Tuesday, February 28, 2006

In Musical Praise of: Johnny Cash

I recently brought a compilation album of his work, and esp like his covers of One and Hurt.
He also has an edge, but also a chamelion quality about him. One of the few artists who has appreciative audiences across age groups and ideologies. In the US, he is revered by both left and right as among their own.
Am in a bit of a rush (as per usual), so here is more about him!

A TV Review

Well wongaBlog has done one and I did feel like doing a TV entry as it were!
Likewise I caught Gideon's Daughter on Sunday evening, which I watched because it was done by Stephen Poliakoff and I am a bit of a fan of his work.
That said, whilst I really enjoyed Gideon's Daughter, I did prefer Friends and Crocodiles and for me, nothing yet beats "Close Relations".
However, I found the centrepiece of the plot concerning the father/daughter relationship, rather compelling. Sneath, the character in "Friends and Crocodiles" came back, and was somewhat more pleasant this time, although he is an annoying snob, and I rather enjoyed the fact that Gideon's world was not as effortless as it seemed to outsiders.
One downside to my TV viewing this week is that I do have a life outside it :-), as a consequence I missed the last episode of Life On Mars (a favourite programme of mine), due to the fact I was at a District Party meeting. The extra irony was if the party meeting hadn't taken place last night, I would have been at a Youth meeting of the Christian Socialist Movement in London.
Ah well. That said, another piece of good news is that I read yesterday that there is a full-blown series of Lewis coming up!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Saddam's hunger strike ends!

That didn't last long did it!

George Michael arrested for drug possesion!

(Associated Press)
It's not like I lack sympathy (I hold him in some regard) although obviously I don't approve of what he has done here, but how would Oscar Wilde would have put it: "To be arrested once is a misfortune. Twice is sheer carelessness!"
On second thoughts, paraphrasing Oscar Wilde (given the cruel way he was treated) is not a good idea, but you get the point!

In Christian Praise of: Cliff Richard


I really did not want to write this blog piece, particularly as it goes into the areas of stereotype and cliche. I am not even a particular fan of Cliff Richard (although I do like "Move It", "Miss You Nights", "Devil Woman", and "Mistletoe and Wine") and he seems to be a nice bloke.
But that said, I do admire him for standing up for his faith at a time when it could have wrecked his career and when it was, in some cases is, highly unpopular. He also is true to his principles (although I think he should show a bit more of the edginess of his character)and is clear, concise, uncompromising, and uncomplicated when it comes to prostelysing his beliefs. Not just his Christian faith.
Plus, musically it says a lot that there is more to him than meets the eye. Particually when you notice that he has, in his time, worked with Elton John, Mark Knopfler, George Harrison, Julian Lennon, Freddie Mercury, Stevie Wonder, Phil Everly, Janet Jackson, and Van Morrison

Daniel Craig. May well be a good Bond..

(Eon Productions/MGM)
Lisa Rullsenberg has been telling us about how there is a strong anti- Daniel Craig site regarding him being the new James Bond.
Further stuff can also be found here, and it's been bad enough where former Bond, Pierce Brosnan has leaped to his defence. Craig also has the endorsement of Sean Connery and Roger Moore.
What do I think of all this!
Well on Saturday night I caught the end of the film Layer Cake on one of the Sky Movie channels. I haven't seen the film before, but from what I did see, I can see why he was considered by the Broccoli family as a good choice as Bond. There is an edge, yet self-assuredness to his performance. From that I can see him as Bond.
Of course, everyone has their favourites. Mine is Pierce Brosnan, before him it was Roger Moore. With many people it's Sean Connery, some like the brooding menace that Timothy Dalton gave the part, and there are some out there who regard George Lazenby, who only did one Bond movie, as the best 007 (I can understand that. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one of my favourite Bond movies).
But all of them are fairly different from each other and all of them have something in their performances that many fans like, so I am sure it will be the same for Craig.
Some have a go at him for being a wuss, clinging onto the boat which shipped him in for his first press conference after being confirmed in the part, or the fact that he can only drive an automatic. So what! How many of us are in the same position. I wouldn't mind being thought of as Bond ;), but I am scared of heights (only absailed once and was scared, although I liked the rock climbing), although I have enjoyed ski-ing and would love to try scuba diving. Many of the critical fans I think, are being somewhat hypocritical. Craig is an actor, he doesn't have to be Bond!
Another aspect are the novels. In those Bond is slightly different to the movie character, and from that I think that Craig, like Crosnan, can mesh those differences and bring Bond firmly into the twenty-first century.
In other words, let's be cautious until the film comes out this autumn.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

In Political Praise of: Harold Wilson

(BBC Online)

When I was about thirteen years old, I went with my family on holiday to the Scilly Isles, and it was whilst we were browsing through a shop on St. Mary's that my Dad told us to have a look outside, which we did.
In the distance, with their backs to us, down the main street, was Harold Wilson with his wife, chatting to one of the locals. If nothing else, the gimmicks were a giveaway, what with the pipe in Wilson's mouth and the labrador who was with them.
By then he was definetly past his best. A retired Prime Minister with a seat in the House of Lords, who now lead a quiet and almost reclusive life, due to his long battle with Alzheimer's, but this image I have in my mind is for me what made part of Wilson's character. A man who was fairly ordinary and used his genuine pleasures in life as an advantage and not made up or exaggerated for the sake of spin.
Born in Huddersfield in 1916, Wilson was educated at the local grammar school, before obtaining a scholarship to Jesus College, Oxford in 1934, to study History.
During this time, Wilson was active in politics to be a member of the Liberal Party (before switching to Labour), but not enough to become involved heavily at University level, nor to get involved with the Oxford Union. Indeed, one of his contemparies and future member of his cabinets, Dennis Healey, cannot remember Wilson at Oxford at all, and yet was a friend of the future Conservative leader, Edward Heath. Wilson's energies were firmly on his academic career. After switching to Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, he graduated with a brilliant first class degree and ended up as one of the youngest Oxford University dons of the 20th century.
Wilson's career might have continued in that vein had it not been for the War. He enlisted, but was classified as a specialist and was moved to the Civil Service, spending the War as a Whitehall civil servant at the Ministry of Fuel and Power. This galvanised a desire to be involved in full-time party politics. He was adopted as a Parliamentary candidate for Ormskirk, resigned as a civil servant, and was elected in Labour's landslide victory in the 1945 general election.
His reputation had preceeded him and he was immediately made a Junior Minister and appointed to the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade within two years at the tender age of thirty-one. Making him the youngest cabinet minister of the Twentieth Century, before resigning with Minister for Labour, Nye Bevan in 1951 over the introduction of NHS medical charges.
Wilson was seen at the time as someone who was very much to the left of the Party. Something which helped trigger a misunderstanding of Wilson from most people. Harold Wilson was first and foremost a Labour politician, but he was also a shrewd pragmatist with some right-wing tendencies, coupled with the realisation that the Party had elements within it that wanted to stamp their version of socialism on the Labour Party, whether it was Social Democracy or proto-communist, and that the rest had to swallow it or go hang. In order to preserve the main ideological aims of the Labour Party, Wilson knew he had to keep the threads together. It was both brilliant and destructive, for it meant that, as leader, he did not fully deal with the rise of the hard left within the Party when they loomed on the horizon.
After the sudden death of Hugh Gaitskell in 1963, Wilson was elected Labour leader, bringing the Party to victory in the 1964 general election. It came with a majority of four, but Wilson managed to put forward a firm programme of government, modelled on the policies and activities of the Kennedy administration. He brought Labour a majority of 97 in the 1966 general election.
Wilson managed to skirt through a series of potentially damaging acts, such as the devaluation of the pound in 1967, in a way that accused his opponents of deviousness, but there is much to praise him for. He launched sanctions against Rhodesia, attacked South Africa for his policy of Apartheid, helped found the Open University and resisted British involvement in the Vietnam War. All of this was not enough to prevent Labour's defeat at the hands of Edward Heath in 1970, but it may of helped (along with the addition of Heath's inhability to handle the growing industrial unrest) Labour's return to power in the Feb 1974 general election, cemented with another general election that October.
Wilson then threw his last masterstroke. He dealt with the growing national and party divisions over Britain's membership of the European community by calling for a referendum, allowing party members to agree to differ in public. The result saw a 2 to 1 favour to retain membership (which Wilson wanted).
He then shook everyone by resigning in March 1976, a week after his sixtieth birthday. It's now thought he did this because he was aware that he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's and wanted to enjoy a few years of retirement before the clouds closed in.
He may have been shabby in his choice of friends, he may have made some crucial mistakes, he may have been opurtunist. But Wilson was no Lloyd George and did much to keep Britian afloat in it's place in the World during difficult times.

Watch the lighting of the blue touch paper!

(BBC Online)

This says it all! It will also be interesting to know, which Conservative associations have welcomed him, if any have!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Beyond Our Ken..

(BBC Online)
I vaguely recall a time some twenty years ago when I was attacked at school. The details are a little hazy in my mind, but what is clear was that I provoked them, again I totally forget what it was about although I think it was something mild where I taunted someone, got attacked by this guy and some of his mates and we were both punished. They for attacking me, me for provoking them.
And quite right too. So where does this fit in with Ken Livingstone?
Well, first of all I think his comments towards Oliver Finegold were stupid, immoral, arrogant, brutally insensitive, crass and just plain wrong. He then compounded this by refusing to apologise, either on the night in question, nor in the following days. I can understand why he refused to apologise to the Mail Group of Newspapers, but all the same he should have done so because it was the right thing to do.
Now then, whilst reading their Daily Mail and/or Evening Standard in the last few days, the average reader may be forgiven for thinking that was that. But like most things, there are two sides to every story.
According to Ken Livingstone, the 'Evening Standard' had been baiting him for weeks on end, writing unfair and unkind articles, and making his life a misery. One of their journalists doorsteps him in the early hours after a party when he is tired, and may have had a bit to drink, and bingo!
I find this all too plausible and easy to believe for the simple fact that these newspapers (esp the 'Daily Mail') specialise in attacking their pet hates in a personal, vicious, unkind and vindictive fashion. It is for this main reason and that alone that many in the Labour Party, and indeed anyone who is not a Conservative, loathe and despise the Daily Mail. Not because it is a pro-Conservative newspaper. There are conservative commentators (and journalists) who are a bit more gracious towards their targets.
Perhaps those who are quick to condemn Livingstone and Livingstone alone, or are regular 'Daily Mail' and 'Evening Standard' readers, should bear in mind the following facts, courtesy of Wikipedia, from which I have snipped the following:

1) "When Kitchener died the Mail reported it as a great stroke of luck for the British Empire. The paper then campaigned against Asquith, and Asquith resigned on 5 December 1916. "

2) "In 1924 the Daily Mail published the forged Zinoviev Letter which indicated that British Communists were planning violent Revolution. It was widely believed that this was a significant factor in the defeat of Ramsay MacDonald's Labour Party in the 1924 general election, held four days later."

It gets better

3) "For a time in the early 1930s Rothermere and the Mail were sympathetic to some degree with Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists. Rothermere wrote an article, Hurrah for the Blackshirts, in January 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine", though after the violence of the 1934 Olympia meeting involving the BUF the Mail withdrew its support.
The paper also published articles lamenting the number of German Jews entering Britain as refugees after the rise of

4) "Rothermere and the Mail supported Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement, particularly during the events leading up to the Munich Agreement. However, after the Nazi invasion of Prague in 1939, the Mail changed position and urged Chamberlain to prepare for war, not least, perhaps, because on account of its stance it had been threatened with closure by the British Government. Up to this point, The Daily Mail had been the only British newspaper to consistently support the German National Socialist Party.
Rothermere and the Mail supported Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement, particularly during the events leading up to the Munich Agreement. However, after the Nazi invasion of Prague in 1939, the Mail changed position and urged Chamberlain to prepare for war, not least, perhaps, because on account of its stance it had been threatened with closure by the British Government. Up to this point, The Daily Mail had been the only British newspaper to consistently support the German National Socialist Party."

5) "Another common criticism of the Mail is its treatment of asylum seekers. Several opponents (including London Mayor Ken Livingstone in a well-publicised argument) have claimed that the newspaper panders to racism in this respect.
Opponents of the paper on these grounds cite its editorial stance in the 1930s, when the Daily Mail ran inflammatory articles about Jewish immigrants, serialised The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and briefly supported the British Union of Fascists"

Now admittedly, the 'Mail' has been at the forefront of one or two important campaigns, such as the Stephen Lawrence case. It also attacks the BNP and all of this is to their credit and they should be praised for this. However, they don't distinguish themselves as far away as possible from dangerously right-wing policies, and their general manner in the way they attack people and institutions is despicable. Too many times these newspapers get away with such behaviour and too many times those who are disgusted are not critical enough. Unless the 'Mail' changes it's attitude (and I am not asking for a change from being a Conservative newspaper, I am asking for a change of heart and behaviour) and publicly apologises for it's past mistakes, then there ought to be a more outspoken and critical view of the newspaper as there is towards the tobacco industry.

In Thespian Praise of: Peter Davison

In my view, the best Doctor Who with Tom Baker a close second. A view that's hotly contested by a no of fellow Bloggers4Labour bloggers. Neil, for example advocates Tom Baker, jt with Christopher Eccleston, and Kerron advocates Jon Pertwee.
But that is not to say (as Tom Baker once put it, when asked what he thought of the choice of his successor) that Peter Davison is not a very good actor. He is. Whether it's playing a psychopathic rich kid in an episode of Miss Marple, or the mysterious Campion, or the immature but charming Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small. In his three years in Doctor Who, Davison gave the role vulnerability and restraint, only getting praise from critics in his last season (although leaving on a high is a good way to go).
In recent years he has been in a variety of roles, whether it is the weak outgoing Headmaster in the opening episode of Hope and Glory, the much put-upon "Dangerous" Davies in The Last Detective, or the philandering David Braithwaite in At Home With the Braithwaites. Long may he continue to have a succesful acting career.

What sort of American City am I!

Via Jo:

You Are Boston

Both modern and old school, you never forget your roots.
Well educated and a little snobby, you demand the best.
And quite frankly, you think you are the best.

Famous people from the Boston area: Conan O'Brien, Ben Affleck, New Kids on the Block

I wanted to be New York :(
That said, I have written off Boston for too long as a city full of IRA sympathisers and Kennedy worshippers (even though Jack and Bobby are among my political heroes). Perhaps it's time to re-evaluate :/

Friday, February 24, 2006

Paul Burgin - Simpsonified

Found this website where you can create an image of yourself, Simpsonified.
The bad news is that I couldn't save the picture on to my computer for some reason, or even get a correct printout. So I print screened it, printed it, scanned the printout with the result you can see in front of you.
Obviously the process has faded the colours somewhat, but you get the idea.
Now for a caption, hmm!
"Paul was certain that he had arrived at the Flanders. Homer was not happy!"
Give it a try in any case :)

In Musical Praise of: The E.L.O.


Otherwise known as the Electric Light Orchestra, th band was at it's height in the 1970s, and as Ringo Starr told Paul McCartney, split up because they ran out of Beatles riffs to make into songs.
But there is more to the band than lead singer and songwriter Jeff Lynne's Beatles obsession (he also produced George Harrison's last albums, as well as having a hand in the Beatles 'reunion' tracks Free As A Bird and Real Love). The E.L.O. mixed a variety of musical genres into a pot of sound that sounded 1970s and very unique at the same time.
And before I sound like a self important DJ full of cliches, and because I am in a bit of a rush. I admit I came across them because of my love of their song Mr. Blue Sky, which featured as part of the soundtrack of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I really am a bit of a soppy sentementalist sometimes!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Places I have been!

Via Eric the Unread:

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

Unfortunatley seeing the US from Victoria, Vancouver and from Niagra Falls does not count :(, nor does flying over Greenland and Russia :(.
The visit to China was due to a visit to Hong Kong to see an Aunt and Uncle who were expats there when I was eleven years old, and we refulled in Bahrain on the way back. During the visit we had a look over what was then the Chinese border for the day and the comparison could not have been more marked.
As for Canada, well we have relatives there as well, so if it wasn't for that I might easily have spent my whole life so far within Europe :(

For my 500th post I was mostly asked to mention a love for the Lib Dems! Esp any crosspartyamoreaphiliac tendencies!

I knew that I would live to regret asking people what they wanted me to post on for my 500th blog entry :/. For my 100th I posted on one of my all-time favourite detective series' Shoestring (and if any of you have never watched it, why not!),I should have been clever and mentioned Bergerac (made by the same people) for this entry. But no, I had to be clever didn't I! I had to ask people what they wanted.

Still I should be thankful, no one asked me to write up on anything particually nasty, so I am profoundly greatful for that.

The consenus was that I would write nice things about the Lib Dems. Well I have done that already, but a couple of people (Yes you Kerron and Neil) wanted me to be more specific. Namely to wax lyrical about Hannah Hedges non stop (honestly I hardly know her, the next event we are both at, my face will be bright beetroot red at the thought that I might have a reputation that has reached her ears and if she has a partner then I really am in trouble, but heigh ho!)

I have therefore decided on a compromise, which will be mentioning the Lib Dems I do sort of know and I will not shirk from mentioning any crosspartyamoreaphiliac tendencies as I go along.

Lib Dems I have known

Well a friend of my Dad's stood for Parliament as a Liberal Candidate in the 1970s. But he was asked by one of the CLibP members in a pub and he agreed and they sorted out his membership and he sort of drifted off them afterwards.

It was a while afterwards before I knowingly met any Lib Dem members and admittedly an early experience was coming across Hannah Hedges at a Christians in Politics Christmas event in 2003. Obviously I found very attractive and very pleasant, but I really ought to stress that I didn't see her as girlfriend material.

I also know that the manager of my local bookshop is a prominent Liberal Democrat. His a nice amiable enough chap, although I think the only time we discussed the Lib Dems was over the current leadership. It goes without saying I am guarded over what I say about the internal politics of the Labour Party.

Then there of course there is the delectable Louisa, towards whom I admit I have some very mild crosspartyamoreaphiliac tendencies, but then she is young, I hardly know her, and she is a Lib Dem. That said she is thoughtful about her views (even though I disagree with some of them), articulate, and not afraid to be unsure about things. My one major irritation with her is that (aside from the fact she is in the wrong party ;) )she doesn't update her blog enough. But then she is a hard working undergraduate and I am an average worker.

Then there is the average vaguely recognisable face and vaguely known local concillors at election counts.

But that said, I am fairly amiable and am happy to make friends with a variety of people so long as common sense is used in some areas.

Now that was relatively painless!

What kind of donut am I!

Via Deep Thought:

You Are a Glazed Donut

Okay, you know that you're plain - and you're cool with that.

You prefer not to let anything distract from your sweetness.

Your appeal is understated yet universal. Everyone dig you.

And in a pinch, you'll probably get eaten.

Not sure if that is entirely true, but C'est la vie!

In Christian Praise of: Rowan Williams

(BBC Online)
Well, two blog entries to go before a couple of individuals expect me to divulge any crosspartyamoreaphiliac tendencies I may or may not have :/!
Hmm! In the meantime however, I thought I would continue my 'In Christian Praise of...' series of articles by mentioning Archbishop Rowan Williams.
It's not often that one gets to have a conversation with an Archbishop, it is even more rare when the topics diverge from the Anglican community to The Simpsons, but I can tell you on good authority (having met him briefly a couple of times at Greenbelt) that the Archbishop of Canterbury's favourite character is Homer Simpson and that he is mildly irritated by Ned Flanders.
But that says a great deal about the Archbishop, as he is more interested in people being human and Christian than in being holier-than-thou and Christian, and if only more people were like that!
He was born in 1950, in Swansea, and was educated at both Oxford and Cambridge, before he forged his ecclesiastical career as an academic, as opposed to being a parish priest. Some have used this as a criticism, although Williams's pastoral tendences are not to be sniffed at.
Such were people's regard for him, that he was elected Bishop of Monmouth (the Anglican community in Wales, obviously, not being part of the Church of England), which came as a surprise to Williams, his family, and his friends. A few years later, in his post as Bishop of Monmouth, he was made Archbishop of Wales.
There was some controversy when Williams was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002, and not just because he knowingly ordained a priest who was a practising homosexual. For me personally I was unsure about Williams's appointment, as I wondered just how liberal Williams was1 My fears were put to rest at Greenbelt 2002 however, when I saw him preach on intimacy and God's love, where he stated that if Christians fail to have a proper intimate relationship with God, how can they expect to have a proper intimate relationship with others. I felt then that he was totally the right choice.
I can also say, from what I have heard, and seen first hand, is that here is an Archbishop who is somewhat devout and Holy (and it shows) and yet is someone who you feel you can approach and discuss just about anything. He is also uncompromising (which is a big plus for me as I strongly feel that clergy shouldn't waffle for the sake of being popular) and has in his time, taken on trendy arch-liberal, John Shelby Spong, defended orthodox Christianity (orthodox as in the meaning of the word, not the denomination), made clear that one should be gracious to Philip Pullman and his works where need be, and not go for panic knee-jerk reactions (my words, a typical fault for those of us who are Christians is that when we are attacked we panic and fight back). He has also attacked Footballers' Wives as; "a world in which charity and fairness, generosity, a sense of perspective about yourself are all swept aside."
He has been critical on the governments' policy over Iraq, and has also criticised the Tories' campaign tactics over immigration and has tried to foster ecumenism with the Roman Catholic Church wherever available.
I don't agree with everything he says and does, but he is certainly a favourite Bishop of mine and feel that he has done, is doing, much to encourage the human face of Christianity (which those of us who are Christians must and show at all times, and which must be the only face the Church has).

Wales and China

(Press Association)

Further with regard to people with titles, this has been mentioned a great deal.
Now I have some time for Prince Charles (sorry Mr Mountbatten-Windsor), although I think he has been somewhat silly on a no of occasions (but then he is in an unfortunate position, where he has been famous from birth and has had to make his mistakes in public), but he does try to be informed on some matters and to develop opinions on sensitive subjects and that is to be commended.
Anyways, as the former boss of my former boss (I once worked for Geraint Davies who once worked for...), Lord Falconer has put it, so long as doesn't cross party lines it should be fine.
To be fair though, the Prince of Wales is in a difficult position. He was born second-in-line to the throne, he has been heir since the age of three, and this has meant that from an early age (indeed simply by being born into the Royal Family) there are constraints on what opinions he airs in public. That said, he also has constitutional advantages many of us do not and will not have. Hopefully though, if by the grace of God he becomes King, he will have a highly mature and informed view of the World that any Head of State needs, and which indeed the Queen has.
Not only that, but it was ill-mannered (and indeed lacking in deference) of the Mail on Sunday to publish those diary extracts! So obviously, the Mail Group of newspapers need to be taught a lesson ;)

How to Address People!

A no of things that I have wanted to blog about lately, so if there is a bit of a deluge whilst I have the time to rant today, then you have my apologies.
But one thing I wanted to blog about is Sir Ben Kingsley's insistence that he is addressed as Sir Ben.
Now I have nothing against knighthoods or peerages, so long (as I have mentioned before) that the system isn't abused. That said, I do dislike it when snobbery (inverted or otherwise is involved).
Not only that, but when you get the likes of Lord Puttnam of Queensgate CBE and Sir Roger ('Prefers to be called "Rog" on film sets') Moore CBE criticising Kingsley, then you know how silly Ben (sorry, Sir Ben Kingsley) is being.
But maybe he has a point in some respects. I do tend to think it's a mite snobbish, silly, and smug when people refer to the Queen as Mrs Windsor. Like it or not she is the Head of State and you would'nt expect any Irish person to address Mary McAleese without the title of President.
But perhaps I have been a bit lax myself. For the past seven years my full name and title has been Mr. Paul David Burgin BA Esq. Now no one has referred to me as Paul Burgin BA, no one has sent me letters with the full title since my graduation. Perhaps I ought to take a leaf out of Sir Ben's book and start making insisting on the correct terms to address myself.
Oh and to finish, one of my favourite anecdotes is when Sir Michael Jagger got knighted and fellow Rolling Stone, Keith Richards was asked on his opinion:

"You can call him what you like - we have other names for him,"

Give it up Sir Ben, if people want to call you Sir Ben, then fine! Otherwise it doesn't matter

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Coming up to the 500th

Blog entry here.
But before the fireworks are lit and the champange bottles opened, I thought I would celebrate by leaving it to you guys what you want me to blog about. Whatever is the maj view on the posted responses here (or the one I like the most), I will write up on it and give full credit to the person who suggested it!
Actually I may have bitten off more than I can chew here!

In Political Praise of: King Alfred the Great


You know, most of my political subjects tend to be comparatively recent (I think the only one I mentioned who isn't within living memory is William Wilberforce), so I thought I would mention a hero of mine from over a thousand years ago.
So why King Alfred the Great! Well he was well educated (the fact he could read and write, for those times even for a royal, was a bonus), thought against the invading Danes against seemingly impossible odds, was a shrewd tactician, was gracious to the enemy, founded what became of the Royal Navy, strengthened the millitary in this country, built up diplomatic alliances across the British Isles and right across Europe, encouraged the cultural life of England (translating some works himself), and is to England what Robert the Bruce is to Scotland, Owen Glendower is to Wales and Brian Boru is to Ireland.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Chav Test

(BBC Online)

Can be found here! Apparently I am 36% Chav
Don't know what to make of that, although some of the questions made me smile. That said, I suppose I am relieved as I am one of those who regard the phrase Chav as being associated with antisocial behaviour (and I don't judge on how people look). And considering one of the most cutting comments I have made about individuals is refering to certain people I dislike as 'Chavs With Cash', well...
Now if you excuse me, I'm off to go and mug Mr.T ;)
BTW, if I am 50% Posh and 36% Chav what does that make me with regards to shallow social listing?

Oh I Say!

(BBC Online)

According to this test, (hat tip to Kerron for bringing it to my attention) I am 50% posh
Mind you I hasten to add that I saw a Polo match from a distance (in a car, whilst going through Oakham, Rutland), I only ski-ied on snow once (school ski-ing trip to Austria, Feb 1990. And I will have you know I went to a comprehensive school), we have a real Christmas tree because you might as well go for the genuine article and, erm, we, erm, can afford it. Plus we occasionally shop at Tesco's as well as Sainsbury's, but both are simply out of geographical convenience.
I am just relieved that they didn't ask if I have ever punted on the Cam (Bows head in mild shame because the answer is yes. But only a handful of times! :/)

In Thespian Praise of: James Robertson Justice

Am in a bit of a rush here. Suffice to say he seems to have been gradually forgotten, and yet he always knew how to give a convincing performance, either as jolly amiable men or acerbic doctors such as Sir Lancelot Spratt.
And as his entry on Wikipedia states, he had other talents and notable experiences:

"He fought in the Spanish Civil War, on the Republican side, served as a sailor in the Royal Navy during World War II, unsuccessfully fought a constituency for the Labour Party in the 1950 United Kingdom general election, and became Rector of the University of Edinburgh."

What they fail to mention is that he was also a professional falconer, who trained Prince Charles.
There are more to actors than meets the eye you see!

Irving Sentenced

(Getty Images)
Three years!
Now I am in two minds about this. On one hand holocaust denial is incredibly, incredibly offensive. It flies in the face of what are, literally, miles of information and documentation about it and from first-hand accounts from thousands, if not millions, of people. It says to people who have experienced the most physical and mental tortures they have experienced 'I don't believe You!' That kind of behaviour, and in such a high profile, highly offensive off-hand manner in the way Irving has done, deserves some kind of punishment.
On the other hand, what concerns me is that this might make a martyr out of him, and he hasn't even caused (In the strict sense) incitment to violence.
However, all of that said, do I feel sorry for him? Well I pity him for the fact that he has ended up holding certain beliefs and mixing with such people, but sympathy for his current predicament! Not a jot. I don't feel sorry for him at all. He went into Austria illegally, he should have known the laws about Holocaust denial there (and I am convinced he did), and he now faces the consequences.
And three years in an Austrian jail is nothing, compared to the horrors millions suffered which he has said in the past 'Did not happen!' and which he now prefers to call a tragedy, as opposed to a Holocaust!

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Love That Dare Not Speak It's Name (Or Crosspartyamoreaphilia)

This evening (pre watershed because Life on Mars will be on soon ;)), I want to talk of one of the great romantic (and indeed purely sexual)passions that shock, anger, and disgust many people today.
I have noted it for a while, I have even been accused of holding such passions myself. And yesterday, Normblog , alerted us to the latest scandal involving this.
Folks, I want to discuss that passion that upsets and hurts and, nay even excites, many of the people who are involved at some level in politics.
It is when one person (who is a member of a political party), has an affair with another person (who is a member of another political party). There is no word for this, so I suppose I will have to make one up. For want of a better phrase it is "crosspartyamoureaphilia".
I know, it just isn't quite the sexy word it deserves (and if anyone has any better words, preferably completely involving latin and preferably not involving words begining with f, I will be greatful).
But I wonder if this is more widespread than is thought. I mean picture the following scene. Three friends (for the sake of argument, let's say they are Lib Dem activists, because I know that will set most readers pulses racing for a variety of reasons ;) ), spend a weekend in a cottage (Behave yourselves here and please take this at face value!)and on the Sunday morning over breakfast, the conversation turns to political gossip.

JOHN: I don't know which of the candidates to vote for in the forthcoming leadership

PAUL:Well I still think Mark Oaten would be a good leader, but then...

GEORGE: Well I mean, fancy making a fuss about all of that!

JOHN: I will tell you what's disgusting

PAUL: You don't mean...

JOHN: Yeah, Geraldine

GEORGE: What's this!

PAUL: Oh you will be interested!

JOHN: During the count in Taranfirth West on election night...


JOHN: Well. Well Geraldine was caught in a cupboard by one of the loos.


With a Labour activist

(Struggling to contain himself)

Playing tonsil hockey

PAUL: Disgusting

JOHN: One of them was moaning. "I love it when we argue politics!"

GEORGE: Unnatural

JOHN: All those weeks she helped painstakingly draw bar charts with us. Those days she handed her spare stationery, helped print leaflets showing we were in second place when we were in third, and all along....

(He breaks into tears)

But seriously folks, what are we to make of crosspartyamoreaphillia thingy.
Well the honest answer is I don't know, although I will confess I can see the excitement (although my foray only went as far as slightly fancying Hannah Hedges and getting slated heavily for it. And being warned off Louisa Willoughby simply because I paid a couple of mild compliments (and I have never even met her!) ) That said, I can see the obvious practical reasons, such as concern over the "pillow talk", but so long as both sides (well perhaps only the Labour person, the other partner can talk away to their hearts content ;) ) are sensible and know how to divorce their relationship from their politics (although I appreciate that there must be something exciting about political arguments within a relationship), then there isn't a problem. After all, a lot of us who are members of a party have friends who are in other political parties, and we seem to know how to handle that. Plus perhaps I am biased in that my Dad came from a farming Tory voting family and my Mum from an industrial Labour voting family.
But at the moment, I am more interested in promoting the word crosspartyamoreaphilia. With a wing and a prayer I hope it will be in Wikipedia by the end of the month.

In Musical Praise of: Nick Drake


There is, admittedly, a bit of a trendy following of Nick Drake's work, and it seems a little strange that for someone who died at the age of twenty-six in 1974 and was relatively unknown, that his work has become relatively famous in the last decade. In fact, Drake was so unknown at one point that when I once met his actress sister, Gabrielle, some twenty years ago, I didn't know anything about him then!
But given the critical acclaim and my brother being a fan of his work, I have started listening out for Drake's songs in the past seven years or so and am impressed by his work, although his medative acoustic pieces aren't really the type of songs to just slap onto an iPod or CD Player, you have to be in a certain mood or setting to fully appreciate his work.
Drake was the son of an engineer and was born in Burma, although he was brought up in Warwickshire. He had a typical upper-middle class upbringing. Public school (Malborough), followed by Oxbridge (Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge), and like many of his generation developed an interest in music.
Drake was a fan of american folk music, and whilst at University, performed at coffee houses and clubs. He was then discovered by a member of the band Fairport Convention and they helped secure him a three-album contract with Island Records.
Drake's three albums have a lyrical resonance, mingled with unique guitar tuning. They also mingle folk acoustic ballads with chamber music (as brilliantly done in one of my favourite songs River Man) or mild Jazz. It is enough to give Drake the musical reputation he deserves, however it is a pity the acolades did not come sooner.
Part of the problem lay with Drake himself. He was pathologically shy and hated performing live. When recording he would play into the wall so as to avoid looking at people. This shyness helped ensure that his records sold poorly and in consequence it helped foster his growing clinical depression.
After completing his third album, Drake swore that he had retired from the music scene and would train as a computer programmer, albeit with occasionally writing songs for others. That said none of his plans materialised and Drake became more depressed. He would spend hours not speaking with the people he was with and was occasionally hospitalised, occasionally living with Françoise Hardy .
In early 1974, Drake felt confident enough to record again and in the course of the year recorded five new songs. It all came to an end that November, however, when he was found dead at his parents home with an overdose of the antidepressant Tryptizol. To this day there is a debate as to whether it is suicide or an accident. I personally (and I wish I was wrong), believe it was suicide. As Gabrielle said in a documentary, taking twenty-six pills of a precribed drug is not an accident, although she did state (which is very feasible) that it was probably a spur-of-the-moment thing.
If Drake was more confident, if he didn't suffer from clinical depression, maybe things would have been far different! But as it is, musically speaking he has left a legacy that leaves many gasping in admiration.

Irving Pleads Guilty

See here.
There is no doubt that Irving is a very nasty piece of work, but two things have struck me about the whole thing. The first was this morning when he pleaded guilty and said (and hat tip to Jo for this!):

"History is a constantly growing tree - the more you know, the more documents become available, the more you learn, and I have learned a lot since 1989. Yes, there were gas chambers. Millions of Jews died, there is no question. I don’t know the figures. I’m not an expert on the Holocaust."

Well with regards to the last sentence I can certainly agree. He isn't an expert, although ignorance is no defence. How can anyone deny, in the face of overwhelming evidence prior to 1989, the existence of the Holocaust! To believe overwise is to believe in a mass conspiracy and we know how paranoid these holocaust deniers are.
But Irving has to be at best, a total ignoramous and someone who is beneath the abilities of the most amatuer historians, or at worst (and what I and many others are inclined to believe) a dangerous troublemaker with Nazi sympathies.
The other point is that, in the understandable anger over Irving's behaviour, there have been fluffed attempts to totally nail him. I remember when he was interviewed on Channel 4 News after losing his libel action against Deborah Lipstadt and he insisted he wasn't racist and had asians amongst his staff. I wished then, as now, that the interviewer calmly asked whether he had ever employed any black people or Jewish people.
Either way, he has today, in pleading guilty, put himself in the position where, if he doesn't want to be labelled a vicious and racist Nazi sympathiser, he will have to admit to being a total idiot. Either way, he cannot be ever taken seriously as a historian and lecturer, if anyone was silly enough to do so before!
BTW, via the BBC article on this, what Irving's lawyer has said is interesting:

"His lecture happened 17 years ago. He is an English citizen, he doesn't live in Austria, [he is] 68-years-old. He is a historian who is well known. He is not really dangerous, especially in Austria,"

There's something chilling about that last sentence isn't there!

Words and Blogs

Apparently these are the words most used on my blog so far.
I came across the website that does this for you, courtesy of Annie, who came across it on snapshirts.com
Give it a try yourself, although be careful how you do it, otherwise you may end up purchasing a T-Shirt version.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

In Christian Praise of: Bono


When people think of Christians in the music industry, they tend to think of Cliff Richard, or possibly Amy Grant. Some, but not many however, might think of Bono.
This aspect of Bono perplexes and infuriates some Christians and non-Christians alike as he doesn't fall into neat boxes. For example, he is wary of calling himself a Christian, he drinks, smokes, and swears, and most shockingly of all he co-wrote a song called I Still Haven't Found What I am Looking For, and yet he also co-wrote a song called When Love Comes To Town.
Those are the kind of statements that fail to understand varying degrees of Christian culture, or indeed the various subtleties involved. With "I Still Haven't Found What I am Looking For", there are lines in the song that affirm atonement, grace, and "I believe in the kingdom come"
Born and brought up in Dublin to a Catholic father and a Protestant mother, Paul David Hewson (his real name), was brought up as a member of the Church of Ireland and has stated that in terms of denominational identity he has always liked to sit on the fence. He experienced a renewal of faith as a young man when he and two others from U2 were involved in the "Shalom" Community, although they left when the community told them that God was telling them to give up their music, reasoning that it was easily possible to reconcile Christianity with rock and roll.
A lot of Bono's faith (and that of The Edge and Larry Mullen) is present in their songs, such as "Wake Up Dead Man" , "When Love Comes to Town", and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For ". He also feels strongly about Third World Debt being a moral issue of being more than charity, saying that it is an issue of justice.
Passionate, articulate, occasionally acerbic in ways that can annoy people, some wonder how Bono can equate his faith with what he does,especially as he isn't keen of an 'In Your Face' style of prostelysing. But if he is anything, Paul David Hewson tries to be honest.
Qui Bono! ;)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

In Political Praise of: Sir Winston Churchill

(J.Russell and Sons/Wikipedia.org)
What can I say about a man already so well known and so liked (and disliked) across the political spectrum which has not been mentioned already.
Suffice to say that Churchill was a man whom one can admire, warts and all. Yes I find his attitude and behaviour over Sidney Street, India, and the General Strike rather deplorable. But as Michael Foot has said, it is as if all his life Churchill was looking for an enemy against civilization and he constantly got it woefully wrong, and yet the one time he got it right, he was so spot on that he was among the first to condemn.
I admire his strength of character, his charisma, the ways in which he helped boost morale in our fight against Nazism, his general character, his way with words, his overwhelming kindness towards those who felt vulnerable. Even his impish sense of humour (This is the man who said after the War: "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.")He may not have been a Christian and he most certainly may not have been a socialist, but his place amongst the statesmen and democrats of our time cannot be denied.

Bloggers4Labour Anniversary

So at 6PM last night I shut up shop, went to the local bookshop, David's, and set off for Finsbury Park, before taking the Victoria and Jubilee Line for Whitehall, where the Bloggers4Labour anniversary was taking place.

As I mentioned earlier, it was held at the Lord Moon of the Mall at the end of Whitehall, just one minutes walk from Trafalgar Square. I was forty-five minutes late, as I warned would be the case, and found that the place was not seething with B4L members.

That said, some of the cream of the group were already there. Here you can see Andrew, the Moderator of B4L and the chap with glasses, chatting with Neil, who runs BrightonRegencyLabour Party. Neil latched on to me as one of the Christians in the group, before I had a chance to say much, and was put to task on a no of points. I have to say I was so taken a back a couple of times that I fudged a couple of my answers, but that said he is less intimidating than his blog suggests, plus he introduced me to the alcoholic/coffee drink known as Darkstar. The chap closest to me (as I took the picture) is Andrew Skudder, who runs the Life in Broadfield Village blog. Kerron is nearest to the radiator and was his usual self; being rude about Lib Dems, chatting about football, and pleased that he looks like Rasputin ;). The chap, unseen, between the two Andrews is another chap called Andrew, who runs the Wongablog blog. I asked him about his political background and he told me that he is not a member of the Labour Party and yet found himself on B4L. Not only that, but he may well have been the first to blog on last night's meeting.

Anyway the evening went well, with the time going by quickly. There were three irritations about the event. The first is that the batteries on my digital camera packed up and I had to dash across the road to the cornershop to buy some more. The second is that it turned out to be an exculsively male gathering, which prompted some small discussion as to how many women were members (Jo, Antonia, and Lisa. We totally understand and appreciate why you were all unable to come along but you were missed).

The third irritation was that, because there were too many of us, we put some tables together, and were ticked off by the staff.
Understandable really, and I can't blame them, although it meant that we were spread out onto seperate tables and therefore seperate groups. Here you can see Cllr Andrew Brown on the right and Damien Counsell a.k.a. PooterGeek on the left.

And there is more I could mention, but as it is I got home at about half midnight and I am right now, rather flaked and tired.

Actually I think that is the best self-portrait yet (I took it just a few minutes ago), and that might be because I didn't look directly at the camera and therefore wasn't intimidated by the flash (for some reason I get nervous with self photos, compared to how I feel when others take pictures of me).
Anyways, looking forward to a relaxing weekend :)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Right Then..

Things to do, work to go to, then I am off the the "Bloggers4Labour" anniversary this evening.
Am looking forward to it and expect details of that last thing tonight or at some point tomorrow.

In Thespian Praise of: Joan Hickson

(BBC Online)

In my view the best Miss Marple, and that is in spite of enjoying the recent revival on ITV with Geraldine McEwan in the title role.
Usually typecast as stern or slightly senile women, Hickson received a note from Agatha Christie in the 1940s, after seeing her performing in a production of one of her stories, saying that she hoped that one day she would play Miss Marple. This happened some forty years later with a series of BBC Adaptations.
Hickson managed to combine Marple's razor sharp mind, stern W.I. image, mixed with a degree of vagueness that would make people think she was a harmless old lady in a way that few actresses have managed. She also was renowned for her minor role in John Cleese's Clockwise.

New Bond Girl

(BBC Online)
Hot on the heels of the new Bond villain being announced, the new Bond girl was mentioned this morning.
Twenty-five year old actress, Eva Green will be playing Vesper Lynd in the forthcoming movie. I have to say that I am mildly disapointed on two counts. The first is that Thandie Newton was mentioned among the rumours beforehand and she would have been good, the second is that this the first time the main Bond girl is played by an actress younger than me. A sure sign I am getting old :/.
The other bit of news about the film is that Felix Leiter will be making a return, and that he will be played by Jeffrey Wright. This will be the first time that Leiter has been seen since Licence to Kill, but given that this is meant to be a Bond prequel (not a good idea), I expect we will be seeing no signs of the shark attack that nearly killed him.
Anyways, Casino Royale is only one of two Bond novels I have read (Unless you count The Living Daylights, which is a short story), so I am looking forward to see how they do this!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Another Pionering Photograph

(Associated Press)
Meant to mention this yesterday!
Opposite is one of the very first genuine colour photographs taken. As some of you may know, it was in the news the other day for being brought for $2.9m at an auction, and was taken on Long Island, New York in 1904.
Incredible to think that at the time this was taken, it was less than a year since the first manpowered flight, King Edward VII was on the British throne, Theodore Roosevelt was the US President, the Labour Party was less than five years old, and Sherlock Holmes was making a return after (bar an interlude) an absence of ten years.
The photograph was taken by Edward Steichen

We've Been Expecting You!

At last, the official announcement on who is playing the latest Bond villain has been made.
It's Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen, although I must say that picking a Danish actor is a bit brave at the moment. It also gives rise to one or two bad taste jokes, but given my total contempt for those hardline extremists who attack Judaism and Israel's right to exist as part of their reportoire, I don't think it's appropriate to make them.
That said, I do think that his stubble reminds me of a particular Parliamentary Research assistant, and no doubt, many Lib Dems regard him as a Bond villain in itself ;)

In Musical Praise of: Kate Bush

(BBC Online)
One of the more mesmerising musicians in Britain in the last thirty years.
I was inadvertantley introduced to her work in detail, by my friend Liz Evershed, who has her first album, although Bush is a hard musician to dislike.
Discovered by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd in her early teens, Bush became an immediate success, helped by the song "Wuthering Heights", which became an international No 1 hit, ensuring her a dominant position in the British music scene throughout the 1980s. Armed with a unique three-octave voice and songs which contained strong lyrics, Bush usually wrote songs based around literary and film references.
In the last few years, Bush has stayed away from the music scene, and like other musicians who have gone through such a period, such as John Lennon, a no of myths (mostly untrue), sprung up about her. What it boiled down to though, was a variety of simple reasons, not least wanting a family life away from the public gaze. She recently made a comeback of sorts with her album Aerial.
I like Bush's work for their mixture of innocence/knowingness, and also for their emotional depth and honesty.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Things I Did Today

Well I am settling well into my new job, and have celebrated my first payment by buying some CD's, which I have not done for a while.
I brought four; Then And Now 1964-2004 by The Who, The Kick Inside by Kate Bush, "Made To Love Magic" by Nick Drake and All Over the World: The Very Best of the Electric Light Orchestra by the E.L.O.
There's enough for a second batch of 'In Musical Praise of..' articles, suffice to say I am having a contented evening listening to them, whilst typing away here :-).

And that's the best self portrait I can do this evening!

Going in a puff of smoke

(Press Association)

Well not until Summer 2007.
I didn't expect there to be such a definitive answer against it and I was glad my MP (Oliver Heald) was one of those who voted for the ban.
To be honest, when this was first proposed I did wonder if it would work! Would the backlash be too strong! But I was pleasantly surprised to find such a trend against it, even the Daily Mail (through gritted teeth, and is always fun to read it when it realises that public opinion is so strongly against their thoughts on an issue) agreed that it was in the public mood for a ban. But they couldn't resist a dig at Labour for breaching a manifesto commitment (It was a free vote) and the fact that it doesn't apply to MP's bars in the Commons. Of course it doesn't, Westminster is a Royal Palace and it is therefore, in theory, one of the Queen's homes (and the ban doesn't include people's residences). Of course the Daily "Hurrah for our blackshirts" Mail would'nt let such facts inconvenience them.
Then you get those who complain that it is a breach of their liberties. I don't think that's worth going into right now, suffice to say I have already made my views known on the selfishness of those who bleat "Nanny state" on issues like these.
All in all though, a good day and one which has the weight of public opinion. Westminster you can be proud of yourselves :)

In Christian Praise of: Jim Wallis

Seems apt, considering Monday's blog entry (For those who don't know, Wallis is the white haired chap in the photo).
Preacher, Christian writer and political activist, Jim Wallis was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1948. He came from a family of traditional evangelicals and studied and graduated at Michigan State University, soon becoming involved in the civil rights movement. He later studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, where he helped set up the community that became Sojourners.
Consistently hitting home the belief that issues like peace and social justice mean a great deal to God and that the Bible speaks more critically on this than the subjects which the conservative right bang on about has earned him a no of critics from the religious right.Aside from writing numerous books he also teaches a course in religion and politics at Harvard University.
Jim is also married to Joy Carroll, an English priest who was the inspiration for Richard Curtis's The Vicar of Dibley, after he saw her speak at the General Synod during the crucial debate on the Church of England accepting women priests, and they have two sons.
One of the reasons I have a high opinion, well one simple reason why I have a high opinion, of Jim Wallis is this! Evangelicals are very good at speaking loudly and putting their case across, but too often they don't talk about the things that are a matter of life and death, such as poverty and sickness and the economic inequalities in society. That seems a far cry from what Christ did in his ministry and you never saw Christ chummying up to the leaders of his day and backing any call for a pre-emptive on Rome for reasons over than the overthrow of a nasty regime. Jim Wallis seems to help redress the balance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

In Political Praise of: Clement Attlee

(BBC Online)

One of the readers of this blog has wanted me to do Clem Attlee, and as I have yet to mention any of my favourite British Prime Ministers I thought, why not!
One of the great pionners of political social reform of the 20th century and the first Labour leader to bring the party to a full working majority in the House of Commons, Clement Attlee was born in 1883 to a middle class family and educated at Haileybury and at University College, Oxford. He then trained as a lawyer and offered to do some work helping slum children in London. What Attlee saw there, horrified him enough to join the Independent Labour Party and dedicated most of his spare time in helping to make practical moves to alleviate the suffering that he saw.
He then became a lecturer at the London School of Economics before being enlisted during the First World War. He was badly wounded at Mesopatamia, but recovered sufficently to be involved in the fighting in France when the armistice was declared in 1918, by which time he had reached the rank of Major.
Attlee then returned to lecturing at the LSE and being involved in local politics. He was elected as Labour MP for Stepney in the 1922 General Election and was briefly the Parliamentary Private Secretary for Ramsay MacDonald, the then Labour leader.
Attlee then served as an Under Secretary at the War Office during the first Labour government in 1924, after their brief period of office, Attlee supported the General Strike of 1926 and was a member of the Simon Commission , an inter-Parliamentary group which looked at constitutional reform for India.
Attlee's first prominent ministerial post came in 1930, when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Sir Oswald Mosley, attacked the governments favouring of Keynesian economics and resigned. Of course it should be noted that Mosley was later Britain's premier fascist and theoretical traitor, but that said, his resignation gave Attlee the move he needed and by the time the Labour government collapsed in 1931, Attlee was Postmaster General, one of the most senior government posts outside the Cabinet. This stood him in good stead when in the ensuing general election, Attlee was the third most senior Labour Parliamentarian to have kept his seat, he subsequently became Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. He then became leader in 1935 when George Lansbury (grandfater of Angela, believe it or not) resigned. Initally for an interim period, then for a more permanent period of time. He ended up being leader of the Labour Party for twenty years. Far longer than anyone within the Party before or since.
During the War, when there was a colaition government, Attlee was Churchill's Deputy and basically ran the government on the civil side of things, whilst Churchill had his eye on events abroad. Temperementally different, fierce critics of each other, both developed a mutual respect for each others talents which lasted for the rest of their lives. That said, there was an acerbic, although occasionally humourous, banter between them when they disgareed. Attlee once siad to Churchill that "A monologue is not a decision" (Attlee was very businesslike in the way he conducted meetings and hated waffle and hyperbole), whilst Churchill (after the war when both clashed fiecrely with each other in the Commons over another industry being nationalised by Attlee's govt..) saw Attlee enter the Commons toilets whilst he was at the communial urinal. He then moved right to the far end, away from Attlee as much as possible. "Feeling standoffish Winston!" asked Attlee, "Well you socialists want to nationalise everything!" growled Churchill in reply.
Isn't it amazing what war does to people!
Attlee's finest hour came after the War in 1945, when in the ensuing general election, the Labour Party was elected to office with a majority of 145 seats. Labour had proven that they could work responsibly in government, albeit with the Tories and Liberals, during the War and now they were entrusted with peacetime government. A widespread period of nationalisation was started and a period of economic postwar consensus began, albeit with Keynesian economic orthodoxy, which lasted until the overwhelming dominant power of the millitant unions in the 1970s and the monetarist policies of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. During this time, many important social reforms were put through, such as the forming of a National Health Service, the founding of the Welfare State and the withdrawal of British governance in India and Palestine. However, after becoming emroiled in the Korean conflict and having a commons maj whittled down to just five in 1950, Attlee's government was defeated in the 1951 General Election. Although Attlee remained leader for another four years and ened up with a seat in the House of Lords as Earl Attlee, essentially his political career was over.
Conservative in his morality and attitudes, reticent in his style and delivery. He would not have done well in todays television soundbite age (He only had the early equivalent of a fax machine brought into Downing Street when he was told he could therefore find out a.s.a.p. the lastest cricket test match scores). That said, he was unstintingly radical in his politics and that was triggered by his genuine concern for the underpriviliged in society. There are few such Attlee's in today's society who have moral reticence coupled with social radicalism, and whilst times have moved on we need an equivalent of Attlee that can fit into today's society with the same original passion and committment.

St Valentine's Day


Of course this has nothing to do with the fact that only once in my life have I passed this day as part of a couple, but I do think it is worth pointing out that the day is basically about love and can also celebrate platonic love for one's family and friends, and that in being hijacked by those gushing romantics it can be a day where many singles are made to feel incomplete and isolated.
So in the original spirit of of the day, a happy and very platonic St Valentine's Day to you all. I would buy each of you a dozen red roses but that might get me out of pocket rather quickly, but I hope you appreciate the sentiment :)


Last night I was at a meeting of Faithworks in Lambeth, London, as american preacher, Jim Wallis was giving a talk.
Now some of you might not have heard of this chap, although he is also a political activist who recently got arrested on Capitol Hill for leading a protest about the apparently cruelty of the US budget that would make cuts on programs designed to help low income american families. You can see him in the second photo down. He's the chap with the white hair.

He is also married to an british priest by the name of Joy Carroll, whom Richard Curtis based the lead character of The Vicar of Dibley on. I met them (Jim Wallis and Joy Carroll that is) about four years ago at Greenbelt and they are absolutely lovely.
Anyway, Faithworks meeting. Well I went along with my old buddy Aidan and his girlfriend, Katie, and was surprised to see a no of familiar faces in the audience. There was fellow Subwayian, Jonathan Hassell and his wife, Ros. Fellow CSM activists Stephen Beer, Jonathan Cox, and Helen Dennis (well I part expected them to be there, given the event), and what was a mild surprise was seeing Kerron's fellow office colleague, Travis Randall. Who you can see below, chatting up, I mean discussing the evening with the girl in glasses.

Will be interesting to know what his take on the meeting was.
Anyways, the main frust of the talk was about how evangelicals have lost their touch in public life, compared to the ninteenth century evangelists like Wilberforce and Shaftesbury who were deeply involved in alleviating living conditions for those vulnerable and abolishing slavery. Today's evangelicals, well those who shout loudly, end up being prophets in the pocket of the King and failing to tell the difference between that and simple access to the government. For example, the Prophet Nathan had access to King David, but challenged him when he felt David had erred. It seems sad, as Wallis (and indeed Steve Chalke who was also there) pointed out, that the image of today's evangelicals, thanks to a few, are seen as right-wing zealots who are more bothered by abortion and gay marriage than the poor. For all the prostelysing of scripture, how often does the Bible repeatedly call for the poor to be an issue of primary concern in society. A great deal is the answer!
Afterwards there were book signings and Aidan, Katie, and I were invited to The Horse pub down the road by one or two fellow CSM members, before we went our seperate ways.
All in all though, it was an interesting evening, and definetly a lot to think about.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pellet Guns, Texas, Unfair Trials, and Iraq..

(Getty Images)

An interesting bit of news flashed before my eyes last night. US Vice President, Dick Cheney has accidentally shot a man whilst hunting with pellet guns in Texas.
Now what surprised me was that I wasn't surprised when I heard about this! Maybe it was because the words, Cheney, Guns, and Texas stood out!
That said, via Jo's blog, this bit of satire from National Nitwit made me laugh (and I warn you now, my sense of humour is rather warped!):

Froman believes that Cheney should have used a more powerful weapon.

"If he had been carrying the M16A2 5.56mm semiautomatic rifle, Whittington would have been dropped on the spot," she said. "Instead, this lawyer lives to file another frivolous lawsuit against an American corporation."

There were one or two other funny bits, but some readers of this blog may well be offended enough as it is.
In other news, Saddam Hussein has threatened to go on hunger strike over what he sees as the unfairness of his trial. He has also been ordered back into the courtroom, where today he has been chanting anti-Bush slogans and shouting at the Judge for being small!

Now I may question the validity of the Iraq invasion (although I am not unhappy about Hussein being forcibly removed from power), but I have no sympathy for him. I also find it a bit rich that a man who denied a fair trial to others, should complain about the comparative light treatment he is being given (and who, according to Wikipedia:

Shortly afterwards, he convened an assembly of Ba'ath party leaders on July 22, 1979. During the assembly, which he ordered videotaped, Saddam claimed to have found spies and conspirators within the Ba'ath Party and read out the names of members who he thought could oppose him. These members were labeled "disloyal" and were removed from the room one by one to face a firing squad. After the list was read, Saddam congratulated those still seated in the room for their past and future loyalty.

I have seen some of the video in the documentary. It is sickening, and all along, Saddam was sitting back, laughing and joking whilst puffing on his cigar) . But that is typical of psychopathic behaviour, in having no feelings for ones victims but a deeply thin skin when said psychopath feels remotely threatened.
As for the hunger strike. That's a tough one! My instinctive reaction is to say he should be force fed, but that will make him a martyr. But if he dies from a hunger strike he will be a martyr. In any case, the authorites should give no quarter to any of his demands.
In which case, perhaps a bit of force feeding is needed!
I expect the poor pellet gun victim must be thinking that he has got off lightly!