Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Sun Turns Tory

Well lets be honest it was inevitable, they even hinted it would happen, but at least it helps clear the air, not least for those Sun hacks and Labour activists who were never comfortable with each other and culturally and politically loathe each other.
The Sun is in some respects a genius newspaper. It is inventive, sometimes witty, and has an ability to know what many in this country are thinking. That said it has many faults; it can be bullying, misogynistic, vindictive, common, and at times (such as Hillsborough), not only be grossly out of touch, but allows the nasty prejudices of it's Editorial team to lead it towards self harm. It is also opportunistic and follows what it thinks is the prevailing wind and, for me, does not follow the golden ethos of what news should be about, that is to educate, entertain, and inform.
For me it is a great tragedy that the social standards of the past generations in wanting to educate oneself, to want to help those less fortunate in society instead of No 1, seem to be slipping by the wayside. Our nation needs to be consistently run by the socially aware, not the socially selfish. In other words an ideal society should never be dominated by those with the economics of Arthur Daley and the politics of Alf Garnett and the fact that Thatcherism allowed such individuals to have a more dominant role in our society is one of the great tragedies of our age.
I hope that come the next election, Labour will win and The Sun will have made a great mistake and find that times have moved on. That way, not only will we have a Party in power best placed to help the vulnerable in our society, but the "Right-Wing Essex brigade" will realise that they either have to move with the times or accept that their time is over.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We Keep On Fighting - Gordon Brown's Speech

The great thing about the Prime Minister is that, whatever his faults, he is like an unstoppable juggernaut against the Conservatives and those who are against Labour. Just when they think they have brought him down, he rises again and fight back hard.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats called his speech tired (well they were never going to say it was a fantastic speech and they hoped everyone would vote Labour as a result would they), and that's what some of them may choose to think, but what is tired about offering more free childcare at a time when it is desperately needed, or wanting a referendum on PR, or (most importantly) bringing us through the worst of the recession. The Tories hate the idea of economic recovery under a Labour government for the simple reason it will keep them out of power, but worse, they have carped and criticised and offered few solutions or have tried to latch onto Labour's successes as their own. Not the sort of mature behaviour one would expect from a future government.
Ah well, onwards and upwards

Iain Dale in Bracknell

Have found out this evening that Iain Dale is standing in an Open Primary in Bracknell and that Tom Harris has endorsed his candidature.
Well it's an interesting scenario that's for sure and I hope Iain gets the nomination, but equally I hope he loses at the general election.
Iain is a classic example for those who are into party politics of seeing someone on the opposite benches who one respects, but equally one hopes will fail on every occasion when it comes to contested multi-party elections. For those who see him purely as a Thatcherite Tory, I would say they are just seeing one facet of the man. In my own experience I have known him to be thoughtful, generous, kind, and helpful to those from other political parties in ways one would not expect. Yes he can be sharp, yes he doesn't pull his punches when attacking Labour, but neither do many of us towards the Conservatives and he is one of the few who seems to know the distinction between personalities and political allegiances.
I hope that one day he stands for election in something which is political but outside party politics, then I might consider supporting him, but until then Iain I wish you well in Bracknell, but not too well ;-)

Monday, September 28, 2009

That Andrew Marr Interview

I think "incredulous" is the best way to describe how I feel about what happened here (even more that I agree with Nadine Dorries on Andrew Marr getting personal, although I could imagine some Conservative MP's, inc one very senior one, happily leaping into the gutter on this issue). What right does Marr have to ask other than causing sensationalism. There is a style of attacking Gordon Brown, for all his virtues and faults, that is more personal than any other Prime Minister in living memory and few seem to find that disturbing. One wonders how he will interview David Cameron and whether he will ask a few questions about personal faults of his! Hopefully he won't, but it would look even better if he (Marr) apologised to Gordon Brown.
Disappointed with a capital D and expected for better of him.

Friday, September 25, 2009

John Cleese's Divorce Settlement

I feel a bit awkward writing this, because being a bloke I know my view on this may be dismissed as typical, but does no one think that John Cleese is being unfairly treated by his ex here and does her reasoning (i.e. “being entertained by royalty and dignitaries in castles” ), strike you as a little bit delusional (with regards to her own importance with no thought that some of her lifestyle was down to being Mrs John Cleese) and somewhat snobbish and selfish?
Just a thought!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tory Campaigns Go Viral

Political Scrapbook has waded into the PoliticsHome argument with this theory, originally put forward by Mark Hanson and Jag Singh, that Lord Ashcroft's aquisition is part of a Tory "Viral" attack ad campaign.
It's not something that should be dismissed out of hand. Ashcroft is well known for ably funding Conservative Candidates in key marginals and has taken a clear and active interest in Conservative campaigns. What Iain Dale and other Tory bloggers with a similar view fail to realise, or rather fail to consider, is that there is a major difference between Lord Ashcroft owning PoliticsHome and being involved, compared to Stefan Shakespeare, simply because one is a high ranking Tory financier and campaigner and the other isn't.

Osborne's Cuts

Not the words of a Labour activist or a government spokesperson, but the words of a former member of the Bank of England.
I always found it disturbing that the Conservatives were not specific about what cuts they would want to make, whereas Labour have been quick to defend the need for spending and investment in public services. Now we know.
Osborne has always been seen as more of a Conservative Party campaigner (and an unpleasant one at that) than as a heavyweight Shadow Chancellor, one wonders if Dave Cameron gets the message and whether Osborne will ever grow up!

Charles Clarke's Speech

I nearly attended this and would be in a bar right now chatting with Labour colleagues, or on my way back home on the train but for it being nearly the end of the month. It seems however that, as Alex Smith states, Charles Clarke is nearly guilty of doublespeak and would be, but for the consistent underlying message "Gordon Must Go"
This is a dangerous path for any Party activist to take with regards to his or her leader. Being critical, saying ones leader should go is one thing. Turning it into a mantra and pushing this line at the expense of Party, issues, and winning elections is something else. One hopes that Charles Clarke will see some sense before long and be aware of the possible damage he is causing to the Labour Party, irrespective of how justified he feels.

Farewell Cally's Kitchen

It's with some disappointment that I have read that the Cally's Kitchen blog is not going to continue. Am sure that Cally has his good reasons and I fully respect them, but I hope that at some point in the future my good friend will put fingers to keyboard again

Best Doctor Who Story

WARNING SPOILERS!


The new edition of Doctor Who magazine has come out and apparently, following a readers' poll, The Caves of Androzani (Peter Davison's swansong) has been voted the best ever Doctor Who story out of the 200 broadcast (201 if you include Time Crash and thankfully Dimensions in Time was not included).
I do think it is one of the best stories and would definitely include it in my Top Twenty, but there are others I would have been happy to see at No 1, not least anything Steven Moffatt has written, or indeed Enlightenment, Genesis of the Daleks, City of Death, The Deadly Assassin or most of Season 3. That said, I think we tend to be influenced by who our favourite Doctor is and what we were watching as we grew up when taking part in such discussions.
Anyways, below is the final scene from The Caves of Androzani

(BBC Worldwide)

Thirty Years of Question Time

This seems to be a year of Thirtieth anniversaries this year. My brother's thirtieth, thirtieth anniversary of Margaret Thatcher being elected Prime Minister (shudder), thirty years since one of my favourite TV detective series, Shoestring, first came on the air.
But aside from the triumphs and tragedies of 1979 that spring to mind, there is one anniversary I'd almost forgotten about and that is that it is now thirty years since BBC Question Time started and here are some of the more light hearted highlights of the series over the past thirty years.
BTW The clips shown after two minutes and ten seconds had best be seen after the Watershed ;-)


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gorbachev on German Reunification

This is a fascinating interview. If Thatcher was against reunification then she not only made a mistake, she also showed ideological inconsistency and put her dislike of Germany before global interest with regards to greater democracy. The interview is also worth looking at with regards to Gorbachev's views on what he sees as Putin's attitude towards the democratic process, which is somewhat negative

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is the Conservative Party Racist?

I am going to do something controversial and shocking for a Labour Party blogger, and that is to suggest that there is an accusation against the Conservatives that is unfair and untrue.
Put basically it is the accusation that the Conservatives are institutionally racist (Hat tip to Iain Dale for this story)
The Conservative Party are many things, not all of them pleasant. They can be arrogant, ill-informed, obnoxious, but all political activists have the temptation to be like that, but to say that the Conservatives are, as a whole, racist strikes me as absurd. If someone stated that it had racist members, or even one or two Constituency Associations that fail to realise that we are no longer in the 1950s, then I am more inclined to agree, but the accusation of institutional racism is unfair on many Conservative members (not all white and middle class, or "Essex Men") who, whilst politically misguided on many issues, have worked hard to help race relations in this country.
Because, strange as it may seem, there are many decent, hard-working, empathy driven, individual Tories, as there are Labour or Lib Dem activists. Misguided Tories I would agree (how could I not!), but even so. I appreciate it makes life easy to imagine all or most Tories as being like Alan B'Stard and to genuinely believe that, but it doesn't help honest debate and we bring ourselves no favours by taking such an attitude.
By all means let us attack the Tories for their lack of imagination on a Post-Thatcherite economy, or on public services, or on opportunism, but let us be grown-up about this and if individual Conservatives are proven to be racist, let us attack them in a way so as to shame the more decent members and not turn those decent members away from discussions with us by using playground-style attacks. The evidence has lately pointed to a strong public desire for less playground politics, lets honour that demand

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXLIV: Vanessa Stone

(Vanessa Stone)
Vanessa is a real moonraker, being born and brought up in a small Wiltshire village near Salisbury. She attended La Retraite Convent School and Salisbury College of Art before going on to study at the Uk’s only Carpet and Rug Design degree course in the Midlands. She graduated in 1990 and worked freelance designing textiles and rugs.

A move to Letchworth Garden City in 1992 brought marriage and regular exhibiting of embroideries, banners and papier mache pots across England. She regularly ran workshops and residencies at local schools and museums and completed two post-graduate Artists in Schools (Primary and Secondary) Diplomas at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. She produced lots of private commissions during this time and made a large banner for St. Botoph’s Aldgate in London.

A break of five years to bring up two children was followed by a complete change of direction. Vanessa had a eureka moment! She looked at some stencils she had been making in a whole new way - that they were the artefact and not the textiles made from them. They became her object of desire! Cutting into paper was a technique that gave her the balance between pure line, design and meaning. So free and yet so controlled.

“I love working in the black paper. Cutting into it with a sharp scalpel is so delicious. As I cut away the image is revealed more and more. The knife lets it out – lets it exist. I suppose it’s like stripping it all away – cutting through all the distractions to get to the real heart of the matter: pure form and what it feels like to be alive. The pieces are statements of fact. The stark black and white lets the unspoken be spoken through image and text.”

Since then Vanessa has not looked back and fully specialises in cut paper. Her work has developed over the last three years to cover broad themes of love and passion, architecture, paper prayers and creatures. And the techniques have developed too to combine bold colour layered under the cut back paper. She exhibits regularly and often runs workshops in schools and museums and is represented by Byard Art in Cambridge.


Website: www.vanessastone.net
Email: art@vanessastone.net or vanessastone@hotmail.co.uk


What made you decide to start blogging?


About a year or so after getting my website up and running I felt I wanted to get people looking at my work to also get a feel of me as a person. I think it adds more depth and makes even more sense of what I make if you get to know me as a person.


What is your best blogging experience?


Reading blogs that expand my world.


And your worst?


Not understanding how to access interesting things on Twitter rather than hearing about what someone has had for breakfast. I really do think that’s a case of life being too short.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?


The blog entry that talked about my decision about whether or not o do more erotic based work. I had stood on the fence for a long time and writing about it on my blog made it clearer in my head as to which way to go.


Favourite blogs?


I love reading the good ones on the BBC website as they can be really enriching and educational. I really like Razia Iqbal arts one. Robert Peston’s one did actually get me to understand what on earth had happened to cause the financial crisis of today.


What inspired you to start paper cutting?

I used to make lots of textiles but was always looking for a technique that would eliminate as much of the surface texture as possible. I did some stencilling as part of that exploration and just looked at the stencil and thought BLIKNKIN HECK! !! That’s exciting. The line I could get was just like nothing else.

Do you have a particular favourite amongst previous works of art you have made?

I have made quite a few of buildings and punts and boats around Cambridge now and one of them I thought was the nearest I have got to the perfect balance between the shapes, the cut line and the colours. And it’s very simple just five punts floating on the water.


On your website you mention a love of buildings. Do you have a favourite era and if so why?


Art and crafts is beautiful, especially with its sets of sixes and nines of windows and details. Its details of hinges and carvings are beautiful but at heart though I am a classical girl and prefer symmetry and majesty. My favourite of all however? It has to be Georgian. All that balance and refinement – gorgeous.


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

Any of the Scandinavian countries.... and Venice!


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


I would like to go to Holland again to see that huge amount of sky again. I get near to a landscape like that when I go into Bedfordshire and I just smile and smile when I am there.


Do you have a favourite political figure in history?


I am a big fan of William Wilberforce. I admire him a great deal.



Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?


Picasso for being a dogmatic genius for my art head and my father for struggling on in spite of the ravages of Parkinson’s. Its a terrible disease.


Favourite Bond movie?


It has to be Casino Royale with Daniel Craig. That scene with him walking out of the sea in those Speedos is completely unforgettable.


Favourite Doctor Who?


OOOh easy - Tom Baker. I grew up in the 70’s!!


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


f you mean ice cream – a weird thing happened about two years ago and I just didn’t like it any more.... but I love mint chocolate... especially if it’s very plain and snaps in your fingers.


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


An older Johnny Cash - though not saying The Beatles or Elvis does seem criminal.


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


I love Cambridge and Oxford – but I like adventures and seeing new things... so would have to be Barsby...I will have to Google earth it now...


Favourite national newspaper?


The Times


What would you say your hobbies were?


Riding my bike and madly watching films.


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


Argh! That’s hard. Books would have to be the Pullman trilogy of His Dark Materials, The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico and poems by e e cummings.

Music? Not counting music that is bound up with memories of my children... then Allegri’s Miserere, Mozart’s Requiem and Whole Lotta Lovin by Led Zep.




Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Where would the Conservatives start cutting?

I think the Tories are being disingenuous here. Labour has consistently accused the Conservatives in making cuts on public services. The Tories have still not gone into detail about where they will be making cuts and why! Until they do so, their accusations concerning government double standards smack of opportunism.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In at No 58

Well I was concerned I might not make it at all this year, and thanks to all who voted for me :-). As I have said before, I am always open to new ideas for my blog and new ways of doing things and your suggestions and support is always welcome

Monday, September 14, 2009

Labour reviewing all spending

Am glad this has happened. With less than a year before a general election and with the need for tight spending, coupled with a need to protect the financially vulnerable in our society, it hasn't come before time. The economy is showing signs of an upturn, but we need to take a "steady as she goes" attitude if that is to be sustained and if we are to encourage growth

Friday, September 11, 2009

PM Apologies for treatment of Turing

Whilst, as the PM says, no apology can turn back the clock, by admitting that he was badly treated and that no help and support was given him when he desperately needed it, a line has been drawn and many will recognise that much valued progress has been made recognising and accepting those within the workplace who are different in terms of sexuality. Lets not forget there is still in some areas a climate of misunderstanding and fear. To break that both sides need to honestly talk to each other without fear and with sensitivity in mind and hopefully today we are one step closer to that.

Eight Years Ago Today


Lest we forget

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Political Heroes from other Parties

An interesting meme has occured to me in that political bloggers get to mention five of their all-time favourite politicians. There is a catch however, they have to be from different political parties than your own. So for example if you are a Labour Party member like myself, you can only mention Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. I hope thats clear, so without further ado, I will grit my teeth and mention my five favourites


An easy one to mention, plus its fair to mention that from 1940-1945, Churchill was Prime Minister for all the main political parties given the unique situation we were in. He helped raise morale during our time of need and showed tenacity and determination when it looked like we were going to lose. Not only that but what an incredibly charismatic man! He could be rude and bullying, and yet he was prepared to be friends with most people and cared for those who worked for him, even if he did insist on loyalty to the point where they had no life of their own. One of the most lovable and admired Prime Ministers we have had.


Home Rule, Education Act, high morals, why not!


He worked hard and tirelessly to help eradicate slavery from Britain and her colonies and managed to draw a coalition of support in doing so


Possibly one of my fav peacetime Prime Ministers outside the Labour Party. He supported the Third Way, was Centerist in his thinking, was anti-appeasment in the 1930s, worked hard to keep full employment, was supportive of the Wind of Change sweeping through Africa at the time, was aware of Britain as a declining power and tried to arrest that by trying to get us into Europe with the view that, coupled with Britain's role in the Commonwealth, would help keep our influence as a World power. Plus he used his Edwardian fogeyish image to cover the hard edges of a brilliant sharp wit


Slightly cheating here as she was a member of the Labour Party until 1981, when she and others failed to stay and fight against the Labour left and give it the hammering it deserved. That said she is thoughtful, concise, has (apart from her speech against the prospect of a new political party in 1980) stuck to her principles and a lesson to us all that one can be a force of nature in politics and be a nice person as well.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Support General Election Night

I appreciate I am being a total anorak here, but how many of you have expereinced the highs and lows and delights of a General Election Night? That one night every 4 to 5 years where you are at a Count, or at home in front of the TV, eagerly awaiting the results coming in thick and fast. That illicit feeling of being up way past your bedtime because you are going to bed in the morning and even then have only three hours sleep! Wanting to see live those shock seat changes, your heroes win, your villains lose. You cheer, you cry, and if you lose you weep and mourn for the country you love, but know that in five years things could well be different and honour restored! All of this (or rather most of it), compacted into about seven hours non stop during one night.
You watch with your friends, your opponents. You feel the drama and all of that helps make the night exciting! I wouldn't dare say it's even as good as sex, but my goodness, outside anything involving that kind of excitment, its one of the best thrills you can have! ;-)
So one has to ask, could one have that same tension and fun during the day? When you are busy at work, when you have few friends and comrades around to share the joy and pain! I doubt it. So it is that many of us across the political board have reacted with dismay to the news that general election nights are possibly coming to an end.
I can see the practical reasons, but we have managed to cope so far and I hope that the powers that be change their minds soon. Many of us activists need to be with our friends and fellow activists during those moments, we also need the thrill and the charge in the same way football fanatics like to be near the news around 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon. Lets help campaign to keep general election nights!

Monday, September 07, 2009

By George, has he got it?

Iain Dale has been blogging on some of the deep reservations some on the right have about George Osborne. Basically they wonder if he is up to the job! He quotes Fraser Nelson from The Spectator as saying:

Despite numerous charm offensives, Mr Osborne is still not winning them over. Financiers who attend his soirees grumble that it is all politics and no economics. When asked about economics, I am told, he becomes rather glum and evasive. But when asked about political strategy, his face lights up. There are no specific policies causing the City particular concern, but rather a general impression, which one hears repeatedly in the City, that the soon-to-be-chancellor has no expertise — and not even much interest — in the job he is about to inherit.

He is being damned on the flimsiest of grounds.

Doesn't this say much about Osborne! The man's problem, if it is a problem, is that he is well versed in Machiavellian politics involving personal attacks on senior Labour figures and spreading nasty gossip about chats he shared whilst on holiday, but lacks gravitas when it comes to it. The man has all the political standards and attitudes of an unpleasant sixth former in trying to be verbally unpleasant to one group of people so as to try and impress another group. Perhaps David Cameron may soon have to consider making pragmatic judgements with regards to his old friend.

Libya's Standing

Whilst Al Megrahi's release has been uncomfortable and many (inc me) were decidedly unhappy about his release, some good has come out of all of this.
For one thing it has helped highlight the situation relatives of IRA victims are having with the Libyan government, and combined has helped remind us all of Libya's less than savoury past and that Colonel Gadaffi has been more than a mere eccentric dictator.
I am not against the West developing better ties with Libya. The past is the past and Gadaffi seems keen on starting anew, but, as with all such situations, it may be best for Gadaffi and his regime to reflect on the hurt and damage they have caused others and consider that a full apology may help bring things forward diplomatically and politically.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Afghanistan and World War II

As I am sure you know now, Eric Joyce has resigned as PPS to Bob Ainsworth. He's done so in protest at what he sees as the governments lack of support for the army in Afghanistan.
I happen to think he was wrong to resign for two reasons. One, it's a nuclear option. At this time it's better to be critical in private rather than in public if Labour is to improve it's standing. Two, the government is committed to Afghanistan for good reasons, for which I will cover shortly.
Fact is though, Eric Joyce has some valid points. The Army needs more support and help on the ground and many, inc myself, are questioning our role in Afghanistan. What keeps me supportive of us being there and why the government are committed to us being there is simple. Look at who our enemy is! Remember what happened in the events leading up to our invading Afghanistan!
We are not dealing with run of the mill terrorists, or some average dictatorship. We are fighting a terrorist group who waged a violent, evil, and twisted assult on our hemisphere eight years ago next week. These people aren't interested in negotiation or reason, they are interested in barbaric subservience to their warped view of Islam and aided by a culture of death.
Seventy years ago today Britain faced a similar crisis. We went into it with baited breath, knowing that the cost was high, but we did so in order to rid the World of a perverted tyranny. Lets do our utmost to help our troops in Afghanistan and to give aid when we can and to leave when we can, but let us when we question our role remember why we originally went in

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

BNP Case Ajourned

I am glad that legal proceedings have taken place, but surprised it did not happen sooner. That said the case is a bit of a no brainer and does anyone find the final sentence in this BBC report (courtesy of a BNP spokesman) a little bit sinister!

Kerron's New Role

Heartiest congratulations and may you be as a success in working for Archbishop Sentamu as you were at blogging, if not more so :-)