Friday, August 31, 2007

Princess Diana - Ten Years On. Part Two

I didn't see the Memorial Service I have to say and I agreed with the Bishop of London's call for the conspiracy theorists to cease their petty point scoring. I appreciate that it is horrible to think that anyone died simply because of the stupidity of a drunk driver, including Princess Diana, but there is no hard evidence whatsoever that she was murdered, and the Daily Express had better take more concern over their failing prices and that they are now a laughing stock amongst the rest of the media (with a circulation of less than 800,000) and Mohammed Al Fayed (who has an alleged friendship with one or two Express people) had better consider the feelings of Princess Diana's sons.
But that said, I also feel that whilst it is good to remember Princess Diana, there are many others who have done worthy things who are not remembered so well! Mother Teresa of Calcutta for one, who died ten years ago next week. Or another the family of another Royal relative, Lord Mountbatten, who was murdered nearly thirty years ago this week. His family have shown amazing strength and stoicism over that awful tragedy and no one (and I suspect they much prefer it that way) has noticed that.
If people want to serve Diana's memory well, then it is better to follow her example and help others and not speculate about her death which does no one any favours.

Princess Diana - Ten Years On

What I want to say here is probably best served in two posts, so with Part One, I thought I would ask myself the questions Paul Linford posed for himself on his blog:

Where was I when I first found out?

At home, I was shortly to start my final year at University and I was woken up at about 5:30 in the morning by my Mum walking upstairs and crying, I sat up and she must of heard me or I must have called out and asked what was wrong and she said "Princess Diana has been killed in a car crash!"

What was my initial reaction?

Shock. The feeling of a pit in my stomach, and then dashing downstairs to watch the news where I swiftly felt very angry about what, at the time, looked like the fault of the Papparratzi.

Was it really Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell's finest hour?

I don't think that's possibly the way to see it. I think the best answer is that at that time, both men had an ability to gauge the mood of the nation and were able to respond accordingly

Did I think the Monarchy would be overthrown?

Not once, although I did think many people let their hearts rule their head and didn't use their brains with their "Show us you care!" attitude towards the Queen. First of all we are talking about a different generation here, secondly she was spending time with her grandsons, the very people who needed care and support at that time.

Did Britain fall victim to an outbreak of mass hysteria?

I think there were varying degrees of emotion from different people. There was definetly a national sense of loss though, and I think that was due to a no of reasons. Whatever one thinks of Princess Diana though, she was unique and showed concern for people and institutions at the very time such concern was needed to be shown.

Denis Healey at Ninety

(BBC Online)
There are not many politicians left who were leading figures in successive cabinets in the sixties and seventies, but Denis Healey is amongst them. Yesterday he turned Ninety.
He is still fairly active in so far that he occasionally gives his views on current world affairs. Indeed I actually met him some two months ago and he mentioned then that he thought Gordon Brown would make a good Prime Minister, albeit like all Prime Ministers, at the mercy of events.

I also happen to be among those who think he would have made a good Prime Minister if those on the soft left of Labour showed a bit more backbone and supported him at the very time Labour was in severe trouble, as for Iain Dale's assertion about his record as Chancellor, I will only agree that there have been better. Without the benefit of hindsight, if I were a cabinet minister in 1976 I would have reluctantly agreed with Healey's attempt to get a loan from the IMF. The seeming alternative that Benn advocated, that of a heavy control on imports, constituted a seige economy in the making and would have been too awful to contemplate, especially during a global recession. If anything, he just about kept the economy running in the aftermath of the Fuel crisis and had Labour had a more comfortable majority, had hammered the left , and worked out a successive policy to Kensyianism, we might have done even better and we would have been spared the undiluted monetarism which blighted the early and late 1980s.

But political history is littered with "If only's". Healey has already an impressive record and should be well remembered for that.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Iain Dale's Guide to Political Blogging in the UK

I am rather excited about this and if you want an authoratitive guide to political bloggers, I suggest you order this book a.s.a.p.
Of course I, ahem, have a vested interest in this. I am one of those bloggers mentioned in the book. But there are dozens of other worthwhile blogs you can find out about :-)

Prison Strike

(Getty Images)
Whilst I am one of those people who firmly believes in the right to strike, I am against, except in very exceptional circumstances, wildcat strikes and I am not easily agreeable to strikes in places such as hospitals, and yes, prisons!
However I do agree that the prison officers had strong legitimate grieveances, and now they have done the decent thing and gone back to work I trust that their superiors will take note of those concerns and act in favour of those who have gone on strike.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tsarevich Alexi's Remains Found?

(Beinecke Library/Yale University)
Very sad, but it's been obvious for a long while what exactly happened and hopefully this will bring to a close a tragic and cruel event some ninety years ago.

Greenbelt 07 Part VII

Well the discussion on Northern Ireland was rather interesting. The panel consisted of some individuals from the Truth and Reconcilliation group, as well as the leader of the Progressive Unionists and one AM each from the DUP and Sinn Fein. I have to say that I have never been in a room with someone from Sinn Fein before and being someone who remembered his Dad working in London during some of the IRA's bombing campaigns in the City I felt rather uncomfortable. That said, what impressed me was that all the panelists were more than agreeable to listen to each other and suggest where their own side may have been at fault during the troubles, so that is a welcome change compared to watching BBC Question Time from Belfast some years back.
Then a quick interview with one of the organisers of the Lib Dem Christian Forum. Problem is though that the sound quality is not that good for that interview or the one with Jonathan Cox, so I might have to leave it be :(
The evening then finished with a Cockney Knees' Up at "The Jesus Arms", followed by watching Delirious in concert, which I suppose is a good way to finish Greenbelt although I had a bad night with cars setting off as early as 5:30 this morning, so I am now safetly back home, albeit frazzled.
But still. Only another 360-something days till the next Greenbelt ;)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Greenbelt 07 Part VI

Well this will be my last posting from Cheltenham. Tomorrow morning I will do my ablutions by a cold tap for the last time and head off home after what has been a busy, but fruitful and enjoyable weekend.
In the end the N.Ireland talk got postponed until this afternoon, so I went to a talk on Iconography instead, followed by an informal meeting over drinks hosted by CSM. Someone from 18 Doughty Street, one Graham Smith, beat me to it by interviewing two of the CSM leaders, whilst I was there (My film camera battery went down without any immediate means of charging it). However all is not lost and I have been conducting the necessary interviews via my mobile phone camera.
This morning I went to a Taize worship service, followed by a talk on what the newspapers have been saying, hosted by the redoubtable Cole Morton of the Independent on Sunday. I also went to a talk on climate change (rather depressing, nothing new mentioned, but with the hope there is still a chance) and have now had my fill of talks and rested with a cup of Chai Tea and a book on C.S. Lewis that I brought.
Will hopefully do a postscript on events tomorrow

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Greenbelt 07 Part V

Well yesterday involved going to a barrage of talks including one on forgiveness, which included a panel discussion of which Norman Kember was included. Then a talk hosted by DfID on slavery today, a high maintenance stand-up routine on George W. Bush #(which I missed due to the long queues), followed by some strange performance art by Ikon! Don't ask me what it was about I am not sure myself.
Today was the outdoor communion service and this afternoon I hope to go to a talk on Northern Ireland. How am I finding it all so far? Well I think of there is an underlying theme throughout it involves a need for me to allow myself to be vulnerable before God and considering I find it difficult enough to be vulnerable full stop, that is something I find quite hard. Anyway, onwards and upwards

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Greenbelt 07 Part IV: The Photos So Far, taken on mobile

The enclosed near the showers with an unfortunate name! I kid you not!

The loud Lib Dem guitarist. Who says stereotyping is dead! ;)

Greenbelt 07 Part IV

Well there was a heavy demand for the Taize service and I was unable to get in, although the evening was not lost when I went around the stall area and saw someone from the Lib Dem Christian Forum playing his guitar and singing loudly.
A bit of a difficult night. Woke up nearly every hour of the night, though not because of the Lib Dem singer, and this morning I helped at the Christian Socialist Movement stall, where we have a cardboard cutout of Gordon Brown, next to which is a bin for people to write down their concerns and aspirations regarding things they want the government to achieve. They can also have a photo of them with the cutout, holding some of those concerns which have been printed out already, such as "Reduce Global Warming" or "Peace in the Middle East".
Then it was time to go to a talk by Billy Bragg on an idea of having a new Bill of Rights which would double as a written constitution. He then mentioned the changes to our unwritten constitution over the years and why they took place and the fact that the UK is one of the few countries in which the constitution follows the whims of government, not the other way around. I think it's a credible point which is worth debating.
And after having an ice cream I am now busy blogging away here and trying to upload some photos with little success :(
Ah well, C'est la vie!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Greenbelt 07 Part III

Well I am now sitting by a computer overlooking the Cheltenham racecorse as I type and there are the perennial problems of arrival. First of all waiting in a car queue for two hours on arrival, then finding I need to recharge my mobile and get credit slightly earlier than I expected, but that said all acts of disorganisation are ones that are easily nipped in the bud, assuming of course that the record and CD shop downstairs sell earphones!
Tonight I will be at a Taize-style service and, looking at my diary of events, the weekend will be spent at various talks on politics, the environment, ecumenism, and the problems of faith

Greenbelt 07 Part II

Right, am now heading off to Greenbelt in Cheltenham, so will be blogging from there till Tuesday

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Today's Shooting

Thanks to those who expressed concern for my welfare following today's shooting. Was rather touched, although I work some distance away from the street where it happened. All I knew at the time was seeing some police activity and then having people ask me about the shooting some two-and-a-half hours later!
Then of course there is the fact I had no credit on my mobile, so I couldn't let people know I was safe. A rather harsh lesson in making sure your mobile is topped up!

Something to excite those Doctor Who fans out there!

Tuesday night and I was watching Jude, starring Christopher Eccleston and Kate Winslet, and then I came on this gem of a scene

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Typical Tory Scaremongering

(Press Association)
I once met Henry Bellingham and was in touch with him regarding the issue of dyspraxia (of which I have in a mild form) and I believe him to be a decent man. But whilst I believe he was acting in good faith yesterday, it is clear that the Tories were keen to fight dirty over an issue on which many feel vulnerable and frightened. They couldn't even get their facts right over which hospitals are up for closure!
Make no mistake, the next general election is going to be very nasty as the Tories claw desperately for the power they want. David Cameron wants a bareknuckle fight (not literally I hope :/), but then he clearly hasn't a regard for points 8 and 9 of the Queensbury rules and this is from the man who said he would not indulge in Punch and Judy politics, well there is one broken pledge already!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Greenbelt 07

Just to let you know that once again I will be at the Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival in Cheltenham. So from Friday to Monday my blogging will be from there, and no doubt I will be boring, I mean letting you know what's been going on there.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bill Deedes 1913-2007

(Press Association)
I don't think it is hyperbole to state that not only is this very sad news, but that it constitutes the end of an era. Who else can be satirised in an Evelyn Waugh novel, appear on Have I Got News for You, have served in the cabinet and have been Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Not only that but his first major journalistic assingment was covering Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935 and his last column for the Telegraph was two weeks ago.

Not the Nine O'Clock News on the Corrupt Practices of Millitant Trade Unions

A bit grim but rather funny

Thursday, August 16, 2007


(Associated Press)

John Biffen

(Press Association)
This seems to be a month for obituaries, and so it is that it was announed a couple of days ago that John Biffen has died.

One of the most ardent monetarists around, he later realised sooner than most converts the damage such unfettered policies could do and called for time to take stock. He was sacked by Margaret Thatcher for his pains, although he gained wide respect as a result and for his devotion to the importance of the House of Commons. I chiefly remember him as one of the leading figures who helped Betty Boothroyd get elected as Speaker.

We need more such open mindedness in Westminster politics.


Sometimes you pick up a newspaper and read an article making an attack which isn't so much criticism as misleading and somewhat unfair
Yesterday's Evening Standard 's article about Konnie Huq (aka Rupa's sister) is a case in point.
Four points spung to mind, first of all the event with Ken Livingstone was non party political. Secondly, I myself have had relatives help me campaign for elected office and none of them are fully paid-up members of the Labour Party, in fact one or two of them are rather hostile towards Labour, but they helped because they were campaigning for me. I would be highly surprised if I was the only Labour candidate that had happened to.
Thirdly every Prime Minister interviewed on children's TV has had an easy ride, I remember Margaret Thatcher being on Saturday Superstore and not exactly being asked about the latest unemployment figures and, unlike the Tories I and others have not complained. Why? Because we are dealing with children's TV and are trying to help develop an interest in the political structure before dealing with political argument.
Fourthly, I can think of several BBC people, past and present, who were fully paid-up members of the Conservative Party. Not just Nick Robinson, but Stephen Milligan was a BBC Correspondent before becoming a Conservative MP and for a direct comparison, there is Record Breakers, where Norris and Ross McWhirter were active members of the Conservative Party. I don't seem to recall anywhere Conservative HQ complaining about bias there, or indeed the BBC making any apologies!
In short, if you want to be critical, and I don't think this was good criticism, at least be consistent in your arguments.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sixty Years On

(Associated Press)
Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the end of British dominion of the Indian Sub-Continent and it's partition.
In many respects this has been a success story, but there has also been it's failures. Partition hasn't come without pain and Pakistan is a central geographical point in the war against al-Qaeda and Burma has a brutal dictatorship with an appalling human rights record.

But as India's Prime Minister has pointed out there is a third problem and that is poverty, yet India has one of the fastest growing economies in the World.

And lets not forget the relative stability India has enjoyed in the past sixty years, as always there is hope and one hopes to see that stability spread to India's neighbours.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Anthony Wilson 1950-2007

Thanks to Kerron and Rupa for inadvertently reminding me to blog about this.
There are not many self-proclaimed geniuses who actually measure up to their own expectations but Tony Wilson was one of them. He did much for music and youth culture and also did much for Manchester (he once drove back to the city on the way to take up a job in London, vowing to be forever loyal to the North West City).
Not only that, but he also had an appreciation for a variety of culture and an encyclopeadic brain for facts and figures.
He will be much missed and if anyone has not seen 24 Hour Party People, perhaps now is your chance!

Karl Rove to Quit

How convenient that it is shortly after he was protected by "Presidential Privilege"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Leila Kaplan

I was shocked to receive an email last night telling me that Leila Kaplan, a fellow local Labour Party activist, had died that afternoon following a short illness.
Leila was a tireless and helpful party activist. Always involved in any local election campaign and would usually be a visitor at most Labour Party Conferences, whether regional or national. It is going to seem a bit strange not to bump into her at any such future events I will go to and she will be missed by many who knew her. The loss being felt more so because there are few tireless campaigners like Leila around.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

George Galloway to contest another election!

First of all he said he wouldn't, but he has now changed his mind because of his recent suspension! Does this mean that he has resolved to spend more time at the House of Commons and less time pontificating on TalkSport? Cos let's face it, his attendance record before his suspension wasn't exactly brilliant!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Lord Lucan May Be Alive Somewhere, But Not Farming in New Zealand

(Photos, BBC Online)
You know the press are indulging in the silly season when you see stories like this appear in the front pages.

Before it was clear that he was NOT Lord Lucan, I knew he wasn't as soon as I saw his photo.

Apart from the fact that he is likely to be dead (or else running a Westminster blog), he just didn't look right. The nose being different for one thing. In any case if anyone knows anything about the errant Earl, he would hardly be running a small farm in New Zealand. If he did escape abroad, which is plausible, then he probably went to Southern Africa and spent the rest of his life gambling away whatever money he had.

Incidentally if anyone else has any theories about what has happened to him(about the missing Earl, not the blogger), feel free to speculate here

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Top Twenty Blogs Update

Iain Dale has mentioned about the amount of no's voting for the Top 100 political blogs here: ( *
If you haven't voted then please do so, as the results will be published in September, and if you want to vote for me, be my guest

*Apologies for the untidy link but blogger is playing up again :(

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Review

Warning. Spoilers!

So it was on Sunday that I finished the last of the seven Harry Potter books. I suppose like all fans I felt a bit disapointed it was all over, but then all good things come to an end and Harry's battle with Tom Riddle couldn't exactly be ongoing.
So what did I think of it? Well I think it's one of the best, very fast paced and no getting bored about nothing exciting happening at Hogwarts at page 200 and something and a bit of a way to go! Some of it was open-ended, for example I had to look on Wikipedia to find out what happened to the loathsome Umbridge, but overall it was very, very good. I liked the way Harry's friends stood by him, even when all seemed lost, that I hadn't got it wrong about Snape (because I was convinced I did at the end of the last book), and that my theory about Draco Malfoy somehow ending up towards redemption and Voldemort's arrogance being his downfall was correct. Was rather saddened by the Death count (a no of decent long-standing characters do not make it to the end), but we were warned that could happen and in any case I think Dumbledore's death was the worst and that was in the previous book!
Now it's just the two films to look forward to (sigh!)

18 Doughty Street - Liberal!?!

This piece by Iain concerning someone's accusation of liberal bias made me smile. In my experience it is a station run by Conservatives who give some associates of other political persuasions some free rein.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Boris Johnson and the Lawrence Case

A lot has been made of Boris Johnson's suitability, or lack of, in his candidacy for the post of Mayor of London, with regards to how he is seen by the Black community (see here and here).
Personally I don't think Boris Johnson is anything more than being his usual thoughtless self here. By that I mean I doubt he intended to be malicious, rather he just charged into a debate and highly important issue without stopping to consider all the facts, without stopping to think about the sensitivities of the case, and generally without stopping to think. Now some people think that Boris Johnson's bumbling behaviour is a political asset, that he is some kind of 21st Century Bertie Wooster! Certainly his former Bullingdon friends do, or else it would not be suggested to him that he stand for Mayor of London. But such silliness is not in tune with the demands of a political post, such as that of Mayor, nor are they an asset when it comes to needing to fundamentally deal with any form of racism or building bridges between communities. Boris Johnson may be in his element in a University or Sixth Form debating society, or even in the time of Ancient Greece or Rome, but certainly not in this day and age.


A lot has been made in the media about this incident. Some saying that there was an overreaction towards the man concerned, some people saying that such behaviour is unacceptable.
So is goosing ever acceptable and what is the best way to react? Personally I think that goosing isn't really appropriate unless it is between partners. An overreaction? Possibly, but better safe than sorry. At the very least, if meant as a bit of a laugh (which is the usual reason behind it) it should be like other practical jokes. Meant for people you know well who can take it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

David Tennant Leaving Doctor Who?

Personally I won't believe it until there is official news, but he has been Doctor for nearly the same length of time as Patrick Troughton and Peter Davison. Personally I would like him to continue until the end of the fifth series, but David Tennant has stated that he has always had a plan of how long he wants to be in the role.

In any case who can do the role justice after Eccleston and Tennant?

Election Fever

Paul Linford has an excellent piece here on why Gordon Brown is unlikely to call a general election in the near future. I myself don't see the point in calling an early election. We are about 9 points ahead in the Polls, we have a majority of 66 and have done well in recent by-elections. To call an election now, just two years into this Parliament, looks like a cut-and-run job. The Tories only want one because they are panicking and they are the Party with leadership issues at the moment. Some also compare the present situation with James Callaghan in 1978, but then Callaghan was presiding over four years of a tired minority government which was hanging on by the skin of it's teeth. Labour is doing exceptionally well for a tenth year in government.

Another Anonymous Blogger Unmasked

I have said it before and I will say it again. If someone blogs anonymously they will be found out sooner or later, esp if the blog concerned is very popular

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Summer Holiday!

(Press Association)
Not only has the Prime Minister been spending his holiday in the UK and cut it short to deal with the Foot and Mouth situation, but he has suggested that it is good for Britons to holiday in the UK!
I have to say he has a point. How many of us who have enjoyed travelling abroad have been pretty much around most of Great Britain? Why indeed go on holiday to the South of France or to Spain when you have the West Coast of Scotland, the Scilly Isles off Cornwall, or the Norfolk Broads, or the Cotswolds!
I am not criticising holidays abroad mind you, but it's good to have the variety and, incidentally, as the PM has been leading by example where will David Cameron spend his holiday?

The Next Election!

They once said that when Gordon Brown became leader, the electorate would swing towards them, now the Tories want an early election! Anyone would think they were a bit nervous!

Friday, August 03, 2007

From Russia With Love?

I am rather surprised and appalled by this! 1) It isn't helpful to the environment 2) It constitutes an old fashioned colonial landgrab 3) Even if they are right, which I contest, why now? 4) What does this say about visitors to the North Pole, Polar exploration in general and would this threaten any future trans-arctic expedition?
This also does not bode well for East/West diplomacy when we need to be pooling our resources in dealing with organisations like Al Queda

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Mars Hill Blog Stats (July 2007)

Top Ten Cities listed (from where people visit Mars Hill)

London, Lancaster, Seattle, Ljungbyhed, Birmingham, Canberra, Northampton, Reading, Moscow, Liverpool

Top Ten Countries listed (In order of most visits to my blog)

United Kingdom

United States




Russian Federation

St Helena




For those who have started reading my blog in the last month, or who have returned after an absence, a warm welcome to you all

Top Ten Blog/Web Visitors

1) BaldockBaldrick (NEW-ish)

2) Iain Dale (+2)

3) Rupa Huq (+5)

4) Bloggers4Labour -3)

5) Kerron Cross - The Voice of the Delectable Left (-2)

6) Conservative Mind (NEW-ish)

7) Cally's Kitchen (-5)

8) Paul Linford (NEW-ish)

9) Picking Losers (NEW)

10) Political Opinions (NEW-ish)

Out of the Top Ten are Daily Pundit, PJ's Politics, The Done Thing, WongaBlog, and Prague Tory

Top Ten Searchwords that lead people to my blog


mike penning

life on mars final episode

joan hickson

peter davison

10 things i would never do

pictures of taize

mike reid r i p

life on mars final

alex hilton labourhome

Lembit Touts for the Lib Dem nomination for London Mayor..

(Press Association)
Well if there was a very slim chance the Lib Dems would do well in the Mayoral elections next year it has gone now.

I don't know, Boris for the Conservatives, Lembit for the Lib Dems, both have a difficulty in being taken too seriously, both represent Parliamentary seats outside London! Obviously as a Labour Party member I like to see beatable opponents but this not only a bit silly, but it's a bit of an insult to the people of London.
That said, the nature of politics means that we have to take them as serious threats simply because they are opponents, but this does kind of make you want to smile!


Am on a computer in the library and having a bit of an internal rant here. Someone two seats away was typing away whilst loudly slurping on an ice cream when library rules specifically state that no food or drink is to be consumed on the premises. Then he used his mobile, before walking off. Did I tell on him? To my shame I did not, because to do so would have made me feel like some officious Rimmer-like **** and because I was hoping that someone else would and because, like most English people, I don't like getting into confrontational situations unless I feel I can not only win, but win with total dignity. Plus no one else does anything, a librarian comes into the room briefly and doesn't seem to have noticed and so I am reduced to ranting over something relatively mundane in front of you. Perhaps I ought to become a newspaper columnist for a tabloid!
Right, now I have got that off my chest...