Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Conservatives and Personality Politics

Nearly four years ago David Cameron was elected leader of the Conservative Party. For some who have no intention of ever getting involved with the Conservatives, David Cameron's election was welcomed as the appearance of an opponent one would not just like as a person, but respect, even if they were wrong and misguided. Somewhat naively I was one of those people.
Like many I welcomed Cameron's comments about Punch and Judy politics (an admirable aim which I wouldn't dare make myself, but which I wanted to hear from others), and yet, time, and time, and time again, we see Cameron, his Shadow Cabinet, and some others, make vicious and snide and personal comments about Brown and other senior Labour figures to the point where you know they don't just do it out of frustration and inhability to control ones temper, one suspects they also do it for kicks.
Tom Harris has noticed this which is why he made the statement he did recently. It opens one up for further attacks but I see his point. The Tories will argue that they get pushed into it. Given the McBride debacle I will reluctantly concede that point and understand the anger of senior Conservatives, but two wrongs do not make a right and half the Tories who vent their spleen on comments pages on blogs are the sort of people who would behave just as McBride did if Cameron were in Downing Street and they were senior figures there. The very same people who enjoy getting angry and finger pointing at every fault Labour has made with regards to presentation and personality politics.
Its come further to a head today with Cameron making a comment that there will be riots if Labour win the next election. That sounds like a threat to me and, combined with the way some Tories are behaving over the election of the new Speaker, the consistent personal abuse, the lack of proper discipline over MP's expenses, it seems that the Conservatives are not just conforming to the accusation of them being the Nasty Party, they are being hypocritical as well.
And even if their attacks on Labour figures being decceitful liars, chancers, bullies etc.. were true, it doesn't make their case clean, it just means that they are making feeble excuses for their bad behaviour, i.e. "They do it, so we'll do it as well!"
Sadly what all of this does do is turn the electorate off politics. If the viciousness between the main parties continues to deteriorate, one wonders what the percentage turnout will be come the next election. Probably less than 60%

Monday, June 29, 2009

Trailers To My Favourite Films. No 9: Sleuth

Its a brilliant suspense film which, in an earlier era, would have been directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and for a film which has only two characters in throughout, is one that keeps you on the edge of your seat. In fact both Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine got Oscar nominations for their performances here.

(FOX)


That said, those who have heard of the film may be more familiar with the 2007 version, which stars Jude Law and Michael Caine, but having seen both versions, they are really incomparable. Both have the same characters and plot, but both have different styles and a different air of suspense. But if you want to make a comparison of sorts yourself, below is the trailer to the 2007 version.

(SonyPicturesClassics)

Release of British staff

Whilst I am pleased this has happened, I wonder whether the Iranian Government knew they were innocent of the charges all along and are just using the current crisis as an excuse to flex muscles against the UK! They seem to be gunning for us and its not surprising given the history between our two countries.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXVIII: Derek Thomas

Derek Thomas lives in St Buryan with his wife and son. He works as the Development Manager for a large voluntary organisation in Helston. He is also a Penwith District Councillor for Penzance and the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for the St Ives Constituency. His blog is Derek for St Ives.


What made you decide to start blogging?

The local press seemed reluctant to cover my political activity so I chose to deal directly with the electorate. They have a right to be informed about the choice available to them to represent them in Westminster.



What is your best blogging experience?

Bumping into people in the street who compliment the blog and tell me they follow it closely.



And your worst?

Trying to set the thing up and stop it crashing!



What do you regard as your best blog entry?

I think I get better at it with each entry and so each new one is my best!



Favourite blogs?

I am entirely vain and rarely check out other people’s blog, sorry everyone!



What inspired you to go into politics?

As a young school boy the teachers chose to strike. I could not understand why they would so looked into it and have been more addicted as each day goes by.


Whats the best and the worst thing about St Ives?

The St Ives Constituency is the most beautiful of all with lovely people and fantastic landscape/coastline. I love it and feel privileged to grown up and live here. However, it is hundreds of square miles of rural countryside including off-islands 26 miles off shore. Time and money is soaked up travelling back and forth. I would not swop it though.


What do you make of the Cornish Nationalist movement and is there a case for Cornwall being a politically unique county within the UK?

The nationalist movement has important things to say and many of them sit comfortably with the Conservative commitment to reduce the size of government and return power to local communities. However, Cornwall has a wealth of things to offer the rest of the UK and can play a far greater role within the UK rather than being isolated. We have low crime, caring communities, creative industry and great hospitality skills. These are our strengths and we can share these qualities by seeking a greater profile within the UK. I believe I am a visionary politician.


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

Africa. I’d love to see how social action works in places of extreme poverty and what makes such broken people so grateful for small mercies.


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

Canada, I went there for a conference in 1995 and would love to spend more time there.


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

William Hague, the best party leader in the making.


Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Lord Shaftsbury. Conviction politics that reformed society, much of which we appreciate today. There is a need for similar no compromise politicians dedicated to real reform in society. Iain Duncan-Smith would be my modern-day inspiration.


Favourite Bond movie?

The world is not enough

Favourite Doctor Who?

Not bothered that much, sorry


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Mint


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

Take That, Beyonce


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

London, Bath


Favourite national newspaper?

Telegraph and (The Week)


What would you say your hobbies were?

Sea kayaking, walking, furniture making, reading


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

Bohemian Rhapsody, (anything by Supertramp), Rock DJ (Robbie Williams)

William Wilberforce by William Hague

In His Steps (old book, can’t recall the author)

All the books by Arthur Ransom (childhood memories)

Beneath the mask of Conservative Future

Hat tip to Alex at Labourhome, this can be found at the Don't Panic site and makes you wonder if those who were interviewed feel whether the Tories made any mistakes prior to 1997! Which leads me to wonder if any Conservative readers of Mars Hill feel that the Tories made any major policy mistakes during the 1979-1997 government? If so, please share, because it seems like you guys are not making the same painful journey Labour had to make in order to get re-elected.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Where's Recess?

Irfan Ahmed has blogged on the possible demise of the Recess Monkey blog. My understanding is that it is resting at the moment and not extinct, although I tried to find further info on this last night.
That said the evidence does point to a crossroads for the blog. Last year there was talk of Alex surrendering responsibility for the blog and certainly Labourhome seems to have superceeded the Simian blog in some respects. I think the Recess Monkey blog may be back, albeit, for want of a better phrase, regenerated.
Time will definetly tell

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

The newswires are burning away saying that Michael Jackson has collapsed and died of a heart attack. Yet to be confirmed, but it seems likely given the way this is widespread.
Its a shock. The guy had his faults and yet he had an amazing musical genius and in the 1980s achieved the level of fame and success that few in his business managed. Sadly it seemed to consume him, but one hopes he is at peace now.

Those Tory Expenses

Whilst all credit to them for repaying the expenses (a staggering £250.000 which is far more than what many UK Citizens earn in a year), it is not consistent and one is somewhat surprised that Cameron has not sacked Eleanor Laing for an offense which would have been sackable outside Westminster. Its also interesting that Andrew Mackay has not paid back a penny and one wonders what Cameron will do about that?
Something that they should perhaps have thought about instead of making nasty attacks on the new Speaker with blood curdling threats about getting rid of him once they get elected. If they get elected! It seems that they certainly have the delusions of grandeur

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Four Years Ago Today...

I wrote my first blog entry. Over 177,799 hits later I still feel like a child with a new toy to be treated with awe mingled with joy :-)

The Iraq Inquiry

I have to say I am rather concerned by the terms the government has put on this. First of all it should be mainly a matter for the House of Commons, secondly the Chairman of the Committee deciding how much of the inquiry is public and how much is private strikes me as too broad a canvass on which to work on and a way of trying to eliminate concerns whilst keeping everything under wraps.
I appreciate that there are National Security issues, I appreciate therefore, the need for some of this inquiry to be private, but I have grave concerns about where this is going.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

So It's John Bercow

Okay, not my first choice, although if I were an MP I would have had difficulty in making a final decision.
It wasn't that there were many well qualified candidates, for me it was a question of finding someone who was "squeaky clean", who would be accepted by both sides of the House of Commons, and who was committed to radical change so as to try and help reconnect with the electorate. This made it difficult to find an ideal candidate where I was concerned and I frustratingly changed my mind about three times as a result, although in the final analysis on the morning of the day itself, I felt that Parmjit Dhanda and Sir George Young might have been ideal and at the end I hoped Young would get it.
Bercow fails on two of the three criteria in my eyes. He doesn't have the wholehearted support of the House and he was implicated in the expenses row. That said he seems committed to radical change, he was elected by the majority of MP's who voted, and on that basis he should be respected and helped and given the benefit of the doubt. A pity then that many Tory MP's have shown bad grace over his election, but even then, if Margaret Beckett were elected yesterday I would have made similar noises of support, but there would have been more of a lack of enthusiasm than I am showing right now. On that basis I can't blame them.
One amusing thought though. Last night Iain Dale was one of those interviewed about Bercow's election on the BBC. He stated that he and Bercow were contemporaries amongst the Conservative Student fraternity. One wonders in a "What if.." sceneario it was Iain Dale who was elected MP in 1997 and not John Bercow, and it was Iain Dale who was elected Speaker last night. Now that would have been a political sceneario worth watching ;)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trailers To My Favourite Films. No 8: Apollo 13

(Universal)


On one hand its a typical Hollywood film about triumph through adversity and how Americans are when they are at their best.
On the other it actually happened, and the fact that we know that the outcome was positive does not detract from the edginess of the situation that these three astronauts went through

Tsvangirai Booed By Exiles

The story can be found here. I don't doubt Tsvangirai's sincerity, but you can be sincerely wrong and many know how cunning Mugabe can be, as the old saying goes; the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Doctor Who Spoiler For Christmas 2009!

Well I will be kind. Will link to it rather than be explicit about the spoiler, suffice to say its connected with bleached hair and James Bond.
And no that does not mean Christopher Walken isn't guesting on it, although that would be fun ;-)

Latest on MP's Expenses!

Where do I even begin! Its too depressing and whoever had the idea for the mass "blackout" was acting foolishly at best, because it goes beyond the wisdom of blacking out personal security details. Whats even worse is watching MP's over the past few days try and defend themselves again. Kitty Ussher saying she did nothing wrong, or one MP blaming his researcher (no available link as of yet, so best keep my powder dry on that one). At the end of the day if you are responsible for your own affairs and that is where the buck stops.
When will some MP's, Commons authorities, etc.. get it that the electorate are angry and rightfully so, and that some of these actions could be seen as fraud.
And don't get me started on David Cameron's spending on Wisteria, given how poor we all know he is!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Iranian Protests

I don't think I am alone in saying that I never imagined these events would happen, at least due to an election result where the hardliners declared victory. Its heartening and a great relief to those of us who are wary of Iran's intentions given Ahmadinejad's past record.
Credit must also be given to the young activists who are knowingly risking life and limb to twitter and blog about what has been going on. They are not only a credit to their nation, but a credit to Democratic idealism and I hope and pray that they will not suffer the oppression that many of their kind have suffered in such situations in other countries over the years.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Speaker's Hustings

So my inital desire for it to be Frank Field did not come to pass. Just as well really, as in the past week I was having my doubts, given his recent outbursts which were hardly the comments for someone to make when on the verge of facing election for Speaker. Clearly my idea that being Speaker would simultaneously constrain him and yet let his natural talents in the non destructive arena florish was a fallacy on my part.
So it was that this afternoon I have been trying to read up on the Speaker's hustings held earlier today. I have to say that I am being very picky about it, dismissing some candidates for simplistic reasons, but I feel we need to be very picky given the recent debacle with MP's expenses and Speaker Martin's downfall. Some I think are just not strong enough, a good half are tainted by the expenses issue, and some I think are too much the grandee with roots heavily ties with the past.
Initally, albeit with strong reservations, I thought of Ann Widdecombe and Parmjit Dhanda. Widdecombe may be objectionable, but she is also popular with the media and with a good fraction of the general public, plus she respects Parliament and does not suffer fools gladly. Plus she is also standing down at the next general election, so more time to consider a longer term replacement. Dhanda is young, has radical ideas for the post (although I really am unsure of some of them), plus he was not tainted by the expenses row. Not only that but he is the only worthwhile non Tory MP in the race. Alan Beith is tainted by the expense row, Margaret Beckett is likewise tainted and made such an error of judgement on BBC Question Time some weeks ago it was embarrassing, plus she polarises opinion of her within the Labour Party. Many activists (myself among them), simply do not like her and for several good reasons.
That said, just as I have despaired over this, I have come to a conclusion, albeit with mixed feelings.
One chap did well at today's hustings. He was humble but firm, spoke of being the servant of the House of Commons "without fear or favour". He has spoken of a "robust impartiality", and whilst he has a reputation for being a traditionalist and an old-style Parlamentarian in the Roy Jenkins mould, he has stated that "...I don't stand for flacid traditions", and "Do we really want our elected representatives to be subject to an appointed quango?"
Its not a wholehearted support from me, but we don't have much choice around. That said I think this guy might just pull it off. Ladies and gentlemen, I hope the next Speaker will be Sir Patrick Cormack

Cameron's ID Card Fiasco

For someone who is meant to be revolutionising the Conservative Party, be hip and trendy and down with the current climate, David Cameron makes some appalling mistakes sometimes. Is this what we ought to expect from a wannabe Prime Minister?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Trailers To My Favourite Films. No 7: Starter for 10

(HBO)


If you like University Challenge, the eighties, whimsical English comedies, James McAvoy, Alice Eve, and Rebecca Hall. Have fond memories of University life, can laugh at the faux pas made whilst dating, then this is a film for you.
Oh and I did a review of it here two years ago, and yes Brian still reminds me of Kerron ;-)

The Tories on Housing

If it isn't obvious already to regular readers of Mars Hill, I tend to find the Tories untrustworthy when it comes to issues of social welfare. So it is that I can recommend reading Tom Healey's post on Labourhome concerning the Conservatives further dedication to thrift by slashing ten percent from Labour's housing commitment. Of course this hasn't gone unoticed by the public, so Stephen Greenhalgh, leader of the Tories Council in Hammersmith and Fulham (and an adviser to David Cameron), has recently spent a pleasant time fielding questions from concerned local tennants who are asking if their homes are safe.
Definetly worth a look.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Last Episodes of Ashes To Ashes and The Apprentice

HERE BE SPOILERS

Apologies for the delays, but C'est la vie :-).
The last episode of Ashes To Ashes was not that surprising. The little twist regarding "PC Summers" was something I anticipated given last weeks episode, although Alex "waking up" from her coma, only to find that she was not out of danger after all was out of the blue. Plus it was nice to see Gene Hunt once again ruining someone's childhood TV memories (see first few mins of the last episode) ;-), but then I do have a warped sense of humour.
As for The Apprentice, well up until the very last moment I hoped it would be Kate. She may be "robotic", but she has been hard working, consistent, personable, and with good ideas. That said Sir Alan can be contrary and he went for the person who reminded him a little of himself in his twenties. The moral of this story kids! Always expect a little of the unexpected. Oh and also, never buy any chocolates called Cocoa Electric ;-).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bad Day for the Tories!

See here and here. With the latter, they may have an argument, but it doesn't detract from what was said and they were clearly rattled.
Slashing public services and, however well intentioned, thereby attacking society's most vulnerable. This has been and continues to be the Tories' Achilles heel.

Margaret Beckett As Speaker!

Was rather taken aback to read this, and I ought to be decent and declare my interest in that I have never personally liked her, nor have I been impressed with her politically. A classic example as to why was her appearance on BBC Question Time when she not only misunderstood the public mood on MP's expenses (in which she was implicated), but was rather patronising towards the audience saying that she was sorry they did not understand!
So maybe someone could convince me I am wrong. Can anyone tell me why Margaret Beckett would make a good Speaker and help restore public trust?

Light Blogging

Will be light blogging for the next fortnight or so, or crammed blogging as I seem to be doing this evening, as my Mum has gone into hospital and has just had a knee operation. She will be laid up for a short while so, being the dutiful son I aim to be, I will be spending a lot of my spare time looking after her and doing extra chores. Its that time now where, whilst my parents are still reasonably active, my brother, sister, and myself have now reached that age range where we feel the urge to keep an eye on them from time to time, whether thats warranted or not ;-)
Normal service will be resumed at some point.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

That BNP Press Conference etc..

I do feel disquiet about the egg throwing aimed at Nick Griffin et al tody, but only because it makes them look like martyrs. The real way to get at the BNP is to expose them again and again for the scum they are. Such as the blogpost Alex Smith at LabourList has done here.

Labour's Pain

Last night I attended Progress's meeting on what to do for a Labour fourth term. Whilst it was well organised and there were good speeches, it felt as torn and divided as the Party itself with regard to Gordon Brown's future.
Given the way the PLP meeting went it looks like Brown will stay, but when people like Tom Harris start calling on the PM to quit you know things are bad. If Brown is going to stay he will have to start to work at mending fences with those who oppose him within the Labour Party. He will have to be more divisive at key moments and he will have to show a strong degree of flexibility. Likewise some of those who are loyal to him to the point of behaving like overzealous prefects will have to ask themselves whether they are doing themselves, their boss, and above all the Labour Party any favours!
I was not surprised at all by Byers's call for Brown to go! It was utterly predictable, but what still feels raw is the pain that was articulated in questions from the floor of the meeting. The still smouldering anger over MP's expenses, the anger and pain over the Euro results, the hurt at what this leadership debate is doing to us as a Party, but above all, the incredulity that no one seems to understand what the other is saying, or rather that it is not absorbed by the listener!
Did I learn anything new from the meeting. Well apart from the chance to say hi to several aquaintances, as well as feeling the depth of anguish first hand outside the constituency from where I live, not really! Except that we need to get out of the rabbit in the headlights situation and make a bold and decisive mood which means taking a dispassionate step back and looking coldly at the facts.
Horrible isn't it!

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXVII: Peter Ryley

(Peter Ryley)

Peter Ryley is fat. He likes being fat. He once tried being slim. It didn't last. What did last was giving up real work to go back to education.

He picked up a BA in Politics and Contemporary History at Salford University and then embarked on vast amounts of self-financed part-time postgraduate study with an MA in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford and a PhD from Manchester Metropolitan University in the history of Anarchist ideas.

Peter's work has all been in an increasingly besieged adult education, in urban Manchester, rural Derbyshire and North Yorkshire, and now in Hull at the University of Hull's Centre for Lifelong Learning. In his twenty-seven years of working in adult education, he has never been promoted.
He blogs at Fat Man on a Keyboard and contributes as Gadgie to the Drink Soaked Trots




What made you decide to start blogging?

I thought it would be fun after a couple of letters of mine to UCU were posted on Normblog. It was a form of self-indulgence that suited my propensity to make big speeches.


What is your best blogging experience?

Late night sweary emails from Will


And your worst?

Late night sweary emails from Will


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

This is really difficult. The one that got the most attention lately was Reading Gaza, which was posted on the Drink Soaked Trots, rather than my own blog, though there was a follow-up on Fat Man. Best to look at the two together.

Reading Gaza

Language Lessons


Favourite blogs?

I started making a list of those that I really like, some of whose authors I have had the pleasure of meeting and sharing the odd drink with, but then the list started getting too long. Sorry pals, you all deserve a mention, but I am going to just name the two that tell you all you need to know about the state of the nation:

Olly's Onions and spEak You’re bRanes


What inspired you to go into politics?

I am not sure if I ever have really, at least in the organised sense, though I was once in the same ward party as Hazel Blears. I think that I have affected more lives through adult education than I ever could have done through formal political activity and that has been the instrument of my politics. Underlying all is a deep rage at the unnecessary cruelties of an unjust world and a dream of the possibility of something better.


Is New Labour dying?

A better question is whether it ever had life. In my view it was still born. I see New Labour as a colossal mistake based on false premises. Labour embraced Thatcherism at the very moment of its demise. As it clasped the mouldering corpse close to its chest, I stared in incomprehension at the ghastly spectacle. And then I realised, they were not administering a futile kiss of life, they actually were necrophiliacs. All the disasters of today spring from that original, mistaken genuflection at the altar of conventional wisdom.


Given the postmodern culture we live in, do people treat Education with the same respect as they did, say fifty years ago?

First, I don't think we live in a postmodern culture. Second, fifty years ago, I was only six so I don't know much about respect for Education then. I have met nothing but respect in my work. I think the most important issue is the lack of respect that educational institutions show to people. What we call a lack of respect is often a defensive reaction to social exclusion. Then again, amongst the young, it could be simply the result of our strange idea that we should be stuffing academic knowledge into people undergoing puberty.


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

I would love to follow the British Rugby League team to Australia (but only when they improve a bit).


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

Yes, and I do every time I can. A beautiful place in Greece, the Pelion Peninsula.


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

Excluding the present incumbent is hardly necessary! Attlee is the obvious choice. This is not only due to what was achieved, but also to the circumstances that were faced at the time. Don't forget, too, that he wasn't alone; he presided over a talented cabinet. The contributions of two working-class autodidacts from both left and right, Bevan and Bevin, are especially notable. The vision and courage shown in the face of the colossal task of post-war reconstruction is a stark contrast with the vacuous timidity shown in better times.


Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Inspiration? That is hard. Because I have read much history of radical movements the people who take my breath away are the ones who appear in glimpses - fascinating, brave and obscure. They often inspire more than the leaders or the famous. So I would name Selina Cooper. You may not have heard of her. She was a working class woman activist from Nelson, Lancashire living from 1864-1946. That there is a full biography of her is due to an encounter between the historian Jill Liddington and her daughter when researching the history of the women's suffrage campaigns. The result is one of the finest biographies I have ever read, The Life and Times of a Respectable Rebel. Neat way of sneaking an extra book in as well.


Favourite Bond movie?

I don't like them. I liked Doctor No when it first came out, but I was an adolescent.


Favourite Doctor Who?

I am old enough to have seen the first series. I didn't watch it again, so there is only one Doctor Who - William Hartnell.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Vanilla


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

The Simón Bolívar National Youth Orchestra


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

Barsby is near Melton Mowbray - good pork pie country.


Favourite national newspaper?

I tolerate the Observer and despair at the Guardian


What would you say your hobbies were?

Blogging obviously; reading of course; going to Greece; trying to learn Greek; entertaining friends, especially on hot summer nights on the patio in Greece.


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

Yikes! Three?

These are not necessarily favourites but are significant.

Songs:

First is the song I want played at my funeral - Jollity Farm by the Bonzo Dog Doο Dah Band - and you all have to sing along! Second, it has to be Mahler's Urlicht from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Finally, I need something that symbolises Greece. So I have chosen the classic, Συννεφιασμένη Κυριακή.

Books:

This is even worse. Political ideas, biography, narrative history, poetry, novels?

I shall stick to novels. I love the philosophical novels of Milan Kundera and I have read The Book of Laughter and Forgetting three times. Melodrama and Greece together? Captain Corelli's Mandolin is hugely enjoyable. Some of the history is dodgy, but the theme of the power of unconsummated love is wonderful and the picture of a Greek village is memorable, as is the revulsion at the horror of totalitarianism. It is very flawed, but a favourite. And then it has to be Hardy and his 'great hammer strokes of fate'. With my job I should pick Jude the Obscure, but I would really choose Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I can't read Hardy without weeping. Bitter tragedies rooted in sustained anger at social injustice. Wonderful.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Anniversaries and Events

The past few days have seen the anniversaries of two events that have left their mark on history.
The first was within my lifetime and one I much remember. It was the massacre at Tiannamen Square in Beijing on June 4th 1989. I was becoming politically aware then, helped in this case by the fact that some close relatives of mine were ex-pats in Hong Kong. Overnight my view of China changed from one coming out of its Maoist past to that of a major and vicious dictatorship that was not to be trusted. Only recently have I started to have hope again for the country and where it is going.
The other of course is D-Day. One day in one year during one of the most momentous years in global history when a decisive move was made against Nazi tyranny and helped shorten its days in one fell swoop.
This weekend, on a far smaller scale we are at a crossroads in the history of British politics. We now have to contend with the fact that we have two BNP MEP's, as well as the Labour Party facing one of it's greatest moments of turmoil. Like many I am deeply unhappy with Brown and don't really want him to continue, but I love the Labour Party with a passion and will help do whatever is best for it and the country. This evening I will be attending a meeting at the Commons where we will be discussing what we need to do for a fourth term. That Holy Grail for Labour.
We also have to fight on the front of dealing with grown nasty weed in UK politics. Now is not the time for Labour, Conservatives, or Lib Dems to blame each other, these thugs are there now and we must attack them as a party, not as to whether they are left or right, but because they don't respect democratic pluarity or common decency. How we do that is crucial!
As indeed are the next few days for the Labour Party.

Friday, June 05, 2009

May 1997

I needed cheering up. Thought some of my fellow comrades did as well! No one who did not vote Labour in 1997 will quite understand the euphoric feeling many Labour people felt that morning, because we ended up thinking at one time that a Labour government might never happen

(BBC)

Gordon's Friday

It hasn't been a good few hours. Yes Purnell, Hoon, and Beckett are all out of a job. Yes Sir Alan Sugar has been brought in, but that said things are still bad. Caroline Flint has resigned in a huff, Brown could not command today's Press Conference, capped with his arrogant statement "I'm not arrogant!" Then you have Barry Shearman, Lord Soley, and Paul Flynn making persuasive arguments about Brown standing down. On top of that Labour suffered far more over the expenses issue at the local elections than the Tories or Lib Dems did! With bad results for the Euros predicted for Sunday, I cannot see how Brown can continue.
There is the weekend to go. I hope, I really hope, that the PM reflects on his position then and lets us know on Monday, because to continue means probable civil war for Labour and the consequences of that are not worth considering without a shudder!

Labour's Dilemma: Why Brown Must Go

I had a bad night last night
The few occasions I have had a bad night is when I have had an asthma attack, or one occasion when I was in a professional situation where I knew I had to leave my job but didn't know how to. This time it was because I knew what sort of blog entry I would write today and because I am deeply concerned about the future of the Labour Party which I care deeply about and which alone I think has the potential to run this country the way it should be run given half the chance! The one comfort is that I see I am not alone in those feelings, and that I wasn't the only one who had a bad night as a result.
It goes without saying that the way a political party is run and the way a government is run is due to the actions of a no of people, but in fairness the buck stops with the leader. He or she has the power and influence to affect events and if events turn against them or if the journey goes through hard waters, then he or she must draw on the reserves needed. This involves having allies across the political landscape, it also involves a consensual style of governing the country. Harold Wilson knew this too well and that is why he held a front bench full of strong minded people together through thick and thin for thirteen years.
I don't think Gordon Brown has all those necessary skills and I say that with sorrow, as for many years I was a major political fan of his. Yes I knew him to be tough, yes I knew he could be calculating and ruthless, but I honestly felt that such qualities were needed because I was one of those who took the view that, given a moments chance, he would be knifed in the back by Blairites.
But being Prime Minister requires a different style, and at the start it looked like Brown was making good progress, even as late as last year bringing in Mandleson (not the most likeable of politicians) was an act of genius as it neatly side-stepped Brown's opponents. Brown didn't have to even have charm, what he needed was to be sure footed at the right times, to hug his enemies close, and to keep in touch with his grassroots.
But Brown didn't do those things, and I could even forgive him for much of that if he had a degree of decency and for me the final straw that was broken which moved me from being blindly loyal was the Draper/McBride affair. Brown had been warned repeatedly what sort of person McBride was (and this in a culture where bullying hacks are taken for granted), but he didn't listen and that in itself has led to serious questions about Brown's judgement, his sense of purpose, his consideration for the Parliamentary Labour Party, and indeed the sort of person he is.
Downing Street even briefed against enemies as recently as during the recent election campaign and that was stupid and counter productive, he should have sacked Blears there and then. That said, I agree with Laurie Penny in that Hazel Blears resignation was indulgent to the point where some Labour Councillors and maybe an MEP or two may loose their seats as a result. Likewise the same concerning the public announcement regarding the circulation of the letter to Gordon Brown. There is a time and a place for actions like these and forty eight hours before crucial elections are not one of them! I also agree with John Prescott's comments but this says as much about Brown's leadership as it does Harman's or anyone else who is responsible.
So as far as I am concerned Brown may just as well quit now. There were less Labour activists out helping this election to the point where I strongly suspect some areas did not even get leafleted, he lacks the support of The Guardian, three cabinet ministers have resigned, several bloggers have spoken out against Brown. The only card he has left is the reshuffle and if he botches that up, if those embroiled in the expenses row are kept in (mind you Purnell was one of those who was mentioned in the expenses row), if one more member of the cabinet quits, then Brown ought to go to Buckingham Palace, hand in his resignation, and let a new leader heal the Labour Party and a general election called for Feb 2010

UPDATE 10:37: This piece on Labourhome and especially this piece has finally convinced me, reluctantly, that we need to see a change

Thursday, June 04, 2009

James Purnell Has Quit!

News has flashed through in last twenty minutes!
Will blog on this tomorrow and will likely say exactly what I think on the whole thing, i.e. leave no stone unturned! Suffice to say I just mentioned Purnell's resignation to my Mum who said "Nobody important then!" Purnell has not got a brilliant record, he's unpopular in some sections of the Labour Party, he's been embroilled in the expenses row and therefore I'd rather see someone else succeed Gordon Brown if it comes to that

New Doctor Who Assistant

Those of us who are fans are spending so much time trying to work out what will happen in David Tennant's swansong that we haven't noticed much about the next series, but one story that has attracted attention is that of the new companion.
But what is her name, and where is she from? The photos aren't much of a giveaway, but I can't wait to see where Series 5 will take us :-).
Incidentally, back to the Christmas special, what are the chances of these two making a comeback?

(BBC Worldwide)

Last Hours Of Voting..

I don't know if it's worth it at this stage, but given the window of oppurtunity left I will say that if you have yet to vote please do and if you have no intention of voting, then please go out and vote, because for every non vote there is every chance the BNP will get in, and the BNP are not your average political party, they are a political party made up of Holocaust deniers, racists, bigots, thugs, malcontents, and at best; silly and naive people who are grossly ignorant. A single extra council seat, a seat in the European Parliament, any of that will be a psychological boost to them and will also further erode the structures of British Democracy. Yes many of us in mainstream politics have let you down, yes we have been selfish and have failed to help when that help is needed. Yes we have failed to help protect our Democratic structures as seen by the MP's expense scandal but many of us want to see the best for everyone, many of us welcome people not on the colour of their skin or their cultural background, but on the content of their character. Please help us make a fresh start in protecting all that is politically decent in this country by going out to vote

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Labour Fighting Against Meltdown

Goodness, you know how fast things are going in our 24 hr culture when bloggers struggle to keep up with the tidal wave of political news that has taken place within the last 48 hrs, with several ministerial and two cabinet resignations, a letter allegedly being circulated among backbench Labour MP's calling for Brown to go and several people saying it's not if it's when.
If Gordon Brown has no realistic alternative but to quit as Prime Minister then he has no one to blame but himself. Its not enough righfully pointing out as he did at PMQ's that the issues involved at the moment affect all political parties. Several times he has failed to get a grip on events, he has shown spectacular lack of judgement in who he picks as his advisers, he failed to sack Hazel Blears when he directly criticised her, which led him wide open to accusations of poisonous briefing. If Brown hasn't made enemies, then some of his allies certainly have. It goes without saying for example that the names of Ed Balls and Tom Watson are mud within some sections of the Parliamentary Labour Party, if not outside Westminster! Brown will have to work incredibly hard to persuade people that he has a grip on what is going on (which he has failed to effectively do) and not wasting time having acolytes being involved in machiavellian skulduggery against opponents perceived or otherwise.
But tomorrow is another day. We have to work hard to persuade people to go out and vote, let alone go out and vote Labour. I only hope people realise that Labour are more consistent on Europe than the other main parties, that they notice the good and hard work many Labour Councils do up and down the country(esp with regards to promoting public services) and that many will go out and vote so as to prevent the BNP from getting a single Euro seat or a council seat for that matter. If you want to help prevent that, then you'll be doing no bad thing by looking at the 38degrees website which gives practical advice in how to help encourage others to vote and to prevent the BNP from getting any kind of foothold. Lets concentrate on that tomorrow and on Friday and over the weekend we can work out how Labour's future can be best dealt with!

UPDATE: Christine Quigley has done an excellent piece on the need to vote on LabourList

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Cabinet Reshuffles etc..

A bit late with this blog post but have been out for part of the evening.
Earlier today I posted an article on LabourList where I argued the need for a full scale cabinet reshuffle after Thursday. Of course this was just before Jacqui Smith announced she was quitting which in turn has led to a politically interesting afternoon.
I was then interviewed on Radio Five Live (I come in at about 9 mins 50 secs), where I was asked about my views on the reshuffle and slightly upbraided for not saying whether I think Gordon Brown should quit. I simply replied that we should wait until after Thursday because, with all due respect to Radio Five Live, it does strike me as a "Render Unto Caesar" question. In any case, any argument for or against Brown remaining as PM needs to take into account the forthcoming election results and either way they would work as a powerful indication of evidence for or against his continuing as Prime Minister.
All in all an interesting day, but have more interesting and exciting things to come!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Susan Boyle's Predicament

Check out this piece by Tanya Gold, I couldn't do better myself. It's so spot on with what has happened.

The Murder of the Late Term Abortionist

I have looked at this with a mixture of feelings and views. First of all it was a cruel and pointless murder which did nothing positive and, if the killer is a professed Christian, an act of barbarity and gross hypocrisy. The fact that the murder took place in a Church only adds to the revulsion and my thoughts and prayers go to George Tiller's family.
But that said, I do find the concept of late term abortions difficult to deal with. I can see the arguments for abortion in many cases, I may be pro life, but I can understand and empathise, and indeed in some extreme cases I would probably say that abortion may only be the correct route to take. But in a World where babies can have a chance of survival at 24 weeks I find the concept of late term abortions very difficult to stomach.
Its an awful and emotive issue to be sure and one I feel uncomfortable with, but the way forward is for people on both sides of the argument to listen to each other, to try and understand where each other is coming from, to try and understand each incident, because if we use blanket terms to describe opponents on this issue we are going to get absolutely nowhere and we will understand less why people like George Tiller perform late term abortions and why some pro-lifers are warped and hypocritical enough to want such people dead.

The Iain Dale and Hopi Sen Show

Iain Dale and Hopi Sen will be hosting Live Election Results Programme on PlayTalk UK on Friday 5th June 9AM-4PM, and on Sun 7th June 6PM-Midnight. For more info see here.
It will be topical, hard hitting, and above all, fun. It would be a shame to miss it.

It's the Expenses Darling

I am wary about Darling having to quit, but if he has to he has to, end of.
That said, if it does come to that, doing a Callaghan would be a foolish move and would show a degree of misjudgement where the public mood is concerned.