Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Short Review of the Year 2009

FAVOURITE EVENTS

A new administration in the White House, the year that Labour bloggers and Twitterers started to flex their muscles, plus the breaking news yesterday


PEOPLE WHO LEFT US IN 2009, WHO I WILL PARTICULARLY MISS

Joseph Wiseman (Played the main villain in the first Bond movie)

FAVOURITE FILMS OF THE YEAR



FAVOURITE PEOPLE

Barack Obama (For hardly putting a foot wrong)

David Tennant (For bowing out gracefully whilst we wanted him to stay)

The people and politicians of Northern Ireland (For remaining wedded firmly to the Peace Process in spite of provocation)

MUSICAL INSPIRATION

The Beatles (For this lovely bit of innovation)

POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR

Still Barack Obama for being committed to, and working not only to mend the US's relations abroad, but also for his social policies such as Healthcare and being able to bring it successfully through Congress


PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR

Getting a new and exciting job, that is working in a bookshop


BLOGGERS OF THE YEAR

LABOUR: LabourList

CONSERVATIVE: Iain Dale's Diary

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT:Lindylooz Muze


NON POLITICAL: Running Life


FAVOURITE QUOTES

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."


President Obama on the challenges ahead, mentioned in his inaugural speech


(FAVOURITE BLOGGING QUOTES OF THE YEAR)

"The activists behind today's letter to the NEC calling for firmer leadership from the PM and his senior ministerial colleagues over Labour MP's expenses have reacted with disappointment to the government's proposals accepted by the NEC.

In a joint statement the NEC protest letter organisers, Richard Bingley, Fred Grindrod and Tom Flynn, said:

"Since Mr Brown's proposals even more Labour activists have added their name to the protest letter calling for firm and speedy leadership. Regrettably, by not taking action to challenge MPs and ministers who have made deeply damaging expense claims, which by a mere technicality fall within archane parliamentary rules, today's opportunity to get back in touch with the public has been lost. We repeat our call for immediate and firm moral leadership on this issue, that puts the country before institutionalised convenience."

Below is the full letter being sent today to Ray Collins, General Secretary of the Labour Party, as well as members of the National Executive Committe of the Labour Party, which is convening today. The letter has now been signed by 175 people. Members are still being encouraged to sign the letter, by contacting necletter@hotmail.co.uk."


Alex Smith on LabourList concerning the need for action on expenses

( Declared interest: I was one of the signatories)


Happy New Year to you all :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Labour in 2010

I was going to blog about yesterday's Sunday Times coverage of Labour and Class war but Alex Smith at LabourList has beaten me to it and put forward exactly how I feel about this issue.
The problem is that it's not just a fading target, it's an easy and cheap target. The electorate (who the main parties seem to occasionally treat as fodder with which to beat each other, much to their understandable disgust) are not interested in Fox hunting so much as easy access to good health treatment and education. I don't care if anyone goes to Eton so much as to whether someone is a tax dodger. Equally whilst I deplore the thought of animals ripped to shreds by dogs, I am equally aware that that such views are not the preserve of the Labour Party. Otis Ferry may be an obnoxious prat (as yesterday's interview has shown), but he's hardly going to get an opportunity to wreck this country.
In the early nineties, the Tories used to hurl every old cliched attack on Labour that they could think of. Links to Millitant Unions and Loony Left Councillors were raised in the hope that the mud would stick. Inevitably it eventually failed and the Tories were left attacking straw opponents. I would hate to see Labour end up making the same mistake leading to a major defeat at the next general election.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 52:Christmas Snow

Walking on my way to work this morning, I was listening to some Christmas songs on my iPod and could not help but notice some of the lyrics.
"In the Deep Midwinter", the first line of "I Believe in Father Christmas" ("They said there'd be snow at Christmas!"), "Let it Snow..", "Baby It's Cold Outside" etc... You get the, ahem, drift
One thing is for sure though, people won't be dreaming of a White Christmas in a hurry

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm a left wing blogger speaking out against this injustice!

If you are wondering what I am specifically talking about, then take a look at Tom Harris's blog post here.
I have two caveats, the first is that I am a committed Christian, so expect some 'bias' from me on this one, the other is that we need to wait and see the outcome of the investigation, suffice to say I agree with just about everything Tom has said on this, unsurprisingly

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 52: Another Look at the Christmas No 1 Single

A long time ago I mentioned what I thought about the Christmas No 1 Single on this blog, so last night (although I would rather it was George Michael's December Song) I was pleased to see Rage Against The Machine knock the X Factor Single away from the No 1 spot.
It's obvious that this was political and nothing to do with whether all buyers concerned were Rage Against the Machine fans, but for many years many of the record buying public have been sick of seeing songs reach the Christmas No 1 which are unworthy of the position, songs which would otherwise be swiftly forgotten and sadly get remembered for years.
Let this be a move towards the Christmas No 1 being exclusively for memorable talent from artists with a degree of longevity ;-)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

From Shipley With No Love

A complaint about political correctness is one thing, a complaint lacking sensitivity and making 19 complaints is another. I don't think I need to explain what is wrong here, suffice to say that Philip Davies seems to have a thing about race issues. The other day Iain Dale started a campaign to support Conservative candidates against Labour MP's he and other Tory activists find objectionable. Much as I like Iain that is not a clever move as many Labour activists can name Tory MP's whom they take a dislike to and would love to see defeated at the next election. Philip Davies now having appeared to have joined those ranks

Friday, December 18, 2009

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 51: The Political Christmas Cards

Whilst some of us are snowed in and we hope things go well in Copenhagen, lets take a look at the Christmas Cards the leaders of our three main political parties have launched.
I have to say there isn't much to fault them. Nick Clegg's is somewhat cute, Gordon Brown's has a nice touch, and David Cameron's could have had a more clearer image of Big Ben but otherwise okay.
Thing is though, it would have been nice to have some kind of strong Christmas theme from Cameron and Clegg. Not blatant and in your face, but something more tangible for the season, otherwise it kind of devalues the moment

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 50: That Billboard in New Zealand!

I am all for a bit of shaking up people into fresh ways of thinking, and also for pre-conceptions challenged, but this seems a little OTT. Not least being that those behind the billboard seem to have gone so enthusiastic about being liberal and trendy and daring, that they seem to have forgotten that billboards get seen by people of all ages.
There are ways and means of discussing/debating the Virgin Birth (which I happen to believe in), whether Mary was a perpetual virgin etc.. There is also a thing called "a time and a place" and this was not one of them

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 49: The BBC Doctor Who Indnet

How can you not like this! :-)

(BBC)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lord Ashcroft and Tax

I am glad more attention is being given to this! For all the Conservatives desire to see power fall into their lap asap, this is the elephant in their room. They can hardly boast legitimately about the money he is pouring into the key marginals, when his tax status is seen as dodgy and there is the whiff of danger about him as a result. Have the Conservatives not learnt from past mistakes!

Blair, Faith, and Iraq

I appreciate I am a bit late with this and I apologise, and I also apologise for not maintaining my blog this week, I have been somewhat busy with one thing or another.
I did find this interview with Fern Britton intriguing and a no of things come to mind. First of all that Blair seems to be more open about faith issues since his departure (which is understandable, as being Prime Minister you don't want to give the impression you are forcing your faith on others), secondly that he did not feel it was following an edict from God to invade Iraq. That is helpful, although it makes one wonder how clearly Blair thought about the issue in terms of UK interests outside Anglo/US relations! The third is that he would have invaded Iraq whether Saddam Hussein had WMD or not, well he patently didn't, but Blair has just about admitted that he based a whole war on preserving UK relations with the US to the point of being aware that the evidence was flimsy but that it didn't matter and that there may have been a strong case of self deception here.
That's refreshingly honest, but unhelpful and one that does not inspire faith in people's attitude to politicians.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mars Hill Parish Notice

As of the new year, I shall give this blog a bit of a facelift. Not entirely sure how it will be done, but expect some exciting new changes. I think after four and a half years it needs a bit of an overhall don't you!

Cancelled Classic Episodes & Trade Unions

This little bit from the BBC Website is interesting. As a fan of all three programmes (esp Doctor Who and Secret Army), I had heard about the cancelled episodes, but not that there may have been additional reasons than strike action. With Doctor Who it was the BBC Execs leaving a line in the sand to the Unions, effectively telling them that their actions had consequences. With Secret Army, it was that the last episode (set twenty-five years later looking back at the War), would have offended many War Veterans (which inc many BBC Execs), as it implied that communism was a deadlier threat than fascism. With regards to The Professionals, well that is a story in itself, although I do think LWT completely overreacted. Politics and political instability was part of the major plot themes in The professionals surely!
That said there is a silver lining here. As much as it is annoying that the Doctor Who story "Shada" was cancelled with only 2/3rd of it filmed, it did mean that Tom Baker did appear in the twentieth anniversary special, given his refusal to appear in it, even if it was for only about 2 mins!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Letter To Myself At Sixteen Meme

Yesterday afternoon was spent in London, and having a few hours to spare before going to a talk by Jack Straw at the House of Commons, hosted by Progress, I did a spot of Christmas shopping.
So it was that I found myself in Waterstones between Covent Garden Market and St Martin's Lane, looking for a couple of books to buy relatives, that I found myself browsing through a book with contributions from famous people, which involved them writing letters to themselves at sixteen.
It was an entertaining read, with many having a smiling look at their own past, complete with a "You are young, but you will learn" attitude. The rule was one page only for each letter. Something that, predictably, Baz Lurhmann failed to follow (But to be fair, I speak with bias. I think his films etc.. are overblown egotism).
But it set me thinking. If you could write a letter to yourself at sixteen, what would it say? Plus what would a no of bloggers put down in such a letter if they had the chance. So it is that I thought I'd set down a meme of letters for bloggers to write to their sixteen year old selves.
There is a condition of course. So as to avoid overblown pretension, you can only give three pieces of advice, and it needs to be snappy, so I suppose, seeing as I have laid down this meme and set the rules, I'd better start:


Dear Paul

There is a lot I want to tell you during this brief moment, suffice to say that I am painfully aware that whatever advice I give you might be pointless. After all it is the difficult and unhappy situations that help make us the person we are known and loved for as much as the great situations. But if I can give you three pieces of advice that will make your path through life easier, then I can't do much better than the following

1) Stop, and I mean stop worrying about what people thinking of you. Trust me, it's screwing you up a bit. So what that you are not as academically brilliant as you'd like to be and can't get girlfriends. Being defensive and worrying is not helping. In fact it's making it worse. Just relax and be yourself. Those closest to you love you for yourself and they are worthwhile friends as you already know, so think what could happen in the wider world if you relaxed a bit more!

2) Career. You will be relieved to know that you do go to University and you do get a dream job, but it will be tough and not without some frustration and hurt and plenty of self-doubt. Relax. Just bide your time and you will find situations come to you if you simply put in the required effort. Oh and I hate to break it to you, but you will not be a leading figure in the Labour Party and Foreign Secretary at 35, and you will not be the one to smash Clause Four. That chap you think should be a future leader does that and, trust me, not being a high flier at a young age is a good thing. It's spared you a lot of hassle, ridicule, and loathing. The political successes you do have a small, but definitely worthwhile.

3) Girls. Oh Paul where do I start! You are already aware that you have wasted time fancying one or two girls and right now, ever hopeful, you are starting to have your eye on that lovely small brunette in the year below. The one whose Dad is a work colleague of yours. Right, nothing is going to happen there, nor indeed will anything happen with anyone whilst you are at school. This is partly down to the fact you are just not comfortable in your own skin and it will take you a while before it slowly dawns on you that you need to just be yourself and trust in time and circumstances, plus a bit of casual confidence (which again takes time to develop). Sorry mate, but you need to know and it will save you chasing after girls, many of whom make good friends but are just not your type and vice versa! That said, you will have some great relationships and happy memories and nearly all the break-ups you have will be amicable. How many can say that! Oh and yes, that kiss you will have. The casual snog whilst slightly drunk, caused by supposedly the pair of you celebrating St George's Day! Don't, I repeat, don't worry about it. You were single, so was she, neither of you did anything really bad. That's some way away, but I wanted to spare you the endless worry you will have about what might happen as a result!

Hopefully if you follow that, life will be less fraught for you, but just remember. Relax, and don't try too hard and things will happen. You have a lot going for you and there are more positives about you than you think. Oh (cheating slightly here I know), but in about two years you will become a Christian. Scary I know but great times lie ahead, just one word of advice when you are being very pious and evangelical. Think before you speak!

Warm Regards

Paul

PS. Slightly unnerved by what a fifty-two year old me might tell me



The Pre Budget Report

Of course we are not out of the woods yet, but this does help us towards that. It gives a lot of people a financial lifeline when they need it. In terms of public industry, it is right (as in any recession) for belts to be tightened.
Predictably the opposition parties are not impressed, as to them this means "******, this might cost us the election!" That said, I am glad that Vince Cable (an opponent I respect), agrees with the incentives given to small businesses, what a pity then that he calls it a "good budget for bingo and boilers" and referred to the tax on excessive bank bonuses as "gesture politics". I expected better of him than to go for the cheap jibes. That's something I would expect from others

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 48: The TV Scheduling

If you enjoy watching TV specials on occasion during the festive period, plus if you live in the UK, plus if you enjoy family entertainment, esp Doctor Who, then you are in for a treat as this trailer shows.



(BBC)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Witchhunt Against John Bercow?

Is it just me or do you think there are the beginnings of attempts by Conservatives to damage Bercow as much as possible, so as to make it more easy to try and unseat him at the next general election?
The reason I have a suspicion is this piece on the BBC Website yesterday, followed by Michael Crick's latest column.
Admittedly some of the rumblings have been inadvertently caused by John Bercow's wife. After all, if you plan to stand for the Labour Party in a forthcoming council election and admit to one-night stands in your twenties, then the media are going to give you some attention and not all of it welcome. But Mrs Bercow is not Speaker Bercow and how many politicians and political spouses drank more than they should and slept around when they were younger? Plus surely supporting or standing for one political party does not reflect the politics of your significant other. Dare I say that one former girlfriend of mine voted Liberal Democrat at the last general election, I do hope that doesn't reflect on me!
All the evidence above, plus the lack of Conservative support for Bercow's election as Speaker makes me wonder what is going on! It would be sad and disrespectful to the Commons if the Conservatives decided to remove a Speaker simply because they never liked him in the first place!

Monday, December 07, 2009

David Cameron & the Environment

Check out Alastair Campbell's blog post regarding Cameron's four years as Conservative leader, and how you can compare his travelling to Norway with huskies and cycling to the Commons with a gas guzzler on one hand, and yet on the other have we seen him in Copenhagen, mention in detail about the Copenhagen summit on climate change?
Vote Blue Go PR

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Political Class Wars

On one level David Cameron is absolutely and totally right. No one's background should matter, no ones political credentials should be slammed because they went to a public school and came from a wealthy family. That is wrong and abhorrent. I didn't join the Labour Party so as to pick on people and penalise people from coming from a certain social class and neither did a no of other Labour activists. Many of us joined because we care for the vulnerable and socially defenceless in our society, no matter who they are and where they come from. Many of my own age joined because we were unimpressed by the downside of Thatcherism and felt it was inexcusable to fob off the result of three million unemployed as "a price worth paying" or to declare that "there is no such thing as society"
In saying all that however, some Tories do use class as a weapon. One suspects, indeed hopes, they are in the minority and many of them seem to be among the younger echelons, but tell me how many members of the Bullingdon Club or the Countryside Alliance (not a campaign group noted for it's consideration towards those who disagree with them) have joined the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats? I accept that many Conservatives feel hurt at jibes on class and many such insults are unfair, but it would help if they should the same outrage towards the more arrogant members of their Party

Friday, December 04, 2009

Can Cameron and Osborne Run a Brewery?

On Monday, as you may know, I went to a talk at Portcullis House, however to my irritation I found I had to tag onto a thirty minute queue in order to get in. This surprised me as I have visited the Palace of Westminster on a semi-regular basis for nine years and have hardly ever had to queue, save perhaps for going to watch a Commons debate from the Gallery.

And these two men expect to be the next PM and Chancellor? It's an unnerving thought, the thought of being governed by men more adept at cheap PR stunts than actually running the country :-(

Northern Ireland Security

I suppose I am taking the easy option by saying that I can see both sides of the argument here. On one hand as both have agreed in principle to secuirty issues being handed over to the N.Ireland Executive, then Sinn Fein are being perfectly reasonable in demanding a timetable, and one laid down before Christmas. On the other hand, given the history of the Troubles, I agree with the DUP that you need the confidence of the community.
The problem is, given the past history and the difficulties and compromises made to get to the sort of relative peace we now see in Northern Ireland, when are you ever going to get the confidence of the Community if you are not prepared to take necessary risks. Part of Ulster's problems involves having long memories and we need to look forward, even if it means looking to the long term and all sides being paitent and having to stomach tough compromises!

Mandelson Vs Murdoch

Reading The Guardian yesterday made me give one of my (occasional) cheers for Peter Mandelson, when he basically declared war on Murdoch's media empire.
Although, to be fair to a degree, there are some great things that come out of News Corporation, some of the Channels on Sky for example, but one unpleasant aspect of News Corp is that it tends to downgrade some of the media it acquires. One thinks of what has happened to The Sun newspaper in the past forty years, or how The Sunday Times is no longer the investigative broadsheet from the days of Harold Evans (although they have their moments).
In short, the Murdoch empire commits what I regard as the Cardinal Sin of media ownership, that is to give the public whatever they want as opposed to the BBC's ethos set down by Reith as "educate, entertain, and inform". This is consistent with the Thatcherite philosophy of privatisation and profit before culture and pragmatism, in spite of the well-meaning attitudes of many of it's adherents. Put basically it's part of the Thatcherite drive to make this a nation of tacky estate agents, rather than 1950s provincial bankers.
Which leads us to Mandelson's concerns. If the Conservatives get in the next time they will start making life hell for institutions such as the BBC by dismantling Ofcom. This will give people like Murdoch carte blanche to take over what's left and remould some of our precious media institutions for profit. Can you imagine a dismantled BBC being like Fox! It's as I always feared, a Conservative govt is not just bad for the UK economically, it's bad for the culture of Britain as well, and if you think I am wrong, ask yourself why your average celebrity game show host tends to publicly back the Conservatives and why your avergae famous RSC actor tends to publicly back Labour.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Paul Waugh - Kerron Cross's Successor?

I ask, simply because seasoned blog readers will recall Kerron's days as Research Assistant to Andy Reed and his blogging on such things as broken loo seats in Portcullis House.
Now I haven't looked at Paul Waugh's blog for a while, but one of his latest posts did have a touch of the Kerron Cross about it! ;-) You see, in spite of Kerron now working for the Archbishop of York, he still wields heavy influence within the Westminster village :-)

Internet Election 2010 Discussion - Feedback

Further to my last posting, the evening was indeed successful, entertaining, and informative, although I wonder if it told us anything new. Most of the panel agreed that the idea of blogging and twitter being a major force in the next general election campaign must be put in perspective. People said similar things about the Internet in general in 1997 and nothing beats actually meeting voters and knocking on doors. That said the pros and cons of blogging/twittering during a general election campaign where discussed in depth.

Tom Harris argued that the use of broadband in most homes means that this will be the first election where rebuttals by political parties will be more instant. It's not ideal to look to the US, as they are more adept with on-line campaigning and it will take years to catch up with them.

Catherine Mayer argued that no one seems to have fully tapped onto the full campaigning potential of Twitter. I can see her point, but she clearly hasn't felt the impact of Bevanite Ellie


Jo Swinson made a valid point about the dangers of campaign blogging. She mentioned how a moment of candour by the Liberal Democrat Candidate in the 2004 Hartlepool by-election caused a no of problems for the Lib Dems

Iain Dale struck a similar note when he mentioned that partisan bloggers will play it safe at the next election. There is much to play for where Labour and the Conservatives are concerned and no one wants to rock the boat. Iain also pointed out that the under 25's tend to follow TV and online news and political affairs than reading newspapers. Like Tom, Iain also argued that we will never be like the US in using the Internet, but we can learn much from them.

Paul Waugh argued that there was still a "Command and Control" tendency from political parties in this regard, but that blogging and twittering can be a great resource for local campaigns as they tend to fire people's imagination. A point I agree with and would expand on by saying that political online campaigning will only really take off once issues beyond the Westminster bubble fire the public's collective imagination.


All in all a great evening. Several used the Obama Campaign as a reference, in spite of it jokingly being seen as an unmentionable point. Was good to meet a few familiar faces as well, as well as having Tom Harris tell me afterwards that he hardly checks his stats for his blog, although I am sure his reasoning is different from mine, which is I don't check them out of fear!
Anyways, I hope Total Politics hold similar such debates regarding blogging in future. Iain please take note ;-)