Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blair at Chilcot Inquiry

It was a vintage Blair performance I will grant that, but it was also a performance which reminded me not only why Blair has been successful and charismatic in the past and why I was passionate about him becoming Labour Leader even when Kinnock was in charge, but also why I felt at the end that he ought to go for the good of the Country and the Labour Party.
Some of the claims for going into Iraq have proven to be negative and it has not done much for us, because if we had not gone in then we might have been able to make more of a fist with Afghanistan, we might have had more public support as a whole, and a no of British soldiers and civilians might still be alive today!
The 45 minute claim and Saddam having Weapons of Mass Destruction was a central part of the reasons given for going into Iraq. I myself saw a copy of the report, given to me when I went to sit in the Commons gallery during the debate which led to us going in. On that basis I put aside my misgivings and supported the decision. I even pitied the protestors (over a million) who marched in London against it as naive. That is something I am ashamed of and perhaps says more about me whom my family says has pro establishment tendencies and who one friend has called me (affectionately thank God) "Conservative with a small c".
You see I actually believed what I was being told, I also suspected that there may have been intelligence findings which could not be mentioned for security reasons and in any case removing a brutal dictator by force struck me as no bad thing. Like a no of people who initially supported the move to go to War with Iraq, I now feel rather silly and ashamed for having supported it in the first place, and saddened and hurt that we could have been deceived about it. I appreciate Blair refuses to believe he did anything wrong and was not surprised by yesterday's events, but it was a sad reminder about the beginnings of an event which I feel we must put behind us as soon as possible.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Living It Out - The Book Launch

A couple of nights ago I attended a book launch at Waterstones near Euston Station. I haven't attended one before, but this one was important to me as a) it was written by two dear friends of mine and b) I contributed to it.
The book is called "Living It Out" and is basically a survival guide for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Christians, their families and friends. Whatever your own views I'd recommend this book as it mentions the personal stories of those involved in such situations and is another timely reminder on how we need to treat this issue with thoughtfulness, concern, and above all, respect. My contribution is on Pg 45 and basically mentions the history of my friendship with a lesbian friend and how difficult it was to show Christianity in a positive light with some of the prejudices that exist within some churches.
You can read more about the event and the book here, suffice to say that dipping into it yesterday was challenging and helpful and also spoke to me about areas in my (heterosexual) life which I haven't given much thought to. That's how much of an eye opener "Living It Out" is

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Doctor Who Series Five Trailer

To whet some of your appetites for this coming Spring




(BBC)

Taking Victory for Granted

I know I am definetly not alone here, but one thing that irritates me about the Conservatives (amongst other things), is the fact that they seem to be taking victory at the next general election for granted.
Take the triumphalist tone of many of the Conservative blogs, a classic example being Nadine Dorries' recent blog post where she takes Tory victory completely for granted, or even comments about "Sealing the Deal" with the electorate, as if there was a deal in the first place! Deals between political parties and the electorate as a whole are only made once the Party in question has the majority of seats in the House of Commons.
To be fair, Labour has made this mistake as well.. In fact we were foolish enough to make it twice, once in 1970 and once in 1992, followed swiftly by a shock defeat at the general election. We learnt our lesson so much that when it came to the Opinion Polls prior to the 1997 election, many of us refuse to believe them.
But as far as I am concerned, the Conservatives (providing they lose, because if they will win it will make their arrogance even more insufferable) can continue to take victory for granted. We, however, must not. It bugs me when a prior date, a long way to Pay Day,or indeed the bad weather lately, has prevented me helping in my local area, or Jim Fitzpatrick in Poplar and Limehouse, or David Rowntree in Westminster, or (at a local level) Alex, Jessica, and Gary in Islington, simply because every vote counts, win or lose, and when the going gets tough that's when Labour must fight back. I appreciate we have not been fantastic in government, but trust me, the Tories would be far worse. They will slash public spending in all the sensitive areas, privatise on ideological principle, not pragmatic reasons, and fail to help keep Britain from the depths of the recession.What is the icing on the vomit ridden cake with that is that the Conservatives think they are about to just idlly waltz into No 10 and do as they please
Well lets work to prove them wrong!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

N. Ireland Crisis Talks

As I have said before this is a tough situation simply because, in part, both sides have valid points. On one hand the Unionists have fears that will take time to soothe, on the other hand the Nationalists need to be assured they are not selling out.
The important thing though is, as Shaun Woodward has said, to keep the talks going as long as necessary. If deadlines are set up then there will be problems, but thankfully I see little evidence that either side plan to do that, so there is a strong degree of hope

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Conservative Setbacks

The Sunday Times is not the first place one would expect to find Anti-Conservative stories, esp these days, but it was interesting to find both Cameron and Osborne facing setbacks in their respective roles in planning that nightmare of a possible Conservative government.
With Osborne, it seems that the predicted clash with that respected of adversaries, Kenneth Clarke, has been kicking off quietly in the background.
It seems that Clarke has been warning the Tories' against making "calamitous cuts" and that he would have to delay any emergency budget. Either Osborne is being disingenuous, or cannot do his sums properly!
Where Cameron is concerned, it seems like he has had to drop the idea of Sir Richard Dannatt having a role at the MoD at the next election. Apparently some senior figures in the Armed Forces are not too happy at the way the Conservatives have been playing politics in their backyard. I appreciate that Cameron's Conservatives are a "Policy by Gimmick" Party but this is ridiculous.

Bin Laden's Threatening Tape to Obama

As I have mentioned, I have concerns about our role in Afghanistan, but, as today has shown, let us never forget who exactly we are dealing with here and that they are not just enemies at war, they are enemies that will always, wilfully and deliberately, attack civilians first in making a point. We need to constantly and consistently hold a united front against them

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cameron & Broken Society

I can see some of the points David Cameron made the other day and to an extent I agree we are in a broken society, although I hope that the fears I share with fellow Labour activists that he is trying to pin the blame squarely on Labour are not true. If it is, then it is a nasty and contemptible way to behave.
We have been here before. In 1993, the then Shadow Home Secretary (one Tony Blair) said that we should be "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime!" An excellent turn of phrase describing society's problems and used in the aftermath happened of the Jamie Bulger case, so I think it's fair to say that some of the problems here go beyond fixes from political parties on their own.
What might help though (and it's a long shot), is for the main political parties to work together at ways in which we can help mend society where it is broken. The are those who feel that perhaps we should be more old fashioned, albeit with a strong dose of liberal empathy in helping those who are vulnerable. Perhaps I am being naive, but it feels wrong to just sit back and let a society that is broken in parts continue to fester and seeing some politicians make potential cheap scoring points

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Favourite Cameron Poster

Osborne To Repay Expenses

Not exactly an encouraging tale about someone who the Conservatives hope to see as the next Chancellor of the Exchequer. But then he isn't exactly original is he! Plus the Tories seem to find him increasingly embarrassing

Tories and the BBC

Was rather intrigued by this bit about the BBC's relationship with the Conservative govt under Margaret Thatcher. It's nothing new as such, but it just goes to show how precarious a position the BBC tend to find themselves under the Conservatives, some of whom among their right-wing would love to privatise and smash this fine institution into pieces. Sky other media outlets bring a fine contribution to public life, but the BBC is unique in that it follows, or tries to, the old fashioned but worthwhile mandate to "Educate, Entertain, and Inform". The vital part being that it's highbrow aspect is widely accessible.

New Blog On Sidebar

It's Myrmicat Forever, although you may be familiar with it's Moderators' previous enterprise, "Cally's Kitchen"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

That Result in Massachtusetts

As I have said on Twitter, my response is that I am saddened but not surprised. I don't think it will help Obama's plans for social reform, although likewise however frustrating it is when people don't vote the way you'd like them to, the Democrats didn't exactly do themselves any favours either. I think Karin Robinson put it best in an interview she gave earlier today. (about 3o mins in)
Golden rules: Never, ever get complacent in political elections, never take the electorate for granted, and never see a "safe seat" as a fiefdom!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Paying Tax

I can see where Billy Bragg is coming from but I think he is wrong on this!
Put simply we live in a Democracy, and sometimes that means that sometimes our money goes to finance things we don't necessarily like or approve of as individuals. I like Billy, but this reminds me of right-wing armchair pundits who irritate me immensely by talking about "My money!", and have a Loadsamoney attitude towards civic responsibility. To me, paying tax is not a chore or socialistic, it is doing your bit to help run the country and if you don't like where your money is going, then you campaign to put another party into government, or even better, set up a campaign group against where the money is going into an area you don't approve of. In a nutshell I am a great believer in "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!" Sadly I think many don't agree with me and would rather others footed the bill at their expense.

Helping Haiti

We have all seen the pictures and news of the devastation in Haiti and no doubt felt not only shock, but also helpless in not knowing the best way to give aid.
Well for Mars Hill readers who feel that way I will make it a bit easier for you. Oxfam have given a list of ways you can help donate, so if you have a few mins to spare, take a look and see what works best for you if so inclined. As for me, I am sending a cheque to them.
I know it's a cliché, but if everyone gave just even a little, a heck of a lot can be done to help

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Losing Weight Part II

Further to last weeks post, have checked Scales (with my brother as an Independent ajudicator) and am 13.7 stone :-)

Rod Liddle. Not The Chap "Independent" Readers Will Want!

It was this afternoon that my brother alerted me to the news that Rod Liddle has been found to have a further unpleasant streak to the ones he has already.
I wonder if some on the unreconstructed Right-Wing who were smug about the outburst from many quarters are going to be laughing now!
I also wonder if Rod Liddle has a career in front-line journalism, let along as Editor of The Independent? Mind you, similar nasty right-wing columnists have got away with some unpleasant comments in the past in that they are still media pundits, so maybe not!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Boothroyd Speaks Out

Following her interview the other day I am glad to see that Baroness Boothroyd has not lost her sharp spark.
Where the Speakers' dress code is concerned I am in two minds. Ultimately I don't think it matters but I do think it's good that the Speaker wears some sort of uniform, if only to distinguish himself.
As for her views on MPs expenses being paid back, I totally agree (as would any right thinking person with nothing to hide). MP's should know whether such things are right or wrong, irrespective of the rules, and those who are guilty should equally bear in mind that they are elected by the people and are beholden to the people, no matter how infuriating or ignorant they may regard them.
The sad thing is that in some quarters that doesn't seem to be blatantly obvious.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Losing Weight

I know I have tried and blogged on this before, but this time dear reader I am going to make more of a concerted effort.
It turns out that during the Christmas holidays I have broken the 14 stone barrier and at around 5 ft 9, that is not good. Too much snacking and too much liking the wrong stuff.
So, as of Sunday, I have stopped having snacks between meals and have only just become aware of how bad it was getting. Packet of Jelly Babies, biscuits, quality streets, and that alone is between breakfast and lunch!
It's also good so far because I find I am valuing food more and appreciating meal times. I also hope to resume early morning jogging on days off as well before long.
Because the bottom line is that, at 34 years old and coming from a family where diabetes has been virulent I don't want to reach a point of no return where I am ill and find it very hard to get down to 12 stone. I love my sweet tooth and rich food but I want to value that more than I do already, most of all I want to respect my body a bit more as well!

Monday, January 11, 2010

MP Quotas Proposed

As I have mentioned before I am not a fan of quotas in legislatures and so this does fill me with some concern. I do agree we need more women and ethnic minority MP's, but this must be done via persuasion, not enforcement, as otherwise it will just put up not just the backs of those who we are seeking to persuade, but also those who might otherwise be on our side.
That said there is a call for political parties to make more of an effort to increase diversity of candidates for the next general election, so the ball is now in the court of those of us who are activists to make more of an effort. I'd rather this all happened through self sufficiency as it would be unpleasant for any MP to be accused of not reaching the House of Commons through anything other than on basis of convictions and character! Incidentally I do completely agree with some of the other recommendations, such as bursaries for those who cannot afford to get elected and limits on the amount of money candidates can spend on their election campaigns. I am inclined to agree with family friendly hours, but am concerned about how that might affect the need to scrutinize legislation going through the Commons. All in all though we need to see an overhaul at Westminster. It will include things that we might not like and we also have no real choice as the events of last summer have shown that we cannot continue like this.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tories Admit Donation Errors

Iain Dale suggested that we move along and that there was nothing to see, but the BBC piece here suggests that this is a sticky issue that might not go away. For a lot of the time the Conservatives have been rather evasive about the whole issue, whether it is Lord Ashcroft dealing with his tax status (has he for example made a public pledge to live in the UK) and funding the money that might have gone to the taxpayer into the campaigns of Conservative candidates, or simply saying that they are being upfront, state the facts in a throwaway manner and then refusing to go into detail

Hong Kong's Large Escalators

It's a fascinating news piece, but one thing I noticed in the BBC's report is that the escalators themselves do not have any of the yellow safety markers that exist on UK escalators.
Well so what you might say? Well over twenty years ago my family went on holiday to Hong Kong to see some relatives who were ex pats there and during that time my four year old sister got her foot caught on one of the long running escalators there (minus the safety markers) and spent much of the rest of our holiday sitting in a pushchair. She was lucky the damage was not more serious.
A pity then that little seems to have changed in over twenty years

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Opinion Polls & the General Election

Iain Dale has drawn up a unique way of deciding how the results will be at the next general election (see here), mainly by looking at each individual seat rather than a blanket coverage of current opinion polls. It's fascinating stuff and, obviously, I hope he is wrong in his analysis. Apart from the possibility that Labour might actually win a fourth term, he does not seem to have taken into account the depressing possibility of low voter turnout as a result of the MP's expenses scandal, which could easily affect all the main parties.
But lets argue for a moment that Iain is spot on. This would be depressing, it would not only mean a Conservative government, it would mean a government where Cameron might have to listen to the views of his hard-line Thatcherite backbenchers, ergo a return to a Conservative government with a Pre 1997 mentality that does not take into account that political parties that spend years in opposition have a moral obligation to the electorate that they have to reform themselves ideologically. Labour had to do it and it would be unfair on the British public if the Tories failed to do the same. In human terms this means a govt with a slim majority not being able to heal the economy and lurching from one crisis to the next, not governing at all and blaming all their woes, and I mean ALL their woes on Labour! And all along it means we are dealing with high unemployment and low standards of living and public services which the Tories will cheerfully cut, whilst of course blaming Labour.
It would also mean a strong third party where the Lib Dems are concerned. A political party that would happily spend a lot of it's energy fighting a hurt and bruised opposition party where Labour are concerned and that will mean we won't have an effective opposition fighting machine.
This may not happen, but lets work hard to make sure it doesn't

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Robinsons' Belagured Position

Meant to post this yesterday evening, but Internet problems caused delay.
First and foremost, whatever one thinks of their fundamentalism, their politics etc.. my heart goes out to them. No one should crow over a marriage going through such difficulties and it is clear that Iris Robinson has been punished more than enough with the guilt she clearly felt.
But the financial questions are serious, and on that basis, along with the pressure they are under, I'd give Peter Robinson about a month. Northern Ireland can do without such difficulties among their leadership, esp with today's tragic news.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Hoon and Hewitt Throw Down the Gauntlet

Whilst I am not happy with Gordon Brown's record as PM, I think this is disloyal and ill-thinking when you regard us being less than six months before a general election!
To do this now would plunge the Labour Party into turmoil when we need to be fighting a united front, it will cause widespread internal resentment, and if nothing else it is a desperate throw of the dice from the usual suspects, some of whom (and yes I am thinking of Geoff Hoon) are careerists who are disliked by a certain proportion of the Labour Party and are unpopular with the electorate.
The time to do this kind of navel gazing is after the election, the last realistic chance we have had prior to it was during the summer, when we had the expenses row. Not only that, it's hardly news that will plunge the Conservatives into disarray and despair.
I only hope MP's (no matter how desperate the situation and how frustrating the PM can be) will hang on. We need to win this election, because if we do not the Conservatives will further wreck the economy on a full Thatcherite drive (the usual economic policies that refuse to take into account stupidity and selfishness), deliberately change the Party expenses rules in a way that is aimed at destabilising the chances of Labour coming back, and cause no end of extra misery on the general public

Monday, January 04, 2010

Labour's Achivements

For all my assertions that Labour should apologise for it's mistakes, it goes without saying that those of us within the Party must equally be bold about praising and reminding others of our achievements. Something Alex Smith at LabourList has done to a tee. See here.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

New Years Resolution for Labour

Basically put, now is a good time for those of us who are Labour activists and take Jessica Asato's advice and say sorry to the electorate.
One of the problems that faces any member of a political party that is in government is to juggle loyalty to one's party, with concern for what goes on in this country, with occasional angst in disagreeing with some of the directions that are being taken whilst feeling that one has to be careful in what one says, because, deep down you feel that this government does a lot of good things that you don't want to be disloyal and publicly criticize them for the bad decisions they make.
There do come moments though when to defend or remain silent on several points would be wrong and does not add to one's self respect. In the past decade Labour have done great things with New Deal, Peace in Northern Ireland, banning Fox Hunting, improving Education and yet we have made some almighty mistakes. Iraq was one, being too scared to tackle some aspects of Thatcherism was another which means that we get the blame now the fallout is happening, and sadly I have to say that we deserve that in part.
Labour's main problem whilst being in office is that we have been too timid, too believing that the entire electorate are unquestioning Daily Mail and Sun readers. We were too scared of the consequences of dealing with unfettered privatisation, too scared of the Americans, too sacred of the Mail/Express reading Middle England to the point where we treated our core support from middle class Hampstead voters and working class voters with contempt. We did so much damage to give justice in this blogpost
And yet there is hope. If we are honest with the electorate, if we say sorry, trumpet our ideas, attack the Tories' on their lack of radical imagination and their idolatry of Thatcherism without resorting to inverted snobbery. If we went out and about more in listening to more ordinary people in the UK and stand fast and gently explain when we disagree, if we looked more to how why Obama won in the US instead of just admiring the outside aspects of the campaign, we may stand a chance and if we lose, then we lose with dignity.
To those readers who feel let down badly by Labour I say sorry. I ask fellow activists to do the same.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

David Tennant's Doctor Who Swansong

HERE BE SPOILERS

It was one of David Tennant's best stories, although I have to say not the best, but it was definitely a good high point for David Tennant to leave on. Battling not just The Master but also the Time Lords themselves who not just returned, but were shown to have become fully corrupt. For fellow fans who are reading this and have not seen last nights episode, The Trial of a Time Lord was nothing on this in terms of baddie Time Lords en masse. Esp when you see the return of Rassilon and he is not the saviour as seen in The Five Doctors (and even then he was ruthless).
As for Tennant's goodbye, it was panned out a bit too much I thought, going around saying goodbye to companions and allies, but the final line from the Tenth Doctor "I don't want to go.." was simple and yet poignant and a fitting farewell. Not hammy either. The four knocks also came from an unexpected quarter and the Producers were right, when it happened you felt heartbroken. Esp as you expected it to come from Rassilon or someone of that kind of stature.
As for Matt Smith, his beginning seemed a bit overrated, but all actors in the lead role seem to start off in that way. One thing is for sure, Matt Smith's first series in the role looks good :-)
Oh and one final thing. Who was The Woman?

New Look Mars Hill

Well not too radical a change (at least for the moment), but as I have said recently, I felt the blog needed a bit of a facelift after four 1/2 years

Friday, January 01, 2010

A Look at the Past Decade

I think we can safely say that the past decade was as momentous as the 1980s. 9/11, the Bush Years, a strong Party in government (albeit one that has dealt with difficulties), the Olympics being awarded to London for 2012, Saddam Hussein toppled, July 7th, the death of the Queen Mother, Ellen MacArthur, the Tsunami, the Golden Jubilee, and other events too numerous to mention.
Mars Hill came into being as a blog just over half way into that decade and it's been a bit of a roller coaster ride. One of the things blogs need to do in order to continue a long life is to adapt and change, so in the coming week expect some changes now that it's nearly five years since I have started this blog :-)
Watch this space!