found here, and the bit about 'Ethical Issues' is worth a peek.
So if you want to correct a relative this Christmas, spouting useless information you know to be wrong, this is what you can get them!
Plus, given some political researcher's interest in David Hasslehoff, it is worth noting that there is a piece on him on pg 155

Councillor John Lloyd

(Courtesy of Stevenage CLP)

Further to the campaign to elect John Lloyd as a representative for Shepall, Stevenage for Hertfordshire County Council, you may be interested to know that he has won the seat with an 150 vote majority. Obviously it would have been nice had it been a higher figure, but by failing to take this seat, the Lib Dems have failed to deny Labour opposition status on the council and have failed to make any dent on Labour's big representation of Stevenage in the Borough Council, the County Council, and Parliament.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Trials of Mike Watson


(Photos: BBC Online)

It is a sad fact that today, Mike Watson, a former labour peer and MSP, has been sentenced to sixteen months in prison for trying to start a fire in a hotel!
He has admitted his guilt and has been expelled from the Labour Party.
This is only right and fair. However the Scottish Conservative deputy leader Annabel Goldie has said

"The sentence actually served will not be 16 months.

"Thanks to Labour and Lib Dem insistence of preserving automatic early release, Lord Watson will be out of jail after serving only half his sentence, eight months."


The interesting thing is I remember a former Conservative peer being let out early on parole and he never even pleaded guilty for his offence, or apologised for what he did!

And, given his popularity with Conservative Constituency Associations, I would not be surprised if many in the Conservative Party wish to see him return to the fold.

Photo album


Some of you have been e-mailing and phoning me to ask if this photo, found in the article here, is of me!
The simple answer is yes! I know I look almost unrecognisable there, the blond hair disappeared when I was about three and the birthmark on my left cheek is little more than a faint, flesh coloured, blemish. But it is me, and it provides a good excuse to make jokes about blondes ;)!
I ought to also swiftly point out that some of my best friends are blondes!
But anyway, I was hoping to write something before the weekend about the forthcoming Labour Party Conference, which I am unable to attend this year :(! So I thought I would show you some of, what were for me, last years highlights. Incidentally some of them look as if they were taken in ill-light rooms. Its really because they were taken with a not-very-good camera:



I hasten to add that the photo is misleading, I have never been a puppet and Neil Kinnock has never been a ventriloquist.



But that said, you do bump into some interesting people



Make senior politicans, such as John Prescott, look good and healthy in comparison


Try new and exciting experiences



Meet the old pro veterans, such as Tony Benn



Then there is the shock when you bump into your local Conservative Councillor. In this case Andrew Young. His business involves showing British democracy to Eastern Europeans and they liase with all the main parties, so maybe it wasn't a surprise. And yes, you are not the first to notice that he looks like John Major.



If you are a Parliamentary Candidate, or a delegate (which I was), then sometimes you have to queue up to have your photo taken with a senior politican, in this case, Gordon Brown, who incidentally is more friendly and approachable than his critics say he is.



But there is more to life than meeting famous politicans and having water-jet massages. This picture was taken at a prayer-breakfast (one of several), hosted by the Christian Socialist Movement.



Then there are the fringe meetings that really remind you of how fragile the real world is and what politics is really about. These photos were taken at a fringe meeting on Guantamino Bay. The chap with the white beard is the former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury and former Beirut hostage, Terry Waite. The others are, left to right, Oona King, Vanessa Redgrave, unknown, the sister of one of the Guantamano detainees, and the left-wing solicitor Gareth Pierce.I would not have gone if it wasn't for Oona King and Terry Waite, for suspicion of the event being hijacked by the hard-left. But that said, whilst we are up against a vicious and evil group such as Al Queida, we must always try to remain with the rule of law, decency, and the Geneva Convention. Something which is sadly questionable with the United States at present.



Then there were events such as this fringe meeting on AIDS in Africa. In the background you can see Hilary Benn and David Blunkett.



BTW I was not the only individual who was keen to queue up to have his photo taken with Gordon Brown. The chap with the white rucksack is Kerron Cross, who was the Parliamentary Candidate for South West Herts, works for Andy Reed MP, good friend, and whose blog has a link on Mars Hill!



Oh! And this is me at eleven years old. Thought you would prefer to see a younger, more recognisable version of myself!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Simon Wiesenthal

(BBC Online)

I was saddened to hear of the death this morning of Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal.
A survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, he refused to let us forget that many prominent and not so prominent Nazis escaped at the end of the War. His most profilic discovery was the whereabouts of one of the people who planned the Final Solution, Adolf Eichmann. He gave this information to the Israelis, who kidnapped him in Argentina in 1960, put him on trial and sentenced him to death.
He was a brave and resourceful man whose exploits were fictionalised in The Boys From Brazil, but, more importantly, he claimed that his determination to hunt down these men was not fuelled by revenge so much as a desire to see justice. This was shown by the comments he made when he gave his reasons for retiring in 2003:

"I have survived them all. If there were any left, they'd be too old and weak to stand trial today. My work is done."

God rest his soul

20 nice things about the Lib Dems!

(Courtesy of Wikipedia.org)

I know, I know, some of you are confused, others are as shocked and appalled as if I had just walked into a room stark naked!
But some people here feel that I might be too politically tribal sometimes. That's fair, the thing is, being a member of a political party can sometimes mean that if you make a few cheap jokes at other political parties and their members, you get cheered on by your fellow peers and get attacked by the wider public!
And there are individuals who I admire in the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, it's just not my fault if they are sometimes politically naive ;)!
So, in fairness of balance, and because they have a conference in Blackpool, I thought I would write a list of nice things about the Liberal Democrats:

1) Liberal is an honourable word, meaning freedom!

2) Democrat is also an honourable word, meaning support of a plural society (But Conservative, Labour, Green etc.. are also good words)

3) William Gladstone was a decent Prime Minister who saw the need for Home Rule for Ireland

4) In 1906 the Liberals helped Labour during the General Election campaign, thus giving the Labour Party 27 extra seats in the House of Commons. If only they would be so kind nowadays ;)!

5)The Liberal Government of 1905-1915 brought in great social reforms, Old age pesnions, reform of the House of Lords etc..

6) One of the Liberal Parliamentary candidates in the 1959 General Election, Sir Robin Day, was one of the greatest politcal interviewers of his time!

7)The Liberals represent nice places like Cornwall

8)Some of their party members wear nice sweaters and woolen jumpers

9)Hannah Hedges, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Hitchin and Harpenden in the 2005 General Election, was not only one of the youngest, but she was also one of the nicest and most attractive (note however I still would not have voted for her! Just tried to assertain if she had a boyfriend and worked at politically converting her ;))

10)Erm....

11)They have had some interesting leaders. Charles Kennedy (guest panellist on 'Have I Got News For You'), Paddy Ashdown (Was in the SAS and knows of forty-two different ways to garrote someone), David Steel (Made a pop song about something to do with 'Proportional Representation'), Roy Jenkins (Had a side-job in writing political biographies, quaffing claret, and ill-advisedly used the word 'Rancour' in political argument. Not a good idea if you cannot pronounce your R's), Jeremy Thorpe (Yes, well, I suppose going on trial at the Old Bailey for incitement to murder is interesting). Not forgetting good old Jo Grimmond!

12)Am trying to think of some more, really!

13) I once bumped into a local Lib Dem Councillor whilst walking near my home village recently and we had a pleasant, if politically guarded, chat!

14)Oh come on Burgin, you must think of some more!

15)They have amusing celebrities which endorse them, such as John Cleese. That said, we in the Labour Party have Richard Wilson from 'One Foot In the Grave'

16)My sister likes them

17)Must think, erm..

18) They are good for unseating Tories where we have absolutely no chance of winning. This is esp good if the Tory MP is an unpleasant individual

19)I don't know

20) I think thats it!

The BBC

(Copyright: BBC)

There has been some comment on Rupert Murdoch's assertion that the PM confided in him about his views on the BBC's coverage of Hurricane Katrina!
Whilst we don't know for sure our dear leader's thoughts on this, it should be reminded that Rupert Murdoch (Fine owner of of several media outlets that he is, except for, ahem, several I can instantly criticise!) is an owner of several Media outlets which compete with the BBC, one or two of which have a right-wing political ideology which seem to find it hard to agree with a politically neutral media source!
The BBC is a great broadcasting institution, one of the biggest in the World. It is has few rivals in it's size as a public service provider. It has the unique situation of being a nationalised company competing freely and equally with many privatised broadcasting institutions. Not just in the UK, but in many parts of the World.
The advantages of being a nationalised institution involve lack of advertising (I love a lot of adverts, but sometimes I want to watch my favourite programmes from beginning to end without an ad break), a strong public service ethos, as well as a loyal following. It is not, nor has it ever been, a soviet-style nationalised industry. It has not been averse to taking a critical eye on all the main political parties (much to the annoyance of succesive Conservative and Labour Governments..). The scraping of it's knuckles over the Gilligan affair (whatever the rights or wrongs of Gilligan's actions) is testament to this.
Being run by human beings it sometimes makes mistakes, it sometimes may well be politically biased, but it tries very hard to be neutral and sometimes that may well mean it will take a critical stance that you or I, or both, may find insufferable!
When hard right politicans and campaigners attack the BBC for being overtly liberal, and left-wing politican Tony Benn, recording in his diaries in the 1980s, his view that the BBC was packed with SDP supporters, then you have to wonder if they are doing the right thing! They certainly make Fox News's 'Fair and Balanced' assertion a total joke in comparison!
In short, the BBC is a great British institution, like cups of tea, cricket, the Proms, and the like! There are many who want to see the BBC asset-stripped, flogged against the wall and removed so that they can make further inroads with their comparitively culture-cheap products.
In short, the BBC is not a middle-class television ghetto, it is a general by-phrase for broadcasting decency.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Changing of the seasons

Leaves on the ground, starting to wear jumpers and coats outside, getting dark before 8PM.
This can only mean one thing.
Autumn is here!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Jimmy Carter

(Courtesy of wikipedia.org)

One of the criticisms I read and hear about a lot, concerning President Bush, is about his use of faith concerning policy, or rather misuse!
And given that he is also one of the least popular Presidents in the Western World I thought it was time to redress the balance.
There was a previous US President who has been renowned for his public endorsement of Christianity, with a simple homespun faith, and it isn't Ronald Reagan.It isn't even a gun-toting Republican, step forward Jimmy Carter!
39th President of the United States from 1977-1981, he admitted during the 76 election campaign to having had a deep Christian faith since childhood, but what is more, with admittedly the odd humdinger, he has noticeably lived it.
Whilst he made mistakes such as not properly dealing with the effects Iranian Revolution, which included the kidnapping of American diplomats,he also brokered a peace deal between Israel and Egypt which still stands today. In encouraging Americans to conserve energy during the 1979 energy crisis, he appeared in a sweater and asked Americans that they turn down their thermostats. He put in solar power panels on the roof of the White House, as well as a wood stove in part of the living area; That said, Ronald Reagan removed both. Carter also was quick to attack the governments of South Africa, Chile, and Rhodesia.
He is now widely praised with a well deserved favourable international reputation, although he is rarely used as a troubleshooter for President Bush, as much as he uses Bush Snr and Clinton, maybe this extract from Wikipedia explains why:

Not all Carter's efforts have gained him favor in Washington; President Clinton and both Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush were said to have been less than pleased with Carter's "freelance" diplomacy in Iraq and elsewhere. Critics of Carter's diplomatic efforts (during and after his presidency) generally concede that Carter is honest and well intentioned, but consider him to be naive about less scrupulous foreign leaders.

In March 2004, Carter roundly condemned George W. Bush and Tony Blair for waging an unnecessary war "based upon lies and misinterpretations" in order to oust Saddam Hussein. He claimed that Blair had allowed his better judgement to be swayed by Bush's desire to finish a war that George H. W. Bush (his father) had started. In June 2005, Carter urged the closing of the Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba, which has been the centerpoint for recent reports of prisoner and Muslim holy book Quran abuse.


So you see, it can be possible to have a decent man in the White House! Not perfect admittedly, but decent.

Anniversaries!


Over the last few weeks, much has been made about the bi-centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar and it has sort of reminded me of my maternal Grandad, whose picture is on the left here!
Next Friday (23rd) would have been his 100th birthday. It feels a bit strange to think of a Grandparent having been born a century ago, particually as it doesn't seem that long since he died, even though it was seven years ago last April.
So why the connection with Trafalgar?
Well his name was Nelson Taft and my Great-Grandparents called him Nelson because of the centenary celebrations of, you've guessed it, Trafalgar.
He was also a great friend and a loyal man who spent years working in a factory just outside Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. He would have got a staff job towards the end of his career, but he ruined his chances by his continuous defence for fellow workers who he felt were not treated fairly.
He was also a lifelong supporter of the Labour Party and referred to Margaret Thatcher as a 'toerag', although he did recall with pride his growing up in Grantham and helping to send deliveries to a certain Alderman Roberts. The two Conservative leaders he did like were Edward Heath and John Major and two of his Labour heroes were John Smith and Harold Wilson.
The two Labour people he was ambivelent towards though were Tony Benn: "Of course I don't agree with everything he says" and Tony Blair: "Why isn't he in the Tory Party?"
He was also one of the longest living people in our family (he lived to be 92) and remembered the Suffragettes campaigning in Grantham, a Zepellin flying overhead during World War I, to his having Sky Television in his last years.
Incidentally whilst looking for a photo of Grandad, I came across a photo of this individual which was taken around the summer of 1976.

Bit of a cheeky feller isn't he ;)!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Fuming over Fuel

(BBC Online)

So, with oil prices under threat because of Katrina and the shifting sands of the economy, there is concern that Gordon Brown might hike up the cost of fuel!
So what do some people do to show their support for Gordon as he weighs up his options in the light of unforseen circumstances that are none of his doing?
The fuel protestors decide on a blockade, which they did five years ago, to try and force the Governments hand in making sure that they do not increase fuel tax!
Not exactly helpful really, particually as we ought to try and all pull together! Especially has they have helped cause panic buying as well.
The leader of the Fuel Lobby, Mike Greene, says that they have had calls from the public, 99% of which have been supportive, but then there has been little sign of support on the roads and supermarkets like Asda and Tesco have cut their petrol prices.
The Fuel Protesters also have little support from the Enviroment lobbies!
Looks like they shot their bolt too soon and misplaced their fire.
The other problem is they are the sort of people who constantly call for low taxation without properly dealing with the reasons why taxes sometimes have to be raised, not realising that a consideration for raising taxes is just a consideration, and not properly asking why the money is needed and what alternative subsidies can be taxed?
They probably read the Daily Mail as well ;)!

Annesley Abercorn

(http://www.actionabercorn.com)
As Kerron has mentioned in his blog today, one or two colleagues in the Labour Party seem a little obsessed with this chappie!
So who is he!
Well he is prominent in the Youth Wing of the Conservative Party, which used to be called the Young Conservatives.Although I vaguely recall they changed their name to Conservative Future because of the unpleasant connotations of the title 'Young Conservatives' (Initially they thought it was clever to use the anacronym CFUK, but ditched that after protests)
Anyway, Abercorn is standing for the post Chairman of Conservative Future and many of us in the Labour Party wish him well! With endorsments from Baroness Thatcher, Lord Tebbit, the Hamiltons, and Peter Stringfellow, he will go far! He may even become leader of the Conservative Party.
But then again he may want to become Prime Minister instead.
Just one thing though, why does he own a double-decker bus!

What use does he have for it? I only hope it isn't for night-time trips around Central London with champagne quaffing fellow Young Tories out on a beggar-baiting tour!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Private Eye!

(www.private-eye.co.uk)

I suppose it had to come sooner or later, but I must confess I am an avid reader (and big fan) of Private Eye, and this fortnight's edition is particually amusing. That said, like many in politics who like the satirical magazine I have a rather hypocritical approach to it! I don't like any stories mocking Labour (Unless it involves someone from the ultra hard-left, or an individual who I take a dislike to!), whereas I lap up every nefarious item on the Tories and Lib Dems. I am also an avid reader of the 'Street of Shame' column, but skip the bits on newspapers I have no particular problem with and head straight for articles on the Daily Mail or Express! (BTW I expect avid WI readers of the 'Daily Mail' wouldn't like to know what swear-word Editor, Paul Dacre allegedly tends to throw at people as an insult!)
But that said, I do happen to agree with Boris Johnson that there is no political party that is the 'nasty party', all have nasty, as well as nice people within them (I just happen to believe the other main parties have naive policies and idelologies. Except for the Lib Dems who have erm, well.. do they have any?). Plus you cannot believe everything Private Eye says ;)! But that said it is a fantastic piece of cutting edge journalism. It touches stories no one else will for fear of litigation, and it called Robert Maxwell a crook and a thief and a plunderer of pensions when no one else dared do so!
So what do I like about this edition. Well the cartoon on page 3, the piece on Tim Allan on page 5, the bit on that Lib Dem councillor, Philip Waltham on page 11 (What did he think he was doing!) the photo of US ex-Presidents Bush Snr and Clinton on page 17, the spoof Daily Mail on pg 20, the Liam Fox (A Doctor Writes) on pg 21, the Princess Michael of Kent 'Diary' on pg 23 (To read it, click on Diary).
But priceless of all is the Kenneth Clarke cartoon on page 22. I won't mention it, suffice to say it involves super-heroes, British American Tobacco, Vietnamese children, as well as trying to persuade people to vote Conservative!
I like Kenneth Clarke, but put it this way. If he was in the Labour Party and was going to stand for the leadership after Tony Blair quit, I would hold his links with the tobacco lobby against him, whereas most Tories refused to vote for him in 2001 because of his European credentials.
Funny that!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Twins who want to govern Poland!

(Associated Press)

Sometimes you read a newspaper and come across a bizzare article in the World News section!
Today was no different! There are not many examples of twins in the world of politics! I have briefly mentioned Norris and Ross McWhirter, who were more admired for their interests in World Records as opposed to their dodgy political interests. Then of course there are the Eagle twins, Angela and Maria, who are the first pair of identical twins to sit in the House of Commons.
But it looks like Poland may soon be the first democracy in the world to be governed by identical twins!
Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski are making the running in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Lech, the younger by forty-five minutes, is standing for the Presidency, whilst Jaroslaw is in line to become the next Prime Minister. Even more interesting is the fact they were popular child actors! They were also prominent in Solidarity
It will certainly be interesting if they win!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ashes, campaigning, and democracy dinners...

(BBC Online)

First of all, we won the ashes! Yes!!!!!!!!
Something to make us proud again in sport after 1-0 to Northern Ireland in football last week!
Yesterday was very busy though, so I didn't hear about the ashes till fairly late. The morning was spent at a Management Forum meeting at North Herts College, followed almost immediately by a visit to the Stevenage Labour Party offices where I volunteered my services for Thursday's council by-election campaign. My job was to deliver leaflets in every house in six streets. It took four hours, and it was fairly quiet. The most interesting moment was seeing a wet Liberal Democrat leaflet outside a house and picking it up. Only to find that the wet was not rainwater or anything like that!
Suffice to say I left the leaflet where it was and washed my hands as soon as I could!
Then it was a mad rush to London for the Democracy dinner event at Pizza Express in Victoria Street.

(Courtesy of Wikipedia.org)
There were about seven of us there, two guests and five regulars, and we were asked questions during our meal. It was almost like being a panelist on Question Time, only with pizza, wine, and the questions all being on what we thought of democracy and participation! It certainly made you think, and it did make one wonder whether politicans get a fair ride. I was struck by Jonathan Cox (who until this coming Friday is Alun Michael's Research Assistant) assertion that many politicans do a decent job, but, like in many workplaces, it is the few who are in it for selfish reasons who get noticed. My one concern, shared by others, is that the questions were a bit narrow.
All in all though, it was great fun and very helpful and informative.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Best of British!

(Courtesy of the BBC)

I suppose some of you, like me, were watching the Last Night of the Proms last night and feeling particually patriotic when tunes such as 'Jerusalem' and 'Land of Hope and Glory' were played!
Well in the cold light of day I have found on the BBC Website, a survey from Q Magazine, listing the best British song of all-time, as chosen by 'experts'.
And as always with these lists, what you think should constitute as being on the Top Ten and what the expert thinks, are two very different things!
For example, the list says 'Of all time'! And yet the Top Ten mention songs from the last forty years.
Then they mention the Beatles (Good), at No 1 (also good), with 'A Day In the Life'(Not so good!)
Don't get me wrong, in many respects it is a good song, even though the orchestral bits are rather sinister and unnerving, but I do think there are better Beatles songs.
What about 'Yesterday', 'In My Life', 'Penny Lane', 'Something', 'Hey Jude', 'Because', 'Good Day Sunshine', 'Taxman', 'She's Leaving Home', 'I am the Walrus', 'Let It Be', to name but a few...
And why oh why do people always name 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen! Very good song, granted, but it wasn't the only brilliant song by Queen!
And finally 'Sympathy for the Devil' by the Rolling Stones! Obviously I am not too keen on that one, and I can't spot a satirical edge to it at all, it's as Marianne Faithful once said 'Paper-mache satanism'! I am far happier settling down and reading The Screwtape Letters, but the Rolling Stones did some more superior songs. What about 'Satisfaction', or 'You Can't Always Get What You Want'!
But heigh-ho, I suspect part of the reason we read these lists is to disagree and part of the reason experts do them is to get people to disagree! Sorry, I mean 'provoke debate'.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

And you think 100 is old!

Last week the Media briefly reported on the death of Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper , an old woman who lived in a Dutch nursing home and who was a fanatical supporter of the football team Ajax Amsterdam!
Nothing unusual about that, except that Van Andel-Schipper was 115 years old! Her position has now been replaced by 115 year old Elizabeth Bolden from the USA.

(Copyright:Dave Darnell, Commercial Appeal)
'Lizzie', as she is known, is the daughter of freed-slaves, which takes one's breath away as it hits home just how old she is! Lizzie has outlived all but two of her seven children, Queen Esther Rhodes (88) and Mamie Brittmon (85).
But how rare is it that some people live to be over 110, or even 115! A lot of these cases come out for a variety of reasons! Better healthcare, better records, cenus's etc.. It would be interesting to note how many people have lived to be over 110 in unproven cases! Jeanne Calment (1875-1997), the world's longest lived person (proven), lived to be 122 years old (Until then her biggest claim to fame was that she met Van Gogh and that she found him "dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable."), but then she lived in France, where a birth certificate and census records would easily prove her claim!
But then, according to Wikipedia, there is some doubt now about the world's 'longest-lived' male. One Shigechiyo Izumi of Japan (1865-1986).
In 1979, Izumi was declared the world's 'longest living person', after his name was found to be in Japan's first cenus (1871) as a six year old. However, it has recently been suggested that Izumi had a brother (who died young) who was listed, and that has the Isumi in question had the same name, and that this caused confusion. 1880 was suggested as a more likely year of birth!

(Courtesy of http://english.mn.ru)
I vaguely remember hearing of Shigechiyo Izumi as a child, and was just taken aback at the thought that someone who was born nine years before Churchill and old enough to be my Grandparents Grandad was still alive! I do hope that his case is genuine if only for the following anecdote!
When Izumi had his 120th?, and last, birthday, in June 1985, he was interviewed by the Times' Medical Correspondent, Oliver Gillie. Aspects of Izumi's lifestyle were mentioned, including the following:


Izumi smoked three or four cigarettes a day until he was 116 when he gave it up on doctor's advice. Until he was 70 he drank very little. Then he developed a taste for shochu, a type of white rum made from sugar cane, which contains 40% alcohol. Each evening he drinks a third of a pint, always diluted, six or seven parts of warm water to one part spirit.

The local shochu manufacturers have launched a special brand of Longevity Liquor bearing Izumi's portrait. But Dr Moriya says: "Izumi's kidneys are not strong. I have advised him to stop drinking. I don't think shochu provides a recipe for long life."


Well, if I am still around at 120 (which, given the law of averages I very much doubt), I think I would be inclined to ignore such advice as well!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Further on council by-election in Stevenage!

(Courtesy of Stevenage CLP)

Stevenage CLP have kindly sent me a photo of the Labour Candidate, John Lloyd!
So there you go folks, if you are going to help, this is the guy you are going to help get elected and if you are a floating voter who lives in Stevenage, this is the guy who I hope you will vote for this coming Thursday!

Cheers

Paul

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Calling all Labour activists!

Next Thursday, 15th September, will see a county council by-election in Stevenage, Herts.
As always in by-elections, the Lib Dems are piling in workers from across the county, the Labour Party needs to match that, especially if you can remember Cambridge earlier this year! Any help will be appreciated – contact Brian Mitchell or Joe Sherry on 01438 222299, or via their email addresses: joseph@barbara-follett.org.uk or brian@barbara-follett.org.uk
I can personally add that the Stevenage CLP are a great bunch of people and you will be welcomed and appreciated for any contribution you make!

Cheers

Paul

Farewell Matt!

Have heard the news that the General Secretary of the Labour Party, Matt Carter, is stepping down, after two years in the post.
I met him at the last Labour Party Conference and I have to say he is one of the most friendly and down-to-Earth senior members of the Labour Party. I remember him approaching myself and a couple of others at the East of England Labour Party reception and sharing a general chat-chat about the Conference and the then-forthcoming General Election.
He will be missed by many in the Party, and I wish him well in whatever work he does for the Party in the future.

Barbara Bush

(Courtesy of wikipedia.org)

It looks like Barbara Bush's image as a cuddly grandmother-figure for the US has been tarnished slightly!
Many have been horrified by the following comments she made on the NPR programme Marketplace yesterday ('Marketplace' being a US Radio programme), whilst visiting the relief centres in Houston, for those who have lost their homes after Hurricaine Katrina.
The quote, which I have reprinted below, has appeared in most of the UK National papers:

"So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this (chuckles)--this is working very well for them."

Hmm! Well thanks Barbara, I am sure many who have been involved in the relief programme, and more importantly, those who have lost their homes, will be pleased to know that!
And what about the 15,000 (mostly black)refugees who are sheltering in the Astrodome and the fact they want to stay at home in Texas?

"kind of scary".

Hmm. Who says that compassion in the Republican Party is in the present and racism is in the past? It's amazing when the mask slips off, even for a second!
And to think, years ago (before Bush Jnr arrived on the scene), I had some respect for George (Snr) and Barbara Bush!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

100 Blogs and Shoestring

(Courtesy of the BBC)

So, it has finally come to the 100th blog. Honestly! Two months doing this and it already feels like part of my day-to-day life!
So what will I write on! World peace! party-politics! Well, actually it is a little more sad than that, it seems that the current re-run on UK TV Drama, of one of my favourite detective series, Shoestring has come to an end!
Ah well, there were only twenty-one episodes made and if it hadn't have finished when it did, we may well have been denied the pleasures of watching Bergerac ;).
That said, Trevor Eve has gone on record as saying that he would be interested in reviving the character in a one-off two hour special. Just to see how he has developed in twenty-five years.
Would be worth seeing, although I can see similarities between Eddie Shoestring and Peter Boyd, the character Eve plays in Waking the Dead.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

William Rehnquist

So the man who ruled in Bush's favour in the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential election has died.
William Rehnquist was certainly a controversial figure. Not least the ruling he gave in Bush's favour in 2000, he also allowed impeachment proceedings against President Clinton to go ahead, dissenting in the Roe Vs Wade case, having his own robes of office made, when previous Chief Justices wore the same robes as other Justices of the Supreme Court, to mention but a few.
Whether you think well or ill of him, he was certainly a character. The concern at the moment is who Bush will appoint in his place and that of Sandra Day O'Connor.
It is a justifiable concern, as the posting has a reputation of being a political one. It shouldn't be but it is understandable, for example if we had such a system in the UK and you shared Norman Tebbit's politics you wouldn't want such a post to go to Michael Mansfield. Likewise, if you shared Tony Benn's politics, you wouldn't want someone from the Freedom Association on there, (but then I doubt a lot of people in this country would).
I could think of some more examples but I can see a noose in front of me, and this blog is apparently now circulated amongst 'bloggers4labour' ;). Suffice to say I can think of a third example in the high echelons of government!
But getting back to the point being made, I don't think it matters as much as one fears. It isn't as if there will be more Republicans than there were on the bench and President Reagan did manage to pick a moderate in Sandra Day O'Connor.
God moves in mysterious ways!

Katrina's devastation

(Courtesy of the University of Wisconsin)

I appreciate that I have not mentioned this in my blog over the past few days, but like most people I have a life aside from this blog, which sadly is more than can be said for many people in Louisiana!
What everyone agrees on is that, in many respects, this was an unavoidable tragedy. Where there is disagreement is who exactly was responsible for the clear-up and how much could have been done to have saved more lives! There seems to be something inherently wrong about the most powerful nation on Earth being unable to help hundreds of men, women, and children(In their own country), and thereby leaving them to starve in areas of squallor, lacking in shelter and sanitation! How much of that is the fault of the State of Louisiana and how much is the fault of the Bush administration remains to be seen. Suffice to say that it looks like the Bush administration wasn't exactly quick enough in appreciating just how serious the situation is!
I'll say one thing for sure though. I never thought I would see the day when the US would be offered aid from other countries with regards to an internal disaster!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Playing politics with friendship

(Courtesy of BBC News online)

I am sure that some of you will have heard of the Labour Peer, Lord Haskins, in recent days.
But for those of you who haven't, he faces expulsion from the Labour Party for giving £2,500 to Liberal Democrat, Danny Alexander, during the General Election campaign. Alexander managed to beat the Labour candidate and, in consequence, is now a Liberal Democrat MP.
In his defence, Lord Haskins says that Danny Alexander is a friend, but that he gave a large sum of money to the Labour Party on the same day.
Now, admittedly, sometimes those of us who are members of political parties can be too tribal for our own good, but there seems to be something inherently wrong about aiding the opposition like that, friendship or not!
I have friends, people I like, who are conservatives or lib dems. Heck I have even spotted the odd young female Conservative/Liberal Democrat, and found a sudden inexpicable desire to chat them up and trying to avoid the refrain 'What's a nice girl like you doing in a party like....' but let's not go there!
But seriously folks, at the end of the day friendships and political alliances in party politics have to be kept seperate!I honestly thought that those who had such positions in political parties, such as Lord Haskins, knew that! I mean, Dennis Healey (Labour) and Sir Geoffrey Howe (Conservative) are firm friends but that didn't stop Healey say that being attacked by Howe in debate was like being savaged by a dead sheep!
Or maybe that was constructive criticism