Thursday, September 30, 2010

Iain Dale as The Doctor?

Hmm, I agree he'd be better as The Master, with a fan from the Labour Party as The Doctor? Maybe Tom Harris! ;-)
Actually it does work, a sneaking regard for each other, both mild outsiders, both opponents of the TimeLords (the Lib Dems) whose leaders want to rip apart the Time Vortex (Electoral Reform). I can see it ;-)

George Osborne and the Irish Economy

Four years ago, in The Times, George Osborne sung the praises of the Irish Economy, indeed he was keen for us to copy them, stating that:

What has caused this Irish miracle, and how can we in Britain emulate it? Three lessons stand out. First, Ireland’s education system is world-class. On various different rankings it is placed either third or fourth in the world. By contrast, Britain is ranked 33rd and our poor education performance is repeatedly identified by organisations such as the OECD as our greatest weakness. It is not difficult to see why. Staying ahead in a global economy will mean staying at the cutting edge of technological innovation, and using that to boost our productivity. To do that you need the best-educated workforce possible. It is telling that even limited education reform is proving such a struggle for the Prime Minister.
Secondly, the Irish understand that staying ahead in innovation requires world class research and development. Using the best R&D, businesses can grow and make the most of the huge opportunities that exist in the world. That is why it is shocking that the level of R&D spending actually fell in Britain last year. Ireland’s intellectual property laws give incentives for companies to innovate, and the tax system gives huge incentives to turn R&D into the finished article. No tax is paid on revenue from intellectual property where the underlying R&D work was carried out in Ireland. While the Treasury here fiddles with its complex R&D tax credit system, I want to examine whether we could not adopt elements of Ireland's simple and effective approach.Thirdly, in a world where cheap, rapid communication means that investment decisions are made on a global basis, capital will go wherever investment is most attractive. Ireland’s business tax rates are only 12.5 per cent, while Britain's are becoming among the highest in the developed world.

Today's news from Ireland looks bleak, with a deficit equivalent to 32% of GDP . What is says about Ireland's prospects is not good. What it says about Osborne's judgement, not for the first time called into question, is that he is someone who does not look at details too much, is easily impressed, and is more concerned with doing down the opposition rather than being original himself. But then the Pope is Catholic and bears do their business in the woods.

David Miliband Quitting Front-line Politics

Obviously this is no real surprise given the speculation recently, but whilst disappointing it is understandable and one wishes him well, especially with his plans for Community Events which I think will be a real boost to the Labour Party

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Farewell Into the Wardrobe

UPDATE: I was told last night that it's only the forums that are being shut down

Tomorrow, my 35th birthday to be exact :-( , the C.S. Lewis fan website "Into the Wardrobe" will cease to exist.
I can understand the reasons, not least because it's moderator is finding it difficult to maintain, but many of us will be sad. It was the first website I regularly visited and where my first article was published online (have reprinted it below) so I am feeling a little sentimental and hoping a similar website will take it's place.
Anyways, below is the article, and please excuse the shoddiness in it, it was written some twelve years ago when I was, in some respects, a different person, although I think the points are still valid:

Demolishing Another Idol

Paul Burgin
Reprinted with permission of the author
This year (1998), is the centenary of the birth of C.S. Lewis, a renowned Christian apologist, children's storyteller, Science Fiction writer, and Professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature from 1954-1963. Considered one of the great Christians of the twentieth century, alongside such people as Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Corrie Ten Boom, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, Pope John XXIII, and John Wimber. It is increasingly becoming the case, that more books and articles are being written about Lewis, than the amount of books and articles existing, that Lewis wrote himself.
This seems to be rather ironic on two counts. The first, is that Lewis isa known to have expressed his wish, that nothing was to be written and published about him in his lifetime.
Only Chad Walsh managed to do that with his 1949 book: 'C.S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics.' The second irony is that by writing this, I am adding my contribution to the pile. But is it not surprising, when one looks at the sheer amount of people, (and I am one of them) who revere much of his work! His brand of 'Mere Christianity' (sticking to basic Christian teaching, which means that Christians of varying denominations, cultures, and backgrounds agree with him), means that Lewis is popular with a wide audience. This year alone, many people will be attending seminars, conferences, and lectures, which expound on C.S. Lewis's Christian teaching.
But amoungst all this wonderful clamour, two groups are hatching plots. The first group are not so much hatching a plot, but following a divine order, sent from the heartland of Heaven. The order (carried along with divine flowing music, which is possibly unfit for the human ear) is controlled by the Holy Spirit, one of the blessed trinity which control the Universe. This command is telling people to use Lewis, so as to bring people closer to a relationship with Christ, or indeed, to deepen that relationship.
This is so that people might use the legacy of C.S. Lewis, as one of those doors that lead people into the hall of Christianity. The hall is the same hall, which Lewis mentioned in the preface to his book 'Mere Christianity.'
The second plot is a sinister, evil, and loathsome plan. One which might be working in many souls already. One can almost imagine a senior demon, writing a letter to his 'nephew', with instructions on how to carry out this plan. The plan is simple, but in some cases, possibly effective. It is simply this: To tempt people into putting C.S. Lewis before Christ.
Is it possible? Indeed it is. If anyone who reads this is a committed Christian, or even someone who believes in Heaven or Hell!, then you can perhaps see how this might be the case! The routine, which would build up slowly over a period of time, is to end up reading Lewis for spiritual help, but to just about completely neglect the Bible. To just about worship the ground Lewis walked on, but to ignore, or even sneer at other Christians (even those who have only been renowned for handing out Bibles at a Church door!), who have been a great help and comfort to others. To excuse Lewis for his faults, but to show lack of love and compassion for others, because of their faults.
The Lewisian idol, or any Idol, is one which Christians ought to examine, and see if it exists in their lives (and I am not altogether sure if it doesn't exist in my life!) and if it does exist!, to then smash it. Of course, Lewis is also revered by groups of non Christians, whether they are fans of Narnia etc.... and to some of you who identify yourselves as being in that group, and are reading this, but do not see any problem! I would say this. You are still doing Lewis a disservice, because by worshiping the Lewisian idol, no one, and I mean no one, will be able to see Lewis, or his work, in all their glory. None of those people who worship the Lewisian idol, will notice as much (if at all) in his work, which would be of great help and benefit to all concerned, than if they otherwise did so.
Lewis himself went through this problem in 'A Grief Observed', although it is more of a heartfelt and painful experience, as it is a book in which describes his coming to terms with the death of his wife. As one can see from the forthcoming quotation, Lewis's own struggles with idolising was a painful experience. Perhaps it is wrong to make the comparison here, as it is more personal and heartfelt. But I believe we can learn from it:
"I need Christ, not something that resembles Him. I want H., not something that is like her. A really good photograph might become in the end a snare, a horror, and an obstacle.
"Images, I must suppose, have their use or they would not have been so popular. (It makes little difference whether they are pictures or statues outside the mind or imaginative constructions within it.) To me, however, their danger is more obvious. Images of the Holy easily become holy images-sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence? The incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are 'offended' by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not"
Now I am not saying that we must disregard Lewis. To stop buying books on him, or by him. To stop going to the conferences and seminars etc.. One might not be following the first plot if they did so. All I am simply suggesting, is that we put it all into perspective. Otherwise we will be doing ourselves a disservice, our peers a disservice, the legacy of C.S. Lewis, and C.S. Lewis himself a disservice. But most of all, we would be doing the Lord God Almighty, a great disservice. And to do that would be tragic.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

David Miliband Should Stay in the Shadow Cabinet

I agree with Ed Miliband, he has a lot to offer and he is in the unique position of wanting almost any job he wants. The decision is his and he knows best, but I think David Miliband will be valuable in being among those leading the charge against the Coalition. He'll make a superb Shadow Chancellor, ripping holes into Osborne's desire to make cuts with wild abandon into the pockets of those who need the money, or indeed continuing as Shadow Foreign Secretary working on the experience he has.

The Brazillian Clown Who Wants To Go Into Politics

I was wondering if we had a UK equivalent, then I remembered the Monster Raving Loony Party! ;-)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

So It's Ed

Yes he was not my first choice (although he was my second), but all credit to Ed Miliband for winning this election. He has the advantages of sharpness, experience of Whitehall, youth, and pragmatism and I think in the long term they will stand him in good stead. Some have moaned about the Tories being smug (yes I was one of them), but it's now twenty-four hours since Ed was declared leader and (unless you want the Tories to continue to play the smug game) I think that now we must stand by him and help him to make sure Labour wins the next general election in 2015, or whenever the coalition will implode.
Lets also not forget that when Margaret Thatcher was elected in 1975, many in the Labour Party wrote her off, sneered at her right-wing credentials, wrote her off as one of those "Tory Provincial Housewives", but we soon found that we were underestimating her and soon she was helping the Conservatives win election after election. If we hold our nerve, be aware of the shifting changes in British politics, keep aware of how fragile the coalition is, then maybe we can do the same.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

US & Other Delegates Walk Out of Iranian President's Speech

To be fair who could blame them! I appreciate the diplomatic argument that he could well be refering to other opinions, but it is so obvious that there was no conspiracy that it is silly to repeat them in such a setting, plus given Ahmadinejad's previous comments, such as "wiping Israel off the map!" it is clear he is playing dangerous games. If the Iranian President wants to have serious talks with the West then he should realise he is going the wrong way about it. The uncomfortable feeling I have though is that he knows this already.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lets Not Let the Commonwealth Games Begin!

Quite shocked and disgusted to read about this today. I appreciate mitigating circumstances, but even so there should have been better preparation. I have a horrible feeling that unless India sorts this out PDQ they will be having a lot more athletes staying at home and those who do attend, even though they have been forewarned, raising merry hell.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Life Enhancers

Iain Dale has done an inspiring post on Life Enhancers, and as a result I thought I'd do the same thing, concerning people who always make my day feel better. Well nearly always ;-)

My parents, brother, and sister, my brothers' girlfriend and my sisters' boyfriend.
Close friends. There are many, too many to mention with regard to various kindnesses shown, but Liz Evershed, Ruth Skinner, Roseanne Kinvig, Andrew Love, Malcolm Mann, Rosemary Moore, Nicholas Kissen, Sarah Weston, Tim Roll-Pickering, Kate Samuels, Sara Batts, Rachel and Sarah Hagger-Holt, and Alex Hilton merit particular mention.

Then there are old friends from childhood, such as the Collins's, the Foster's/Meadows' , and others.

Political Allies. As well as those listed above, I always have time for Rupa Huq, Kerron Cross, Alex Smith, Jessica Asato, Sara Ibrahim, Luke Akehurst, Tom Harris, Andy Flannigan, and David Prescott. Opponents I admire naturally include Iain Dale, then there is Stephen Tall and Tim Montgomerie and I have also mentioned my former girlfriend, Ruth the Liberal Democrat ;-). In terms of leadership, going across party-lines, Denis Healey, David Miliband, Shirley Williams, Sir John Major, and William Hague are people I warm to.

Then of course there are my work colleagues. It's clich├ęd I know, but I love working with them and they and the job in question make the day more of a glow.

Right that's enough saccharine, if you are a friend and are not mentioned, it's because of time, not antipathy, and you are still valued. As it is I am off now to do other important things :-)

Farewell Tom Harris?

I have to admit I am torn.
Esteemed No 1 Labour blogger and one of my favourite MP's, Tom Harris, is standing for election to the Shadow Cabinet.
And yes, this is a good thing and part of me hopes he is elected, but here is the rub.
If he is it's farewell to his blog
Which is a pity, as Tom writes well and is perhaps the best Labour blogger we have in terms of popularity, in articulating arguments (take a look at his latest post where he lays into Danny Alexander's speech), and in terms of keeping a moderate perspective on what the Labour Party is and should be.
In either case I wish him well, because whatever happens he will be an asset, either to the Shadow Cabinet, or to the blogosphere.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Pope's Visit

As I said in a tweet earlier today, am I the only one who is outraged at some of the things the Pope/Catholic Church has said and done, deplores Cardinal Kasper's comments the other day, and yet is not offended by the Pope's visit and appreciates some of the good the RC Church has done? The Roman Catholic Church has many faults which need dealing with, but it is hardly the Nazi Party and it is a vast organisation made up of varying views but united in their belief in the Christian faith,at least some of them anyway given the various upsets recently.
As such, it is important to have dialogue. I deplore the Vatican's stance on contraception, on dealing with gay issues, to name just two, but I also admire their strength and tenacity and compassion which stems from when they are vulnerable. Maybe that's the key, that churches are at their best when they are weak, but at the same time one hopes that much good will come as a result of the controversies surrounding this visit.
The Bible speaks of the value of loving one's neighbour as oneself and that includes neighbours we do not like. Pope Benedict may have a lot of issues with the UK, maybe he doesn't, but he has made a visit here, let us extend the same hand of grace to him whilst sticking to our principles.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

If Only Bob Crow Had Stayed to Listen

If Bob Crow was more open and thoughtful about his dealings with anyone from the establishment, then he would have done well to stay and listen to Mervyn King's speech where he stated that Unions had every right to feel angry about the high unemployment and the bailing-out of the banks. I am sure some Tories would rather he completely blamed Gordon Brown and then listed a whole series of crimes against humanity at his feet, but it is refreshing that in a week when the Tories are trying to go for the unions wholesale with sharp instruments that we have the Governor of the Bank of England taking a conciliatory line

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tory Dirty Tricks on Welfare Cuts

I appreciate the feeling of wariness when Unions talk about strike action, but welfare cuts will affect the most vulnerable in our society and for Osborne to look into that in detail and be involved in an unedifying slanging match with Iain Duncan Smith about it, shows that he is more than prepared to bring out the axe with abandon.
But when Harriet Harman says that the main unions are looking carefully at this and are not keen to use the nuclear option, and when you get Francis Maude talking about the days of Union/Tory government stand-offs being over, then you realise that there are some elements within the Conservative Party that are trying to politicise the issue and smear those who have legitimate questions to ask. That is not the work of an experienced Tory economist, that mentality is the work of people who revel in tactics and dirty tricks and are generally regarded as being useless in terms of dealing with policy.
It will be interesting to see how this pans out

The Sopranostones

Just saw this on YouTube, well it made me chuckle

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 - Nine Years On

Given the anniversary and the recent events surrounding that excuse of a church in Florida and it's response. I thought the best thing would be to share with you one of my favourite U2 songs. It was about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, but I think some of the lyrics are apt to the current situation.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Lennon's Killer Denied Parole Again

A bit late with this I know, but I wanted to do a blogpost on the subject as I have heard one or two people ask whether the result would have been the same if John Lennon wasn't famous.
Admittedly it's a tough one, and hard to be objective. Lennon was one of the most famous and beloved musicians in the World and his murder was so shocking and barbaric that it is no wonder that there is a level of hatred towards Mark Chapman that has meant he has had to spend time in isolation in prison.
But lets try and get down to the issue at hand. The murder was premeditated, Chapman had been stalking Lennon for some three days beforehand, and he calmly and coldly slammed five bullets into John Lennon as he walked past him at the entrance to the Dakota residence in New York. He died some ten minutes later, having been conscious for much of that time, in agony and possibly aware that he was fatally wounded.
The murder and planning involved was such that you cannot ignore Lennon's fame. For all Chapman's accusations of Lennon being a phoney he was also killed so as to make a name for his killer, making him the centre of attention. Has this sense of psychopathic ego gone away? I have my doubts and wonder what he would plan to do when released. I somehow don't think giving him interviews etc.. would be healthy or helpful.
With that in mind I think the Parole Board were right to make the judgement they did.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Foolish Ones Who Want "Burn-a Koran Day"

I don't know quite how to add to the rightful condemnation from across the board regarding this depressing piece of news, suffice to say that I pray that they will reconsider their actions and that it could will bring harm on American soldiers and civilians in certain parts of the World and that I would ask them if this is loving ones neighbour and will it attract non-Christians to the Christian faith? This isn't making a stand this is bigoted indulgence

How The TARDIS Is Bigger On The Inside

Ever wondered how? This is almost the only time in the shows history that some explanation was given


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Andy Coulson, Iain Dale, Paul Sagar, and Tribalism

Check out this interesting blogpost by Iain Dale where he deals with the accusation from Paul Sagar that he is being hypocritical and tribal over the Andy Coulson scandal.
The thing is it is very easy to be tribal in these situations and Iain clearly has done some navel gazing here. I equally think however that he and other Conservatives should not be castigated on this without some of the following being taken into account

1) Let's be uncomfortably honest here (well uncomfortable for those of us on the left). Some of us in the Labour Party will automatically assume Coulson is guilty because he has worked for a red-top Tory tabloid and works for David Cameron. If Coulson gets convicted of the worst, then it calls further into question David Cameron's judgement. Coulson being guilty suits a no of our prejudices very nicely indeed. Namely prejudices against the Conservative Party and Rupert Murdoch. Some will also see this as revenge for all the mess and accusations we faced in government

2) This however does not let the Conservatives off the hook. Iain stated that he has always had a soft spot for people who have hit hard times politically and that is laudable. However what he and other Conservatives should ask is whether they have stuck their neck out and criticised in public a fellow activist or senior Conservative member when some within the Party have closed ranks around that individual. Two years ago I actually did that, I stated that Peter Hain should resign from the cabinet. I did not accuse him of anything so much as said that he had shown ignorance and should take a back seat whilst an investigation was going on. I was interviewed on Newsnight and reiterated this and received some flak from it, usually snide anonymous comments from a bitter fellow activist. If Iain or others within the Party who are backing Coulson have ever gone through that then I will certainly take time to listen to their comments even though I will disagree with them

3) Lets put party politics aside and stick to some facts. Was Coulson aware of the hacking? If yes then that calls his morals into question. If no, then that calls his competence into question. Whether the hacking was done by typing in a few no's on a phone and whether anyone can do it is neither here nor there. The real question is whether it is right and whether it is immoral.

I totally understand why some Labour activists are gunning for Coulson, but this is fuelled by moral outrage on it's own (with some) and as part of mixed motives (with others). If a senior Conservative had his phone hacked into and Coulson was working for Harriet Harman I doubt the Tories would think it was a non story. I therefore can also totally understand why some Tories are getting defensive. But to those Conservative activists who have not questioned their motives I simply ask that you stop and think for a moment. Think of the moral implications, forget who the individuals are, then ask yourself how you'd feel if this was a Labour spin doctor and two senior Tories were making the accusations, and then consider whether you are right to quickly defend Coulson. The problem here is that some activists are letting their tribal prejudices get the better of them and that does nothing for them let alone anyone else.

Monday, September 06, 2010

MP's To Debate AV Referendum on Return

Am glad, although given the level of opposition this could not bode well for the government. Of course it doesn't have to be like this. The Coalition could take seriously David Miliband's suggestion and ditch the constitutional changes and boundary changes that benefit the Conservatives at the expense of the other parties. AV is too important to mess around with and it's time the Conservatives realise they are in government, not opposition or a student debating group.

Met To Look Into News of the World Phone-Tapping Case Again

Am glad this is now being taken seriously enough to warrant a re-examination of the evidence. These are serious allegations and they must be taken seriously. If the New York Times makes fresh allegations then the Conservative Party and it's activists have a duty to treat those allegations and subsequent investigation with some respect. Unless of course they fear that Coulson has something to hide, and then of course there is the matter of Cameron's judgement and the judgement of the person or persons who may have advised him on this course of action.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Coulson Story Will Drag On

Given the recent expose in The New York Times (hardly a tabloid known for salacious muck-raking), it seems there was more to the phone-tapping story that at first met the eye. As a consequence Andy Coulson will have to answer some serious questions, notably:

1) Why did Andy Coulson deny all knowledge of the phone tapping?

2) Why is hardly anyone, save the Conservatives, finding his story credible? At the very least he is guilty of serious misjudgement

There is the other factor which is that this does not bode well for David Cameron. If it wasn't bad enough that he has a Chancellor who tends to be looked at with wariness by City analysts, he also seems to have a Spin Doctor who is either severely incompetent or has about the same moral judgements as Damian McBride. That is a poor reflection on Cameron's judgement and it is no wonder then that Tories are falling over backwards to claim it is a Labour plot, which is an interesting analysis given that it is an American newspaper which is doing the expose.
This looks like it will run and we are about to see dirt fall on the Tories like mudwater on a passer by from a car going over a puddle. One hopes so anyway

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Coulson Worse Than McBride?

Whilst everyone is getting worked up about William Hague and bedrooms, Tom Harris has pointed out a story that is potentially very damaging to the Conservatives that is right under everyone's noses and is yet being ignored.

Greenbelt 10 - A Review

Well it was different this year. A lot of reflection, most of it personal (inc the end of a relationship), and somehow after eight years I realise that it's a different Greenbelt from when I first visited, both where I am and what goes on. Bit difficult to explain but if you are a veteran I think you might understand.
The memorable moments included Peter Tatchell's talk on gay freedom (or lack of) in Africa. I have to say I did not appreciate his attacks on Rowan Williams who has apologised for not doing enough to help the situation and who has tried hard to convince many African dioceses to take a different approach, but that said Tatchell has raised a lot of pertinent points about the lack of charity and love that many so-called Christians in Africa show the gay community (usually going well into the realms of abuse) and these charges need to be considered and heard.
Another memorable moment was when I misread a talk called "biog clinic" as "blog clinic" and left as quickly and quietly as I could. There was a wonderful talk by Francis Spufford on the Polar regions and the English imagination and how there is a link between exploring untouched regions and spirituality. Sunday saw my friends Rachel and Sarah Hagger-Holt give a talk on their book Living It Out (I am a contributor so may I say that it can be purchased at Amazon for just £8.04 ;-) ), as well as a delightful talk on Rev. with Tom Hollander and James Woods. There are rumours they were filming part of a Christmas episode that day, so who knows.. Then there were the moments of contemplation like the Taize service which made me realise that it would be good to go to similar services more often, as it's easy to lose sight of quiet spirituality in the hustle and bustle of life.
There were other good moments. Giles Fraser's talk on the English Civil War, Jars of Clay in concert to name but a few, but it was the quiet moments that touched me the most and that is what I may well be reflecting on in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Hague Rumours

I have to say I agree with Iain although isn't it interesting that there is silence on this on the Tory blogs. If it were a Labour cabinet minister in the old days they'd be quick to spread the story around.
Admittedly the story is a bit weird, but it comes to a sad day when men cannot share a hotel room without people making innuendos, although there have unfortunately been rumours about William Hague before and this is clearly grist to the Mill. It does no good to speculate and make assumptions from it though.

UPDATE: Hopefully this will put a stop to the rumours. How awful though, that William Hague was driven to make such a statement