Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blog Bullying

Have been reading about this incident in the past couple of days and it's all rather sad!
Personally I feel that Kris Brown should have stood his ground, fought back, found out who was responsible, and kept on going, but it is a sad fact that whilst politics attracts the bully and the troll in the legislative and media worlds, it is certainly no stranger to the blogosphere either! :/
Chin up Kris, keep up the good work, and remember you are worth far more than those who made your life difficult!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Yet Even More New Blog Links

Well the sidebar needs tidying up from time to time!

Freemania is the person blog of Tom Freeman who helps run...

Fisking Central. A blog that works as a critique of the current state of British politics from a centre left perspective. The phrase Fisking comes from the critical attacks on the accuracy of articles by British journalist, Robert Fisk. Tom runs this blog with Tom Hamilton, who runs...

let's be sensible (Tom Hamilton's blog) , one of the more popular Labour blogs on the Net, another being Cllr Miranda Grell . The musings of a young twentysomething Labour councillor. I like Miranda's blog, she is the very sort of councillor I would like to be, given the chance.

And from a present councillor to a former one. Someday I Will Treat You Good contains the musings of Andrew Brown, a Labour Party activist in Lewisham.

But while I am reflecting my political bias by adding several more Labour blogs, politeness begs me to add another token Conservative one. Prague Tory is a blog worth reading, and whilst there are other Conservative blogs which don't have links here, that are just as good a read, if not more. This one stands out for some reason I have yet to fathom!

Popular Blogs at Bloggers4Labour (Week 17)

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:

The Daily ... (1st) (-)

Labour Humanists ... (2nd) (-)

Jon's union blog ... (3rd) (-)

Bob Piper ... (4th) (-)

KERRON CROSS - The Voice of the Delectable Left ... (5th) (+1)

Harry's Place ... (6th) (-1)

Jo's Journal ... (7th) (-)

normblog ... (8th) (-)

Recess Monkey ... (9th) (-)

Don Paskini ... (10th) (NEW)

For the curious, I am still in 26th place.

BTW I am considering leaving my weekly post on this as a) It's a bit pointless when B4L have their own excellent resource( see Recommended Posts (week) ), b) It doesn't seem to interest that many people and c) I am rather bored with it, esp as the top ten positions rarely change as much as they used to, if at all!


(BBC Online)
I have yet to see the film, and I yield to no one in having a warped sense of humour (well almost no one ;) ), but I do have my moments of disquiet and this is one of them!
I appreciate that Sacha Baron Cohen is being ironic, that sometimes the humour is used to bait various political groups, but not everyone's sense of humour is metropolitian and sophisticated (I am not even sure Borat is something metropolitian types find funny), so when his character signs a song like "throw the Jew down the well" and makes other similarly racial comments, then I am worried that some people will laugh for all the wrong reasons.

Birmingham and Stravinsky

(Birmingham NEC)
This weekend was spent in Birmingham, in the delightful company of my girlfriend. And among the events she planned for us, was an evening at Birmingham's Symphony Hall watching the CBSO perform a couple of pieces by Stravinsky.
I am not familiar with his work, so the pieces were new to me. We did enjoy Les Noces , which had a wild, yet contained style to it. That said, I don't think he is among our chief favourites!
But it was a great evening, and if ever you are in Birmingham, do go and have a look at Symphony Hall, it is a beautiful building and it is relatively financially painless to go and see the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra perform there, and to watch them is an experience!

Possibly the most worrying Vice President of the USA in my lifetime

(Associated Press)

Given that I was born when Gerald Ford was President and Nelson Rockefeller was Vice president there is only a handful to choose from, but I have never known of any VP who has such a blatant disregard for human rights and the dignity of those who disagree with him as Dick Cheney seems to!
Maybe that seems a little far fetched, but when you consider his comments on water boarding (the holding of suspects under water for long periods of time in order to extract information) as a "no-brainer" is disturbing, even when taken in context.
I appreciate that we are fighting against some nasty and determined individuals in this war on terror, that we have to be tough and ruthless in dealing with them, that sometimes we may need to consider the unthinkable, but the moment we loose sight of what we stand for, the moment we start to have a cynical disregard for human rights, even the rights of those we regard as little more than mindless animals and thugs, then we have lost an important moral edge to our ideological soul when it comes to democracy and the freedom of the individual.
I also appreciate that President Bush has since stated that his administration did not condone torture and that Vice President Cheney has said the same. But neither have gone into details and I for one am concerned that the White House seems to have given the message that water boarding isn't wrong after all!

Conservative Eye for the Liberal Guy

Courtesy of YouTube, a bizzare spoof from the US and quite funny in parts (and yes, I did think the makeover of the bathroom was an improvement! ;) )

Yes Prime Minister and Newspapers

(BBC Online)
Parbury Politica mentioned my favourite quote (well one of my two favourite quotes) from Yes Prime Minister the other day:

Jim Hacker: The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by people who actually do run the country; The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; The Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.

Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?

Bernard Woolley: Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits

The thing is (as Parbury points out) that quote was apt for 1986, when the episode from which the aforementioned quote was from, was first mentioned, but it is probably redundant now. Can anyone can come up with a 2006 remix version?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Twenty-Four hour clock

(Press Association)
I think the arguments for this are all very good, but the problem is that many people (inc myself), love having that extra hour on the first day!
Talking of weekends, I'm off to Birmingham, so I won't be back till Sunday evening!



Friday, October 27, 2006

I'm Backing Hilary!

Further to my last posting on this, Hilary Benn has announced he will stand.
So that's settled then, unless something out of the ordinary happens, I am backing Hilary!

Room 101

(HatTrick Productions)
No, not the infamous torture chamber in Orwell's 1984, rather the TV series.
Like many geeky people I enjoy lists (and yes I like the novel, and film version of, High Fidelity, which has lists as part of it's theme), so it is that I enjoy Room 101.
That said, whilst people's Desert Island Discs have been doing the rounds, no one has done Room 101. So here, at least, is my list of things to put in the torture chamber.

1) Sandpaper (Yes I know it has it's uses, but to me it has the same sensational sound as nails on a blackboard)

2) Pop singles which lack real hardworking talent, aimed at the Christmas market (When we have had great composers by Haydn, Mozart, Thaikovsky, Lennon, McCartney etc.. Why do people buy something like Mr Blobby at Christmas time?)

3) Rats (Can anyone give me a good need for their existence. Horrible creatures)

4) Bullying (To be fair there are two types of bully. Those who are under stress, and those who have problems)

5) Casinos (In all seriousness, they are not that helpful to people's financial wellbeing. It seems strange that some people put their financial security at the whim of the toss of a die or the spin of a roulette wheel!)

6) Christians who take a superior attitude to those who don't share their views (I am in real danger of including myself here I suppose, but let's face it, it isn't helpful to other people)

7) People who lack manners (this includes people who drop litter, smoke in no smoking areas etc..)

Tagging: Cally, Kerron, Rose, Annie, Jo, Antonia, Adele, Iain, Tim, Norm, Damien, Lisa, all bloggers called Andrew! ;), plus fellow Bloggers4Labour members! (would mention a few but am constrained by time)

A bit difficult to stomach!

(BBC Online)
Obviously I applaud the IRA's decision to embrace the peace process in Northern Ireland, but just where has David Cameron been in the past forty years? And how will he be able to explain his views to Norman Tebbit, the next time they meet!
Now I am among the first to say that one should look to the future and not the past. I am also among the first to say that Sinn Fein should be in government in Northern Ireland, provided (and the same goes for the loyalists) they remain wedded to the Peace process, but I mention all of the above, because to suggest an old boys club is insensitive to those who have suffered, and incidentally the same goes for loyalist paramillitaries.
Let's just conentrate on the future of the Northern Ireland assembly shall we!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Torchwood Part II

Finally got to see it a couple of nights ago. A bit more edgy and adult than Doctor Who, but I did enjoy watching it. I don't want to give any spoilers, but if people want to disuade teenagers from having sex too early in life, then maybe they should be made to watch episode two ;) .
On the other hand the more naive would probably be traumatised for life, so maybe not! :/

Hilary for Deputy!

(BBC Online)
A no of fellow Labour bloggers have mentioned who they would like to see as Deputy Leader (see here and here for example).
I would ideally like it to be a woman, but at the moment there doesn't seem to be anyone in the higher echelons in the Party who I think I would like to see in the role. The much maligned and misunderstood Ruth Kelly perhaps, although her track record is not impressive in some areas and she is not popular either.
So who out of the men would make a good deputy? Well apart from the title of this blog piece being a giveaway, I do like the idea of it being Peter Hain. I like Jon Cruddas, but I am not sure about the role of Deputy being distinct from that of a cabinet post. Alan Johnson I don't know much about, but of course there is Hilary Benn.
Why Hilary? Well he has been rather good at DfID, working hard to achieve those millenium development goals. He has a lot of experience at grassroots and local government level, he has good contacts, and has been involved in the running of three government departments. Like his father (although father and son are from different wings of the Party), he is charming, polite, sociable and thoughtful. Respecting those who hold different views to his own. He is also down-to-earth and the only sitting cabinet minister I have met who I have dared to address by his first name (that shows just what a friendly and approachable guy he is!)
So if Hilary stands for Deputy, then I will support him!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

How Many Have My Name?

Via Kerron

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

I somehow doubt this, Burgin is more of a common surname in the USA (The interesting facts you find when you check your ancestry) and Paul is a common enough name.

UKIP beached?

(BBC Online)
So James Whale may well be UKIP's candidate in 2008's Mayoral elections!
If elected, Whale says that he will have Peter Stringfellow and Jeffrey Archer among his advisers!
Who says UKIP are out of touch and unelectable! ;), some very bad jokes come to mind but for reasons of taste, sensitivity, and a desire to protect my wallet I will leave it there.

Even more on an English Parliament!

Fast becoming a mainstream news story, and recognition from the media that it is a cross party issue. Even more intriguing is the splits within the Conservative Party on this issue. That's not to say that some in Labour still harbour hopes of regional assemblies, but it is good to see this issue taken more seriously.

Last Night on 18 Doughty Street

Well my report wasn't used and, according to a brief exchange of e-mails just before the show, it looks like there were one or two hiccups as there was an interest in the fact that I had done something on this issue. Anyways, I did send my views on Ann Widdecombe's comments and they were mentioned on the show. Thanks Iain!

It's worth looking at, esp as there seems to be some public interest, plus the fact that Tim Montgomerie seems to be against the idea whilst Iain Dale is sympathetic towards it.

I don't like being this chummy with some Tories on a particular issue, but better to agree on a non party partisan issue such as an English Parliament than an overtly partisan issue like this!

Yes Kate, I am thinking of you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why I Joined Labour!

(Labour Party)
Hat tip to B4L:

I come from a fairly politically mixed family. My Dad's family were farming Conservatives and my Mum's family were industrial Labour, and I think that has had some influence on my politics.
I suspect my earliest political memory was seeing the Winter of Discontent on the TV. I have a blurred memory of being three years old and seeing the 5:40 news after Ivor the Engine and seeing an image of rubbish piled up in some area. It was just before we moved to Oxfordshire and it therefore certainly fits in that timeframe.
Cut to 1983 and I tell my Conservative voting gran that I wanted Margaret Thatcher to win because I thought Michael Foot looked like an angry old man. This does not look promising for a dedicated Labour Party member I know, but things did improve! ;)
I was aware enough to follow some of the 1987 general election and we had a discussion about it at the junior school I went to. All I knew for sure was that a lot of unemployment happened under the Conservatives, that Margaret Thatcher's style of leadership left me cold, and that I felt that therefore the Liberal/SDP Alliance ought to win, as they seemed nice and friendly and hadn't had a reasonable shot at power since the First World War. This was not something that politically endeared me to my classmates who were all Conservative or Labour because their parents were!
Eventually I got fed up with the Liberals. Their merger with the SDP was not without tears, they argued and didn't seem to have a realistic chance of power. Plus I was not too impressed with their ideas about PR and regional assemblies. In the meantime the country was starting to suffer under the Poll Tax and high unemployment, as well as a recession. Labour seemed to be a better alternative.
But like all romances, it starts with the shallow and develops into a love affair. I grew to appreciate their economic policies, the minimum wage, New Deal, plans for an ethical foreign policy, self government for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland etc.. I voted for them in 1997, but having personally benefitted from their being in government (I was unemployed for a while after my year out and was put on the New Deal programme) I took the plunge and joined them in 2002.
Yes it is like a marriage in that there are up's and down's. But I have seen such an improvement in the past ten years I have not regretted my decision.
So here's to that fourth term! :)

Mobiles and Sex

Now that I have your attention! ;)
One of my days off today, so a new pair of glasses (my previous pair broke last week) and a new mobile phone which pleased me no end. So I then happily buy a copy of the Guardian and settle down in this Internet cafe for a read, only to feel uncomfortable with Page 3.
No, the Guardian has not gone red-top, rather I am informed about what would happen if I used my new mobile phone too much! I would have crossed my legs, but somehow that didn't seem a good idea either! :/

English Parliament on 18 Doughty Street

Not literally, although it's an interesting thought! ;)
Some of the biggest hits on my blog this month, occured when I made this entry about the possible need for an English Parliament. Something I am strongly inclined to support. This evening at 9PM, 18 Doughty Street's Vox Politics will be discussing this issue. Now a few days ago I sent the guys there a report concerning my views, so they may or may not be showing that this evening. In any case, it's worth having a look, because the issue of an English Parliament doesn't seem to be taken seriously enough and it is a concept that has growing support.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Popular Blogs at Bloggers4Labour (Week 16)

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:

The Daily ... (1st) (-)

Labour Humanists ... (2nd) (-)

Jon's union blog ... (3rd) (-)

Bob Piper ... (4th) (-)

Harry's Place ... (5th) (-)

KERRON CROSS - The Voice of the Delectable Left ... (6th) (+2)

Jo's Journal ... (7th) (+2)

normblog ... (8th) (-2)

Recess Monkey ... (9th) (-2)

Ridiculous Politics ... (10th) (-)

For the curious, I am now in Jt 26th place with Let's be sensible and Skuds' Sister's Brother

Jesus Was Black etc..

Hat tip to Seb Carroll. Made me smile

There were 3 good arguments that Jesus was Black:

1. He called everyone "brother"
2. He liked Gospel
3. He couldn't get a fair trial.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Jewish:

1. He went into His Father's business.
2. He lived at home until he was 33.
3. He was sure his Mother was a virgin and his mother was sure He was God.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Italian:

1. He talked with his hands.
2. He had wine with every meal.
3. He used olive oil.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a Californian:

1. He never cut his hair.
2. He walked around barefoot all the time.3.
He started a new religion.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Irish:

1. He never got married.
2. He was always telling stories.
3. He loved green pastures.

But the most compelling evidence of all---3 proofs that Jesus was a woman:

1. He fed a crowd at a moment's notice when there was no food.
2. He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn't get it.
3. And even when He was dead, He had to get up because there was more work to do.

Church and State

Thought I ought to blog on this subject, given the interest on my mentioning faith schools and a Sunday Times article I read yesterday about whether it is time for the UK to be a secular state!
Put simply, I have never really agreed with the idea of the Church of England being a state church! Whilst the relationship has some benefits, it can in theory compromise itself (esp with regard to where senior appointments are made by politicians who may or may not be Christian, depending on who is in the job), and indeed can be a vehicle for force feeding Christianity on others. Whilst I think this is miniscule in this day and age, it certainly wasn't the case in the sixteenth and seventeenth century.
Not only that but in other countries the Anglican/Episcopal Church tends to thrive, unfettered by state control. True it has it's drawbacks, like any other denomination, notably lack of money and the temptation to be dependent on wealthy benefactors, but it has thrived in other ways and the Christian faith has always been at it's admirable best when it allows itself to be vulnerable instead of trying to fight against it! Put simply, the Church is there to worship God and love our neighbour as we love ourselves, not to make idols out of insecurity.
An unfettered Church of England would be able to make it's own decisions, work out better ways to heal the evangelical/liberal divide (the bits that need healing anyway), and develop better relations with other denominations. It may also become more influential in it's dealings with the state, neither being compromised by the other and not depending on currently existing structures. It means having one's work cut out but that is no bad thing! Take a look at the US, where the churches (albeit making mistakes sometimes, and sometimes quite horrendous ones) wield a strong influence on political issues. One may say that in some cases the church is woefully misguided, but can one say that when they see the work done by Christians such as Martin Luther King, Jr and Jim Wallis.
In short, the womb may well be a warm place but perhaps it is time to cut the umbilical cord!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Latest Lords Reform Proposals

(BBC Online)
Having read about this I have the following doubts:

1) Quotas. I am wary of quotas as I feel that they are cosmetic and don't properly deal with the problems that cause them!

2) The half elected, half appointed issue. Better than before, but is this planned as a halfway house? And what about the Bishops bench (which reminds me, expect a blog entry soon on Church/State relations).

3) How will this effect the status of the Lords?

Anyways, I am open to persuasion here, although I still prefer the Bragg proposals on this issue.

Tories and Tax

One of the jibes that the Conservatives frequently hurl at Labour is that it is a Party of tax and spend. To which one answer may well be "So long as the spending goes to what is right and just and is important with the electorate, then why not?" If you believe in community values and that if you are involved you should do your bit, then it stands to reason that you contribute!
But likewise there is an accusation put to the Conservatives. That they are the Party of tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts. Which looks quite sexy until you realise that they can cause damage to public services if you are not careful, and after nearly a decade out of office it looks like this accusation has attracted mud which sticks. The trouble is that tax cuts to the Conservatives is beyond pragmatism for them, it is an ideological belief.
David Cameron has stated that he does not necessarily support tax cuts, but this is a belief which many Conservative Party members hold on to. Here are some examples (hat tip to Mike Ion)

"George Osborne, David Cameron and Francis Maude, the Tory party chairman, have continued, if only in this matter, to follow Josef Goebbels' dictum that if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. This particular porky is not for the benefit of the people as a whole. It is designed only to appease traditional Conservatives who have grown increasingly restless at the absence of any tax-cutting agenda on the part of the new leadership of their party; but such Tories would need to be not so much traditional as senile, to fall for this peculiarly shameless rewriting of history."

Dominic Lawson, The Independent, 20th October 2006

"merely saying you're going to mirror Labour's tax and spend levels isn't going to inspire anyone to get out of bed on a wet Thursday and go down to a polling station."

Iain Dale

"I see no change on that front from our Treasury team. They have got to get their act together and pitch their case with conviction. Nobody is convinced by the current charade."

" I really don't think the Notting Hill set think like this. Our choice is between Brown, whose gameplan we know too well, and an Eton Socialist. Judging by Letwin's comments of the past few months, even the economically educated Right has been forced to throw in the towel in order to kow-tow to this economic drivel."

"Tremendous boost for morale despite the protestations of Dave that these are merely ideas. It will be taken as the intended direction of Tory policy and quite right too."

Comments on the Conservative Home blog.

Incidentally, as Labour is about to enter it's tenth year in govt. It's worth mentioning that the Conservatives lead over Labour is nothing like the 21% lead Labour enjoyed in 1989. Back then of course, it was shortly afterwards there was a change of Prime Minister and things improved for the government. :)

Lest We Forget

(BBC Online)
Forty years ago this week, Wales saw one of it's worst disasters! The horrific and devastating effect it had on the community in Aberfan is still keenly felt and some of the parents, even today, struggle daily with the vain feeling that their child will come home from school!


Yes it's on tonight. A spin-off of Doctor Who, and hopefully it will be a lot more succesful than the last Doctor Who spin-off.
From what I have heard and the clips I have seen, it looks like it is more edgy and sexual than Doctor Who, but it is post-watershed and what else do you expect with former Doctor Who companion, Jack Harkness as the lead character! ;)
Incidentally I am glad he has returned, albeit in his own series. He isn't in my top three favourite companions, but that is simply because there are so many to choose from and I thought that he wasn't around in the TARDIS as long as he ought to have been! Plus if it has already had a good review from this blogger, then it is good!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Friday, October 20, 2006

Clare Short's resignation

(Press Association)
Well, better she does that than make further comments about hung parliaments! On issues like these I would hardly expect to agree with a Conservative, but Iain hits the nail on the head about being furious and kicks in the teeth. All I can say is that she dithered on Iraq at a crucial moment and her above comments are insulting to those Labour MP's who represent marginal constituencies. Esp those who might otherwise be sympathetic to her views about Iraq! Mind you, I have mentioned this before.

McCartney Vs McCartney

(Press Association)
I know, personal matters, legal minefield, none of our business and I totally agree. But these thoughts go through my mind!
Heather Mills McCartney may be right (I mean Sir Paul has not always been the smiley paragon of virtue that he appears to be), but Ms Mills McCartney has a reputation, unfounded or not, for exaggerating and if she is totally right, and these patterns do repeat themselves, why didn't Linda (a gutsy, no nonsense woman who could be confrontational with her husband) dump him during the early years of their marriage?
I am not making judgements, I am just wondering about the bits of evidence that seem bizzare!

Islam and Spotlights

(Getty Images)
I am not a muslim, I have no intention of ever becoming one, but if I was one I think I would be a bit scared!
For example, as a Christian if there is one thing that irritates me, it's the way all Christians are lumped together by some sections of the media. As those of you who are part of any "broad church" grouping will know, there are many strands and to be lumped together is not just uncomfortable, it's also wrong! It's like being in 1975 and equating Roy Jenkins and Denis Healey with Arthur Scargill!
And likewise Islam has various strands, and whilst I respect this woman's conscience, I do feel that she has not been helpful in this issue. That said, what bothers me is with stories like these is how many people out there are aware of the many strands of Islam and how many think this is an accurate example of the muslim community per se!
Of course it also doesn't help when you get a few silly journalists who behave like drunks who want a fight after a heavy bender at the pub!
(Hat tip to Stephen Newton)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Vox Pops Part XIII

James Baker and Iraq

Secretary of State under Bush Snr, his contribution to the debate is surely one of the biggest convincing assults against the White House on this issue! It's his voice which may well shift opinion from President Bush!

(BBC Online)
Latest on N.Ireland talks

Saddened but not surprised! Although for a brief moment I thought Ian Paisley would show some guts and initative!

More on Bloggers Christmas Social

Since my last entry, I have found that The Coal Hole are doing Christmas meals, so unless I hear any voiceiferous objections, The Coal Hole it is! (details of this fine pub can be found here)

Thanks to those who have given me a yea or a nay, and if those invited can let me know a.s.a.p then that would be brilliant.

List of those invited (not inc those who have declined) are:

AnniePorthouse.com Cally's Kitchen Christopher Kerron Cross-The Voice of the Delectable Left Living Ghosts Endurance Challenege One Small Voice Peculiar Times Radioleaflet Tonguefire Antonia's blog Baby Washington Barry's Beef Bloggers4Labour BrightonRegencyLabourSupporter Fisking Central Freemania Cllr Miranda Grell Labourhome Let's Be Sensible Lord of the Blog -The Weblog of Lord Soley of Hammersmith Luke's Blog Mike Ion Nicola's blog NormBlog PooterGeek Rullsenberg Rules Skuds' Sister's Brother Someday I Will Treat You Good The Wonderful World of Lola WongaBlog Yours for a Labour Government Conservative Home Iain Dale's Diary My Rambling Thoughts Tim Roll-Pickering Jonathan Chilvers Christian Political Forum and Subway Writers Group

Am looking forward to it! :)

I Support Labour Because...

A reminder of what attracted us to Labour in the first place. For those who supported Labour pre 1997, much of this is what, I for one, was hoping would happen, and it did! :)

(Labour Party)

Faith Schooling!

Originally written for Labourhome

With faith schools once again being the hot potato issue, I felt it was time do do a reflective piece on this!First of all I ought to declare an interest! I am a committed Christian, fairly devout! Admittedly falling short on a daily basis but that's what grace is there for! Plus I went to a C of E Junior School. Anyways, it does therefore mean that I am wholly sympathetic to the idea of faith schools!But that doesn't mean to say that faith schools are right! What certainly isn't right is when some parents start attending church or a synagogue or a mosque, in order to curry favour and gain a place for their child, rather than out of genuine faith or curiosity.Likewise, if there is one thing the Founding Fathers of secularism did respect it was the idea of conscience, and it is only natural for parents to want to bring their child up in their own faith. Whether it is Christianity, Islam, or even a school founded on the tenets of secularism. This opens up therefore, the wider issue of parental control.One can't solve this issue here, and it is too emotive to properly discuss, but I personally feel that this is a matter for parents (to a certain extent) and the schools in question. So long as the schools do not break the law, and so long as the schools welcome all regardless of faith (and I appreciate a no of them don't), then I don't see the problem. Anything less smacks of religious or secular bigotry.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

An 18 Doughty Street Programme

Have been wanting to settle down and watch Doughty Street for some while, but have never got the time to see one for any length of time, but I just have and you can find the details here.
It's a discussion programme, hosted by Iain Dale and Rena Valeh, about the weeks events with Alex Hilton from Recess Monkey & Labour Home, Stephen Tall from A Little Liberal Gies A Long Way and Dizzy from Dizzy Thinks. Incidentally the nudity is nothing to scare people, although the bit where you see Stephen iron what looks like newspaper is! Just when you think the Lib Dems have made enough surprises! ;)
As for my small contributions, I have them sorted but have yet to download them, although that should take place tomorrow. Whether they are used or not is something else, however watch this space! ;)

Another Boris Johnson moment!

(Boris Johnson)
Earlier today I visited Kerron at Portcullis House, and the Reedites are a gang of their own as per usual. Plus I got to meet the mysterious, but sensible Linsay.
But one of the best moments was whilst I was waiting at reception. An alarm went off near a painting of the Queen, several security guards rush over and it turned out to have been triggered by one of the female Tory researchers who was welcoming some other young women. Don't ask me how the alarm was triggered, but it was. Meanwhile, in the midst of the confusion, I spot a familiar figure with a mop of straw blond hair, look furtive as he walked out of Portcullis House!
Just what was Boris up to? And is there more to this story than meets the eye?

That YouTube moment!

(Press Association)

Before this story thankfully dies the death it deserves, I want to raise one or two points!
First of all, whilst it was silly and indefensible, the point behind it is one that needs addressing. Namely that David Cameron tries so hard to show he is down with the electorate it's embarrasing. Sion Simon went the wrong way about it. Not only was it silly, but it was personal. There is a difference between criticising someone's approach and suggesting they would give away their wife and children! Plus there was no real satire or humour, the impression wasn't good, and there is a perception out there that this kind of thing is best left to the satirists and MP's should try witty asides and dry humour. Snobbish yes, but that is a prevailing viewpoint!
Okay, there are about four points there ;), but the second major point is this! Is it me or does anyone smell a whiff of hypocricy here? If a Conservative MP did this about Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, would the same people who were quick to defend Simon be up in arms! Would those Tories quick to attack Simon be so sharp if it was one of them attacking a senior Labour politician?
It's moments like these that turn people away from the insularity that is Westminster politics and the sooner we work to move ourselves away from that the better!
In any case both Sion Simon and Tom Watson are sorry and it should be left at that!

Blunkett's scatter-gun approach!

( Press Association)

This somehow doesn't ring true and if he did say it, I suspect that it was a joke in bad taste!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Parliamentary Researcher of the Year

Regular readers of Mars Hill will know my mixed feelings about the Recess Monkey blog, but that said, there is always more to Alex's modus operandi with regards to politics than meets the eye and he does come out with some gems on his two blogs.
This one is definetly worth closer inspection, and it concerns the forthcoming multi awards for Parliamentary Researcher of the Year. Personally I would like Kerron to get the Labour award for the simple reason that not only is he hard working and cheerful (I once spent a day working with him, so there is no hyperbole here), but also he is the "Father of the Commons Research assistants" (since around 1999), and as such deserves recognition.
This does not devalue the work of other researchers. Stephen Timms researcher for example, is someone who deserves merit, but I am sure a no of readers are researchers themselves and feel they desevre merit, and hey! I'm biased and basing my suggestions on my limited contacts.
Am looking forward to the result though!

Northern Ireland talks breakthrough

Please God let it be so!

Popular Blogs at Bloggers4Labour (Week 15)

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:

The Daily ... (1st) (-)

Labour Humanists ... (2nd) (-)

Jon's union blog ... (3rd) (-)

Bob Piper ... (4th) (-)

Harry's Place ... (5th) (-)

normblog ... (6th) (-)

Recess Monkey ... (7th) (+1)

KERRON CROSS - The Voice of the Delectable Left ... (8th) (-1)

Jo's Journal ... (9th) (-)

Ridiculous Politics ... (10th) (NEW)

For the curious I am now in 28th place.

Russia and China

Not something I usually blog on, but one I feel I ought to mention nonetheless.
The murder of Anna Politkovskaya just over a week ago, is one that has caused great concern, not least to the issue of free speech and general worry as to just who was responsible. Now I don't believe the Russian govt are behind this (they weren't Politkovskaya's main targets for one thing), but it was clearly an organised murder and one just wonders whether the malcontents who were behind it will ever be exposed and caught. If they think they silenced her voice though, they are gravely mistaken. Genuine martyrdom for ones beliefs (as opposed to those who commit suicide by blowing themselves up in a public place with the aim of mass murder) can carry a powerful voice.
But this is part of a wider concern as to where Russia is going, what kind of country it is, and how well it has developed from it's painful transition to democracy! Similar things are said about China. The latter is still a communist dictatorship, but some of that is in name only. China has opened economically and has a considerable degree of private enterprise, but there are concerns about it's human rights record and indeed it's future as a potential democracy, as the state seems reluctant to give up it's control over power.
Now those who detract from this argument will say that the West is not much better, and in some ways they are right (when one sees incidents like the abuses at Guantamano Bay), but at least people there have the right to not only protest, but to have some choice in a change of government. It's not a perfect system (name me one that is!) but it is a worthwhile one and one that improves. I have every faith that Russia is already firmly on that road itself (it already has a multi-party democracy), but China does need to improve it's human rights record and become more open as a nation. It's already done much in the past thirty-five years and there is much about the country which is good, but it can do more! Indeed, if vast improvements are made then more effective criticisms will be made of where western governments go wrong! In any case they are both countries which, I for one, am rather fond of and indeed, their voice on the UN is worthwhile and much appreciated!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bloggers Christmas Social

Owing to the success of the last one, I am planning another event for Saturday 9th Dec at 5:30PM, as a Christmas special of sorts.
However, I am not sure where to book yet! The Coal Hole is ideal, and indeed there is St Stephen's Tavern (which Andrew at B4L says may be unworkable, but we'll see), and indeed the Lord Moon of the Mall. In any case a list of candidates for venue can be found here.
The list of those invited is mainly political (albeit cross-party), however it's not exclusively so as you will see in a minute.
Will e-mail all concerned (well the 95% that are contactable, the other 5% will hopefully be reading this), please let me know if you are able to come along so I get an idea of figures and each person invited can bring a guest (but please let me know if you are!)Any ideas will also be welcome. Andrew has suggested I organise a Labour bloggers event early next year and I hope to do that. Will take some planning and consultation of it's own, but will keep you informed



List of blogs whose moderators are invited:

Cally's Kitchen
Kerron Cross-The Voice of the Delectable Left
Living Ghosts Endurance Challenege
One Small Voice
Peculiar Times
rose's random ramblings
Travis' Place
Antonia's blog
Baby Washington
Barry's Beef
Fisking Central
Cllr Miranda Grell
Jo's Journal
Let's Be Sensible
Lord of the Blog -The Weblog of Lord Soley of Hammersmith
Luke's Blog
Mike Ion
Nicola's blog
Rullsenberg Rules
Skuds' Sister's Brother
Someday I Will Treat You Good
The Wonderful World of Lola
Yours for a Labour Government
Conservative Home
Iain Dale's Diary
My Rambling Thoughts
Tim Roll-Pickering
Jonathan Chilvers
Christian Political Forum
Subway Writers Group
What are you waiting for?

Political junkie test!

Via Brod Blog (UPDATE: Extra hat tip to tygerland)
The things that are true about me are in bold:

You're a political junkie if.......

1. The first thing you do in the morning is check the BBC’s politics website, followed by the broadsheets
2. You can name 10 Lib Dem MP’s
3. The Today programme is as much a morning routine as brushing your teeth and taking a piss
4. You know the URL’s for the Top Three political blogs from memory (easy when their name is in there)
5. In your briefcase is a copy of Private Eye, an iPod, and Alan Clarke’s biography (it's true about Private Eye)
6. You read Boris every week, even if its only to disagree
7. You record Question Time via Series Link on your SKY + box
8. You know the Huffington Post is not a newspaper from a town called Huffington
9. You know who Nicholas Sarkozy is
10. Your family never brings up politics in your presence
11. You have a complex opinion of Tony Blair
12. You actually know where the politics section is at your local Waterstones (Or indeed David's Bookshop)
13. You always vote
14. Your water cooler conversations usually revolve around a recent Westminster scandal,
15. You have given money to a political party, via either membership or a donation
16. Your dream is to appear on QT yourself (It's a nice thought, but I doubt I will even be asked!)
17. You read political blogs during your lunch hour
18. You see more of Iain Dale orRecess Monkey than your children, sadly (I don't have children)
19. You can name the last four foreign secretaries
20. You have a ‘handle’ at Labourhome.

By Brod and Tigerland.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part XII: Norman Geras

Norman Geras was born in 1943 and is Professor Emeritus of Government at Manchester University. He is an expert on Karl Marx, a founder of the Euston Manifesto and you can find his blog here.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I wanted to try it just out of curiosity, to see if it suited me. And I wanted to have my say in debates going on about the Iraq war and post-9/11 matters more generally.

What is your best blogging experience?

The many new friends I've made.

And your worst?

Nothing major. I don't much like it on days when I'm short of stuff to blog about.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Impossible to answer. Since I started blogging I've put up over 6,700 posts. Many of them I'll have forgotten. These are sort of representative: The War in Iraq which I posted on my second day of blogging; the series 'The argument over Iraq'; this from the second anniversary of 9/11; two posts on Israel; 'The Nermblague Prefab' (still relevant since the stupidity that is its target rolls on); and 'The Feuerbach XI'.

Favourite blogs?

Again, that's a tough call. These are three of the 25 to 30 blogs I try to visit at least once a day: Harry's Place, Shuggy's Blog and Tim Blair.

For the benefit of Mars Hill readers, what brought about the Euston Manifesto and your involvement?

A group of bloggers and others met in London on the Saturday after the last general election to talk over matters of common interest. We thought it would be worth exploring whether the 'presence' achieved within the blogosphere by our segment of the liberal-left could be extended beyond the internet. The meeting agreed that we should draw up a brief statement summarizing our common positions. There wasn't any more to it than that.

What do you regard as the best and worst of Karl Marx?

Best: the vision of a world in which 'the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all', in which no one is the unwilling instrument of the purposes of others; the focus on the material conditions and social relations that thwart this goal. Worst: the failure to give serious attention to the ethical premises of his own thinking; the lack of a realistic theory of the political institutions of a socialist democracy.

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

Australia - soon to happen. Most of the US.

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

New York City; Italy.

Is there any head of government or head of state you regard as a hero?

Hero? No.

Which public figure has been your greatest inspiration?

I don't know that I have anyone who fits into this category - I mean 'inspiration'. I admire things about Rosa Luxemburg, and I admire the wisdom of Primo Levi (if he counts as a public figure). I admire Helen Bamber.

Favourite Bond movie?

I saw some of the early Bond movies: Dr No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger. Not my thing. I stopped bothering.

Do you have a favourite television programme?

If I have to pick one, The Sopranos. From the soundtrack on the opening credits to the performances of the central characters to the Shakespearean depths of it, it's just bloody brilliant.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


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

There's no sensible answer here, but I'll go for this: I once saw Lyle Lovett playing in Manchester and I'd pay a lot to be able to see the same thing again.

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

Oxford. I spent five years there. The place means something to me in a way that Cambridge and Barsby don't, though I mean no disrespect to Barsby in saying that.

Favourite national newspaper?

A touchy point. I've twice given up taking The Guardian. There are things about it that I detest. But I haven't found an adequate substitute. So, with that qualification, The Guardian.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Following Test match cricket and collecting books about cricket. Collecting and listening to jazz. Blogging should be one, but I spend too much time on it for it to count as a hobby. But maybe it'll develop into a hobby.

Favourite Beatles song?


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

Another impossible question. So I'm going for three great country music songs: Emmylou Harris, 'Boulder To Birmingham'; Steve Earle, 'Ft. Worth Blues'; Merle Haggard, 'Wake Up'. And then how is one to compare and rank favourite novels against works of theory and scholarship? So I'm going for three books I use quite a bit: Cook and Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings; Bill Frindall, The Wisden Book of Test Cricket in two volumes.

To the anonymous blogger(s) who leave nasty messages!

I think it's about four people who do this, having looked at the tracking system I use, but to the one who kindly left the abusive message at 4:57PM this afternoon...

Yes I work in a newspaper kiosk, so what! Yes I looked at the possibility of getting a Parliamentary seat and was not succesful, so what! Yes things have not worked out as well as I would have liked them to, so what! I'll tell you something though.

I have a popular and succesful blog, something which seems to p*** you off no end (couldn't be jealousy could it?) It's succesful for a reason, namely that I am open, give considered opinions, and blog on a variety of subjects, and what's more, when I leave messages with my name on other people's blogs (which I always do), it's because I am proud and not ashamed of what I write (unlike you).

As it is, you do seem to be churned up with a lot of irrational anger, so I will do the decent thing and pray for you (which will p*** you off no end perhaps, but so what!), and hopefully you will learn to behave a little more like a human being and less like a small child! It's pretty pointless leaving abusive messages on my blog. Sooner or later they get deleted and the only person you show up is yourself!

Go away and have a little think about it. No one knows who you are, so you have no loss of pride as such!

Warm Regards


Kelvin Mackenzie and the women

Did you read Kelvin Mackenzie's column yesterday! Suggesting which female Labour MP's should wear a veil! Thanks Kelvin, and I know this makes me a leftie with no sense of humour, but it was a bit offensive and I suppose they ought to be greatful that they didn't come from Scotland or Hillsborugh!

The General and Iraq

(BBC Online)
He has a point I suppose, and no doubt a lot of people will be cheering over their cornflakes this morning, but to be so outspoken and yet not resign his post and to talk to the Daily Mail, one of the most rabid pro-Conservative newspapers in the country! That is where I definetly part sympathy with him!
It's depressing. Many in the country want us to withdraw, many in the Labour Party want us to withdraw, it seems that some important people in the millitary want us to withdraw (don't doubt for a minute that Sir Richard Dannatt is alone in holding this view, he was simply the only one who spoke out), and the americans want to remain until at least 2010! If I were Tony Blair I would be heading for the Alka Seltzer!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

England Vs Croatia

(BBC Online)
I didn't watch it, except for a brief glimpse seventy minutes into the game. Saw the score, was depressed enough not to want to watch the rest, was disgusted that we did badly against Croatia in what should have been a fairly simple match, and yet, and yet! To my own self disgust I am not surprised at all by what happened!

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 25:The Advent Calender


Yes I know, too early etc.. I feel the same way, but yesterday I got an advent calender as an early present, which was thoughtful.
And no, it doesn't look like this! Of which I am greatful.

In Defence of Kerron Part II

(The Voice of the Delectable Left)
Not as bad as this one, but I feel I must take issue with Luke's comments.
As Kerron stated, he has already stood for Parliament and has made enough of a standing within the Party at grassroots, blogging, and Parliamentary research level not to suffer the pangs of jealousy that Luke suggests. There is also the fact that Kerron is against all-women shortlists in principle because he feels that it is sexist towards both men and women!
I suppose I ought to declare my own interest in that Kerron is a good friend of some two to three years standing and I happen to share a lot of his political views (although his support for Watford is something else! ;) ), plus he has helped me out more often than I have asked and is one of the most generous of fellow party members. So when I see a comrade like Kerron get a rather patronising kicking I feel the need to intervene (BTW Luke, comradely advice here which you can take or leave as, believe it or not I have no axe to grind and I think you're a generally okay guy, but confrontational blog entries with a hectoring style, complete with sardonic flavour doesn't help you, and is probably why you have made a no of enemies in the blogosphere!).
Not only that, but Kerron's criticism of Kitty Ussher, whilst perhaps a bit OTT at times, comes down, not to the fact she is a woman, but because, as he sees it, she didn't get to where she is through the hard slog that many Labour activists who go into elected politics have to go through, and the suggestion that she treats her constituency with some form of middle class superiority. Now Kerron might have misread the situation, he might not have done, but he certainly is not grinding his axe because Kitty is female. BTW you can find the origins of his blogging about her here.
Put simply Luke, I think you jumped the gun and made an attack which I think was a little unfair!
(Now I will just calmly grab my army gear and dive into the trenches!)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

An English Parliament?

Originally posted on Labourhome:

Is this an idea that Labour should embrace?

One of the constitutional issues that some propose is that of an English Parliament?The argument goes that Scotland has a Parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland have their assemblies, why not England? Well why not?Some argue that England is just too large and diverse an area (compare Cornwall to old Yorkshire for instance!), or that we don't want any more decentralisation and "red tape!"Fair points, but the fact remains that we have a constitutional anamoly (such as the West Lothian question!) and indeedneed to have a body which concentrates on issues that just affect England!The government have recognised this in the past with it's proposals for regional assemblies, but this has gone pear shaped like a pack of dominoes when one region voted overwhelmingly against devolution. Would it not be far better to pose this issue as a national question first!If an English Parliament is something to aim for, it will take time and effort, and many minor questions need to be addressed (system of voting, which powers to be devolved etc..) but it is something Labour can look into and make sure that it is not simply the preserve of those on the right who are interested in this! Not only that, but given the state of our nation, wouldn't a small federal country suit us well?

Robin Hood

(BBC Online)
Well I missed Saturday's episode and will likely miss next week's as well, although it is being repeated this Friday on BBC Three at 9PM.
I have to say though, although I haven't seen it, I much prefer this version (from what I have seen of it) to the eighties one on ITV, which I didn't like then, nor now! But that said, I also like a bit of realism so this does seem more promising than most adaptations (even though I like the Errol Flynn and Kevin Costner versions). So come Friday, no doubt I will be in for a treat!

Which Jane Austen character am I?

Via Kerron.

Which Jane Austen Character Are You?

You are Anne Elliott from Persuasion. You might also be Harriet Smith from Emma, or Fanny Price from Mansfield Park or possibly even Jane Fairfax from Emma. People underestimate you all the time. You are somewhat introverted, so it is assumed that other people can persuade you to do anything, or even think that they can roll right over you, even when they mean to be doing you a good deed. The good news is, you have it within yourself to stand up and take charge-- you know what's right, and you know what you want, after all! It's just a matter of speaking up!
Take this quiz!


Make A Quiz More Quizzes Grab Code

Darn and I was hoping to be Fitzwilliam Darcy! :(

Monday, October 09, 2006

Vox Pops Part XII

(Associated Press)
Nuclear Testing

With today's event making the plot of the previous Bond movie a little more realistic than it's usual far-fetched storyline that the franchise brings forward, this is certainly a cause of great concern and one hopes that the Russians and Chinese may be able to bring pressure on North Korea to stop going down this particular road!

(BBC Online)

Life on Mars

Being a fan, am glad that the second series will be the last and it won't drag a good idea (see Lost for example). But am very keen to find out what happens!

(BBC Online)
DUP and Catholic Church in talks!

Well this is a bit of a surprise! What would Ian Paisley have said about this forty years ago? Proof indeed that miracles do happen!

(Press Association)
Cameron and the NHS

So shortly after Gordon Brown says he wants a more independent NHS, David Cameron says that he plans to give the NHS more independence and (according to the BBC)

' has called on Tony Blair to back his plans for an independent NHS, saying it should not be treated like a "political football". '

Of all the cheek! But stealing ideas is inevitable I suppose when there few decent ones from the Conservatives. Remember David Cameron's speech at the Conservative Party Conference! Something along the lines of "Sunshine is good, rain is unpleasant! Everyone should have a good education! Crime is awful, more should be done on the enviroment, everyone should have access to good healthcare! etc.. etc.." and here is me thinking that the government was against all those things!

Popular Blogs at Bloggers4Labour (Week 14)

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:

The Daily ... (1st) (-)

Labour Humanists ... (2nd) (-)

Jon's union blog ... (3rd) (-)

Bob Piper ... (4th) (-)

Harry's Place ... (5th) (+2)

normblog ... (6th) (-2)

KERRON CROSS - The Voice of the Delectable Left ... (7th) (-1)

Recess Monkey ... (8th) (+1)

Jo's Journal ... (9th) (-1)

Freemania ... (10th) (-1)

For the curious, I am now in 23rd place, along with Don Paskini and Skuds' Sister's Brother

Murdoch's Long Game?

(BBC Online)
It's all a question of treading carefully here (I mean, can Labour automatically count on The Sun's support at the next election!), suffice to say that Gordon Brown should concentrate for what is best for the country. I also think that with nineteen years on the Labour front bench and nine years as Chancellor, his record speaks for itself!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Stephen Fry to Give Up BAFTA presenting!

(BBC Online)
I like Stephen Fry. He's like an extra relative you want around at Christmas. Sensitive, sensible, thoughtful, and full of good advice. I mean, who could not dislike someone who comes out with witty comments like "Allergies? Well, I'm not good on strawberries, come out in a bit of a rash. The worst one though is Marmite. Only got to smell the stuff and I start voting Conservative." (unless of course you are pro Conservative! Or indeed like marmite, which I do, and hey I have just about always been pro Labour since around 1988 :))
So it is with some sadness that I note that he no longer wants to present the BAFTA film awards. I can understand this, he finds it unnerving and tense, and being bipolar he must find preparing for these occasions a bit of a living hell (although I think anyone would find it difficult), so I can accept it, but if there is a tiny chance you are reading this Stephen, just so you know, we like and appreciate your entertaining us in whatever shape or form so long as it's legal! ;)