Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gordon Brown's Proposed Code of Conduct

I agree with this, but still more needs to be done. I recognise that Labour have been better at disciplining it's MP's (i.e. suspending some from the Party, irrespective of whether they stand down), but within days one hopes to see a widespread cabinet reshuffle with significant individuals being sacked, further moves for constitutional reform, the PM considering his own future depending on how good or bad the results are on Thursday, among other things.
I hope to write up on this shortly, but, whilst the situation is demoralising and we should be doing far more, lets cheer on what has been done! MP's are being made to stand down, some may face prosecution, and for the first time there is real widespread discussion on constitutional reform

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXVI: Christopher Aldous

(Christopher Aldous)

Christopher Aldous: Hi my name is Christopher Aldous aged thirty four and I write the blog We Don’t do God

I have been very happily married to Jo for the last 4 years and Dad to three wonderful children Jord, Bethany & Grace.

I am very strong advocate and believer that everybody no matter what walk of life they come from, what sex they are, or colour of skin or disability that they may have should have an equal chance and be given the same opportunities in life. This belief has been formed through my strong Christian faith of virtually twenty years and my active interest in politics over the last eleven years.
My family is my life and my friends bring extra joy to my day to day life.Out of faith, politics and family I am a passionate and addicted fan of Everton Football club. Depending on their results my mood can either be elated or foul for the next day or so. I also enjoy cricket to the extent I can watch a test match all the way through. Whilst away from sport computing and photography are newish hobbies of mine.



What made you decide to start blogging?

It is an interest I have had for a couple of years now, but until recently did not have a fresh idea for starting a blog. I didn’t just want to copy other blogs that had proved successful. I wanted then and want now my blog to initiate debate between like minded and non like minded people also.


What is your best blogging experience?

The ability on a daily basis to read other peoples blogs on a variety of subjects, and their opinions too even if I disagree with them strongly.


And your worst?

Although not personally involved for me it has to be the Mcbride affair. For me it showed all the bad side of what politics can be negative and personal.


What do you regard as your best blog entrry?

I wouldn’t say I have yet. I am very much at a learning stage of the blogosphere. I have though various ideas of future blogs.


Favourite blogs?

Iain Dale, Alastair Campbell, Mars Hill, and Ethical Superstore community blog


What inspired you to go into politics?

It was all a bit of a joke really. In the run up to the 1997 election my Manager at work was a staunch Tory and it drove a colleague and me mad as he would harp on about how great they were all the time. So my colleague and I looked in to Labour Party politics so we had points to argue back at our Manager and just to wind him up a bit further we became members of the Labour party. On Election Day we dressed our desk up in red balloons, streamers and Labour posters and rosettes. I am sure you can imagine our smugness when we went into the work the day after the election win!! So this is how I began looking into politics and it wetted my appetite and I continued then and took it more seriously.


Having recently started your blog, what are your plans for it?

I have some long term plans for the blog like a weekly features including green tip of the week & weekly news review but the art of blogging is you don’t know what is going to be at the forefront of the news from one day to another.


Having recently blogged about freedoms in
China, how long do you think it will be before there is democracy in the country?

Many years maybe not even in this generation, but there has been small insights into this happening, although a setback this week is that as I understand it blogs have been banned from China.


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

America & in particular New York


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

Togo, Africa, and also Africa in more general.


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

Tony Blair


Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration

Tony Blair and more recently Barack Obama


Favourite Bond movie?

Not Really a Bond Fan.


Favorite Doctor Who?

Am I sad for not following Dr Who.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Chocolate


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

U2


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

Oxford


Favourite national newspaper?

Sunday times, primarily for a day in the life feature


What would you say your hobbies were?

Computing, Photography, Football & Cricket


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

Songs:-

Angels by Robbie Williams – (always reminds me of my mother and the support she has given me)

Amazing Grace – (The first verse describes my relationship with God)

Ashes by Embrace (Reminds me of 2005, a year where I married Jo, Everton finished 4th in the premier, England won the ashes & Labour won a historic third term.)

Books:-

The Shack by William Young

Rivals by James Naughtie

One hit wonder by Lisa Jewell

Friday, May 29, 2009

If You Doubt How Vile the BNP Are, Then Take a Look At What Marlene Guest Says!

Hat tip to LabourList and a couple of Facebook buddies who pointed this out (see below)



Words almost fail me. I actually pointed this clip out to a friend of mine who is mild mannered earlier today and her anger was more raw than mine! Guest's comments are not only vile and disgusting, they also show how people can latch onto the most crackpotted and stupid theories if they are prejudiced enough. She then compounds her wilful ignorance by suggesting that dentistry and plastic surgery were the two good things to come out of the Holocaust! Clearly she never heard of McIndoe! As for crematoriums she clearly didn't read that much as she would then know that some of the Jews killed in the Holocaust were shot and dumped in mass graves, but then I don't know why I am bothering to argue against her, she's too pathetic for that!
I only hope that as many people in Yorkshire see this film before June 4th and recognise the BNP for what they are! Fascist scum. As the LabourList post says at the end;

'The 18th Century political philosopher Edmund Burke said: "For evil to triumph all it takes is for good men to do nothing".

Vote.'

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXV: David Watts

(David Watts)

David Watts: I was born in Yorkshire and spent my childhood between there and Malawi in Africa, where my Dad worked. Having graduated with a degree in law from Huddersfield Polytechnic I joined the Crown Prosecution Service as a clerk. I went back to the College of Law in London three years later and qualified as a solicitor, and then worked in practice for the next 15 years. In 2006 I gave that up and joined the country’s largest professional training company as a Course Director, providing post qualification training to solicitors and barristers. I am the author of four books and a number of other training manuals.

Away from work I am married with two daughters. I passionately support Leeds United, I’m a keen photographer, an avid reader and I can trace my family tree back to the 1500’s. In the early part of this century I qualified as a scuba diver. I am a committed Christian and attend Trent Vineyard church in Nottingham.

I joined the Liberal Democrats when the party was formed, although as I worked for a number of years as a civil servant I didn’t become active until the late 1990’s, when I took up a new job in Nottingham. I was first elected as a councillor on Broxtowe Borough Council in 1999, and was re-elected in 2003 and 2007. I stood for parliament in 2001 and 2005, increasing the Lib-Dem vote each time, and am the prospective parliamentary candidate for Broxtowe in the next general election.



What made you decide to start blogging?

It was either a real desire to communicate with people or possibly my inflated ego thinking that people might be interested in what I said. I can never decide which.

What is your best blogging experience?

Being able to tell with practical examples what a cowardly, nasty and evil bunch the BNP are. I wrote an article on my blog suggesting they were the scum of the earth, or at least the UK, and the way that this supposed political party responded was to direct silent phone calls to me all night every night. I had to call the police in.


And your worst?

I’ve not really had one yet.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Simply being able to report the apology of my Labour MP after he libelled me in an e-mail and on a web site, accusing me of seeking to raise funds for terrorists. The story made the front page of the local papers and given I’m a pacifist I was a bit put out. Initially he tried to front it out but one good broadside from my solicitors brought his complete and utter surrender and admission of a libel. I was very pleased to report that.


Favourite blogs?

Baby Barrista – as a lawyer I appreciate how cuttingly accurate this is, and it’s very well written.


What inspired you to go into politics?

A desire to make a difference and a belief that I was capable of doing so. I still believe that.


What are the best ways to combat the BNP in the forthcoming Euro/Council elections?

Not to be afraid to take them on – their one message is race and we need to show them up for what they are – a group of racist thugs. Their arguments, such as they are, as based on lies and falsehoods and we need to be prepared to show that. It is because people have been afraid to speak up against them that they have gained ground, most ordinary people would be utterly repulsed by them if they only knew what they were like, but we haven’t been prepared to do so.



Whats the best thing and the worst thing about being a councillor?

The best thing is actually achieving things for people. I chair the Development Control Committee and recently steered through a massive (£50 million) new flood defence scheme which will protect 16,000 homes from flooding. That makes a real difference to peoples lives. Aspects of the scheme were extremely controversial but afterwards both sides of the argument contacted me to say thank you and they thought that they had a fair opportunity to present their case and be listened to. The worst thing is when you fail, when the system doesn’t work for someone and you can’t fix it. Even as a member of the controlling group on the council you can still feel impotent at times that the machine just keeps on rolling and you can’t stop it.


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

I love scuba diving, I’m PADI qualified, and I’d love to dive the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Two very young children mean that this won’t happen for a long time, but maybe one day…


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

I had the privilege of growing up in Malawi, in Central Africa. I’d love to go back there and when my kids are older that’s one of the places I want to take them.



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

Paddy Ashdown. It was said that when he was a soldier his unit would follow him anywhere, if only out of curiosity to see where he was taking them. It was a bit like that when he led the Lib-Dems, but he transformed us from being the woolly fringe to the radical and real alternative.


Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Desmond Tutu



Favourite Bond movie?

Goldfinger



Favorite Doctor Who?

Christopher Eccleston, but David Tenant pushes him close. I’m a bit concerned that the new guy won’t be up to the job. Still, he won’t be lumbered with Catherine Tate as his sidekick.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Chocolate, every time


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

The Beatles or the Jam. My most recent concerts have been to see Pink, Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson. All were excellent, and all very different.


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

Oxford. Cambridge is too expensive to park, and I work two days a week in Leicester so that isn’t really a big trip out.


Favourite national newspaper?

For a long time it was the Independent but I find I’m leaning more towards the Times now. I just object to Murdoch having any of my money.


What would you say your hobbies were?

Football, photography and genealogy. Back to scuba when the girls are older.


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


S
ongs:

1.
Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson


2.
Town Called Malice – The Jam


3.
Pinball Wizard – The Who

Books:

1.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling


2.
Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams


3.
The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama

Clare Balding

I have a confession to make in that I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Clare Balding. I don't know why it is (although she has good looks and comes across as fairly easygoing), but she is certainly one of BBC Sport's more entertaining presenters.
So it is that I was rather saddened to read that she has cancer. I hope and pray she recovers quickly and returns to our screens before long, but the BBC won't be quite the same with her absence

Margaret Moran Standing Down

Am glad that she has made the right decision, although to be honest neither Moran or her constituency association had much choice, the same goes for Julie Kirkbride.
Of course this means that Esther Rantzen won't be standing in Luton South, but hey that's life :-)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXIV: Sam Ellis

(Sam Ellis)

Sam Ellis, from Nottinghamshire, is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the UK Youth Parliament and has been involved with the UK Youth Parliament since 2003 in various roles. Sam is a previous member of the the UK Youth Parliament and holds a degree in Modern World History from the University of Central Lancashire. He likes make sure he blogs on a variety of subjects to politics, youth issues... And Britain’s Got Talent or the X-Factor

What made you decide to start blogging?

To be fair, I think I was trying to do anything to avoid doing university coursework. I knew that there were blogs out there and I decided to give it a go.

What is your best blogging experience?

For me that was when I got to blog about the UK Youth Parliament being allowed to sit in the House of Commons Chamber. I’m looking forward to being able to blog after the actual event later this year.

http://samuelellis.blogspot.com/2009/03/uk-youth-parliament-to-sit-in-house-of.htm
And your worst?


I’m not sure I’ve got one to be honest. I haven’t had any comments that have needed deleted so I think I’m been quite lucky.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

For me my best blog entry had to be one I wrote about a planning application for a wind farm near my village, http://samuelellis.blogspot.com/2009/04/yes-to-wind-farms.html My reason for choosing that one is because of the mini debate it produced in the comments section. I also think that’s my entry with the most comments!

Favourite blogs?

There are three blogs I read daily. Tom Harris MP, Iain Dale and the blog that’s written by my old housemate at uni, Matt Newman (www.fetlersblog.co.uk)


What inspired you to go into politics?

As corny as it sounds, it’s because I wanted to make a difference I got involved with politics when I was 15 and it was at a time when no one had heard about the UK Youth Parliament. It was important for me to make sure an organisation like that was heard. As time has gone on I’ve discovered more and more that its exciting to be a part of the process.


How did you get involved with the UK Youth Parliament?

I got involved with the UK Youth Parliament back in 2003, when I was elected as a Member of Youth Parliament when I was 16. I heard about it from a Youth Worker from Nottinghamshire County Council that my Mum knew. It’s probably a lot harder to get elected to the UK Youth Parliament now as we have record number of young people standing in every local authority throughout England.


Is there evidence that the Parliament fosters fresh interest amongst young people, as opposed to attracting those who are already interested in politics?

When I’ve met Members of Youth Parliament at our events throughout the country I’ve been amazed at the young people who attend. Not all of the members are die hard party political supporters, and I think a lot of them want to be involved because of their local experiences, They are fed up with the contest negative image that young people get.

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

As crazy as it sounds, I’d love to visit North Korea as it’s so mysterious. Realistically though, I would like to visit Japan.


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

Australia without a doubt. I spent 4 weeks there back in 2002 and it wasn’t nearly enough time to even do Sydney, let along anywhere else!

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 Atlee without a doubt. I think the National Health Service has to be best service ever created by any government, not just in Britain but worldwide, that any country has brought in.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

I wouldn’t call him an inspiration as such but I greatly admire John Prescott. This has a man who hasn’t let his public image ever stop him. He’s taken a lot of flack but he’s always worked hard and only used his own merits to raise from the ships to become Deputy Prime Minister.


Favourite Bond movie?

eek... I’m not a Bond fan

Favorite Doctor Who?

I still must be the only person who doesn’t watch Doctor Who... Sorry!


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Mint... Unless I had the option for all three in the same bowl!


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

The greatest band to have ever lived, The Beatles.


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

I’ve never been to Cambridge so I’d choose there.


Favourite national newspaper?

I tend to read two, The Daily Mirror and The Guardian


What would you say your hobbies were?

When I cane I like to go to the theatre (though it’s been a while). I also enjoy reading and want to try and get back into Badminton which I played at uni, but have since stopped. I also like to try and expand my random knowledge of the railways.

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

My three favourite songs would be;

-Let it be (The Beatles)
-Faith (George Michael)
-Home (Michael Buble)

My three favourite books are;

-Notes from a Small Island (Bill Bryson)
-Notes from a Big Country (Billy Bryson)
-The Sound of Laughter (Peter Kay)

All very lighthearted and makes me laugh.

Derek Draper a Christian?

Hat tip to Churchmouse to alerting me to this.
I have to say that while I'd be happy if it is true, I think given the events of the past few months there is good reason to be wary of this statement. Plus, as Cranmer has stated I'd be interested to know what Draper thinks of the following


1) Are you a real psychotherapist?
2) Did you in any way falsify or misrepresent your qualifications?
3) If you did not intend ever to do anything with ‘those emails’, why did you set up ‘Red Rag’?
4) Why would ‘those emails’ fall into your inbox out of the blue?
5) Who is ‘Ollie Cromwell’, the name to which the domain ‘Red Rag’ is registered, apparently in breach of Nominet’s terms and conditions?

This may well be genuine, after all there were sneers abounding when Jonathan Aitken and Charles Colson found God (and Colson is an evangelical conservative), but time has shown that there were genuine changes there, whatever one thinks of their political and theological beliefs, so we shall see whether this is the response to light shining on a damaged heart, or whether this is another ego trip.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Electoral Reform

On face value David Cameron's proposals look attractive, but one has to ask whether this is a convenient Damascine conversion! I would find it incredible if Cameron knew nothing about some of the expenses claims made beforehand and, whilst all credit to him for making some progress, is he going to do more to discipline some of his Shadow Cabinet for the claims they made? Will any of them be standing down at the next general election? It seems a bit too neat and tidy for my liking, and before anyone asks, yes I think Labour's NEC should do more in dealing with their own miscreants.
One aspect of electoral reform that has intrigued me for a while now though is AV. It seems fair, tidy, helps engage the electorate more, does not automatically lead to coalition governments, and all credit to Alan Johnson and Ed Miliband for considering it publicly.

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXIII: boxthejack

(boxthejack)

boxthejack: Born and brought up in the Black Country; studied Arabic and Politics at Edinburgh; volunteered in Zambia and Palestine; married to primary school teacher; worked (and frustrated) in the charity sector and in politics; will sing for bread. My blog's called boxologies


What made you decide to start blogging?

It was a friend's suggestion originally. I began to use it primarily as a way of getting thoughts together, as a means of active reflection. I suppose that's what it remains first and foremost. I've never really settled on a 'brand' for my blog that would give me the dubious authority of an expert on anything.


What is your best blogging experience?

The most meaningful blogging experience emerged from tragedy. I remember hearing about the untimely death of Dave Petrescue, a pastor I'd come to love and respect in Egypt. His loss hit me much harder than I'd expected, so I posted a tribute to him on my blog.
Several people whom I'd never met got in touch with me to share their thoughts and memories. I felt like my short and unremarkable blog post had been used to honour the life of a remarkable man, and in a way that brought people together.


And your worst?

Any time I attempt to start a series on anything it always fizzles out. Perhaps it's my miniscule attention span.
Other than that, it's never good to know that someone's feelings have been hurt, although it goes with the territory. This is the most notable example, but it ended up being quite a positive engagement.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

This is one of my more personal posts, even if it's a bit verbose.

Going a little further back, this post marks a significant shift in the way I understand faith and knowing.


Favourite blogs?

Some of the best blogs are those set up for a specific purpose for a limited time. Artist Dave Martin maintains a blog whenever he travels to sketch, with some wonderful results in both prose and paint. I followed his Ethiopia blog religiously.

Meanwhile amongst permanent blogs, Ben White's stands out. It's regular, thorough and polemical. It achieves what I aimed to do vis-à-vis Christian Zionism and Middle Eastern Christianity, but a whole lot more professionally. His blog is no depository of miscellany! I also love reading Green Intifada. It's a little irregular, but that's because Whirling McDervish is busy doing amazing work in the West Bank. I'm hoping to visit their project next year. I also feel compelled to read Maysaloon. Wassim articulates perspectives that are too often ignored or obscured, and he does so with extraordinary, provocative eloquence.


You recently blogged about the Euro elections and how you might vote. Do you feel we need electoral reform in this country?

I'm increasingly inclined towards the belief that British democracy is a sham. Arguably, we have embraced the seductive idea that society is nothing more than a collection of dislocated monads, powerless and objectified in an undifferentiated realm of totalising mediocrity: work is about getting the best price for one's labour, peace and prosperity are reduced to security (regardless of on whom we depend for it), and democracy is the occasional event in which we as the circus audience get our chance to play the clowns.

Electoral reform won't change this, alas. Overhauling the structure of government may help, for example by giving very local government real power (thereby attracting more qualified participants), and making referenda a part of the life of citizenship as in Switzerland.

However, even this would be relatively superficial. I don't have answers but I'm investigating a few clues! Georgist economics makes a great deal of sense to me, and moving towards a view of land as common wealth would necessarily change the way we understand productivity and work. More fundamentally, reforming education seems essential. From the very earliest Primary stages, education is likewise deeply individuated, oriented towards labour specialisation and illusory 'independence', and away from real, covenantal codependency. All of these things work against effective participatory democracy.


You also blogged about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. What isn't being done that should be done to resolve that?

You use the somewhat ambitious word 'resolve' so I'll cut to the chase.

Unfortunately, long term peace in the Middle East cannot become rooted until Zionism loses its hegemony in Israeli society and political discourse.

Zionism required the creation of a Jewish majority state where there was no Jewish majority. This necessarily required the departure or removal of non-Jews from the territory. Maintaining the state of Israel likewise requires the artificial maintenance of a majority of Jews, in part by keeping the majority population of the land in a neither-us-nor-another limbo, as non-citizens in a parallel non-state. Ergo, Zionism can not be separated from ethnic cleansing at first, and apartheid in perpetuity. This is clearly unsustainable.

The idea of a Jewish state must be reconfigured such that it does not depend in essence upon maintaining a Jewish majority by whatever means. Bernard Avishai's Hebrew Republic is one significant contribution to this end, and other one-staters have posed creative solutions.

In the short term, however, I do think that establishing a Palestinian state with full sovereignty alongside the Israeli state is necessary, and that's after all what the Obama regime seems recently to have committed to.

You've recently had an album out, what are your plans for the future, musically speaking?

It's a real privilege to be able to earn my bread by singing at the moment. I enjoy the performance dynamic, which is at once one of consensual artifice and honest vulnerability - whether it's singing my own stuff to a sober audience, or a set of standards to Christmas revellers. I'll just keep doing what I do for as long as I have a voice.

That said, I haven't quite put my rock'n'roll dream to rest: if there's a band of noisy zealots in need of a vocalist out there, let me know.

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

It's time I visited the US. The place intrigues me. I'd love to spend a year or two travelling from Alaska to the Tierra del Fuego. That'd make a great blog.


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

I always want to return to places I've visited - with the exception of Saudi Arabia, which was very dark. I'd love to go back to Ethiopia and Yemen. Both places combined the shared memory of a vivid history with a somewhat mysterious culture, giving me the exhilarating sense of being wholly alien. However, if I could only choose one place, it would have to be Jerusalem. So much beauty and horror, dignity and inhumanity. It is like a microcosm of human coexistence.


Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

At the moment it's Dietrich Bonhoeffer. There's an inspirational complexity to his transformed humanity: he was resolutely a pacifist, and yet as a function of love attempted to kill Hitler and died for it. His love trumped even his beliefs - that's utterly humbling.


Which Christian has been your greatest inspiration?

Possibly Hossam Naoum, formerly vicar of Nablus.


Favourite Bond movie?

Casino Royale by a mile.


Favourite Doctor Who?

Jon Pertwee.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Vanilla. With a sprig of fresh mint. And some chocolate.


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

Queen, before 1980.


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

They all look the same from Aberdeenshire.


Favourite national newspaper?

UK? Financial Times.


What would you say your hobbies were?

Singing, gardening, cooking, writing, listening to music, enjoying the arts, and travelling (but it's been too long).


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

All the usual caveats and disclaimers apply:
1. If it be your will - Leonard Cohen
2. Life on Mars? - David Bowie
3. Christ is all - The Soul Stirrers

And books:
1. The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
2. 1984 - George Orwell
3. Small is Beautiful - E.F. Schumacher

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Winterton's Resignation Letter + What David Cameron Is Not Doing Over Expenses!

Iain Dale has published the Nicholas and Ann Winterton's resignation letter and I felt upon reading it that a bit of fisking was required, or rather a translation:

Dear David,

Ann and I have been giving considerable thought in recent months to our future plans.

------------------------------------------------
We realise we are in trouble and want to get out while the going's good
________________________
While I remain tremendously involved both in the House of Commons and in my Macclesfield Constituency (and Ann is also much involved too) I am aware that we cannot maintain the hectic pace at which we have lived for nearly four decades and we would like a steadier lifestyle which would enable us to see more of our family, including eight grandchildren, not least at weekends.
-----------------------------------------------
There is only so much of a lifestyle one can have on expenses courtesy of the taxpayer and we realise this is coming to an end
---------------------------------------------------


Also with all the changes taking place in Parliament and in local government we feel that it is an appropriate time to announce that we do not intend to stand as candidates at the next general election and we will be notifying our Association Chairmen accordingly. However, I would ask that you do not make any public announcement about our decision until we have done this.
----------------------------------------------------------
Basically we know we are about to be kicked out unless we do something PDQ, to coin a phrase it is better to use a loaded pistol in a cell than face a firing squad
--------------------------------------------

Parliament and my constituency have been my life for almost 38 years (and politics in general for almost 50 years) and in Ann's case for more than 26 years, but when you feel as we do that maybe the years are taking their toll and perhaps we can no longer represent Macclesfield and Congleton with the some level of energy and enthusiasm as in the past, we have reached the conclusion that we should pass the baton to a younger person because both Congleton and Macclesfield deserve the very best.
-----------------------------------
We feel we cannot function as MP's with the expenses scandal looming over us and will probably cost the Conservatives our seats at the next election if we hang on.
--------------------------

I hope that during the remainder of this Parliament I can help others in returning to the House of Commons itself some authority, independence and integrity over the executive of the day because the House is currently virtually impotent.

-------------------------------------
Life is so unfair
----------------------------
Our support for the Conservative and Unionist Party is total and we will continue to do all we can to ensure a great victory at the next General Election whenever it comes.
--------------------------------
We realise that by hanging on, as various people have pointed out, we will cost the Conservatives the next election
-----------------------------

We wish you every success.
Yours ever
Nicholas

---------------------
Ditto

Incidentally I notice David Cameron has not sacked any Shadow Cabinet minister embroiled in the expenses row. Can anyone care to enlighten me what is going on there!

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXII: Mike Smithson

Mike Smithson is the founder and Moderator of PoliticalBetting.com. One of the most popular blogs in the UK.


What made you decide to start blogging?

I've always been fascinated by polls, forecasting political outcomes and betting and in late 2003/early 2004 I came to the view that the then front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Howard Dean, was not going to make it. I began discussing this and other political betting issues on Betfair's discussion forums. Politics was classified in their "specials" section and just about the same time someone called Kerry" was favourite to win Pop Idol or something like that. On many evenings pop idol backers would come and disrupt our conversations which, by early 2004, had become about John Kerry. After several days of this I got fed up and became determined to set up my own site where those who shared the same interest could come. I acquired the Politicalbetting.com domain name and PB started in March 2004.


What is your best blogging experience?

Just seeing the dramatic success of the site,- we currently averaging more than 100,000 page down-loads a day, which was epitomised in April 2009 when we reached the million mark in terms of the number of comments.


And your worst?

The worst experiences have been trying to manage our massive comments traffic when one side or another has been on top and has become aggressively obnoxious. I don't lile banning contributors because I like to operate a light tough and maintain the cross-party feel of the site. But about ten people are permanently banned and half a dozen others have the equivalent of "constraining orders" where they get a red card if they go over the line.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

This was the famous call on May 26th 2005 on Barack Obama to win the presidency when he was 50/1 in the betting. In the discussion I wrote "Thinking forward just two and a half years you can see what a hurdle the Iowa caucuses in January 2008 are going to be for Hillary. The nature of this process and the way people get together and discuss the options saw off the favourite, Howard Dean last year and might be the context that is good for a charismatic contender like Barack"
http://politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2005/05/26/could-this-man-be-the-next-president-of-the-united-states/


Favourite blogs?

Guido, Iain Dale, ConHome, LabourHome, Paul Linford, LibDem voice, Spectator CoffeeHouse


At this stage, who do you think is likely to be the next Speaker?

I desperately want it to be someone up to the challenge of restoring the power of the Commons against the all-power government machine. The only person capable of doing this is Vince Cable. I've just got a feeling that he might be persuaded. Just think how crazy it was that ordinary MPs were not allowed to have a confidence motion on Michael Martin debated - they would have had to rely on the government machine giving them the time. The system stinks and the next speaker will be crucial in making change.


You recently blogged on Expensesgate contributing to a possible rise in Euroskepticism. What do you think the practical fallout will be?

Not a lot. UKIP doing pretty well on June 4th and their bubble bursting as we get closer to the general election. We are in Europe and we are not going to leave.


How do you rate Brown's chances of political survival within the next six months?

Hopefully he will be ousted soon and Alan Johnson, one of the goodies over expenses, will take over. I don't rate this as much higher than a 35% chance. Labour's choice of Brown is only equalled by the Conservative election of IDS in 2001. Both moves were an affront to the electors.


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

Southern Africa and Cuba.


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

I used to fly to the US every four-five weeks in my previous jobs. I don't do that any more and I miss it enormously. The best city in the world is Chicago.


Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

The pioneers of the reform movement that led to the 1832 act being passed. There were many involved but Lord Grey and Lord John Russell are the ones who got it through parliament. It's not always easy getting turkeys to vote for Christmas. We desperately need someone with their drive and vision to bring in required change today.


Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

In blogging terms the person I've been most inspired by is Andrew Sullivan.


Favourite Bond movie?

I still remember Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in Dr. No. That moment has never been equalled.


Favourite Doctor Who?

Never watched it.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Vanilla


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

The Weavers


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

I spent ten years from 1995 - 2005 working in Cambridge and then Oxford. I love both cities but Cambridge probably has the edge. I've never heard of Barsby.


Favourite national newspaper?

I suppose the Mail stands out although I never buy it. I read all of them on the net.


What would you say your hobbies were?

Blogging, betting, Burnley FC, and before my knee went I loved cycling. Also collecting memorabilia from the Reform Act campaign, good food and enjoying very fine Darjeeling teas.


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

Ewan Maccoll/ - /The Joy of Living/

Sinead O'Connor & The Chieftains/ - /The Foggy Dew/

Oysterband/ – The Road to Santiago/

Stasiland/: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall: Anna Funder:

Winter in Madrid by CJ Sansom

George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Hate Meme

Iain Dale has tagged me to list 19 things I hate. Bit of a challenge, because with some of these things I am just not angry enough, but here goes.

1 - Most hated food.

Brussell Sprouts. Why are thhey part of the Christmas Day meal! I feel physically sick even at the thought of eating them.

2 - Most Hated person.

Well Robert Mugabe isn't exactly a likeable guy, and whilst I don't hate Dick Cheney, I think he behaves like one at best.

3 - Most hated job.

My last one. Had to get the CAB involved, enough said.

4 - Most hated city.

Have yet to visit it. Cities I've been to I either love or feel indifferent towards

5 - Most hated band/song.

Oh where do I start! I disliked half the stuff in the Top Ten in the early nineties thats for sure. Most of them given airplay over more decent stuff on Top of the Pops. The dutch band 2 Unlimited (what a laugh for a name) is a classic example

6 - Most hated website.

Any nasty and aggressive blog. But the really vile ones, such as the BNP wesbite, I would only look at if I had to.

7 - Most hated TV program.

Again, where do I start! I don't watch much TV these days, but I do hate those silly graphics and stunts that some political programmes do and I agree with Iain about Heartbeat. Oh yes, those Swiss rail documentaries you sometimes get on Sky +

9 - Most hated British politician.

There are some I really don't like (from all the main parties), but I haven't met some of them and so I'll keep a diplomatic silence for several reasons. With regard to past politicians though, I think Lloyd George, Lord Boothby, and Sir Richard Manningham-Buller were not people I'd want to make polite conversation with had I been around then. I'd also have found George Brown difficult to deal with, but then to be fair he had an alcohol problem. Plus Roy Jenkins, for all his talents, could be a self regarding snob who would run away at the first sign of a major political scrap.

10 - Most hated artist.

I like some forms of conceptual art, but I can be sniffy on most forms of modern art

11 - Most hated book.

Mein Kampf

12 - Most hated shop.

Harrods, because of who owns it. It was the one place I refused to visit with a former girlfriend, whenever we met up in London

13 - Most hated organisation.

The BNP.

14 - Most hated historical event.

9/11. On a more trivial one I am sure I still have brusies on my psyche from waking up during the small hours of 10th April 1992, as do many Labour activists

15 - Most hated sport.

Snooker in so far as it's enjoyable to play but boring to watch. Plus Curling, what is the point of that?

16 - Most hated technology.

None I can think of right now, but I can remember tape disks and thought they were a nuisance and not at all elegant

17 - Most hated annual event.

Eurovision, but only if Britain has a bad entry

18 - Most hated daily task.

Forcing myself into the shower

19 - Most hated comedian.

Racist stand-up comedians are pretty awful. I did think Bernard Manning was lazy minded and sometimes obnoxious. Not a fan of Jim Davidson either


Tagging: Kerron Cross, Rupa Huq, Paul Linford, Running Life, Aye We Can, Tim Roll-Pickering

Last Night On Iain Dale'sTalk Radio

Last night I did a Tom Harris and phoned in to chat with Iain Dale during his shift on Talk Radio (likewise I was taken aback when Iain answered himself and was disorientated by the poor line). The issue (surprise surprise), was on MP's expenses and I pointed out the fallacy of the Tories calling a general election now, as some of the MP's who have misbehaved have yet to be disciplined and, given some of the safe seats they are in, those MP's could easily be returned with comfortable majorities in our first-past-the-post system. Obviously the same goes for all MP's and I could be wrong, but I do feel its better, at least where Labour is concerned, for the activists to punish their MP's and we have just as much cause to be angry as they have not only misused our taxpayers money, they have besmirched the reputation of the Party of which we are proud members.
Anyways you can find the Podcast of last nights Talk Radio show here. I'm about 37 mins in.

Nadine's Problem

Enough people have blogged on this for me to go into detail, but for all Nadine Dorries's protestations, her comments were unfair towards the Barclay Brothers (who I am not exactly a fan of given their activities with regards to Sark recently), plus MP's have laid themselves open to the attacks they are getting by misusing taxpayers money, in spirit if not in law.
My main criticism, and one I would level at any public figure as a fault, is that Nadine Dorries seems to think too much with her heart and not enough with cold logic and one is useless without the other. I do hope however that the issue is resolved.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What Needs To Be Done With The Cabinet

Much has been said about the forthcoming cabinet reshuffle and who may be dropped and who will stay!
Well for my free advice, the PM would make a lot of headway and, regardless of how many enemies he makes, will be popular with the public and the Labour Party at large if he starts a major culling programme.
For a start, given the volatile nature of public opinion, those who have the most dirty hands need to be dropped. That will include Hazel Blears and Margaret Beckett, who has (at least initally) refused to return her expenses. Lets not also forget that this is someone who has flirted with the hard left in the late 70s/early 80s. Beckett is also someone who lacks the Common touch at a time when it is badly needed. It would be foolish, as well as incredible, if Brown were to keep her on and promote her to full cabinet.
And while we are at it, why should Gordon Brown not sack Geoff Hoon, or indeed anyone who has been misbehaving over the expenses issue. At the very least demote them to the far corners. Hoon's nickname of "Buff" might be a bit personal, but he has not exactly had the most glowing of cabinet careers and perhaps now is the time to put him out of his misery. As for Mandelson, perhaps its best if we don't go there.
I honestly cannot understand (unless out of misplaced loyalty), why the PM would keep these people! Well I can guess, but I hope its not the case. It would be tempting to drop-kick them out of the cabinet now, but it is risky. One things for sure, some drastic measures need to be taken because the public will quickly ignore us and we shall suffer. I somehow suspect though that drastic measures will begin to be made after 4th June, but we must keep fighting for Labour because the alternatives are unpleasant, and those of us who are Labour activists who are not mired in sleaze must reclaim the Party, or else we will all be drop-kicked

The Guy Who Helped The Leak Of Expenses Is Identified

Just goes to show that upsetting anyone in the SAS is not a good idea :-/

Wednesday's Episode Of The Apprentice

Oh where do I begin! Well for a start, as much as I wanted to see it happen early on, I don't think Ben should have been sacked. In the past three weeks he has shown maturity and a willingness to learn. That said he did harp on a bit too much about having gone to Sandhurst and the last time he did so, Sir Alan's withering response was a classic one-liner.
It should have been Debra. For the past two weeks she seems to show a business acumen which involves going "Ooh, I like that product, lets flog it!", without taking into proper account as to whether it will sell properly or not. Surely in this day and age it would have been obvious that a rocking horse made by a company which caters to the rich and powerful would not sell at the Earl's Court Exhibition! Surely the obvious thing is to sell common, yet practical products, that appeal to parents, such as crash helmets and push-chairs. Yes, yet again it was painfully obvious within the first fifteen minutes of the programme which team would end up in the Boardroom.
So the events lurched towards their inevitable conclusion (except perhaps the sacking of Ben), and the contestants facing the chop had to inwardly decide which made them squirm more. Sir Alan Sugar sounding off with his acerbic one-liners, or the deadly, but charming Nick and Margaret, who calmly and surgically point out the errors of the contestants in front of them. I don't envy any of the contestants facing such a situation, so why they don't work flat out together to prevent it and stop and think for thirty seconds before making crucial decisions which require basic common sense is beyond me.
Oh and what did you think of Sir Alan's treat this week? It was okay, but its relatively easy to get a characature drawn of you in Covent Graden and just about anyone can visit the National Portrait Gallery. That said, how many of us have had a characature of us drawn by Gerald Scarfe?

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXI: Cynical Chatter From The Underworld

(Cynical Chatter From The Underworld)

Cynical Chatter: I’m 42 years old, currently living in Barrow-in-Furness accompanied by my cat Cuffs. Born In Blackpool, I spent most of my first sixteen years of life living in the market town of Ulverston. I joined the Army at sixteen straight from school in 1982, finally leaving the forces in 1999. Five years ago an accident at work left me disabled with constant back pain and problems with my legs. Two years ago I was diagnosed with serious depression and have been taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication since then. I have recently been diagnosed as having Type 2 Diabetes. Politically I would say I’m on the right and Libertarian. Up until two years ago I had always voted Conservative, but now I’m sick and tired of all three political parties trying to occupy the same political space and most recently have voted for independents in local elections.



What made you decide to start blogging?

I first started blogging about ten years ago on what you could call a specialist website, I used my blogging there as a way of recording my development and experiences in that particular area. My current style of blogging started as a way of occupying myself after an accident at work left me disabled, I wanted to have a say about political issues, blogging was the only way I could see to do that.

What is your best blogging experience?

I think it was being a part of the whole Craig Murray and Usmanov /Schillings experience, all those bloggers coming together to stand up forwhat was right, regardless of their personal politics or even their blog subject matter. I suppose it was a Spartacus moment for bloggers. I hope we can see something similar again in the future.

And your worst?

Losing about 1800 entries when I screwed up my blog last May, I had to start all over again from scratch. I nearly gave up blogging then.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

This years post for Blogging Against Disabilism Day, for once I managed to express myself in a way that I was happy with, quite often I'm disappointed by my own writing, it is rare that I think it is good enough.

Favourite blogs?

Now that is difficult, There are so many. I would have to say Benefit Scrounging Scum, Devils Kitchen, Diary of a Wordsmith and I also have to mention John Redwood, I may not agree with his politics but I think he writes very well about politics.

Surely if a general election were to be held now, it could cause MP's who deserve to be out on their ear to be returned in the safe seats some of them represent?

I am coming round to that point of view myself. Having said that, why can't all the expenses details be sent direct to constituencies to enable the local parties or associations to make a decision on whether their MP should be deselected? As soon as all MPs had a decision then an election could be called.

At this moment, out of the four candidates you have in mind for Speaker, who would you most like to see in the job?

David Davis, I think he has the stature and ability to do a great job, I also think that he would hold the government to account no matter which party was in power. If the Labour MPs had any sense they would push for him to be speaker because in government he would be formidable.

Do we need electoral reform in this country?

Yes, we need the right to recall MPs. We all need to have a say in which candidates are put forward by the parties. We need fixed terms so that elections take place regardless of the political situation. I would also like to see a system in which the PM is considered to be elected by the whole country and can't step down without triggering a general election.

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

That would be a toss up between Russia and New Zealand. Both countries look to have a wide range of things to explore.

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

Berlin, I was last there in 1980, hearing the church bells ringing to let everyone know someone had made it across the wall was an eerie experience

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

Queen Elizabeth, she may have been queen, but she was also a consumate politician.

Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

I'm stumped, I can't think of anyone who I could call my greatest inspiration, at best I would say I cherry pick from whoever makes sense at the time.

Favourite Bond movie?

Goldfinger

Favourite Doctor Who?

Jon Pertwee

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Chocolate.

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

The Clash

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

Cambridge

Favourite national newspaper?

The Telegraph

What would you say your hobbies were?

Photography, music, reading, blogging, whipcracking, and I'm just starting to experiment with a video camera to add videos to my blog.

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

Only three of each? That is hard.
Songs: London Calling - The Clash, Rat Trap - Boomtown Rats, Sonne - Rammstein.
Books: Chickenhawk - Robert Mason, The Star Faction - Ken Macleod, The Player of Games - Iain M. Banks.

A Hidden Piece On The Expenses Scandal

Lets take a look at Mike Penning, the Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead.
Penning who has a reputation within Labour circles for running unpleasant election campaigns, pocked £8,000 in mileage for journeys to London. His feeble excuse;

"I'm very active in the constituency and I go back and see my family.

"I think it's important people see me and my family sees me. I don't think it's right for MPs to disappear to Westminster."

There is a wonderful invention that has been made to deal with this, I know there are the facilities for boarding one in Hemel because I was an Intern for the Hemel Hempstead Labour Party during the 2005 general election. Its called a train, and whats more you can get wonderful things to help use it like season tickets, which many of Penning's unfortunate constituents use without resorting to expenses, and some of them earn less than him!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Trailers To My Favourite Films. No 6: Monty Python's Life Of Brian

(MontyPython)

Not a trailer admittedly, but one of my favourite scenes from the film with plenty of classic one liners. That said, my favourite has to be the following bit of dialogue, as published on the imdb:

[Brian is writing graffiti on the palace wall. The Centurion catches him in the act]
Centurion: What's this, then? "Romanes eunt domus"? People called Romanes, they go, the house?
Brian: It says, "Romans go home. "
Centurion: No it doesn't ! What's the latin for "Roman"? Come on, come on !
Brian: Er, "Romanus" !
Centurion: Vocative plural of "Romanus" is?
Brian: Er, er, "Romani" !
Centurion: [Writes "Romani" over Brian's graffiti] "Eunt"? What is "eunt"? Conjugate the verb, "to go" !
Brian: Er, "Ire". Er, "eo", "is", "it", "imus", "itis", "eunt".
Centurion: So, "eunt" is...?
Brian: Third person plural present indicative, "they go".
Centurion: But, "Romans, go home" is an order. So you must use...?
[He twists Brian's ear]
Brian: Aaagh ! The imperative !
Centurion: Which is...?
Brian: Aaaagh ! Er, er, "i" !
Centurion: How many Romans?
Brian: Aaaaagh ! Plural, plural, er, "ite" !
Centurion: [Writes "ite"] "Domus"? Nominative? "Go home" is motion towards, isn't it?
Brian: Dative !
[the Centurion holds a sword to his throat]
Brian: Aaagh ! Not the dative, not the dative ! Er, er, accusative, "Domum" !
Centurion: But "Domus" takes the locative, which is...?
Brian: Er, "Domum" !
Centurion: [Writes "Domum"] Understand? Now, write it out a hundred times.
Brian: Yes sir. Thank you, sir. Hail Caesar, sir.
Centurion: Hail Caesar ! And if it's not done by sunrise, I'll cut your balls off.

This Months Total Politics

Iain Dale interviews Cherie Blair. Courtesy of Iain and Total Politics I got a sneak preview. It was the following that intrigued me:

One of the themes throughout the book is the importance of your faith, which I think a lot of people would have been slightly surprised by. You recently said that Christians were being marginalised in the UK, what do you really mean by that?

Did I?

Well so I’m told.

No, I don’t think so. What I learnt when I was in the Young Christian Socialists in my teenage years as a Christian, was that it’s about what you do. The church needs to be there when people need it. It needs to be there among the homeless. It needs to be there among the people who are finding things tough at the moment, and it is. That’s what I believe and I said that if they don’t do that then you become marginalised. I also said that you have to engage with women, particularly at a time now when society is much more about groping towards equality between men and women.

Some say that for 2,000 years you men have had control, so now we’re going to spend 2,000 years controlling you. That’s not what it’s about. It’s actually about men and women with equal respect for each other doing things better together. The church needs to think about that.

I guess what I meant was I think a lot of Christians feel that, I mean bearing in mind that Britain is in effect a Christian country, that other religions are getting priority from government in a way. It’s understandable that government has to engage with Muslims but we are actually a Christian country. Do you agree that there’s that sort of feeling out there?

It’s not something that I am conscious of myself, but I think it’s important that we reach out, not just among Christians themselves but also between religions because I think what people in faith share is much more important than what divides us. I don’t think that means we should agree on everything, because obviously we don’t agree on everything, but it’s actually more important to highlight what we agree on than what we disagree on.

How much of a role should religion play in politics? In America it plays a huge role and here I think it is beginning to play a bigger role, but I’m not sure that that’s a very good thing.

Personally, I am a huge believer in the secular state and I think it’s really important that the state is a place where everyone comes as equals and there is no sort favoured, whether its class, whether its sex or whether its indeed religion. Because of that the common meeting place, which is the state, has to be secular but to pretend that people ‘don’t do God’... When I come into the secular space I come in with all the baggage I bring with me and that includes my beliefs, as it does with everybody else, because if you are a believer then these things matter to you.


I can see her point about needing to be a secular country. The US, for example, is a secular nation and Christianity thrives there in a way it doesn't in the UK, and yet we need that balance of Christianity needing to breathe and yet recogising the need for tolerance with regards to other beliefs within the setting of state administration and authority. What does concern me however is that it's a generalistic answer and some of it doesn't appear to be thought through, but then this is not a long interview where one can be too in-depth

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXX: Alex Ross

(Alex Ross)
Alex Ross joined the Labour party in late 2007, becoming Youth Officer for Shipley CLP. In Feburary 2009 he became the party's candidate for the local elections due to take place in 2010. He started the Wage Concern campaign against a Conservative backbench Bill to allow opt-outs of the Minimum Wage. The campaign was taken on by John Prescott and the GoFourth team, culminating in a rally held in the Houses of Parliament on the day of the Bill’s reading on Friday May 15th, where Alex spoke. The campaign has been a success and pushed the Conservatives to pull the Bill due to be read on May 15th and instead it is to be read on June 12th. He blogs at http://alexross.wordpress.com/ and can be found on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Alex_Ross1983.

What made you decide to start blogging?

It’s the easiest way to directly communicate your thoughts to the outside world. I don’t have to rely on the local media to relate my opinions to an audience, though frankly I can’t hope to complete with a 30,000+ daily audience, so it is important to try utilise all possible avenues, which is what I do.


What is your best blogging experience?

Being able to blog about John Prescott and James Purnell backing Wage Concern, and revealing Wage Concern itself, was a thrill. The funniest was using theyworkforyou.com to bookmark the video of John Bercow calling our MP, Philip Davies, a troglodyte for his opposition to the Equalities Bill.

And your worst?

Accidently posting some incorrect stuff about Philip Davies was embarassing. He was nice about it but it was frustrating. I’d basically noted a story from another website, which clearly hadn’t updated itself since the story – about a fight between him and a Labour MP at a radio station – was rebutted by both MPs. It was annoying too as the Labour MP had the surname ‘Pound’, so I managed to get in a good pun about Davies giving him a ‘pounding’. I kept the post up there though, and just updated it – making clear my mistake – as with blogging you tend to have to ‘fess up to mistakes, which is as it should be, rather than pretend they never happened, which some people try get away with.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Blimey, perhaps the one I mentioned above about Philip Davies being referred to as a troglodyte. Stuff like that just doesn’t get in the local papers but people need to know how he is thought of in the Commons and more importantly why. It helps explain his views and opinions on things, and other peoples reactions, that don’t get reported. Plus it was hilarious.

Favourite blogs?

Hopi Sen is great, as is Tom Harris MP. Duncans Economics Blog is also very good for a left-wing economic perspective that’s measured and thoughtful. Conor Ryan is also a good one, as is Alastair Campbell. And I can’t not mention John Prescott can I?

What inspired you to go into politics?

It was around the time of the Northern Rock saga that I joined the Labour party. Before then I’d gone from being a casual supporter to identifying myself more and more as ‘Labour’ over the course of several years. I have no idea how that progression was made, it started probably when I was a teenager and just carried on as I got older and widened my perspective beyond the occasional single issue.

When I started getting into politics as a subject, I was living in Beeston, Leeds, which has three Labour councillors and Hilary Benn as the MP, so I saw first hand the effect good councillors and MPs can have on their local community – Benn helping a neighbour resolve a tax credits issue sticks in the mind as they could have lost their home - and I’d guess that cemented not so much my support, which was well defined by then, but my determination to get involved at some level.


When Northern Rock collapsed I felt the government was pursuing the right policies (though ultimately holding on too long before nationalising it) and the Conservatives were all over the place and not getting held to account on it enough.

Basically something inside me must have snapped and I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth was, join the party and stand up for what I believed in. I was living in Shipley by this point so it was a bit of a culture shock moving to an area with a Conservative MP and Green councillors.


Tell us about the circumstances with which you helped start the Wage Concern campaign and how you feel it is going so far?


I’m signed up to theyworkforyou.com for updates whenever our MP speaks or does anything in the House, so we can keep up to date with what he’s up to, what he backs and what he opposes. I found out he’d sponsored a Bill that would allow employees to ‘opt-out’ of the Minimum Wage, effectively abolishing it. He’s a total market fundamentalist so I’d always presumed he’d oppose something like the Minimum Wage but I was surprised he’d put his name to it (credit to him for standing by his beliefs I guess).

It was obvious we needed to campaign on the issue and we had a street stall in Shipley town centre booked, so I made a petition and we went about collecting signatures.

In tandem with this I created a Facebook group and an online petition to help organise things online, but I couldn’t find contact details for many other CLPs with Conservative MPs who backed the Bill, so I sent an email to John Prescott via Facebook and asked that he do a blog on the issue, as he’d done similar things calling out Daniel Hannan after the NHS comments he made.


Once Prescott got on board and rebranded it Wage Concern, getting unions involved, it took off from there until our successful rally in London on Friday May 15th. I got there only to find out the MPs had pulled it from the days readings, after they were asked to go on the Today show to explain it. They’re going to try put it through again on June 12th, so we’ve got an extra month to campaign on it.

As you can imagine, I’m delighted with the success of the campaign so far, basically we won and forced the Conservative MPs into a climb-down. The next stage is to try flush out more MPs who are opposed to the Minimum Wage and locally we need to tell as many people as possible that their MP opposes the Minimum Wage.


How do you find life as a Labour Candidate for the 2010 Bradford Council elections?

It’s good! One thing about being a candidate is you get to go out to a lot of local meetings and see the people in your community who are out there all the time trying to make a difference to their community, often with little funding and little recognition for what they do. In that respect it’s very inspiring, though also quite tiring when you work full-time as well! It’s also good to be able to hold the council to account in an official position as a candidate, and try make a positive difference even as a candidate as opposed to a councillor.

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

Switzerland is the first place that springs to mind, my girlfriend wants to go because she loves the place and I want to go to visit the HR Giger bar, as I love the Alien films. It’s expensive though, and as such we’ll be sticking with Scarborough and Whitby for the foreseeable future. San Francisco as well is somewhere we’ve always wanted to go to.

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

The USA, where my dad lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, which is about an hour out of Boston. Prague as well, which I visited with my girlfriend last year, is a wonderful and very friendly city, unless you’re in a rock club, where the staff seemed quite churlish. It was about a pound a pint though, so I didn’t care.

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

Blimey. I suppose you can’t look past Churchill just because of the enormity of what he did in leading the country against Hitler. Though I always find it intriguing that he was voted out straight after and without the war would be considered a rather mundane and mediocre domestic Prime Minister. Best Labour leader would have to be Tony Blair, despite any faults you could attribute to him he led us to three election victories that allowed us to put in place policies like the National Minimum Wage and Sure Start.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

I’m not a great studier of politics so I don’t have or know of that wide an array of figures to choose from to be honest. I know it’s not very popular to complement him but I’ve always found Gordon Brown’s commitment to reducing poverty, both at home and abroad, very inspiring. Whatever flaws he had and has as both chancellor and Prime Minister, I’ve always found his specific commitment to eradicating poverty inspiring. Britain is the only country (I think) currently on target to meet it’s Millennium Development Goals for instance, and the drive he shows in going for this (over such a long period of time) I find totally admirable.

Favourite Bond movie?

Oh dear, I’m not a huge Bond fan to be honest. I’ve always prefered the first Tom Cruise Mission Impossible film! Sacrilege I know. I used to love the ones with Jaws in them though – the guy, not the shark. Though that would be great, Bond vs. Jaws. I probably need to sit down and re-watch them to re-appreciate them.

Favorite Doctor Who?

Another one I was never in to, it always seemed really cheesy to me and as such it just passed me by. The news ones aren’t bad but it’s not something I’d ever regard myself as a fan of. Tom Harris is a total Dr Who geek though, so I’ll direct you on to him!

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

I like all of them but can never understand how anyone can turn down chocolate.

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

Well my aim when I was younger (I’m only 25 now but still) was to see Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses. I’ve done that, so I guess The Beatles would be amazing but I don’t think their music would translate as well live unless they stuck to the blues and rock n’ roll based stuff, so I think people would actually be a bit disappointed if they saw them live (hypothetically, dead members notwithstanding). Prince and his band circa 86-88 would have been amazing.

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

Scarborough is always fun as the in-laws (or the ‘outlaws’ as the missus refers to them) live there and I love 2p slot machines and House of the Dead arcades. Not sure where else – would love to go to Edinburgh for the weekend but it would cost as much as a weekend abroad, same with London. Weekends away are always fun so usually I don’t mind where I go, I know Hedben Bridge is on our list of ‘places to stay overnight’. As long as there are pubs with real ale I tend to be happy!

Favourite national newspaper?

I’m afraid I’m one of those annoying people who don’t really buy papers anymore. I read the Guardian, The Independent and The Times online though.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Listening to music, I used to play it but never seem to find the time these days, ‘socialising’ – which I’ve always been told to put on my CV or personal records instead of ‘going out drinking’ – with friends, either going out into town, going for dinner – the usual stuff I guess. Sadly, the more you get into politics the easier it is for it to become your hobby as well, which isn’t always very healthy.

I enjoy hill walking – I recently went up to Masham, near Ripon, and also did Penny Ghent. About 8 miles is my limit when walking as I have bad knees.

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


This is the hardest question to answer! Three albums might be slightly easier but specific songs? The three I’m probably listening to most at the moment would be ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ by The Beatles from the Magical Mystery Tour album, which I’ve just dug out from my collection and am giving a proper listen to, ‘Number One Song In Heaven’ by The Sparks, and probably anything by Prince, though specifically something off his new albums Lotusflow3r (yes, it has a 3 instead of an ‘e’!) and Mplsound. I’ll go with his cover of ‘Crimson and Clover’, which is gorgeous.

My three all-time favourite songs – and I appreciate I’ve fudged your answer here – would probably be ‘The Ballad of Dorothy Parker’ by Prince, ‘Combination’ by Aerosmith and possibly ‘In My Life’ by The Beatles, or the acoustic demo of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by Lennon.

I can assure you I’m more decisive in politics than I am when choosing favourite songs!

Books? I initially read that as films for some reason (Spinal Tap, Monty Python and Holy Grail, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind if you’re asking).

Wizard and Glass by Stephen King springs to mind, book four of his Dark Tower series, and the best in the series in my opinion.

War of the Worlds is an old favourite I haven’t read in years.

The Foundation Saga by Isaac Asimov is a series close to my heart as well, as I studied it for my dissertation so it has a lot of memories from that time of my life associated with it. I choose that as one book as the originals were all released in magazines and collected into books anyway so they’re not novels in the traditional sense in some regards.