Monday, October 31, 2005

Trains, Planes, and the banning of alcohol

(Press Association)

So the latest proposals to ban alcohol on public transport has been slated by opposition parties!To be honest I can sympathise with the criticism in some cases, but the whole crux of the matter is not so much to do with being a 'nanny state', but about personal and individual responsibility to others. When I worked at the motorway service station, just outside Baldock. I had a couple who once came into the coffee shop I helped run and asked if we sold any wine.
I said no, they asked why, I said it was because the company did not want to be held liable for any possible drink-driving accidents. They muttered loudly about living in a 'nanny state', which in my mind is occasional shorthand for 'I want to do whatever I want, even though it involves behaving like a prize cretin and harming, possibly killing others.' I am pretty sure that victims of drink-driving accidents would like to hear a lecture about how unrighteous it is to be deprived from alcohol whilst travelling!
But what about trains, allowing for the fact that those asked for a glass of wine might have been the car passengers.
Well, I thought fellow blogger Jo Salmon put the case well for rail transport:

Having sat on many a train late at night when I’ve been forced to endure drunken abuse, I’m glad to hear the news that the government is planning a ban on passengers drinking alcohol on public transport.

Not long ago, I had to listen to a group of drunk men calling themselves “the rapists” and eyeing up and verbally harassing every woman in a skirt who had to misfortune to walk past them. I got a member of staff to have a word with them but there was nothing she could do, even though they sat there drinking and geting more drunk by the minute. Even having the right to stop them drinking would have made our journey that little bit more bearable.

I don’t think this will do much to stop binge-drinking, and it won’t prevent people from getting drunk before they get on a train, but it will mean they can’t get as drunk - and certainly not while I’m sitting just a few feet away from them.

I wonder how many Tories who have slammed Labour's proposals, have been on the receving end of this, or similar abusive behaviour by drunken yobs on public transport, where their sense of safety is thrown into doubt?
And aeroplanes! I have certainly always backed a ban on alcohol there. Who can recall this incident, or this incident, or even this incident? Where groups and individuals behaved in a stupid and irresponsible fashion and threatened the lives and safety of every individual on those planes!
I am an individual who loathes red tape, is not too impressed by interference from the state in everyday lives, but this isn't about 'living in a nanny state', this is about protecting the majority of people from individuals and groups who cannot control their alcohol intake and therefore themselves. If we accept the opinions of those who say this is 'nanny state' mentality, let us be consistent and stop the Christmas drink driving campaigns, and then maybe those campaigning against such 'busybodies' can be the ones who can explain to the people who have lost a child, husband, wife, parent etc.. that they gave the oppurtunity to the individual(s) who committed the act, so as to uphold the 'freedom of the individual', anotther truism phrase that is freely abused!
Maybe they would care to equate their 'libertarian' views with police reports and statistics as well.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Campaigning in Baldock East..

Did a leaflet drop this evening.
Was very impressed that a whole gang, and not just local branch members, turned up for a spot of leafleting on the Clothall estate in the Baldock East Ward.
We managed, in two's and three's to get the whole estate done in double quick time, which is efficency for you ;-) !
They were simple one page leaflets, explaining who I was, my background, my hopes for Baldock East, and fairly easy to get through the letterboxes. It's the constant problem leafleters face; various letterboxes, and possibly violent dogs. Although I am happy to report I have not come across any of those, and believe me I am getting to be a veteran at doorstep campaigning. I was once held hostage by a rotweiler during the general election campaign earlier this year, which admittedly I deserved for being in politics, but thankfully no harm was done.
That said I did come across some dogs being given their evening walk tonight, and both they, and their owners, were friendly and considerate.
I just hope I can earn their trust. Esp as I am serious about winning! I have no intention of taking a casual approach to problems if elected, and the constituents of Baldock East will be my top priority. Having worked in an MP's constituency office with some of the problems I had to help deal with, means that I consider being a Councillor a hands-on, non flipant, no casual business.
There. It's in writing, and in cyberspace too ;-).

30th birthday party

(, so clearly not my birthday cake ;-) )
At long last.
I think that is the longest space of time between my actual birthday and the party to celebrate.
The reason was because I had to take into account that one or two friends were abroad at the time etc.. but then through one cancellation, and then another, it ended up at the end of October, any further and it would have been cancelled indefinetly.
Anyways, it was a small gathering of about a dozen people; friends from Uni, the Labour Party, Church Bible-study group, and one or two friends I originally met online.
As I said it was a quiet affair, mainly a buffet lunch etc.. But entertainment at one stage did include laughing at Fox News on television (and my friendships are a vast covering of creeds and beliefs, so that says something..) and an old episode of Inspector Morse, which involved a twist I did not expect. But then that's Whodunnits for you!
And today? Well this morning was Church and planning and executing aspects of the by-election I am standing in as a Labour Candidate in Baldock East Ward.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Pre-War Colour Photography

(Photographs,, unless otherwise stated)
World War One that is!
Last night I was chatting with a friend online, and we were discussing Russian photography, and it reminded me of a BBC Documentary I saw about a year ago, concerning this phototgrapher.

The chap shown here is one Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, who was commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II to take photographs of people and places throughout the Russian Empire. The project lasted from 1909-1912, and with some additional photographs taken in 1915.

The clinch to this however, is that Prokudin was nearly the only colour photographer in Imperial Russia (The process being in it's early infancy, experimental, and highly expensive). Prokudin invented his own technique, which involved taking a series of rapid photographs, each through a different coloured filter. By putting all three pictures together with the correct light, you could reconstruct the entire scene in the correctcolour, without resorting to tinting black-and-white photographs. The results, you can see here.

The drawback however, was that the photographs could not be reprinted in colour, so they were expensive and rare. That said, Prokudin was not the only colour photographer of his day. Auguste and Louis Lumière, who invented the three-in-one motion picture camera, also patented a colour photography process, the Autochrome Lumière, in 1907. This was the principal colour process until 1935. This involved processing a slide of, as Wikipedia put it: random mosaic of microscopic grains of potato starch, with lampblack filling the space between grains, and a black and white film base. The grains are a mixture of those dyed orange, green and blue, and act as color filters. The film is processed as a slide, (that is the film is first developed to a negative image and then reversed to a positive image) and the starch grains must remain in alignment with the film base after processing in order to allow the colors to be seen properly. The photo here, is of a World War One biplane, taken in 1917.

More complicated than a digital camera, perhaps! ;), and possibly very boring subject. But it is fascinating to see colour photography in it's infancy, as much as it is to see early photography in the 1840s.
It is amazing that some of these photographs even exist!

Iran and Israel

I am more than a little disturbed by the Iranian President's comments that Israel should be 'wiped off the map'
I was even more disturbed to see in the accompaning news item last night, seeing scores of Iranians cheering him on in fist-clenched salutes. It disturbed me to instantly remember the rallies that took place in a country in Western Europe some seventy years ago, when the leader of that nation would make offensive and dangerous comments about the Jews, and the responses being hightened salutes.
I hasten to add that I am in no way comparing Islam with Facsism, and I would be among the first to condemn any statement that equates the two, but there are extremists, and these extremists within a theocratic state such as Iran are threatening to further destabilise the political situation in the Middle East. It is bad enough, the problems we have with Iraq and with al-Qaeda, without having this. Thank God Egypt and Turkey have been quick to condemn the Iranian President's words.
I am not happy with everything Israel has done in the past fifty plus years, and I deplore much of their actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but I do agree that they have a basic right to a homeland. It is also, as the BBC put it so well, 'one thing for Iran to refuse to acknowledge the state of Israel's right to exist.

It is quite another to applaud the prospect of a new wave of Palestinian attacks that might "sweep Israel away", just as new diplomatic moves are afoot to try to nudge Israeli and Palestinian leaders back to direct talks and away from further violence.'

Now normally I am wary of American foreign policy in the Middle East, and was wary of their comments on Iran. But in the last forty-eight hours I wonder whether they are right on this issue!
The Iranian President's comments certainly makes Iran's nuclear program more unnerving

George Best

Was pleased to read that the former professional footballer, George Best, is showing signs of improvement.
They also hasten to point out that his current health problems are down to the side effects of the drugs used to prevent his body rejecting the kidney he was given in 2002, and not due to the resurgence of his alcoholic problems.
All in all I hope and pray he recovers. It would be sad and awful if he died and the press made statements like: George Best: Killed by alcoholism
He is also, sadly, an example of all which is bad about the culture of 'The Beautiful Game'. Wikipedia's entry on Best sums it up well in saying that:

Best is widely considered, at least in the U.K., to be one of the most skilful players ever to have played the game. Indeed Pele, widely considered the finest talent ever to play the game, once stated that George Best was the best player he ever saw play. His talent would almost certainly have been recognised more on the world stage had his national team not been a relative "minnow". Along with Paul Gascoigne and Lee Sharpe (also of Manchester United fame), Best is held up by UK football fans as an example of the dark side of the game, where a prodigous playing talent is squandered by managers and agents too quick to ignore players' personal problems.

What can be done to stop the culture of bad behaviour of football! Well I don't know, but I am sure that paying weekly payments of £30,000 to footballers don't help! Nor does failure to properly disipline them when they go out on the town in the week before a crucial match (I am thinking of events during the 1998 World Cup), etc.. etc..

We pillory people like Best, for their behaviour, but are we, in part, responsible for that behaviour in the first place?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Question Time

(BBC News Online)

Being the political anorak I am, one of my favourite television programmes is Question Time, and tonights panel is going to make some interesting viewing.
The panelists will be Jacqui Smith MP, Eric Forth MP, Nick Clegg MP, paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson and novelist Edwina Currie.
On one hand you have the maturity of Tanni Grey-Thompson, versus the acerbic non wit of Eric Forth and the.. Well, what can you say about Edwina Currie?
But that said I sometimes wonder what the producers have in mind when they put some panelists together, as sometimes we seem to get two panelists who come from the same enviroment and have the same love for each other as Bill O'Reilly and Michael Moore.
Take the 25th anniversary of Question Time, when viewers were asked to pick their favourite confrontations between panelists. The winners by a long shot were Ian Hislop and Mary Archer. I actually remember that programme being advertised and was annoyed for having missed it. But did I want to watch it for the mature political debate about the weeks events? No, admittedly I wanted to watch it because Mary Archer is the unrepentant wife of an unrepentant perjurer and liar who have friends in high places within the Conservative Party. The couple have a reputation for vindictive bullying and I wanted to see Hislop, one of the sharpest satirists in the country, bring her down. Another reason is I have never liked them, esp as my parents once went to a dinner reception at the House of Commons some twenty years ago (At which the Archers were present) and were disgusted to see Archer shout at and bully a mild-mannered schoolteacher who calmly criticised some aspect of the Conservative Party's education policy.
Which all in all, admittedly, is not a good enough reason to watch a programme. I am reminded of the Biblical passage, As you judge others, so you will be judged and I do think that seeing those who deserve it brought down is one thing, rubbing their face in the mud to humiliate them is another.
But then Hislop only made a comment once on the programme, in response to a question about trust in politicans. He mentioned Archer and then directly criticised Mary Archer to her face when she attacked him for mentioning her husband.
But that was where he left it, a lesser man might have tried baiting her all evening, but the point was made, and to good effect.
It is true,as Hislop pointed out, that individuals like Archer have helped destroy people's lack of faith in politicans, but in a similar fashion, I hope that Question Time do not sometimes fall under a Jerry Springer-syndrome.

Rosa Parks

(Associated Press)

I was saddened to read of the death of Rosa Parks yesterday.
Rosa Parks was the woman who made a quiet and dignified stand against segregation in the deep south of the USA, when, in 1955, she refused to give up her bus seat for a white man, when told to do so by the driver. (

This led to her arrest for 'disorderly conduct', and her case was taken up by the African American community, led by the then-unknown Baptist Minister, the Rev Martin Luther King.
The organisation then encouraged a boycott on public buses, which lasted for over a year and caused many buses to remain idle through lack of customers, until the segregation laws on buses were changed. This in turn led to other challenges against segregation laws and the rest is history.
It just goes to show how one simple action by one individual, against an unfair, immoral, and deeply unjust law, can have far-reaching consequences. Rosa Parks is seen as a hero by many Americans for that one act. She never stood for Congress or the Senate, she never ran a large campaign group, she never served in the armed forces or did anything else that would have given her a major political label before she even started, bar the colour of her skin, which in a civilized enviroment would not be important. But this quiet, dignified woman made a simple stand and in respect to civil rights, the southern states of the US (in particular Alabama) are a better place as a result.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

40 Trivia Questions

A friend of mine recently sent me the following questions, with the aim of sending to another group of friends.It's the sort of thing that isn't my style, but I find I am a sucker for reading them and answering them in my head. So instead of annoying a lot of friends by answering them and telling them to send it on, I thought I would answer them and annoy, sorry, share them with you guys etc... for those who are curious
BTW apologies if I am being a total pain in the neck here:

1. What colour is your underwear? You mean right now or generally? My general underwear colours are varied, but aside from that it is no one's business!

2. What are you listening to right now? Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, Paul McCartney (Track 1: Fine Line)

3. What was the last thing you ate? A pastry, with a cup of tea

4. Do you wish on stars? No

5. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Yellow I think

6. How is the weather right now? Mild, some faded sunlight through the clouds, and cold I think!

7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? Liz

8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Yes

9. How old are you today? 30

10. Favourite drink? Depends on the occasion, but tea, coffee, ginger beer, and coke, are my all-time favs. Not all at once though ;)

11. Favourite sport to watch? Football

12. Have you ever dyed your hair? No

13. Do you wear contacts or glasses? Glasses. Have thought of contacts, but have visions of looking under sofas for them.

14. Pets? Two cats

15. Favourite months? April/June/September/December

16. Anything I cannot eat? Do you mean medically or simple dislike? I find broccoli makes me feel sick. To my tatse buds, parmizan cheese
tastes like sick, and I generally don't like cheese (aside from the melted stuff and brie) which I find disapointing as I wish I did like cheese (probably for social, asthetic and snobby reasons)

17. What was the last movie you watched? Amelie (But not all the way through, and I have seen it before)

18. Favourite day of the year? September 30th/December 24th/25th

19. What do you do to vent anger? Work at something

20. What was your favourite toy as a child? Possibly my raleigh striker bike, with the bars in front of the logo, the blue tyres, the... Thanks a lot, you made me miss something I have not seen for twenty years. Aside from that, possibly my Castle Grayskull and He-Man set, as well as the teddy bear I had as an infant.

21. Fall or Spring? You mean autumn or spring! Actually autumn, but I have a fondness for spring

22. Hugs or kisses? Depends who with ;-). In the context of friendships, nothing beats a hug

23. Cherry or Blueberry? Blueberry

24. Do you want your friends to email you back? Generally yes, but am not fussed, depends what it's about

25. Who is most likely to respond? Don't know

26. Who is least likely to respond? Don't know

27. When was the last time you cried? I think it was something I saw on the TV, but my last clear memory of crying was when my friend Tammy died, and her mum told me on the phone just how much of a valued friend I was to her

28. What is on the floor of your closet? Coathangers

29. What is under your bed? Bags

30. Who is the friend you have had the longest? Family, aside from family, Jennifer and Katherine Collins (since March 1984)

31. What did you do last night? Travelled back from London, had dinner, went to Bible Study Group, went home, checked e--mails, chatted with Liz on the phone, watched some TV, went to bed

32. Favourite smell? Perfume, mint

33. What are you afraid of? Having a violent death, poisonous snakes, heights (when I am in a physically vulnerable situation, such as absailing),
rats, being the target of verbal and psychological bullying

34. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? Plain

35. Favourite car? Minis, or those 1930s sports cars

36. Favourite dog breed? Labrador

37. Number of keys on your key ring? 1

38. Favourite day of the week? Depends on what is going on, but generally Wednesday's/Friday's/Sunday's

39. How many countries have you lived in? 1

40. How many cities/towns have you lived in? 2 Towns, 4 villages

Kerron's Assistant

(The Voice of the Delectable Left)

Further to my last posting, it was yesterday that I met Kerron's famous assistant, Travis Randall.
Travis has been the butt of a no of jokes by the said Kerron, regarding his supposed resemblance to Timothy Claypole from the almost-forgotten children's series Rentaghost
I could have a suitable response to that, but Kerron and I have agreed to a truce. Suffice to say that if he breaks that I have a rather unpleasant photo from the BBC Archives which I would then be prepared to unleash, showing the physiological differences between a particular pair of twins as they got older, and yes, one of them is wearing glasses. I should point out of legal reasons though, that neither Cameron or Kerron, sorry David Cameron and Kerron Cross, are in any way like the twins in the aforementioned photo.
Anyways, Travis seems to have settled in well and is already showing a keen interest in the other Westminster staffers, which is nice.
He also has an interesting blog which I said I would give a link on this blog and it looks promising. I just hope that Travis's time in Westminster will encourage his genuine idealism.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The back-handed kindness of Kerron Cross

(The Voice of the Delectable Left)

Due to my interest in getting more involved with political work, I asked David Cameron, sorry, Kerron Cross (David Cameron's Labour Party "twin") some days ago if I could shadow him for the day, in the course of his work for Andy Reed MP, and Kerron kindly agreed.
And the rumours are true, Andy's team are a joy to work alongside. Andy's a nice guy, Kerron's a nice guy, even the American intern Travis is a nice guy.
However, this kindness has been brutally added by his latest nefarious blog posting.
I was merely pointing out that Baldock East was winnable and made a comment in jest, but of course that gets blown out of all proportion.
Perhaps David, sorry Kerron, should be a tabloid journalist ;).

Monday, October 24, 2005

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

(EMI/Mike McCartney/MPL Communications)

Paul McCartney's latest album.
I got it as a birthday present, and having at last listened to it, I can say it is good. Possibly his best work since Flowers in the Dirt, although there was some very good songs on Flaming Pie
Like a lot of people, I think McCartney is capable of very great work, sans Beatles (which goes without saying), but that sometimes he lets himself down. Nigel Godrich has certainly given Macca the collaborative foil that he needs here.
Tracks I think are worth listening to inc 'Fine Line', Jenny Wren', 'English Tea', 'Too Much Rain' and 'This Never Happened Before'.
Joby Talbot's orchestration work (He of The League of Gentlemen and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame) is also a treat.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Confirmation of Nomination

(North Herts District Council)

The letter from North Herts District Council has arrived in the post, confirming me in the 'Statement of Persons Nominated for the BALDOCK EAST WARD'.
So that's that, and it looks like my opponents are Les Wilsher and Marilyn Kirkland.
Marylin Kirkland was my opponent in Baldock Town last year and I have not campaigned against Les Wilsher, although he has stood for the Conservatives in Baldock East before.
Looks like things will be interesting. Incidentally I have already done some canvassing in Baldock East and am struck by how welcoming the people are. I find it slightly tough canvassing, because when door-knocking you are aware you could be taking up people's precious time and you don't want to bother them, you just want people to know you are there and available. So when people are welcoming it makes all the difference :-).
I only hope I get the chance to return the helpful attitude I have been shown and which is more than politicans ask for.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Photos from Taize

You know how it is sometimes. You do a bit of spring cleaning, or are looking for something, and you come across a no of photos that you took some years ago and the memories flood back.
This happened to me the other day, when I came across a no of photos I took during the pilgrimage to Taize that I took with the Luton University Chaplaincy in 1997 (I have posted some of them below, with explanation notes).
The memories are somewhat bittersweet now. A girl I briefly met there that year later committed suicide, a friend of mine who helped organise the pilgrimage died suddenly a few years later, and then there was the horrific murder of Brother Roger earlier this year.

(Clockwise from left: The old Church at Taize, which stopped being the focal point after 1960, due to the sheer volume of pilgrims attending services. The main Church at Taize, which is mainly used by the pilgrims. The monks quarters. A bad photo I took of one of the presentations inside the Church. The one in the photograph was done by pilgrims from Pakistan, if I remember correctly)

But that said, my two pilgrimages to Taize (in 1996 and 1997), were fantastic experiences. The enviroment (I have always thought the South of France is one of the best places in Europe), the Church services, the variety of nationalities that you meet when you go about your duties (To be a pilgrim there you have to help with the upkeep. The group I was with helped with washing-up duties during the lunch hour. On one occasion I shared the washing up with one Austrian, one Czech, one French, and one German).

(Clockwise from left: Lunchtime washing-up in the main kitchen area. The evening meal. The Bible study group I was in (Embarrasingly we were all British, bar one Pakistani, one American, and one Belgian). Three of the Luton University group (From left, my friend Helen, my late and much missed friend Simon, who was Chapliancy Warden. Simon's sister, Jane)

Then there are the evenings where Oyak, the non profit bar is open and you can buy one alcoholic drink only and you get bothered by non-English speaking European teenagers who say 'Fire!' meaning, 'Do you have a light!'
The surrounding gardens, where you are meant to spend time in reflection are quite attractive as well. If the oppurtunity comes up to pay another visit I think I will take it.

(Bottom photo, Oyak open for business. Top photos, the gardens at Taize. The rock pool shown in the top left-hand corner was a favourite spot of mine)

Kerron and his alleged twin-brother. Part 2!

Further to my last posting concerning David Cameron's eerie resemblance to Kerron Cross, the allegations have been picked up and put down as a 'Vicious rumour'.
It should be borne in mind, however, that what I actually said was "if it wasn't for the fact that Cameron is nearly a decade older, they look like identical twins seperated at birth!" That is not to say they are identical twins.
That said, my comments have also been picked up by the moderator of 'Bloggers4Labour' who has said: think you may have a point, if it weren't for the medical implications which we ought not to delve into. If you could persuade him to be photographed wearing your specs, we'd be hard pressed to tell the difference.

Perhaps Paul's photo is a bit out-of-date though, as DC is looking a bit puffy at the moment, and may be positively Churchillian in another decade

Admittedly the photo is a bit out-of-date, but that doesn't detract from the allegation as identical twins do tend to look noticeably different the older they get ;).

So I thought I would post some recent photographs of the 'twins', courtesy of Kerron's Website.

(Kerron Cross)

Now I think it really ought to be pointed out that

(David Cameron)

these photos are highly damaging to Cameron's chances of being elected Conservative leader . After all, a potential Tory leader supporting striking workers! That will go down well with some of the rank-and-file ;).

The Candidate

(North Herts Labour Party)

It looks like I will be the Labour Candidate for Baldock East, following the resignation of the sitting Liberal Democrat Councillor.
This will be the third time I have stood for District Council (The previous two occasions in Baldock Town), and I am looking forward to the challenge. Particually as it is a three-horse race at the moment.
For those of you who don't know, Baldock East is part of North Hertfordshire District Council, and the town itself is situated near the borders between Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and Cambridgeshire. It is just off Jn 10 on the A1 and is on the WAGN King's Cross to Cambridge, via Stevenage line.
When Labour first contested the seat in 1999 we were within 150 votes of victory and the Lib Dems were in third place. Labour decided not to field a candidate in 2003 and the Lib Dems won by just over forty votes, so there is a lot to play for.
It is also a Ward mainly comprised of houses that have been around for about twenty years. Most of it's residents are commuters and it has a lovely shop in the centre of the Clothall area.
Also, as it is a by-election, there will be more grassroots members actively campaigning than usual. So for those Labour activists who are reading this, I need your help, if possible, with canvassing, leafleting, telephoning etc.. I look after those who help me campaign and for those who come to help from another area I return the favour when I can, as one good turn deserves another ;).
BTW Apologies for the above front-covers of my previous personal manifestos ;-), like nearly everyone else I don't think I look good in photos.

Guardian Journalist freed in Iraq

(Press Association)

I was, like many others, very relieved when Guardian journalist, Rory Carroll, was freed in Baghdad yesterday, after being held hostage for thirty-six hours.It was one of those situations when you prayed that everything would be alright but feared what could happen.
I did hope that his Irish background would be noted and that would help aid his release and that appears to be the case.
But it is a horrible reminder for any Westerner in Iraq that they have to be extremely careful with regards to their own personal safety.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Result of second round of Conservative leadership ballot

(BBC Online)

David Cameron 90
David Davis 57
Liam Fox 51

So Fox didn't get enough and Davis lost some, but not a large amount of support. It looks like this will now go to the rank-and-file, and I suspect they will, unless they will be oppurtunistic, pick Davis.
Or maybe I am guilty of wishful thinking

The Final Furlong

(BBC Online)

So today will decide who are the last two in the 'Conservative Big Brother household', who will be put forward by MP's as candidates to the rank-and-file Conservative members.
That is unless the votes are so overwhemingly in David Cameron's favour, but, as Liam Fox says, that will deprive the grassroots of their oppurtunity.
In any case two days campaigning for the second round does seem to be a very short time, with large numbers of MP's switching their support like strong cross-currents in an ocean. I very much doubt things are going to be boring for them.
That said, they have, once again laid themselves open. If Cameron wins overwhemingly, they will have denied the Conservative grassroots a chance to choose their leader. If the Conservative grassroots do choose, they will probably pick Liam Fox (In spite of one opinion poll to the contary), and once again Labour will be facing a right-winger at the next general election with the Conservatives bringing forward a right-wing agenda which is out-of-date and has no place in the twenty-first century.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Kerron and his alleged twin-brother

(Photos BBC Online/
Fellow blogger Kerron Cross, will doubtless accuse me of being rather cruel towards him today, but the simple fact of the matter is... Yeah I am. But the guy lays himself open to this sort of abuse!
Put basically, I was browsing through my friends' bloggers and I noticed that, not only did he mention the launch of 'Christians in Parliament'(and I have not forgotten his acerbic comments concerning the fact I happened to find a Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate fanciable), but he also made comments about his alleged resemblance to the lead singer of Kaiser Chiefs.
He is right in that there is no resemblance. However it has reminded me of a certain politican who is much in the news at present.

Now, tell me if you think I am wrong, but, if it wasn't for the fact that Cameron is nearly a decade older, they look like identical twins seperated at birth!

Christians in Parliament

(Christians in Parliament)

Today sees the launch of the new Christians in Parliament website.
Admittedly, not being an MP, or even a member of staff at the House of Commons, I am not involved. Although I have been to one of their Christmas events, and I have met the Chair, Alistair Burt MP, on a couple of occasions, and he is quite a nice, laid-back guy. Admittedly he was a minister during John Major's government, but then we all make mistakes!
I have also met the delightful-looking Hannah Hedges at the said-Christmas event, although my appreciation of her has been slated in some quarters. Even though I have insisted that I would try and convert her from the Lib Dems given the chance!
But in any case, 'Christians in Parliament' is a coalition of politicans and political staffers who have a sincere and deep faith, and who genuinely want to help make the World a better place (as cliched and irritating as it sounds). So I think it is worth a link on my blog.

Colds and bugs etc...

(Associated Press)

For the last five days I have been fighting a tough war against a bad cold and I now appear to be winning. The worst point being on Monday, when I needed a two-hour nap at one stage, to recharge my batteries.
But colds are a part of winter and shouldn't be sniffed at! Providing one is armed with plenty of warm liquids and a packet of lockets, as well as using one's common sense, it is usually dealt with quickly.
That said however, I have been following the recent bird-flu scare stories and it is cause for concern.
Especially the thought of it reaching the UK and it being the end of the road for the half dozen hens or so that my parents keep!
But, even more disturbing, according to the BBC:

Scientists have warned that a strain of the disease deadly to humans could cause a lethal pandemic if it mutates into a form that can be spread from person to person.

The H5N1 strain has killed more than 60 people in South East Asia since 2003. However, of those only one is suspected to have died after catching the virus from another human, and experts stress the risk is low.

I imagine the Daily Mail will have spun that into a 'We are all going to die and this will affect house-prices for aspiring middle-class buyers' story (as per usual), but it is cause for concern.
The last time there was a pandemic was in 1918. Up to forty million people died, over 250,000 in the UK. One of the 250,000 being a Great-Uncle of mine. He would have been eighty-nine if he were alive today.
As I have mentioned, the chances of it mutating into a lethal pandemic are fairly slim, but this is definetly a story we should be keeping an eye on.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More on John Lennon

(EMI/Annie Leibovitz)

According to the BBC, the American Society of Magazine Editors' have voted for the front cover of the Jan 1981 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, as the top magazine cover of the last 40 years.It shows a naked John Lennon embracing a fully-clothed Yoko Ono, and was initally taken to publicise the series of interviews they were conducting with the couple, following the release of their album Double Fantasy.
The photograph was taken on the morning of December 8th, the morning of the day he died, so it has a tragic added resonance, which is why I suspect it was voted as top magazine cover.
It seems that even on the day he died John Lennon caused comment. The last photographs taken of him alive include the said magazine cover, as well as the rather sinister photograph of him signing an autograph for Mark Chapman, some six hours before Chapman shot and fatally wounded Lennon. Photographs which have stories of their own and help cause speculation and debate.
Personally I prefer the above photograph, among the last taken of him. It was taken by Annie Leibovitz on the day he died (during the same session as the naked John and fully-clothed Yoko photographs), and later used as the cover for his first posthumously released compilation album. I suppose I like it because there is something relatively safe about it, compared to the controversy of the other photos.

Result of first round of Conservative leadership ballot

(BBC News Online)

David Cameron 56
Kenneth Clarke 38
David Davis 62
Liam Fox 42

No of votes cast 198.
So Clarke has failed to get past the first ballot and it is two right-wingers against a left-winger, and the Conservative Party is once again (if you add all the left-wing votes in one corner and the same for the right-wingers) faced with the fact that they have learnt little, if at all!

More on the Conservatives

(Press Association)

If there is one thing I like about the Conservative Party, among the many things I dislike about them, is that they are rarely boring!
The latest news is that former Coronation Street soap star, Adam Rickitt, is now on the Party's shortlist of candidates.
According to the BBC, a spokeswoman said that it was exciting to have younger people in line to become Conservative MP's. In other words there is a likely shortage of anyone available who was born between 1972 and 1984. I wonder why! He certainly looks a bit bewildered in the above photograph.
Rickitt was not the first celebrity to stand for Parliament. He follows in the path of TV Presenter Gyles Brandreth and British athlete Sebastian Coe, both of whom were elected in 1992, only to lose their seats in the 1997 avalanche. TV Journalist Jeremy Thorpe stood for Parliament for the Liberals in 1959, was elected, and then later stood on trial for conspiracy to murder. Then there is Glenda Jackson, who stood for, and won, Hampstead and Highgate in 1992.
Other celebrities who have stood for Parliament, and failed, involve a large and varied list. They include David Bellamy (Enviromentalist and TV Personality: Referendum, Huntingdon (John Major's seat), 1997),Sir Robin Day (Former BBC political interviewer: Liberal, Hereford, 1959), Sir James Goldsmith (Businessman: Referendum, Putney, 1997) Norris McWhirter (Guinness Book of Records Editor, "Record Breakers" TV Presenter and right-wing activist and campaigner: Conservative, Orpington, 1964 and 1966), Ross McWhirter (Guinness Book of Records Editor, "Record Breakers" TV Presenter and right-wing activist and campaigner: Conservative, Edmonton, 1964), Vanessa Redgrave (Actress on film and television: Workers Revolutionary Party, numerous occasions), Auberon Waugh (Author, satirist, and journalist: Dog Lover's Party, North Devon, 1979).
Well Adam, the path from celebrity to being elected to Parliament is riddled with failure, with some of the above finding that when they open their mouth, they find their politics are not as popular as their involvement with the trade for which they became famous. I just hope you know what you are doing.

The Tory Leadership

At about 17:15 hrs GMT today, we will hear the results of the first-round of the Conservative Party leadership contest, with the candidate with the least votes being knocked out of the running.
As someone who is observing across the political divide, I hope the candidates do well. But I hope the eventual winner knows what they are inheriting!
The Conservative Party leadership has been an office secured by election since the mid-1960s, after the furore caused by the 'choosing' by HM the Queen of the 14th Earl of Home to be the next (Conservative) Prime Minister, after Harold Macmillan resigned in 1963.This was on the advice of ministers and apparently went over the wishes of the Parliamentary and National Conservative Party. It was the last time the Queen appointed a Prime Minister on the advice of ministers, and ever since has made such appointments after that individual has been elected by their party (If that party is in office), or by the British people in a general election.
So how has the elections of Conservative leaders gone in the last forty years?
(Associated Press)

Sir Alec Douglas Home (As he became known after having to quit his Earldom on becoming Prime Minister) quit as Conservative Party leader in 1965, a year after the Party was defeated by Labour in a general election. It is rumoured that he quit under the face of a 'coup d'etat'. He was succeeded by Edward Heath.

(BBC News Online)

Who lost the 1966 general election to Labour, but won in the succesive 1970 election. Only to be defeated in the Feb 1974 general election. As no party had overall control, the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, called for another general election that October. Heath lost this election as well and his enemies (mainly to the right of the party) sought to replace him. Margaret Thatcher challenged him for the leadership in 1975, and Heath resigned after securing eleven less votes from Thatcher in the first ballot.


Margaret Thatcher went on to win three general elections (1979, 1983, and 1997). However her abrassive personality when conducting business, the multi-issues of the Poll Tax, Europe, a growing economic recession, and possibly economic sanctions against South Africa, made her very unpopular. Her bulldozing style of dealing with cabinet ministers who stepped out of line also turned fatal. In 1990, her Deputy (In name only, given the way she treated him), Sir Geoffrey Howe resigned over her inflexible attitude on Europe. A week later he gave a devastating resignation speech in the House of Commons (As writer John O'Farrell put it, it had the anger of the 'Sex Pistols' in the voice of Eyeore). Michael Heseltine, a former cabinet minister who resigned over the issue of Westland, launched a challenge for the leadership the following day and on the first ballot Thatcher had less than four votes to secure her victory, thus precipitating a second ballot. She resigned two days later. Others came into the contest as a result and John Major won on the second ballot.

(BBC News Online)

After winning the 1992 general election. Major faced a variety of problems caused by the long-term ill-effects of Conservative government. High interest rates, decimation of a no of industries, not least the Coal industry, and Europe, which was tearing the Party apart like Earth-plates causing an earthquake. In June 1995 Major 'resigned' the Tory leadership and sought reelection on a 'Put up or shut up' manouvre. John Redwood, the right-wing Secretary of State for Wales, resigned from the cabinet and stood against him. He ended up with 89 votes to Major's 218.
Following the colossal defeat faced by the Conservatives in the 1997 general election, Major resigned the leadership. He was succeeded by William Hague, who led the party to colossal defeat in the 2001 general election.

(BBC News Online)

He was succeeded by Iain Duncan Smith,
who led the Party through poor showings in opinion polls, lack of respect from fellow Conservative MP's, possible sniping from Shadow Cabinet members (It is thought that an inaccurate smear camapign concerning Duncan Smith's wife and expense claims was made by Liam Fox's researcher), all of which led to a motion of no-confidence from Conservative MP's. Duncan Smith was then defeated by 90 votes to his 75.

He was in-turn succeeded by Michael Howard who won by acclamation (no one else stood for the leadership). After the defeat of the Conservative Party, Howard announced his resignation.
So my advice for the next Tory leader! Watch your back, you will be leading a Party that is slow to forgive when things go wrong.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Morris Dancing

(BBC Online)
So Morris Dancers want to partake in the 2012 Olympics!
Well mercifully only in the Opening ceremony! And surprise, surprise it is a Liberal Democrat Peer who is suggesting this ;)

Last night on Bremner, Bird, and Fortune


Being the sort of sad individual I am, I usually tend to watch nearly any TV programme involving politics, whether it is drama or satire, or analysis. There is something inherently relaxing about Sunday lunchtimes; the dinner cooking away, the relaxing on the sofa going through the broadsheets, whilst watching 'The Politics Show'.
Anyway I am digressing. Last night I was watching Bremner, Bird and Fortune which slightly irritates me these days as being a bit of a Lib Dem rant and camp impressions of the Queen, rather than the brilliant occasional sketches one used to see, such as the one where you see two middle-class, middle-aged couples at a dinner table, giving a Daily Mail-style rant about the World and contradicting themselves in the process.
But the final skit last night, as the credits rolled, was priceless.
Showing film clips of George W.Bush and Tony Blair to the sound of "Jesus He Knows Me" by Genesis.
Simple, but very effective, and there is something disturbing about the line: 'Well Jesus he knows me, and he knows IM right'

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Another Day Out


Yesterday was a bit of a full social day for me, as I first went to Cambridge, and then straight to London.
In Cambridge I attended the Labour Party Regional Rally, which was being held at the Guildhall. The main speaker was the General Secretary of Unison, Dave Prentice. And there was input from a representative of Oxfam, from Richard Howitt, the regional Labour MEP, Barbara Follett MP, and Tony McWalter, the former MP for Hemel Hempstead, for whose constituency party I worked as a Campaign Intern at the last general election.
The main thrust of the rally involved the importance of helping to bring pressure to western governments with regard to the Make Poverty History campaign, how important it is to work on our third term and to bring those dissaffected with the Labour Party back into the fold. And also how well we have done to win three terms of office in a row. Something Labour hasn't done before!
Plus it was good to meet old friends, and dare I say it, comrades! ;)
Then it was straight down to London to meet up with Aidan in Holborn. Having safetly arrived back from Pakistan, he held a 'Welcome Back' party. I would have taken some photos, but I realised, too late, that the batteries were running down on my camera.
Instead, I will share a photo with you that I took of Aidan when we were at Uni in the mid to late nineties.
I just know he will appreciate that ;)!

Friday, October 14, 2005

007 minus Q and Moneypenny

(From BBC Online)

Further to my last posting about 007, it seems that neither Q or Moneypenny will be appearing in the next Bond film, which will be titled Casino Royale.
This is slightly disapointing as Bond flirting with Moneypenny, and his teasing of Q whilst been introduced to his latest gadgets for the field, are almost de rigeur for a Bond movie. But C'est la vie, things move on!
I thought though, that I would be sad enough to share with you some of my favourite dialogue between Bond and Q.

From Goldfinger:

Q: [Showing Bond a tracking device] Reception on the dashboard, here. Audo-visual
Q: , range a hundred and fifty miles.
James Bond: Ingenious, and useful too. Allow a man to stop off for a quick one en route.
Q: It has not been perfected, out of years of patient research, ENTIRELY for that purpose, 007. And incidentally, we'd appreciate its return, along with all your other equipment, INTACT for once, when you return from the field.
James Bond: Well, you'd be surprised the amount of wear and tear that goes on out there in the field.

From Moonraker:

Q: It's activated by nerve impulses from the wrist muscles.
James Bond: Like this?
[dart pierces a painting on M's wall]
M: Oh, thank you, 007!
Q: Be careful, will you? Now, there's ten darts: five blue-tipped, armour-piercing; five red-tipped, cyanide coated, causing death in thirty seconds.
James Bond: Very novel, Q. Must get them in the stores for Christmas.

And from Tomorrow Never Dies:

Q: It's the insurance damage waiver for your beautiful new car. Now, will you need collision coverage?
James Bond: Yes.
Q: Fire?
James Bond: Probably.
Q: Property destruction?
James Bond: Definitely.
Q: Personal Injury?
James Bond: I hope not, but accidents do happen.
Q: They frequently do with you.
James Bond: Well, that takes care of the normal wear-and-tear. Is there any other protection I need?
Q: Only from me 007, unless you bring that car back in pristine order

It's moments like that that help make a Bond movie!

The name's Craig.. Daniel Craig

(Associated Press)

So Daniel Craig will be the new James Bond
I was a bit disapointed that, after recent speculation, Pierce Brosnan was not coming back to do one more (I remember starting at Uni when Goldeneye came out and thinking that, given the choice, he should do five and then quit) but C'est la vie!
I am also unsure about the choice of Craig, as it looks like his Bond will be too much like Timothy Dalton's portrayal of 007. But then there were fears that Pierce Brosnan would be too much like Roger Moore and he proved people wrong. In fact, Brosnan is my favourite Bond, showing a toughness and vulnerability that makes Bond more human and less of a cardboard action hero.
I am also reminded in writing this, of the time I spent a weekend with friends and The Rolling Stones, Forty Licks was playing in the background. As soon as the opening chords of 'Under My Thumb' started, I pointed out that I disliked the song as it was mysognistic. My friends response was: "But it's The Rolling Stones!"
In the same way I suppose I am guilty of taking the same attitude to Bond! But, especially with the Roger Moore era, how can you take Bond seriously?

Secret Army


As some of you know, I do have a bit of a soft spot of the odd 70s and 80s TV programmes that get shown on UKTV Gold and UKTV Drama.
So you will not be too surprised to learn that some of my evenings have recently been spent watching Secret Army, which has just finished on UKTV Drama.
For those who don't know, 'Secret Army' is basically 'Allo 'Allo minus the laughs ("'Allo 'Allo" was meant to be a mickey take, but it ended up eclipsing the success of 'Secret Army'). There is a resistance group, 'Lifeline', which has a base at a Brussels Cafe; 'Le Candide'. The cafe owner helps run the resistance and he is having an affair with one of the maids behind his wife's back (The maid also sings at the Cafe). The initial head of the Resistance is an attractive woman, the 'Lifeline' have run-in's with the Communist Resistance, the Germans frequently use the Cafe and there is a sinister SS Officer involved as well,Kessler. There is even a 'nice' German Officer who occasionally plays the piano.
But 'Secret Army' was succesful and ground-breaking for it's time. There is a difference shown between the Wiermarcht and the SS and the tensions it produces. Not all the reistance members are brave and patriotic (some are just downright mercenary), and, much to viewers' disgust (including mine), Kessler escapes at the end of the War and in doing so, has a member of the Luftwaffe killed in an allied prison so that his identity is kept secret (The Luftwaffe Officer, showing a rare degree of decency in the last three episodes).
The series is also worth watching for it's casting, most notably that of Valentine Dyall, of 'Appointment With Fear', 'The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy', and 'Doctor Who' fame.
Usually cast as villians of the sort that can unnerve even the most hardened individual, or as great authority figures, it is somewhat strange to see him as a gentle medical doctor helping the resistance (somewhat unnerving in itself).
But that said, worth watching.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Books and CDs

(BBC Online)

Further to my posting about my recent birthday, I did make use of my book tokens by buying Anthony Howard's biography of Cardinal Basil Hume.
I didn't intend to buy it, but I saw it on sale and thought it would make an interesting read, although I am currently working through three books at present (A book on Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect by Clifford Hill, the Morse novel Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter, as well as a book on King Arthur).
I also brought myself two CD's, From Here To Eternity (Live) , by The Clash (If only to feel patriotic at the opening guitar chords of London Calling ;) ), and Return of the Champions by Queen + Paul Rodgers, which (despite Freddie Mercury's presence clearly missing and John Deacon's decision to take a back-seat), shows that Queen haven't lost their touch.
I don't know, browsing through bios of Cardinals, reading about social justice, listening to Queen and The Clash, I clearly have a case of rhythm and blues ;).

Harold Pinter

(Press Association)

So Harold Pinter, a playwright who has a reputation for being very left-wing and very rude and obnoxious, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Such is his fearsome reputation, not least for his free use of swear words when in full vocal bile against individuals and organisations he dislikes, that my immediate shocked reaction was unprintable!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The 'Needs' Game

Fellow blogger, Jo Salmon has hit upon a game devised by her partner Antonia. Put basically, you google search your first name with the word 'needs' after it. So you get things like 'Jo needs to make decisions quickly'..
Typical of me though, it came up with the following headlines, after I typed in 'Paul needs':

Paul Needs - Welsh Musician and Songwriter

Paul Needs Biography

Welsh Musician and Writer.
Paul Needs - Musician and Songwriter

Paul Needs - Free Music Downloads

BBC - South West Wales Music - Paul Needs
A profile of 70's rocker, Paul Needs from South Wales. Paul Needs Specs:


Music Places Internet Radio - Paul Needs

ROCKBAND.COM :: Paul Needs

Well I will await the arival of my Mp3 player (a forthcoming late birthday present, before I need downloads). It is true that I enjoy reading, or heavily browsing, through biographies, and I do wear specs.. But typical! Most of all the search confuses me with a Welsh rocker. If my friend Tammy (who was very Southern Welsh) were alive today, she would have found this most amusing.
Anyway, above is a photo of the great man himself.

Examining lyrics: No 1, Imagine

(Getty Images)

Further to my posting several days ago on John Lennon, I was listening to Imagine this morning, and as I have an ear for lyrics I thought I would share you my Ricky Gervais-like pedantic thoughts on this:

Written by: John Lennon
© Bag productions inc.

Imagine there's no Heaven

(Well that knocks off a lot of the World's religion and the tendencies of a no of agnostics in one go!)
It's easy if you try
No Hell below us
(Again, offends a no of religions and irritates people who think that otherwise Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Khan got away with it)
Above us Only Sky
(Incidentally this is my most major bone of contention here! We know that above the Sky are areoplanes, balloons and the like, and above the sky, Outer Space. That is something no one can really agree with, unless Lennon is totally talking in relative and/or analogical terms, in which case this knocks my whole pedantic argument. But heck, it's fun, so I will keep digging ;) )
Imagine All the People
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do

(Well that takes a knock at any sense of national identity)
Nothing to kill or die for
(I agree to a point about killing, although I am not a pacifist and agree with the Just-War philosophy. But many good people died for a cause. Christ, Sir Thomas More, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John F.Kennedy and Robert Kennedy (and possibly Lennon himself).)
And no religion too(I suppose I could argue about the difference between religion and faith, but it is a bit of a knock at the religions who were prepared to listen to Lennon)
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace


You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you will join us
And the world will live as one

Imagine no possesions
I wonder if you can

(Does he mean personal or general, and if personal, what sort of personal possesions?)
No need for greed and hunger
The brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the World


You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you will join us
And the world will live as one

Please bear in mind I am tounge-in-cheek here, all I am saying is that Imagine is a bit of a divisive secular hymn, as much as a uniting one. That said, I am sure Lennon was painting an ideal, rather than a creed, and in that sense it is something to live up to!
Hard song to dislike though ;)

Sir Malcolm Rifkind

(BBC Online)

So yesterday, Sir Malcolm Rifkind withdrew from the Conservative Party leadership race, citing lack of support.
It is somewhat sad to see a good horserace narrow before the first hurdle is jumped, but it isn't entirely surprising. He is also pledging his support to Kenneth Clarke, which is also unsurprising from a One-Nation Tory.
All that remains is for the left of the Party and those who support them, to fully see just how much of the Party is dominated from the right!

Margaret Thatcher

(BBC Online)

Tomorrow will be the 80th birthday of Margaret Thatcher, otherwise known as "The Iron Lady", "The Great She-Elephant", "Attila the Hen" and "The Grocer's Daughter".
To be fair, those of us across the political divide ought to congratulate her. We can agree that she is a formidable woman who succesfully managed to become the first female Prime Minister, lasting in the post for eleven years (1979-1990), which is some achivement.
Indeed some in the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats praise her not just for her strength of personality but also for her encouragement of giving people an increase in the right of choice. I admit myself, albeit with blushes, that I have agreed with one or two major Thatcherite policies, although one of them (Rail privatisation) is something I am now somewhat ashamed of, given the dire mess it is in right now.
So how is the Iron Lady celebrating her birthday! Well according to BBC Online Diarist Nick Assinder:

Fascinating to see who is being invited to Baroness Thatcher's 80th birthday bash in Knightsbridge on Thursday.

Who is in and who out of favour with the Iron Lady
A whole host of big beasts from the Tory party will be there amongst the near 700-strong gathering

But so will Prime Minister Tony Blair, who invited her into Downing Street shortly after his election in 1997 and has always rather enjoyed being described as her political heir.

But apparently Michael Heseltine can not look forward to an invitation.

Hardly surprising bearing in mind his greatest claim to fame is probably as the man who finished off the Iron Lady.

Perhaps more interesting, however, is the fact that of the remaining four Tory leadership contenders only the two right wingers, David Davis and Liam Fox have been invited.

Euroenthusiast Ken Clarke has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been forgotten and the Baroness "doesn't know" David Cameron.

What is more difficult to work out nowadays is whether their campaigns will gain or lose from being left off the list.

It is hardly surprising which leadership contenders are on the list, given Thatcher's partisan and slavish approach to the right of the Party. For this is the woman who, according to the memoirs of the former Conservative leader and Prime Minister (Yes you could be both in those days), Sir Edward Heath, kept very quiet at the Shadow Cabinet meeting where various members tripped over each other in demanding that fellow Shadow Cabinet member, Enoch Powell be sacked for his attacks on immigrants in a speech in Birmingham three days previously. This is the woman who was in thrall with the Freedom Association and it's founders! A group which wanted severe cubs on immigration, and wanted to see an end to economic sanctions in the apartheid-ruling South Africa, something let us not forget, which Maggie herself publicly supported. I am sure that was great comfort to many civil-rights supporters there as they prepared to 'commit suicide' by slipping on a bar of soap and sliding across a room and falling over a balcony whilst in police custody. This is the woman who, in recent years, protested against the imprisonment of General Pinochet! Saying at the Conservative Party Conference that year, concerning Britain's arrest of the notorious dictator over human rights abuses:

"But it is an affront to common sense as well as a caricature of justice to maintain that a head of government must automatically accept criminal responsibility for everything that is done while he is in power.

"On that basis Messrs Blair and Straw should accept criminal responsibility for everything done in every prison or police station throughout the United Kingdom - and then be extradited to Spain to answer for it."

(I have some difficulty equating human rights abuses and lack of democracy in Chile with the choices and freedoms in the UK, but never mind, I have never attempted to understand those who are very right-wing or left wing).
She later added that, to quote BBC Online: Pinochet's enemies hated him because of his success in transforming Chile's economy under a free market model.

I sincerely hope that Liam Fox and David Davis bear all of this in mind, and many of us in the Labour Party will wish them well in the leadership race.
But we don't hold grudges and wish Maggie well. Only some of us hope she realises one day what horrendous and damaging mistakes she has made in her political life.

A Day Out

(Parliamentary Copyright)

Yesterday I went along with other members of the North East Herts Constituency Labour Party (I know, a bit of a mouthful there)to meet up with Barbara Follett at the House of Commons. (For those who don't know, Barbara Follett is the Labour MP for the neighbouring constituency of Stevenage).
The thing that gets me about visiting Westminster is that I am almost used to visiting the Palace of Westminster, but am still attracted to the buzz of the place and some of the history and design. Some of the constituency members had never been before and were definetly in some awe, whether they agreed with some of the traditions or not.
We were shown by one of the House of Commons staff around the House of Lords, the lobby areas, the Commons, and their respective voting lobbies before being left in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the building, where people like Sir Thomas More, the Gunpowder Plot conspirators, and King Charles I were on trial for their lives, where Kings and Queens, and Sir Winston Churchill have lain in state, and where Parliament has been addressed by people like Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton.
It is one big medieval hall and has changed little in appearance in the last 600 years.
Anyway, we met Barbara in a room at Portcullis House across the road, where about one-third of the MP's have their offices, and were treated to sandwiches, tea, and coffee, as we discussed the immediate future of the Party and the recent general election results in Hertfordshire, before some of us went to see a debate in the Commons from the gallery. There was a shortage of tickets and as I have been in the gallery before I settled with a brief sit-down in the Central Lobby with a couple of other constituency members, before sharing a pot of tea in a cafetria next to Westminster Hall, where we had a friendly, but lively debate on the merits and problems of religious schooling.
Just before we got on the minibus, the Leader of the Labour Group for North Herts District Council, David Kearns, got a call on his mobile to say that a Liberal Democrat Councillor in my area had resigned and that the by-election will be on Nov 17th.
Watch this space.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

West Wing Characters

(Photo: Courtesy of
One of the programmes I am looking forward to catch on the new More4 Channel is the latest series of The West Wing, of which I am a bit of a fan.
Indeed, as seem to be a no of people. One fellow member of Bloggers4Labour, Lee Gregory, has come across a quiz entitled Which West Wing Character Are You?
The temptation was too much and I did the Quiz myself and found that I am closest in character to Sam Seaborn,
which is somewhat of a surprise, because whilst he is a character I do vaguely identify with, no one could say we are alike in personality. Although I suppose the point is I am closer to him than to the others!
The quiz is great fun though.

Monday, October 10, 2005



I was at a Church meeting this evening so I missed part of A Very Social Secretary which has been broadcast as part of the launch of the new digital channel 'More4' this evening!
What I did watch however made compelling viewing, although how much is satirical fiction? It was certainly entertaining and one could not help but feel sorry for Blunkett for being involved with such a grasping, shallow woman of the sort portrayed here by Victoria Hamilton! The self-assurance from some that the right-wing press could be handled was unnervingly delusional.
There were some great bits of dialogue though, such as when the obnoxious young-staffer Keith snapped down the phone: 'Yeah, well tell Derry Irvine he can go and......' (decorum forbids me to go further). How many in the Labour Party or the civil service wish they could have said that about the bullying former Lord Chancellor to one of his lackeys! Or when Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair, and David Blunkett were watching tanks outside Heathrow Airport and Campbell was asserting that they were weren't tanks but 'armoured vehicles'
Great viewing, black comedy, but best taken with a pinch of salt!