Saturday, September 30, 2006

Cameron. A Man of Substance

(Press Association)
According to the BBC, David Cameron is keen to shed his "PR Tag" at this year's Conservative Party Conference, emphasising that he is more substance than spin!
That's understandable, I think if I were leader of a major political party I would be none too keen at such an accusation, but this year's Conservative Party Conference will have an image lift, according to the Party's Central Office. This will include:

"Votes will be cast, X Factor-style, with electronic handsets, although what happens to the results once they are in is less clear."

"There will also be sessions based around Dragon's Den, the hit BBC2 show in which budding entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists. In the Conservative version, would-be Tory MPs will be able to pitch their policy ideas to a panel, led by Ann Widdecombe, for possible inclusion in a forthcoming manifesto."

For more, read here.
More substance than style David, sorry Dave! It seems not.



31st Birthday

As some of you will know, today is my 31st birthday (which I have the honour of sharing with the late Truman Capote, Deborah Kerr, Angie Dickinson, Rula Lenska, the late Marc Bolan, Jenna Elfman, and Martina Hingis)
It doesn't feel anything like my 30th, although it's nice to have the attention (although I have tried being quiet about it in the past, which doesn't work!). Presents have included a riveting biography of Mao, a box of chocolates, a T Shirt/Jumper (as you can see in the photo opposite), amongst other things.
And this evening I am being taken out to the cinema, now if only I got this treatment every day! ;)

Des-erting Countdown

(Press Association)
So Des Lynam has finally quit Countdown after a year.
Actually, in spite of the title, I am quite disapointed about this, although not that surprised. Following Richard Whiteley was going to tough for anyone, and whilst Des wisely made his own niche and didn't copy his predecessor, it was a tough assingment to have and yet somehow he pulled it off.
Here's to the next presenter, and I would be interested to read any suggestions you may have!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Manliness!

(Wikipedia.org)
Being a blog where I seem to write about almost anything and everything (albeit with a slant on politics and news and current affairs), nonetheless it never occured to me that one day I would blog about masculinity.
For a start it's not something I normally think about, aside from the fact that although men and women are in many ways different in general, we are all individuals with equal rights.
So it was that I smiled as I read the following by Zoe Williams in Wednesday's Guardian:

"Besides being offensive, this notion leaves unanswered the rather important question that if men were so strong and so straight-talking and so decisive and so un-neurotic, how was their culture strangled so efficiently by birds and nancies in the first place?"

I think I need to explain, Zoe Williams was attacking an male author for deploring the rise in metrosexual culture.
I similed because I thought it was a good point and I agreed with her, but then that evening I watched a repeat of a documentary on John Wayne on UKTV History.
Now John Wayne was someone whose politics I strongly disagree with, who had too simplistic a view of the World, and who could be downright offensive.
And yet, and yet, I just think he was a great guy! And I am not the only one. Katherine Hepburn, no raging right-winger (in fact the reverse) loved working with him, Tony Blair's father-in-law who had a cameo in one of John Wayne's last films (Brannigan and worth watching it is) went on set thinking he would hate his guts and yet ended up thinking he was fantastic.
So what was it about Wayne?
Well he had charisma (but hey, so did Hitler), but above that he had a sense of common decency and if he honestly thought someone was hard done by he would stand up for them (even if it led him down dodgy political sidewalks). He was fair and he judged people by their personality, not their beliefs. One of his favourite actors was Montgomery Clift, not someone who you image Wayne being a fan of.
And in many respects Wayne defined masculinity, but perhaps what made it work with him was that he knew how to balance it with his, ahem, feminine side. That's what made him a man's man, not any heavy handed posturing and whining about metrosexuality.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Some alleged trivia tips about me

Via Rullsenberg Rules

With regards to No 2, what can I say. I am so, so, sorry! ;) , and as for No 7, well erm, well, er yes, erm, well....



Ten Top Trivia Tips about Paul Burgin!

  1. Owls cannot move their eyes, because their eyeballs are shaped like Paul Burgin.
  2. The Church of Scientology was founded in 1953, at Washington D.C., by Paul Burgin.
  3. Half a cup of Paul Burgin contains only seventeen calories!
  4. There are more than two hundred different kinds of Paul Burgin.
  5. The Aztec Indians of Mexico believed Paul Burgin would protect them from physical harm, and so warriors used him to decorate their battle shields.
  6. Twenty-eight percent of Microsoft's employees are Paul Burgin!
  7. The condom - originally made from Paul Burgin - was invented in the early 1500s!
  8. If you drop Paul Burgin from the top of the Empire State Building, he will be falling fast enough to kill before reaching the ground!
  9. On average, women blink nearly twice as much as Paul Burgin!
  10. The colour of Paul Burgin is no indication of his spiciness, but size usually is.
I am interested in - do tell me about

Call me a softie but..

(Associated Press)
I think that it is right and proper that someone who saw Russia as their adopted home should have their remains reburied there. Particually next to her husband and one of her sons.
Mind you I am irritated that the BBC got this wrong:

"It is not a sad event, it is a joyful one," Nikolai Romanov, great-grandson of Nicholas II, told Russia's Ria Novosti news agency.

Erm I thought Nicholas II's children (none of whom married or had any illegitimate children as far as we know) were all murdered alongside him and his wife at Ekaterinburg in 1918. Probably meant to say "great-grandson of Alexander III" but not an ideal mistake.

George Blake

(BBC Online)
I can just about remember watching the BBC Sci-Fi programme Blake's 7 as a small child, esp the final episode when that solid and dependable Blake turned out to be a traitor and all the leading characters were killed (except perhaps Avon, although I am digressing)
Those who saw that would know just how horrifying it can be when someone like that turns out to be a traitor, and so it is with that real-life Blake who worked for British intelligence and turned out to have been a KGB spy. Thanks to him, forty-two agents were killed by the KGB, many of whom simply vanished.
In 1959 he was exposed and in 1961 was sentenced to forty-two years imprisonment by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Parker of Waddington. Five years later he was sprung from Wormwood Scrubs prison by a pair of, at best, naive peaceniks. He now lives in Moscow on a KGB pension. So why mention him now, well in yesterday's Guardian, the European Court of human rights ordered the British Government to pay damages to George Blake, following their freezing of royalties over his autobiography, published some fifteen years ago.
I appreciate he is an old man and may well need the extra income, but the decent thing would be to return to the UK and finish his sentence. What Blake did, no matter what the provocation, was abomnable, and resulted in the deaths of many people during a time of great global instability.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rottweilers and other potentially intimidating dogs

(Wikipedia.org)
Okay this is going to be a bit of a rant!
One day during the last General Election, I spent the morning helping deliver some leaflets in the constituency where I live (I was temporarily helping out in the Hemel Hempstead constituency as a Campaign Intern for the CLP), when I found myself entering the drive of a home where no one was in.
There was no "Beware of the Dog" sign, although I heard some ominous barkings, I assumed that it was locked up somewhere.
Seconds later, between me by the front door, and the gateway to the drive of the house, was a loose and somewhat annoyed rottweiler, and after the split second vision of me having an emergency operation, followed by intensive care, I tentatively took my mobile from out of my coat pocket and rang for help.
It did occur to me to make a complaint, but I didn't see the point, plus I was informed by one or two neighbours that the dog was docile, plus the circumstances (delivering Labour leaflets) might not endear my concerns to the owner of the house in, what was and is, very much a Conservative Ward in the Constituency.
Okay, I should have done, but there is hardly anything I can do about it now, but mention my comments here.
I was reminded of the above incident during the weekend when I heard about this tragic incident. Other similar incidents are being mentioned, such as here, here, and here.
Now admittedly the media are on a hunt for such stories at present, and we don't know about the circumstances behind each incident, but it seems to suggest that many owners don't know how to handle dogs, particually breeds like rottweilers.
Dogs are pack animals and if they see something as a threat, perceived or otherwise, they will go for it. Leaving them free to roam, not making sure they are well trained and their movements monitored at all times, plus taking due care of them, leads to the horrible incidents we get on the news. I agree that dogs can be loving, loyal, and obedient, but to anthromorphosise them (see them as some form of fellow human being) and not be aware of their nature is foolish and dangerous.
The amount of times I have had a snaling dog in front of me and the owner says "Oh, he's really friendly" misses the point. They are really friendly. To their owners! They are pack animals not extended members of a family.
And yes, I have never had a pet dog, and yes I am more of a cat person, but that doesn't mean to say that I don't recognise the love and value they bring. Various relatives have had pet dogs - collies, retreviers, jack russells, King Charles spaniels, pugs, and I have got on with most of them and was saddened when some of them died, but at the end of the day dogs are dogs and not to recognise their pack nature and to take a mature attitude in looking after them is asking for trouble.

Thatcher's style of running Cabinet meetings (according to Spitting Image)

Only two seconds, but worth it! ;)

Blair staying till next summer?

(BBC Online)
Not sure if this is news! He has stated that this is his last Party Conference, Gordon Brown has set out what sort of Prime Minister he wants to be, these things take time. Whats newsworthy about it!

Daily Mail and 18 Doughty Street

One of my attitudes to individuals in politics, generally speaking, is to divorce my opinion of each person as a human being from my opinion of that said person as a politician or political campaigner. It does mean though that I consistently treat that individual with some respect
So it is that I can say that when I briefly met Tim Montgomerie at yesterday, I found him to be a really nice bloke, and yet make a little side dig at the expense of ConservativeHome ;)
Put basically, it can be a Godsend to those of us in the Labour Party, although this story (Hat tip to The Glass House) intrigued me:

Conservative Home is an amazing resource for the Tory Party membership. However, the comments section is prone to descending into slanging matches (often along pro and anti Cameron lines)There's a beautiful one today in which we can see Tories lining up to attack the Daily Mail (for being too left wing) and each other.Gosh, I hope these simmering tensions aren't let loose more publically when Cameron finally has to make some tax announcements.

Daily Mail accused of being left wing? And the Tories see themselves as ready for government at the next General Election?
Like Gordon, I am looking forward to the fight with Flash and Ming!
Incidentally the camera works a treat and is fairly easy to use, plus it was good to meet Iain and the team at 18 Doughty and see the hive of operations (I did wonder who Rodney Hide and Heather Roy were when they passed me as I left the studio)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

So Long. Farewell. Auf Wiedersen, Goodbye!

(Press Association)
I didn't see it (was busy around London and then setting off home), but it looks like it was a good farewell performance.
It doesn't seem that long ago that the PM gave his first conference speech as leader, and since then it has been a roller coaster ride, but we have now had three general election victories and the UK, not in a perfect state, but in a better one than the nasty roller coaster of boom and bust under the Conservatives. And that credit must go in a large part to the Prime Minister.
But there is still much to do. Next year will see a new Prime Minister (hopefully Gordon), a new Deputy (Who knows, but Kerron's piece is a gem worth reading, esp the bit on Harriet Harman), and we have more reforms to enact and work on before we have that bun fight with David Cameron and show the Conservatives what a fourth term out of office means and just how much out of touch they are with the British people.

Gordon Vs Tony or United in Harmony

Just a small note to state the blindingly obvious
Whether or not a prominent individual makes scathing comments about the Chancellor's speech as he or she leaves a Conference hall. That individual should button up their antipathy (which is known by a lot of people) as it can be ultimatley damaging for the Party, not the Chancellor.
Former Secretaries of State who have had to resign twice, going into small detail about the circumstances behind Blair becoming leader in 1994. That sort of jibe can be ultimatley damaging for the Party, not the Chancellor.
It's not too much to ask for basic loyalty is it?

The Queen Part II

(Miramax)
Further to my last posting on this, I saw the film on Friday evening with my girlfriend.
It was good, if a little cliched, and some of the dialogue was clearly for the audiences benefit and not for the characters concerned, such as matters of simple protocol etc..
In the end one felt for her. Whatever one thinks of her actions during that week, she got a bit of a mauling from the public which was somewhat unfair. It's easy to forget that the Royal Family are not just an institution, they are a family as well, and forcing a family to greive in public seems, well....
But those are the dilemmas of having a public and personal life intertwined with duty.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Building Bridges

(Associated Press)
One of the beliefs that is prevailent in today's culture, and a belief which is rather conceited and shallow, is that people latch onto an image or characature of an individual and use that as the defining image of that individual in question.
This is usually the attitude many show towards Pope Benedict XVI, and whilst many see him as somewhat ferocious and intractable in his beliefs, that does not mean to say that he is not gracious towards others, nor that he is not open to listening either.
As events in the past twenty-four hours have shown, and one hopes that this is a positive step. Whatever one thinks of Christianity, or indeed Islam, and whatever one thinks about what is "The way, the truth, and the life..." , it goes without saying that dialogue and refusal to hide behind inaccurate and unfair images is essential. If you want someone to listen to your beliefs, then listening to the beliefs of other people and not treating those who disagree as fodder or as a threat is a right move.
Next posting I will mention what bears do in the woods! ;)

Popular Blogs at Bloggers4Labour (Week 12)

Disclaimer: As Jo has pointed out, these are the Top Ten with the most recommended posts. Plus voting from the past week has ceased in the last 24 hours, whilst the site is changing server.
The Top 10 Bloggers at B4L this week, as voted for by fellow bloggers are:


1) The Daily (Up one place)

2) Labour Humanists (Down one place)

3) KERRON CROSS - The Voice of the Delectable Left (Same place)

4) normblog (Same place)

5) Harry's Place (Same place)

6) Bob Piper (NEW)

7) Recess Monkey (Down one place)

8) Live from the Socialist Fortress (Down one place)

9) wongaBlog (Same place)

10) Jo's Journal (Down two places)

For the curious, I am still in 16th place

Gordon Brown setting his stall!

(BBC Online)
I originally wrote this article for Labourhome:

One of the things that has bothered me in the last few weeks is a concerted effort by some to slam into Gordon Brown as a way of ensuring that he is not the next Prime Minister.Then there was that opinion poll in The Guardian a few days ago, suggesting that voters prefer David Cameron as PM!This fails to take into account several things. The first being that people's views can change, the secondbeing that, during the late 1970s, Margaret Thatcher never did well in popularity contests against James Callaghan. In the end it was policies that mattered (In that case unfortunatley for Labour, who were bitterly divided and faced a concerted attack from the hard left).Plus, what about this Poll?And at the next general election it is policies that will matter again. Today, Gordon Brown gave a hint of what a Labour government under his leadership would mean! The Chancellor mentioned more work on helping with climate change. Giving Parliament more say on decisions to go to war, the possibility of a written constitution, and (I quote):

"The renewal of New Labour must and will be built upon... a flexible economy, reformed personalised services, public and private sectors not at odds but working together so that we can truly deliver opportunity and security, not just for some, but for all,"

Plus you can bet your bottom dollar that he will continue the work on better aid for Africa, which he has helped a great deal in his work as Chancellor.Admittedly these are just hints as now is not the time or place to elaborate too much. But I like what Gordon has said and what he has already done as Chancellor. A national minimum wage, a stable economy for nearly a decade, interest rates controlled by the Bank of England.Plus, and I will try not to whisper, but he is a nice guy as well! For those of you who have yet to meet him, you will find that when you do, he is quite a warm and thoughtful person. Fairly genuine and rather considerate. Maybe he isn't as charismatic as Tony Blair, but should that really be a primary qualification to be PM! Not according to the electorate if you look at the results of some general elections

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Conferencing and Bloggers4Labour etc..

For various reasons I won't be going to Conference this year, although I hope to be able to go in 2007.
That said, there are some things I will miss this time around. The important discussions on policy in context with the forthcoming change of leader, the CSM Prayer breakfasts, meeting familar faces, but among all that the chance to meet up with fellow bloggers.
Particually given the fact that although there are some I have met already, others I have not and given that there are now events for bloggers it feels a bit well.. Like I feel left out.
But all's fair as they say. I am going to follow this conference fairly closely and will look forward to reading all about what some of you have been up to. Plus I am organising another bloggers social for before the end of the year, so it's not all bad! :)

Shame!

(BBC Online)
It goes without saying that one of the obvious scandals to hit politicians are sexual ones. Was it not Henry Kissinger who said that "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac"
Probably not the ultimate but I get his point, although I wonder about people being attracted to someone with Kissinger's political record, but I am digressing perhaps.
One recent sexual scandal has involved the Conservative MP James Gray and this has caused some particular outrage, notably the fact that his wife was battling cancer at the time.
Well according to yesterday's Guardian newspaper, his mistress's husband has lashed out at Gray, saying that his actions have caused pain and hurt which will be felt "for decades".
But where I think he goes for the jugular is when he states that:

"Second, he seeks to blame the 'pressures of parliamentary life' for conducting an extra-marital relationship ... In my view, this cliched excuse is overused and totally meaningless. It suggests that there is one moral code for MPs and another for the rest of us.
"Third, he pompously says that 'some political opponents may call for me to resign, but that is to seek to take party political advantage out of somebody else's private life'. In 18 years at the criminal bar, I have never read such sanctimonious, self-serving drivel. To call it spin is to insult even Peter Mandelson."


I agree. A lot of people are in high powered jobs and yet manage to see warning signs and find ways of coping, but what I find offensive (although not as much as the jilted husband) is when he mentions about political opponents calling on him to resign. Not only is it offensive to his soon-to-be ex wife, and others, as well as being monumentally selfish and cruel, it is an affront to common decency. You don't mean to tell me that every time a member of the Labour Party has been accused of something or has been in hot water, that the Conservatives have not shamelessly taken advantage of such an action or experienced shadenfreude! Sometimes you know, when political opponents criticise an individual, it is because their actions seem just a teeny bit amoral and breathtakingly nasty, not because of the political Party he or she is in!

D.I. Jack Frost

(Yorkshire Television)
Was surprised to read the other day that Rodney Wingfield may soon kill off his creation, Detective Inspector Jack Frost.
This is because of his anger over the police holding his nephew over a shoplifting charge and the way they handled that case.
I hope he doesn't get rid of Frost for those reasons. I am not a major fan, but I watch the occasional episode and I think it's worth pointing out that the police force is like other institutions, like the armed forces, the civil service, elected politicians etc.. Some are a disgrace to the profession they hold but many try their best under difficult circumstances and are decent and hardworking individuals. It would be a shame to tar all with the same brush because of the actions of a no of individuals

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part XI: Evie Winter

(Evie Winter)
A sister of The Dunadan. Evie Winter is 27 years old,and lives and works in London. Her job is running parent and toddler centre owned by a Christian charity. She is building up a photography portfolio in her spare time. Any time left, Evie loves to scrapbook and hang out with her much adored nieces. Her blog is What are you waiting for?

What made you decide to start blogging?

As I take loads of photos at social events and family events I wanted a really easy way for other people to access the photos a blog was the answer..
Also I love to look in to blogs by other Scrappers and also Photographers, some are just so cool and it inspired me to actually start the blog.

What is your best blogging experience?

That would probably be the invite I got to stay in Houston by my sister’s friend. She checks the blog to see pictures of my nieces. I am going to Houston in Oct -06’ which I wouldn’t be if not for the blog.

And your worst?

Can’t say I actually have had one, not been blogging long enough or have been fairly fortunate.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

My favourite entries depend mostly on my favourite photos, at the moment they would be the recent baby photos (September 2006). Another entry sparked a query about how to do digital scrapping, I wrote about that on the 8th Sept, and the person who asked said she was going to give it a try. Now that’s a result.

Favourite blogs?

Tara Whitney is an amazing photographer and so inspiring. I love to check her pages to see what she has come up with.Amy Jay is a friend of mine, I love the honest way she writes. She has a band and is in the process of recording, so her blog is a good way to keep up with how it is going, with a link to her myspace to hear the songs.
FreeStyle is a kind of group blog with lots of really neat ideas for scrapbook layouts.
There are so many more, but these are probably the ones I check most often.

What inspired you to start writing?

A funny question. If you read my blog you’ll see it is a lot more about photos than writing. Sometimes something particularly random or interesting will happen and I’ll add it in (the tales of the slug, and ‘stuff’ - my effort to get my brother to get an ISA). Sometimes it is an in-joke with members of my family, or a particular reader, sometimes I just want to let people smile. I try and keep my blog mostly lighthearted as there is already enough stress in people’s lives.

What exactly is your involvement with St Mark's and why should readers go to visit it on a Sunday morning?

At the moment I am just a member of the congregation. I use to help with Sunday School but had to stop as I just had too much on. It is a fast growing church, with a really diverse congregation. Lots of people there are my age which is cool. The vicar is (relatively) well known, Sandy Millar, who came from Holy Trinity Brompton. Coming to St Marks is an experience everyone should have!

What sparked your interest in photography?

Its so long ago now I can barely remember. I just love to look at old photos. When I was about 19, a friend gave me her old camera, an SLR and I just love to take photos and see the results when they came back. Eventually I was able to buy an auto SLR in 2001 which produced fantastic photos, and then last year I got the equivalent in a digital version and life just hasn’t been the same. It is so much apart of me - it is hard to imagine life without a camera.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

Lots of places. I love to travel. Quite like the idea of seeing the Holy Land (all the places mentioned in the bible, not just Israel) when it is more peaceful. Africa, Croatia, Norway, New Zealand. The world is just too big to stay in 1 country.

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

Spain and Peru. Loved them both and would love to go back one day.

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

Esther, the wife of King Xerxes. An amazingly courageous woman. I am not sure you see courage like that these days.

Which Christian figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Jesus. Obviously!

Favourite Bond movie?

Eh?! I have seen a couple of Bond movies, but can’t remember the titles. Sorry.

Favorite Doctor Who?

Any with Christopher Eccleston. Why did you have to leave!?!?!

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Chocolate.

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

Queen. Now that would be an experience.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?

Oxford

Favourite national newspaper?

Times (never read any others to compare)

What would you say your hobbies were?

Scrapbooking, photography, travelling.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?
(At this point in time)

Songs
1. Keane - Everybody’s Changing
2. ELO - Mr Blue Sky
3. Ronan - No Matter What

Books
1. Lord of the Rings
2. Chicken Soup for the soul series
3. Purpose Driven Life

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Doughty Street Regulars


Like my good mate Kerron, I have been one of those bloggers approached to be a "citizen journalist" on the channel. And as such I should have mentioned my "interest" this morning, but I was unsure about whether I ought to mention anything at this stage. But heck, Kerron is a good judge of things! ;)
I am indeed surprised, flattered, and pleased to be asked and I will be meeting Iain Dale next week to discuss this!
And, like Kerron, I have no doubt some will call me "Judas" etc.. but anyone who knows, or knows of Iain fairly well, also knows that he can be gracious in giving air to people of different political views to his own. It should be pointed out that any good broadcast news channel needs to be "Fair and Balanced" (Fox News, take note as to what that actually means), and I am happy to be considered as a "Labour Rep", as it were!
So that said, I am happy to add 18 Doughty Street Talk TV to my sidebar. :)

New Political Internet TV Station


From Iain Dale's Diary, definetly worth a look, And about time too!

Darfur

(AFP)
There is not much that I see on the television that can drive me to tears, or even to the brink where I feel a lump in my throat.
One of the very few things that did distress me to that point was the video that was shown at both Live Aid and Live 8, of footage of the Ethiopian famine, played to the song Drive by The Cars. Even if I hear the song on the radio or the television, I feel goosepimples.
Of course the sad thing is that these disasters never go away, and what compounds the horror is when we turn our face and ignore what is going on, and that is the impression I get about Darfur.
Whilst we are all busy reading about the Party Conference Season, the UN has been busy trying to extend it's peace keeping role in a region where much of the country is inaccesible to aid and has seen a three year civil war where more than 200,000 people have died and more than 2 million have been displaced.
The UK has been doing it's bit, but there seems to be no groundswell of concern or support as is needed!
Perhaps that ought to change! Perhaps we ought to be more informed about the situation there, before the country becomes another war torn country faced with severe famine.

Richard Hammond

(BBC Online)
Was shocked a couple of days ago to hear of the car crash involving TV presenter Richard Hammond
I have enjoyed some of his programmes, and last year was fascinated, shocked, and horrified, by his recreating the House of Lords (circa 1605) on a millitary training ground, and blowing it up in order to show just how lucky we were that Guido Fawkes attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament failed (obviously I don't mean the blogger ;) )
Here is hoping and praying that he will make a good recovery and will soon be in front of our TV screens again.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Jamie Oliver Vs The Junk Food Mums

(Wikipedia.org)
I was somewhat astonished, and yes disgusted, when I was watching the evening news the other day and saw a gang of mum's handing junk food to their children over the school gates. The school in question being Rawmarsh Community School, and they have implemented Jamie Oliver's healthy school meals policy.
On face value it looks like a tale of ignorant parents riding roughshod over what is ultimatley their children's best interests. But scratch the surface of this tale and it becomes more interesting.
For a start, according to the G2 Section of yesterday's Guardian (the one bit of yesterday's newspaper I did find), it turns out that most children went to the local chippy across the road during their lunch break. They still did after the meals changed and the mothers started their poilcy of bringing over meals in the interests of road safety. Admittedly there is the local chippy trying to keep it's best turnover of customers during that time of day, but also the parents concerned were not consulted over the change in school meals. A significant oversight which has brought this confrontation.
Unfortunatley though, it has given the mother's concerned a bad image, and whilst they insist they are giving their children choice, their actions are questionable.
Thankfully though, an "uneasy" truce is now in place with talks agreed for this week, so hopefully things will improve, but an interesting story nonetheless and it just goes to show that things are not quite what they seem.

Weathervane Blogging (or special interest faith)

(Photos: Wikipedia.org)

This morning I was going to blog on an article I saw in yesterday's Guardian about Rupert Murdoch's Fox company, starting a drive on films with a Christian message (under a new branch called Fox Faith).
I was going to mention about the fact that it reads like Christians are being treated as a special interest group and how I deplore the way that Christians and non Christians tend to treat each other as fodder. Then I couldn't find my copy of yesterday's Guardian. Wasn't in my bag, handn't been put in the newspaper bin etc.. Then I checked yesterday's Telegraph and the story wasn't there (unless it is well tucked away in the inside pages), and this in turn made me think.










I suspected I was in the beginings of a process in making a knee jerk reaction to a story which has no immediate backup that I could find (although I am not that sloppy ;), the news item can be found here), and this made me wonder in turn about how often bloggers do that!
I am not saying most bloggers are unprofessional. Not the serious ones anyway (except the ones I totally disagree with! ;) ), but I wonder how easy it is to seize on a story which covers a subject which one is deeply emotionally and spiritually involved with (in this case my faith) and soon find oneself in a tight situation and open to some ridicule that's deserved!
Actually I am concerned that FOX is treating Christians as a special interest group. Nothing wrong with that you might say, but how would you feel if the things that mattered to you were treated sympathetically by a home video label, when certain other aspects of the company it's involved in seems to be the antithesis of the lifestyle that matters to you. Put basically one feels patronised, but I shouldn't be so churlish, I am sure Fox Faith will be of great help to many people. Although if it goes for the syrup I am not sure I will want to watch it and then I really would feel patronised!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Doctor Who: What About Everything!

Given that some of you are major Doctor Who fans, and that one reader requested that I ought to post more on the series, below is a delightful four minute video, courtesy of YouTube, of the whole series over forty-two years. The music is "What About Everything" by Carbon Leaf



Stockholm Syndrome

I know, I know, that title is starting to go flat in context of those recent elections in Sweden.
There are a no of things, courtesy of that fair nation, which gives us a warm glow (depending on your opinion). Such as Ikea, ABBA, Sven Goran Erikson leading us to the World Cup Quarter Final in 2002 (what a shame about this year!).
But what those of us who are Social Democrats (and I mean in the broad sense), were particually fond of, was the consistent model of the centre left being in government for so long. The sheer fact that the Social Democrat Party in Sweden kept to it's standards and remained in such harmony with it's voters.
Now this has happened.
But, to be fair, I don't think this is the tragedy that some commentators make it out to be. The Social Democrats are still the largest Party in the Swedish Parliament, Sweden is a democracy, so these things do happen (and rightfully so) from time to time. Give or take a few years, depending on how the Social Democrats react, we may well see a return to prominence of the centre left in Sweden.

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part X: Alex Hilton

(Alex Hilton)
Alex Hilton was born in Ilford in 1976 and is a journalist and internet entrepreneur.
He stood for Parliament as the Labour Candidate for Canterbury in the 2005 General Election and until this year's May Council elections, was Labour Councillor for the Newbury ward in the London Borough of Redbridge.
Alex runs two blogs. Labourhome (a community blog for Labour members and supporters), and Recess Monkey (a blog primarily known for political gossip)

What made you decide to start blogging?

I used to be the Deputy Editor of http://www.w4mp.org/ - We were thinking of ways to make the site generally more attractive and hit upon the idea of a gossip column, and Recess Monkey was born. However, it soon became apparent that it remaining on W4MP was going to become the source of tension with the Palace authorities, so we spun it off to an independent site. No-one told me for at least three months that Recess Monkey was a blog and that I was a blogger. It took another two years for me to describe myself as such without embarrassment.

What is your best blogging experience?

I'm not wholly convinced that you can have a blogging experience - surely blogging is what we do in lieu of having experiences? I suppose my best blog-related experience was when I attended an Adam Smith Institute event on how blogging was going to change the world - lots of pompous people puffing themselves up really - and when I had an opportunity to speak I said, "I don't think blogging will change the world, I'm just here to meet girls" - which I think illicited the event's one and only laugh. As you can imagine, the room was mostly pasty boys who ought to get out more.

And your worst?

The accusations of homophobia after mocking Mark Oaten were a bit hurtful. It was the poo that made it funny, not the gayness. As far as I know, there isn't an active Poo-lovers' civil rights movement preaching equality and tolerance. I suspect they prefer it to be kept underground, a (dirty) secret.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

There are so many - but i think this effort still makes me chuckle -

http://www.recessmonkey.com/2004/04/26/why-its-good-to-sit-in-the-chamber-once-in-a-while/


Favourite blogs?

I cannot survive without Barry's Beef - for it is that single source which provides me with my entire understanding of popular culture. If a strange person in a bar starts talking to me - I just have to remember a Beef story and I know I'll not be laughed out of the pub.

What inspired you to go into politics?

Indoctrinated by my parents and the church. If I gave up on politics, I'd maybe take cloth.

You run two blogs and Recess Monkey tends to be about political gossip. Are there times you feel that you may have gone a bit far, such as publishing Rehman Chishti's phone number?

To be fair, Chishti is a treacherous dangleberry and does deserve to be outed as such. He chose a high profile path for himself and I think both he and the Labour Party are better off because of it. However, I take such betrayals very personally and I think the many Labour Party members who directly and indirectly had faith in him should have had the opportunity to phone him and ask him why that comradeship was so cheap to him. He's on the Tory A List now. I sincerely hope he gets a safe seat because the public deserves a laugh from time to time - and he could be a running joke for 30 years. The first draft of this answer included the term scum-sucking nob, but I can't remember where so will have to leave it there.

What advantages would you say Labourhome has over Conservativehome and how do you see it progressing over the next twelve months?

The primary advantage of Labourhome over ConservativeHome is that LH is not dedicated to lining up the entire British working class and buggering them one by one. That said, blogging per se is more challenging from the standpoint of supoprting the party in Government - you must know this yourself. Labourhome has some innovations in the works - we've had feedback on look and feel that we will work on after the conferences - but the rest I'll have to keep a surprise.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

Everywhere - though I do have a long-standing fantasy involving Havana, three litres of Rum Punch and a complicit young lady.

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

Wales

Who, excluding the present leader and Prime Minister, do you regard as the best British Prime Minister, and if different, the best Labour leader?

Does anyone ever say anything other than Attlee? Has any other government since the abolition of slavery truly had such a profound and persistent effect on the welfare of the most needy in our society?

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

It's quite sad but I don't think I'm particularly inspired. Lots of politicians in small ways have had an impact on me. My parents, my old boss, Linda Perham, Tony Banks and Bob Littlewood, the Deputy Leader of Redbridge Labour Group to name a few.

Favourite Bond movie?

Have never particularly liked a bond movie - don't really empathise with the main character.

Favorite Doctor Who?

After what must be decades of saying Tom Baker, I think I would have to say Tennant now - I'm still coming to terms with this.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


That's not a question, it's three words with punctuation. It's like saying "Angelina Jolie or Halle Berry?" - you have to infer a question yourself for it to make sense. If I do so, it's another tough call but probably Angelina Jolie... or Halle.... - buggerit, I'll have vanilla.

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

Kinks - bit like the beatles with a sense of humour.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?

This is sounding like a very white, home counties questionnaire. Are you sure you're not a liberal?

Favourite national newspaper?

Used to read the Indy until they banned news from the front page. Now I read the Times as a staple but pick up any proper paper that has a scoop instead if it's good enough. Have found I can't read the Guardian every day because it reads like it has been written by teachers.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Blogging has made them atrophy and die.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

Songs (though ask me on a different day and I might answer differently)
1. The In Paradisum from Gabriel Faure's Requiem
2. Willard Robinson's Don't Smoke in Bed sung by Nina Simone
3. Al Green's I'm Still in Love With You

Books
1. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera (though sometimes i think Unbearable Lightness is more important to me)
2. Homo Faber, Max Frisch
3. Atomised, Michel HouellbecqI suspect this choice of books can be analysed to tell you far more about me than I would otherwise volunteer.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Millitary Coup in Thailand

(Associated Press)
A bit disconcerting
It has to be said though, any millitary coup is a cause for international concern and I hope the King of Thailand manages to take hand and swiftly deal with this situation and democracy is restored a.s.a.p

Peter Hain Liveblog


From Labourhome (statement by Alex Hilton):

Peter Hain, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Wales, has recently announced that he will stand in the election for Deputy Leader when there is a vacancy.
He has given a statement outlining how he currently sees the party's position and why he thinks he is the right man for the job. On Monday 25 September at 13:30, Peter will give an exclusive live blog interview on Labourhome from Labour Party Annual Conference in Manchester, giving you the opportunity to discuss in more detail the issues he raises - and he will respond directly to your comments and questions. Please leave these here on the site now and we will pick the best to put to Peter.
tags:
,
On being asked to take part in the Labourhome liveblog, Peter said: "I think that this is a great idea. The internet will be a key communication tool for the party as we attempt to broaden our support base through modern campaigning methods. Innovative interactive initiatives such as this led by Labourhome are exactly what the party needs to pursue if we are to engage a wider audience in our future direction and bring politicians and politics closer to the people".
You can see Peter's full statement at
Progress Online.

Guys, these oppurtunities don't come around often, so it would be good for you to take advantage of this! :)

Paul

Monday, September 18, 2006

Political Prostitution

(BBC Online)
It is of some concern to me that a die hard Labour member like myself has two Tories and one Liberal as his three big British political heroes. Namely William Wilberforce, Sir Winston Churchill, and William Ewart Gladstone (although my favourite Labour politicans are varied, such as Keir Hardie, Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson, Denis Healey, Anthony Crosland, John Smith, and Tony Benn (Pre 1970) ).
Anyway I digress. My Liberal hero, Gladstone (being the devout Christian that he was), had a unique and bizzare way of trying to keep prostitutes from soliciting and that was to pay them without asking for sexual favours.
In the past twenty four hours, the Liberal Democrats have also gone for method of payment, only this is a bit shabby in comparison. Namely, and I quote here from the BBC Website: "Cash incentives are being offered to local Liberal Democrat parties who recruit women and people from ethnic minorities to stand for election."
This goes to the lowest common denominator and is quite insulting to local associations, because what the Lib Dem leadership are effectively saying is "We know you are a pack of sexist morons, so be good chaps and shut up and take this money and do as you are told!" I have to say, I have always had problems with Labour's women only shortlist policy, but this is far worse because it is patronising, rather than confronting head on, the problems within one's party and sweeping those problems under the carpet by offering cash.
In other Lib Dem news, I found myself agreeing with Rod Liddle's comments in yesterday's "Sunday Times" concerning Mark and Belinda Oaten
I have to say that, whilst I felt sorry for Mark Oaten's fall from political grace earlier this year (and I wonder how many of those quick to heap abuse in public and private have skeletons in their closets), I do wonder if he and his wife are doing the right thing by hawking their private recovery to the Media.
I mean, I am glad that their marriage seems to be recovering (many don't under less stressful circumstances) and that says a lot for them, but surely it is better now to keep a low profile and take each day as it comes and gently plan for a better future!
Plus blaming Charles Kennedy's alcoholism is very unhelpful as well. For themselves, for Charles Kennedy and his family, and for all else involved.
But politics can be a bizzare world! :/
Hat tip to Kerron BTW for the cash story.

New Spoof News Website. Courtesy of John O'Farrell

(NewsBiscuit)
For those who love their political and current affairs satire like a whisky and soda in front of a roaring fire in the winter months, or a brand new car, or (depending on your preferences)the delight of a warm female or male body next to...
Hang on, got a bit distracted there (streches shirt collar), phew, getting a bit hot methinks! Anyway if you love political and current affairs satire like I do, then you will be pleased to know that John O'Farrell of "Things Can Only Get Better..." fame has launched a satirical website called NewsBiscuit.
Go on, you know you want to ;)

The Queen

(Miramax)
As I have stated before, I am not a particular fan of the Royal Family, but that said I am not a Republican and I have a high regard for the Queen.
So it is with some interest that I am intrigued by Stephen Frears new film The Queen.
I hope to see it soon because the impression I have got from the various reviews is that it doesn't sensationalise the immediate events following Princess Diana's death, but it does treat the whole subject matter with dignity and respect and show the monarch as someone who not only holds the decent but restrained values of a past generation, but who also felt protective of her family in giving them the space to grieve in private, as opposed to the emotional fascism of the press who whipped up a "Show Us You Care.." campaign against them, following attacks on their pereived role in the death of Princess Diana.
It looks like it will make interesting viewing

Another New Link to a Website


This time I have added a side bar link to the Christian Socialist Movement .
I should have done it much earlier and, whilst I am disapointed by their recent involvement with Nestle, it is the only Labour Party group of which I am a member and a proud one at that.

Popular Blogs at Bloggers4Labour (Week 11)

Disclaimer: As Jo has pointed out, these are the Top Ten with the most recommended posts. The Top 10 Bloggers at B4L this week, as voted for by fellow bloggers are:


1) Labour Humanists (Same place)

2) The Daily (Same place)

3) KERRON CROSS - The Voice of the Delectable Left (Same place)

4) normblog (Same place)

5) Harry's Place (Same place)

6) Recess Monkey (Same place)

7) Live from the Socialist Fortress (Down one place)

8) Jo's Journal (Back in Top Ten)


Jt 9th) Luke's Blog (NEW), wongaBlog (Down two places)

For the curious, I am in Jt 16th place with Skuds' Sister's Brother

42

According to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to life the Universe and everything is 42.
Mercifully Mars Hill is none of those things (although I hope it works as some positive guide towards the answer to those questions ;) ), but it is No. 42 on Iain Dale's list of Top 100 Political Blogs

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tories Upset!

You would have thought the way the Conservative Notting Hill set were carrying on that David Cameron's Conservatives were progressing well.
Not according to ConservativeHome. Their headlines today are:

Labour leadership woes fail to lift Tories
Only one-third of Associations respond to membership enquiries

And before anyone accuses me of schadenfreude (and okay, there is that but can you blame me!)this is probably bad news, because if the Daily Mail readers among them spot this, house prices will rocket and an asteroid will probably hit the Earth! ;)

Radio 4

(BBC Online)
After having a lovely day out, I returned home last night and went through my e-mails and browsing through other people's blogs and came across this piece by Antonia (Which I enjoyed, but for the fact that one of my Dad's friends from over twenty years ago is a regular panelist on one of those "...indistinguishable mix of ridiculous panel game hangovers from the last century with the canned laughter". That said I get her point)
For me, Radio 4 is like those old friends with whom you are not in contact for months on end, and yet when you meet up again, all the gentle emotional intimacy returns. I don't often listen to the Radio and when I do, it's usually when I am a passenger in someone's car. So my love of Radio 4 comes from those childhood car journeys to my grandparents in Leicestershire and it's therefore nice to come across some mainstays that have been around for a while, like Any Questions?, Desert Island Discs, or the Today programme (and yes, for all those old hands I do miss Week Ending and the UK Theme). Perhaps I ought to make a habit of listening to the radio more in my spare time! :)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Top 100 Labour Blogs: No 9 Mars Hill

(Iain Dale)

Tory blogger Iain Dale has ranked me No 9 in his Top 100 Labour Blogs list .
The list is an extract from his new book "Iain Dale's Guide To Political Blogging in the UK", which I am looking forward to reading with great interest.
But he also rates highly some other fine blogs as well as my own, so it was a pleasure to see in the list Kerron (No 1) Bob Piper (No 2), Alex Hilton's Labour Home (No 3),Antonia (No 5), and Jo (No 6)

And here is the full Labour list (courtesy of Antonia).
Oh and it was nice to see Tim Roll-Pickering in the Top 40 of the Conservative blog list.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Being There

One of my favourite Peter Sellers films is his penultimate movie, Being There.
It was what some would call the Forrest Gump of the late 1970s. Sellers plays a gardener called Chance, who is discovered on the streets of Washington DC and is thought to be an economic genius called Chauncey Gardener! Sellers was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for this role but lost out to Dustin Hoffman for his role in Kramer Vs Kramer (although if the academy had any idea that Sellers had less than six months to live, one wonders whether they would have changed their minds).
Anyway, here is a trailer for the film, courtesy of YouTube (It's worth watching and Sellers gives a very restrained performance for once)

Via Jo, Kerron, and Andrew







Which One of the Seven Dwarfs Are You?





Well, so long as I am not grumpy! ;)

Short Fuse

(BBC Online)
For, let's say, just over 50% of the time I find myself in disagreement with Clare Short, and this is one of those times.
Resigning in principle over Iraq is one thing (even if she did dither over that intitally), taking a dislike to the Prime Minister and his style of government is one thing (I doubt there has ever been a Prime Minister who has never been on the receving end of that attitude from at least one member of his or her party).
But advocating a hung parliament whilst the Party you are in is in office, and you yourself are an MP!
It is not only disloyal, but it is insulting to your colleagues who are in key marginals who work very hard in their respective constituencies. I myself have worked for an MP who lost his seat at the last election (Geraint Davies), and worked as a campaign intern in the constituency of another during the 2005 election (Tony McWalter) . To see these men lose their respective seats was heartbreaking after all the hard work that had been done in those two constituencies, and I am sure many Labour readers have similar stories to tell.
So do I have any sympathy for Clare Short over any disiplinary action that may be taken!
No, not really.

What a mistakea to makea!

(Associated Press)
As Captain Alberto Bertorelli, one of the characters in Allo Allo used to say!
It seems like the Pope is in trouble again, this time for comments he allegedly made about Islam.
I suspect his comments were taken totally out of context, but it just goes to show how volatile the situation is between Islam/Christianity/Judaism/ and western culture at present

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A moment of irony

I just saw an ad banner saying "Did Heather marry Paul for his money!" Answer and get a free laptop!
That's just what I thought, and incidentally I am not married to anyone called Heather! ;)

Choosing the leader

(Getty Images)
Once, when answering a questionare on books, I didn't give a proper answer on a book that made me laugh out loud. I plain forgot two books that did. One was the Red Dwarf novel Better Than Life, the other is "Things Can Only Get Better..." by John O'Farrell.
One of the gems in the latter is the reaction of John and his student friends at Exeter University when Michael Foot is elected Labour leader. They go to the Student Union bar to celebrate and notice several of the University Tories also at the bar, seemingly celebrating something as well.
This came to mind this morning when I read of Patricia Hewitt's interesting, but flawed idea about electing Labour leaders.
Put basically, the Health Secretary wants members of the public to be involved in the voting process.
I can see the attraction and on one hand it may inspire confidence. On the other hand, members of the public include members of the opposition parties and for those who vote Labour, or are members of the Party, do you honestly want Tories, Lib Dems (shudder! ;) ), or anyone else deciding who our leader is! I mean, can you imagine them holding a pen or pencil over a ballot paper and thinking "Hmm, I wonder which candidate will help our nations fortunes and bring Labour to another term in office!"
Neither can I

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Revenge Attacks on Stingrays

Put simply, as a conservationist, it's not what Steve would have wanted!

Blair at the TUC Conference

(BBC Online)
I suppose I ought to mention my views on this, before it disappears from even the inside pages.
I haven't agreed or have been happy with everything the Prime Minister has done or said, but, broadly speaking, I am happy with the past nine years of Labour Government and you can't fault them for trying. Plus it was interesting to hear the PM echo what my maternal Grandad used to say about how some on the left behave when Labour are in power.
So I don't agree with all of those in yesterday's audience, but I respect a lot of them. It's just a pity they showed a lack of respect for what was the Prime Minister's last speech to the TUC Conference before he retires.

Deputy leadership

(BBC Online)
Well this was rather interesting! Put it this way, I am holding an open mind as to who I will be voting for with regards to the Deputy leadership, but I would not be unhappy if Peter Hain got the post.

CSM Sponsorship

Hat tip to Kerron. I have to say, especially as a member, that I am saddened and expected better from those responsible

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Bedroom

Well I went for a spring clean today (being a day off), as it was starting to become what my sister would term "a troll hovel".
So, lots of duesting, sweeping, spraying of furniture polish, throwing out old things with no sentimental value and it looks okay.
Thing is though, in doing this kind of thing, you find yourself going through old papers, birthday and christmas cards, etc.. and it gets kind of emotional



As did this!



The birth tag that was around my wrist shortly after I was born in Bolton Royal Infirmary on September 30th 1975.
It feels like it is an honour to have!

The Abercorn is Back!


Remember this! Well hat tip to Kerron for this!
Looks like he is trying again, with part of the same campaign video from last year and some of the same endorsments as well
If you want to watch this rather entertaining piece, then look here. A lesson to us all in politics on how not to do campaign videos! He's probably a nice guy but he ought to move on from simplistic politics. That said, this is the Youth Wing of the Conservative Party we are talking about! ;)

Conference Blogging

Some seem a bit, well, put out about the choice for Official Blogger for the Labour Party Conference this year.
It's fair enough I suppose, but (and writing as someone who won't be going this year, although I shall be keeping an eye on events) I don't really think it matters. True there is the fame and attention, but if you have a popular blog already, like, say, Councillor Kerron Cross of South Oxhey, then it shouldn't matter.
Kerron mate, you are a great guy and politically sound, with your heart in the right place (I wouldn't have made you DPM in my fantasy blog cabinet otherwise), but don't shed a tear about this, many across the land, nay the Globe, will be reading your blog during that fateful week, and especially as they will see you as Labour friendly, but speaking of your own mind!

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part IX: Neil Harding

(Neil Harding)
Neil Harding is 37 years old and runs the BrightonRegencyLabourSupporter blog.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I was boring all my friends by talking about politics all the time, I needed an outlet and blogging is an ideal way of letting off steam. I've also got a bit of an ego thing going.

What is your best blogging experience?

Realising that if you type 'I hate Thatcher' into Google, my blog is the first one listed.

And your worst?

Making a prat of myself with a couple of ill informed remarks supporting Blair's respect agenda. Sadly this remains the most hits I got in a day - 1015, must have put a lot of people off my site.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Proportional Representation (PR):- The best way to alleviate poverty.I know... I am an anorak. But seriously the more proportional the electoral system the better the society. If you don't believe me read the article..

Favourite blogs?

There are so many, I try to read as many as possible - including yours of course. If pushed, my top 5 are; Devil's Kitchen (just because his views are almost always the direct opposite of mine), Pub Philosopher (the thinking man's BNP sympathiser - which I find very honest of him to admit), Fruit & Votes (PR anorak blog - what a surprise I like this?), The Daily (very impresssed with the quality of writing on this new blog) and The Labour Humanist. I know it's sad they are all political blogs. Also a mention for bloggers4labour which has introduced me to many fine Labour blogs including yours and even meant meeting a few of you in person!

What do you regard as the downside to Proportional Representation?

Well the biggest downside is that so many countries don't have it and have crap government as a result. But I suppose that is not what you are asking. It is a shame that the benefts of PR are not more obvious for all to see and are not simpler to explain. Also PR advocates don't help the cause by disagreeing over small differences in the many systems of PR- (this is quite ironic if you think about it). We should unite in favour of any system that improves on first-past-the-post FPTP. If you are asking about downsides in comparison to (FPTP), I really don't think there are any (honestly). Maybe FPTP can be simpler than some PR systems in terms of only having to put an X on the ballot paper - ordering the candidates 1-2-3 is too complicated for some people I suppose. The biggest problem with PR is the transition, it can take several elections for a new system to bed down, in the meantime the hangover from FPTP can mean the latent far-right vote built up by the media and the complacency of the major parties (who can ignore large sections of the electorate under FPTP) can show up with the far-right winning a few seats and it takes time for the far-right vote to subside as exposure of their policies to rigorous debate and their candidates to true scrutiny soon shows them to be absurd and incompetent.

What caused you to become an athiest?

The short answer to this is probably - Richard Dawkins, Polly Toynbee and Science. I think when I was growing up I did believe in God - because it seemed like everybody told me there was a God and I didn't question it. As soon as I started to really question it - maybe in my late teens, early twenties, I started to think 'hold on, this is absurd'. Even then, I might have described myself as agnostic. It is only in the last few years that I realised I was an atheist. Many people think to be an atheist you have to reject the 'possibility' of a God, but you only have to think that God is 'unlikely'. I would now describe myself as not just an atheist but an anti-theist because the rise of the right-wing US evangelicals is absolutely terrifying, probably a bigger threat than Islam. But I think any religion is damaging because it discourages open thought and debate on many subjects. Religion seems particularly hung up about sex.

What sparked your interest in politics?

My dad used to 'inform me' that 'Enoch was right' and that 'Hitler did some good things', and I used to believe him. Only when I encountered more enlightened views did I start to think my dad was wrong. I think there is an analogy here with how my views on religion developed. I don't think my dad is an ogre, he is actually a really nice guy in a lot of ways and his opinions are sadly pretty much the norm for his age group in the area where he lives. The fact that somebody can be a nice guy but hold such bigoted views is a very important thing to remember when it comes to politics. Things are never clear cut. I think my interest in politics and disillusionment with religion stems from my dad making me question authority by making me realise that the given line can be wrong. Politics affects everything and I find it amazing that it seems to be a taboo subject with many people.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

Australia, the scenery of the outback looks amazing - though I do worry about all the deadly creatures over there.

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

Perpignon in the South of France. To be honest and I know this is boring, I like the UK, I haven't been anywhere abroad that beats Cornwall, Wales, Western Scotland, the Peak and Lake District. The UK is a great place. I also love the towns and cities, Inverness, Manchester, Preston, Wolverhampton, Brighton, even Walsall has charm.

Who, excluding the present leader, do you regard as the best Prime Minister, and if different, the best Labour leader?

I suppose Harold Wilson must have been doing something right for the Tories to plan a coup against him. I have been told by a few people who remember Wilson that he was an awesome speaker and could swat hecklers away for fun. Also he had the sense to keep British troops out of Vietnam. I really don't know what to make of Attlee. As for the Tories, probably Disraeli, who although fairly backward by today's standards was enlightened at the time (apparently). I despise Churchill and Thatcher. Churchill in particular was a disgraceful bigot, as he said himself, history judged him well because he wrote it. The best Labour leader has to be Michael Foot. Just because he wore a duffel coat on remembrance day....

Which public figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Tough question, I'd go for John Peel.

Favourite Bond movie?

Sexist rubbish but I remember enjoying watching A View to a Kill.

Favorite Doctor Who?

David Tennant.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Vanilla.

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

I never got to see The Smiths, although I've been told they were rubbish live.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?

I'd go for Oxford, though I've not been there for a while.

Favourite national newspaper?

Sadly, the Guardian.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Playing guitars badly- acoustic and electric, writing music, losing to my nephews at chess, getting drunk.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

**ck off Nazi Punks by The Dead Kennedys
Hupenyu Hwangu by The Bhundu Boys
Pushbutton Head by Strawberry Story
Hard Work by Polly Toynbee
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
Animal Farm by George Orwell