Saturday, February 28, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LIX: O'Neill

O'Neill: No picture I’m afraid- imagine a much younger and cleaner Micky Rourke and you’re not far wrong! I’m married, have a dog and seventy fish. I’m presently self-employed, working within the education field. Been blogging for three years.My blog is A Pint of Unionist Lite.



What made you decide to start blogging?


Feeling that I had something to say and finally the technology being available to enable me to say it to a wider audience.



What is your best blogging experience?


Discovering there are pro-Union blogs in all four parts of the United Kingdom; there are now over 35 blogs in my “Friends of the Union” links.



And your worst?


Being forced to put on Comment Moderation due to the persistence of a couple of abusive idiots.



What do you regard as your best blog entry?


The entry which affected me the most whilst writing it; a post I did in memorial of Edgar Graham who was a Unionist law professor murdered by the IRA in the early 80s. Halfway through the post, it suddenly clicked how lucky I was to have the freedom denied to Edgar Graham and many others still in the world today, the freedom to express my opinions and political views without the fear of taking a bullet in the head for doing so.



Favourite blogs?


Three Thousand Versts, The Croydonian, Mr Eugenides, Our Kingdom, Redemption’s Son, Slugger O’Toole and Scottish Unionist.



What inspired you to go into politics?


The firm belief that my nation is worth preserving.



As a Unionist, what strengths do you think there has been with regards to devolution?


None. I believe that devolution has not only weakened the links between the various peoples of the United Kingdom, but has also produced a constitutional and governmental mess.



How do you see the future of Unionism in the UK?


I’m more confident now than I was 18 months ago about the future of the Union but I think Unionism must develop and organise more on a UK-wide basis as opposed to it present regionalisation. I suspect nationalism as a political force has peaked in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales- and I believe it would be in the longterm interest of Unionism to press for referendums to prove this fact. What Unionists must be wary of, however is the increasing resentment felt in England over the inequities which have naturally arisen from the assymetrical form of devolution we’ve been lumbered with.



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


Vietnam and Cambodia. Hopefully going there next winter.



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


Jerusalem.




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


The architect of One Nation Conservatism, Benjamin Disraeli was the best ever Conservative leader. The best ever PM is much more difficult; the best ever leaders we’ve had have always fortunately arrived at the most traumatic points in our history, Churchill being probably the best example, so I’ll plump for him



Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?


Sir Edward Carson, who saw no contradiction in terms when describing himself as an Irish Unionist.



Favourite Bond movie?


Any by that bloke from the Bahamas, Sean whassisname!



Favorite Doctor Who?


Er….



Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


Vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce, polished off with an After Eight mint, if you can manage it.



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


The Smiths



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


Never heard of the place, but I’m making a guess that I’d be much more likely to have a good ole after-hours lock-in there, so Barsby.



Favourite national newspaper?


Guardian for the news and Comment Free, Telegraph for the columnists and sport.



What would you say your hobbies were?


Football (watching), running (very slowly), butchering tunes on the guitar, walking the dog and the tropical fish.



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


Songs: Can’t limit it to three!

John Barleycorn by Traffic,

How Soon is Now by The Smiths

The Wanderer by Johnny Cash.

Best ever live song heard: Whiskey in the Jar by Thin Lizzy.

Books:

A Strange Kind of Glory- Eamon Dunphy

A Star called Henry- Roddy Doyle

The Thought Gang- Tibor Fischer.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Obama To Pull Troops Out Of Iraq

It looks like an act which has been a stain on the reputation on a no of western nations is starting to come to an end. President Obama has definetly made a bold and decisive move, but he has been totally right to keep the focus on Afghanistan and to praise those soldiers who have fought and (in some cases) died in Iraq. Many of those soldiers, whatever the rights and wrongs of the cause, died whilst saving lives and preventing acts of terrorism taking place, and that should not be forgotten.

Margaret Thatcher's Downfall

I know it's a cliche but it seems incredible that the events which led up to the end of the Thatcher premiership happened eighteen years ago! At the time I was at secondary school doing myGCSE's and I still remember hearing the news during a lunchbreak and not quite believing it, as she had been Prime Minister for as long as I could remember.
So watching last nights drama on BBC 2 was a bit like a trip down memory lane. Although probably far more of a comfortable revisit for me compared to some of those who experienced what had happened. Particularly for Margaret Thatcher and her allies, and indeed for Michael Heseltine who saw his one major chance at getting the top job fly away the moment it he heard that Margaret Thatcher resigned. His four letter response in last night's drama, after brief clips of the responses of various members of the cabinet was funny if only because of the fact that it accurately described, albeit in a crude way, what had just happened.
But the whole aim of the drama, the downfall of a combative Prime Minister who polarised opinion, was wonderfully explored by using flashback. Some of Mrs T's allies who complain of disloyalty and treachery, seem to conveniently forget that she and her supporters dished out the same treatment to Edward Heath some fifteen years before and that one of the chief criticisms of Heath was that he was not only going to damage their chances at the next general election, but that he was arrogant and aloof and would just not listen to his opponents. The same criticisms that were aimed at Margaret Thatcher years later. Indeed I was reminded in a rather brutal manner why I disliked her and why she made a useful propoganda tool for Labour and the Liberal Democrats for impressionable teenagers like myself. Namely, that Thatcher was a bully and one who was brutally pushing forward policy which hurt and alienated many people to which theThatcherite response was that 3 million unemployed was a price worth paying (Gordon Brown would never make such a crass comment). Her sheer brutal style of governing, as admired by her allies, was partly also what sealed her downfall. Cabinet ministers put up with her hectoring and her bullying and were ready to suffer humiliation, but only up to a point. Some, likeHeseltine , left when they felt that to stay would damage their dignity and self respect. Others, like Howe, left because they could not put up with it any more, and some plotted against her because she was no longer useful to them. A Prime Minister who was more collegial and more diplomatic could perhaps counted on far more support in their hour of need!
But in saying that, there was the Thatcher one could not help but feel sorry for. The one whose advisers failed to tell her promptly what was going on, the Thatcher who clearly had a dysfunctional upbringing and overcompensated in her attempt to survive in a World full of men, the Thatcher who was lucky to have a kind and devoted husband.
All in all a great drama and one I recommend you watch if you missed it and get another chance to see it.

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LVIII: Sadie Smith

Sadie blogs at Sadie's Tavern, and writes also for W4MP. She's thirty this year, and already planning her mid-life crisis


What made you decide to start blogging?

The same as everyone else I guess: narcissism. Also, I just really enjoy writing.


What is your best blogging experience?

It's not exactly a blogging experience, but I really enjoy meeting up with online people offline. I've been out with Sunny and the Liberal Conspiracy people on a few occasions which was great fun (even though we rarely agree, we all speak the international language of The Booze), and there are a more than couple of us Labour bloggers who get together for unfocussed rambles in licensed premises.


And your worst?

When anonymous commentators attempt to paint me as an airhead, the language tends to get a bit blue.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

The one I wrote on the vacuity of the St Damian Green of Magnercarter posturing. It started, as these things inevitably do, as a lament about the lack of pictures of naked men at Westminster Tube station and quickly spiralled off on a tangent.


Favourite blogs?

Olly's Onions, PooterGeek, Tom Harris, Photoshop Disasters, Never Trust A Hippy, spEak You're bRanes, and the Enemies of Reason.


What inspired you to go into politics?

A desire to irritate my parents.


What are the best taverns to visit in London?

Tough call. I quite like The Old Cheshire Cheese off Fleet Street, and I have a nostalgic love for The Speaker in Greycoat as I used to go there with my dad.


You seem to not fall into any neat boxes in terms of what you believe on your blog, for example you think secularism has triumphed and therefore think that Dawkins and co. are being somewhat smug and disengenuous. Am I correct and is this how you see yourself?


Sort of. I think atheism has triumphed as the dominant orthodoxy of the West, and the faux-courageous grandstanding of the likes of Dawkins et al irritates me. There was a time when questioning the Christian faith was a dangerous endeavour, but now you're more likely to be subject to condescending sneering if you do have religious belief. Where the militant atheist movement gets it wrong, in my opinion, is that they conflate "atheism" which is a belief system with "secularism" which is a political movement. Most moderate religious types, as well as atheists, could be said to be secularists - they think that all the stuff that Dicey came up with about parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, irrespective of faith, should come before consideration of religious sensibility. We can all sign up to and campaign for that. It's the demonisation of all those with faith, many of whom would not push it on others or patronise their beliefs, that I think disengenous: campaign by all means for secularism. But plastering slogans on buses to "educate" the ignorant, brainwashed masses, the perpetual hectoring one sees on Comment is Free and (largely) on the left-wing blogosphere is, to my mind, no different from the worst excesses that the militant athiests are fond of accusing the religious of indulging in. And, in the final analysis, what's that adding to the onward march of secularism and progress?


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

Egypt. I'd like to see the ancient world, but lack the readies.


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


Corfu.


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

I'm going to be boring: Clement Attlee.


Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Actually it's a woman I met once when working for my former employer, John Mann. She is a tireless campaigner on behalf of her community and got elected councillor a few years ago, so she's now in a position to really do something about the issues she cares about. It's easy to get caught up with Parliamentary characters and celebrity PPCs, but I think it's people like her who are truly tremendous.


Favourite Bond movie?

As a general rule I dislike Bond films, although the first one with Daniel Craig in it was okay, I guess [comes over all unneccessary]


Favourite Doctor Who?


Not into Doctor Who, I'm afraid.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Mint. I like an ice cream that bites back.


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


Queen


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

Not Cambridge. Oxford probably. But out of term time.


Favourite national newspaper?

The Times.


What would you say your hobbies were?

Bird watching, reading, and terrible TV.


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


Favourite books:

The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
Favourite songs:
Do You Love Me? Blues Brothers
Glory Box - Portishead
[And, because bizarrely, this was "my song" at college] Eternal Flame - The Bangles. My mind still boggles at that one.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Queen Covers

Brian May has been waxing lyrical about this cover by Nataly Dawn on his website Soapbox, and I have to say it is quite good and gives a new feel to the piece. The song is Play The Game and was penned by Freddie Mercury. It originally appeared on their 1980 album, The Game



And for self indulgence, courtesy of worstnews, here is an instrumental cover of one of my favourite Queen songs; My Melancholy Blues, also penned by Mercury and first appeared on Queen's 1977 album, News of the World

Sir Fred Goodwin Won't Give Up Pension

I think most people find his attitude, as covered here, somewhat disgusting. He may well try and justify his motives and they may well appear convincing and well honed excuses, but when he goes to bed at night and closes his eyes, I wonder if he can see the masses of employees who are now struggling to make ends meet and have very bleak financial futures to face, and we are not talking about being unable to afford to continue being a member of the local golf club here!

Stevie Wonder Honoured

As a Stevie fan I was pleased to hear about this. But pleased and joyful though he must be, I doubt the award is the sunshine of his life (groan, groan)

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LVII: The Church Mouse

(Church Mouse)

The Church Mouse is a 30 something Anglican: I live in London and am churchwarden of a large South London church. I studied politics and have worked for 10 years as a management consultant in the city.

I am married and am father to a beautiful 11 month old girl.



What made you decide to start blogging?

I was inspired by the political bloggers. I saw how they mobilised the grass roots and influenced the party leaderships. I thought I’d like to do that in the religious sphere. Christian bloggers tend to either represent narrow factional groupings within the church or offer up theological reflections. I wanted something broader, and thought I could make a difference. We’ll see how that works out.



What is your best blogging experience?

The blog had been going about a month before Mrs Mouse read it. She spent about half an hour going through it in detail before I asked what she thought. She said, “I might visit it again”. I felt affirmed and validated.


And your worst?

I had a bit of a go at the Bishop of London for his comments at the General Synod on the recession. He implied people would be relieved to get the sack and get off the treadmill of work. I was not the only one to pick this up, but the Bishop didn’t react well to the media coverage. He called it “callous and complacent” (the media coverage in general, not my blog in particular). I stand by what I said, but I felt pretty bad about it, because Richard is a great guy.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

I enjoyed the one about globalisation being a threat to the British egg throwing tradition, now that shoe throwing is gaining ground. I don’t think it was great journalism, but it made me laugh.


Favourite blogs?

Nick Robinson’s blog got be interested in blogging ages ago. I like Cranmer and Guido for decent opinionated rants. Bishop Nick Baines does a great blog. I like Ruth Gledhill’s blog in the Times and Dave Walker’s blog in the Church Times is great too. My RSS aggregator is busy – too many to mention.


What are the major advantages to being a church mouse?

I think it creates a sense of intrigue. Its too easy to dismiss comment on the internet if it is not from a sufficiently weighty source. Being the Mouse means people give the blog a chance, even though they don’t know where its coming from.


Where do you see the direction of the church (in the general ecumenical sense), in this part of the twenty-first century?

Wow, what a question. In the global sense, the focus is all in the developing world. The church in the developed world needs to support the enormous growth in the developing world, and learn from it. In the
UK the church is still trying to find its place in an increasingly multicultural environment. Some churches are doing really well, other are in steady decline.


Where can the Church do better with regard to pastoral care?

Its hard to generalise. Some churches are great, others are poor. ‘The Church’ in the sense of the Church of England is not organised to do anything on a consistent basis – its all up to individual churches. My only general observation is that most churches are set up to support and care for their own members. I’d rather see them set up to support and care for non-members in the first instance.


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

I’d also love to go to
Iraq. I’m amazed by the history of the country and Christian population (still). The Christians in Mosul trace their religious history to Jonah (of ‘and the whale’ fame) when Mosul was Ninevah, capital of the Assyrian empire and a mighty city. I met Canon Andrew White (Vicar of Baghdad) last year. He was an inspiration and spoke passionately about ‘his people’ in Iraq.


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

I’d love to spend more time in
Africa. I’ve travelled there a little and it really takes over a part of your heart. I’d love to go back some time. I also travelled in China a little, and I’d love to explore more of that country. I went to an Easter day service in a church in Guangzou (old Canton). There were armed soldiers outside the church, but it was still full to bursting with worshippers, spilling out onto the porch outside, and even people in the road listening.


Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

It might sound clichéd, but William Wilberforce is a great inspiration. He lived and worshipped in Clapham, near to where I live. History hasn’t yet appreciated all that he was and achieved. We’re focused on his campaign against slavery, which in itself changed the world. But he did so much more.


Which Christian figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Wilberforce again, but he is hard to relate to on a personal level in some respects. I relate more to John Newton (a friend of and inspiration to Wilberforce). He was a slave trader and a pretty unpleasant individual until his conversion to Christianity. At the end of his life he was able to say “I know one thing. That I am a great sinner. But Christ is a great saviour!”. He wrote the hymn Amazing Grace, which sums it all up really.


Favourite Bond movie?

I like the early ones with a sense of humour, maybe Man with the Golden Gun.


Favourite Doctor Who?

Not my bag, I’m afraid. I guess Tom Baker – he’s inherently funny.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Yes please, with some custard on top.


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

I’d desperately loved to have seen the Jimi Hendrix Experience.


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

Cambridge


Favourite national newspaper?

The Independent


What would you say your hobbies were?

Golf, music and going to church meetings.


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

I’d struggle without something by U2 so probably Pride (In the Name of Love). I secretly listen to Robbie Williams, so I’ll pick ‘Feel’ from his seminal album, “Escapology”. To give some balance “Ride on and Turn the People On” by Finlay Quaye from his 1997 album “Maverick A Strike”.

I’m quite a pretentious reader. I’d go for East of Eden by John Steinbeck, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and Crime and Punishment by Theodore Dostoyevsky. Plenty to get your teeth into.

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LVI: Duncan Crow

PAUL: This interview took place before Wednesday, when David Cameron's son Ivan died. It would have been published yesterday but it did not seem right and with Duncan's permission I held back. Given the situation yesterday and that this interview touches briefly on the rough and tumble of partisan politics, I sincerely apologise if any offence is caused and if I have still published too soon!


Duncan has been a Conservative Borough Councillor for Furnace Green in Crawley since 2003. In 2006 upon control of the Council changing from Labour to Conservative, he became the Deputy Leader of the Council. In 2005 he was elected as a West Sussex County Councillor for Tilgate and Furnace Green and he is the youngest member of West Sussex County Council. He has been blogging since June 2008. Crawley is the most marginal Parliamentary Constituency in the UK with a Labour majority of 37 in 2005.
His blog can be found here.


What made you decide to start blogging?

There were a few left wing blogs from my area but no Conservative ones and I felt the need to redress the balance and also to have another medium to reach people as a Councillor. I was also unhappy at some of the local media coverage and I wanted a way of quickly being able to put things in the public domain with me doing the editing!


What is your best blogging experience?

Possibly when I did an entry in the week of the US Presidential election and it got featured on Al Gore's website, causing me to receive hundreds of hits in a day from all over the World.


And your worst?

Nothing bad as yet. I have yet to receive a single complaint about anything I've written on my blog but I'm always wary that there are those who will look for something to cause trouble for me in my role as a Councillor. I make a point about not being unpleasant about fellow Councillors or residents although I will expose blatant hypocrisy when it occurs. I do view Party Leaders as fair game and Gordon Brown is public enemy number one on my blog but I always aim to keep it in good taste.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Perhaps my best blog entry was a dissection of a letter that had appeared in the local press from all the Crawley Labour County Councillors about proposed boundary changes. There were some huge inaccuracies and misleading information contained within it. I was able to quickly expose these and put in the correct facts. It was viewed by the Electoral Commission and I actually referenced this blog entry in my own submission to the Boundary Commission.


Favourite blogs?

Politicalbetting.com is very informative and I like Burning Our Money. These are the two I view the most.


What inspired you to go into politics?

I have always been interested in politics and it made sense to do something that I find interesting and where I feel I can make a positive difference.


Isn't it a bit rich for Conservatives like yourself to highlight alleged examples of Labour sleaze when there are murmurings that the Conservative Party house isn't exactly in order! Take for example the allegations about Lord Ashcroft?

No party is perfect and I do think sleaze damages all parties regardless of where it comes from. When the Conservative Party had problems with sleaze in the mid nineties, Labour were relentless in attacking it and reminding us for many years afterwards. We also had all this whiter than white stuff from Tony Blair. Now the shoe is on the other foot, I am not going to shy away from kicking them when they are down. They deserve it for all their hypocrisy.


Barack Obama seems to have wowed politicians and activists from all the main political parties in the UK. On a non partisan level can you see any Westminster politician who could do for the UK in the 2010's that Obama has done in the US (Bar Brown and Cameron)?

If we can't include David Cameron then the answer is no one but I'm not sure even he would have the Obama effect. It remains to be seen over the next year. I doubt Obama will be able to repeat it but who knows? It is a different style of elections and politics in the US and we are more reserved. I suppose the nearest thing we had to it was Tony Blair in 1997.


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

Nowhere immediately springs to mind but Asia is such a vast continent with so much to see.


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


I haven't been abroad for many years so I suppose there is nowhere I have the strong urge to return to.


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

It would have to be Mrs Thatcher although I did like William Hague as leader but it was a thankless task at that time.



Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

John Major in as much as coming from a humble background and being able to become Prime Minister whilst still being able to be a nice and genuine guy.


Favourite Bond movie?

I like most of them and have no favourite.


Favorite Doctor Who?

I have liked the last two and felt it was a shame Eccleston didn't do more episodes than he did.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

If you mean ice cream, how about vanilla with mint chocolate sprinkled on it?


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

I don't know but it would not be The Smiths! I was horrified when David Cameron said he liked them.


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

Weekend visiting? I'm always too busy! There are many nice places in the UK and I often think these get overlooked in the mad dash to get abroad.

Favourite national newspaper?

The Times, but I seldom read national papers. We have a good local paper here in Crawley called The Crawley Times.


What would you say your hobbies were?

Hobbies? That would be nice. Maybe when I'm older but I enjoy doing what I do now.

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

I seldom read books. So much of my time is taken with reading Council papers, emails and reading online that like to rest my eyes when I can. Songs? I seldom listen to music either but if the radio is on in the car, something relaxing and not too loud.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LV: Julian Ware-Lane

Julian Ware-Lane is the Labour Party Candidate for Castle Point. His blog is Julian's musings

What made you decide to start blogging?

I had a month-long blog in the run-up to the 2005 General Election in the online edition of the Daily Telegraph. I enjoyed doing this and must have a web presence. Up till last December this was just the usual collection of press releases and photos. With a little push from work colleagues I have decided to plunge into blogging and use my blog as my main web presence.


What is your best blogging experience?

The month-long weblog in 2005 was great fun.


And your worst?

No bad experiences yet. I live in fear of typos and getting my facts wrong!


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

I am not the best person to judge this as I am often my own worst critic. As I am still learning I hope my best is yet to come.


Favourite blogs?

UKpolling is my favourite, but also enjoy Iain Dale's Diary, Sadie's Tavern, LabourList, RecessMonkey, Conservative Home, Bloggers4UKIP, Politicalbetting.com, Luke's Blog.


What inspired you to go into politics?

Childhood conversations with my father led to a lifelong interest in left of centre politics. I believe in equality, justice, fairness, and hope that in some small way I can further these causes.



As a Labour Parliamentary candidate, what encouragement can you give those of us who are activists and supporters with regards to the next General Election?

Despite some unpleasant opinion polls there is still everything to play for. A fourth term is a real possibility. I would also add that I believe campaigning must be fun, must have a purpose, and must be energetic. I am an activist because I am a democratic socialist; I am campaigning for my beliefs.


What is it like campaigning against the only UKIP MP?

It will certainly make the contest interesting. Dr Spink is my polar opposite politically, so there is always something to disagree with him about.


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

I have always hankered after visiting the Canadian Arctic. Hawaii looks lovely in pictures.


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

Ephesus in Turkey was an astonishing day out. A well-preserved Roman city that was evocative in so many ways. North Wales was beautiful and I would like to visit when it is not raining.


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

Clement Attlee. That post-war government achieved so much.


Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

There have been a number who have inspired me one way or another, and I struggle to pick one above all others.


Favourite Bond movie?

Any of the Jason Bourne trilogy.


Favorite Doctor Who?

Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Vanilla


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

The Beatles or the Jimi Hendrix Experience.


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

I like Oxford and its environs; a good mix of culture and history.


Favourite national newspaper?

The Guardian or The Times.


What would you say your hobbies were?

Football, genealogy, historic houses, walking.


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

This list is likely to change day by day. Today it could include the following, but since I love books and records the list could be hundreds, not just three.
No Feelings by the Sex Pistols.
Albatross by Public Image Limited.
Things We Said Today by The Beatles.
Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Penguin Island by Anatole France.
Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene.

Ivan Cameron has died

Tim Roll-Pickering has sent me a text in the past five minutes to say that David Cameron's eldest son has died. This was swiftly followed by a newsflash from Sky.
I am shocked. I know he had cerebal palsy, but many sufferers have been known to live with it for many years.
Thoughts and prayers go to the Cameron family during what must be an anguishing and desperate time!

UPDATE: I now understand that Ivan Cameron had severe epilepsy as well as cerebal palsy, which is quite rare. My apologies for getting it wrong earlier

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama and Brown and the forthcoming G20 meeting!

This looks promising. This year's summit is certainly crucial. Perhaps the most economically crucial meeting of it's kind in the past thirty years! How this will pan out is anyone's guess but with economics the saying that "whilst there's life, there's hope" certainly applies

Effectively Privatising the Royal Mail: Why I Object to it!

For me privatising industries that were left untouched by the Thatcher and Major governments seems to be absurd! Margaret Thatcher didn't dare touch the Royal Mail, so why now? And why a Labour Government?
I can see Lord Mandelson's point, but this does feel like it's a between-the devil-and-the-deep-blue-sea scenario. What guarentees does he have concerning:

1) How exactly will the Royal Mail remain publicly owned?

2) Which areas of the Royal Mail will be under private ownership?

3) How will rural areas (and I for one live in a rural area), be protected with regards to delivering and receving mail?

4) How many private and/or publicly owned firms will be involved, or will there be a single succesful bid?

5) What sort of experience are they looking for from the private sector?

If I see any cast iron assurances with regards to those questions I may just change my mind.
I am not an out-and-out socialist. Social Democrat of the Crosland/Healey/Jenkins tradition would probably best describe me, and if a privatised industry works, it works! But the Royal Mail is a risky area to start looking at those options and the damage of some previous privatised ventures, such as the Rail Industry, weigh on many peoples minds!

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LIV: Lord Toby Harris

(Lord Toby Harris)

Lord Toby Harris has lived in London all his life.

He joined the Labour Party at 16 and was a Branch Secretary while still at school. He has been at various times a GC and LGC delegate and a Constituency Labour Party Chair. He was a member of the National Policy Forum for twelve years, a member of the NEC Local Government Sub-Committee and of the Board of the Greater London Labour Party until 2004.

He was elected as the youngest member of Haringey Council in 1978 and became Leader of the Council in 1987, having previously been Social Services Chair and Chief Whip. He led the Labour Group on Haringey Council to victory in the 1990, 1994 and 1998 elections – gaining 14 seats in 1990, another 14 in 1994 and with the loss of only one ward to the Lib Dems in 1998.

He was Chair of the Labour Group of the Local Government Association from 1995 to 2004.

He was the first Chair of the Association of London Government from 1995 to 2000, which before the creation of the Greater London Authority, was effectively the democratic voice of London. He campaigned for the principle of the GLA within the Party, coordinated the local government side of the 1998 London referendum campaign and founded the all-Party “Yes for London” campaign.

In 2000 he was elected to the new London Assembly as the member for Brent and Harrow and became Leader of the Labour Group on the Assembly and the first Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

After he lost his seat on the Assembly in 2004, he was appointed as the Home Secretary’s representative on the Metropolitan Police Authority to oversee the national and international responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police, primarily its role in counter-terrorism and security.

He was appointed to the House of Lords by Tony Blair in 1998. He chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Policing and is Treasurer of the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee. He was a member of the House of Lords Select Committee that reported on “Personal Internet Security” that reported in 2007. His blog can be found here.


What made you decide to start blogging?


I was persuaded by various enthusiasts that (1) I had things to say that were worth a wider audience; and (2) that blogging is the new way of communicating your ideas and views. I am still sufficiently new to all of this to need more convincing – is anyone outside my usual circle taking any notice? However, I suspect my contributions do get more widely read than anything I say in the Chamber of the House of Lords!



What is your best blogging experience?


Too early to say.


And your worst?


Too early to say.



What do you regard as your best blog entry?


It is yet to be written ….


Favourite blogs?


I am still finding new blogs that interest me, but I regularly read Luke Akehurst, Tom Harris, Hopi Sen, Jon Worth …


What inspired you to go into politics?


I wanted to make a difference. Some people go into politics to be someone; others to do something. I am definitely in the latter group. I believe in contributing to my community and to society and I believe in trying to address inequality, tackle discrimination and the principles of political freedom. Actually, Clause Four of the Labour Party Constitution contains some pretty good sentiments ….


Some have accused Labour bloggers of not having the bite of Conservative bloggers. How do counter that argument?


Perhaps Labour bloggers are nicer people ….., but give it time.



In the Lords, you recently called for a law in the UK along the lines of The US Children Online Privacy Protection Act. How much support does this have and when can you see it potentially being passed into law in the UK ?


I do not think COPPA-type legislation is a magic bullet that will solve all of the problems about children’s data, but I believe it could be helpful. I only made the suggestion a couple of weeks ago, so I think it is still rather early to say how much support the idea will have. It is certainly something I intend to discuss with Ministers and I would welcome other views.


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


The list is too long – I haven’t been to much of the USA , any of Central or South America, most of Africa, most of Asia, most of Australia ….


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


I have happy memories of France , Italy , Greece , cities on the west and east coasts of the USA … How many trips are you going to allow me to make, particularly given the list of places that I still haven’t visited?



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


Clement Attlee


Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?


Clement Attlee, but Kennedy, de Gaulle, Lyndon Johnson, Gandhi, and Churchill are all pretty inspiring too.


Favourite Bond movie?


From Russia with Love



Favorite Doctor Who?


Patrick Troughton



Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


Depends what you are talking about ….



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


My (limited) experience is that seeing most bands live is a bit of a disappointment – they are too far away, arrive late and play for too short a time.


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


Barsby???? It has to be Cambridge . To quote General Melchett in “Blackadder Goes Forth”, “ Oxford is a complete dump”.


Favourite national newspaper?


The Guardian


What would you say your hobbies were?


Reading and listening to opera (but not Wagner or Puccini).


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


Three favourite songs: “Celeste Aida”; “Va, pensiero” and “Non piu andrai”.

Three favourite books: “Primary Colors”; “Total Recall” and “Enough is Enough”

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LIII: Derek Wyatt MP

(Derek Wyatt MP)
Derek Wyatt: I was first elected to the House of Commons for the new constituency of Sittingbourne and Sheppey in north Kent in May 1997. I had previously been a Labour borough councillor for Archway in the borough of Haringey in north London. I was re-elected in June 2001 and again in May 2005.

Before being elected as an MP, I was Director of The Computer Channel at BSkyB and travelled extensively throughout America from mid 1995 to research the internet and to assess its impact.

On arriving at Westminster I quickly formed the All Party Internet Group and I have been its chairman until in 2007 when at my suggestion we merged three all party IT groups and we are now called the All Party Communciations group and I am its new co-chairman. I am also chairman of the London 2012, the British Council and the Rugby Union groups.

The role of an MP is in a state of constant flux. Constituents expect you to be in their patch eight days a week and often feign surprise that you cannot make a meeting between mid Monday and late Thursday because you do actually have to be in Westminster to vote. MPs find that at Westminster they need to be there a further eight days a week! So far, MPs have sadly resisted electronic or text voting (unlike Scottish MSPs). The more we fail to modernise the more out of touch we appear.

In Parliament, I work at my office in Norman Shaw North on the Westminster estate. My staff there - Anna and Jenny - look after national and international issues as well that diary and additional case work. Between both offices, we reckon to have helped over 12,500 constituents. We do not win every case but we do our very best.

I work almost exclusively on email - wyattd@parliament.uk - and arrange for these to be forwarded to me remotely when I am away from the Office. Radio5Live said that I was "The fastest emailer in the West" when they ran a competition to find who was the quickest MP to respond to constituents emails!

In 2004, I was voted one of the top 100 internet visionaries over the past decade and subsequently my web site has won three national awards (New Statesman and British Computer Society x 2). For my role in updating the Computer Misuse Act, ISPA awarded APIG a special Heroes Award.

I was PPS to Rt Hon Margaret Hodge, Arts Minister and Gerry Sutcliffe MP, Sports Minister from 2007-09 at DCMS and I am now PPS to Lord Malloch Brown at the Foreign Office.*




What made you decide to start blogging?

Another way to report what u do as an MP


What is your best blogging experience?

Seeing how regularly the press call up to ask for more information


And your worst?

None so far


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

It is a weekly diary of what I do as an MP so not sure this is relevant


Favourite blogs?

Don't read them



What inspired you to go into politics?

Neil Kinnock taking on Militant


Can the Internet be regulated?

Yes it can; need to start with child pornography and build a treaty between nations


You were recently made PPS to Foreign Office Minister, Lord Malloch Brown. What are you enjoying most about working at the FO?

I was brought up in African and Hong Kong and he has in his brief most of that territory...plus my father and grandfather worked or were schooled in India and Sri Lanka and he has them too so it is a bit like coming home to areas I know well


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

I'd like to take the train from Stockholm to Beijing


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

Hong Kong which feels like a second home for me


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

Clement Attlee


Which political figures have been your greatest inspiration?

Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela


Favourite Bond movie?

Dr No


Favorite Doctor Who?

Pass



Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Strawberry


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

Santana



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

Aldeburgh

Favourite national newspaper?

New York Times



What would you say your hobbies were?

Jazz, writing, reading, travelling, philately, concerts, film, theatre, sport; collecting art, political cartoons and photographs



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

Homeward Bound - Simon & Garfunkel
Dance Me to the End of Love - Madeleine Peyroux
Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert Persig
Jude The Obscure - Thomas Hardy
Coming Up for Air - George Orwell

*Many thanks to Derek Wyatt for suggesting his brief biography on his website. Portions of which are here.