Thursday, February 24, 2011

Libya and the London School of Economics

I agree with the students that the LSE should cut all ties with Libya, but am not sure about handing back the scholarship money. Freezing it seems ideal for now and the ethics around it are skewered. I mean, would you want to hand £1.5 million back to the Gaddafi regime, having horrible guesses as to what they will do with it!

New Zealand Earthquake

As one of the rescue team has said, I hope they continue to look for survivors. The human being can have a remarkable capacity for survival sometimes and while there is a possibility, however slim, they should keep looking. Thoughts and prayers to all concerned.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Euro Aid to the Middle East

I agree with the PM in principle, although how this will work effectively in practise I don't know. What we have seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and now, thank God, in Libya, is a sign that the people in these countries which desire change want outside help where needed and that we should be respecting them and not those governments which claim to be speaking for them. That is a view that needs care and consideration, but one which needs to be paramount in our thinking

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fisking Some of David Cameron's AV Speech

In his speech against AV yesterday David Cameron made some good points, however on some areas he did contradict himself. But having read most of the comments reported via the BBC that are attributed to his speech I thought a little fisking was in order, so then:

He said he believed the Alternative Vote was "completely the wrong reform" and would be "bad for our democracy" - leading to unfair results and an unaccountable political system.

So an MP winning with a majority of 9,000 with less than 50% of the vote isn't unfair or unaccountable. I wonder if Cameron would still have held this view if earlier in his political career he was put against a Labour MP in a "safe" northern seat!

"I don't see why voters of the BNP or Monster Raving Loony Party should get their votes counted more times than supporters of the Conservatives or for that matter, Labour or the Liberal Democrats."

Whilst those of us on the left should be pleased that the PM prefers us to the fringe parties, it does start a point which I shall mention later

He argued it would not end "safe seats" for MPs, as in Australia, nearly half of all seats were considered "safe" and smaller parties had been "all but obliterated".
Research suggested AV would have produced larger Labour landslides between 1997 and 2005, and larger Conservative ones in the 1980s and could lead to "even more disproportional" results.
Contradiction there! If it will not end safe seats, then how come the Labour majorities in 1997 and 2001 would have been larger, ditto the 1980s?
And he argued, the way votes are counted could mean "those who are courageous and brave and may not believe in or say things that everyone agrees with are pushed out of politics and those who are boring and the least controversial limping to victory".
If "courageous" includes the BNP or any such fodder and goes against what is decent in our society then I will be happy for them to be pushed out, but aside from the BNP, doesn't this contradict his point earlier about minor parties and independent candidates votes getting counted more times?
AV is good for this country as it gives firm government, more choice, 50% plus majorities and greater relations with the electorate and I see that as no bad thing

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Protests in Bahrain

I am taking a particular interest in this as Bahrain is the only Middle East country I have set foot in (even if it was about two hours at the airport on the way back from Hong Kong nearly twenty-five years ago). It seems fantastic that there is a chain reaction of protests across the Middle East and if some of them fail, as some probably will, then there will still be some smouldering of tension under the surface and we shall have seen that, as opposed to what David Mellor suggested this morning, that the extremists are not the only opposition and that there are a no of protesters who'd like to see a strong democratic process in their respective nations.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Now Egypt?

It is good that Mubarak has gone, and like many I was taken aback when he initially announced on Thursday evening that he was staying for no other reason that even the most brutal dictator can see the writing on the Wall.
So what now? Personally I think the military should do all it can to help the transition to a multi-party democracy. That all treaties existing must be honoured, which apparently will happen, and that efforts must be made, within human dignity, to make sure Islamic extremists do not get a foothold on power in Egypt. Something that would have been in danger of happening had the Egyptian Army not intervened yesterday

Thursday, February 10, 2011

AV Bill. Now It's Up to the Commons

What was the real disappointment about the latest Lords stand-off was the simple fact that the compromise proposal from Crossbench Peer, Lord Pannick, to have the no of population variation in each constituency raised from 5% to 7.5%  and in exceptional circumstances, was backed by Labour but vetoed by the Coalition. One hopes that the Commons, with it's Conservative/Liberal Democrat majority will see sense. Well one doubts it, but one hopes. Otherwise they will be seen as unreasonable and keen to gerrymander.

Gabrielle Giffords' Recovery

Apparently the fact that she asked for toast shows that she might not be as brain damaged as was feared. After the incident and all the nastiness that surrounded it, this is a wonderful and encouraging piece of news. One hopes she will in time be well enough to resume her career as a Congresswoman

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Paul Maynard Incident

I was rather shocked to read about this, and I am prepared to accept that those accused did not know that Paul Maynard had cerebral palsy, likewise as Tom Harris states, that no MP would deliberately mock a disability. I am a bit more cynical than Tom Harris, but I can accept his point and at least accept that few MP's would, and certainly of those few, none would do so, so openly and blatantly.
This does not justify the behaviour though and I would point out that this is part of a wider problem.
If, like me, you sometimes watch Prime Minister's Questions, then you'll know that sometimes Speaker Bercow will point out to MP's when they get too boisterous that he gets letters from members of the public criticising their behaviour. We are not asking our MP's to be saints, but it's obvious that when they decide to behave as if they are in a school playground that they are out of touch with public opinion and further denigrate their position. That's appreciating that it's easy to get excitable and aggressive in the heat of the moment, but constant moderation and constant awareness is needed if we are to avoid situations such as the one we have heard about this past weekend.

The Middleton's Should Be Left Alone!

I tend to agree with Victoria Coren on this, although I do think there are other points worth noting. One being why the antagonism! A simple trawl through the comments pages of the websites of some of the "Middle Ranking" tabloids shows an incredible amount of bile towards Kate MIddleton and goes beyond simple snobbery.
I think it simply goes to show that some sections of British society, irrespective of money, are just downright nasty and have major issues to the point of putting class and status and breeding above common humanity, or indeed have serious envy and jealousy issues. Which is sad, because one would think that as a country we had completely gone past some of our class-ridden attitudes.
Personally I don't know the family, and very likely never will, and on that reason refuse to judge their motives or their attitudes, and if the Royal Couple in question love each other, then fair play to them. How sad that some people cannot see it like that!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Storm Over Sally Bercow's Bedsheet

I agree on one level with Sally Bercow, that it's a "storm in a bedsheet!", but she should have thought about the implications beforehand, which to be fair she states herself. On one hand I admire her gutsiness and her refusal to surrender her political activism just because she is the Speakers' wife and long may that continue, on the other hand I just wish that she doesn't aimlessly give ammunition to those who are out to get her as she did this week, or to use criticism of her to get to her husband. But it seems to me that, in general Speaker Bercow and Sally have a lot of goodwill on their side, both inside and outside Westminster and they are intelligent people, so hopefully all will be well

Friday, February 04, 2011

Mubarak Must Go!

What is frustrating about all of this, is the lack of discernment over the situation. Instead of listening, Mubarak's regime either stall, lash out at protesters and foreign journalists, or make half hearted concessions too late. The best thing to do now in order to prevent chaos, is for an Interim Coalition Government and one to be set up within a fortnight, if Mubarak is really fed up with power and if he is savvy about the politics of the situation, then he will do that!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Welsh Referendum

I agree with Peter Hain, the Referendum being held this March is not a good idea. Ideally it should be held after the AV Referendum, possibly Spring next year. It just goes to show that time and place matter as much as aspirations and that Plaid Crymu may well have shot themselves in the foot here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Mubarak To Stand Down in Sept

But the crowds are clearly not impressed.
What would help is if he arranges for a transition ninety days from now, and puts forward a timetable leading to that with immediate effect. As John Simpson stated, had Mubarak made his September offer days ago, then there would have been acceptance, but the more he holds firm, the more untenable his position is and the less power he is able to actually wield!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

AV Bill Might Have Concessions

This is good news, and at least a tacit recognition from the government that there are genuine concerns regarding the Bill. If they dealt with that rather than have senior spokesmen like Sir George Young (he who once said that homeless people were the sort you stepped over as you left the Opera), referring to Labour Peers as "Rough trade", then maybe a lot of time would not have been wasted.
Lets see what those concessions are and thereby hopefully a lot of concerns that many have regarding AV will be alleviated.