Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mars Hill blog entries of 2006 and other preocupations!

Well this will be my last blog entry of the year so I will make the most of it.
2006 has been the first full year of my blog and what a year it's been. According to Cally's Kitchen my blog has gone from strength to strength and if anything that makes me more cautious and responsible, although I hope not too solemn ;)
So what are the blog entrees of 2006. Well according to the majority of my readers it was the political junkie test and my interview with Norman Geras, and the test was not my idea. In general it was the Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger series which got the most attention overall, with Kerron Cross , Iain Dale , Tom Freeman , Norman Geras , Miranda Grell, Alex Hilton , Paul Linford and Prague Tory having the biggest responses, although all entries were popular.
Last year my own favourite entries were Luton bomb,The Year London Blew Up! and Political philosophies and leadership races! This year it's An English Parliament? , David Cameron's sidekick and the autism slur! , Shame! , Open Message to Tony Blair and Ancient Recordings of Famous People or Gladstone's Podcast . There are others, but oo much and therefore too embarrasing to list here.
Predictions for 2007? Well a new Prime Minister ;), who I hope will be Gordon Brown. This will mean an extensive reshuffle and what looks like a renewal of Labour in government. For any Party in govt to renew itself is a tough and painful process, but I equally have no doubt we will pull through okay. We have seen that we can keep hold of power with three general election victories and the chequered past of Blairism removed will mean the chance to try and prove to the electorate that we have substance. You might not say that Gordon has slick charm (unlike some), but you can't deny that he has experience, thoughtfulness, prudence, and has down a lot for the Third World! At the next election people won't be voting in a beauty contest, they will hopefully be voting for the Political Party that has always shown concern for working people and actually put forward policies to help working people and has Laboured on their behalf!
Apart from that, I dare not say, we live in a fickle world. For now I will just have a lovely warm bath and get packing, puruse through the Sunday newspapers, before my lovely girlfriend arrives and wisks me off to a New Year's Party.
Here is to 2007, see you there :)

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Short Review of the Year 2006

As with last year, I feel a review is in order, so here goes:

FAVOURITE EVENTS

Well it's been a bit doom and gloom but David Walliams swimming for charity was good, as was the return of this anti-hero of sorts.

PEOPLE (AND ANIMALS) WHO LEFT US IN 2006, WHO I WILL PARTICULARLY MISS

Steve Irwin
Coretta Scott King
Adwaita
Lizzie Bolden
Jennifer Moss
Tony Banks
Linda Smith
Tom Bell
Alan Freeman
Robert Altman
Syd Barrett
James Brown
Dame Muriel Spark
Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko
Desert Orchid
Glenn Ford
Shelley Winters
Peter Boyle
J.K. Galbraith
Betty Friedan
Gerald Ford


FAVOURITE FILMS OF THE YEAR

Casino Royale

You, Me, and Dupree

The Queen

FAVOURITE PEOPLE

Gordon Brown (again) (For just being a good Chancellor (again))

Paul McCartney (for coping with another major tragedy in his life. I think he was wise and brave not to respond publicly to the accusations made)

MUSICAL INSPIRATION

It's the old timers again. The Beatles for the innovation of their Love album and Queen for... (well actually do I need to give a reason?)

But praise must also go to Keane for cracking that second album

POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR

Gordon Brown and Hilary Benn for not rocking the boat till it capsized and offering a post-Blair agenda

PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR

Starting a relationship with S, getting a new job, getting involved in 18 Doughty Street and also being interviewed by them, being forced to rethink my political future, being propelled into the lay ministry in the Methodist Church

BLOGGERS OF THE YEAR

LABOUR: Kerron Cross-The Voice of the Delectable Left

CONSERVATIVE: Iain Dale's Diary

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT: A Liberal Goes a Long Way

OTHER: Jonathan Chilvers/Paul Linford

NON POLITICAL: Cally's Kitchen

ISSUE: Living Ghosts Endurance Challenege

INNOVATIVE: Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog

(Apologies for those who feel left out, will compile a blogging list in the New Year)


FAVOURITE QUOTES

"Would you like me to be a cat?" - George Galloway

"Guardian newspaper? Well, I don't read that newspaper often" George W. Bush

(FAVOURITE BLOGGING QUOTE OF THE YEAR)

"Monday - 8.30am to the town hall for the executive meeting. It’s the first one since the election, at which we moved from minority administration to opposition to a minority Lib Dem administration. I’m one of two Labour members without portfolio, so our job is to represent the views of Labour voters and the group. Primarily that means arguing for more housing and better waste collection and recycling in Oxford, all of which the Lib Dems are apparently reluctant to do. There’s also a review of community grants on the agenda, and with diffculty I resist the temptation to argue for funding for a three storey building to house lesbian mothers’ self-insemination workshops. The meeting goes on until about one o’clock, I have lunch with the other Labour member and go to my real, paying, job. Monday is a rare night off, so Jo and I promote lesbian lifestyles by going to the supermarket and blatently buying groceries."

Antonia Bance responding to some people's fascination with her private life and refusing to be simply defined as a lesbian. You can read the full post here.

And if you are going to be away from a computer between now and 2007, a Happy New Year to you all.

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 35: A Winter's Tale

(EMI/Queen Productions Ltd)
This is a little known Christmas song by Queen and one of the very last ones they recorded before Freddie Mercury died (It is also the last song he wrote by himself). You can find it here. It's a little gem that should get played more at Christmastime.

Ann Leslie of the Daily Mail Gets Made a Dame

(BBC Online)
Er, why exactly? And if you want to know why I have my doubts have a good look at the title of this posting.
I have no doubt she is talented and resouceful, but I remember that she also stated on Any Questions? when Pinochet was arrested that it was a matter for the Chileans (as if they had any major say), but then it wouldn't do for a Daily Mail journalist to contradict Margaret Thatcher!

Saddam Hussein 1937-2006

(US Department of Defense)
Well I wasn't surprised, but rather saddened, if only because of what he had done and the fact he didn't seem to be sorry in his last moments (am also very bothered by the fact that his last minutes before hanging were filmed). Plus the fact that it is a perverse compliment to give him the death penalty. That will only make Saddam a martyr to anti-western feeling in Iraq and doesn't really solve anything. Lifelong imprisonment in a high security jail would have been better.
But it is done now and at least there was some sort of judicial process. It goes to show that sometimes what goes around comes around, Ellee Seymour has mentioned about his rather hypocritical recent letter from prison, where he stated that:

“To the great nation, to the people of our country, and humanity: Many of you have known the writer of this letter to be faithful, honest, caring for others, wise, of sound judgement, just, decisive, careful with the wealth of the people and the state… and that his heart is big enough to embrace all without discrimination. "

Although anyone who has seen one particular video, mentioned here, will find his statements difficult to reconcile with what one saw. Seeing Hussein laughing and puffing away at a cigar whilst his opponents were led away to be put on trial (and likely tortured) before being executed was chilling to watch.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Beatles' Love Album



Basically this is why I want to buy this album. They have remixed the songs to give it a different feel (Yes I know the Anthology was similar with the outtakes and remix of outakes etc..), but here you get a basssline from one song with a guitar from another etc..

And heck, am showing my true nerdy fan colours :/

Archbishop Feels He Could Have Done More Over Iraq

(Associated Press)
To be fair to Archbishop Rowan Williams, hindsight is a luxury and there are a no of us (myself included) who feel the same about our own stance. I for one never anticipated the fallout would be so bad and honestly believed that Saddam was building up WMD. You may laugh but like I said, hindsight is a luxury.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 34: The Christmas Holidays

Well not many books this year (although my brother got me a Jon Ronson collection of essays) and Rachel and Sarah got me a practical book about how to be enviromentally friendly), although I had some nice clothes and CD's, as well as the 20th anniversary edition of Trivial Pursuit, so I am a happy man.
As for the Doctor Who Christmas special, it was good but not as good as the last one (although to be fair we were being introduced to a new Doctor then). But with Torchwood currently on TV and The Sarah Jane Adventures starting on New Year's Day . This is the best month to be a spoilt Doctor Who fan

R.I.P. James Brown

(Getty Images)
Forgot to blog on this with all the activities of Christmas and Boxing Day. Perhaps not the nicest of people, but a true man of soul music who made Living in America cool and got fans to feel good!
(I think I am getting like Kerron in my old age :/)

Gerald Ford 1913-2006

(Associated Press)
So Nixon's successor and the longest lived US President in history has died at the age of 93. Just about thirty four years to the day after the death of another long-lived US President, Harry Truman.
Whilst he was not the most popular US President (the only man never elected to either the Vice Presidency and the Presidency, having held both offices), Gerald Ford was liked as a person and well respected as an elder statesman. His wife founded the Betty Ford clinic.
Whilst many disagreed with his pardoning of Nixon (and it may have cost Ford the 1976 election), I think he did the right thing in so far as the office of Presidency was not tainted further and that Nixon had already been punished enough and was probably suffering from a mental breakdown during his last year in office. To move further against him may well have been an act of vindictive revenge in some people's eyes and not justice.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Favourite Meme

Have been tagged again. This time by Cally's Kitchen . Will do this, then I really must call it a day.

Your Favourite Film?

Tough call, but probably Schindler's List with A Bridge Too Far and Evil Under the Sun not far behind

Your Favourite Film with a Religious theme?

Well Zeferelli's Jesus of Nazareth was a mini series, so probably The Passion of the Christ or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Your Favourite Film Priest?

Wasn't in a film, but Fr Vincent in the final series of Ballykissangel was good. On film, probably that one Spencer Tracy played

Your Favourite Film Nun?

I don't know. The only one that springs to mind at the moment is Maria Von Trapp!


Merry Christmas everyone

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 33: Christmas Eve

A quiet day, albeit one of preperation. This morning's carol service was a bit busy and the local church this evening was tough to get into. Small chapels and over 150 people do not mix!
Anyways I have things to do, obviously, and I may or may not be blogging tommorow, so a Merry Christmas to you all, and thankyou for being such loyal readers.

Seven Good Things That Happened To Me This Year

7

Courtesy of being tagged by Ellee Seymour

1) Getting a new job, and swiftly after trying to extricate myself from the previous one

2) Finding myself in two relationships (one after the other I hasten to add), more importantly with S who is lovely and more than I deserve

3) Getting involved in 18 Doughty Street and also being interviewed by them. Great fun and, as some don't seem to recognise, important for the political fair minded to take the fight and not get too fussed where that leads you

4) Being forced to rethink my political future. It leaves you still believing in the same fundamentals but reevaluating who you are and where you stand!

5) Being reminded at various Christmas socials what great and loyal friends I have

6) Being propelled into the lay ministry in the Methodist Church (watch this space in the coming months)

7) Discovering what a lovely city Birmingham is

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Election Night Drama Will Stay!

(BBC Online)
Am rather glad. If you are not a political animal, then you probably won't understand how important this is (perhaps best equated with wanting to watch or listen to a football or cricket match live).
It's the drama, the passion, and if you are an activist at the count, being involved in some form of warfare hat is rather exciting in it's own way! If it was held during the day, many of those involved would be at work and miss out on a lot of the fun as it happened, so this is a good thing.

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 31: The Death of Santa Claus

(A.Christensen)

This is quite some story. Apparently a guy collapsed and died whilst pretending to be Santa Claus and giving out Christmas presents.
Now my first thought was that this will traumatise some children for life, the second being that it must be absolutely awful for the family. I can say from two first-hand experiences what it is like to have a close relative die suddenly in December (my maternal gran when I was five and a Great Uncle when I was eleven, and in the latter I remember my teacher going around the class in the New Year and asked us how our Christmases went), and it is a uniquely horrible experience that I wouldn't wish on anyone! So when you are opening those presents and doing all the other Christmas stuff, just bear in mind what some people are going through and thank God (if you are not one of them), that you are fortunate in comparison.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The National Vatican Football Team

(wikipedia.org)
Not being a Roman Catholic but embracing them as my brothers and sisters in Christ, I have tended to hold the view that it would be good that the Vatican (being technically an independent country and the only one I have entered without being stopped for anything) had it's own football team!
So it is that I have avidly been following Cally's Kitchen with his posts on the developments taking place with this.
But thinking about it, the old chesnuts of political loyalty come to mind, only this time with national sporting events!
For example, should the Vatican football team partake in any international event, how will the latin countries fare in playing against a national team where His Holiness is the Head of State and Patron of the team in question?
And what about the likes of the Dunadan (moderator of Cally's Kitchen), when they watch an England Vs the Vatican match? Will they do what Pope John Paul II did in a Poland Vs Italy match and Pope Benedict XVI in a Germany Vs Italy match (i.e. support one team for the first half and the other for the second)?
Any way you look at it, it will be interesting and I wish Vatican F.C. well.

The Unacceptable Face of the Middle Classes

Today's Guardian report is worrying and Mike Ion hits the nail on the head with his post. It makes me feel ill that supposedly intelligent people can hold such views, although hopefully this will wake a few people up and galvanise people into making a stand for decency and common values, and one thing is for sure. At the least the likes of Simone Clarke will be persona non grata with some of their colleagues!

An Illicit Photo of PooterGeek

No, not that kind of illicit photograph. This one is of the Geek with She Who Must Be Obeyed.
Well, well, well. First of all we have Damian fancying one of Nigel Lawson's daughters (although admittedly, most heterosexual men and gay women fancy Nigella)and now this! Is there something you want to tell us about your political inclinations Damian? ;)
Seriously though, Damian has one of the best and amusing blogs around and his political credentials (given his deep involvement with the Euston Manifesto) are not in doubt. I hope if he is reading this he will accept a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Mars Hill blog!

(PooterGeek)

Charles Haughey.Officially Corrupt!

(Press Association)
I read some of the details of the report yesterday, and it never ceases to amaze me how anyone could do what he did and get away with it for so long. The two bits that do stand out are 1) When he told the Irish people to tighten their belts in the face of grave economic crisis, whilst he was busy feathering his own nest, and 2) When he took money from Brian Lenian's fund for a liver operation. In my eyes that makes him a quasi murderer!
Then there is the fact that Bertie Ahern, the current Taoiseach, signed blank cheques for Charles Haughey. I think that makes it a resignation matter for Bertie Ahern but I doubt it will happen. But the concluding paragraph of the Moriarty Tribunal has such a ring of truth about it that any democratic politician ought to take note:

"Apart from the almost invariably secretive nature of payments from senior members of the business community, their very incidence and scale - particularly during difficult economic times nationally, and when governments led by Mr Haughey were championing austerity - can only be said to have devalued the quality of a modern democracy,"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 30:Pre Christmas Blues

Presents all wrapped, cards all sent (bar one, but I am meeting the recipient on Saturday). So why do I feel I need to get something done, even after I check everything! :/

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part XXIII:Ellee Seymour

(Ellee Seymour)
Ellee Seymour is a freelance journalist and press consultant. Her clients include Robert Sturdy MEP, as well as his son Julian who is standing as a Cons candidate in the new constituency of York Outer. She also works for small businesses and is developing blogging as an additional PR tool. Last year Ellee was the Eastern Region Press Officer for the Cons Party, working closely with candidates in marginal seats.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I met up with someone called Geoff Jones in February at Cambridge Toastmasters who had organised a social media conference the previous year, the first in the country, will top international speakers, and he set me up with a blog. Without his encouragement, it would probably never have happened, and I've never looked back since, it's been so much fun.

What is your best blogging experience?

It would have to be when I discovered that David Miliband's blog cost £3,000 to set up, while Boris Johnson blogs for free. That post was picked up by so many others, it was my first post that gave me some recognition.

And your worst?

It happened this week when I accidentally deleted a post I had spent considerable time researching, I thought it was lost for good, but fortunately I managed to retrieve it, albeit without the comments.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

There are a couple of recent examples I could mention. I wrote a post about a very genuine family who had been turned down as foster parents because they used the words "white immigrants" to describe some Eastern Europeans, which was deemed "inappropriate" language by social services. The story was picked by the national press and regional TV and radio, proving how blogs can be influential in getting information across. I heard about it because the man involved had visited my husband to buy a fishing reel and mentioned it when he was leaving.

I also wrote a post in Russian with my message to President Putin following the death of Alexander Litvinenko (using online translation) and had the most amazing response from Russian bloggers. It proves that language is no barrier, we can reach out to anyone in the world via the blog, they will find us.

Favourite blogs?


Having met some of the political bloggers, it is now more interesting to read their posts, such as Croydonian, Dizzy and PragueTory, though naturally Iain, Guido and ConservativeHome get hits from me every day too. I also enjoy Nourishing Obscurity because James packs so much varied and interesting info into a day's posts, as well as Sicily Scene, where it is such a welcome diversion to read about Italian life, to see all the lovely food they eat there compared to the convenience foods and chicken tikka masala which we tuck into here.

What inspired you to go into politics?

It just evolved and I found I became passionately interested and fascinated by its mechanics. Politics on all levels involves people and making a difference to their lives which is what I find so important.

What are the pros and cons of being a Press Officer for an MEP?

So few people understand the European Parliament, I feel it is essential to communicate what happens as around 70%- 80% of our laws and regulations originate from Brussels. The only disadavantage is that my MEP Robert Sturdy is always so busy, I wish we could meet up more often. Working for him keeps me on my toes too as I have to be up to date with international news, as well as local.

In my experience, people like or dislike Cambridge. What do you like about it?

Rupert Brooke said that "Cambridge people rarely smile, being urban, squat and packed with guile", and I can understand what he means. The "town" and "gown" side are very separate, but I love the thought of so many brilliant brains packed into the city, all those wonderful discoveries that have been made by so many clever people, like Crick and Watson. And the colleges are quite fabulous, and accessible to the public. I really must visit the Scott Polar Institute in the New Year and learn about their global warming discoveries.

Which political issues interest you the most?

Environmental and social justice, as well as health and education.

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

I visited Rome briefly in the summer for the first time and was knocked out by its beauty, how the archaeological sites are so central, how cheap it is to eat there and take taxis. I would love to spend more time in Rome, as well as exploring more of Italy too. I would also love to spend more time in Greece and visit all the islands, I am half-Greek and love its culture, music, food and people. I have saved 10,000 airmiles over the last few years, but I'm too busy to use them!

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

I admire Disraeli who clearly had his finger on the pulse with his timely social reforms.

Which political figure (apart from Margaret Thatcher) has been your greatest inspiration?

I have always been very impressed by William Pitt the Younger for becoming Prime Minister at the age of 24, and following in the footsteps of his father, another extraordinary accomplishment. Can you imagine anyone that age being Prime Minister today, can you see Tony Blair's son following in his footsteps?.

Favourite Bond movie?
I loved Casino Royale because I thought Daniel Craig was a much meatier Bond, as well as very sensitive, i.e. the shower scene.

Favorite Doctor Who?

I used to find Dr Who very scary as a child, I really enjoyed watching the modern versions with my sons and thought Christopher Eccleston was great.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Mint, I'm addicted to sugar free polos.

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

I love live music, but prefer smaller venues where you can get up and dance as well as enjoy the music. I would definitely love to see a salsa band like the Buena Vista Social Club.

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

Oxford, where my husband proposed to me.

Favourite national newspaper?

The Times

What would you say your hobbies were?

I spend less time on them now due to blogging, but they are playing the clarinet, walking, swimming, gardening and visiting country homes and gardens. I would love to do more scuba diving too.

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

Dancing Queen, Abba
Ava Maria, Katherine Jenkins
Louis Armstrong, What a Wonderful World

Anna Karenina, by Tolstoy
Zorba The Greek, by Nikos Kazantakis
Schott's Original Miscellany (such a mine of fascinating info)

Random Photo


Meant to put this on my blog some weeks ago, but forgot.
Anyway, the building is Alexandra Palace where the first BBC television broadcast took place in 1936. The photo was taken by me on the King's Cross to Cambridge train.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Just Have a Little Paitence

(Wikipedia.org)
It appears that some people are aching for a snap election the moment Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister.
Of course it soon turns out that some of those vocal individuals are Conservatives, clearly hoping to capitalise on any disquiet the electorate may feel over the government now we are heading for the "mid-term"
Well, put simply, John Major didn't call an election in 1990, nor did Harold Macmillan in 1957. In fact no PM has called for a snap election on obtaining office since 1955 and I don't see why we should start now. The new PM will need to set his stall and settle in before calling an election and before the Tories and Lib Dems shout "But that's not fair!" there is the fact that their respective leaders have been hanging about for about a year now and no one begrudges them their paitence ;)

My Good Friend Liz!

(Time 106.6)
Well to be fair I have two friends called Liz.
Anyway, Liz Saul, the subject of this post is an old friend going back some ten years. I got to know her at Uni, via Tammy, and when Tammy died a couple of years ago, Liz and I got in touch again.
Anyways, apart from running a cool blog (Radioleaflet, although I do wish she would update it more often), I found out from Liz today that she is involved with a new radio station; http://www.time1066.com/ .
If you get a chance, have a listen to it if you are in the band area. Liz is an enthusiastic and sparky person, as well as thoughtful, so I can see why she ended up working there :)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 29: The Christmas Social


As with last year, I met up with some friends in Central London for a Christmas meal, and like last year the same people attended, only the moderator of Cally's Kitchen (another blogger I have known for nearly a decade) and S came along as well.
Like the Bloggers Christmas Social it was at St Stephen's Tavern, and this time we had some crackers as well. Plus Rachel and Sarah brought me a Christmas present, which was rather nice of them :)!
Then it was to Covent Garden with S, where we experienced the delights of a Christmas market and mince pies and mulled wine. It's places like Covent Garden at this time of year that help bring Christmas to life! So all in all I came home last night a contented man!
And today I finally finished buying the Christmas presents and am about to send off the last card, which almost makes me worried that I am not worried about something.
Well there is the fact I have yet to wrap most of the presents! :/

Uber Bloggers

According to today's Independent newspaper, Guido Fawkes is on a list of Top 50 Powerful media people.
Now much as I get irritated by Guido's attacks on the government, he is what I call an Uber Blogger. However he was the only one mentioned which I think was interesting considering that Kerron Cross-The Voice of the Delectable Left, Bloggers4Labour , Recess Monkey, Antonia's blog , Fisking Central , Cllr Miranda Grell , Labourhome , Luke's blog , Iain Dale's Diary, Prague Tory , Ellee Seymour , A Liberal Goes a Long Way , and Paul Linford all seem to have a large following!
Hmm, I feel an Iain Dale-style list coming to the front of my mind here, what do you think!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Racist A'list

For those who are quick to slate 18 Doughty Street (and there are some out there), perhaps they would care to see this little gem, where Michael Ediae asserts that Cameron's A'list is racist.

A Forthcoming MP


Hat tip to Antonia for this! Our mutual friend of sorts, Anneliese Doods has been selected to fight Reading East at the next election.
I met Anneliese at the 2004 Labour Party Conference and we send each other the occasional e-mail and I can say from first hand experience that she is consciensious, thoughtful, considerate, and down-to-Earth. Qualities needed for an MP.
As Antonia said, here's to Anneliese helping to secure that fourth term in office!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Popular Blogs at Bloggers4Labour (Week 23)

Apologies for missing last week. A lot going on!


Bob Piper, Jon's union blog, Tha London Diaries ... (1st =)

Fair Deal Phil, Ministry of Truth ... (4th =)

Dave's Part ... (6th)

Jon Cruddas MP ... (7th)

Union Futures ... (8th)

British Politics ... (9th)

Luke's Blog, Ridiculous Politics ... (10th =)

The TV Jury, The Daily Mail, and other tales of woe!

The good ol'boys at Fisking Central are very good at spotting the best stories going around and I cannot help but feel a case of "Bloggers Envy" whenever I see an occasional story.
The first (which I would have mentioned a couple of days ago had I not been busy), is on contributor Tom Hamilton's blog and concerns BBC 2's plans to show a programme where a fictional rape case is brought before a court of experts and a twelve person Jury of celebrities.
This is a bit Drop the Dead Donkey in itself, only the twist involves which celebrities are on the Jury. As the Guardian article lists them:

1. Dominic McVey

2. Ingrid Tarrant

3. Jennifer Ellison

4. Michael Portillo

5. Jeffrey Archer

6. Patsy Palmer

7. Dwayne Vincent AKA Megaman

8. Alex James

9. Stan Collymore

10. Honor Blackman

11. Jacqueline Gold

12. Sara Payne

This is a bit of a disturbing list and am particually bothered by the inclusion of Jeffrey Archer and Stan Collymore for what I hope are obvious reasons.
Today's television. It can put sensationalism before education!
Meanwhile the Fisking Central blog has a good piece on Johann Hari's hypocritical support for Hugo Chavez. I'm sorry Johann, but saying that just because western governments support nasty dictators means that it's okay for Chavez to do so is a silly argument and smacks of double standards.
Talking of double standards, there is Frederick Forsyth's attack on the left's attack on General Pinochet in today's Express (If you can get past the usual nauseating stuff about Diana). I personally don't care if a dictator who commits human rights abuses is from the right, left, or up in the stratosphere. These kind of situations are used too often as a western political football and these people should not be feted unless the apologist is prepared to accept the flak and mud that will rightfully land on you as a result! Also, the apologist should stop finger pointing and accuse the other side of hypocricy!
Finally Iain Dale has an excellent piece on newspapers using illegal means to obtain confidential information. Top of the list of those accused by the Information Commissioner is the Daily Mail with, and I quote, 952 incidents by 58 different journalists!
There is a reason why many people who dislike the Daily Mail do so with a passion. It's not because it is a tabloid, nor that it is pro conservative (although to be fair they will be good enough reasons for some people). It is because it takes an unpleasant, nasty, and vindictive attitude towards those who cross it or who do not fit into it's worldview, whilst trying to pretend it is a nice respectable middle class newspaper! At least the red tops don't try to be something they are not!
But hey ho, it's nearly Christmas and I have better things to do than get miffed by the failings of media commentary. As a blogger I am sure I can be just as bad!

Self-righteously yours! ;)

The Holocaust Conference

(AFP)
I first knew of this when I was on the 18 Doughty Street sofa on Monday and was a bit shocked, but not surprised.
It just goes to show how we ought to keep an eye on Iran at the moment, albeit with caution, but I think some countries should show some care in associating with the regime there! The thought of any world leader questioning the Holocaust and making outrageous comments about Israel being wiped off the map makes me feel ill!

Ken Livingstone Vs the Pigeon Fanciers

(BBC Online)
Whatever you think of Ken Livingstone, you cannot deny that in the past six years, Trafalgar Square has cleaned up and is now spacious, comfortable, and complete with a coffee shop. Whereas some years back it was dirty, narrow, and you had to be careful where to sit for fear of bird s**t!
Now you would think that people would be greatful, but it seems that some pigeon fanciers think it is better to have the former situation and that feeding pigeons who are a general nuisance and c**p everywhere is better than having a clean tourist site (which incidentally is very popular at this time of year, complete with the annual Christmas tree from Norway)
Okay, maybe I am being facteous and slightly unkind, but I honestly cannot understand how anyone would want a change from the lovely Trafalgar Square we have at present!

Fear of Pinochet. This is something his apologists should read!

For those who argued against General Pinochet's arrest in the UK and saying it was a matter for the Chileans! This brilliant article , taken from a book by Isabel Allende, appeared in The Independent some days ago. In particular the following passage stood out:

'That situation changed when Pinochet was arrested in London, where he had gone for a medical check-up and to collect his commission for an arms deal. A Spanish judge charged him with murdering Spanish citizens, and requested his extradition from England to Spain. The general, who still counted on the unconditional support of the armed forces, had, for 25 years, been isolated by the adulators who always congregate around power. He had been warned of the risks of travel abroad, but he went anyway, confident of his impunity. His surprise at being arrested by the British can be compared only to that of everyone in Chile, long accustomed to the idea that he was untouchable. By chance, I was in Santiago when that occurred, and I witnessed how, within the course of a week, a Pandora's box was opened and all the things that had been hidden beneath layers and layers of silence began to emerge. In those first days, there were turbulent street demonstrations by Pinochet's supporters, who threatened nothing less than a declaration of war against England or a commando raid to rescue the prisoner.

'The nation's press, frightened, wrote of the insult to the Esteemed Senator-for-Life, and to the honour and sovereignty of the nation, but a week later, demonstrations in his support had become minimal, the military were keeping mute, and the tone had changed in the media: now they referred to the "ex-dictator, arrested in London".

'No one believed that the English would hand over the prisoner to be tried in Spain, which in fact didn't happen, but in Chile, the fear that was still in the air diminished rapidly. The military lost prestige and power in a matter of days. The tacit agreement to bury the truth was over, thanks to the actions of that Spanish judge.'

He's Back!

There are a no of bloggers out there who I can call friends, not least my brother, Liz Saul, Kerron, and the Dunadan at Cally's Kitchen (All of whom I knew before this blogging malarkey took off, esp my brother! ;) ), but there is an old friend of mine from University days who has recently started blogging again!
Yes folks, the One Small Voice is back and is dedicating his blog to being a travelogue. Do have a look if you get the chance as it is quite a good read, but then I am biased!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ethiopia's Mengistu found guilty!

(AFP)
An Ethiopian court has found the former President of Ethiopia, Mengistu Haile Mariam, guilty of genocide (albeit in absentia), after a trial lasting twelve years.
If you know anything about him, then this can only be good news. The man was a nasty scourge on Africa in the 1980s and that is being polite.
He came to power in Ethiopia in 1974, after overthrowing the Emperor, Haile Selassie, after he failed to come to grips with a poor harvest. It's believed that he had Selassie quietly executed the following year.
The havest escalated into a famine, which by 1984 reached holocaust proportions. In the meantime, Mengistu started a campaign of terror against his opponents. Bodies were left dumped on the streets and video tapes were made of opponents being tortured. During the Ethiopian famine of 1984, Mengistu denied that the famine was ravaging the country, and UN Aid workers stated that the President was using planes to send in whisky in order to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the revolution. In a documentary on Live Aid some years back, it was said that when Bob Geldof met Mengistu in early 1985, he called him a c**t to his face. I personally hate that swear word but in this case I don't think it even covers the contempt that Mengistu has natrually generated.
And where is our old friend now? Well living in exile in Zimbabwe wouldn't you know! Surprise, surprise!

Ono Threatened

All credit to her for not messing about and going straight to the police. But I just cannot quite comprehend how someone could threaten her like that, esp when just about everyone knows what happened to John Lennon, and the fact that this month marks the anniversary of his death.!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christian charity!

(BBC Online)
A Bishop (and one who is disliked by some evangelicals for his perceived aggressive attitude towards them), goes for drinks at the Irish embassy. The then same Bishop then gets drunk, gets into a mercedes that isn't his and starts throwing toys around, before staggering off. The same Bishop then finds some items missing when he sobers up, assumes he has been mugged, and contacts the police. Then the whole story comes out thanks to eyewitnesses.
Now I think some of you know this story already, and a lot of people are no doubt having a spot of shadenfreude over this. Some also see it as just desserts, as "Tom" (as he likes to be called, or maybe not, given Iain's comments on Monday's Vox Politics) has a reputation for bullying pomposity in some quarters, as well as being unfair to evangelicals.
Yesterday Chris Bryant wrote in the Evening Standard about this, saying that we should forgive (which is Christian) and cut him some slack. Now Chris Bryant has a reputation (unfair or otherwise) for being aloof and pompus and is disliked for being such in a no of quarters, and I disagree with part of his premise about Christians having "off-days". Those of us who are certainly do, not least Bishops, and yes it makes us more human. But we aren't representing Christ well if we don't apologise and try and redeem every situation and try and change our behaviour for the better. But he is right. Bishop Tom should be forgiven and a line should be drawn and we should not punish him for grudges held over previous private arguments. After all, to err is human, to forgive is divine!
And it is the season of Goodwill as well! ;)

This cartoon explains in a nutshell why I have a very low opinion of Henry Kissinger


Quie apt, given Pinochet's recent death. Thanks to Red fellow

The Doughty Experience

(18 Doughty Street)
This isn't so much a blog entry about the evening itself (and when there is a link to last nights show I will provide it), but rather what it is like to be a guest on the famous Doughty sofa.
So I finish work early and on the way meet up with Kerron. We just about manage a bit to eat at Portcullis House (where there is a rehersal by the Parliamentary Choir, so bizzarely we get serenaded by the likes of Alun Michael, Bernard Jenkin, and Sarah Teather), before dashing to 18 Doughty Street.
First thing on the agenda is queueing for TV make-up. Stephen Tall of A Liberal Goes a Long Way is already there and is watching the debate that is winding up in the studio between various Tories (one or two looking like they are chums of Otis Ferry) about General Pinochet. Donal Blaney being pro Pinochet and Tim Montgomerie being most certainly not. I never thought I would say this but three cheers for Tim!
Then Zoe arrives, has a brief chat with us, and in a single line we head off to the studio. The Tories leave, Tim all friendly. Otis Ferry's possible chums looking suspiciously at us.
Then the show. My mind is wired on various levels, unlike when I watch this kind of programme. I am not just engaged in conversation, or indeed worrying if I look okay! I am also concerned about posture, camera shots, fear of being caught off guard when asked a question with my mind a blank, and finding the books on the shelf opposite me rather fascinating!
Half way through, Stephen and the other guy leave and two right-wing bloggers (One Conservative, one libetarian) come in. Then the conversation takes a more serious tone. I start to wonder if Kerron and I have been charmed into relaxation only for Iain to metaphorically beat us up, but no, Iain is too nice to do that! ;)
But my comrade and I aquit ourselves welll and the show ends on such pleasntaries as Zara Phillips winning the Sports Personality of the Year Award and Christmas decorations to shortly appear in the Doughty studio. They are very kind, gracious, and have taxis sent for us.
So it's King's Cross station before long and home within the hour. All in all quite good and if asked to appear again I will happily agree. What has occured to me to do is perhaps a live blog on a Vox Politics episode, but I would like to do that with Stephen (Lib Dem) and Tim Roll-Pickering (Con), so what say you Stephen and Tim?

Abdication

Tanks to Tim for reminding me that today is the 70th anniversary of one of the most constitutional upsets to have hit the UK!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bloggers4Labour Awards - The Results

This has been in the blogging vacumn since yesterday as I couldn't get the full details.

The winners are:

The Daily - Best Blog and Best Newcomer
NewerLabour - Best Young Blogger
"Harry Perkins" - Top Blogging Personality
Antonia Bance - Best Blog of an Elected Representative
Never Trust a Hippy - Best Community Activism
Dave's Part - Best non-Labour Blog
Iain Dale - Wooden Spoon Awardus! -

Best Use of Technology NOTA "won" Best Trade Union Blog, though Jon's Union Blog was the highest-scoring blog.

My thanks to those who voted for me on Top Blogging Personality

Oh and will blog about my appearance last night on 18 Doughty Street, but as I am in a rush and this is a five-ten minute job I will do that tonight or tommorrow!-

Monday, December 11, 2006

Twelve Cities

Shortly before his death in 2003, Roy Jenkins wrote a book about his tweleve favourite cities in the World.
Now "Woy" as some knew him (due to his inhability to pronounce the letter R) had his detractors from across the political board, one common charge being that he was a self-made smug little snob! So whilst many were quick to sneer at the fact that he didn't mention Oxford (He was Chancellor of the University there), I myslef noticed that he did mention Birmingham, which does have a rather maligned reputation as a bit of a dump in some quarters!
Now having been there a couple of times (thanks to having a girlfriend at Birmingham University), I can honestly say it is a lovely city, so this has made me reflect on the "Twelve Cities" and decide to do a meme of them!

So here is my list

Oxford - Spent part of my childhood living nearby and it is a lovely city with plenty of history, lovely buildings, and a sense enclosed comfort (well for me anyway)

Birmingham - Again, some lovely buildings, and has the delightful Symphony Hall. The University campus is nice as well.

New York - Have never been, but I like what I have seen of it!

Victoria, Vancouver Island - Has plenty of anglophile touches and wide open spaces and parks. Was there in 1993 and would love to go again

Rome - The Colessium, The Vatican, the Catacombs, the cafes, what more!

London - Some people hate London, I love it. Plenty of nice pubs, cafes, churches, lovely art galleries, and has places like Covent Garden, Camden, and Westminster!

Oslo - One of the smallest capitals in the World, and therefore feels like a national village!

St Petersburg - Never been, but again I like what I have seen of it!

Salzburg - Mozart's birthplace, has a large chessset in the main square, and lovely buildings

Dublin - I love the bookshops and I hear the pubs are good as well (was there when I was fourteen)

Ottowa - You should see their Parliament!

Paris - Never been, but isn't it obvious! ;)

Tagging - Basically anyone who reads this!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wint and Kidd Diamonds!

(EON Productions)
Saw an ad for this company in a newspaper recently and wasn't sure for a second if it was a send-up!
For those who don't know, Mr Wint and Mr Kidd were two of the most deadly sociopathic henchmen ever to appear in a Bond movie a.k.a. Diamonds Are Forever. Trust me, you wouldn't want to examine their wisdom teeth!
Watch out for the Jaws garening tool company Moonraker!

British Ambassador harrased with no protection guaranteed by Russian Government!

(BBC Online)
All I can say is that this is very, very disturbing! If things are at their very worst then the Russian Government might ought to seriously consider their standing in international relations, particually with the UK!

Bob Piper and his act of stupidity!

Many Conservatives can get a bit ratty about those of us in the Labour and Lib Dem parties jumping up and down and pointing the finger when there is a racist in their ranks.
Well just to show that here in the Labour Party we are doing so out of decency and not bias, I have to declare I am not impressed with Councillor Bob Piper's latest wheeze about the Conservatives!
I am sure that this was a moment of stupidity and thoughtlessness (at least I hope so), but I hope he apologises to all concerned and removes that offending post a.s.a.p because there is no place for that in the Labour Party!

UPDATE: Bob has apologised and removed the offending post. I doubt he was being deliberate (at least I hope not), but I humbly ask all fellow Labour activists to stop and engage with their brain before attacking Cameron in a satirical fashion! Because clearly one or two seem to have been so enthusiastic at participating in the fine and noble art of Tory bashing ,that they have failed to look at their choice of weapons!

Pinochet Dead

(AFP)
Like Iain there isn't much to add. I just hope he repented on his deathbed. Unlike Iain I approve of his arrest some eight years ago, because a) At the least it annoyed and inconvenienced him b) It gave some sort of justice, even if not in the most ideal of circumstances and c) It sent a long term message to people of his ilk, that they have to be careful about where they travel, because they might end up under arrest and possibly in a court of law!

Vox Politics with Iain Dale


Will be on as a guest tommorow night, and for those who are uninitiated with the world of 18 Doughty Street, then simply click here to watch it!
That's if you are not really doing anything at about 9PM tomorrow!

Bloggers Christmas Social - The Event


So I turn up at Five PM on the dot at St Stephen's Tavern and find I am the first there. Ten minutes later I have paid for the buffet and am sitting alone in the reserved space upstairs and wondering on just how much of a twit I will look if no one turned up.







Then of course, Lisa Rullsenberg, plus her beloved A Cloud In Trousers , and a couple of the lads at Fisking Central turn up. Followed swiftly by Bloggers4Labour moderator, Andrew Regan, Andrew at WongaBlog,Tim Roll-Pickering, Andrew at Someday I Will Treat You Good (am convinced there is a AndyMafia in B4L!), and then (after the meal was finished) did Paulie at Never Trust a Hippy make an entrance, although he redeemed himself by bringing along some chocolates! :)



A good time was had by all and conversation ranged from Doctor Who, to Labour in government, to Nigella Lawson (don't ask! ;)), to job interviews.
All in all it was one of the best blogger socials yet and may there be more!





Saturday, December 09, 2006

And there's more..

Apologies for the delay in blogging. Have been rather busy, although I suppose there will be a small overload of subjects tomorrow!
One important subject however is that, after several years wrestling and prayer over this, I have decided to test a calling I have for the lay ministry.
Now this doesn't involve wearing a dog collar etc.. In the Methodist Church (Of which I am a member), it would mean taking services and delivering sermons, but not officating at weddings and funerals etc.. or presiding over communion. Plus it is voluntary and does not involve ordination.
I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying about this (for about six years now) and several incidents have led me into testing this, which will involve me being a "preacher on trial", i.e. taking exams and services etc whilst being assessed. My Minister is very supportive, although I am nervous and part of me does feel somewhat unworthy. But then, don't we all!
So that's my big news for today, now I am off to London and meet up with a gang of fellow bloggers!

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part XXI: Stephen Tall

(Stephen Tall)
Stephen Tall was born in Surrey in 1977, but grew up in Liverpool, and has lived in Oxford for the last 11 years. He has served as a Lib Dem councillor in Oxford since 2000, and is currently the city’s executive member for finance (Mr Council Tax to his friends). By day, he works as development director at St Anne’s College. His blog is A Liberal Goes a Long Way

What made you decide to start blogging?

I started my website (www.stephentall.org.uk) because I was bored and frustrated by only getting to have my say on local issues through the delayed, sub-edited letters pages of the local rag. I started my blog during the 2005 Lib Dem conference to let off steam, and as a place where I could swear without my parents noticing. (They still found it, and told me it was ‘unnecessary’.)

What is your best blogging experience?

Well, I’d be lying if I said that winning the Lib Dem ‘Blog of the Year’ award (or ‘Boty’ for short) wasn’t nice. That appealed to the attention-seeking egomaniac in me. I’ve tried keeping a diary but never had the patience - clearly I have some psychological craving for an audience. But I just love writing, so the best thing is the pressure to think of something new or fresh to say about issues which matter. If I think I’ve written an article that’s good and original - I like that feeling.

And your worst?

I annoy myself when I get inspiration for a quick blog-piece during Newsnight, and eventually post a 1,000 word article in the wee small hours, and so wake up entirely unrefreshed.
My most embarrassing experience came as a result of blogging, when I was interviewed live on Sky News. My fellow interviewee fainted, and I proved myself to be a heartless bastard by carrying on regardless. The YouTube clip is here.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Well, I had a lot of fun making my video riposte to Webcameron , and it attracted a fair amount of attention for one reason or another… It’s (probably) the last time I strip off in front of a film camera. Unless the role demands it, or the price is right.
But my two favourite pieces were longer postings (and, therefore, for such is the stunted attention span of the blogosphere, pretty much ignored): a defence of Christopher Meyer for publishing his controversial memoirs, DC Confidential; and an attack on the cult of leadership in British politics.

Favourite blogs?

Ignoring present company and uber-bloggers… On the right, Prague Tory , Militant Moderate , Croydonian and Dizzy. On the left, my fellow Oxford residents, Antonia Bance and Jo Salmon, and Rob Newman. And all Lib Dem blogs courtesy of Ryan Cullen’s Aggregator (http://www.libdemblogs.co.uk/), in particular Liberal England, Quaequam Blog! And - another two Oxonians - de moribus liberalibus and Jock’s Blog.

What inspired you to go into politics?

Not sure I ever felt ‘inspired’. I’ve always been fascinated by politics, and obsessed enough to want to get my hands dirty - so when I was asked to stand for the Council it seemed the natural thing to do. Almost seven years later, I’m enjoying it more than ever.

Would you regard the Lib Dems as being to the left or the right and how do you answer the charge from Conservative and Labour activists that the Liberal Democrats are the real nasty Party?

Is it really so hard to believe that there is room in Britain for a liberal party which tries to make a practical reality of the political philosophy which is liberalism? To those who ask if the Lib Dems are left-wing or right-wing, can I first ask you to define whether you think liberalism is left-wing or right-wing. And why. Then I’ll try and give you a more reasoned answer.
As for the Lib Dems being ‘the real nasty Party’ - there’s too much tribalism in politics already, and whatever I say here will change no-one’s mind, so I’m going to excuse myself from answering. Instead I’ll say this… there is a liberal diaspora in British politics today. There are liberals in each of the main parties, and yet party loyalties all too often stop us from working together. It’s a waste and a shame. I am a liberal first, and a Lib Dem second. I’m content with the Venn Diagram relationship between the two, but I’m not a ‘my party right or wrong’ guy.

What's the best thing and the worst thing about being a Councillor?

The best thing is surprising residents by achieving something (anything), whether small or large. People’s expectations are so low, not helped by the erosion of powers of local government over the last 25 years. And I love knocking on doors, especially when there’s no election - folk don’t expect that.
The worst things: the maddeningly, grindingly slow snail’s-pace of change; that it takes up so much time, yet I can never give it as much time as it needs; and the mountain of papers crammed with meaningless jargonistic bullshit.

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

Too many places to bore you with listing. I’ve been to Spain a lot (partly for family reasons), but neither Italy nor France, which is pretty shaming.

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

New York is a fantastic city.

Who, excluding the present leader, do you regard as the best Liberal Democrat/Liberal/SDP Party leader, and if different, the best Prime Minister?

I think Paddy Ashdown (for all his faults) must rank as the best party leader. To take the merged party, which had been overtaken by the Greens in 1989, to its best election performance in 70 years, in 1997, is a truly impressive achievement. He also knew when to quit - at the top - something too few politicians manage. Roy Jenkins (again, for all his faults) would have been the most intelligent politician to have become Prime Minister - how far intelligence translates into political nous is a moot point.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

I’m not a great believer in heroes - it seems to me to invite deferred failure. Though I find it impossible not to be impressed by Tony Blair every time I hear him speak (whatever I think of what he’s saying), I cannot hear him speak without remembering the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity he had to transform politics in this country. And failed. As an antidote to showy politicians who drip charisma, I’m a huge fan of Vince Cable, the Lib Dems’ shadow chancellor. Sharp, serious and courteous.

Favourite Bond movie?

The only one I’ve seen at the cinema was The World Is Not Enough - and that was crap. To make an actor like Robert Carlyle turn in a real stinker of a performance is some achievement, I guess.

Favorite Doctor Who?

Not really a fanboy, I’m afraid. (Which is rare for a Lib Dem blogger.) I have a certain nostalgia for my childhood Doctor, Peter Davison - Dr Who meant it was bath night, followed by tea curled up in front of the fire. I do really want David Tennant’s suit.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

I’m a liberal, so can I ask for Neapolitan?

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

Present: Franz Ferdinand - just superb. Past: The Walker Brothers.

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

Well, it’d be weird to visit Oxford for the week-end, as I’ve lived here for 11 years. And Cambridge is too like Oxford but further away. I’m worried that Barsby might be a little cold as it sounds like it’s in the north. Can’t I go to south Devon instead? That’s my spiritual home.

Favourite national newspaper?

I graze on all of them, but I’m loyal to columnists rather than papers. Favourites are - in no order - Philip Stephens (Financial Times), Matthew d'Ancona (Sunday Telegraph), Simon Jenkins (The Guardian), Matthew Parris (The Times), Alan Watkins (Independent on Sunday) and Andrew Rawnsley (The Observer). I do subscribe to The Economist, which still calls itself a newspaper, and is a great read.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Hobbies are a thing you do in your spare time, right?
I do get to the gym a couple of times a week, but calling it a hobby makes me sound freakishly worthy.

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

Today’s three songs (it would be a different three tomorrow): A Lady of a Certain Age, Divine Comedy; Wind It Up, Gwen Stefani; and Livin’ La Vida Loca, Ricky Martin.And three books: Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections; Kazuo Ishigru, The Unconsoled; and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 28: In Dulci Jubilo

Another day another flurry of news headlines. What to blog on? Stephen Tall's slightly irritating but predictable bar chart? Proposed new security at the London Underground ? Or even my own list of five MP's I like and five I dislike (which would probably get me into trouble considering that I have friends who are friends (or at least aqauintances) of one of the MP's I do dislike (and yes that individual is in the Labour Party ).
Instead, as it is nearly Christmas I thought I would share with you one of my all-time favourite Christmas songs, as performed by Mike Oldfield (who seems to resemble Andrew at WongaBlog! Only Andrew has short hair and is clean shaven. Oh, and some years younger than Mr Oldfield as well! ;))

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part XX: Tim Roll-Pickering

(Tim Roll-Pickering)
Tim Roll-Pickering is a doctoral researcher at Queen Mary, University of London, looking at the management of parliamentary support during Neville Chamberlain's government. He also holds a degree in Propaganda but isn't as scary as that sounds. He lives by himself in Forest Gate.


What made you decide to start blogging?

I'd posting on Usenet and messageboards for years and also used to have a website with personal stories on it, so I guess it was natural. When I saw Jo and others had good blogs, I decided to join the club.


What is your best blogging experience?

Well it wasn't actually on the blog itself but it would have to be writing a couple of pieces for The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze. It was enjoyable to contribute to the book and see it published so quickly.

And your worst?

Now that's a tough one to answer. After a glance through old post, one that springs to mind was July 7th - I was posting at a time when the phones were jammed or down and it was almost the only way to get a message out quickly.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

It would have to be the piece I wrote as a tribute to Laura Blomeley. When extracts from it were quoted at her funeral (along with other tributes) I cried.

Favourite blogs?

Jo Salmon's is one of the ones I read the most. Antonia's is another. Iain Dale's is perhaps too obvious an obvious choice. But generally I click on a number of the blogs on my list, some regularly, some random, or follow back the links from the blog stats. Oh and another favourite is not a million miles from this post.
But I also frequent several messageboards and seem to most of my online arguing there.


What inspired you to go into politics?

Good question - there wasn't really a moment on the Road to Damascas. I think it may have been when my sister was studying the subject for A-Level and so interest in the house rose. That was around the time where I was starting to think about what I believed in and I found myself mainly agreeing with the Conservatives. After that when studying the subject myself it seemed natural to support the party actively. It wasn't the best thing at first - at that age there's nothing worse than walking into the school the morning after a general election defeat for the party everyone knows you support.


How do you answer the charge that a no of Labour activists who have met you (inc myself) regard you as one of the nicest Conservatives they have met?

I'm not sure that's a charge! I've never really liked the way some people on all sides feel that politics should get in the way of personal relations.


Which was more rewarding and less fraught at the time. Christian Union politics or Student Union politics?

I was never actually in a Christian Union - I was a member of Christian Focus (formerly the Anglican Society) at Kent. That said I did make use of the newsgroups to counter some of the CU claims at times. But I don't think the two can be easily compared.


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

Hmm... Greece springs to mind first. Maybe that's because of all the classic literature on my shelf.


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

Canada. I had a wonderful holiday on the west coast many years ago and would enjoy going back. There's just so much there - everything from the wilderness of the Yukon to the bustle of Vancouver.


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

For leader, I'd have to say Stanley Baldwin. His party management and election successes, as well as his ability to defy the odds and bounce back are achievements rarely matched. And he also managed to keep the party very firmly down a moderate course at a time when conditions would have enhanced Siren calls to move to the Diehard right.
As for Prime Minister, hmm... It's so easy to cite Churchill but, well, "there was a war on." I'd probably have to plump for Baldwin again, for taking on and beating variously the General Strike and Edward VIII, as well as heading quite a radical (and often overlooked) and reforming government that at the time won plaudits in many fields.


Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

I would probably have to say John Major - not currently a popular choice I know! His commitment to a society where there is opportunity for all

Favourite Bond movie?

On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I've always preferred the Bond movies that are closest to Fleming.


Favorite Doctor Who?

Colin Baker.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

I don't actually eat ice cream much, but if I have to then chocolate.


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

This is where I admit to know nothing whatsoever about music.


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


Cambridge - I find it a far nicer place to visit.


Favourite national newspaper?

The only one I seem to read is Metro.


What would you say your hobbies were?

Quite mixed. Going for a good drink or meal with friends and discussing everything under the sun is one. Collecting history books is another. I enjoy good movies (though I tend to end up watching them mainly on DVD rather than at the cinema). At home I like to go for open air walks (I live almost next to Wanstead Flats, the extreme tip of Epping Forest), or relax with a good DVD or TV show. Online I seem to spend a lot of time on Wikipedia, currently going through the tedious task of categorising articles to do with UK universities, including every single alumnus I can spot.
And of course blogging.


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


Songs: Sunday Shining by Finley Quaye; Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand;
and for sentimental reasons Tragedy by Steps

Books: Nineteen Eighty-Four; The Great Gatsby; Argonautica

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The T Word

(Press Association)
One of those issues that one feels that one ought to blog about, and yet at the same time has very mixed feelings about said subject. So I have decided to do this by doing a pro/con list

Pro

Makes us less reliant on the Americans
Sends a message to certain nations that we are not a soft touch
Given our status in the World, we cannot seriously do anything else!
To scrap it means being vulnerable in a way that is not all that feasible!
If you think I will share a platform with X, Y, and Z on the left(the alternative), you must be joking!


Con

If we want to move into a post nuclear age (which is unrealistic), does this help!
Might help cause an arms race and we don't want to go down that road again!
Sends a message to certain nations that. Hey! It's okay to have such weaponry!
It's not exactly about peace and love is it!
Plus, if we are against this, it will annoy X, Y, and Z on the right!

I am sure I am one of many with such thoughts. I wish I could be a Pacifist, one of those people who went on those anti-nuclear marches in the 1950's and 1960's. But, given the World we live in I can't do that and be totally politically honest, given my deep suspicion of human nature!

Monday, December 04, 2006

MacKenzie. Is He Sorry About Hillsborough, because it dosen't look like it!

(Guardian.co.uk)

If this is true, then whilst one might say he is only being honest, it is a disgusting and disgraceful comment and shows a lack of compassion and regard for the people of Liverpool and the surrounding area. But then what else can we expect of this bullying Oaf!
In case people don't know about what The Sun said at the time (and incidentally they have apologised), you can read it in short here!

The reason you haven't been to Liverpool, Kelvin Mackenzie, is for the simple reason you wouldn't dare! And if you did say "I went on The World at One the next day and apologised. I only did that because Rupert Murdoch told me to." then that says more about you than it does about Rupert Murdoch, or the people of Liverpool, and shows what a snivelling little coward you are!

Pinochet

(AFP)

Okay this isn't going to make me look good but I might as well be honest!
When I heard during the weekend that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was close to death, my immediate response was along the lines of "Where's the champange!" followed by the guilty feeling that I was somewhat descending to his own level!
Only an ignoramous would say that Pinochet's regime between 1973 and 1989 was a utopia. Many disappeared, the human rights abuses were at a fairly abomnable level and what is more he overthrew a democratically elected government. That is a fact, whether you approve of Allende's Presidency or not!
And to add insult to injury, the coup was supported by the American government, his regime was supported by the British government led by Margaret Thatcher, and for the past fifteen years he has pathetically tried to evade the justice that would be more conciliatory towards him compared to what he meted out to others! Not only that, but those who have backed his regime have added wholesale to the sometimes unhealthy cynicism many have towards succesive US governments. A classic and crass example being the comment of Henry Kissinger who allegedly stated with regards to the Millitary Coup of 1973:

"I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves..."

Personally I don't think that the Generalismo has got away with it. He dare not travel abroad for fear of arrest and extradition, his last years have been spent trying to avoid being put on trial in his home country, and therefore his less than perfect past has come back to haunt him!
But therein lies the crux of the matter. How many of us have less than perfect pasts and where do you draw the line in failing to forgive?
Some years ago I was spending my year out as a Resident Assistant Warden at a Church of England Retreat and Conference Centre. During that time I worshipped at a Church in Northampton called St Hugh's and at some point they had a missionary from the Chilean Anglican Church come to stay.
This was during the time of Pinochet's internment in the UK and this guy caused a bit of a stir by saying we should let him go after having briefly met him. So when I had the chance to meet this missionary in person (during a prayer breakfast, I challeneged him on his views. Not in a confrontational manner, but in a roundabout English way.
The guy stated that Pinochet needed to face trial in Chile, I replied that this was unlikely to happen, although the missionary disagreed. I also asked how Pinochet was. Apparently he was bearing up, saw himself in a no lose situation and stated to the missionary that he was a Catholic and read the Bible. I don't know if Pinochet was reading the same Bible as me, but it did make me think about whether I regarded the Dictator as forgiven and how much of this was justice, not revenge (although I still hold that by arresting him we did the right thing!)
So right now, I think I would rather pray for General Pinochet than waiting to celebrate with a bottle, because God knows he needs forgiving!