Wednesday, May 31, 2006
With regards to John Prescott, I agree with the PM that their roles are somewhat intertwined, but there is a way out!
In 1968 the Labour Deputy Leader, George Brown, quit the cabinet. However he remained Deputy Leader until 1970 when he lost his seat. In 1976, Deputy Leader, Edward Short quit the cabinet when Callaghan became PM (The two apparently disliked each other), but remained Deputy Leader until that autumn, when he quit as MP.
I know that the rules say that, in government, the Leader and his Deputy have to be in the cabinet, but apparently there is a loophole somewhere, and if it is true, as most Labour supporting newspapers state, as do a range of Labour MP's, that Prescott's presence in cabinet is a liability, then (and I say this reluctantly) he should do the decent thing (but perhaps remain Deputy Leader) or face the consequences, and no one wants that, apart from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and loyalty is not a word that has always been in their vocabulary.
NormBlog reminded me about reading about Michael Winner's comment concerning OBE's in the weekend newspapers.
It reminds me of former Doctor Who actor Nicholas Courtney (a.k.a. Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart), mentioning in his memoirs that when he was working on a Winner film, Winner could be nasty to the techincal staff and was once asking where one of them was. When he was told he was in one of the cubicles, Winner banged loudly on the door and told him to get out. "Sorry Mr Winner" came the reply, "I can only deal with one s**t at a time!"
I have already mentioned what I think about the Honours System, suffice to say that I think Winner is being a bit of a snob here! It's almost reminiscent of when the Beatles got their MBE's!
Personally I am glad if a toilet cleaner gets an OBE! Many work long thankless hours and get little or no thanks for it. Not only that but we do need them, more so than film directors who are renowned for having an obnoxious manner. What's more I think it is better that a toilet cleaner gets an OBE for their hard and thankless work than for someone around eighty years ago to simply pay a large amount of cash for it, with a nasty parasite of a human being working as the courier!
According to a survey on the BBC History magazine, the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta is the best day to celebrate Britishness .
Personally I would prefer some event after the founding of the United Kingdom, such as the abolition of the Slave trade, but the signing of the Magna Carta isn't just an event in a school textbook. It marked the start of our unwritten constitution. You can put the survival of the monarchy and our democratic traditions down to this, as not only did it show English monarchs that they could not rule carte blanche over the nation, but that it shows the British resilience to adapt to the changing movements of our times, before those movements imploded. Hence why we managed to keep our monarchy and France, Russia and various other nations did not.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Like many in the Labour Party, I would be lying if I said I was not irritated or annoyed by some of the revelations about John Prescott's actions in the past few weeks. Of course Peter Mandelson's comments were as helpful as ever, suffice to say I think it isn't a secret that there is no love lost between him and John Prescott.
But aside from the arguments as to whether he should resign, can he remain as Deputy etc.. there is the Mail On Sunday's papparatzi's snaps of him playing croquet at Dorneywood, his official residence, last Thursday.
In the past week Prescott has been officially managing the nation in the PM's absence, now I object to this photo for a no of reasons. First of all it implies that rulers are not allowed to have a relaxing moment (why not attack every PM or any other leader, every time he or she leaves his or her desk !) Secondly, it was a papparatzi photograph and therefore an invasion of privacy, as well as another moment of hypocricy from the Mail Group which stated after Princess Diana's death that they would never publish a papparatzi photograph again! Thirdly there is the inverted snobbery. For a start Peter Oborne stated in today's Evening Standard that David Cameron has an afternoon nap and that before any Labour person has a go, Cameron always has it between about two and three PM, i.e. the proper time! So Prescott's first major sin in some Conservatives eyes is that he made a gaffe in timing his siesta. The second, of course, is that he played croquet.
What bad form! If only he played football with a no of colleagues then it wouldn't be so bad. The implication being of course, that croquet is a sport for gentlemen and not for oiks like Prescott who bait Tories for breakfast (The main reason why Conservatives despise Prescott. They ought to see some of the "unpleasant", "unsophisticated", "chip-on-the-shoulder" "bruisers" in their Party. I could mention one or two oiks there by name and the vicious tales I have heard about them, but I value the contents of my bank account!)
But anyway, croquet, the object of my blog posting! In my experience it isn't all that much a class sport. A bit rare, but not the preserve of the posh!
I first came across it some twenty plus years ago, when the Burgin family lived in Enstone, Oxfordshire (Yes I know, very middle class village, in David Cameron's constituency and all that. I mentioned it all in a previous entry). We lived in an ordinary cul-de-sac, called The Spinneys, in an ordinary house with four bedrooms. We were/are a fairly ordinary family and we didn't have any hired help. One of my friends lived in a similar house across the road and they had a croquet set. I think I played more games then, than I have ever done since.
The second time was at the house of a prominent member of one of the Anglican churches in Letchworth, Herts. That was at a summer party when I was about seventeen. Another series of occasions was when I worked at Ecton House (Then a Church of England Retreat and Conference Centre) during my year out. During the summer, when my dutch colleague Wouter was working there, and it was quiet, we would play the odd game. Then there is a close friend of mine from Durham. Liz, who is a big croquet fan, but is one of the most (I wouldn't say ordinary, she isn't, she's better than that!) friendly, approachable, and down-to-earth people you could meet. She may be a Phd student, but (and chosing my words carefully because a) I have a very high opinion of her and b) she could be reading this) I wouldn't say she is posh.
Okay, hands in the air, I will concede that croquet is a bit "middle class", but it needn't be, is an accessible sport for all(unlike Polo), is easy to learn, great fun, but a bit of a rarity in the UK which is it's problem. Anyone can play it!
Except of course John Prescott. He is the big target for the Conservatives at the moment, so the Editors at the Mail have deemed that he isn't allowed! ;)
Born Reg Dwight, one of Watford's greatest enthusiasts has entertained for the past thirty-six years .
A gifted piano player, Elton John started off by being involved in a band called Bluesology, before starting a song-writing partnership with Bernie Taupin and acting as a session musician. He released his first solo album in 1970.
Since then, Elton has enjoyed a mixture of heady success and iconic fandom. Like David Bowie and Cliff Richard, he has collaborated with a variety of musicians from John Lennon, to Queen, to George Michael, to Burt Bacharach, to Eminem, to The Who, to Billy Joel, to Morcambe and Wise! ;)
His songs are usually melody driven, with lyrics that not only hit at the heartstrands, but also have a poetry of it's own.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Recently there has been much in the news about climate change. This in itself is nothing new, I remember nearly twenty years ago the issue being of major discussion, with cars having catalytic convertors and the Greens doing very well in the local and European elections (even though in the latter, they didn't win a single seat). The Green Party even had some added respectability by having former BBC Sports Presenter, David Icke becoming a prominent member, until he went way off the radar and claimed to be the Son of God, waxed lyrical on the supposed spiritual properties of turqouise tracksuits, went into heavy new age stuff, and showed disturbing signs of anti-semitism! (For younger readers, think of that happening to Gary Lineker and you will see how Icke has fallen!)
Anyway, back to climate change. It has recently become a big issue again, with Sir David Attenborough voicing his concerns, and with the European Commission launching a campaign to convince Europeans that they can help stop the emissions of greenhouse gasses in their everyday lives. This can be as simple as making sure lights and other electrical appliances are not left switched on when they are used.
It is an issue that undoubtedly concerns us all, with the disturbing increase in the Arctic Ice Cap melting and the sense that we may well soon be reaching the point of no return. And these are people who I am more liable to listen to on these issues than, say, Jeremy Clarkson.
And throughout it all, and I am sure many of you feel the same, I feel somewhat impotent about the whole thing! "What can I do!", but I am told that by doing the little things, like not wasting electricity and being aware of the waste of energy and fuel that we use we can do much!
I still wonder if it's morally okay for me to go on a plane though, considering the amount of fuel they use! If I ever get to visit the US I am not sure I can afford to use a cruise liner!
Saturday, May 27, 2006
This weekend I suffered from occasional blogger fatigue, in that I feel I want to blog on something, but on what!
I could for example do my blog entry on climate change, but I want to think about that a great deal beforehand, although Sunday or tomorrow is probable. I could do another "In Musical Praise of..." article, given some of the new CD's I have brought, but I am not too fussed right now!
George Galloway's recent outburst! Well I figure, why give the odious little *ahem* any more publicity than he deserves and I have lost my sense of shock over his behaviour, suffice to say that my ground rule in my take on him is that it does seem hypocritical to attack Blair and Bush and accuse them of war crimes when you look at the company he keeps!
But one little gem for a five minute blog entry has caught my eye, and that is Harriet Harman's call for a female Deputy, along with two others!
Aside from the fact that this kind of talk plays into Tory hands, it smacks of tokenism. Another point is is it necessary! We already have had more women in Blair's cabinets at any one time than any previous cabinet, Conservative or Labour. We now have a female Foreign Secretary, who incidentally, got to be Deputy in 1992 entirely on merit!
Maybe it's easy for me to say this as a white, middle-class male, but I find tokenism like this inadvertently sexist, patronising, restrictive, and potentially demeaning, and I am basically holding that view from the effects of tokenist policies I have seen first hand. There are a lot of talented women out there in the Labour Party and I am proud to know of some of them and some I owe a lot to in what political career I have.
Let me put it another way, take a look at the Labour activists who hold blogs which I have links with, such as Jo, Antonia, Lisa, and Lola. I could easily see any of them as Deputy one day and (not without reservations, although I am thinking of potential policy differences) they would have my unqualified support and help. But I would want to see them get there on their own abilities and merits and not because of a change in the rules. Otherwise it seems to be the old fashioned equivalent of a toff going to Oxbridge without taking any exams.
I had heard that Brian Haw, the redoubtable protestor in Parliament Square, could well be evicted next week. Cut for time for organising an interview for IMPACT, I realised that here was a chance to get an interview with him. You know how it is, those-crazy off the-cuff ideas you get that just won't go away! And I was going to the launch of the Euston Manifesto on the Thursday beforehand, so that was a good time to do it, if at all.
Haw has been protesting there since 2001, with occasional visits to court hearings and the chance to get a shower from a sympathetic friend or two. Originally it was about sanctions in Iraq, then it was about US involvement in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. I have always wondered if the US withdrew from Iraq and Afghanistan, Haw would still protest there! He says he is doing it for his children's future, but the cynic in me feels there are other noble means of doing this!
My own personal view is that if someone feels that strongly, they ought to form an organisation, stand for Parliament and the like, or go to Speaker's Corner! There are ways and means of making one's voice known, but I am what you might call a soft, soft, left person, in that I believe that it is important to work with the establishment when necessary, so perhaps I am blinkered. In any case, Haw's actions fascinate me!
So, nervously armed with a digital camera and a dictaphone, I nervously approached the green in Parliament Square. The police moved a lot of the placards a few days beforehand, but many of Haw's supporters, most of them young (and I mean sixth form and University here), were busy drawing up and organising new placards. There was another protestor there, a new chap, who had a placard denouncing zionism, the British government, and the intelligence services for not allowing him a proper permit into the country, or something like that. One of Haw's supporters told me that they didn't know who he was. He just stared quietly ahead at the Palace of Westminster before him, fairly close to the statue of Oliver Cromwell.
Haw has an army of supporters, egging him on. At night they camp out at a nearby underground car park. Fully committed, many have their gripe against the government.
Some of the young people came because of a request via e-mail and have stayed for several days and when I asked them what issues drove them to do this, one of them said "Many, I mean someone just needs to tell them that what the government is doing isn't right!" I asked him what others thought of what he was doing and he replied that many agreed but weren't bothered to help themselves.
Then I got to meet the man himself, who had been busy up to now talking into a mobile phone. I asked him if he would be prepared to
do an interview, to which he immediately demanded to know who I was working for. I mentioned IMPACT and my blog, to which he said "How many hits do you get, I'm not being rude or mean or anything... Can you hear my voice?"
"Yes I can hear your voice"
"I have been speaking to The Times and The Tablet and on and on for hours and hours and we want to get it out to as many people as possible."
I got a bit nervous here and said that my blog has about several dozen hits a day, and that I was also part of an organisation called Bloggers4Labour , which..
Haw interrupted "Barbara will tell you when I start I don't stop" (Barbara was the woman next to him, who immediately voiced her agreement and added that this isn't fair for Brian who has been talking all day).
"Okay, I just thought that, the reason I came down here today was simply because of the hearing next week and I thought.."
Haw interrupted me and told me that they might try and make a case, but he was hopeful. He did add that they might put him in jail but that there were more protestors than just him! Barbara added that "they" didn't want a courtroom of people going nuts on this!
I thanked them and Barbara said that I should go to the court hearing, to which I added that I would be very busy working that day! I then decided to ask one of the things that had caught my attention on this story over the past few days.
"I did read a report that when a lot of the stuff was moved, mice were seen running from the place, is that true?"
"Oh there are some field mice! A lot of them live under the ground. Little tiny field mice, we are not vermin infested, This is dead ground. Somebody should..."
Barbara interrupted and mentioned the rats from The Palace of Westminster; "Over there they have more live animals"
Haw continued "There lots of field mice living here as there is sandy soil under here, and see them going around all over the watermark!"
"Not everywhere! Exactly!"
Barbara added that "Instead of focusing on the crap like that, people should be focusing on the children who are dying"
"Do you get any support from individual members of the political parties at all?"
"Check in the media and you will see all the pictures, you will see the truth. Instead of all this s**t , we get very upset about stuff that make out we are dirty" declared Haw.
"We're mad or bad!" added Barbara
"See the filthy business they are doing to other people" declared Haw, gesturing across the road "We bomb the s**t out of other people's sewers. We splatter the body parts of other people's kids all over the streets, is that nice! It's a bit nasty isn't it!"
There wasn't much answer to that! Well there was, but that would involve a discource on the nature of war, propoganda, vested interests on both sides, but I was a bit taken aback by Haw's mild aggression and he didn't look like someone who would be on receiver mode. I also felt momentarily morally inferior, so I simply said "Yes!"
"We are trying to stop that!" he continued.
"Well thankyou very much! Cheers."
But Haw hadn't finished. "We have works of art, if you see what we have.."
"Yes, I've taken a look. Yes..."
"Works of art. And then they come and destroy it! You see those glorious pictures on in the media and renowned for the muddle of their destruction and you look at all their art, and ask yourself who are the ones making all the mess!"
Looking at the Palace he added "These b*****ds, these Nazis all wearing police uniforms!"
I sympathised with the moral outrage, if misplaced, but I was not impressed with his tirade. The police were only doing their job and for the past five years MP's have had to take their chants and whistle blowing and occasional verbal abuse. From first-hand experience, some of which involved working for an MP, I know that whilst there are some unpleasant individuals working at Westminster, there are many, decent men and women trying to do their job and out of a calling to make the world a better place. Many voted for the War in Iraq, not without misgivings, but overall out of a desire to see a tyrant removed who was oppressing his people. Now that may have happened under misinformation and exaggeration, and out of some people's own unethical agendas, but many initally supported the War out of a sense of deceny and democracy and no sensible MP votes to send troops somewhere without carefully examining their own conscience.
We could all do what Brian Haw does, for all the teenage boy's assertion that no one seems to be bothered, it would be fairly easy. Plus if you simply dislike government policy on an issue, as Haw does, (and to be fair I sense there is genuine moral outrage that should be respected) you can get a coalition of support full of people with their own interests in embarrasing a government. Take the Daily Mail deploring the police removing a lot of the banners a few days ago, would they take that stance if it was a Conservative government! No, they would be quick to heap abuse on Brian Haw.
Quite simply there are other ways to protest or make your point! Amnesty International have a fine example (if occasionally developing their own political agenda), as do others. Haw could get involved more in politics, he stood at the last general election for the Westminster seat, (but got only 298 votes). Thing is, such is the coalition of anger towards the main political establishment from these people that I don't think it will happen!
Friday, May 26, 2006
I am Paul Burgin
I want Too many things to mention here
I wish The current global political problems we currently face will go away soon.
I hate Arrogance and bullying, esp combined.
I love My faith, my family, my friends
I miss Tammy. Found myself thinking about her a lot lately. You sometimes never realise just how valued your friendships are until it's too late!
I fear Physical and emotional pain
I hear Mothers and babies, cos right now I am in a coffee shop on a weekday morning.
I wonder How things will be by the end of the year
I regretNot getting politically active sooner
I am not as academic as I would like to be. But that doesn't bother me too much.
I dance Rarely, not brilliantly, but competently
I sing In the shower and when I tidy
I cry when someone close to me dies, or when I see a film that touches a raw nerve, like the bit at the end in "Schindler's List", when Oskar Schindler realises just what an heroic act he has done
I make a fairly good English breakfast
I write Out of passion, imagination, and a desire to communicate my thoughts and ideas
I confuse I am confused! ;).
I need To be fully organised
I should be more involved in the things I am already involved with
I start too many blog entry's ;)
I finish When I have checked everything
I tag Annie, Dunadan, Kerron, Lola, Louisa, Andrew, and Tim
So last night I am at the Euston Manifesto launch which was held at the Union Chapel in Highbury and Islington.
I have to say I have never been to a launch of a political movement before and there was a general air of excitement as the place became full of academics, journalists, bloggers, the curious, and political activists.
(Standing in the far right of the picture, Andrew at B4L
and Damien a.k.a. PooterGeek, doubtless plotting their
next stage in global domination ;) )
A load of suplementary papers were waiting for us at our seats, about the Manfiesto, their interests, aims, and a future event advertised, before the meeting began, Chaired by Nick Cohen.
On the panel were, right to left. Norman Geras a.k.a. NormBlog , Shalom Lappin, Eve Gerrard, and Alan Johnson (not the cabinet minister ;)).
Each panelist spoke for fifteen minutes and I was particually struck by Norm's comment that the left are like a family. Many people, occasionally we argue and occasionally a line needs to be drawn. For him, the anti-american tirades in the days after 9/11 and some of the apologism for Osama Bin Laden was where, for him, the line had to be drawn. I totally agree with that, as I suspect did many others in the room.
Then there were questions and answers, followed by a visit to the Bar upstairs (Yes folks, this Chapel has a bar belive it or not, and not knowing what bitters they may have (I am a bit fussy there), I ordered a small coke and got to catch up with Damien/PooterGeek, Andrew/Bloggers4Labour, Dunadan/Cally's Kitchen, and got to meet a few new faces such as Francis Wheen, Nick Cohen, Norm, and the Little Atoms blogger who seems anxious to hide his identity in this picture here! ;). Perhaps it is my nervous look as I brace myself for another flash photograph moment!
(Dunadan, still taking in his first political meeting)
Thursday, May 25, 2006
As it is, after a day doing housework, mowing the lawn, doing my IT stuff in Stevenage, going to London, trying, and failing/succeeding to get an interview with the said Brian Haw, followed by attending the launch of the Euston Manifesto and commuting all the way back home, I feel more exhausted than I do on my working days, so it will wait until tomorrow.
And I will answer those questions Andrew at WongaBlog!
(Me a few minutes ago)
There is this little film on the web, where an Australian film crew ask the average american in the street which country should be invaded next! They are then shown a map of the World and asked to put a pin on where they think that country is. The bit about Sri Lanka made me laugh out loud, as did the bit where someone put a pin on where they thought Iran was, but it is frightening on just how ignorant people can be. Not as frighteningly ignorant as 77 year old Richard Smith of Barking, but frightening enough!
Laughing aside I do agree to an extent with Normal Mouth (Hat tip to him for the link BTW) that we can be very smug about people in the US who show such ignorance, and he is right, some of it is down to jealousy. But I think it is more than that, it is a western trait to laugh at those who show ignorance on subjects and issues that a ten year old can grasp. Look at Jade Goody for example! When she showed her feeble grasp of general knowledge the newspapers were horrified and many of us just laughed and sneered at her because we found it hard to cope that someone could be that ignorant! But at least she was honest about her ignorance.
But I do disagree with Normal Mouth that this is simply how the World is, just because I think I can understand it and accept it doesn't mean that I think it should be tolerated! We should challenge it in a way that doesn't savagely belittle others.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
I don't think it is accurate enough. For one thing I have a few greys already and if my Mum's side of the family have anything to go by, by the time I am sixty (God willing) my hair will be considerably grey at the front.
Still it does feel strange to look at a much older version of myself.
So what's this all about? Well I saw an article on the BBC Website about infoscotland.com and that they were doing a study into old age, and for free, you could get on their website and submit a photo, give your age and e-mail and they would post a picture of how you should look in thirty years time. Vanity got the better of me and I couldn't resist!
I suppose they ought to have asked some comprehensive questions like exercise and diet, but all the same, it looks fairly eerie.
Still, just the nightmare of Leicester City playing in the Vauxhall Conference could age me this much! ;)
Apparently John Reid and his wife Carine were invited to Posh and Beck's bash at their home last week.
They declined, John Reid saying that he is too busy knocking the Home Office into shape. This was the right view to take.
Talking of right views, one politician blagged two tickets off a national newspaper editor, so he and his wife could go.
Which I thought was a bit off to be honest. I honestly thought David Cameron was above that kind of thing!
And given the furore over his comments a couple of days ago, with listeners to radio stations, ringing in and saying that it's all very well for someone with his background to say the things he did when they are struggling on x,y, and z per week, he does seem to be losing his touch!
And the respect of some of his opponents.
I think it is fair to say that all of us were against euthanasia before the meeting and that we still were afterwards, but what was helpful is that the meeting made us think more about the position and what were the dividing lines in our minds between assisted dying and the amount of drugs that could be taken in someone's last days.
I have always held the view, for example, that should I die from a terminal illness I would want to die in peace and dignity. If the pain gets too bad for me to cope with, then my view at this time is that I should be given enough drugs to put me into a coma, but that is very different from being given an overdose and then being given a second drug that would cause total paralysis, and therefore aspyhixiation.
But this is the crux of the matter isn't it! It is not death itself that we are so much bothered about here, but the process of dying and that it is done with our dignity intact.
This issue is dealt with in other ways already. In the past forty years we have seen the growth of the Hospice movement, set up in no small part by Dame Cicely Saunders. They have been of great help for those dying, helping to give them the piece and serenity they so desperatley need. My maternal grandad didn't die in a hospice, but he died in a lovely old people's home after living there for a year, following a very gradual mental and physical decline. The place there broke all the unpleasant stereotypes of old people's homes and when the end came, it was before any of us had time to come and say goodbye, but one of the staff at the home stayed with him and made sure he was kept comfortable. Some hospitals are unable to do that, not because of any bad administration, but because such is the nature of their existence, they deal with a variety of cases over short streches of time. Hospicies and the like can offer quality and life and palliative care that hospitals simply cannot, and these places should be encouraged and helped as much as possible.
I have a lot of sympathy for those who call for euthanasia, but I also feel that they are playing with matches near a petrol can on this issue. When David Steel put forward the Abortion Act in 1967, abortion was only allowed:
To save the woman's life
To prevent grave permanent injury to the woman's physical or mental health
Under 28 weeks to avoid injury to the physical or mental health of the woman
Under 28 weeks to avoid injury to the physical or mental health of the existing child(ren)
If the child was likely to be severely physically or mentally handicapped
Thankfully the limit has gone down to twenty-four weeks, and may yet go as low as twenty-one if science continues to make the process that it does. The thing is though, those terms can be stretched and interpreted on how any two doctors would wish it to be. My fear is that should this law come through, if a relative or a couple of doctors want to give a dying individual a lethal injection out of convenience, who is to stop them? As a relatively young man of thirty who, barring accidents or anything our of the blue, probably has another fifty-sixty years left, I find that a terrifying possibility, because if this Bill becomes law, what kind of society will we be living in then. I have a very cynical view of human nature and am genuinely worried on where all this will lead!
Finally, I am reminded by an article Dominic Lawson wrote in The Independent some weeks ago on this issue. When his sister Thomasina was dying in hospital at the age of thirty-two from an aggressive form of cancer, Lawson said that, for the first and last time in his life, he believed in euthanasia. He asked a doctor there if anything could be done to ease her suffering!
The Doctor knew what he was talking about and curtly informed him that he had given Thomasina enough drugs to put her into a coma, and that she was as comfortable as she could possibly be and that there was nothing more he could do for her. Lawson then realised that it was not his sisters' suffering that bothered him, it was the distress that he and his family were suffering over her dying.
Aside from the fact that the Doctor was mindful of his Hippocratic Oath (and demands for euthanasia are almost as old as man), this is the crux of the matter. I have no doubt that those who want to see euthanasia legal have genuine concerns and genuine compassion on this issue, but are our motives entirely pure?
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Went to the monthly CSM Youth Meeting last night. This time the location was in a room at The Red Lion Pub in Whitehall, where our guest was Frank Field MP, who was giving a talking on welfare.
There were mixed reactions to his talk, from some disagreement on some of his views (I had mixed feelings about it myself), but it was certainly thought provoking and we discussed it for a while after he left, amongst such deep and theologically thought provoking topics as a church in St Marylebone which is full of attractive girls and me spotting a Westminster colleague from my days in working for Geraint Davies and popping across to say hi!
But anyway, back to Frank. What came to the front of my mind in all this is that we can talk about reforming this and reforming that and debate and agree and disagree until we are blue, or red, in the face. What I think is a crucial point is that in reforming any system we need to see a more open heart and a change in attitude towards a system by people in general. Otherwise you are just papering over the cracks. Politicians have their work cut out here, but social groups and faith based communities also need to contribute towards this in a more positive way. Particually some of my fellow evangelicals who seem to think making the church pure is more important than actively being involved with the downtrodden in society and getting politically involved.
Anyway it's going to be a busy week for me, evening wise. I have a Church event to go to tomorrow, a Labour Party CLP GC meeting on Wednesday, and the launch of the Euston Manifesto on Thursday, so there well may be less blogging from me this week.
Of which I am sure you are all greatful ;)
I read an interesting article in The Guardian yesterday about popular local bookshops which are not part of a chain, such as Waterstone's.
So I thought I would wax lyrical about David's Bookshops in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, which is near where I live and is my local as it were!
David's started in 1963 and is a family firm. It consists of one bookshop, one music store, and one gift and children's bookshop across the road. I have been a fan since I was in my early teens and frequently browse there. In fact I probably will in the brief time between updating my blog in this lovely coffee shop and heading into work (which is conveniently just around the corner from David's).
It is also imaginative in what it does. Every year it participates fully in World Book Day, which regular readers may remember me blogging on, and also runs a series of debates which attracts a large crowd. Usually these debating meetings take place at the Friends Meeting House in the suburban part of town and we have had guest speakers as diverse as from Lavinia Byrne, to Peter Hitchens and Frederick Forsyth.
This is not downgrading the big stores, which I frequently browse through in London alongside the one's in Charing Cross Road, but David's is wonderfully unique and long may it live!
|Which country should you REALLY be living in? |
The United Kingdom
You have pride in yourself and pride in your country. You believe that history and culture is an important factor to the future of your country, and that traditions and values should be upheld. You love your scones and tea, and reading soppy romance novels. The UK is where you should be...
|Click Here to Take This Quiz|
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Admittedly I am proud to be British. I am one of those saddos who feels pride everytime I see a Hollywood film, where the frame shot which has LONDON written across the screen has a red bus and a couple of black cabs going over Westminster Bridge, just past Big Ben.
But it would have been nice if it was Canada (where I have some cousins) or Norway, or Belgium.
Monday, May 22, 2006
So Sir Menzies Campbell and Simon Hughes had a "full and frank exchange" the other day!
Usually a euphemism for a nasty argument, which degenerated into a lot of shouting and swearing and airing of "Home truths" (and I don't mean the BBC Radio 4 programme), where both sides smoulder over the argument over the following hours.
On one level, I genuinely feel sorry for them. Plus as someone from another political party looking on, it honestly doesn't make much sense when you consider how well they did last year. True they had a net gain (Sarah Teathers' phrase, not mine) of about three councils in this year's elections, and Ming the Merciless is a bit weak at PMQ's. But he is a fairly respected statesman and he has a lot of gravitas when it comes to Iraq and places like Bosnia.
But then the Lib Dems do do the most strange things sometimes!
Okay, a bit of a cruel title but I couldn't resist, and as I have stated before I quite like David Cameron (honestly!), but he does seem somewhat adrift with ideas.
Like his view that there is more to life than making money (Oh the temptation to mention the "greed is good" culture of the eighties ;) which many members and supporters of his Party espoused), and that making people more happy is a key challenge for politicians!
I have two concerns here. The first is that there is a kernal of truth here in that it is the job of politicians to help create and protect an ordered civic society which improves people's livelihoods. There may be disagreements on how that it done but I would have thought it was an obvious fact.
Secondly, Cameron's statement is very broad (as per usual). What does he mean exactly by this? It is not the job of politicians to legislate in people's personal lives unless it is of clear detriment to others, in any case what do most politicians mean by happiness!
Now there's a thought! ;)
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Yes, once again last night we enjoyed/suffered (whichever view you hold) the annual Eurovision Song Contest.
This time there was an interesting difference.
For those who read my blog who live outside Europe, the Eurovision Song Contest is an annual event where most of the nations of Europe take part by submitting a song that each of the other nations give a certain amount of votes to. You can find out more here (and for some reason they always include Israel, which I always thought was in Asia, and Morocco, which is in Africa. But never mind. I am not sure about Armenia as well! )
Anyway, Finland's entry was by a heavy metal group, which made an interesting change from the usual mindless pop where the songs and singers get forgotten easily (There are obvious exceptions, Cliff Richard's attempts and ABBA's "Waterloo" for example). In fact last night I did my annual thing and ignored the performances from each of the nations. I mean, I know I can be a musical snob of epic proportions, but it's hardly the sort of line up you would see at Hyde Park is it!
I simply waited till the voting went underway and switched over to BBC 1, ready to enjoy Terry Wogan's acerbic commentary (which he did), sneer at the nations conforming to type and vote on political grounds (i.e. Cyprus giving 12 votes to Greece, the Baltic nations voting for Russia etc.. Which they did), and hope that the UK wins, or does as well as possible, because it doesn't matter if the song sucks, because so do the other entries.
However, Finland's entry was, as I said, a pleasant difference. From early on it was clear they would not only win, but win well.
Now I am not a heavy metal fan, and I am not a particular fan of Eurovision. But I am glad that Finland won, because I like the concept behind the Eurovision Song Context and if this is going to bring forward some decent entries and slam forgettable bubble gum pop back in the net, then that can only be a good thing!
Saturday, May 20, 2006
In the spirit of this I intend to make a small statement, a confession to long standing readers of this blog, and to find it, check the first letter of the first word and then every first letter of every third word after that.
Have fun! ;)
"Can it be another plot to make a sensational epithet about the religion which is omnipresent and sure. Never wavering, but agonising over the night, assured of deliverance. Queens and Kings, Presidents and Emperors, see the real authority and realise it's power. Omnipitent it will never die.
As it is. Real life is edging towards this nirvana of beyondness. Overall it appears time stands still, trembles before it. Withers in fear. Idolises before the never-ending glimpse of seas of life."
For readers of The Baldock Blog, and for those whowho are local, you will know that every May the town has a festival. It's not quite Sundance (we don't deal with films for one thing), but we tend to celebrate the town as it were!
Today was the festival fair and Baldock Methodist Church had a stall, right next to the local United Reformed Church. I was at work this morning and for part of the afternoon, so I was unable to help out.
But I did have a look during the last hour and a half and it was impressive. Stalls from the town football club and various amenities, as well as people decked out in medieavl garb. There was even a mock sword fight between a couple of people in armour.
And then I realised I forgot to pack my digital camera this morning. To compensate I have added a photo of the Anglia TV symbol.
Still, you can't have it all. Was worth a look though!
Friday, May 19, 2006
I have to say I am in two minds about the whole Big Brother phenonemon.
And I am obviously not talking Orwell here, I mean the popular TV series.
I do like the idea of it, and I was an avid watcher of the First Series, but as each year passes the whole thing gets worse, to the point that I can see little difference between the perceived public appetite for the programme and a tour of Bedlam by the aristocrats some two hundred years ago. In fact I seem to remember Private Eye making that distinction the year Jade Goody was involved.
I am not slating all of those who do watch it. After all, aside from a couple of fellow bloggers, such as Lola, my sister is an avid fan, as indeed is an ex girlfriend. In fact I watched Big Brother 5, because during some of our phone conversations she would be part watching the programme.
And you do get some great guys in there, like Craig Phillips, Anna Nolan , Eugene Sully, and Cameron Stout who got a lot of unfair flak for his fairly quietly held beliefs.
I have not yet seen anything of Big Brother 7 yet and I am not sure if I want to! Not when it looks like one contestant is being exploited for his Tourette Syndrome and Producers promise that this year will be "more twisted than ever". Each year they seem to deliberatley select the vulnerable and controversial and unstable people in society for the sake of ratings and each year it gets worse! You just know that they will be hoping for rows that border on violence, bitchiness at a stratospheric level, a lot of drunken and disorderly behaviour (remember Eugene hiding the alcohol last year, so that one of the other contestants did not get plastered!), and plenty of furtive sex (hence the three double beds this year).
The sad thing is that's what a lot of the audience want as well!
Is it me or am I almost the only one who feels some disquiet in the back of my mind about all of this?
I have been meaning to blog on the current climate situation which has been covered in the news lately. In particular the shrinking of the Arctic Ice Cap. This needs some thinking and planning so a weekday is not a good idea, but hopefully at some point in the next three weeks I will give it some justice and post a blog entry on it!
One of the books I am reading at the moment is Garry O'Connor's biography of Pope John Paul II.
The reason I mention this is that last night I was reading about his visit to Great Britain in 1982 and I came across this paragraph which made me smile:
"In Liverpool the Pope visited both the Anglican and Catholic cathedrals. Along the route of his British Leyland lorry decked out as a popemobile, anti-papal Paisleyites waved placards on which was painted: ANYONE BLESSED BY THE POPE IS CONDEMNED TO HELL. The Pope turned towards one, and with a mischevious twinkle in his eye gave the Paisleyites a blessing."
You've got to hand it to those Paisleyites for their imagination! ;)
Thursday, May 18, 2006
The good news is that we are meeting up at The Coal Hole.
The bad news is that I am unable to book a table for Saturday evening, the place liable to being choc a bloc after 6PM.
I imagine it will be the same all over the West End, but in any case the wine bit on the left hand side tends to be quiet on a Saturday evening, so we could try there!
As for who will be coming. Well Cally's Kitchen , Bloggers4Labour , Rullsenberg Rules , Skuds' Sister's Brother ,
The Wonderful World of Lola, and Tim Roll-Pickering have expressed an interest. For various reasons Christopher , Living Ghosts Endurance Challenge, One Small Voice ,
Peculiar Times, Thoughts. Tonguefire , Travis' Place , Antonia's blog , and Jo's Journal are unable to make it, and I have still had no yea or nay's from AnniePorthouse.com , Kerron Cross - The Voice of the Delectable Left , Radioleaflet , BrightonRegencyLabourSupporter, NormBlog, PooterGeek ,WongaBlog , and Normal Mouth .
It goes without saying that regular contributors on my blog, such as Tory and Chimpette are also welcome.
In any case, the event is going ahead and we are meeting up outside the Coal Hole at 6:30PM on Saturday 3rd June. If you need any further details, such as my Tel No, should either of us get lost or stuck on the day, then you can e-mail me.
I have to say that I was not a major fan of his, and it is because of that that I hesitated before blogging about his death last night.
But he was a shrewd Parliamentarian and knew the ropes of Commons proceedure well (a fair feat). For that he was, and should be, respected.
Plus his colourful waistcoats and love of Elvis showed that he wasn't dull! :)
In any case it will be interesting for a close friend of mine. When not doing a Phd, she lives with her family in Bromley, and she is apolitical if somewhat leaning to the centre left, so it will be interesting what her views will be in the coming weeks!
|You Belong in Dublin|
Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The problem is that I was a) rather tired when I took it and b) Flash photography and I have a love/hate relationship.
However, after several attempts, I think I managed to get a suitable replacement taken this evening. Looks like I am giving some salute of freedom I know, but I am really resting my head against the side of my hand, fed up that I am just not as photogenic as I would like to be. Amazing isn't it! When I almost give up trying, I no longer start involuntary blinking.
Anyway, let's hope this photo remains for a while.
If you have been looking at my brother's site lately, you will have noticed the interesting photo on the left here.
Apparently, so he tells me, he has been considered a dead ringer for Sean Penn by a lot of people in Leicester for the past few years. So he has decided to go in on the joke.
I must say I didn't notice the strong resemblance until I saw the photo above. I took a photo of him this evening (he's staying over here for a couple of days), so you can see the comparison.
He also has put a Mr.T video on his site called "Treat Her Right" which is encouraging children to show respect to their mothers.
Quite funny and worth a look, and totally true, if cringeworthy! (Remember to turn off the music bit on the left hand side of the page though)
BTW Checking Mr. T's entry on Wikipedia, there are apparently a series of "Mr.T Facts" going around the Net. Rather like the "Chuck Norris Facts" :)
Oh and apparently Chuck Norris is aware of all the "Chuck Norris Facts" jokes about him. You can find what he has to say here.
Remember! If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can't see Chuck Norris you may be only seconds away from death. :p
Unless our (I am a signatory in case you haven't noticed) detractors are right and we have to utter secret oaths and are given some trowels and aprons, complete with goody bags! ;)
Usually I buy The Guardian, but yesterday I brought both The Guardian and The Independent.
The reason! Well Bono of U2 was the Guest Editor and I was intrigued by the front cover. It was splashed with red colour and with the headline No News Today and underneath Just 6,500 Africans died today as a result of a preventable, treatable disease. I was also intrigued by the small pictures of a needle, a dove with an olive branch, a skull, and a pair of hands in prayer, plus the Bible verse Genesis 1.27.
Which, okay, many people find all of this a bit depressing first thing in the morning, but is certainly more relevant and important than the paparratzi and celebrity over-focus on some of the tabloid headlines. Could Bono get away with this at The Sun or The Daily Mail? I doubt it.
Some will have a go at this for being the stunt of an egotistical rock star of Lennonesque proportions. But these critics of Bono, and indeed Bob Geldof, are of old. My response is at least he is doing something and making an effort, and if using Bono as Guest Editor of a daily newspaper is going to make some difference, no matter how small, then so be it! :)
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Having a sudden attack of conscience, may I point out that in my previous blog entry I was no way infering that HRH The Duke of Edinburgh himself, is someone who is rude to Labour Party activists and sets dogs on them.
The Duke has done many honourable things in his life, not least the founding of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme . It is true that he has made some jokes which lack tact and taste at best, but this should not cover the many good things he has done. One of which is being a loyal consort to HM The Queen.
Right, that's enough grovelling for one day ;), although on a serious note I think the D0fE Awards scheme is quite a brilliant achievement which some seem to overlook.
EXT. HOUSE AT END OF STREET. LONG DRIVEWAY, GATES WITH SECURITY CAMERAS.
PLACRAD ON GATE WALL SAYING "NO JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, EVANGELISTS, OR JUNK MAIL"
OUR INTREPID HERO CAUTIOUSLY MOVES FORWARD. ONE MINUTE AND THIRTY SECONDS LATER HE RINGS ON THE DOORBELL.
THERE IS NO SOUND FROM THE BELL. HE RINGS IT AGAIN. AGAIN THERE IS NO SOUND.
THEN A MIDDLE AGED MAN, DRESSED IN BURBERRY CLOTHES, AND LOOKING LIKE PRINCE PHILIP COMES TO THE DOOR.
PRINCE PHILIP LOOKALIKE: Hello!
ME: Oh, er hi! As you probably know there is an election this co...
PRINCE PHILIP LOOKALIKE: Yes I am perfectly aware of that. You're Labour aren't you. Horrible little man out to take all my money with council tax.
ME: Well I...
PRINCE PHILIP LOOKALIKE: Pack of Communists with your nanny state ideas. Last week I went to the pub with my friends and I had five tequilas, followed by two Jeroboams of champaigne. On the way home I suffered the impertinence of being stopped by the police and breathalized. Now one more point off my licence and I will probably get banned for six months. Welcome to Blair's police state Britain.
ME: But I..
PRINCE PHILIP LOOKALIKE: And I have to pay a minimum wage to the hired help who have come straight over here from Latvia. Disgraceful. Bad enough we have all these immigrants. Well I have had enough, I have a friend here for the weekend. He will know what to do. (CALLS OUT) Otis.. Otis...
PRINCE PHILIP LOOKALIKE: You have five minutes to get out of the driveway. If you live that long!
ME RUNNING DOWN THE DRIVEWAY AS FAST AS I CAN WITH FIVE ROTWEILERS IN CLOSE PURSUIT.
Canvassing and leafleting doesn't seem so bad now does it! ;)
I would show a photograph of aristocrats here, but such as the nature of this post I am worried of the legal consequences. So instead I have settled for a photograph of a Hyena.
Andrew from WongaBlog recently blogged on the documentary film The Aristocrats. I had heard of this before. It's basically about a decades old joke told amongst comedians, almost like a secret handshake amongst freemasons.
The joke goes something like this. An agent goes to a talent scout and says that he has a family act that will go down a storm. "Well what is it about!" says the talent scout. The agent then goes and describes the act (and it's here that the person telling joke must make up what is going on, and the general rule is that it has to be shocking and foul). The agent as shocked and lost for words and asks what it is called. The punchline being "The Aristocrats"
So anyway, I am at my local Blockbusters Video Store late yesterday afternoon, and I see the film on the display shelf (I did not, I assure you, go in with the purpose of renting this out! At least not consciously). I hesitate, given Andre's review, but then think it might be worth seeing.
Watched it late last night.
Now I have what many regard, including me, to have a warped sense of humour (I also have a fairly dry sense of humour, but warped is there somewhere). Mum says it comes from Dad's side of the family (and my humour is more warped than his), but put it this way, my favourite scenes in Monty Python's: The Meaning of Life included Mr Creosote, the "Live Organ Transplants", and the "Masters Vs Pupils rugby match".
But I do have standards and there are some forms of humour, like incest, peadophillia, etc that I regard as out of bounds. This goes way out of bounds, and jokes about human wasteage I tend to find purile and boring.
And I suppose that is what irritated me about the whole enterprise. I like the concept of heavy improvisation on a joke told amongst comedians, or even amongst those who have a thing for humour, but the improvisation struck me as not only foul, but rather boring and almost predictable. If the aim of the improvisation is to shock then the comedians concerned are going for the obvious route. I don't think I laughed out loud once, except for some minor detail in the act, told by one comedian, which involved a flying trapeze artist.
I also fell asleep at some point, and felt that I hadn't missed anything when I woke up. Not a good sign.
Monday, May 15, 2006
For the first time since 2002, Northern Ireland's politicans have taken their seats at Stormont.
However the prospect of a power sharing executive being formed is not immediately apparent.
Personally I doubt it will, if the fact that Ian Paisley is leader of the largest political party in Northern Ireland has anything to go by.
I can understand his anger for and distaste for Sinn Fein. I remember myself being a visitor at the 2003 Labour Party Conference and looking at the advertisments for the fringe meetings on Northern Ireland and feeling unable to go to the ones involving alleged political wing of the IRA.
But we cannot live by the past, and whilst many of us have painful memories of the Brighton Bomb and the murders of Lord Mountbatten amongst many other atrocities, Northern Ireland has to learn the art of comparable compromise if it is to move forward. In fact it has, it is up to the DUP however to learn that art. Besides which, it is an open secret that Paisley's hands are allegedly not entirely clean, which makes his condemnation of Sinn Fein a bit of a joke. However, those actions he committed are in the past and it is up to God to judge him!
Getting to this stage has required a lot of hard work and negotiation which, at no point that we know of, Paisley has been involved with. He sabotaged the Sunningdale Agreement, and pulled out of the Good Friday Agreement before it was even finalised, and which gave the system of Northern Ireland government we know today.
I hope that Paisley will change his tune, for the sake of the people of Ulster, but I do wonder!
Incidentally, Tim has posted on this recently, and holding similar views to me on this issue, his comments are worth noting!
As you can see from the sidebar (hopefully). I have finally changed my photo following a series of complaints. One of which being that I looked like a startled rabbit in my last photo. So now you have a 'Tired first thing on Sunday morning' look! ;)
Anyway, gives the blog a slightly different feel methinks!
Bit of a pain though, editing down the photo so it could fit!
I am in somewhat in two minds about the Liberal Democrat spokesman for Wales and Northern Ireland, Lembit Opik. On one hand if you had to arrange a social event of MP's and Peers and you wanted someone there to give the lowdown on asteroid collision, then Lembit's your man!
If on the other hand you are a famous politician and in a crisis, and Lembit Opik publicly defends you, then you should start to worry.
I mean, after his support of Charles Kennedy, followed by Mark Oaten, you would think that once Sir Menzies Campbell was in trouble, that he would keep his mouth shut!
Unless it's a double bluff!
And just what is it with the Lib Dems, that there is all this in-fighting like ferrets in a sack, Menzies Campbell makes a few dud speeches and performances and people start plotting! I didn't think I would ever say this, but they make Tory leadership contests look like acts of virtue in comparison!
Hat tip to Tim Roll-Pickering for pointing this story out.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Now as I have already stated, I put down St. Stephen's Tavern or The Coal Hole as possible venues, but decided that a little rece was in order. Was going to do a spot of shopping in Cambridge today, but felt that this was more important ;). So I spent this afternoon scouting for a suitable venue in the Westminster/Covent Garden area.
So here are the candidates:
NAME: St Stephen's Tavern
LOCATION: Next to Westminster Tube Station and right opposite Big Ben.
EXPERIENCE: Been there for the odd social and/or meal. Plus it has lately become a casual venue for the Christian Socialist Movement Youth youth group's after-meetings drinks.
OUTSIDE SEATING: Zero.
INDOOR TELEVISION: Zero.
AMBIENCE: Delightful. Bit like a small gentlemen's club upstairs. Mock Pugin, with green leather chairs and benches. Hmm, wonder why that is! ;)
OUT OF FIVE: Three and a half. It failed on one and a half points for not taking advantage of the football season. Geography mean that outside chairs and tables are a non starter.
NAME: Westminster Arms
LOCATION: Opposite Westminster Abbey, next to Methodist Central Hall and directly opposite the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. Nearest Tube, St James'
EXPERIENCE: Been there for the odd pint with a mate. Also occasional casual meeting place for Christian Socialist Movement Youth Group's after-meetings drinks.
OUTSIDE SEATING: As you can see, the odd table and chair.
INDOOR TELEVISION: Yes. Flat screen in front of entrance.
AMBIENCE: Okay. Downstairs a bit like an old tavern, but sadly that is closed by half'six and that is the non smoking area.
OUT OF FIVE: Four. Indoor smoking with no obvious room for avoidance
NAME: The Red Lion
LOCATION: On the border between Whitehall and Parliament Street. Directly opposite the Treasury.
EXPERIENCE: Semi-regular when socialising in London, but personally now prefer St Stephen's Tavern, as it has more room.
OUTSIDE SEATING: A couple of tables and benches down the side of the building.
INDOOR TELEVISION: Opposite the Bar, but not often any sound from my experience.
AMBIENCE: Nice and comfortable, with interesting tidbits of the history of Parliament on the walls, but can get easily crowded.
OUT OF FIVE: Three. It's drawback is the semi-claustrophobia it can induce at peak times. But hey, it's a very popular place!
Actually there doesn't appear to be a pub down there. Best move on!
NAME: The Clarence
LOCATION: Towards the end of Whitehall, facing Trafalgar Square.
EXPERIENCE: I think I have been there for the odd pub lunch
OUTSIDE SEATING: None
INDOOR TELEVISION: Must be one, they are advertising the World Cup on the banner
AMBIENCE: Unless I have got my vague memories mixed, it is spacious with some enclaves.
OUT OF FIVE: Four. No outside seating.
NAME: The Coal Hole
LOCATION: The Strand. Directly opposite Covent Garden market.
EXPERIENCE: Have been there with a few friends from time to time. Note there are two doors there. The one on the left of The Coal Hole leads to a wine bar. My friend Liz recommended this place to me some years ago and I regard her has an expert and connoisseur in picking places to hang out.
OUTSIDE SEATING: A couple of tables and chairs down the side.
INDOOR TELEVISION: Yes
AMBIENCE: Crowded, but pleasant. Bit Tudoresque. Wine bar is a nice area.
OUT OF FIVE: A tentative five, am not sure about the smoking
I also rechecked The Lord Moon of the Mall, where the Bloggers4Labour anniversary took place. Unfortunatley it has no TV and no outside seating.
My vote is either for The Westminster Arms, or The Coal Hole, veering towards The Coal Hole, and unless I come across strong protestations to the contary I will try and book a couple of tables on Wednesday