Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blogging Break

Will be on a short holiday in Dublin with Ruth as of Saturday, so am giving Mars Hill a bit of a break.
That said I am concerned with my blogging of late. I seem to be blogging less, have less of a deft touch (if I ever had one) as I once did with the medium and on some occasions wonder for a few seconds if I should give it up!
I don't want to, especially with a new government in that needs sharp criticism and things don't last forever, but I seem to lack the zest and puff at the moment (especially as I am one of those who feels that to get and keep an audience I must blog every single day), so perhaps a short break will do this some good

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The ConDem Budget 2010

Some of it was to be sadly expected. The freezing of child benefit is hardly a surprise from a Conservative led government, particularity with someone like Osborne at No 11. The jokey attitude when he announced it though was rather low.
There were some good points admittedly, such as tax cuts for the lowest paid, but it seems like they were sweeteners for some bitter pills such as the freezing of disability living allowance, the increase in capital gains tax, indeed it is a shallow budget from a Shallow Chancellor and it will hit those who are most vulnerable and small businesses the hardest and then he has the gall to blame the last Labour government and call his budget "Tough but fair!" I wonder if he will dare say that to the faces of single mothers and the disabled? No I don't think so either!
We are indeed for some tough times, but lets not let the Tories get away with it, lets point out where the cuts could have gone (tax loopholes anyone!) and lets make sure that the blame falls squarely at George Osborne's feet. Once again those who cannot hit back are the hardest hit, that is not courageous that is simply pathetic.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Political Bullying

I have to say that I was somewhat shocked to read about David Ruffley's suicide attempt. I hadn't heard much about him and others, as Alastair Campbell has pointed out in his blog post, have been guilty of worse in the expenses' scandal, but it does show a cold light on some of the attitudes that occur in Westminster, not least among those of us who are keen observers.
MP's are human beings, each have good and bad about them and sometimes (especially if they are not of the same political persuasion) it is easy for us to forget that. Earlier today I was asked by one opponent of the Labour Party why we don't see enough of Gordon Brown these days? My brother was there (himself no friend of the Labour Party) and intervened saying "Can you blame him given the abuse he has been given over the past three years!"
Politics at it's worst is almost akin to playground bullying. Those who don't watch themselves can easily spot their enemy and subject him or her to enough abuse with the aim of driving that person out of the position they are in. It's justified in the heads of some as "they deserve it!"whether right or wrong. Fact is none of them deserves abuse. People deserve criticism, sharp criticism, and fair judgement, but that is different. The acid test is if you make personal attacks on them in the process.
I don't know if David Ruffley got any of that treatment and the scary thing is none of us are immune from the temptation of attacking a political opponent to the borderline of abuse if it is considered that it's deserved. All of us must take a deep breath sometimes and think about what we are saying before we say it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Iain Dale MP?

Was actually a bit disappointed to read this. Iain is one of nice guys and whilst I'd be honour bound to support any Labour opponent of his, I think he has much to contribute and the Westminster village would be a bit dull without him. Perhaps he ought to be made a working Peer!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bloody Sunday - The Saville Report

I was concerned about the length of time it took, but am glad if it meant that the truth emerged in a way that did justice and was unvarnished.
As it is, it is now official that we (the United Kingdom) committed a great wrong in Northern Ireland and David Cameron was therefore right to say sorry. Like him I was brought up to respect the establishment, to respect the institutions in this country. Likewise it grieves me when it becomes clear that there are times, like today, when it is obvious that some who represented us as a country committed a great wrong.
Should those responsible be punished? I don't know, to be honest, as angry as I am about it I think not. It would mean being fair and prosecuting those responsible for a whole series of other atrocities committed during the Troubles by both sides and given the volatility of the situation that will lead us all onto a dangerous path.
But I would like to see some kind of prosecution take place, minus sanction, but if anything the threat of that happening is sanction enough. I'd wager those soldiers involved are very nervous right now, for fear of what may happen if their identities ever come out.
But the real finger of justice should point at whoever gave orders for the Para Regiment to go in. This regiment is like the SAS in that it does not mess about and they were the wrong unit to send in to deal with a peaceful demonstration (although there is the question of the fact an IRA Unit involving Martin McGuinness was nearby) and therefore I wonder what the man who gave that order is feeling now, if he is still alive!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Liking Edward Heath

Sometimes I find myself reading articles from Sunday newspapers a day late, and so it is that I have found myself reading a review of Philip Ziegler's biogrpahy of Sir Edward Heath in the Culture Section of yesterday's Sunday Times.
I have to say, and I hesitate to say this, but I have always liked Edward Heath. I know that puts me in a minority (particularly with members of his own political party) and I do take into account, and agree, that he was a disastrous Prime Minister, was sometimes rude, bad tempered, vindictive, spiteful, and sometimes blinkered to the point of incredulity.
But I also believe that he was unhappy and easily hurt. I think that Thatcher's coup d'etat against him hurt him far more than he let on and that in some respects he was more sinned against than sinner.
So why do I like him? Well take into account his time in Oxford in the 1930's when he was one of few students who actively and publicly attacked Nazism. He served in the Second World War with courage and determination, and he also had a strong streak of decency. He did not punish one or two MP's who rebelled publicly over Suez when he was Chief Whip and he had the decency to stick to his conscience when he realised the sheer damage unfettered monetarism could do, the tragedy however was that he realised too late and his disastrous U Turns did much to damage the economy and some of the knee-jerk policies in the process were perhaps far too draconian.
He was also known for acts of personal kindness and could be more friendly to people when writing letters than in person (showing that perhaps he was more shy than anything else). He was also much loved in the music world and some, inc Dame Moura Lympany , spoke warmly and highly of him in a way that seems at odds with the way his detractors at Westminster would suggest.
A pity therefore that we all have this inability to see beyond the immediate image that people sometimes give

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sarah Brown To Pen Memoirs

Am looking forward to it. Sarah Brown has always been popular and a great asset to Gordon Brown. Whilst his premiership was unpopular and there were moments when many of us, including me, were unhappy with him, he did help save the economy from the further mess it could have gotten into and I hope this book helps to set the record straight there as I am sure it will.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Brian May and Foxes

Check out this report by Brian May on the Daily Politics and the discussion afterwards.
I don't entirely agree with him here, in so far as I have no problems with foxes being hunted and shot (last week's horrific attack in London notwithstanding), but Brian makes a lot of valid points and we ignore some of them at our peril.
Plus I am not surprised (being a member of Queen, there was always something Tory about that band) of having usually voted Conservative, but we shall let that pass ;-). Great band, great musician, great astrophysicist, great debater, and great to have involved in the fox-hunting debate.

UPDATE: Just to clarify. I am against hunting with dogs and hunting on other people's land

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sabre Rattling Over BP

Well for the first time since I have heard of him I disagree with President Obama. I can see exactly where he is coming from, I can sympathise, I am aware that BP's actions that have led to this have been shoddy at best and if I were an American, especially an American who lives in the Gulf of Mexico, I would be fuming.
But we need to work together on this, a lot of livelihoods, including some on both sides of the Atlantic are dependent on BP and I would respectfully point out to President Obama that, given his experience as a community organiser in Chicago in the 1980s, he should be keenly aware of that. Yes BP has behaved badly, but now is not the time to start shouting the odds, now is the time to work together.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Diane Abbott through to next round

Many congratulations to Diane Abbott for securing her place in the second round of the Labour leadership contest. I don't share many of Diane's views but I feel that they deserve a wider airing and should be considered by the Labour Party at large.
And maybe, given that Diane Abbott had to rely on nominations from supporters of other candidates that we look again at the rules to secure nominations. I appreciate that they were designed to keep the hard left out, but this was during a time when Labour were in opposition over a long period of time and we had to forcibly reform the Party to make it electable. In the last few weeks it has become more clear than ever that we are more mature as a political party compared to twenty-five years ago and we have a lot to offer in the coming weeks and months

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Question Over Continuity in Bond Films

Having all the Bond films on DVD I have recently started watching them in chronological order, which is worth doing if you have two hours a week to spare and pleasant company to view them with. It's also interesting seeing how they developed over time and seeing the evolution of the Bond formula we know today.
One question has arisen though with regards to continuity. In You Only Live Twice Bond and Blofeld meet for the first time and yet in On Her Majesty's Secret Service Blofeld hardly seems to recognise Bond on meeting him, who is posing as a genealogist. Granted both parts are played by different actors, but even so it is made clear in the film that Lazenby's Bond went through the same events as Connery's, ditto Roger Moore later on if I remember correctly.
So if someone has a good explanation let me know!

Helen Thomas was right to resign

Readers of this blog will know that I deplore the way Israel has treated the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but likewise that I believe Israel has a right to exist and that it's sovereignty must be defended where necessary.
So it is that I found Helen Thomas's comments offensive, indefensible, and stupid. I am also saddened that she has made these comments after a long and distinguished career and it has therefore come to an end in such a manner. At the risk of sounding cruel, and am not meaning to be, I wonder whether there were medical reasons why Helen Thomas made the outburst she did!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Harriet and the Shadow Cabinet

As you may know I have tended to disagree often with Harriet Harman on positive discrimination issues, and this latest viewpoint is no exception.
Put simply people should get to where they are on merit and there are ways of dealing with people who make decisions based on sexist viewpoints. If the majority of talented frontbenchers are women then they should be promoted, ditto for men, ditto if it's 50/50, and yes we need more women MP's, but progress is being made and we have achieved much already. The main problem there though is the style of politics we have. Too much confrontation and bullying and it is that that needs to be tackled head on.
Quotas are also impractical in some areas. I know of at least one CLP that couldn't send a delegate to Conference for three years because the last time it was a man and it had to be a woman. The problem was none of the available women wanted to go, which was a shame.
I can see the attraction of a 50/50 male/female Shadow Cabinet, but it is unfair on some, sexist to both men and women, and impractical. Plus it will not go down well with the electorate or the media who might otherwise be helpful and supportive in trying to change some of the less savoury aspects of the culture we live in. People should be treated on the basis of their ability and personality, not their gender and if people are being denied promotion on anything other then their ability and/or personality, then there are other ways of dealing with that.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Cumbrian Massacres

I hesitated before blogging on this, but the issue on gun control here is one which I regretfully say is academic.
The UK has tough gun control laws already and they were tightened as a result of Hungerford and Dunblane, I am glad we have strict laws on guns, despite the silly comments some people make, and where they need enforcing we must do so without hesitation.
But I agree with the PM here (rare I know), you cannot legislate against a switch going off in someone's head. You can work to make sure people never end up in such a psychotic state of mind, but that needs more support for Health organisations and starts a whole argument about the state of community in our society. At the end of the day laws are there to prevent harm but they cannot be there to prevent what goes on in peoples heads, as awful as that sometimes is

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Cameron Breaks His Word On Cuts

"Any Cabinet minister, if we win the election, who comes to me and says 'here are my plans and they involve front line reductions' will be sent back to their department to go away and think again." (David Cameron, Andrew Marr Show, May 2nd).

So why are the government, of which Cameron is PM, stated on May 24th that they would:

- cut the Child Trust Fund, taking nest eggs away from 4 million children over the lifetime of this Parliament
- cut 10,000 university places this year
- cut the Future Jobs Fund, taking 40,000 jobs away from young people, a cut that will actually cost the taxpayer 68m if those same young people don't find work

As David Miliband stated recently, no one should build a nest egg in those circumstances. What Cameron and Osborne are doing is reckless and dangerous and, as shown on the Andrew Marr Show, the PM should know better

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Jim Garner for Labour Leader

Until yesterday I supported David Miliband*, but today I support one man who will not only win us the next election, but will bring us a maj of over 200 at the next general election.
This man will make Britian feel lovely again, is the Norman to Harold Saxon and trust me, men will want to be him, women will desire him, or the other way round depending on your orientation. Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you: Jim Garner

*This is a spoof