Monday, August 31, 2009

Mountbatten - Thirty Years On

It was the August Bank Holiday Monday thirty years ago that brought about one of the most horrific pieces of news during the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In one day eighteen British soldiers were killed in Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland and in County Sligo, Lord Mountbatten, a close relative of the Royal Family, was killed when the fishing boat he was on was blown up by a member of the Provisional IRA via a remote controlled device. Also killed were one of his twin grandsons, a local boat boy, and the eighty-three year old mother in law of his eldest daughter. It was not only the most high profile IRA assassination, it was also the most sickening and cowardly given the nature of the incident, especially bearing in mind it was a remote controlled explosion so the actual killer could see who was on the boat at the time.
As it is Mountbatten's murder has come up in the news again and not because of the 30th anniversary. It seems that Sinn Fein object to a memorial set up in memory of the victims, saying that it would be wrong to single out any one incident.
I wonder perhaps if that has more to do with feelings of guilt, but I hope Sinn Fein realise that this was a unique assassination in that we are discussing the loss of the lives of two teenage boys and an old lady here, as well as a retired old man who was on holiday and who, incidentally, had fairly radical views regarding Ireland.
I have no doubt Sinn Fein are right to bring attention to those on the nationalist side who were tragically caught up in the Troubles, nor do I doubt the sincerity some of them have towards peace, but they would help a lot of healing by recognising that the IRA committed atrocities and especially so in this case.
That said, I was surprised and heartened to hear an interview with Timothy Knatchbull on the BBC World Service recently. Timothy is the surviving twin grandson of Lord Mountbatten who was also caught up in the explosion and was lucky to survive. He has admitted that the deaths of his grandparents and his identical twin (who he was rarely away from) has left emotional scars and yet, more than any of us would I think, fought to come to terms with what happened and is magnanimous towards those responsible, if that is the right word. Its a poignant interview worth listening to. How sad that Sinn Fein could not feel a similar generosity over this memorial.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Murdoch and the BBC

To paraphrase that old quote; "well he would wouldn't he!"
Whatever one thinks of the BBC, it goes without saying that it is in the unique position of being a nationalised industry within a competitive market. I think it's a bit crude for anyone from News Corp to refer to them as a threat given their own sphere of influence and certainly there are many independent media outlets that thrive and perform an admirable public service.
That said, the BBC is culturally unique in that it's main aim is to "Educate, entertain, and inform" and whats more from a neutral perspective. Admittedly it has not had a perfect record there but it always tries it's level best and in any case you could hardly call it a bastion of socialist thinking as Alex Smith of LabourList has pointed out.
I have mentioned my strong regard for the BBC before. Here and here, so I don't think I will repeat myself, suffice to say that the institution not only is as English as cups of tea, cricket, football, and decent newspapers. It provides a service of quality and thoughtfulness that few have. Ask yourself if you would want this nation to be full of Fox News viewers with its unfairness, bias, and lack of politeness, or BBC News viewers who are thoughtful and considerate and you get my point!

Oasis Split

Well I have to say I wasn't surprised. With so many line-up's and (as far as I am concerned) nothing of long-term original note after 1997, their break-up is not before time and I say that in sorrow as an early fan, as I feel they missed the chance to develop beyond their Indie Britpop origins

Friday, August 28, 2009

Churchill's Secret Bunker

A new exhibition is being opened to the public. As a Churchill fan myself I hope to be able to see it and I recommend it to anyone who can

Alex Hilton and The Wire

Honestly! You spend most of the day in the garden and you come back to find that a top political story has broken out in the blogosphere and has done several laps.
I have to say I am disappointed in Alex for doing this, not least as to why? What was the point apart from making a lame joke? That said I am equally if not more surprised that the media did not latch onto the giveaways in the hoax, such as "Midsomer Murders" and (copyright R. Monkee). As for the Americans getting angry about the whole thing and the Mayor's Office threatening legal action, I would say that, whilst I appreciate their hurt, it's something thats best swiftly forgotten.
I would also say that Alex is a friend of mine. A classic example of what makes him a good ally was a few months ago I was unsure of how to deal with a particular political situation. Alex was someone I got in touch with and he was able to persuade me quickly on what course of action to take and to see correctly exactly how the situation should be seen, for which I am greatful for.
Yes he has form, yes sometimes he gets a bit silly and that, yes he sometimes lets his passions get the better of him. But he is also hard-working, clever, generous, thoughtful, and 99 % of the time, generally good at being about to correctly analyse a political situation for what it is. He has also matured somewhat in the last couple of years and I think it would be sad if his gifts were overlooked and/or his few moments of ill-thought out actions got the better of him.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Trailers To My Favourite Films. No 12: Charade

How can anyone not like Charade? Cary Grant paired with Audrey Hepuburn, both of them at their stylish best! Great support from James Coburn and Walter Matthau amongst others. A Hitchcock type film with dry and witty humour throughout, plus a film score by Henry Mancini If you haven't seen it, you have missed out on something.

(Universal)


Plus below is one of my favourite scenes in the film. You can tell I'm a fan can't you ;-)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fifteen Years in the Lords

To be honest I am not sure if having a maximum of fifteen years is useful. After all experience is a major part of a good Parliamentarians armoury. Then again there is the "bed blockers" argument against that, as well as the need for fresh blood and outside experience. Time will tell what is best for our Second Chamber, but I do hope it retains it's distinctiveness and continues to involve members with Parliamentary experience

Edward Kennedy 1932-2009

I have just heard in the last minute or so that Senator Kennedy had died.
An era has ended and whilst some will be uncharitable about him in the coming days, not least arrogant and angry right-wingers, lets not also forget some of the good that he did as well, such as his tireless work to help promote better care and support for America's poor.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Wire in the UK

Lets face it. Its very easy for the Conservatives to say that a) Britain is broken, b) that some parts resemble The Wire. That is until it bears closer scrutiny, in this case there are some positive arguments concerning some of the places Chris Grayling was referring to that have undergone a positive regeneration. Perhaps he would also like to visit and tell them why he feels that their place of abode resembles The Wire!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Michael Jackson - Death By "Homicide"

To be honest I was a little shocked by this. I strongly suspected misadventure, even manslaughter, but "homicide" says something different. That said this is based on one source and the statement coming from the Coroner, so one hopes that this is not the case, although there may be more to be revealed. It does however show that Michael Jackson's death was not due to natural causes and that the LAPD will very likely bring forward criminal proceedings before too long

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Boy on the company board!

You know those strange ads for Andrex Tissues? Well something similar has happened in real life, and you know what, I think this lad will go far with such confidence and enthusiasm.
Bit more diplomacy with fellow staff members would be needed though ;-)

Gig For Gareth

Well last night saw me take another trip down to London, this time for a "Gig for Gareth" at the Offside Bar in Islington.
It was a great night, although I had to leave early for the long journey back home, so I missed the main band, Playmaker. That said, as disappointing as that was, the evening was not a loss; the warm-up acts were fab and it was good to catch up with some familiar faces and indeed to help the Gareth Butler History Trust. So if you don't mind, I will shamelessly plus this charity as I feel its very much worthwhile.
The Trust was set up last year in memory of Gareth Butler who died suddenly in Feb 2008. One of Gareth's big passions was History and the aim of the Trust is to pay for lower income students for school history trips. Speaking here as someone who has a close relative who teaches history at a Secondary School, and from a family who adores it as a subject, I can tell you that such a project is valuable and beneficial and would help many young people develop an interest. Late last year, my relative was involved in her schools field trip to several WWI battlefields. The questions and interest that developed from the children was invaluable and beneficial, how unfair is it, that if you are unfortunate to come from a low income background, that you don't get the oppurtunity to partake in such an experience!
The thing is, many parents/guardians pay for school trips, as I am sure some of you know and remember. If you came from a middle class background and have fond memories of school field trips, consider yourselves lucky, some don't get the chance and isn't that the great thing about growing up! Having oppurtunities to do things and to learn and find out who you are, what you are capable of and what you want to do? Wouldn't it be great to help make oppurtunites where few exist?
If so, you would be doing no bad thing by donating to the Trust and you can do that via the JustGiving website (see here) and to spread the word. The idea behind this has certainly grabbed my attention as a deeply worthwhile and practical aim and I fail to see how anyone could see differently

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ali al-Megrahi's Release

Its very unlikely I know, but imagine if Bin Laden was captured alive (or at least one of his leading cohorts). Imagine also that he was sentenced to life-long imprisonment for his crimes, not least for 9/11 (equally unlikely, the clamour for the death penalty would be high, unless many are convinced that to execute him would make a martyr of him, but I digress). Then imagine some eight years from now he was released on "compassionate grounds", how would that make you feel!
The passage of time sometimes diminishes the horror of an event, but Lockerbie was the 9/11 of the 1980s and for cold bloodedly killing 270 individuals, many of them innocent, some of them women and children, he does not deserve to be released. Its nothing to do with revenge, its making sure justice is seen to be done and that terrorists are not seen to be punished lightly, as the messages and consequences do not bear thinking about.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Barney Frank Vs the woman being silly

(CNN)

I wish I could say I was surprised by this woman's inane and stupid comment, but sadly I am not. Its amazing how some political activists fail to use their brains and let their emotions govern their political beliefs to the point of exaggeration and wilful blindness.
That said I would have handled it differently than Barney Frank did! I would have shown the same contempt, but I would ask how she came to such a false viewpoint, I would have also demanded to know how she could dare compare a man who has had a sterling record in helping the more vulnerable in society, a sterling and measured attitude in american foreign policy, a respect for opponents like Senator John McCain, with a monster who slammed opposition, stole what civil and human rights many Germans had, slaughtered six million Jews, and rampaged across Europe with no desire whatsoever to have peace or to negotiate. I would have been sarcastic, I would have been hard, but I would have taken her on and done my utmost to make her see that she was being foolish, stupid, and morally crass. That is how you take such people on. Show their stupidity to their face!

(Hat tip to Tom Miller)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Meeting the Walrus

Am a bit busy today, but to keep you entertained, have a look at this fascinating interview a fourteen year old Canadian boy called Jerry Levitan did with John Lennon in 1969. The recently made accompaning film was nominated for an Academy Award. Its easy to see why!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Russian Cargo Ship Found

Its a relief, but looking at this saga there are some things that don't add up properly. For example how can a ship by "hijacked" twice? How come it disappeared in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the World? Plus don't you find it interesting that the Russian statement included the comment that the sailors were now being "interrogated"!

Comment Moderation

Have returned to comment moderation for my blog. The reason being that I am unable to access my blog for certain parts of the day to the point where if someone was being mischevious, it would be a while before I was able to delete said comment, and as I don't have a blackberry... :-/
So sorry folks, but its just not worth the risk

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXLIII: Sarah Malik

Sarah Malik is the (first) Youth President of the Methodist Church in the UK. Her blog can be found here.


What made you decide to start blogging?

The reason I blog as the Methodist Youth President is to keep people informed with what I am up to, its a really good way for people to hear about what’s going on in different parts of the church.

What is your best blogging experience?

N/A

And your worst?

N/A

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

N/A

Favourite blogs?

I keep up to date with the Methodist President and vice-president’s blog, and with my friend John Cooper, because I find them really informative and interesting blogs.

You are the first "Youth President" within the UK Methodist Church. What have you learned from being in the post so far and what do you think you will take from it when your term ends?

The major learning of my year, and one that I would like to shout out, is that regardless of how many people talk about the church dying, and becoming irrelevant; there is a huge amount of amazing work going on out there! There are loads of churches around the country that are doing brilliant Godly things for young people and young adults alike. One of my jobs is to highlight this good work through my blog.

What sort of things could local Methodist Churches do to help reach out to younger people that have not been tried before, or which have not been tried often?

Often when churches try to reach out to young people, they do it for the wrong reasons. The best way is to pray about it and God will give you an answer. Get in contact with all your local resources, find out what’s out there and use it. Sometimes, the best way to reach out, is to go out! If there is something that’s happening for young people around the corner, help them! Think outside the box and continue to pray. Most importantly, don’t forget to ask the young people what they want. Not ‘Do you want a barbeque next week?’ but about the space, structure, activities, people; everything that affects them. Through participation things always improve, no matter the struggle to get there.

In the world of information technology that we live in, and the changing definitions of what makes a community. How do you see the future of the Church within the next thirty years?

This is one of the key questions that the Methodist church is struggling with at the moment. I think that the church may do a ‘phoenix’, in that older churches that cease to be relevant for a new generation will continue to die off, and those that are willing to change will benefit from the death of older churches and move into a kingdom vision. There is one thing that hasn’t changed throughout history, and that’s our need to worship together. The most important thing is that the Methodist people continue to worship together in a way that is pleasing to God. That’s all that really matters.

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

N/A

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

.N/A

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

N/A

Which Christian figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Throughout this year, I’ve become a bigger and bigger fan of John Wesley! Having had the opportunity to visit Epworth and other places and read about him, he has really inspired me to get back to the roots of what Methodism is really about. About being a living, changing force in this world, about standing up for those that cant and really changing things for the better.

Favourite Bond movie?

N/A

Favorite Doctor Who?

I am a big Doctor Who fan! I can’t watch the older series, cause the awful sets and costumes just make me laugh, but the newer ones are amazing! I will continue to be a David Tennant fan for a while yet, all depending on how our new Doctor Matt turns out . . .

It’s really good for picking out Christian themes too; Series 2 episode 13 ‘The last of the Time Lords’ is an amazing example of this. Also the ending of Series 2 episode 9 ‘The family of blood’ was brilliant and really shockingly beautiful parody of Christ’s mercy.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Chocolate ice cream, with chocolate chips and chocolate sauce please!

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

Im quite liking Florence and the Machine at the moment, but seeing Led Zeppelin at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970 would be beyond awesome!

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

n/a

Favourite national newspaper?

n/a

What would you say your hobbies were?

I’m a computer game geek! Currently enjoying Sims 3 (at very slow speed, but still enjoying!) and Hotel Giant 2. I’m also really into creative prayer and love every opportunity I get to do some.

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

1) Babe im gonna leave you – Led Zeppelin

2) One people, one struggle – Anti Flag

3) Apocalyptica’s version of Metallica’s Nothing else matters


1) The case for faith – Lee Strobel

2) Any of Terry Pratchet’s Disc world series (I couldn’t pick one, thats too cruel!)

3) The visit – Adrian plass

Conservative MP among Cameron's "Eccentrics"

Hat tip to Labour Matters. Step forward Peter Bone, the Conservative MP for Wellingborough, who has called the NHS "Stalinist" and that families should pay up to 5% of their income for treatment! So imagine what that does to families with £25.000 a year. Or less!
So we have at least one Conservative MP speaking out publicly against Cameron, any more? Well there is the fact that, as Paul Waugh tweeted yesterday, George Osborne's comments on the NHS need to be quoted in full online.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Debating the Pros and Cons of the NHS

I knew it would happen sooner or later, I've been taken to task by a Conservative blogger, namely Andrew Allison. Put simply, you don't point out splits within the Conservative Party regarding the NHS and not expect to be criticised or attacked.
So lets take his (and other Conservative bloggers) comments about stifling debate to task, although first of all I would point out with regard to his comment that I should "Grow up!", that I was simply pointing out Tory splits, that as a Labour Party activist (or indeed any activist from any rival political party), you could hardly expect me to not comment on such a split and that many Conservative activists would do the same on another issue if they spotted a discrepancy from Labour. Put simply, you have been caught out during what had been a bad week for the Conservatives, thats politics!
As it is I do have some respect for Andrew and he does raise some valid points that are worth debating. When he states that;

"I am not a fan of the NHS, but I am a fan of universal healthcare. I wouldn't wish the American system on Britain and likewise, I wouldn't wish the British system on America. I don't love the NHS, as I find it impossible to love a healthcare system. I love my family, not an institution. I am not a right-wing ideologue because I think Germany - which has free at the point of use healthcare - delivers better value and better choice for its citizens."

he actually has hit on some home truths. American healthcare isn't perfect (in spite of what some commentators on Fox would have you believe) and, yes, neither is the NHS, but what is at the crux of debate here is comparing American health care with British healthcare and I have to say that, for all its faults, the NHS is better for many people. Some of the #welovethenhs tweets have touched on this. Many have pointed out that if they didn't get immediate healthcare and had worried about hospital bills they would have died, or had suffered further with their health. I can also testify to this, I have asthma and I have not been in highly paid jobs since I have graduated, in fact many have been on the National Minimum Wage, so to get prescriptions for my inhailers that do not cost much and to get free check ups is a great bonus, because, trust me, if the circumstances were different I would avoid going to the Doctor's if I could!
Many others have told their stories, some worse than mine. Yes, to answer the critics who dismiss them as such, they are emotive, but this is a highly emotive issue that deals with life and death and there are some Tory critics, not all, who want to see the NHS privatised because they abhor any form of state intervention in people's lives. The real tragedy here is that the word "lives" is the linch pin to the debate, not ideological posturing.

The List of Eccentrics

David Cameron has, rightfully, criticised Dan Hannan over his comments on the NHS. Cameron has also stated that theConservative Party is committed to the NHS.So from that one can assume that any Conservative speaking out against the NHS is not agreeing with Conservative Party policy. Thats not a problem in itself, David Cameron is right topoint out that few individiuals within a political party wouldagree with every single policy that that said party would putforward. But it is a problem when you have a no of members being vocal about their criticisms.So below is a list of Conservative Party activists, being publicly critical about a Conservative Party policy which many British people support.

Dan Hannan (MEP)
"Of course, that isn’t how these rows work. Almost no one who has phoned me seems to have watched what I said in full. If they had, they would have seen that I conceded that there is majority suport for the NHS in Britain (although I believe this is partly based on the false premise that free treatment for the poor is a unique property of the British model), and that my views did not reflect those of my party leadership."

Deborah Thomas (PPC (Via Twitter) )
"..is furious at the bullshit argument about the NHS. Once again politicians are being forced to agree with a consensus without grown up debate"
"before you attack Hannan, answer one question: if you could design a health care system again from scratch, would it really be the NHS?"

Donal Blaney (Prominent Conservative blogger)
"But if state-run healthcare is such a great idea why are not we advocating the reintroduction of state-run food supplies, a National Food Service along the lines of the 1940s food rationing model?"

Tim Montgomerie (Moderator of ConservativeHome)
"On Wednesday I made it clear that Dan's intervention was a very personal intervention that had z.e.r.o. relevance to Tory health policy. The attack on him by the Labour machine and Adam Boulton is getting ridiculous. A politician is entitled to express an opinion without being accused of arrogance and self-obsession. "

Tory Bear (Prominent Conservative blogger)
"In response to Stephen Fry's dribble that:
“Even the most right wing British politician wouldn’t think of dismantling our health service.” Liberal Conspiracy commenter "cjcjc" said:

I wonder when Stephen Fry last saw the inside of an NHS facility?

Is it *just possible* that the rest of the world has not copied the NHS because it is not the best system in the world?


Sound."

Damian Thompson (Blogs Editor, Daily Telegraph)
"So Daniel Hannan attacks socialised medicine on American television, and immediately Dave slaps him down. Is it because of his criticism of the National Health Service, or because of the way he criticised it - that is, with an eloquence and forensic command of detail that makes most members of the shadow cabinet sound like jargon-spouting middle managers?

If Dan was an MP, the Conservatives would be forced to engage in the very thing that frightens them most: ideological debate."


Hopefully there will be more to come later today.
That said I will leave you for now with a comment George Osborne made in The Guardian recently
“Only health and international development have been ring-fenced – though today, when it comes to health spending,
[Osborne] says only that ‘we will work hard to protect it’.” *

*Bold italics by me


UPDATE: Tom Miller has mentioned this from the Daily Mirror. Worth a look.

FURTHER UPDATE: Craig Elder, the Conservative Party's Online Communities Editor has supported Charlotte Gore's comment on the NHS ("… like hostage victims love their hostage takers. The world’s most disheartening hash tag on Twitter today: #WeLoveTheNHS, throwing up lots of rather highly strung debates.") as "..first sensible thing on the NHS I've read all day!" ConservativeHome's Graeme Archer feels the Tories are being effectively blackmailed (he isn't the only one). Then there is Paul Waugh's tale of panic at Conservative HQ (complete with a link to yours truly)

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXLII: David Raybould

(David Raybould)
David Raybould was born in 1976 in London and is now a father, cat owner and blogger who lives just outside Newport, South Wales. He works for a large media company in Cardiff and blogs on issues close to his heart, namely Welsh nationalism, Welsh politics and politics in general. Despite these pretty large topics he sometimes dabbles in music and sport. His blog can be found here





What made you decide to start blogging?

I started blogging really to express myself. I’m not one of these bloggers who see it as an entry to journalism or a way of defeating the evil ‘MSM’. My blog, even though it covers quite a range of subjects, is still a personal one. It’s a blog where I exorcise my ranting and frustrations and take on the world before tea time.


What is your best blogging experience?

My best blogging experience was the Welsh Bloggers in the Pub 09 event. After some pretty nasty stuff directed at a fellow blogger I felt that the Welsh Blogosphere needed a more social angle. I organised the event in Cardiff and a good number of bloggers showed up, chatted and generally got on together. So I consider that as my best blogging experience even though it wasn’t strictly and ‘online’ event.


And your worst?

I’ve had a couple of negative things happen since I’ve been blogging but none have been significant. The odd piece of hate mail when I was supportive of the Israeli defensive actions in Gaza were a low point but I realised that when you shine a light on people’s deeply held bigotry you should expect them to lash out.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

I always liked my Paul Flynn MP Is a Cock series although the one’s I feel more proud of are the ones that I’ve sat down and written in full ranting style. These are the ones that fairly reflect my frustrations and feelings at any one time. A recent post on the topic of Afghanistan has to go into that category.



Favourite blogs?

Harry’s Place is a fantastic blog that I’ve been reading for years so it deserves a mention. I also like Devil’s Kitchen and Iain Dale’s is always a regular read. Within the Welsh blogging community I tend to visit Miserable Old Fart, Sweet & Tender Hooligan and Guerrilla Welsh Fare the most although Valleys Mam deserves a special mention also.


Taking the view that human stupidity causes the ills in our society, how do we challenge that and what sort of politics do we need in response?

If we take the view that human stupidity causes the ills in society I guess that we should have a smaller government. If you’re going to have idiots in charge then you may as well have less of them screwing things up. I don’t believe that human stupidity causes the ills in society; I think the causes of the ‘stupidity’ are the true ills. One of the main problems is the over-reliance of large swathes of the population on the state and the state’s overbearing control over so much of our lives.


How would you define the Welsh blogosphere?

The Welsh blogosphere is a small, reasonably friendly, sometimes hilarious, slightly odd corner of the blogosphere. I guess if the blogosphere was an atlas we’d be Belgium.


You have blogged a no of times on Afghanistan. There are strong arguments for staying in and I for one agree with most of them, but is it worth looking at other ways to smash Al Qaeda and the Taliban?

I think the other ways are valid but only in conjunction with military operations. Not just in Afghanistan but in other hotspots. This is an enemy that needs to be beaten and beaten comprehensively. We cannot afford to just pulling out and abandoning the people of Afghanistan to the whims of psychopathic nutcases.


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

I would love to visit the Far East, especially Japan. I’ve always had a fascination with the language and culture of the nations in that area.


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

I’d love to revisit Los Angeles; I spent just under a week there a couple of years ago. It was nowhere near enough time in such sprawling city.


Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

I have three actually. The first is David Lloyd George, the second is Mikhail Gorbachev and the third is Nelson Mandela.


Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

This is tricky question. I’ve had many ‘figures’ that have inspired me in many different fields. My heroes have given me different things at different times in my life. Reading Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ was a political inspiration. Listening to Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’ album was a revelation to ‘rocker’ and opened my eyes to a far wider musical spectrum. My sporting hero was, is and will always be Paul Gascoigne, no matter his personal failing he was a genius with a ball at his feet.


Favourite Bond movie?

I love the really early bond films and the latest ones. It would be a tossup between Doctor No and Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale.


Favourite Doctor Who?

Peter Davison. Not a popular choice amongst hardcore fans but he’s the one I remember growing up with so I guess he’s always the one I think of when someone mentions Doctor Who.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Chocolate.


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

I would’ve loved to have seen The Doors at their peak.


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

Oxford, only because it’s the only one of the three I’ve visited before.


Favourite national newspaper?

Difficult one, I read so many, if I’m honest though the easiest read is the Guardian. A special mention for the Daily Mail though, a paper which I love and hate in equal measures.


What would you say your hobbies were?

Blogging, football, blogging, music, blogging, politics, blogging.....and err....blogging.


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

Music:
Vancouver – Jeff Buckley
The End – The Doors
Rain – The Cult
Books:
God Is Not Great – Christopher Hitchens
Girlfriend In A Coma – Douglas Coupland
The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale – Art Spiegelman

Friday, August 14, 2009

Prominent Iranian MP's Challenge Ayatollah

Watch this space! When events like this are reported you can bet that a heck of a lot is going on behind the scenes and that one can prepare for some fndamental changes in Iran ove the next six months. The fact that the athorities are trying to put a lid on the more serious abuses, particularly with regard to the allegations of rape, are disturbing in itself. What is more, the general attitude is similar to many a regime on the verge of a crisis. A classic example being the reign of the last Tsar of Russia, where the rise of the Soviet Union became more inevitable the more Nicholas II resisted moves towards much needed constitutional reforms

Carry On Twittering

This piece by BBC Journalist Laura Kuenssberg is well worth a read.
Guesting on Nick Robinson's blog, she points out the growing value of political twittering and how important it is for Labour to remind voters that we are the Party that not only created the NHS, but also that we highly esteem and value it, even though we may get things wrong sometimes. Not only that, but also there is the fact that Labour are very united as a political party in being committed to the NHS, the events of the past week have shown deep Tory divisions.
But it does it not hit home how valuable Twittering has become among political activists! The twitter culture does seem to have overcome blogging, with Labour having the edge with prominent twitterers like BevaniteEllie.
Ironic also, when for a while Labour have faced Conservative assertions that they (The Tories), are ahead in the blogging game and are more popular. It seems for the moment as if they have woken up to find the battle has been taken elsewhere with Labour having the edge :-)

U2 at Wembley

Oh to have been able to have had the time and money to attend!

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXLI: Fiyaz Mughal


Fiyaz Mughal is a former Deputy President of the Liberal Democrats and Chief Executive of the Enfield Citizens Advice Bureau. His blog is Is it cos I am a North Londoner?

What made you decide to start blogging?


I was tired of seeing bloggers talk about issues that were not really relevant to my life and so I decided to undertake a blog to further engage and interact with others on the net. I also wanted to be more accessible to others.


What is your best blogging experience?


Getting responses to blogs and seeing responses from other countries is always exciting. You suddenly realise that we are part of an increasingly connected world and that someone somewhere has read what you have written.



And your worst?


Getting poor one line responses which simply are unhelpful nor warrant a response.



What do you regard as your best blog entry?


My best blog entry took place after 7/7. I wanted to reach out and say that what took place in London affected us all as communities and as a Muslim, I deeply felt the impact and also felt that we all had been violated and affected by the actions of those who knew nothing about faith, nor about the spirit of resilience that binds us together irrespective of culture, faith, race or gender.



Favourite blogs?


My favourite blog has to be Guido Fawkes, though I have to say that I don’t agree with his political positions. Nonetheless, he does come up with the best scoops.



What inspired you to go into politics?


Sounds lame, but I thought I could make a positive change and I always felt comfortable working within communities and with people. I come from a deeply politicised family where one of my close relations is a Conservative, another a Labour member and with me holding up the Liberal Democrat flag. Conversations in the family home make for an interesting documentary!


Do you plan to run for Mayor of London again?


Yes, if the opportunity comes up again since I am a Londoner through and through and love this great City. Getting the nomination for the Liberal Democrats for the London Mayoral elections is something that I will continue to focus on. Hard work and perseverance – that is my motto.


You are keenly involved in promoting better relations between Muslims and Jews. How did that come about and do you see any sings of positive progress?


Yes, it came about after 2002 when military actions took place in Jenin and the West Bank . Now I am not going to get into the debate as to whether Jenin was a massacre or not since both Muslim and Jewish communities will already take polarising positions on this. Innocent people died and that is a fact and Palestinian areas were affected. That is not disputed. However, for me, it finally dawned on me that neither Israeli Jews nor Palestinians could ‘win’ by annihilating or completely destroying each other. For me, it became clear that dialogue and negotiation was the only way and this also led me to look at ways of bringing Jewish and Muslim communities together here in the UK .

It is also a fact that Muslims and Jews are probably two of the most closest faith groups around. When Islam was embraced in the Saudi Arabian peninsula in the 6th Century, prophet Muhammad undertook treaties and worked with Jewish communities who were present in the region. It is also a fact that even if we look at the life of the Prophet, he married a woman of Jewish heritage called Saffiyah. She was with him when she died. So, if this is how close our faiths have been linked, it is imperative for Muslims and Jews to overcome and find ways of working, standing up and advocating for each other. The narrative of Israel and Palestine (whilst extremely important), should not be the over-riding narrative which drowns out common sense and other bonds that we can develop. This is key.

Positive progress is slow, yet I think we are over the worst time in relations between both faith communities. I see more interaction between Muslim and Jewish communities and I will continually strive for these links and bridges to be made.


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


Yes, Timbuktu , once the centre of North African civilisation and a place that was the thriving heart of this region. I was born in Africa and the soil of Africa pulses in my veins even though home is now the UK .



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


Yes, Jerash in Jordan is beautiful. Built by Arabs under the occupation of the Romans, it is a City that takes away your breath since it is based on such a large site. It is also visited by a handful of people so the site is mostly empty and is built on a hill that sits so beautifully against the bright blue skyline.

Jerash is also a place of enduring love. Recent excavations unearthed small bottles at the site and these were used by wives who had lost husbands. At the burial, they would place their tears in the small bottles that were buried with their husbands.


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


Charles Kennedy and his brilliant oratory always captivated me. He was a man of great principle, integrity and most of all, a style that was down to earth and always friendly. A truly remarkable man who made an inspirational decision to go against Blair and Bush’s war in Iraq that led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people, both Arab and non-Arab.


Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?


Akbar for in him you found an individual who believed in pluralism and who held major interfaith discussions with scholars and faith leaders from Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Hinduism at the height of the Timurlaine Mughal Empire in India . That was in the 1650’s and the plurality that built the foundations of his reign led to all faiths living side by side. Today we would call that community cohesion and that was 360 years ago.


Favourite Bond movie?


Moonraker


Favorite Doctor Who?


Tom Baker


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


Mint


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


Oasis


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


Oxford


Favourite national newspaper?


The Independent


What would you say your hobbies were?


Collecting Mughal antiques from India and travelling across the globe. Also, might sound weird, but I enjoy plane spotting J


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


Lady in red – Chris de Burgh

Fields of Gold – Sting

Rocketman – Elton John

Three Favourite Books

The Last Mughal – William Dalrymple

The White Mughals – William Dalrymple

Pity the Nation – Robert Fisk