Thursday, April 30, 2009

Derek Conway Has Some Nerve!

I hate to agree with Tory MP's, but they are right. If he had a problem with the investigation he should have said so at the time! Painting himself as innocent and at the same time attacking others for doing the same thing when there is more than enough evidence to find Conway guilty says much about the man, whom, if you ever read Paxman's The Political Animal: An Anatomy, comes across as a rather unpleasant individual.
In any case, Conway has already made a mockery of his "apology without qualification!"

The Moves To Deal With The Flu Outbreak!

I have to confess that part of me wonders whether this has been blown out of proportion, that said it is far better to be safe than sorry.
Basically it involves people using their common sense. Think twice about travelling to Mexico or Texas, sneeze into a hankerchief or paper hanky, then bin the hanky. Clean surfaces after use etc.. It shouldn't have to be told, but as we all know, it's amazing how many people don't use their common sense!

John Prescott Steps Into Battle! :-)

Amidst the bad news and depressing environment that those of us who are Labour Activists are struggling with right now, John Prescott is a strong silver lining.
John has a great talent for rallying the troops and at the Party Conferences I have been at where he gave the final speech, he made many of us feel charged, willing, and ready to take on all comers and to defend our corner.
So it is that in his latest blog post, he mentions the preparations for the Prescott Express Battle Bus and the various places he will be visiting, and reminding us again of the need to fight back against the danger of BNP success in June
There is much to praise Labour for, much good we have done, the National Minimum Wage being a great example. Lets be bold and confident and remind ourselves why we got involved with Labour and bring the fight to others!

The e-mail I Have Just Sent To The House Of Commons Information Office, Concerning Damian McBride

From: "Paul Burgin"


Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to raise a concern about Damian McBride, a former special adviser to the Prime Minister. Yesterday morning, according to several sources, McBride was seen chatting in the Commons lobby with several lobby journalists who are thought to be close to McBride.
This in itself is not what I am questioning, what concerns me is that it has raised the issue of whether McBride still has his House of Commons Pass and whether it was handed in when he resigned as a special adviser to the PM on 11th April, whether it was handed in within the following days, whether he was asked to hand it in and whether he did so?
I will await any response you may care to give, although my main aim is to draw your attention to the issue and indeed to complain if he is still using a Commons Pass with no authority


Paul Burgin

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXI: Brian Barder

(Brian Barder)

Biography: b. 20.06.34, Bristol. Sherborne. 2 Lt, 7 Royal Tank Regiment, Hong Kong; St Catharine's College Cambridge (BA Classics; Chair, University Labour Club). '58: m. Jane Maureen Cornwell (2d, 1s). Home Civil Service: Colonial Office, London, '57. Transferred to Diplomatic Service, '65. Served in UK Mission to United Nations, New York; West African Department, FCO; Moscow; Canberra; Canadian National Defence College, Kingston, Ontario; Head of Southern African Department, FCO; Ambassador to Ethiopia, '82-86, and to Poland, '86-88; High Commissioner to Nigeria and Ambassador to Bénin, '88-91; High Commissioner to Australia, '91-94; retired '94. Post-retirement: Chair, Civil Service Selection Boards; Board of Management, Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, Putney; Speech and Debate Committee, English-Speaking Union. Commonwealth Observer Mission, Namibian elections, '94. Overseas Development Administration Know-How Fund Consultant for Diplomatic Training in East and Central Europe, '96. Lay member, Special Immigration Appeals Commission, '98–'04. Editorial Consultant, Dictionary of Diplomacy, '01, '03. Articles and letters, Political Quarterly, Password, London Review of Books, Prospect, The Times, Guardian, etc. KCMG '92. Website and blog,

What made you decide to start blogging?

My grown-up children dragged me kicking and screaming into using a computer in the '80s (remember WordStar?), and I was sending e-mails on CompuServe from Australia not much later, using an enormous external modem. CompuServe offered space for a website, so graduating to blogging was a natural progression. I enjoy campaigning on various issues, for which a blog is useful.

What is your best blogging experience?

Discovering that some university lecturers in international relations or diplomacy were, and I hope still are, using my blog as a teaching aid.

And your worst?

Nothing serious so far, touch wood.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Probably my first post calling for a full federal system for the
UK (, followed by several later pieces elaborating on the idea and answering some of the objections. But runners-up would be many posts on Kosovo, abortion, the government's assaults on our civil liberties, the wickedness of the system of indeterminate prison, and the penalties paid by society for the cult of the whistle-blower, to name but seven or eight hundred.

Favourite blogs?,,,,

http://www.charlescrawford.bizcharlescrawford/,,,,, and all the others on my blogroll, plus a few hundred others.

What inspired you to go into politics?

I have never been in politics, and never wanted to be in them (it?).

As an opponent of PR. Do you have any fears that we may be introduced to it via the back-door?

I'm certainly worried by the possibility that if there's a hung parliament after some future election, either of the main parties might succumb to the temptation of a bargain with the LibDems involving PR in exchange for LibDem support – which would take us into permanent post-election horse-trading and actual or virtual coalitions, which would be fatal for stability and the chances of a coherent, long-term programme of reform. But I don't see this happening any time soon.

Having been in the Diplomatic Service, which country saw your favourite posting?

Ethiopia (during the '80s famine) for job satisfaction, having the chance to play a part in the huge international famine relief effort; the Soviet Union for political interest; the US (New York) and Australia for creature comforts and culture... virtually every posting had something going for it.

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

New Orleans, San Diego, the Maldives, Trabzon, Prague, Acapulco, Vladivostok, Havana.

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

Ethiopia (where I hope to return briefly next Christmas), and just about every one of Australia's states and cities. San Francisco. Key West. Barcelona and Sitges. The Arctic. Papua New Guinea. Srinagar, Lake Nagin, Yusmarg (Kashmir). Shanghai. Odessa and Yalta. Split. Blenheim (New Zealand). Vancouver. (I could go on and on!)

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

If you mean the best prime minister we actually had, Attlee (quite closely followed by Lloyd George and Harold Wilson). If you mean the best prime minister we never had, Nye Bevan and Neil Kinnock first equal (both from Tredegar!), followed at some distance by Iain Macleod and Denis Healey. I don't include Churchill who was a great wartime leader but a flop as peace-time prime minister.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration

Bevan, probably.

Favourite Bond movie?

Russia with Love ('63 version)

Favorite Doctor Who?

Never watched it.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


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

The Berlin Philharmonic (Berliner Philharmoniker)

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


Favourite national newspaper?

The Guardian, alas.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Blogging and e-mailing, slow urban cycling, listening to classical music, writing to the newspapers, arguing.

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

Songs: Any of the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss; Willow Weep for Me (Billie Holiday); any of the five Rückert-Lieder of Mahler. Runners-up in case any of those are disallowed: any of Elgar's Sea Pictures, sung by Janet Baker; Every time we say goodbye, sung by Ella Fitzgerald.

Books: Any of the volumes of Dance to the Music of Time (Anthony Powell); Anatomy of Melancholy (Robert Burton); Prose of Sir Thomas Browne. If any of those are disallowed: British Political Facts; The Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations; Collected Poems of W H Auden, Yeats, Milton, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes.

Damian McBride And His Commons Pass!

I have read from various blogs that this week Damian McBride was seen chatting with various lobby journalists in the Lobby this week! More info here
He may have got in on a visitors pass of course, in which case who invited him? Either way it stinks and considering there is the distinct possibility that he still has his Commons pass, then I think letters and emails asking for clarification should be sent to the appropriate authorities!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Off To Portcullis House

In a few hours I will be at Portcullis House attending a seminar hosted by the Youth Wing of the Fabian Society, entitled “Will there ever be a British Barack Obama?”.
Am interested in what will be discussed and what we in the Labour Party can learn from the work of the Obama administration, and where glass ceilings need to be broken! When I helped the Obama campaign in Chicago last year, I was struck by the sheer organisation, motivation, and enthusiasm, not just for Obama, but for the political process which has been lacking here in the UK of late. So hopefully I shall head off back home to Hertfordshire this evening, feeling enthused and excited

Jamie in In The Loop

I have to say before I go any further that I have yet to see In The Loop, although I was a fan of The Thick Of It.
But what has bothered me is the way everyone seems to find the character of Jamie funny, almost in an indulgent way. Take a look at Tom Harris's post on the film, or some of the comments left on YouTube following these clips

I get the point Tom and others are making and that they are in no way condoning Jamie's unpardonable behaviour. Thing is though, I find Jamie a deeply disturbing character. Yes he is one-dimensional, yes he is fictional, yes he has some clever one-liners, but the awful thing is, and partly where some of the humour lies, is that there any many people like Jamie in real life, being vicious, making other people's lives a misery and delighting in bullying.
And I am not saying there is no humour here, but it concerns me the way people look at Jamie's antics as if to say "Ah ! Bless him, the little scamp! Look at him go all angry!" Am I the only one who finds the character, as I have already stated, disturbing?
Just take a look at these scenes, beyond the abuse. He is called in by Malcolm to bully the Minister and his assistant. Thats what he's there for, as if that is his biggest value and he is not worth anything else? What a condemnation! Then look at the pathetic way he tries to please Malcolm by making a joke about kid gloves, then notice the large chip on his shoulder about class and confusing being polite with being a middle class snob. Sad thing is if a lot of middle class people with confidence came across the likes of Jamie, they would take a calm but snobby and superior attitude towards him in order to get him to shut up and to crawl back from whence he came! Not because of whatever background he had, but because he has no social skills or polite way of behaving. The initial attitude from his "victims", the sarcasm from the minister and the comment about being polite from the assistant says it all. The difference between them and many people including myself is that the moment he picked up the holepuncher would be the moment we would leave, followed swiftly by an official complaint.
The sad fact is though, that Jamie, if a fictional one-dimensional character has any depth, is clearly an unhappy, deeply insecure man, who evidently needs psychiatric help. Yes one can see the humour, but at the same time there are many like Jamie in all walks of life who clearly have deep problems.
I could also mention the slightly less deranged Malcolm, but that would be a pointless full-on rant! ;-)

If Newcastle United Ever Win the FA Cup! The Masterstroke

You know it's because referees have a mobile or blackberry attached to a Network which tells them not to be afraid and to trust in Newcastle and that this hypnotic call will be disguised by a four beat call. ;-)
If that still doesn't make sense, see here

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CX: Andreas

Andreas blogs about EU politics and Eastern Europe under the nick "kosmopolit" on together with some of his friends. Lately he got involved in projects such as th!nkaboutit ( and bloggingportal ( that both aim at establishing political blogging on a European level. In his offline life he is working on a PhD on EU foreign policy at a UK university. He is a social media fan so you can follow and contact him also via twitter (

What made you decide to start blogging?

I started writing on EU topics after I moved to Brussels for a job. However, this job had nothing to do with EU affairs which somehow was the reason why I decided to move to Brussels in the first place. So thought blogging is a good way to keep myself updated on EU politics and that is how it all began....

What is your best blogging experience?

Surprisingly, I found blogging to be very social. I met a lot of interesting people, got engaged in quite a number of fascinating projects and learned a lot from other bloggers.
It was also quite cool to be one of the first bloggers that revealed the fake Karadzic website. Another remarkable blogging experience happened just a few days ago when I convinced a friend of mine who is living in Moldova to write a few posts about the political protests in Chisinau. This eye-witness account really showed the potential of social media and political blogging.

And your worst?

The worst blogging experience is my laziness. Especially at the moment, I rarely get into the blogging mood, which is partly due to a very interesting job that already involves a lot of writing but partly also because of my laziness.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Usually it is the posts that nobody else is interested in. I think especially some longer 'academically inspired' posts contained a couple of good arguments about the problems of EU debates ( or the regionalisation of the European Neighborhood policy (

Favourite blogs?

As I am blogging a lot about Europe and the EU, it would definitely be Jon Worth ( and Nosemonkey ( (who was probably the inspiration behind the idea to start blogging a couple of years ago) And of course everything on, a new blog portal I helped develop. We are trying to promote the best blogs that write about EU politics with the aim to establish political blogging scene in Europe although there is still a long way to go...

What do you think will be the long term effects of France rejoining NATO

Well, at the moment it is very difficult to say anything with the word "long term" included. France was never really out of NATO, they contributed financially and militarily, now they just decided to rejoin military command structures. No doubt, it is a political signal which shows that Sarkozy is pragmatic in his approach to European security. But I am an optimist: the return of France and the new Obama administration represent a window of opportunity to strengthen EU-NATO relations and develop a better European coordination in military and security issues, especially with regards to the Berlin Plus agreement.

How would you define the Belgian blogosphere?

Frankly, I have no idea. Although I used live in Belgium for a while, I never got into the Belgian blogosphere due to my poor knowledge of French and Dutch. Usually I am engaged in the pan-European blogosphere which is probably even smaller than the Belgian one.

How do you see the EU's relationship with Eastern Europe within the next few years

Technically that would mean the relationship between the EU and the Eastern European countries outside the EU - namely Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. As long as Lukashenko is in power there will not be too much change in EU-Belarus relations, despite the latest rapprohement signals. Ukraine is deeply divided politically and economically, which makes it quite difficult for the EU to make up its mind. Moldova is an interesting case though, but without solving the conflict in Transnistria there will be not much improvement in the bilateral relations. For all three countries Russia is a determining factor, so a lot will depend on EU-Russia relations and on how Russia will use its power position in all of those countries. Enlargement will not be on the menu for quite a while, I think, for different reasons, not only are countries ill prepared and the EU learned from past experiences, but many EU members are not particularly keen on further enlargement. The only Eastern country that has a realistic chance to ever get into the EU is probably Moldova if it manages to solve Transnistria somehow...

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

Yes, definitely. Never really been out of that makes 99.999% of our planet I suppose.

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

I have been traveling a lot in Eastern Europe and I really enjoyed being in Romania where I also used to live for quite a while. And I like the landscape in Scotland - a place I definitely would love to revisit.

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

No. As a political scientist I try to look at people/politicians in a distanced manner.

Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Another one of those questions that keeps you awake at night... I think I do not take inspiration from individuals but more from events and processes. The fall of the Berlin Wall is one of those moments that are quite inspiring - the political and societal processes that led to it but also the impact it had on almost everything in today's Europe.

Favourite Bond movie?

The more gadgets the better. Impossible stunts and good one liners are necessary. And Desmond Llewelyn and/or John Cleese should be in it. Difficult to say really... although it would be easy to say "From Russia with Love" or "Goldfinger" I might as well go with the 1967 version of Casino Royale!

Favourite Doctor Who?

Well, honestly I never really got into Doctor Who and I haven't lived in the UK for long enough to find it interesting. And it was not on TV in Germany when I was younger. However, I quite like the theme tune (there are a couple of great remixes around) and these Daleks.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Always Chocolate - preferably Belgian or Swiss. But without the Chili and pepper experiments.

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

I am a concert lover so this is difficult to answer. Would have been exciting to see The Doors or the Velvet Underground or other bands in the 1960s and 1970s. Still sorry that I had to give back a Nirvana ticket in April 1994 for obvious reasons... At the moment I am looking forward to seeing Spiritualized and Jason Lytle later this year!

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Brussles, Antwerp, or Liege?

Antwerp I guess although I have only been there once or twice. Never really liked Brussels, although it is growing on me since I do not work there anymore. Never really been to Liege but never felt the need to go there either. However, as I live in the UK now, I do enjoy visiting London.

Favourite national newspaper?

Printed Newspapers? Strange question for a blogger as I read tons of online news via a RSS reader in which I have never manage to see the "You have no more items to read" message! Especially if you are interested in EU/pan-European issues one newspaper is not enough either...

But OK let's try to be more specific: As I am living in the UK at the moment I do read the "Guardian" from time to time, mostly the weekend editions. When I am in Germany I try to get hold of "Die Zeit". In Belgium or at work I look into the "European Voice". Recently I discovered "Lettre International", a magazine that is published in several languages and always comes with an amazing selection of essays about political and cultural topics.

What would you say your hobbies were?

At the moment not too much as I am quite busy working on my PhD. But generally I enjoy music and theater. I like traveling, going to the cinema. I tend to go to a lot of modern/contemporary art exhibitions and I am interested in modern architecture.

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

Now I feel like the guy in "High Fidelity". Three favorites always depend on context so this Wednesday evening I would select these 3 songs:

Grandaddy - He's simple, he's stupid, he's the pilot
The Dandy Warhols - The Legend of the last of the outlaw truckers aka the ballad of Sheriff Shorty
John Cale - Paris 1919

I read too many academic books at the moment so not much time for literature. Anyway, why would anyone mention the Bible or Shakespeare in this context? Maybe I understand Shakespeare but I don't think people read the Bible for pleasure and it is also not very well written! I used to like plays by Brecht and novels by Kafka - especially impressed by "The Castle". I also enjoy short stories but cannot put it down to a specific author now.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Trailers To My Favourite Films. No 2 The Ipcress File

Admittedly, being a sixties film, the trailer is somewhat cliche ridden and slightly painful, but some of it does give the flavour of the film.
The Ipcress File is one of my favourite spy films. Starring Michael Caine (in his first major leading role) as Harry Palmer (the antithesis of James Bond, although many on the Production team also worked on the Bond movies). The Ipcress File is about a dogged, underpaid, under-appreciated intelligence operative who, rather than pen pushes, fights against the odds and gets results. Gritty and slightly more realistic about the intelligence world than James Bond, but just as fun in many other ways.
Incidentally there were four sequels to The Ipcress File, but the franchise more or less ended after the second sequel when Michael Caine decided to quit, leaving a twenty-eight year gap between the second and third sequel.


My Twenty Firsts Meme

I have been tagged by Paul Linford to answer the questions in the Twenty Firsts Meme and to add them on. So here goes:

First Job
Helping my Dad in the garden for £1

First Real Job
Assistant Manager of local Scope Branch (Unless my year out as expenses paid Resident Assistant Warden at a Church of England Retreat and Conference Centre counts! Didn't think so)

First Role in Politics
Press Officer for North East Herts Constituency Labour Party. Was appointed in early 2003 and am still in that role

First Car
Have yet to pass my test

First Record
Double purchase of We Can't Dance by Genesis and Greatest Hits II by Queen

First Football Match
Have only watched them on TV. My ambition is to visit Leicester and see my fav team, Leicester City, in action

First Concert
Can't remember. A school orchestra concert I think!

First Country Visited
Sweden, 1982, just before my seventh birthday. Interestingly the same month ABBA recorded their last songs, nothing to do with me though ;-)

First TV Appearance
Background on BBC News, when a student colleague was interviewed over his failure to get an Oxford placement or something like that

First Political Speech
Apparently my Point of Order at the Labour Party Conference in 2004 was judged by the Chair that morning, Tony Robinson, as a speech!

First Girlfriend/Boyfriend
Late starter at 23. Lasted a month.

First Encounter with a Famous Person
Lord Soper, at the Methodist Church where I worshipped, 1985. That said Graeme Garden lived in the same village as me when we were in Oxfordshire and my parents knew him, although I never met him until I bumped into him at Paddington Station some 20 years later

First Brush With Death
Probably being involved in a car crash when I was in my early twenties. It was raining heavily, the car in front went too fast over a large strech of water and we caught the tail end of it. My Mum who was driving did some quick thinking as we skidded across the road and crashed into a fence. We weren't even bruised, only shock!

First House/Flat Owned
Yet to happen

First Film Seen at a Cinema
A Disney film (forget which) at Cinema in Melton Mowbray when I was about seven years old

First Time on the Radio
Being interviewed on a latenight TalkSport programme about Barack Obama last year

First Politician I Met
Clare Short. At an open meeting hosted by the Luton University Labour Party around late 1995.

First Book I Remember Reading
The Mr. Men books

First Visit to the London Palladium
Never been.

First Election
Campaigned for Labour in the 1992 school mock election. After that it was when I stood as Candidate for Baldock Town Ward in 2003, eight months after I joined the Labour Party

Tagging five others as requested: Cally's Kitchen, Rupa Huq's home on the web, Recess Monkey, Tim Roll-Pickering, and WongaBlog

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CIX: KJ Rose

Kelly John Rose is a multidisciplinary consultant and academic. His main interests lie in combinatorial mathematics, computer science, bioinformatics, encryption, security, and advanced web development. He graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2005 with an Honours Bachelor of Mathematics and and just recently completed his Masters of Science in mathematical biology at the University of Calgary. While at Calgary, he has was privileged to work under the supervision of Stuart Kauffman, a pioneer in the field of complexity theory whose books include At Home in the Universe, Investigations, and the recently-published Reinventing the Sacred in which Kelly received acknowledgment.

Kelly has worked in a variety of occupations, from performing business analysis for Canadian National Railways to developing payload software for the Canadian Space Agency. His research experience includes developing a quantum pulse assembler for a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance machine to allow for quantum computation research and studying mathematical structures representing dynamics of genetic regulatory networks.

Kelly is currently based in Toronto and is a senior partner of an educational web software firm. In his free time he plays the guitar and trombone, maintains several websites, and reads voraciously. His non-academic interests include economics, politics, architecture, and science fiction. He is a Cancer, was born in the Year of the Dog, and enjoys walking down to the beach whenever it is warm and sunny outside.

He is currently at work on a book about social behaviour tentatively called "Rotten Apples: This is why we can't have nice things." He is one of the webmasters at Progressive Bloggers

What made you decide to start blogging?

That was a long time ago. Basically, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to learn and develop my php, HTML and CSS skills. After time though, it just turned into a tool for me to vent and discuss the various things that interest me from day to day. This is also how things like the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy aggregator was programmed and such. I find an excuse to hack something together, and then I follow through on it.

In the last little while most of my blogging has been in the hope of encouraging what I consider to be positive change in my community and country. Every little bit helps, you know?

What is your best blogging experience?

Anytime one of my posts gets a good solid comment thread going between readers. It's nice to see people actually inspired to act, even if it's just through commenting, by anything I've written.

And your worst?

The hate mail I receive from time-to-time from diehard Conservatives and blue Liberals. It's positive that I'm agitating them a bit, but it's disheartening that they resort to such tactics. At the same time, it's kinda exciting that I can energize someone enough to do that.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Of late, I really like my Iggy: Authoritarian Prig entry: If only for it's pure snarkiness.

However there is a variety of earlier entries I've done on drug policy and minimum age restrictions on drinking that I also am quite fond of.

Favourite blogs?

DailyKos, Galloping Beaver, James Curran's blog (What do I know grit), no right turn (A New Zealand Blog), POGGE, Devin Johnston's blog.

Given the recent elections and the success in the US of Barack Obama. How do you rate the long term survival chances of Stephen Harper's government

I don't think the elections of Obama has had any significant effect on Harper. However, with the economic downturn, his chances have faded a bit. The blue Liberals will attest that this is all Iggy's doing, but it's fairly clear from the polls that Harper shrunk in March just after the announcements on jobs and such.

We don't have a Canadian equivalent to Obama yet, and so even if there is a real desire for a change-bringing politician, there is not a Canadian leader who actually represents that change.

How would you define the Canadian blogosphere?

Largely sparse and apolitical. There doesn't seem to be that critical mass among the political groups needed to generate real netroots movements yet. There is, however, lots of astroturfing going on by the various parties.

Whether this is good or bad is still up for debate.

What has Canada's response been as a whole to the G20 Summit

I don't know, what do the polls say?

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

Paris, preferably on a sunny day, sitting on a terrace with some good wine and nice company.

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

San Francisco, even in the winter that was a warm and inviting city. The Tunnel Top bar was a particularly awesome place to hang out.

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president of the United States. The first of two Catholics who have ever served in the White House (Joe Biden is the second.)

Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Real: Currently it's Markos Moulitas. His pragmatic nature, but relentless progressivism has really changed the dialogue down in the US. His book "Taking on the System" is a really nice update of Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" for pragmatic progressives.

Favourite Bond movie?

Haven't watched them in years, Goldeneye was pretty fun.

Favourite Doctor Who?

Never seen any of it enough to have an answer.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Vanilla ice cream with chocolate mint shavings.

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

VNV Nation.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Vancouver, Ottowa, or Montreal?

Montreal, totally, followed closely by Ottawa.

Favourite national newspaper?

I don't like any of the current ones, too much bias against progressivism and change. However, if push comes to shove, the Toronto Star is okay, but even it has some very clear bias.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Hacking stuff together, reading, researching mathematics and ecology, my various sites that I have.

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

Not in any particular order.

1. God Said No by: Dan Bern
2. Beloved by: VNV Nation
3. We shall be free by: Garth Brooks

1. Status Anxiety by: Alain de Botton
2. The Illuminatus Trilogy by: Robert Anton Wilson
3. The Return of the Political by: Chantal Mouffe
4. Taking on the System by: Markos Moulitsas

Monday, April 27, 2009

Guest Blog Post at Same Difference

Check out this guest blog post I have done for the disability blog/website Same Difference, where I mention the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism

A Chance To Vote For Barack Obama

MSNBC are running a Poll on Barack Obama's first 100 Days in office. You can vote on whether he is great, a failure etc.. Thing is, many right-wing Republicans are mobilizing to vote him a failure and have trashed his record whatever he does (which is as surprising as the Pope is Catholic and bears not using a portaloo). However, if you regard him as a success, or still feel that he has done fairly well in difficult circumstances, then vote at this address (Hat tip to Rupa Huq).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CVIII: Karin Robinson

Karin Robinson was the Regional Field Director for the Obama campaign under the Democratic Party during last year's Presidential campaign. Currently she is Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad UK and working as an independant consultant on communications strategy and member engagement. She was born near Boston Massachusetts, lived in Washington, DC for many years but by now has pretty much settled here in London. Karin blogs at

What made you decide to start blogging?

Sheer practicality – I wanted to make sure that anyone who was searching for a way to support the Obama campaign here in London would be able to find us. The Obama London blog seemed the ideal way to make our presence Google-y. I only discovered after I got the thing started that writing it was actually a lot of fun. By now I’m sort of hooked – can’t seem to stop myself!

What is your best blogging experience?

I remember one time we were organising a rally for Obama to raise our visibility, to be followed by a canvass on the South Bank on a beautiful sunny Sunday. My co-organiser and I arranged to be there a little ahead of time, and about 10 minutes before we turned to each other and admitted that we weren’t sure anyone was actually going to turn up – our confirmed RSVPs were really low. 15 minutes later we had a throng of about 75 people and some solid chanting going on. And they almost all stayed to canvass the whole afternoon, plastering the town in search of US voters.

Seems a bunch of people really had been following our promotion of the event on the blog, and eventually a bunch of them became ongoing phone bank and canvass volunteers. It felt like a real vindication.

And your worst?

I had to switch on comment moderation in the last two weeks of the campaign because I was getting some pretty offensively racist anti-Obama spam turning up in comments, and even some personal abuse against myself. But overwhelmingly blogging has been a great experience and I meet 100 wonderful new people for every anonymous jerk that pops up – so no complaints.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

I wrote a piece making the argument for national healthcare in the US from the point of view of Americans abroad, which got cross posted quite a few places. I was even approached by a book publisher about getting it republished as an article in a series on the issue.

What I was proud of was the way I was able to combine personal experience with data to make a less well known argument for an issue that’s already really well known.

Favourite blogs?

Obviously, I’m obsessed with American political blogs. Andrew Sullivan’s blog at the Atlantic,, (a sports statistician turned political analyst – best poll analysis anywhere), and Matthew Yglesias at In terms of UK blogs, I like yours. Also, the Daily (Maybe), I do like Alastair Campbell’s and I always check out LibDemVoice and Liberal Conspiracy.

How did you get involved with running the Obama Campaign in the UK?

I’ve been working with Democrats Abroad here in the UK for many years, and had met a lot of expats through that work. So early on in the Primary when I decided to support then-Senator Obama for the nomination I was in a good position to pull together a grassroots supporter group. That group grew and thrived, working on fundraising but also voter registration and get out the vote work. So when the general election started they approached me and asked me to take on the staff role under the Democratic National Committee covering all of UK plus Ireland, Scandinavia and South Africa.

How would you define the American blogosphere?

Gosh – that’s like saying, “How’s the weather on Earth?” I’d say on the whole left wing blogs are a little more successful than they are here. There’s also been some amazing examples of real journalism conducted by some US bloggers – for instance, Talking Points Memo, which I mentioned before, was responsible for an important story about the firing of 7 US Attorneys for political reasons. They pieced together the story by asking readers around the country to send in local reports of firings, and were able to work backwards from there to prove the pattern. Of course, we also have quite a lot of bloggers whose role is just to have a good rant now and again. Which is cool too!

What are the lessons Labour as a Party can learn from the Obama campaign?

I think Labour has a massive problem in that it’s turned off the bright young progressives who ought to be the heart and soul of their efforts going into the general election. The Obama campaign was all about recruiting and motivating activists, and frankly I think the fact that we had an intensely fought primary within the party was helpful for that – our activists genuinely had a say in the direction the party went in. So... try to do that.

To some extent, this is also about demonstrating sincere appreciation for your supporters, and also respect for the voters. Treat your activists like real partners, giving them lots ways to help you every single day (not just the occasional organised canvass) and treat the voters who aren’t currently supporters like thoughtful adults.

Apart from that, I also think it helped that Obama had a really clear vision from the beginning about what the race was all about – “changing the way Washington works” – and he stuck by it relentlessly through the storms and squalls of the campaign. I don’t think Labour (or the LibDems, or the Tories) have yet presented us with that overarching rationale about what the election means and why it matters. Maybe they don’t have one, but if they don’t then I fear nothing they can learn from the Obama campaign will be of any help to them.

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

Oh everywhere! South America – Brazil especially, if I can ever persuade my husband to go with me. I’d like to see more of Scandinavia, having loved it when I visited for the Campaign. Especially the Fjords. (I like saying “fjords”.)

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

I can’t imagine I would ever tire of Tuscany. And the Greek Islands. And the South of France. And Barcelona. And... hmmm... now I’m feeling seriously stir crazy. Must do some travelling.

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

I’ve always had a thing for Elizabeth I – if she counts as a political figure. She’s fascinating in how she understood but surpassed the limits then imposed on women, and the cunning way she played the games of court to ensure a long a successful reign, but failed utterly to make provisions for her own succession. As I say, fascinating, powerful, flawed, and human.

Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Barack Obama, obviously. I just think he’s the exact right person for this exact moment in history.

Favourite Bond movie?

Goldeneye. I love the attempt to come to terms with a post-cold war world, and the introduction of Judi Dench as M., giving an elegiac feel to the dead old world of glamorous sexism and Boys Own Adventures.

As you can probably tell, I’m not normally a huge Bond fan.

Favourite Doctor Who?

I’ve hated Doctor Who my entire life until Russell T. Davies rescued it from tedium, and I’m now obsessed. And I’ve seen David Tennant play Hamlet, so he’s obviously my guy. I like him muchly. But I always did like men tall, pale and European. Yes, Scottish counts as European.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


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

Hmmm... late eighties Queen?

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

Barsby. Because I’ve never even heard of it, and change is good.

Favourite national newspaper?

Washington Post. In the UK – a pox on them all. I read the Times, when forced.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Reading. Hiking. Swimming. Blogging. Obsessing over my cats.

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

A Change is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke

Fairytale of New York, The Pogues

Alison, Elvis Costello

Possession, AS Byatt

The Sandman (Graphic Novels), Neil Gaiman

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Trailers To My Favourite Films. No 1 A Bridge Too Far

I thought I would do a short series on my blog of trailers of my favourite films. This one is for A Bridge Too Far, which is one of my all-time favourite war films. Not so much because of the all-star cast (though that is good), or the rousing music (likewise), but because it shows bravery and determination in the face of adversity and ploughing through in the face of defeat, not out of expediency, but because it is right to do so!
And am still miffed that Lt Gen Horrocks vetoed Roger Moore being cast in the film!

(United Artists)

Dan Hannan At Cheltenham. Plus Osborne's Star Turn!

Mentions of the NHS? None so it seems!
As for George Osborne saying that time was needed with regards to what needed a bit of economic pruning, no wonder because being an Arch-Conservative we know what that means. Cuts on education, cuts on health, cuts on benefit, cuts on every area where the vulnerable are affected! Cuts on the wealthy? Unlikely as that could cost them support with regards to wealthy support in the run up to the general election.
I would like to think I am wrong, that there is something gentlemanly about ones opponents, but the Tories did this in the 1980s and 1990s and they have shown no concrete sign that they would pledge not to do it again!

My View On Christopher Galley

I have to say I am glad that he was sacked, not because he is a whistle blower who tried to embarrass the government, but simply because he is a former member of the Conservative Party, plus has Conservative Party tendencies. He may talk about not accepting money etc.. but he may have acted out of a desire to simply see the Conservatives get elected!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tory Inconsistencies No Umpteenth: The NHS

Check out this fab post from John Prescott at Go 4th. They even have a little poster as well to help drive home the point!
What does inrigue me is that when an MEP in a political party directly and publicly contradicts his leaders views on a major issue, why that said leader ignores the situation?

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CVII: Hatfield Girl

Hatfield Girl: Born and brought up in Hatfield. Graduated in political science, then in social anthropolgy in another place. Married. Brought up family in two cultural inheritances. Fled the New Dawn in 1997 with books and furniture. Lived in ancient ruin while it was restored; then recovered marginal-land farm and reconstructed the buildings as ecohouse. Spent all the money (but better than it was being spent by New Labour) and got most of what was left of it out of England before collapse of sterling. Live in Bloomsbury when in London

Mostly work at whatever needs doing and other people's writing.

What made you decide to start blogging?

Rage. And the feeling I couldn't keep saying things on other's blogs without providing some space myself.

What is your best blogging experience?

All the bloggers who came to say hello when Angels in Marble appeared.

And your worst?

Opening the mail in the morning to find spam from mannerless and incoherent New Labour apparatchiks.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Horses for Courses, Saturday 28 April 2007 and Democracy and Its Fragility, Thursday 19 April 2007.

(but I'm very fond of most of my blog entries)

Favourite blogs?

Lilith for laughing at New Labour; Willem Buiter for understanding how epically wrong their economics is and with occasional starbursts against their immorality; Newmania (but he's so pressed for time his very clever posts are sometimes hard for me to follow without knowing where he wants to get to), Bearwatch (if you follow all his links); Nick Drew for being right all the time.

What inspired you to go into politics?

I'm not in politics except for being interested and writing Angels in Marble. The threats to the community in east Bloomsbury and the demolition of much of the remaining Georgian heritage would send me in if I were there all the time.

You have recently blogged about how the Italian Earthquake has meant to you, i.e. you have a home in Italy. What sparked your interest in the country?

Marriage. My family has lived between Florence and Arezzo for hundreds of years. Also, when the New Dawn broke in 1997 I thought we would be in for a bout of authoritarianism. Never even in nightmares did I think we would end where we are now but I thought it time to elaborate an alternative to New Labour England. I am very fortunate; most cannot take up another life and culture because most cultures are very rejecting of outsiders, and most people are very fond of their own world and backgrounds.

David Cameron recently talked about the need for morality in the markets. A sentiment politicans of all parties can agree on! Surely any form of regulation will upset those on the right, plus what sort of regulation, and in what areas, does Cameron have in mind?

Capitalism is not a moral system. It's a market system where the allocation of resources is determined by market clearing. The moral system is a political system concerned with the use of power and its allocation by consent. Which is why although there is economics, quite good economics, on Angels in Marble, the blog is concerned principally with politics and moral choices. You might ask Mr Cameron what he has in mind - he's been rather reticent, disappointingly so, as time goes by.

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

I have travelled very little; usually I remain within Europe, within Schengen even. If you have a time machine there are a number of places set out in novels I would like to visit visit. Black Sea resorts and other sad summer retreats where there is little to do but think on the human condition. Otherwise I'd like to go to India. (terrible weakness for the music)

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

Germany, always. More specifically, a German Grand Tour. That should take about a couple of years. Then I'd like to work in the Bauhaus Archives on the Neues Typographie. Looks as if I'd better move to Germany for a bit.

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

That's a very interesting question. I exclude the pre second War world because of the 1945 sea change. In the modern Conservative Party the greatest Prime Minister of course was Harold MacMillan. He is the epitome of one nation conservatism.Only William Hague and Michael Howard were Leaders without being PM. I'm not suggesting Winston Churchill because he was a national leader not just a Conservative Prime Minister. I quite admire Harold Wilson.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

As far as the blog is concerned it is the Earl of Onslow. It was his letter to Mr Cameron that (see Angels in Marble post The State of Denmark 18 April 2007) made me realise that something was going very badly wrong. Of the current Lower House, Frank Field.

Favourite Bond movie?

Really dull, all of them.

Favourite Doctor Who?

Buffy has no equal, but the new Doctor Who is much better than the old. David Tennant. And it still can't compare with Quatermass and Quatermass and the Pit.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

It's got to be vanilla, but it's got to be from Vivoli.

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

The Sun King's court orchestra. Or Buddy Holly and the Crickets.

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

None of the above. Can I opt for Machynlleth

and the coast?

Favourite national newspaper?

The Financial Times

What would you say your hobbies were?

Disliking Gordon Brown

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

Lucio Battisti Si Viaggiare

Buddy Holly and the Crickets Not Fade Away

All the others are lieder

Books Currently my three favourite books are -

Well, these are the ones on my bedside table:

Steve Waugh, 'Out of my comfort zone: the autobiography'

Studs Terkel, 'Hope dies last: keeping the faith in troubled times'

Orwell's 'Keeping our little corner clean'

Favourite books of all time - it's your Austens, has to be for native English speakers.

(Plus an addition, due to special request)

Thank you for adding the paintings. Choices of painting are often more telling than books - it's all there in just one look I suppose, even if a long and repeated look.
The paintings are:
Giorgione - La Tempesta,
Kandinsky - Der blaue Reiter,
Uccello - la Battaglia di San Romano.