Monday, November 30, 2009

Internet Election 2010

This evening I will be at a panel discussion at Portcullis House, hosted by Total Politics magazine on "Will 2010 Be Britiain's First Internet Election?" The panel will include Tom Harris MP, Iain Dale, Jo Swinson MP, Paul Waugh, and will be Chaired by Shelagh Fogarty, one of the Radio Five Live breakfast presenters.
It promises to be an interesting meeting, especially as 2010 will see the first general election where blogging and twittering will likely play a major role. Indeed, the resuts may also change the current political blogging climate, given that some of the most prominent bloggers are Conservatives and the most prominent twitters, Labour.
I shall report back on what should be a most informative and entertaining evening

London Tartan and Independence

I was rather intrigued by this post this morning, my first thought being why should London have Tartan? It's origins are hardly Celtic let alone Scottish, but in the process of reading I did learn more about Tartan than before!
One thought that does cross my mind from time to time is whether I am legible to wear Tartan in regards to authenticity. No don't laugh! I am of Scottish descent via my Mother's paternal grandmother and Great Grandma Taft was Scottish and descended from the Heiton family. The thing is the Heitons were medieval interlopers from France and not part of a Clan as such, but am curious as to whether they served under a Clan when they came over?
So does this mean, given my own tenuous link, whether there are a no of Englishmen who can "qualify" in wearing Tartan, and if so, maybe there might be a need for "London Tartan"!
Which leads me to another item regarding Scotland which is on my mind this morning, and that is the news regarding the SNP Referendum. The thing is, do we need this during times of economic difficulty? In any case I do think that Scotland has gone in leaps and bounds regarding self determination within the past fifteen years. Would having a full executive government minus sending MP's to Westminster make much difference? Because that is essentially all they are proposing, plus they would always remain in England's shadow. In any case it's what the people of Scotland want that matters and I see no stomach for further moves towards independence and I say that as a man with faint traces of Scots blood in me.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fascism and Electoral Reform

Check out my latest post on Labourhome, stating why we should not let fear of the BNP affect our views on electoral reform.

Philip Blond - Man With a Mission

Funny thing is, I agree with a lot of what Philip Blond has said and so should many Labour activists. We need to help encourage community groups, Margaret Thatcher did help create a vulgar "loadsamoney" culture which helped destroy Victorian values (values which Thatcher claimed to support), we need a healthy balance in competition within the market place and it's important to defend the Welfare State to the hilt! Labour should take some of his views on board.
The question is, do the Conservatives accept him? Cameron has said that he "did not agree with everything Mr Blond said or would say in the future", and I for one cannot see your average Thatcherite "loadsamoney" Tory would be happy to read such ideas, do you! Those values are Social Democratic, and maybe when the Conservatives reject Blond (which they will), we should invite him to contribute to discussions on Labour's economic and social policies

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Muppets Bohemian Rhapsody

Genius :-)

The Latest on Iraq

The more one hears about the build-up to the war in Iraq, the more one tends to feel disquiet about whether this was even done with the best of intentions in some quarters.
But then hindsight is not a straightforward luxury and if some felt that the UK govt were privy to intelligence reports regarding Saddam Hussein's intentions, then maybe some in the UK govt felt the same with regards to the Americans.
But is that excusable? Perhaps the best attitude to have taken was the same the British government took during the Vietnam conflict, i.e. tacit support rather than full-scale involvement. The Prime Minister at the time, Harold Wilson, was one of the more canny occupants in Downing Street's history and perhaps we needed such an individual at that time!
But this is academic, what is done is done and we must now redouble our efforts to try and redeem ourselves by helping restore Iraq to being a Democratic and peaceful nation that is a beacon to others within the Middle East.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

House of Commons on Thursday Evenings?

This may seem like an attractive idea, although I imagine a no of MP's wives/husbands/partners are none too impressed. Nor indeed will some constituency parties who may have their meetings then

Remains of British Beirut Hostage Found

I can vaguely remember hearing about Alec Collett, one of the first British hostages to be abducted in Beirut. He was held for about a year before he died/was killed. Following the American bombing of Tripoli in April 1986, his captors released a grainy video, supposedly Collett, being hanged in retaliation. His body was not released and it was never found until a few days ago.
This may not seem much, but to his family and friends it means a great deal for more than one reason. For some years afterwards some of them refused to accept that he was dead and worked hard to try and find his whereabouts. As awful as this is, at least there is closure, not just to those close to Alec Collett, but that it helps bring to an end the awful saga of the Beirut Hostage Crisis which struck the Middle East in the 1980s.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twenty Years of Televisied Commons Debates

It doesn't seem that long, although it has been a memorable twenty years, from Sir Geoffrey Howe's resignation speech, to the elections of three Speakers. I empathise with the critics but I do feel that it has brought people closer to the political process. Watching the occasional debate as a teenager certainly helped encourage my interest in politics.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Pitfalls of Negative Campaigning

Check out this post I have written on LabourList regarding the pitfalls of negative campaigning and why Labour cannot afford to indulge in it

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tories' New Media Proposals

Well we know what this really means don't we! Over-dominance from some media outlets with the little man squeezed out, a slow but steady increase in low quality output, and questions over the future of areas of the national media, namely the BBC!
If the Conservatives win the next election, I suspect we will be seeing the reinforcement of unadultarated Thatcherism and all the monetaristic oppurtunity sans talent and high-brow culture that seeps through as a result

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Queen's Speech - What Becomes Law

I do think the Tory and Lib Dem criticisms are a little pathetic really. No actual attack on the contents itself, save that such policies would be difficult to become law by 2010. In which case, why have a Queen's Speech at all?
The real reason is that a lot of the policies already mentioned are ones which they privately agree with in principle or in practice and that, sadly, they haven't the foresight to look beyond yah-boo politics

Monday, November 16, 2009

Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars - The Beginning of the End

WARNING. SPOILERS!

Well it was exciting, but not quite what I expected. Too much exposure to fan speculation and trailers led me to think that the "four times" knocking would happen during this episode and for a moment it looked like that would happen when the Doctor and survivors of Bowie Base One were trapped.
But, as we almost expected, there was more to this story than water monsters and being trapped with no way out, this was about the Doctor and his approaching end. For me the most unnerving moments were not about being contaminated by water, it was where the Doctor decided that enough was enough and that, as the last of the Time Lords, he could decide the laws of time and who lived and died. We saw a new and terrible Doctor, an arrogant Doctor, more Valeyard than the Doctor of old. A glimmer of the old self breaking through at the end when he sees Ood Sigma and realises what a terrible deed he has done in saving people from a fixed point in history and that this may mean the end of him!
It looks like the Christmas special is going to have a few interesting twists as a result

Friday, November 13, 2009

Last Night's Question Time

Whilst I was a bit disappointed that David Dimbleby was not available for last night's BBC Question Time, I think John Humphrys quipped himself well and maybe when David Dimbleby finally retires we will have a rota of news and current affairs presenters running the show.
Plus wasn't it a gem that Baroness Neville-Jones was cornered and clearly embarrassed over The Sun's antics over Gordon Brown this week, and as to whether David Cameron feels comfortable with having such a newspaper backing him at the next general election! At least, win or lose, we now have clearly drawn battle lines between Thatcherite Tories and the Social Democratic right of the Labour Party

Glasgow North East - The Result

Great news, and a shining light amidst all the doom and gloom that has faced Labour lately. Hopefully this will help with morale and what is even better is that the BNP have lost their deposit :-)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gordon Brown's Letter

When the storm first broke, I felt sorry for the family concerned, and also for the PM who I felt (and still feel) was being penalised simply for having sloppy handwriting. If he had it typed, then it would have looked cold, antiseptic, and unfeeling when the opposite was the case.
What I find disgraceful about the whole incident though is the fact that Brown's phone call apologising for his behaviour was taped . I don't blame the family, but given the way it came out I do blame The Sun newspaper. We have now seen what they will try and do to Labour and what they are capable of doing in the run up to a general election, and if the Conservatives win, they will win with the uncomfortable fact that they are supported by one of the most sorry excuses of a newspaper to exist in this country.
Thankfully though, it looks like Brown has widespread support from the public, which is a) helpful and b) does not bode well for The Sun, for which there is a thankful reminder that there is still widespread decency among the public in this country.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Twenty Questions to Paul Burgin

The tables have been turned. I have actually been interviewed in a "Twenty Questions" style format by Sara Batts at her Uncooked Data blog. The interview can be seen here.
I actually interviewed Sara some months ago and you can see the interview here. It's nice to see gestures returned sometimes ;-)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Healthcare Issue Passed in US House of Representatives

My immediate response was "Yeeesssss!" :-)
Hoped it would happen, but was careful in my expectations, given what befell the Clinton's when they tried the same thing

Berlin Wall and War Remembrance

Twenty years ago I watched with fascination as I saw people chipping away, even smashing away, at a wall which symobolised oppression and ideological fear. Like the peaceful revolutions which swept Eastern Europe in 1989, this was nothing short of miraculous and for me was best underlined when I told my octogenarian grandparents that I thought they didn't think they would live to see this happen, to which they said that no, they didn't!
Twenty years on, there are many in the former East Germany who suffer economic hardship and indeed had difficulties adjusting to a capitalist life, but likewise many of them have equally argued that they would never want to return to the old regime. The smashing of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism in Eastern Europe did not represent the beginnings of a Utopia, but it did herald the end of oppression.
Likewise this weekend we have remembered those who died for our freedoms during two World Wars, as well as remembering those who are serving abroad in places such as Afghanistan. The challenges faced are hard and the difficulties immense, but we honour those who have fallen because they helped defend us from tyranny and others from tyranny and it is that which we need to bear in mind and be thankful.

Farewell Sadie's Tavern

Was unable to blog this weekend, so have not had a chance until now to comment about this, suffice to say that I was surprised and saddened to read that Sadie is closing her Tavern.
Sharp, caustic at times, but always witty, warm, and fun, the blogosphere will be a lesser place without her. Over time we have seen some good blogs shut up shop. Kerron Cross and Cally's Kitchen among them, but life goes on and I wish Sadie well in everything she does in the future involving good political debate :-)

I Hardly Ever Agree With Donal Blaney. But Where Jedward Are Concerned......

I think anyone who knows my politics and general worldview, and indeed Donal Blaney's, will know that I not only strongly disagree with him on a range of political issues, but find his attitude accompanying said views somewhat objectionable too.
That said, I do think on his latest blog post he is spot on (although perhaps I'd be a bit less strident ;-) ). I think it was awful that Simon Cowell sacrificed Lucie Jones on the altar of high ratings, so that the terrible twins get another shot of fame that they don't deserve. Everyone knows they lack talent (why else did they not get a solo during last night's group song?), so why should they be allowed to continue. It's as I feared, X Factor seems to be not about encouraging musical talent, but about being primarily a ratings chasing cash cow that always puts tacky commercialism over artistic genius.
If only the British public realised that before voting for Jedward with their raw emotions and not clear heads :-(

Friday, November 06, 2009

Penelope Trunk's Tweet

Was rather shocked by it's coldness when I read it, although I think some of the comments against her were insensitive, but having read her comments in today's Guardian (with the caveat here that I am against abortion except in exceptional circumstances), some issues come to mind.

1) Why was Ms Trunk surprised at the response. Abortion is still a big emotive subject

2) Does she not realise that some of the outrage was irrespective of whether abortion is right or wrong? It was the sheer seeming clinical antiseptic coldness that came across in her tweet, whether intended or not, that caused much offence

3) I think there is much that was nasty in pre-legalised abortion days that is thankfully gone and hopefully will never return. I am not 100% against abortion, but surely one thing to do that would be helpful to all concerned is to have a rethink and a long look at adoption and palliative care and to work hard at reform where it is needed in those areas.

Finally, having said all this, in spite of all that has been said, I think anyone with an ounce of sensitivity will see that Ms Trunk has had a horrendous time and needs our help and support where needed, not our condemnation and the same goes for anyone else who has an abortion. Esp when few make that decision lightly.

The Decline and Fall of Jedward

I have to say that for the first time I have been watching the X Factor lately and, whilst am rooting for some talented people out there such as Stacey Solomon and Jamie Archer, I am shocked and appalled that John and Edward have yet to be voted out. It may be cruel of me, but they strike me as a pair of self regarding and preening stars who have little talent and prefer image to substance.
So it is that I am heartened that the Prime Minister agrees with my point of view, but even more so, I was heartened that only two people in the audience that the PM spoke to wanted John and Edward to win X Factor. I sometimes despair at being in a minority over who I believe acts should and should not be at No 1 in the charts when you have situations like Mr Blobby being the 1993 Christmas No 1, so it's good to see the hype for what it is. Hopefully people who are voting this way so as to offend Simon Cowell, who actually is talking a lot of sense here.
Talking of hype, is anyone surprised to see who David Cameron is backing? ;-)

Iain Dale Vs The Daily Mail. The PCC Verdict

Like Iain, I was disappointed, but not really surprised. I have not known the PCC to have sharp teeth in dealing with situations like this and Iain's situation is no different.
That said, there are some positives to come from this! Iain's situation, and far more to the point the Stephen Gately story, has drawn the spotlight onto the newspaper in a way that it won't appreciate or like. The Daily Mail always claims to speak for Middle England, but in this day and age it's increasingly obvious that if it speaks for any constituency, it's the nasty, class conscious (without properly understanding middle class culture), self-made snobs who would like Britain to have stayed in the 1950's, complete with all the downsides that adversely affected anyone but them! In the Britain of 2009, the Mail and those who blindly agree with it's editorials, are finding themselves against a coalition of critics from left to right, and indeed from social liberal to social conservative.
One hopes they wake up to that :-/

Latest Trailer for The Waters Of Mars

I can't wait. Not only because Doctor Who hasn't been on our screens since Easter, but because this is David Tennant's penultimate story before handing the TARDIS over to Matt Smith and that some of the events in this story lead straight onto the Christmas Special

Thursday, November 05, 2009

That Autism Outburst Against the Tories!

I actually agree with William Hague that it's "pathetic". I think there is inconsistency and hypocrisy among the Conservatives on Europe, not least among some grassroots who will keep quiet in the hope of winning the next election.
But to call a group, or an individual "autistic" is nasty, petty, and vindictive, and as a Labour activist I will happily defend the Tories against such vile personal abuse.
Just a pity that this kind of gesture is not reciprocated

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Republicans Win Key States

Not the news you want to wake up to, but it's also too early to make an overall assessment, that's for the mid-term elections. That said it should be borne in mind that Obama has been President for less than a year, is doing better than Bush, and a lot of the sniping from within the Democratic Party comes from those who voted for Hillary last spring. A pity then, that they have not been able to overcome their seeming resentments

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Light Blogging

Apologies for the light blogging of late. Work, spending time with family and friends, and basically living in the real world has caused this, suffice to say that I will try and devote some time to you this week dear reader.

Warm Regards

Paul