Friday, March 31, 2006

In Political Praise of: Hilary Benn


First fo all, I will be cutting down on my "In Praise of..." articles over the next few weeks and the "In Musical Praise of.." will also take a backburner, having exhausted my record collection.
Anyway, I have to point out that Hilary Benn is one of the nicest cabinet ministers I have met (when you are at Party Conferences you meet a lot of them). In fact he is so nice he is the only cabinet minister I have found myself addressing by his or her first name before a meeting (as a delegate you sometimes get to meet ministers and the like before important debates).
The son of Tony Benn, Hilary Benn was born in London and educatedHolland Park Comprehensive and Sussex University, where he graduated in Russian and East European studies. He married fellow student Rosalind Retey, who died a few years later from cancer, and some years later married again to Sally Clark, with whom he has four children.
Benn was involved as a research assistant to various Trade Union and policy groups, before being elected MP for Leeds Central in a by-election in 1999, following the death of Foreign Office Minister, Derek Fatchett.
Benn has since risen quickly through the ranks. When I first saw him, at an Oxfam event in 2001, he was a Parliamentary Under Secretary, within two years he entered the cabinet as Secretary for International Development, where he has since remained, although he is tipped for high office. He is to the right of the Party as opposed to his father being to the left, and is very good at his brief so there is no reason why he should not get one of the three big offices of state within the next five years, whether it is the Home Office, Foreign Office, or Treasury.

Good News and Bad News

(BBC Online)

Bad news. Wembley Stadium's re-opening is postponed until 2007.
Good news. Bon Jovi and Take That will not be performing there this year.
Okay, that's a bit harsh, but my dislike of boybands is that they are manufactured and don't last very long, their audiences are usually comprised of kids and young teenagers, and not many of these bands play a musical instrument and a lot of them don't write their own songs. Take That have admittedly broken some of those rules, but they also treated Robbie Williams like a sack of "ahem!" at one stage, not least this chap! Who I once remember trying to be clever and making some nasty and potentially libellious comments about someone on Parkinson without naming that someone.
Bon Jovi! Too cliched, although I am sure they are nice guys.
But that said, the sooner we have Wembley Stadium, home of our favourite matches and rock band performances etc.., the better.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

New Blog Link

I suppose it was going to happen sooner or later :-).
The latest blog link is from, and belongs to my brother.
It's simply titled Christopher (because, well, it's his name) and, like mine, is basically about his interests etc..

You will also quickly notice that Chris and I are two different people, almost to the point where some people are surprised we are brothers, although one friend of mine who met him once said she could spot strong similarities. He is also a very good and loyal friend.

When I was uploading his photo from his blog and told our sister, she said it was horrible (and I promise you that he's since shaved off the beard) and that I was to find another one. You cross our sister at your peril, so I found this photo attached to the fridge from about 1986 of the two of us together. I also hasten to point out that the fact I am wearing sandals in the picture does not mean I was a Lib Dem at the time (they were the Liberal/SDP Alliance then), I was too young too appreciate political niceties, although, to my shame, I do recall wanting the Lib/SDP Alliance to win the 1987 election on the flimsy basis that they looked nice and had not had a Prime Minister since the 1920s and deserved to be in the seat of government again. In a similar fashion, I appear to be the more confident one in the picture, although Chris is and always has been the more shy of the two of us, he is definetly the more sharp witted and intelligent.

As for the toes in the bottom right-hand corner. Probably belongs to one of our cousins (I remember the day the photo was taken, after all you don't get medieval tournaments everyday in rural Leicestershire (unless you count the Quorn Hunt ;) ).

Quite simply, welcome aboard bro and please feel free to contribute to this blog whenever and wherever necessary.

Chav King - A Correction!

(Barry's Beef)
Well a mild one.
Barry's Beef has incorrectly labelled Lottery Winner, Mikey Carroll, as a Christian. What had actually happened, to my knowledge, is that one of Carroll's friends had been at this concert and was ticked off with someone there. She tells Carroll, who in his chavish, thuggish way, decides to resort to his own brand of justice and storms the place with several of his mates and starts terrorising the small group of Christians there.
Not so interesting I know, but C'est la vie! An unpleasant character nontheless and one who probably doesn't deserve to have money in the first place. But then I can think of a lot of people who don't deserve to have money!
And as you can see from the photo, he is a lovely polite chap, who cares about everyone he meets.

The Last Election

With the 2006 Council elections gearing up, I thought I would bore, I mean, interest you with some photos I took on Polling Day for the 2005 General Election.
It was perhaps one of the busiest times I have spent in politics. I had a temporary job as Campaign Intern for the Hemel Hempstead CLP, whereas at the same time I was Press Officer for the North East Herts CLP * and heavily involved with the Baldock and District branch Labour Party, so I had little spare time, if at all, and scuttling back and forth.

My bedroom. One of those strange things. I woke up just after 4:30AM and there was enough daylight to see what I was doing, and not quite used to that at that time of morning, I took a photo whilst still in bed. I know, I know, but I was tired!

One of my folders, which contained my canvassing paperwork etc.. with a nice list of promises made in the previous eight years.

One of the nerve centres of the Hemel Hempstead Labour Party on said Polling Day. My main duties involved knocking on doors reminding people to vote.

My duties in Hemel Hempstead finished, I dashed back to North East Herts to help out there. My principal role that day being a counting agent for the CLP. Self-explanatory, as it involves being at the election count and checking that the votes are correctly counted. There are reps from all of the parties concerned. The Count was at the Letchworth Leisure Centre and it was the most fractious evening in politics I have seen. The staff were inexperienced, mistakes were made and the result was not announced until just after 5AM. By which time most of us had been up for about twenty-four hours and were frazzled. Apologies for the photo, but the view offered the best overall shot.

Every so often, some of us went for a break in the lounge/bar area and watched the results on the BBC on the small TV set in the corner. We also were in our own little party groups, the UKIP and Lib Dem lot in front, as you can see, and the Tories to our right (as always ;) ). The blurred figure at the end is the sitting Conservative MP, Oliver Heald. Methinks I would never make a good photojournalist :-)

The net result was mixed for Labour. A Third Term but for many of us in Herfordshire a difficult night. We lost some good county councillors (inc Lorna Kercher in Letchworth East and Baldock), as well as some good MP's, with one or two Tory Candidates not deserving of victory at all.
But that said, we kept several 'Tory' seats like Finchley ;), we got our Third Term (which Labour has never experienced before) and with a change of leadership coming up, things could well improve for Labour electorally.
Here's to this year's council elections! :-)

Another twist in the Abortion issue

I have been meaning to post about this in the last few days, but have not had the chance yet, because I wanted to give this some thought.
But simply I can understand the anger and frustration that such people have when they attack abortion clinics but it goes without saying that they are doing no help to the pro-life cause at all, and for those who claim that what they are doing is out of their Christian faith ought to probably have a re-read of the Bible.
As some of you know, I am a pro-lifer myself (I just couldn't be anything else for the simple reason that I regard a foetus as a growing and living potential for human life!Although in some exceptional cases I would agree to abortions), but I am also keenly aware of the difficulties and distress many women suffer (to the point of their mental health, of not physical being affected) that leads them to taking these decisions. What I think many pro-life and pro-choice people can agree on (those who take a moderate tone that is) is that they need as much love and consideration and support as possible. Accusing teachers of child abuse simply for promoting sex education (when many fourteen and fifteen year olds have rampaging hormones and need a lot of help and support), and send hate mail to doctors is not helpful in the least and not something (for those who claim to be motivated by faith) that I imagine Jesus would do! The most violent thing he ever did in the gospels was to drive out the money lenders in the Temple and there was a specific reason for that!
So yeah, this is a difficult time to be a pro-lifer, and I would strongly urge anyone who shares my views to not only consider the unborn child and his/her rights and the vulnerable state he/she is in, but also the considerations of the unborn mother and what she is going through. Believe it or not, not all women want an abortion because they see being pregnant as inconvenient. In fact I suspect those women are in a minority.

Single Issues

I have been challenged by Kerron to write about my love life, or rather lack of it! (Yes folks, this is the post I was wary of writing)
It all started when fellow blogger PooterGeek, wrote about his nonexistent lovelife on his blog and Kerron started asking others with the incentive of the Kerron Cross Memorial Crown (The title is a bit longer, but this looks better even if it is somewhat morbid) in honour of his recent non existent lovelife. Being slightly competitive I couldn't resist, although I am a bit unsure about doing this because there is the danger of appearing self-pitying and that might, er, ruin any chances I might have for the next few months.
Fact is, I have been single now for eighteen months (I split up from my last girlfriend in Sept 2004, just before I attended the Labour Party Conference that year and no the two events are not connected, it's just that I remember those painful feelings mixed with the joy of being a delegate making it a bittersweet time. Plus a close friend of mine was tragically killed the previous month).
So how do I feel about being single! Well okayish! I am human, so occasionally I feel those restless pangs of wanting to share my life with someone and miss those simple pleasures such as snuggling with a girlfriend on a sofa watching the TV, going for walks, holding hands and sharing lingering kisses, the usual things, but on the other hand I have achieved much and made more friendships than I might otherwise have done. I am looking, but I am also content with settling for platonic friendships, if I ask a girl out on a date there is a chance that's probably all I am asking. To use the cliche, friendship first, then let's see what develops. Do I get asked about being single? Not very often really! The occasional, "So do you have a girlfriend?" followed by the "So do you have a boyfriend?" followed by the shock that if I am heterosexual and very single why am I not going out on the pull in the local nightclubs, followed by an occasional esoteric discussion and a series of questions when I explain that I am a Christian, so pulling in nightclubs for quick sexual oppurtunites is not my thing.
I wish those conversations were slightly less predictable.
There is also the "You need a girlfriend!" and "I am sure there is someone out there for you!", which is considerate, but begs the question as to whether I do need a girlfriend and is there someone out there for me because if we all have choices, what if myself and/or the One True Romantic Love make a mistake, leading to a form of Woody Allen angst which may have been good for when Annie Hall came out, but is somewhat boring and selfish now!
The other question is whether there is someone I am interested enough to pursue a relationship with right now! Well aside from close platonic female friends, I don't know any girl well enough. Some I like more than others, some I have a soft spot for and would not be averse to having a relationship with, but no one I know well enough or well enough now where I know any romantic feelings I have are unrequited and better off extinguished.
So that's it at the moment. My faith, my family, my friends, my career, my political and writing ambitions are major passions in my life right now, but no relationship as yet! :/

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

In Thespian Praise of: Bernard Lee

Best known as M in the early Bond films, Bernard Lee was one of British film and television's most versitaile actors.
Born in London in 1908, he studied at RADA and initally made a career on the stage, but branched out into films after the Second World War.
Usually cast as authority figures, Lee became known in such films as The Third Man (1949), The Blue Lamp (1950), Father Brown (1954), The Battle of the River Plate (1956), Dunkirk (1958), and Whistle Down the Wind (1961). He also made a guest appearance in the TV series "The Persuaders!" .
Occasionally he would act against type, in roles such as the Union agitator in The Angry Silence (1960), but it was as M in the first eleven official Bond movies (From Dr. No in 1962 to Moonraker in 1979) that Lee made his mark.
Usually stern and not, as Lee once put it, someone you want to cross. His M was also fair and loyal and someone who was very protective and helpful towards Bond. At a time when it may be a bit PC to mention Dame Judi Dench (and she is very good in the role), I have to admit that Bernard Lee is my favourite, probably for the very simple reason I saw him first, and also because his M is probably the most multi-faceted without losing his authority. It also says much that when For Your Eyes Only was about to be filmed in the autumn of 1980 and Lee was suffering from terminal stomach cancer and too ill to take part, the character of M was written out as being on leave and replaced by the Chief of Staff, rather than recasting the central role whilst Lee was still alive. He died in January 1981, just as filming was completed.
The British actor Jonny Lee Miller is a grandson of his.


(Gillian Beaton/Andrew Philip)
A new blog link on Mars Hill. This is the blog of Andrew Philip, who is a fellow Subwayean and who has just published a pamphlet of poems. Met him at Greenbelt a few times, great guy.

Where are you Chimpette?

Regular-of-sorts contributor to Kerron's blog and mine, Politicschimpette has been a bit quiet lately.
Obviously, as the woman herself has stated, the siren of Portcullis House has been very busy which is fair enough, but hey, we miss you and when, just when, are you going to have an exciting blog of your own!
Better stop there before Kerron starts his teasing and wind up tactics to hydrodgen proportions and esp as my last sentence looked a bit like some substandard lyrics to a song.

Norman Kember

(Getty Images)
A lot has been blogged about his release in the last few days and I simply haven't got around to adding my two pennoth (esp as I have three blog entries in mind at the moment, one of which is a bit intimidating for me, but more on that later..), suffice to say that I notice that a mild aquaintance of mine, Jonathan Bartley, has been mentioned in conjunction with him on the BBC New Website.
But on the whole situation with Norman Kember I felt he got some unfair stick in the last few days. He thanked those who were responsible for his release, but at the end of the day the man is a pacifist and you can't expect him to change that belief which he has held since he was a teenager. That said, I am not sure if his going to Iraq was a good idea, especially as the hostage crisis that goes on there makes what happened in Beirut in the 1980s pale in comparison. But Norman Kember knew the risks and went accordingly and I think it's important to let him just get on with his life. Which, if what happened to John McCarthy, Jackie Mann, Terry Waite, and Brian Keenan and other former hostages is anything to go by, will take time and adjustment.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

In Musical Praise of: Billy Bragg

To be honest for a long while I didn't like Billy Bragg . I rarely, if I bothered at all, to listen to his songs and I wrote him off as one of those irritating people on the hard left.
Then I remember watching highlights at Glastonbury one year on Channel 4 and saw him perform "Milkman of Human Kindness", and then I made the mistake of meeting him at a couple of political events and he turns out to be quite a nice guy.
At round about the same time I started hearing some of his stuff and seeing him perform at Greenbelt and I found that I quite like some of his songs.
It would be nice if there was more to the production of his albums than just him and an electric guitar, but that does somewhat help his folk image and his songs do tend to be thoughtful, considerate, witty, and yet hit the point without resorting to Lennonesque sarcasm.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Event

Following on from Andrew's Bloggers4Labour meeting, I was so impressed I have been thinking about hosting one of my own.
This one will be for those who have links to my blog, so it is not just politics and not just the Labour Party, and I am thinking of hosting it in London around about the 3rd June, so the foillowing blog moderators are invited:

Cally's Kitchen
One Small Voice
Peculiar Times
Kerron Cross - The Voice of the Delectable Left
Travis' Place
Jo's Journal
Normal Mouth
Antonia's blog
Skuds' Sister's Brother
Rullsenberg Rules
Subway Writers Group

And all those involved with those blogs, who aren't trolls, are invited.
Of course I doubt very much that the Mighty Bri will come along, although he would be most welcome :-). In any case if you let me know what you think of this and if you are available then let me know.
I also haven't sorted out a venue (seems pointless at the moment), although a pub, resturant area in the Westminster/Covent Garden area seems ideal.

The Blair Factor

(BBC Online)
Apparently he says that it was a mistake to publicly announce his plans to quit before the next general election.
I can see his point, it limits his options, it gives a sense of uncertainty about his current position, yet on the other hand it means that it gives confidence to the Labour Party, and indeed to the electorate, to know that there will soon be a visible renewal of the Labour Party in it's Social Democratic tradition.
Not only that, but this morning Andrew at Bloggers4Labour wants to know what some of us bloggers who voted Labour in 1997 felt then and feel now, and indeed how we felt about the 1994 leadership election.
Well in 1994 I was a Labour supporter, although not a Party member (That was another eight years away). I recall that fateful morning well, I was at North Herts College doing a BTEC course to help secure a place at University and I had just bounded up to the library at the start of my break, when I saw on the front window a piece of A4 Paper cellotaped to the window with the words written in felt tip and in capitals; "John Smith, leader of the Labour Party, died of a heart attack this morning."
I remember just staring and staring at that paper, just trying to get my head around what I had just read. A couple of others came up the stairs and were about to go into the library and spotted it as well. We got talking about it for a few seconds, and we didn't know each other at all, when I found myself saying "Well Tony Blair should be the next leader" before going back downstairs to tell my friends.
I had first heard of Tony Blair when he was Employment Spokesman under Neil Kinnock and he made an impression on me because, well he didn't seem to be a natural Labour guy. I could identify with that, because many people at school were surprised I was Labour, thinking that with my voice and manner I would be a Tory. I also wanted Blair to be leader after Smith died because I felt he was the best hope of attracting middle england voters, the voters we desperately needed.
Of course the 1997 election was fantastic, far better than I anticipated (I only allowed myself to think Labour would win just two days before polling day, and even then a maj of 50), was shocked and pleasantly surprised at some of the seats that did turn Labour (like Finchley) and like many I felt the excitement of a new dawn
So what do I think of Tony Blair now!
Well I haven't agreed with everything he has said and done, for example I didn't agree with the Iraq War, but I am greatful that, under his leadership, we have not only seen Labour win three elections in a row, but low unemployment, long term economic growth, as well as lead amongst many countries to eliminate poverty and Third World debt. That said, I think he has already done his best work and that Gordon Brown should be the next Labour leader. What I want to see in the next few years, is a renewal of Labour's pledges and a connection with the electorate that will see in a fourth term of office. It would be arrogant to ask for more than that!

If you think the 'Cash for Peerages' was bad....

I was horrified to read about this. Many, many years ago, when I lived in Oxfordshire, a teenager who lived in our part of Enstone won this award and I was completely impressed. In my eyes, and as it would have been in the eyes of other small children, it was if he had got a knighthood or a Legion de Honour.
Those who sell these priceless awards on E-Bay should be deeply, deeply ashamed of themselves and if they are caught red handed, I will not be averse to seeing them receive a prison sentence.

(BBC Online)

And you don't want to know what I think should happen to those who vandalised the Blue Peter Garden! ;)

In Christian Praise of: Stanley Burgin

It's often the case that I mention famous people in these articles, but it occured to me that, for once, it would be nice if I mentioned an unknown inspiration. Family being a close example, I thought I would mention my paternal grandad, esp as I have already mentioned my other grandad on this blog already.
Granpy (the childhood nickname all of us grandchildren had for him), is on the left of the photo and my Great Uncle Jim, his younger brother, is on the right. On the back of the photo it says "1978", which is when, I assume, the photo was taken, and this is certainly how I remember them, Granpy having died in 1983 and Uncle Jim, three years later.
Anyway I'm digressing. Granpy was born in 1901, in Barsby, Leicstershire. The village where he went to school, where he spent much of his working life (On his Dad's farm), and where he lived until he died. The photo opposite is in the back of the cottage in the main street, where he and grandma lived for the last thirty years of his life. My Uncle Jim living next door, and (until around about the time this photo was taken, when they moved to Queninborough) his elder brother, Uncle Bob and his wife living two houses away from Uncle Jim. Boring I know, but I find it fascinating that this older branch of the family lived in the same tiny village and close to each other for just about their whole lives.
Their mother died when Granpy was eleven, and their father quickly married again, causing some strain within the family. Whilst he was the most intelligent of his siblings, it was Uncle Bob who got a place at the grammar school, simply because he was the eldest. So when he left school at about tweleve, he started work on their Dad's farm, which he did until Great Grandad Burgin died in 1957.

In that time Granpy married and had two sons and developed a keen interest in gardening, a hobby that almost bordered on the obsessive, but one for which he was admired (In fact, I remember hearing that his last words were on when it was the right time of year to cut down an apple tree in his garden).
He also had a strong faith and, according to Grandma, was the only person she knew who read the Bible completely from beginning to end, but his faith was not something he liked talking about, his motto being "Never discuss religion and politics..", so what he would have made of my very public interests I don't know... :), but he did live his faith. He was a very shy person, albeit kind and gentle, and, whilst he was financially careful, made sure that the tenants of the three or so cottages he inherited from Great Grandad Burgin paid a low amount of rent. He also used to give very good advice, telling Grandma when she was badly upset by someone's rude behaviour towards her to the point that she was about to write a stinging letter, that once you say something to someone, it's been said and that it would be better to just wait. A year later the woman concerned wrote to apologise.
Just before my Great Grandad died, Granpy developed a serious infection which made him dangerously ill, his weight plummeted to about five stone and my Dad (at twelve years old) was told that his Dad was going to die. But at the last minute his doctor mentioned a new wonder drug called penicillin, which he wanted to try out. The result being that Granpy made a complete recovery and, due to the shock, he never had an asthma attack again (he was never in robust health).
His illness however, may have been a catalist for my Great Grandad's Will. He died whilst Granpy was recovering and he and his family found themselves with very little money. Their half brother wanted to sell the farm, and for the first time in their lives, and being men of their early and late fifties, Granpy and his elder and younger brother had to look for work. Great Grandad Burgin, for numerous reasons, is not well thought of in our family.
Thankfully they all found jobs before long and Granpy worked as a nightwatchman at a local airfield until he was seventy. He was popular and well liked there, as he was with many people. A year before my parents married, my Dad and Uncle paid for their parents to go on holiday to Canada, and when I met a no of my Canadian relatives, some years later, the mere mention of Granpy was enough to hear comments about what a kind person he was.
My own memories of him are vague (as he died a few months after my seventh birthday), but he was someone who I felt in awe of, but who was kind and considerate and gave time for you if he could.
When he died, Grandma was deluged by letters, almost by the sackful, from people all over the country, saying how sorry they had heard that he had died and what he meant to them. I have never in my life come across an individual who as led a quiet life, who has had that noticeable widespread affect on people.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

What Goes Around Comes Around!

So much to blog on, so little time. Strange as it may seem, I do have a life and have been somewhat busy at work (inc a shift swap) and sorting out other things this week, and I am a bit busy today so I will be brief, but to the point I hope :).
I notice that Labour have been urging the Conservatives to mention their hidden donors, and this is something that has plagued the Tories this week. After hurling mud at the Labour Party all-too-freely did they not expect for a few awkward questions to be asked of their finances. Clearly not, which is somewhat remiss and naive of them, but then they are not used to being in opposition and having brickbats thrown at them like another Party had suffered at one time!
Now they are playing the martyr card and have stated that some donors are afraid to mention their contacts for fear of losing government contracts.
That is somewhat unfair, and indeed arrogant, as it indicates that they would be more generous in government and I doubt if the tables were turned, i.e. Labour in opposition when this broke out, the Tories would be so gracious to Labour. Besides, this isn't school politics, we live in the real world and we accept that people have varying political opinions. If ministers started withholding contracts out of malicious spite then they would be in trouble very quickly (and rightly so) with the regulatory bodies concerned and the relevant companies can make an appeal. There are rules and regulations to deal with these things.
Put simply, Labour in government have put forward various laws on donations, the Party has fallen through the netting, as it were, so the laws will be tightened. The Lib Dems agree with the changes, as far as I know, so why aren't the Tories, what have they got to hide? Incidentally the BBC News website have quoted backbench Tory MP Roger Gale as stating that Labour are:

"trying to distract attention from their own "wholly unacceptable" fundraising tactics."

So it's okay to slur and attack the Labour Party but not for pertinent questions to be asked of the Tories in return!
How arrogant, but unsurprising.

(Getty Images)

Incidentally, do you recall these negative posters during the general election campaign! Aside from the fact they were nasty and indeed inaccurate (as the PM had already stated that this would be the last general election he would fight as leader), much of the campaign funding from the Tories came from loans donated. How many of them were secret remains to be seen!
Are you thinking what we're thinking! :/
BTW, B4L has an excellent posting on this.


Found this on Brian May's website, via Queen News:

"ROGER TAYLOR will be playing a date to benefit The Countryside Alliance 20 May with Pink Floyd's Roger Waters and Nick Mason, Eric Clapton and Roger Daltrey. Tickets cost £75."


Thanks to the Editor for being so cautious, but guys, how could you! There are a no of unpleasant thugs among the CA and I hope you know that.
In fact I hope you don't, because I really would be disapointed if that was the case.
Am just greatful that Brian May isn't involved.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Top Ten Political Dinner Guests, Past and Present

I don't know about you, but I sometimes find myself watching Portillo's Dinners on BBC 4, where he has guests from various political parties, coupled with people in the media etc.. and they discuss various important topics.
That said, I am not a fan as such in that I don't set out to watch the programme but if I am flicking channels and it is on, well...
Anyway I was reminded of this when I was debating Gordon Brown's brilliant budget with various people on Kerron's blog and the idea came to me that, if I had a choice, which ten political leaders from the three main parties since 1945, living or dead, would I invite to dinner.
Then the thought came to me that I would be intrigued what others' choices would be, so I will throw down the gauntlet for others. Bear in mind you have the choice of five or ten, but it has to be either of those, and you have to mention why.
In any case here is my list:

Clement Attlee (No nonsense chap, helped bring in a raft of reforms, Welfare State and NHS)

Harold Wilson (Friendly, into football and HP Sauce, and helped found the OU and ratified EEC entry with a referendum)

Neil Kinnock (Have actually met him, fiarly amiable, animated, and helped make Labour electable again)

John Smith (Fairly amiable, but relished a good argument, and, again, helped a great deal to make Labour re-electable)*

*Would have inc Gaitskell or Callaghan, but I told myself to keep to a set no

Sir Winston Churchill (Do I need a reason)

Harold Macmillan (Great raconteur, but also a very left-wing Conservative)

Sir Edward Heath (Underneath all that sulking, a fairly decent guy)

William Hague (Looks like a good chap to have a debate with) *

*I would include John Major and Sir Alec Douglas Home, but ditto above

Liberal Democrats
Jo Grimmond (I would want to ask him how the Liberals managed to survive in the 1950s)

David Owen (On how he sees himself politically now)

People whose lists I would like to see: Kerron, Jo, Antonia, Louisa, Travis (Which US Presidents if stuck), Skuds, Andrew at B4L, Norm, PooterGeek, Neil at BrightonRegency, Lisa Rullsenberg, and Andrew at WongaBlog

Thursday, March 23, 2006

In Political Praise of: Harold Macmillan

(BBC Online)
It isn't often that you will see me speak so highly of a Tory ;), least of all a peacetime Prime Minister (Churchill was just in a league of his own), but Harold Macmillan was an unusual Conservative. So left wing he could fit into today's Labour Party with ease and of whom Clement Attlee stated (as mentioned in Peter Hennessy's book on Prime Ministers since 1945) nearly joined the Labour Party in the early 1930s.
Maurice Harold Macmillan was born in 1894, into a family of publishers. He was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford and won the Millitary Cross, although so many friends and aquintances of his from Oxford were killed, that he refused to continue his academic studies there, saying the place would never be the same. That said, he was Chancellor of Oxford University from 1962 until his death in 1986.
In 1920 he married Lady Dorothy Cavendish, the daughter of the Duke of Devonshire. The marriage was that of mutual companionship, although somewhat painful, as for many years Dorothy had an affair with the somewhat dubious Conservative MP, Bob Boothby. Perhaps the bleakest time in Macmillan's life was in the early 1930s when his wife's affair was in full swing, his political career was stalled (he lost his Stockton seat in the 1929 general election), he was (according to his official biographer) looked down on by his wife's relatives, and there was the private knowledge that he was not the father of Dorothy's youngest child.
But Macmillan persevered and reclaimed his seat in 1931, although his One Nation brand of Toryism and his anti-appeasment views made him unpopular with the leadership and kept him on the backbenches.
When Churchill came to power in 1940 and set up the wartime coalition government, Macmillan was given a junior post at the Ministry of Supply, before being made the government's representative to the Allies in the Mediterranean. At the end of the War he was promoted to cabinet status, only to lose his seat in the forthcoming Labour landslide.
After returning to Parliament in the Bromley by-election of November 1945, Macmillan was soon a member of the Shadow Cabinet and a leading figure of the left in the Conservative Party. After Churchill returned to Downing Street in 1951, Macmillan was made Minister for Housing, before becoming Minister of Defence, Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and then, following Eden's resignation, Prime Minister.
During the six years he was PM, Macmillan helped formulate the Partial Test Ban Treaty, applied for Britian to join the EEC (although that was vetoed by President de Gaulle of France), helped various Commonwealth nations achieve independence and warned the architects of Apartheid that a wind of change was sweeping through Africa and that South Africa ought to embrace it.
But he was no saint. After another by-election defeat for the Tories in 1962, Macmillan sacked seven of his cabinet ministers within hours, causing Jeremy Thorpe to paraphrase a verse in St John's Gospel, stating; "Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his friends for his life" . He was also overwhelmed and embarrased by the Profumo Affair, and, having suspected cancer, retired in October 1963. However, it turned out that he did not have cancer after all and lived for another twenty-three years.
In retirement, he stood down as an MP, initally refused apeerage and became Chairman of the Macmillan Publishers. He remained involved in politics from the sidelines however and was a polite critic of Thatcherism, liking her monetarist policies in a speech he made a year before his death as, "selling the family silver". He also had an impish sense of humour. When the Soviet leader Yuri Andropov's death was announced on Macmillan's ninetieth birthday, he remarked on how thoughtful it was of him. He also made one of the best political put-downs as Prime Minister when the then Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev twice interrupted him during a speech Macmillan was making at the UN, mainly by shouting and pounding his shoe on his desk, Macmillan replied "I should like that to be translated if he wants to say anything."
But above all, whatever his politics, he was a thoughtful and compassionate man who cared a great deal for the wellbeing of the British people. Shortly before his death, when he knew the end was not far off, he stated on the latest unemployment figures from Thatcher's government

"Sixty-three years ago … the unemployment figure (in Stockton-on-Tees) was 29 percent. Last November (1986) it was 28 percent. A rather sad end to one’s life."

That is the kind of critique that hits it's mark more than the kind of sniping other non-Thatcherite Tories made.

The Budget

(The Voice of the Delectable Left)
In short:

Further education would be free of charge for the first time up to the age of 25, with adult learning grants to help with the cost of living

Duty on cigarettes will rise 9p

There would be another £2m for evening sports clubs for young people in a scheme run by police, Premier League football clubs and community groups

To make homes more environmentally friendly, Mr Brown promised new incentives for piloting "smart metering" and a new labelling scheme for energy efficient goods to make homes greener

The exemption on stamp duty would be raised to £125,000 and the level at which inheritance tax begins to be paid would rise to from £275,000 to £325,000

Economic growth was 2.5% in the latest quarter and would be 2.75%-3.25% for 2007/8

And plenty of sniping from David Cameron. As a person I like him, but politically...
Yesterday he did no favours for himself, as he rasped (a bit like a Dalek) his contempt for the budget and accused Gordon Brown of being an analogue in a digital age, amongst a flurry of other insults. A bit silly really, as there was little, if any, constructive criticism and a sign perhaps that the Tories were stumped.
It was also their shortest budget response from a Tory leader, at just under ten minutes.
Perhaps they were just shocked at how good it was ;)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Supervised self-harm

This is just wrong!

Budget Day

(Press Association)
Well a bit pointless blogging about it until the results come in, suffice to say the omens look good, and if it is going to be his last, then I am sure he will leave on a high.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

In Thespian Praise of: David Tennant

(BBC Online)
Best known for being the current Doctor Who, David Tennant (the person on the right of the photo ;) ). wanted to be an actor from an early age. Educated at RSAMD, he made a notable early TV appearance in Takin' Over the Asylum, before making his mark in the film Bright Young Things , and the TV series' 'He Knew He Was Right', Blackpool, and Casanova, before succeding Christopher Eccleston in Doctor Who.
Usually typecast as playing outgoing, slightly eccentric men, Tennant tends to make full use of his range and can turn those style of roles into sinister use (as in Secret Smile, or Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire), or more towards style and humourous sophistication with a flair for comedy (as in Casanova). What is consistent however, is that he doesn't go unnoticed and has a habit of making his roles memorable.
He also insists he is an ordinary twentysomething blogger by the name of Andrew West! ;)

Tories and Cash

Further to my last posting, I just came across this on the BBC Website.
The bit that stood out for me was this:

but Tory treasurer Jonathan Marland says he is not prepared "under any circumstances" to disclose where his party's loans come from.

Then don't complain! There is a difference between being honest and asking pertinent questions, like many in the Labour Party, and being critical for political advantage when the Conservative Party's house isn't in order.

Monday, March 20, 2006

When the Snow Melts...

(BBC Online)
Co-Founder of the Bond movies and long-time film Producer (Inc Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) Cubby Broccoli had an interesting title for his posthumously published memoirs. It was called "When the Snow Melts"
Sounds like a title of one of the sixteen Bond movies he Co-Produced, but the rationale behind it was that it was a saying he knew. That when the snow melts, you can sometimes see the messes that dogs leave.
In a similar fashion, on face value the 'Cash for Peerages' scandal is a daming indictment of New Labour, but when you look beneath the surface things become more interesting.
I have mentioned before that Labour are in a no-win situation. If we accept Union funding, we are accused of being in their pocket, the same if we accept financial donations from businessmen. Of course we could go for internal party funding, and we do, but for a nationwide political party is that enough to keep Labour financially afloat.
So in an attempt to win back public confidence, the government, rightly, have published the names of wealthy businessmen who have lent Labour nearly £14m.
There are also new laws proposed to ban secret loans for political parties.
Now this is very fair and open of the government, and indeed the Lib Dems, like Labour have stated that they have published details of who has lent them money.
But as for the Conservatives? Well apparently David Cameron states that it is difficult to name people who have given them loans in the past!
You mean they weren't competent enough to list their donors and keep records, and yet some of them, and the newspapers which support them, see fit to start making accusations and attacks on Labour!
Aside from the fact that a party in opposition who does that, who isn't being honest with setting their own house in order, is really not fit to wield power, there is something about that statement which shows that something stinks at the heart of the Conservative Party.
And I doubt their donations are from Maggie and Judy making jam preserves for local fetes.

In Musical Praise of: ABBA

(BBC Online)

I have hesitated before blogging on them, as they are the closest thing to a guilty musical pleasure. Even when I brought their Gold album, I brought a Billy Bragg album as well, so as to avoid feeling embarrased and to show that my musical tastes are varied.
So why, when I have varied tastes, and enjoy listening to The Clash, Nick Drake, Queen, Elgar, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, and Jools Holland do I like ABBA!
Well, erm, I just do! I think that there is more to their music than gives them credit, even though they have a cliched image and are mercilessly lampooned, as a favourite sketch of mine from Not the Nine O'Clock News once did, with a brilliant verse in their song "Super Dooper" :

"One of us is ugly, one of us is cute
One of us you'd like to see in her birthday suit
Two of us write music, two have way a song
Sorry, in translation, that line come out wrong"

Which was sharp and irrevrent, but seems to be the general view of ABBA.
If you take their last studio album, The Visitors, it is somewhat different to the others. The lyrics have an added sharpness (although there were strong lyrics in some of their previous songs) and there is a Scandinavian melachony to some of their work, plus their melodies are somewhat catchy.
Besides, who can really, really, dislike Thank You For The Music, or Dancing Queen, or Fernando, or Does Your Mother Know, or Knowing Me, Knowing You!
Okay a no of people, but admit it. You like them really!

The Tawney Lecture and Other Events

As I mentioned earlier, on Saturday I went to the annual Tawney lecture, hosted by the Christian Socialist Movement, followed by their AGM.
Kerron has already mentioned this on his blog and touched on the Peace March going on outside, although, as always, the Socialist Workers Party seemed to hijack the event and cause a bit of trouble. When I arrived at Westminster Tube Station (The CSM holding the meeting at Westminster Central Hall, where they are based), the police were already pointing out to one group that they didn't ask for permission to have a stall directly outside the main tube entrance. On their little table were placards calling Blair a terrorist., which struck me as somewhat confrontational.

Anyway, back to the lecture. This years' speaker was Graham Dale,who is a former Driector of CSM. He spoke on the history of Christian contribution to the Labour Party. That many of the 29 Labour MP's in 1906 were nonconformists and helped influence the direction of the Labour Party. Among those he mentioned were Keir Hardie, Margaret Bondfield, and Arthur Henderson. He also mentioned what we should be doing as the CSM today, in working with the Labour Party and indeed with other faiths affiliated with the Party.
Then it was lunch, a buffet at the stop of the stairs in the entrance area, where there resides a lifesize statue of John Wesley (who was only about five foot tall) and a chance to meet up with some familiar faces, before getting down to the AGM, where we debated our constitution in a document entitled 'Salt and Light', and made some key changes.

AGM over, I made my way to Starbucks in Victoria Street, so that I could have a coffee and a chance to go over The Guardian, before I checked my e-mails etc.. and had a look around Westminster and Covent Garden and took some photos.

St James's Park at sunset.

Horseguard's parade

Incidentally I noticed that a favourite bookshop of mine, next to Covent Garden tube station, has closed :(.

I used to frequent there some years ago when I had a temp job with Oxfam in Drury Lane.
Ah well, life moves on.

Farewell Humphrey

(Press Association)
I was saddened to read the death of one of Britain's most resourceful former civil servants.
From 1989 to 1997, Humphrey helped deplete the rodent population in Whitehall and was much loved by politicians and civil servants alike.
Like many cat lovers, I was saddened when he had to retire in late 1997, due to a kidney complaint, but he has never been forgotten and he will be missed.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

In Christian Praise of: Dietrich Bonhoffer

Considered one of the greatest thinkers and writers on Christian ethics in the Twentieth Century, he ended up being martyred by the Nazis for his opposition to their regime, and for helping Jewish refugees.
One of twins, Dietrich Bonhoffer was born in 1906 in Breslau, Germany (now part of Poland and called Wroclaw). He was expected to go into the field of psychology but wanted to become a pastor from an early age. Supported by his parents he did his post-graduate studies in New York, where he developed a love of African-American spirituals. On his return to Germany in 1931, Bonhoffer had with him a large collection of spiritual recordings which he had amassed.
He was soon teaching theology in Berlin and looking after two German speaking churches in London, however the Nazis coming to power in 1933 alarmed Bonhoffer and several others, to the point where (with Martin Niemöller and Karl Barth, he set up the Confessing Church, an underground church which resisted Nazi attempts to create one national church supporting Nazi ideology and radically purging the Bible of it's Jewish content (which seems a contradiction in terms, but there you go..)
On the outbreak of World War II, the Nazis banned Bonhoffer from preaching, teaching, and public speaking, in turn, Bonhoffer made heavy contacts with a no of Hitler's opponents. He also got involved with a group of high ranking millitary officers who planned to overthrow the Nazi regime and kill Hitler. Bonhoffer prayed and struggled over this, until he came to the reluctant conclusion that this was the best way of rescuing Germany and the World from Nazism. In the meantime, small as it was, the Confessing Church became a focal point for Christian opposition towards Nazi Germany.
In 1943, Bonhoffer was arrested by the Gestapo after money gieven to aid Jews in escaping from Germany to Switzerland was traced to him. A year later, after the plot to kill Hitler failed, Bonhoffer's involvement there was also uncovered and in the last weeks of the War, on April 9th 1945, Bonhoffer was hanged with his brother, Klaus, and two of his brothers-in-law. As a final indignity, they were ordered to strip naked by their SS Guards before being marched to the gallows. In the 1990s, the German government pardoned Bonhoffer for any crimes he may or may not have committed under the Nazi regime.
In the years after the War, Bonhoffers' influence, via his writings, has increased and he is a popular theologian who, like C.S. Lewis, transcends Christian cultures. He is highly thought of by fundamentalists, evangelicals, and liberals alike, who try and grapple with the Bonhoffer who was a pacifist in the 1930s, to the Bonhoffer who helped plan an assasination in the 1940s out of frustration over the evils of Nazism.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

In Political Praise of: John Smith

(BBC Online)
Today I went to the Christian Socialist Movement AGM (More on that later), suffice to say that today was also the day the CSM held their annual Tawney lecture, this year presented by Graham Dale. Ten years ago it was presented by the then-Labour leader and much missed, John Smith, so perhaps now is the time to mention him again.
Leader of the Labour Party at a critical moment following the 1992 general election, John Smith oversaw the changes made to how Labour leaders were elected, giving more of a say to the rank and file of the Party and away from the dominance of the Trade Unions. He also was effective in his role as Leader of the Opposition, in his criticisms of the Major government and the arrogance of the Conservatives after being so long in power.
Born in Dalmally, Argyll and Bute, in 1938. John Smith was educated at Glasgow University, where he studied law. He later became an Advocate before being elected MP for North Lanarkshire in 1970.
He rose rapidly through the ranks of the Party (at one stage being Tony Benn's deputy at the Department of Energy and getting on well with him, in spite of them being from different wings of the Party), before ending up in the Cabinet as Trade Secretary in the last months of the Callaghan government.
In opposition, he was seen as one of the modernisers of the right of the Labour Party, albeit as one who, like Gordon Brown, was firmly rooted in the Party's traditions and affections. As Shadow Chancellor under Neil Kinnock he was scathing and sharp in his criticisms of the governments casual approach to those who suffered under their economic reforms. He quickly became a Party heavyweight and in 1992 was the likely successor to Neil Kinnock when he resigned foloowing another defeat for Labour at the general election of that year.
Cautious, yet tenatious, Smith inspired loyalty and respect in a way which fostered party unity. He also made no secret of his preference for the right of the Party, and yet unlike other 'Apostles of the right' such as Gaitskell and others, he had the respect and affection of the left. How effective he would have been as Prime Minister we shall never know, as he died prematurely in 1994, following a heart attack (his second).
I myself subscribe to the theory that we would have won in 1997 under Smith, albeit with possibly less seats, although whilst that is unfortunate, a Smith premiership would have been intriging. That said, I feel that we have his natural successor in Gordon Brown who will, hopefully, inherit the Blair mantle before too long.

Labour and Sleaze!

This is one of those posts where I feel I have a lot to say, but don't know where to begin.
I suppose on one level, it could be argued that now, those of us on the Labour Party know what it's like to be on the receiving end, and that is fair, but only to a degree. Jack Dromey, the Labour Party Treasurer, wants to see an inquiry and many will accuse him of protecting his back, but in fairness what would you do! Any way you look at it the man has no choice!
So, yeah, I am perhaps more understanding than I would if it was a Conservative Party problem, however this does raise some legitimate questions about fundraising! Do we stick to donations from wealthy businessmen or do we rely on Trade Union support, although the very critics attacking the government now cried foul when that happened!
Perhaps state funding via the British taxpayer? I am somewhat unhappy with that! Would you want a proportion of your taxed income to end up in the coffers of a Party you dislike whether it is Tory, Lib Dem, or even dare I say, Labour. Or worse, if it ended up in the BNP accounts.
No, that won't do, so what are the realistic alternatives?
For a start, anything related to peerages to be dealt with by an independent commission. It's not perfect, but it is better than the system right now. Just so long as Simon Jenkins comment last night on peerages on auction, such as Sotherby's, isn't seriously considered! ;)
Secondly, all parties declare full details of all loans on the same basis as donations. If there is one thing I have found in the last few years is that government is difficult, but we must keep to the standards and ethical visions which attracted us into politics in the first place. Many in the Labour Government, like it or not, are decent hard working people trying to do a decent job in harsh circumstances. Yes, some have failed the grade, yes if there has been corruption here, then those responsible should and must be punished, but many are quick to make judgements before the full details are known and many are quick to play the pious pharissee and cast the first stone. I do not believe this is the government of Lloyd George Mark II and I would not defend it if it was, but if you really want to see justice done, then pray for those of us within the Labour Party and in government, help us to deal with these dilemmas head on, recognise that the problems involve affect all the main parties and let us work together to get rid of the stench of any misunderstanding or corruption.
Unless of course, you think it is more fun being critical of the government and picking up stones to throw!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Keeping Proportion about Representation

As I said earlier, I thought I would take a deep breath and blog about my feelings on PR, given the debate it occasionally generates in the blogosphere (BTW the power of the blog was mentioned very briefly in tonight's West Wing, which was interesting).

For a start, Antonia mentions on the issue in her blog:

"I like knowing who the government is when I wake up the next morning after the election. I like coalitions inside broad church political parties made before the election not in smoke-filled rooms away from public gaze as the very reasons one might vote for a party get traded away. I like governments that stay the course and have a chance of implementing a manifesto. I like MPs with a clearly-defined geographic responsibility so that they have to help their constituents rather than list members flitting around with no responsibilities free to undermine constituency members and fight a four-year election campaign. I like local parties choosing their candidates, not faceless lists chosen by central office. I like candidates’ names on the ballot paper, not just names of parties. I like not having the BNP in the House of Commons.
As for gender balance, there are mechanisms to improve that under FPTP as well, not just under the variety of PR systems."

I totally agree, ( wow that's about the fourth time ;) ) and Antonia has articulated well the very fears I have about PR. That whilst it has a good appeal (In so far that it claims to be more representative) when you look at the democratic costs, coalitions, smoke filled rooms, geographic responsibility etc.. I feel we might as well stick with 'First Past the Post..'

Neil takes issue with this argument, piece by piece, with the following (BTW I hope you can bear with me here and my apologies to all concerned if you feel I am not being at all helpful):

"I like knowing who the government is when I wake up the next morning after the election."

Is that really a reason? The incumbent continues in office for a few weeks (at most) while the coalition is formed. Usually it takes a few days if it isn’t a close election. In the US it is almost 3 MONTHS after the FPTP election before the handover!! In Canada under FPTP they have had EIGHT coalition governments out of the last 16!

“Of the 16 elections that have taken place in Canada since 1957, eight have produced majority government and eight have produced parliaments with no overall majority. The average lifespan of a minority government is about 18 months, and the Conservative party’s position in parliament in 2006 is weaker than any of these predecessor governments. The chances are that a reluctant Canadian electorate will have to go back to the polls before the end of 2007.British media and political discussion of the German election in September 2005 saw a great deal of criticism of proportional representation in Germany - although the result reflected the wishes of the electorate and a broad-based government has now been formed. Can we look forward to discussion of the chronic instability of first-past-the-post in Canada after two indecisive elections in a row?”

Alex FolkesElectoral Reform Society

" I like coalitions inside broad church political parties made before the election not in smoke-filled rooms away from public gaze as the very reasons one might vote for a party get traded away."

So manifestos (that are rarely honoured - 3 times Labour has promised a referendum on electoral reform for example) decided by a party that can only win a minority of the vote is better than a government decided by the majority. You are having a laugh!

"I like governments that stay the course and have a chance of implementing a manifesto."

We are heading to a situation, now that the Lib Dems have many more seats where we could get ‘hung parliaments’ continually like in Canada. Except being based on the electorate’s choice, it will be based on the curiosities of the boundaries under FPTP.

"I like MPs with a clearly-defined geographic responsibility so that they have to help their constituents rather than list members flitting around with no responsibilities free to undermine constituency members and fight a four-year election campaign."

The trouble is ‘clearly-defined’ boundaries lead to the situation where the party could get 7% more nationally than another party and ‘lose’ the election. On the other hand, changing the boundaries more frequently destroys this so called constituency link. The link is rubbish anyway, as you point out, sometimes 90% of the electorate don’t vote for their MP. Unless you study the latest local polls and previous results, most people end up not knowing the candidate best placed to beat the incumbent MP. FPTP, rather than making the MP more accountable makes them much less. It is such a travesty of democracy, I could tell you now which party is going to win in 85% of the seats in the 2009/10 election and bookies wouldn’t take any of the bets because they know in safe seats people don’t have a real choice. This is not democracy where only a small number of people in a small number of marginal seats decide the government.

"I like local parties choosing their candidates, not faceless lists chosen by central office. I like candidates’ names on the ballot paper, not just names of parties."

You are conveniently talking about the worst form of PR, a closed list system. Like FPTP, closed list PR has no place in a modern democracy. Under open-list PR or STV, ALL the candidates are chosen by the electorate, the voters have far more power than FPTP.

"I like not having the BNP in the House of Commons."

The evidence suggests that the reason for the growth in the BNP is the FPTP system which shuts down debate. The BNP thrive on the protest vote. They are their worst enemy, when people hear how ridiculous their policies are, their vote declines. It is FPTP that could lead to the BNP growing in strength not PR.Of course PR would flush more racists out of the mainstream parties as well. The Tories were virtaully running a BNP campaign at the last election with their insiduously racist posters and targeting of immigrants/asylum seekers and gypsies.

"As for gender balance, there are mechanisms to improve that under FPTP as well, not just under the variety of PR systems."

Yeah but PR is far more successful. Turnout is 10% higher on average especially amongst the urban poor and the gender and ethnic balance is much much higher.On this Antonia, you are very very wrong. PR is uninteresting and too academic for a lot of people, but it is the most important subject because it is about apportioning power. PR is the best thing the left could do to alleviate poverty, if only we could recognise this.

Neil, as we can see, puts forward his case somewhat forcefully and some of his points are fair, in that we need reform or else we are in trouble. Not just the Labour Party, but the current democratic situation as well. That said, Antonia is arguing for the principle and on that I think she is right. People vote for the manefesto general, not on whether they agree with page 32 or whatever, and what's more the BNP and other such organisations, won't simply wilt because of a change in democratic structures, they are too dangerous for that. As for PR alleviating poverty, if only that were true!

Louisa makes another fair point here (from the comments page on her Europe posting):

"Personally, I think that though coalitions aren't always good, they equally so are not always bad, and I would far rather have a coalition which represents more effectively (yes, it's not perfect, and yes, people don't vote for coalitions) than an extremely strong government with less than 35% of the vote doing really important things. We live in a democracy, and I think the values of the people are more important, and consensual government is more important, than "getting things done". What's the point in getting things done if the public doesn't want them done?But I know that this issue is often a matter of opinion- it can't always be debated"

The bit about 34% is valid, although it must be pointed out that none of the opposition parties did any better. That said, the way I feel about it is that electoral reform is needed, although I disagree strongly with PR per se for the very reasons Antonia gave.
But what about AV, otherwise known as the Alternative Vote. It's democratic, representative, no threat of coalitions, and each constituency MP gets in on a maj vote and allows for second and third preferences. However, Neil's response to my comments on this when I posted them on his blog yesterday were:

"I would accept AV as a step in the right direction but that still leaves the system wide open to more gerrymandering whether on purpose or accidental (as at present). You just wait until the Tories get in with just 20% of the electorate voting for them (as they eventually must under this system) and see what they do to the boundaries. The Labour party have been warned. If the Tories were willing to back a military coup to get rid of a Labour government under Harold Wilson, they will easily fiddle a few boundaries. "

Okay, but isn't that what the Boundary Commission is for! As I stated earlier, what about the principle? All systems are open to abuse, so long as you have the barriers in place to protect the system, then surely that helps to make a positive difference!

A Happy St Patrick's Day

Many apologies for not posting this earlier, but if you are Irish, of Irish descent, or just wanting to be involved in some way, a happy and blessed St Patrick's Day to you all :-)
However, one legend about the great man himself seems to have a logical twist to it.
According to Wikipedia:

"Pious legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, though post-glacial Ireland never actually had snakes [3]; one suggestion is that snakes referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids of that time and place, as shown for instance on coins minted in Gaul (see Carnutes), or that it could have referred to beliefs such as Pelagianism, symbolized as "serpents." Legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian dogma of 'three divine persons in the one God' (as opposed to the Arian belief that was popular in Patrick's time).
In his use of Scripture and eschatological expectations, Patrick was typical of the 5th-century bishop. One of the traits which he retained as an old man was a consciousness of being an unlearned exile and former slave and fugitive, who learned to trust God completely"

That said, St Patrick was still quite a forceful character who well deserves to be remembered :-)

Blogging, PR, loans, and millitary coups..

(BBC Online)
There are two major things I want to blog on at the moment. The first is on Proportional Representation, after reading Antonia's, Neil's, and Louisa's posts on said subject.
The other is about the current loans scandal involving the Labour Party. This is a dicey subject and I want to give this due thought and care beforehand, suffice to say the rules must and should be tightened.
But these posts will take time, and on a Friday morning in a coffee shop on my way to work is not the best time to do much more than a vox pop blog entry.
That said, one quick thing. I saw that documentary last night on Harold Wilson and the fears that there was a planned millitary coup against him. Writing off Wilson as someone who was, when he made these allegations to journalists, as someone who was in the early stages of dementia is one thing, seeing the likes of David Owen saying something fishy was going on was something else, and seeing a couple of retired milliary personnel who confirmed a no of things left me somewhat shocked!
That said, my conclusions and theories remain the same in that, there were a no of crackpots and members of the hard right aching for a coup and the destruction of the Labour Party. This involved spreading lies and smears if nothing else. That said, and this is important, they never succeeded. Not only that, but there were a no of establishment people who were appalled from what they heard and quietly removed them. They were never prosecuted because they dealt with intelligence and the way to deal with people in that murky world, in my view, because of the amount of stuff they may or may not know, is to deal with them behind closed doors. When Wilson got wind of it, because of his mental condition, it escalated into paranoia, although I think what he knew was enough to make anyone paranoid.
All fantastic nonetheless, but not what should be Harold Wilson's epitaph!

Prince of Wales 1 Mail on Sunday 0

(Press Association)
Was hopeful this would happen, but thought that the Mail would prevail.
Obviously the case will now go to a full trial, but for now at least, there has been some degree of justice.

In Thespian Praise of: Kerron Cross

(The Voice of the Delectable Left)
Seemed apt, seeing as another 'In Thespian Praise of..' article was due and Kerron is currently appearing as St Peter in the Soul Survivor church production of What Peter Wanted.
I haven't seen it, nor will I be able to, suffice to say that I am sure his acting skills are as top notch as his abilities as a Parliamentary Researcher and Lib Dem baiter ;). He also has a no of aqauinances in the profession, so who knows, he may end up taking up the greasepaint and ending up with his own TV Cop show, perhaps something snazzy like Crossfire. You can see it now, a scene where he is complaining to his boss about having been beaten up by a marauding gang of Lib Dems in some farm near St Albans and his Super says; "Leave it Cross, you are obsessed with them, we have no evidence!", and then a dusty and battered sandal is tossed onto the Super's desk.
"Check that with forensics"

Anyway Kerron, I trust it is all going well and you will wow the audiences :-).

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Beautiful Game

(Leicester City FC)
Every so often I get requests to blog on something specific, not often but it happens. I recently got a request of sorts from Skuds to blog on how brilliant it is that West Ham have got to the quarter finals of the FA Cup.
Now I am a generous person, so yeah. I am pleased that a fellow blogger has seen this happen to their favourite football team and it is a joyous thing when that happens. I even wish Skuds every success because my own team, Leicester City, has failed to get there. In fact they have a record of getting to the finals and no further :(
Admittedly I haven't been too impressed with them of late, but hey, you stick by your team and we have done well before and we will again. Plus we have a top goalscorer in Mark de Vries and in recent years had a fantastic manager in Martin O Neill until he was lured to Celtic in what is for me the greatest betrayal since Des Lynam swapped BBC Sports for ITV. Thanks Martin :(.
But we clutched victory from the jaws of defeat at the start of the season and we have great days ahead, so for now Skuds, West Ham can go for the greatness it well deserves ;).

Cameron's 100 Days and today's news

Amongst all the plaudits heaped on him, there are telling pieces from The Daily Telegraph, the Tory newspaper for grown up's, and indeed The Guardian.
George Jones writes in The Daily Telegraph:

"Rarely a week goes by without Mr Cameron ditching a piece of traditional Tory policy or shamelessly pinching an idea from New Labour,"

Whilst Max Hastings (hardly someone on the left) writes in The Guardian:

"Plenty of party activists and MPs harbour private misgivings. They were appalled when Cameron publicly renounced school selection, appeared to rule out radical reform of the NHS and downgraded tax cutting as a priority.
"Nor do they much care for the idea that the party's Central Office will impose candidate quotas of women and gays. Eyebrows were raised about the appointment of Zac Goldsmith as a party environment guru."

So my predictions are right. The Maggie and Judy brigade are preparing for a scrap which they find incresingly difficult to suppress.
But that said, his twin is moving into acting at the moment with a star performance as St.Peter ;).

(The Voice of the Delectable Left)

As you can see, he has grown a beard to escape detection but I think we can see a similarity nonetheless ;)

(BBC Online)

In The financial pages of today's Guardian, it mentions that the Mail Group of Newspapers are in trouble, their circulation revenues have fallen by 9% in January and February. Of course if they became less personal, realised that the world has moved on and moved beyond their adolescent rantings, then perhaps they will find themselves in less financial difficulty. That said, I am pleased that some of my cynicism towards humanity is being eroded by this news.

In Musical Praise of: Pink Floyd

(MJ Kim/Getty Images)
One of the biggest bands in the UK in the past forty years. Pink Floyd has, like similar long lasting bands of their time, gone through several line up changes, from the tragedy of Syd Barrett having to leave the band and being replaced as lead singer by recent appointee Dave Gilmour, to keyboardist Rick Wright being sacked a decade later, to Roger Waters leaving and declaring the Band was finished in the mid 1980s, to the remaining members continuing and reinstating Rick Wright, to Roger Waters rejoining them for Live 8 last year.
Their 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon, is one of the best selling albums of all-time with memorable tracks such as Breathe, Time, The Great Gig in the Sky, Money, and Us and Them. Another album, The Wall, spawned a succesful tour, a film, and a stage show.
One of the major keys to success with Pink Floyd, is not just their bluesy songs fused with classical motifs, but also to their atmospheric sound, philosophical lyrics, and confrontational style. In other words, great to listen to on a quiet evening, or for the atmosphere of a stage show, but not exactly something, bar a handful of their songs, to boogie on down to.