Political and Social Blog. A Magazine Forum on public and private thoughts, meanderings, and odds and ends. (Disclaimer: The views held on this blog are our views, and not necessarily the views of any organisation we are involved with or represent)
I am miffed that I will miss it, given the long journey it takes to go home from work on Saturday's (much to the delight of a colleague who dislikes the series but can get home in five minutes), but there is always the delight of iPlayer and many of us have the chance to watch the first seconds already, amongst one or two other gems.
Some have already commented on Amy Pond being a bit overtly sexual as a companion, but as Tom Harris has pointed out, she is hardly the first. In fact (cough) Sarah Sutton was one of the first women I ever fancied, but Tom is wrong with regards to her costume, the first series she was in she wore a conservative velvet type-suit.
But after forty-six years and around thirty series, not to mention a few specials, it is showing no signs of tiredness, so I think we have a delightful three months ahead :-)
It's hard to be objective about this, being a Labour activist I have my natural biases, as indeed do other tweeters and bloggers. That said, the comments from the uncommitted are interesting. From non party political friends of mine who were unimpressed by George Osborne, to the overall agreement that Cable performed well, it appears that Darling did better than expected. He was hardly booed, he was indeed applauded when he joked at Osborne's only talking the talk on consensus. His defence of National Insurance was timely and reassuring and he was (unlike the Tories in 1992) honest about the challenges ahead. There were no surprises as such, but the evening gave a clearer picture of events, but how this will pan at Polling Day is anyones guess
This morning I took my first Palm Sunday service, but when it came to the readings I thought I blew it. It was longer than I originally thought and was glad I suspected it was long enough to have a slightly shorter sermon than usual. Put basically the second reading was most of Luke Ch 22 and the whole of Luke Ch 23.
That said, whilst I thought I blew it, a no of people came up to me afterwards and said how much they enjoyed the Service, it led me to realise that, apart from the odd exception, every time I think I mess up I seem to do well and on the odd occasion I think I have got away with it, I have found I have not been so clever after all. Something to do with Grace I think, but it's definetly one of those days where some events make you think
Recently, following comments on Twitter expressing surprise that Osborne did not take part in the Commons budget debate, I set up a Facebook Group called "Where's George Osborne?"
Now, as some rightly point out, that it's the Leader of the Opposition who responds first to the Budget, it did occur to me that, for a young, dynamic, intelligent, and thoughtful and caring rising star, we see so little of him on the Today Programme, BBC Question Time, Newsnight etc..
That said, I thought I was a little premature when he appeared for ten minutes on the Today Programme yesterday, but it soon became obvious why this economic genius is rarely allowed out by Spin Doctors. Put basically, he fluffed it! Not my judgement (although regular readers know how little I respect the guy), but that of Janet Daley in the Daily Telegraph.
You would have thought that, weeks before an election, the Conservatives would have a united front, but those who know that Osborne would mess things up at the Treasury don't keep silent and their concern is worrying on a no of fronts. Worrying because we see an imploding Opposition that commands little respect (and politicians and activists tend to want to respect their opponents), worrying because it is obvious to many across the political spectrum that George Osborne has delusions of Machiavellian genius but has not got what it takes!
It was good, measured, but overall it is clear that we are not entirely out of the woods yet. That said, the moves for more firm action against those with non dom status is something I have wanted to see happen for years. As far as I am concerned, if you are involved in anything in this country, you help pay your keep
Have not seen it, but from what I have heard am not surprised. All of them have very low stock within the Labour Party and Hoon and Moran have always struck me as pathetic and opportunistic.
In fact I first new of Margaret Moran when I was at University and it was the 1997 General Election. I was not a member of the Labour Party then and I turned up at one of the hustings and found her somewhat shabby in her performance. Not much interested in some of the questions given or in those asking the questions, and there was something about her that made me wary, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was!
As for Hoon, well anyone who performed at the MoD as he did during the Iraq War and allegedly had vainglorious visions of his role will end up in the shabby corner that he is in. His recent sins are one thing, this is just one of a no of reasons reasons why I feel he was ill-suited to front-line politics. In fact all of them were, and however critical some of us may feel about Gordon Brown, you stick by your leader in public when the Party is going through tough times in the run-up to a general election. This gang lacked that backbone.
I could go on, but it's all sad, shabby, and disgusting, and am hurt and angry that some of these people reached the political heights they did and shamed and embarrassed the rest of us. Not just those of us who are Loyal Labour Activists with hopefully a bit more backbone, but also those who love politics and love this country
Blogging between now and Monday will be non existent, as I am going up to Derby this weekend to meet Ruth's parents. That said there are two things that have caught my attention. The first is the Guardian's latest coverage of the Ashcroft affair. I have to say I am somewhat disapointed in Hague's role in this, being an opponent I respect. One can't help but wonder if he turned a deliberate blind eye, I certainly hope that is not the case. The other is this wonderful piece from the Left Foot forward blog (http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/03/the-left-wing-case-for-an-english-parliament/) regarding a left wing argument for an English Parliament, and there's me wondering if I was the only leftie backing proposals for such an institution! :-)
This morning I have been browsing through Facebook and Twitter briefly, as usual on my days off, and I came across this comment from Conservative Party Activist, Walaa B.Idris that stopped me in my tracks, concerning the latest Union dispute with BA:
"I don't understand why can't those who don't like the way their employer is treating them do what rest of us do, just go and get another job"
Now Walaa is someone who, whilst I disagree with her on a no of things, I actually respect as a thoughtful and decent individual who clearly cares greatly about our country and wants to see it reach it's full potential. Those are aims which are laudable and which many activists in the mainstream political parties share, even if we disagree about how to achieve those aims. This comment however struck me as a throwaway comment I have heard from some Tories over the years and it irritates me. In fact it irritates me more than most throwaway Tory comments and my reasons were given in my reply:
"Having been unemployed for a while I can tell you it's hard. If you quit to look for another job there is no guarantee you will swiftly get another one and by quitting and not being sacked it could affect your chances of getting benefits! I appreciate middle class Tories (esp those of the Thatcherite variety) like to simplify and see these kind ofscenarios through rose-tinted glasses in terms of pigeon-holing those on the bread line in terms of who fits into their ideological worldview, but unless you have been in the Job from Hell (as I have. Twice!) and have also been unemployed, and these being jobs that do not pay well, then you have no idea what it is actually like and what it does to your self confidence."
Thankfully I am now in a job where I am happy, content, and enjoying myself professionally in a way I have not done for years, but it does leave me concerned.
Thing is, a no of middle and high income earners, and indeed those involved in politics, feel that if you don't like a job then you can just change it! Now some can do that easily and all credit to them, but the further you are on the breadline and the further you are lacking in experience, then this is a very risky option to take and many, understandably, will opt for safety, especially if they have a family and/or dependants to support.
Now if someone has actually gone through this kind of situation and holds such views, as the one I have just mentioned (further points if they are a Tory and this happened to them during the 1980s), then they have my full respect and attention, even if I disagree with them, but I do find such comments (however well or badly I think of the person who said them) to be ill-thought out and hurtful to those who are struggling to keep their heads above water. If ever you wonder why I am a Labour Party activist (as some readers of Mars Hill do), then it was seeing patronising attitudes to the unemployed from monetarists in the 1980s that helped me along the way.
Nothing against this in itself, but why the sudden interest in propelling her onto the main stage after five years? Are there wobbles in Team Dave after Ashcroft and YBF news coverage? Are they trying to copy the Browns?
To be perfectly honest what does anyone expect! They have only recently opened up their membership to minorities, have made it clear they favour "indigenous" peoples (although, speaking as a white anglo saxon of Scottish and probable Germanic, Scandinavian, and Jewish descent I do wonder what that means?), and in any case have appeared to have been planning an apartheid style membership system!
The BNP may like to play the martyr card and we must never let them do so. Scratch the surface and take what Nick Griffin says piecemeal and you soon get their true unpleasant image.
Last night I attended the Annual Tawney Lecture at Westminster Central Hall, although to be fair the word "Lecture" is perhaps inaccurate. What it consisted of was a discussion between Ed Balls, Elaine Storkey, and Ann Holt on the issue of families and their importance.
What was good about the discussion is that where there was disagreement there were the expected platitudes, but also the understanding of other views, a respect for those views, and indeed taking them into account. Ed Balls (seen here in the white shirt in the photos) spoke on families being the No 1 priority for his Department and that whilst the DCSF might not have helped poorer families as much in the past that is certainly changing. There was also the assertion, contradicting Elaine Storkey slightly that teenage pregnancies were falling not rising and that, contrary to media speculation, most single parents tended to be over thirty as opposed to being teenagers.
I am not sure what will entirely come out of this, but there is the reassurance that family values are a top priority for Labour, albeit coupled with a refusal to stigmatise those who do not fall into that category and that those individuals/groups are just as valued.
Further to yesterday's blog post, you can find the interview given to me by Winkball here (Bottom of the page, as otherwise you might think I am confusing myself with Christopher Biggins ;-). That said I do seem to find myself in interesting company on the Campaigns Page ).
To be fair I was nervous and (cringe) I said Economy when I meant recession, plus I was a bit static, but otherwise I think I just about managed it. I do need to think more carefully about how I come across on Video/TV though.
That said, below is my answer to the question about my predictions for the next general election.
If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times. Opposition Parties who run an agenda of policy by gimmick and who think they can "Seal the Deal", arrogantly assuming a deal has been made, don't deserve to automatically win general elections and thankfully they have their work cut out :-)
Today, as Brown and Cameron settled into their weekly joust at PMQ's, I was near Hammersmith being interviewed on camera by Winkball on my views on the 2010 General Election, joining such luminaries as Caroline Lucas and George Galloway.
As soon as the videos go up I will share them with you here, so stay tuned :-)
There were some important points, not least the value that integration brings with regards to helping Britain bring forward it's influence abroad, but also that the Tories' Sovereignty Bill proposals actually conflict with the Bill on joining the EEC in 1971. Surely the issue of sovereignty rests with the latter Bill and Parliament is sovereign because we can vote against the latter Bill at any time!
There was one other gem which was talked over afterwards. Apparently William Hague has made a total of around 133 flights abroad with Lord Ashcroft, spent a lot of time with him and yet not once it seems, did he raise the issue of non dom status.
To paraphrase another former Tory leader, it's a funny old World!
First of all I never thought I'd agree with George W. Bush over a Foreign policy initiative and secondly I never thought I'd agree with Ian Paisley, or for that matter Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, over a stance taken by the Ulster Unionists which (whilst perhaps understandable) is not the way forward.
The Ulster Unionists are entitled to make such a decision, but most N.Ireland people are behind this imitative and to not do so shows a chink in a fragile armour that needs to strengthen if Northern Ireland is to have a future (irrespective of sovereignty) where it's communities are encouraged to live at peace with each other and in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
As it was, perhaps it was not wise for Bush to speak out, for dear of antagonizing the situation, but if he can be of genuine help then I don't see why we can't stop him!
Donal Blaney is one of those bloggers, irrespective of party politics, who I feel sorry for and also dislike as an individual. I feel sorry for him because I wonder how someone like him ends up being nasty and enjoys being nasty. I dislike him because he is vicious and personal towards those he attacks. What amazes me is that, esp in a week with the Ashcroft affair, the Conservatives think that they can get away with having people like him on board!
I do wonder if Blaney ever wonders about his attitude, let alone his politics, and that whether his nasty playground antics impress large swathes of the British electorate? I honestly wish he did for his sake and I sadly suspect not as his sort seem to lack patience and respect for opponents and want to bulldoze anyone who disagrees with them. Somehow however, I think this story will grow and, with an election around the corner, the Conservatives, Donal Blaney, and other sympathisers, may want to sit in a darkened room and think about whether they are a serious opposition party, or a nasty Bullingdon shouting mob!
At best they are, as the Political Scrapbook blogger has pointed out, worked on a "Don't ask, don't tell!" policy. At worst these are nasty attempts to hoodwink the electorate and play shabby electoral games by cheating. I like to think the former, but it doesn't show the Tory leadership as statesmanlike material, and before some Conservative posters start bleating about Labour not being any better, is that the most feeble excuse you can have for a Party which aspires for government!
(Hat tip to Political Scrapbook, and Jessica Asato who linked to this story on Facebook)
Well, as critical as I am of Margaret Thatcher, and however much I think she did some harm to this country, there is much to commend her and I publicly pledge to write a warm obit for her when she goes, which God willing is a long time away.
Strangely enough, rather like when he stood down as First Minister I feel rather sad. Whilst he helped stoke up the Troubles and, as The Guardian put it well today, was inadvertently one of the IRA's best recruiting Sergeant's, the man did show some bravery (when you look at his core support) and common sense, when he finally bit his tongue and lead the DUP into government with Sinn Fein. Whilst the man's sins are many, lets not ever forget that when the hand of political grace was offered, he took it.
I heard about this yesterday, but almost forgot to blog it. He wasn't the only member of his family this applied to, but this Winston Churchill had many talents that were not well used. A sharp mind, a youthful exhuberance, a keen sense of history, Churchill made enemies and mistakes in all the wrong places, whether it was over South Africa or Rhodesia, or with issues such as immigration. That said he did much to help try and keep alive the valued legacy of his grandfather and for that he should be commended.
Just heard the news. In spite of his age I am rather shocked to hear this. He was always this frail old man who was always there! I first recall hearing about him around the 83 general election, when I told my family that I wanted Margaret Thatcher to win, rather than Michael Foot, as Foot looked like an angry old man. It was the only time I ever wanted the Tories to win a general election and whilst I feel bad about my naive primary school opinion, I have never felt he was Prime Ministerial material. However he was a great Parliamentarian, loved by all sides of the House of Commons and was also a first class journalist. A blogpost does no justice to all of this, but he certainly bestrode 20th Century politics and was the last VIP left who knew H.G. Wells and fought as a Candidate in the 35 general election. I met him very briefly at the 2003 Labour Party Conference. He wad especially frail by then, but he was still alert and was clearly much loved by activists across the Labour Party. We shall miss him.
That said, it is a matter of concern that Ashcroft seems to have promised to relinquish his non dom status ten years ago and that nothing seems to have happened since. If you share these concerns then you can do no harm by joining this rapidly growing Facebook Group
1/If Labour win the next election, or have the majority of seats and are able to form a government, will Ashcroft and other Conservative non doms stick to their pledges to live and work here?
2/ The Conservatives seem to be content to say that Labour are in the same boat with non doms, but whilst I agree that any non dom should not be allowed to throw cheques at any political party, just how much has Ashcroft actually contributed as an individual and overall how much money do the Conservatives have available, compared to Labour? The political party with the most donations deserves to have the most heat on it regarding this issue, that is only fair.
3. Does anyone recall that when the Conservatives were consistently asked about the Ashcroft issue in the past, their responses were along the lines of "No Comment", or "None of your business!" and, "What about the Unions!" Amazing that they have decided to fess up now isn't it!
The amazing thing about the Conservatives is that, by and large, they thought they could walk this election. A few "Policy by gimmick" pledges here and there, the occasional unstatesman-like vicious personal jibe at Gordon Brown to help fuel any voter anger (only now do some suggest that stops being personal), comments about "sealing the deal" (failing to realise that deals with the electorate are only made on Polling Day), amongst other things. Now less than six months till Polling Day and a belated recognition that personal attacks and "policy by gimmick" might not work they are in a panic.
Rather a sad way for a main opposition party to behave, especially coming up to it's thirteenth birthday in the wilderness if you ask me! But then one day the Tories will learn that they may have to go through the pain and identity crisis and begging attitude to the electorate that Labour had to go through!