Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What Happened to Mugabe?

This looks fascinating, and a reminder that the problems in Zimbabwe have not gone away, nor has the issue of Mugabe being in power.It is also a sad tale of what can help make a person a monster and how Mugabe had opportunities to help make his country great, but how his ego and paranoia and thirst for power has made that practically impossible for him

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ian Paisley Out of hospital

Glad to see he has recovered and I hope that, whilst I disagree strongly with him on a no of things, he will continue to speak out

The Eviction of St Paul's Protesters

Saddened, but inevitable.
 Right now those involved need to stop and ask themselves questions. St Paul's need to ask themselves what they have learnt from the past few months and how they can best further live out the Gospel. The protesters need to ask themselves where they need to take this further and what is the most effective and peaceful way they can take this message across. The bankers need to ask themselves, as do some sections of the media, how much public support these protests have had and whether they need to examine their consciences
I do hope that the protesters take up this issue in some other peaceful way, but maybe that is for another time

Monday, February 27, 2012

The French Deputy Representing the UK

I know, I know, but there is a high population of French people over here, especially in London. Am I bothered? No. Am I supportive? Yes, but there is a caveat. Many UK people have homes within the South of France, at least. So given what has been happening here and in the spirit of the Entente Cordiale, why don't we have an MP representing France on behalf of UK voters who live there! ;-)

Congratulations to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady and other Oscar Moments

About time, after only winning twice before within a record sixteen previous nominations with fantastic performances, this was well deserved. If anyone has not seen the film I heartily recommend it, a review of which I wrote last month.
Whilst I wanted Gary Oldman to win for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I think Jean Dujardin winning was well deserved, and for The Artist to do so well does send a tribute of sorts to the power of silent films, which we tend to forget, apart from say, Charlie Chaplin.
As for Christopher Plummer, much deserved and amazed he did not win an Academy Award sooner and only got one nomination beforehand, and that was recently with The Last Station
One criticism. Bridget O'Connor was given a posthumous nomination, alongside her much alive husband, for Best Adapted Screenplay (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), yet she was not even listed in the "In Memoriam" film footage that they do every year. Lack of thought and I hope the Academy make some sort of amends for it, because I am sure some were angry and hurt about that

UPDATE: I understand Bridget O'Connor died more than twelve months ago, so I take back my criticism and apologise

Saturday, February 25, 2012

With the Sun On Sunday Out Tomorrow, This Is My Hope

I hope to one day live in a society where most people make moral choices in what paper they buy
I hope to one day live in a society where our media treat people as innocent before proven guilty
I hope to one day live in a society where papers do not invade people's privacy to the point where they might as well be a dissident in a dictatorship, and to cap it all the paper responsible pretend they are Woodward and Bernstein in their defence
I hope to one day live in a society where papers do not have moral outrage consistently paraded in their editorials, whilst consistently having page three girls or photos of attractive teenage girls receiving their examination results. Why not some average looking girls and boys as well?
I hope to one day live in a society where columnists no longer say outrageous and offensive things for the sake of attention
I hope to one day live in a society where the values of Reith outstrip the values of Northcliffe when it comes to journalism
I hope to one day live in a society where there are more Marie Colvin's and less hacks who defend ripping apart someone's private life for the sake of public titillation
I hope to one day live in a society where journalists, hacks, and Editors not only publicly apologise for painful and needless offence, but realise that to apologise is because you are wrong, not because you expect forgiveness, and to see where they are wrong
I hope to live in a society where some Editors are less Pharisaical and more humble
I hope to one day live in a society where whole sections of society are not demonised by some papers because they are different to many of their readers'
I hope to live in a society where some journos realise that their attitudes and behaviour put people like me off becoming a regular tabloid journalist for life
I hope to live in a society where tabloids realise they can be like the Daily Mirror in the 1970s and mix light entertainment with good investigative copy that educates, entertains, and informs, not titilates, divides, and causes fear, anger, and resentment
I look forward to the day when I feel there has been enough change in me where I can show more humility regarding the things I detest and loathe within the media

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Please Plea for the Life of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

Whilst this is not entirely a surprise, the end is not as predictable as it seems. We must continue to highlight this situation and ask the President to spare his life, indeed pray that he does so. The more this is highlighted, hence my blogpost and the link to Archbishop Cramner's, the more chance there is of that happening

Interview with Karin Robinson

Next Wednesday I shall be interviewing Karin Robinson, the UK Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad. If you have any questions you would like me to ask regarding the 2012 US elections, then please let me know

Cameron Feels the Sharp Edge Against Government

This looks like it's not just a critique on government policy (and from the Daily Telegraph as well), but it also says something about the way this government is run! Why is the Chancellor spending nearly every day involved in the minutiae of policy and presentation when he should be hard at work in the Treasury and No.11 trying to reduce the economic crisis we are in? Why did the PM not quash Lansley's proposals last year? Why is he not working hard to smooth over relations between his Party and the Lib Dems over Lords reforms? Why does he have a Spin Doctor with no sense of antanne in dealing with Whitehall mandarins? A no of faults can be laid at Tony Blair's door in the way he conducted government, but it looks like that in some key areas Blair had more thoughtfulness and common sense in how government was run from No 10.

Eric Joyce Suspended After Alleged Commons Bar Brawl

I was saddened but not entirely surprised to read about this. As I have mentioned before I have seen what a Commons bar can be like after the final vote at ten, and if true, then he deserved what he got. That said these are allegations and we shall have to see how they pan out and therefore we should regard Eric Joyce is innocent until proven guilty

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cameron's Performance at Prime Minister's Questions

For the third time this week it seems that the Prime Minister has been slapped down by Ed Miliband on the NHS, he bravely tried to hit back, but in remembering he was a "wounded officer" seemed to play the "Flashman" role yet again, a role to which he appears to be well accustomed. In doing so he seemed to forget that he was PM and was clearly yearning for his old role as Leader of the Opposition in his feeble attempts to try and ask the questions instead of answering them.
The sad fact is that the NHS appears to be Cameron's Achilles heel. He may feel differently to Andrew Lansley on this, but possibly feels that the die is cast and he has to go along with the proposals and possibly is concerned about who he may upset within the Conservative Party were he to do otherwise! In any case you can watch today's PMQ's here.

RIP Marie Colvin

One of the few known journalists the UK newspaper industry has had in recent times who one has heard of and who was well-liked and respected. I don't know how to add to the deluge of justified tributes to her other than to say we need more like her and that if her death count for anything, that it highlights the tragic conflict that is going on in Syria and what dramatic changes have been going on the Middle East over the past year and that those changes for the better need to be supported and encouraged.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The UKIP Councillor Who Got Slapped

(Hat tip to Political Scrapbook)
I can see how this could have happened, election counts after a long day can be exhausting and it is when party activists are perhaps most prepared to be rude and unpleasant to each other, partly given the stresses they are under, and I have seen it myself, so I can understand the possible provocation.
I won't add to the calls for her to resign, that is up to her conscience, her Chairman, and the voters most of all, but I do hope she reflects on her "over enthusiasm"
But at the end of the day it was wrong and I hope the Tory Councillor who did this (no matter how provoked, no matter how unpleasant she finds the individual) will consider what such scenarios can do with regards to voters to turning away from all of us

Happy Anniversary John Glenn

Truly one of America's heroes and one of the men who exemplifies the pioneer age of Space exploration. Hopefully one day this will resume with a return to the Moon and visits to Mars

Lord Corbett and Lord Carr

Was saddened (but in Lord Carr's case not surprised given his age) to read of their deaths this morning. Lord Carr was one of the Conservative cabinet ministers (past and present) who I liked, and felt he was a capable and brave man given what he had to put up with. I do think it was a pity that Margaret Thatcher did not keep him in the Shadow Cabinet when she became leader but maybe that was a blessing in disguise.
As for Lord Corbett, here was a man who was an outstanding MP, who was a champion of the vulnerable and the oppressed and who, had electoral history have been different, could well have been an outstanding government minister. The BBC did omit one thing regarding him being MP for Hemel Hempstead though, and that is I understand (from the time I was a Campaign Intern there during the 2005 general election), that he was deselected by elements of the Hard Left in the constituency and therefore technically not defeated. He was a credit to Labour all the same and much missed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Alex Hilton's Complaint

I have to say I did read some of Alex's criticisms in his open letter with some surprise. I have tended to regard Alex as someone who is more tribal than myself and indeed I have cause to thank him for one occasion when he gave me some sound advice regarding internal Party battles.
Are his complaints genuine though, I don't know and I have some reservations. I do have some concerns about how Labour leaders are elected, I prefer a straightforward OMOV, but at least it's better than the awful Electoral College fiasco dreamt up in 1980 which seems to have been partly designed to keep right-wingers like Denis Healey out of the Labour leadership. As it was he managed to keep Tony Benn's challenge for the Deputy leadership at bay the following year by the breath of his eyebrow.
As someone who is pro AV (but the people have now spoken so fair play), I felt that avoiding coalitions was an important aim whilst legitimising an MP's position by nature of having held the seat by more than 50%, the constituency link would also be kept which to me is highly important as it helps keep MP's more connected with voters, but the Referendum has happened, the people have rejected it, so all in the past.
There are times (and to be fair I didn't vote for Ed as first preference), that I wonder about his leadership, but at the same time I am not writing him off. On the phone-hacking scandal and on the recent NHS proposals he has shown good leadership and has taken the sword into battle with both hands, Ed has strength, courage, and potential. Yes he isn't perfect, who isn't, but I am open to seeing changes from him for the better.
The austerity issue is a tough one admittedly, but this is a case that needs putting to the Daily Mail readers in swing seats and that will be difficult. Balancing austerity measures and protecting the vulnerable is never easy but I think we can hold a convincing and bold case while the coalition are making such a mess of it and are slowly losing public support.
As for winning elections, well it's not just leaders, but the Party as a whole and people are not just attracted to a political party simply on the leaders' personality. What about popular Labour politicians with vision like Tony Crosland, Denis Healey, Roy Jenkins (pre mid 1970s), Barbara Castle, Roy Hattersley, John Prescott, and more recently David Miliband. That's not taking into account ideas and those from the NEC and the backbenches who have contributed much good to Labour's ideas and policies.
On the last bit, putting it in a wider perspective, this is why I am pro AV. We need constantly work at being a genuine political party aiming to help the majority and not swing voters in key marginals, but that is a harder and longer fight and clearly one must find some way of fighting for that without having to resort to the AV argument (now rejected) and without having to pick up the dreaded mantle of Proportional Representation which creates coalitions and does not respect the constituency link. PR is good in some cases, but not for the UK as a whole in a general election for the House of Commons.
I do have a lot of time (and certainly in case of this letter a lot of sympathy) for Alex. I regard him as a wise friend and who has more decency than he sometimes lets on, but I would add that the Labour Party has lacked vision in the past, been trough darker days, and yet has managed to win and bring through some sound policies. We live in a fallen and very human world and that reflects here in that the fight for sound ideas is always going to be tough internally and sometimes takes a long while, but we do come through. Hold on Alex and have faith and maybe we can work at addressing the outstanding issues here that need dealing with if we are going to win the next election and with honour.

How Long Will the Sun On Sunday Last?

I have to say I was surprised when I read this. I didn't expect Murdoch to continue given the investigation against News Corp, and am still surprised that he has allowed journalists under investigation to work for the Sun On Sunday. On one level, on the short term, it does appear to be a clever move as it nullifies the criticism against him at The Sun, on the other it will not stop the investigation and it will not prevent the uncovering of any wrongdoing if there is any being hidden.
Part of this seemed apparent during Tom Watson's joust with Kelvin Mackenzie this weekend. Tom was calm, careful, and was relentless, as brave as he is. Mackenzie was by contrast evasive and then increasingly nasty, personal, and unpleasant, especially when Watson attacked the cultural legacy he left at The Sun. Guilty conscience perhaps? It is disturbing that he was evasive and then abusive and a possible sign that there might be chutzpah in the daytime but is there any difficulty in sleeping at night-time?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fisking Nick Margerrison on Iain Dale's Blog

To be fair Nick Margerrison makes some worthwhile points here, which makes arguing against his overall piece a little bit difficult, so I felt a bit of gentle fisking over his piece on Steve Coogan and the Daily Mail was  ded to be conducted carefully. I hope I have been able to do that.

First of all he states that:

“Is it a co-incidence that when he’s not working with you, Steve Coogan’s, not as funny?” I asked, Armando Iannucci, when interviewing him on a radio show a few years back. Despite having performed some of the best TV comedy I’ve ever seen it has become noticeable that Coogan seems to require the guidance of someone like Iannucci. Without him he seems more miss than hit and often lacks the intelligence of “Alan Partridge” or “The Day Today”. Well spoken and diplomatic, Iannucci, laughed this question off a bit, joked about calling Steve live on air and then defended him by saying he thought the TV show “Saxondale” was quite good.
I recalled this during the comedy actor’s aggressive and bullish performance on Question Time. Newspaper columnist, Dame Ann Leslie, was the one who mentioned “Saxondale” when she described it as being underrated. This came as she explained to the audience she’d made a point of saying hello and praising the ‘star’ backstage before filming. Even so, Coogan, and his mate Alastair Campbell’s, belittling and derogatory remarks for the ‘crime’ of writing opinion pieces in, The Daily Mail, said more about them than it did her"

For a start Steve Coogan was not there to be funny, as a friend of mine on Facebook has pointed out, he was there because he was invited and to make points. Unlike Nick, Steve Coogan and Alastair Campbell have been given a pretty rough ride by the Daily Mail and it is a marmite paper in that many who do not buy it on a daily basis for pleasure loathe it. Part of the reason it is loathed is because it gets personal, it is bullying, and it can be hypocritical in it' in the way it conducts it's stories (I could go on here about what is wrong with the way tabloids are laid out in general but that would detract from the main points). Coogan and Campbell may well have over-reacted, it's not for me to judge on that, but I honestly cannot blame them for doing so and neither can many others.

"From my point of view it’s at moments like this their kind reveal themselves. The truth is, self declared left wingers absolutely love the idea of censorship but practice it so religiously you're unlikely to hear them admit it. They won’t say they’re advocating it because they know there's something "bad" about it. This makes their game quite complex when trying to argue in favor of a controlled media, as both of them did on, Question Time. It was in the jeering and booing that Mr Coogan and his lefty sympathizers, both on the panel and in the audience, made their censorial urges most apparent."

To be fair Nick, you are right but only up to a point Lord Cooper, as a well known executive sates in Evelyn Waugh's "Scoop". There is censorship and censorship. Many on left and right are aware of the need for a regulatory body where the media is concerned and many agree, on left and right, that the PCC has lacked fangs when it comes to this. Even Iain Dale had problems when complaining to them about the Mail some time ago! Most people are liberal, most support censorship, usually the same people. The call for censorship is when those in positions of power are constantly and wilfully abusing that power to the detrement of others.

"It’s a strange fact that you can guarantee the audience of Question Time will shout and jeer at the mere mention of The Daily Mail. "

I wonder why! I myself dislike pitchfork mobs but sometimes one can greatly empathise and given that papers like the Daily Mail, Express, and The Sun have enjoyed whipping up pitchfork mobs it is a bit rich if they complain about being on the receiving end.

" Alister Campbell’s heckling of Leslie’s opinion he’d damaged the country received seven seconds of enthusiastic applause from the audience “for God’s sake, 40 years on The Daily Mail and you talk about damage to the country?”. "

Again, clearly we have different views about the abuse of tabloid papers.

"All this is unusual because we know that Question Time audiences are strictly cleansed and vetted demographically by the BBC beforehand in the name of “impartiality”. "

I trust you were being ironic here! The times I have seen right wingers in the audience shout out opinions. In fact I recall one elderly lady a year or two ago, come across as borderline racist a la Express reader from the Home Counties, to use a crude stereotype.

"I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in the unsanitised real world, people seem to usually quite agree with that newspaper’s editorial line, even if they’re not keen on the title itself. I’ve always thought this was because it obviously pays close attention to the movement of its reader’s opinions. Successful newspapers more frequently mirror attitudes than shape them. Whether you agree with it or not the fact is The Daily Mail’s business model requires it to sell opinions people want to read."

This is another area where we disagree at ground level. Newspapers and tabloids need to be sold I agree, knowing your audience is valuable and critical I agree. But equally newspapers and tabloids have a moral duty to be fair, to tell the truth, to educate, entertain and inform (to quote Reith), not (to quote Northcliffe) to give the people what they want (in terms of whatever that may be). To fully embrace the latter is not to be a Journalist, it is to be a tacky hack who is the equivalent of a second hand car salesman. Selling what is on the surface enticing, but is otherwise useless scrap. Morality does have a vital part to play in tabloids and newspapers, just as it does in Westminster and just as it does in the Banking Sector.

"No one forces you to pay for it. As Leslie herself said, “the reason I’m going to get on with it is because, I think my views actually do represent what most people in this country feel”. "

Sadly I agree. These papers would have been a bit better well behaved had it's readers been a bit more discerning in their choice and aware of what they were helping to encourage. Reform of the Press will only really happen if the hearts and minds of it's readers can change and that will be the hardest job of all

"Regardless of your political persuasions defending a free media includes defending The Daily Mail. We are on safe ground if we say that some people on the panel, and in the audience, would cheer if it ceased publication. Those same people will have cheered the demise of The News of The World and they will be relishing the trouble that The Sun newspaper is currently in. They do not understand why censorship and media control is wrong. They seem to be actively against freedom of speech. They’re part of a herd of yahoos I describe as the “blame the media brigade”. "

Yes and no. Given the spite The Sun and The Daily Mail can indulge in can you blame it's detractors for wanting to see it go to the wall. As for censorship and media control, yes it is wrong except for where people need a right to reply and I right to redress wrongs. In any case I mentioned my views on media censorship a short while ago.

" Ironically this culture of ‘blame the media’ is damaging to those who indulge it and actually empowers the media it’s supposed to be attacking. Firstly, if it’s ‘not your fault’ you can’t be bothered to get a job and it turns out it’s all the fault of a rapper who told you not to bother in one of his pop songs, that paints a picture of you as a pretty pathetic powerless person. Although it might seem sympathetic in the moment, those excuses are a very expensive empty meal. Truth is: it’s not anyone else’s fault you’re an idiot, it’s yours. The irony is that the media requires your attention in order to be powerful and there’s a kind of feedback loop where people who believe you should “blame the media” make it more important to them by virtue of their focusing on it. The more people think the media must be very powerful the more powerful it becomes until in the end politicians, such as Gordon Brown, end up holding sleepovers for those who work in it. In other words the perception becomes reality.
A good metaphor for ‘the media’ is in the final scene of, The Wizard of Oz film. In it the Wizard obscures the fact he’s a slight and powerless figure by hiding behind a giant machine which projects a terrifying version of his image out to Dorothy and her friends. Only the ingenuity of Toto the dog, pulling back the curtain to reveal The Wizard’s puny reality, ends the charade. At its worst "the media" is in part the machine that distracts Dorothy and her friends. When used by the likes of politicians or big business it allows them, the real villains, to hide behind a curtain of confusion. Furthermore once your focus is upon the machine, there's an all powerful version of these characters projected at you which frightens anyone but Toto. Thus, in one sense it’s a distraction made more powerful by your attention. However, this isn’t the fullest picture and those who think it is have merely been successfully distracted. "

Agreed to a point, it is a loop. Politicians need the Media, become scared of them, feed them, media becomes powerful, self-fulfilling prophecy. Will be extremely hard to break though unless there are clear and significant changes. Also don't dismiss how nasty the media can be when attacking, many use the Goebbles maxim where if you repeat a lie enough times it's readers will believe it. I'd hate to be on the receiving end of that among other things so who can blame people for initally being afriad!

"The UK’s media machine is not under the control of one all powerful Wizard, though it would be if Campbell and Coogan got their way. The complete picture of our media landscape is only fully described if you include, Toto the dog, who pulls aside the curtain to reveal the truth. He’s an essential part of it. What is Toto if not a fearless newshound who sniffs out an incredible story?"

If you mean a la Woodward and Bernstein then yes, but most scoops are more on intruding on celebrities private lives than fearlessly exposing corruption among senior politicians. I doubt Campbell and Coogan want to see a full control of the media anymore than you do, they just want accountability. Just as controlling a child's every movement is wrong, so is letting that child always get away with bad behaviour.

"I don’t know if Coogan understands these arguments but he made it clear on Question Time that he’s unlikely to accept them. As a BBC Television ‘star’ he comes from the world of state funded media so it might be hard for him to comprehend why The Daily Mail’s editorial line is more to do with market forces than personal whim. However, Alister Campbell, as a former commercial media man himself has no such excuses. I presume he feels morality should provide a barrier to one doing something as ‘heinous’ as writing for the Daily Mail. After all he thinks it’s a way of doing “damage to the country”. Think about that for a moment. Think about who he is and what he does and what he did. Now try to put into perspective his belief that the key issue for 2012 is to censor the press."

Clearly you have different views about the BBC to me, but  I think what Alastair Campbell is getting at is that expects morality in all tabloids and newspapers, something the Daily Mail lacks when it plays pharissee. As for past behaviour, Campbell has had regrets and said so publicly. Is a person not allowed to change for the better? Unless of course he or she is a political opponent and therefore not convenient?

"It’s hard not to dismiss Steve Coogan’s contributions to Question Time as nothing more than those of a harmless performing clown. That’s because compared to some of the panel that is what he is. He might be responsible for largely forgotten un-funny characters such as ‘Tony Ferrino’ or ‘Gareth Cheeseman’. He might also have abused his power and enjoyed a bit of fun with cocaine and prostitutes here and there, but that’s the worst of it. Let us be brutal here, he’s not even slightly responsible for a war that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Over a million people did not march on London because they felt comedy character, Pauline Carr, wasn’t funny these days. If the likes of Campbell abuse their power the consequences are horrific. Rather than “blame the media” lets instead blame the likes of him."

Fair enough, why don't we talk about the harm the Sun and the Daily Mail have caused if we are going to be consistent. For example I am sure the people of Liverpool would happily tell you what damage they think The Sun has caused. Yes, I'd rather listen to a harmless performing clown myself

Setting Up My Soapbox for CSM Executive

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am planning on standing for the Executive of the Christian Socialist Movement for a non portfolio post.
If elected I certainly want to help encourage the CSM to take a stand on issues regarding the media, financial issues, poverty, and international development. The recent encampment of protesters outside St Paul's Cathedral in London shows how timely it is to bring to people's attention where society as a whole is hurting and where there is wrongdoing.
But I cannot do this without being elected. If interested in helping me in my campaign, or if you have any questions and are a CSM member or are thinking of becoming one. Then please let me know



Monday, February 13, 2012

A Bad Week for The Sun and the Daily Mail

Let's face it it hasn't been a good week for them.Former Mail columnist Ann Leslie was unable to properly defend the Mail on BBC Question Time, Paul Dacre was attacking Hugh Grant for attacking him, and then to top it all The Sun has faced the fact that some of their people have been arrested over the phonehacking enquiry.
Then, rich of him and with amazing chutzpah, Trevor Kavanagh complains that the investigation is becoming a "Soviet Witch hunt". This is disappointing, Kavanagh is an intelligent man and to see his misplaced loyalty is taking him some unpleasant dark alleyways that make him look foolish at best. Considering also The Sun has harassed people and played the guilty until proven innocent and even then something dodgy about that person card, it is a bit rich!
As I have said before, this will slowly run along like Watergate and I am sure worse is yet to come. What should happen as a result is a better regulation body like the PCC, and a change of culture, but what must not happen is something just as bad filling the vacuum and people not becoming aware that by buying a particular paper for a crossword or gossip, they are helping to fuel a mendacious culture in this country that has gone on for far too long.

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CLV: Johanna Baxter

Johanna was the first independent, non-slate, candidate to succeed in being elected to Labour’s NEC in years.  She is the granddaughter of a Killoch Pit miner who has dedicated her life to the Labour movement.  Her first experience of activism involved representing fellow workers in a Glasgow call centre as a CWU rep whilst funding her own way through her degree in politics and law at Strathclyde University.  Whether during her time on the TUC Organising Academy working as a negotiator for PCS or in her current role as a National Officer for the trade union, Prospect, she has fought a daily battle for better terms and conditions at work for thousands of employees in the private and public sectors.

Johanna’s political experience is rooted in local community activism and she has been an active party campaigner since the age of 16 in Ayrshire, Birmingham and London. She has held position at every level of the Party and is currently CLP Secretary for Camberwell & Peckham and Lane Branch Labour Party Organiser.  She has also enjoyed spells on the Young Fabians Executive, as a school governor in Birmingham and as guest editor for LabourList.

What made you decide to start blogging?
Originally, it was a volunteering trip to Africa but I hadn’t quite caught the blogging bug at that point. My commitment to regular blogging started when I got elected to the NEC – I wanted to make sure that members knew what their elected representatives were up to, provide greater transparency to NEC decisions and a way for our members to get in touch with me and let me know their views.

What is your best blogging experience?
It was probably the day I described the moment I stood a few feet in front of an adult male, leader of a pride, lion and didn’t get eaten!  In terms of my NEC blog, Putting Members First, it was the day I wrote my report of the Refounding Labour reforms that the NEC were proposing to annual conference last year – I was really proud of the amount we had been able to achieve for members in that process.

And your worst?
The day I paid tribute to my CLP stalwart, Joan Amodio, who had passed away (  She had a wonderful spirit and had given her entire life to our party and her local community – a true hero who has left a huge gap.  It might have been one of my most widely read, and most positively received, blogs but I would swap it in an instant to have her back among us.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?
This one; - where I outline the massive, ideological attack on worker’s rights being levied at us by the current government.  It’s an issue I care passionately about.  My day job is as a National Officer for a non-affiliated union and every day I see examples of unfairness in the workplace that are wholly ‘legal’, the balance of power weighted in favour of the employer and employees increasingly struggling to have their voice heard. 

Favourite blogs?
Ed Balls’ blog, Labour List, Scarlet Standard, Liberal Conspiracy, Left Foot Forward, the TUC’s ToUChstone and BBC Nature Wonder Monkey (probably in that order)

What made you decide to go into politics?
I grew up in Saltcoats, a small seaside town on the west coast of Scotland.   It’s the place everyone ‘used to’ go to on their holidays.  My dad owned a small shop in the town but life there was tough - investment was sucked out of the area under the last Conservative Government, tourism collapsed, and the closure of the nearby manufacturing plants decimated local industry.  Unemployment in the area was high then and it’s even higher now – the highest in Scotland and one of the highest in the UK.  My granddad was a miner in another part of Ayrshire. I grew up seeing deprivation all around me, in people that had worked hard all of their lives, and I disagreed with those that told me the only way out of that was just to look after yourself.  I wanted to do something about it.  I didn’t come from a family who were actively involved in politics so finding out how to get involved wasn’t always easy.

What are your aims in standing for re-election to the NEC ?
I want to keep ‘putting members first’.  That’s what I promised I would do when I stood this time  two years ago and since then I’ve travelled to 56 CLPs across the country (52 in my first 52 weeks and more than any other CLP representative) listening to members and reporting back on the work of the NEC.  Over the course of the next year CLPs will be trying to implement the reforms agreed through Refounding Labour, whilst also campaigning to return a Labour London Mayor, win locally in Scotland, England and Wales and respond to changing constituency boundaries.  I can help CLPs through that process of change and will ensure that those areas of Refounding Labour that are still to be delivered continue to prioritise member interests. Our policy making process and technology reforms must be enacted, not filed and forgotten.
If members re-elect me, I will: continue putting members first; ensure the commitment to a clearer, more transparent policy making process, which puts members at the heart of our decision making structure, is met; ensure that members and users are at the forefront of decisions taken about the Party’s new technology platform and lead the charge for greater accountability within our democratic structures.

What has been the best and the worst thing about being on the NEC over the past year?
The best thing has been meeting so many of our party’s dedicated activists as I’ve toured the country – hundreds of grassroots campaigners giving their time, money and effort every day to do the best they can to help our Party get elected.

The worst is the isolation that comes with being the only non-slate candidate elected last time.  Being the only independent voice of members on the NEC means people have to make more of an effort to understand where you’re coming from, how you might vote and whether they can rely on you.  It means you’re left out of some of the back-room conversations that go on outside of meetings.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?
I’d love to go to the Serengeti to see the great migration and South America.

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?
I’ll always return to South Africa and Spain.  I volunteer at a local conservation project in South Africa  and I adore Spain.

Bar the present one, who is your favourite Prime Minister, and if different, your favourite Labour leader?
Jings, that’s a difficult one. Neither was Prime Minister but for leadership I’d say John Smith and in his role as Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan for giving us the NHS.

Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?
If I could only have one it would have to be Nelson Mandela.  But you can’t really expect me only to have one!  I’ve always admired Jimmy Reid for his pragmatic approach to trade unionism – his leadership and vision, challenging though it was for his members, was what ultimately protected their position.  I’m a massive fan of David Attenborough - probably the most travelled man in the world – for giving us such an astonishing understanding of the world around us.  On a day to day basis it’s our members that constantly inspire me – their absolute dedication to our cause is phenomenal.

Favourite Bond movie?
Casino Royale – Daniel Craig is a real Bond and gives the series a strong refresh.

Favorite Doctor Who?
Tom Baker – even though the last two Drs have been great he defined the role.  But I confess I’d turn over for David Attenborough though.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?
Mint – in a nice mojito!

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?
The original Buena Vista Social Club playing at the Casa Del a Trova in Havana.  Failing that I’ll settle for Rodrigo y Gabriela.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?
If you mean which city in the UK it would have to be Glasgow.  I lived there for 4 years and it has a spirit you don’t find in many other places.

Favourite national newspaper?
I probably read the Guardian more than most but I tend to scan the political sections of most of the broadsheets online and I’ll always have a soft spot for the Daily Record.

What would you say your hobbies were?
Apart from visiting Constituency Labour Parties?!  I love food and music festivals and I’m an out-of-practice violinist.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

Happiness by Allen Toussaint
Jive Soweto by Sipho Mabuse
Matador by Los Fabulosos Cardillacs

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
Larousee’s Encyclopedia of Music
The Biography of Aneurin Bevan Written by Michael Foot
The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Life on Air by David Attenborough
(It’s impossible to shortlist 3 out of these 5!)

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Save Gaby's Deli. It's Fantastic

Last night, Rachel, myself, and several friends visited Gaby's Deli. It is a small deli situated at 30 Charing Cross Rd, by Leicester Square. It is true, as many acquainted with the place say, that the salt beef sandwiches are fantastic and it has a wonderful intimate atmosphere with good food and good drinks.
How sad it is then, that the Marquess of Salisbury has decided to close this fantastic place (of nearly fifty years standing) down! It is highly popular and is a credit to the West End. To close this place down would not only deny the opportunity for many to be acquainted with such a marvellous place, but also flies in the face of the numerous and varied customers who love this place.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

George Osborne Doesn't Get It On Bonuses!

Whilst I can understand, to a point, George Osborne's concerns on this issue, he is really polarising and making heavy going of an issue which he seems to fail to understand is the public outrage over the issue of bonuses. He also fails to understand, as Chuka Umunna has pointed out, that the issue is not about rewards for achievements in finance, it is about people giving themselves large bonuses during one of the biggest recessions the UK has faced since the Second World War. If Osborne cannot see that then he shouldn't be doing his job!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Ian Paisley

When Baroness Paisley of St. George's, better known to many as Eileen the wife of the Rev. Ian, issued a statement yesterday to ask that the Paisley family's privacy be respected at this time, you knew that the health of Lord Bannside was serious. When that was echoed today and there are calls for prayerful support in a joint statement by the First and Deputy First Minister after a night time vigil at his bedside in ICU you can sense that the Paisley family are really concerned. Though he is in for a heart condition it has been denied that he suffered a heart attack.

You have to remember that there is a wife, two sons, three daughters and grandchildren who are concerned for the health of an 85 year old relative. Who while he retired from front line politics some years ago, only vacated the pulpit of Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church after his last sermon only 10 days before.

The man himself of course needs no introduction. He was often seen a a divisive voice in Northern Ireland, UK and European politics, he has concurrently held positions in all three places never losing a seat until he decided it was time to step down. However, in 2007 after the St. Andrew's talks he made mine and probably quite a few other people's jaws drop when he appears along with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin saying they had reached an agreement to re-enter a power sharing assembly.

With Ian briefly, from 8 May 2007 - 5 June 2008, serving as First Minister of Northern Ireland with Martin McGuinness as his Deputy they formed the odd, but welcome, couple. Whatever people's opinion of his stance on a range of subjects the fact that for those 13 months he sat with Sinn Féin beside him was a mark that a shared future in Northern Ireland was not only possible but happening.

I've seen some rather snide comments over the last two days on social media, but do not forget that around everyone who falls ill there is family who are concerned for their loved one. Therefore bearing in mind the call of the family and OFMdFM I shall leave my comments at that.

Ian Paisley Suffers a Suspected Heart Attack

Sad news and I hope he recovers soon.I never thought I would say this about a man who I once did not think highly of, but I do miss his presence in Northern Ireland politics, however much I may disagree with him on faith and political issues, I admire the way he was able to let bygones be bygones, and I hope and pray he gets well soon.

Happy 200th Birthday in Memory Of Charles Dickens

One of the greatest authors this country has produced, with a clear understanding of human nature with it's various shades. Many of us can list more than a handful of his books in one go. Not just British literature, but the literary world itself, owes Charles Dickens a significant debt and one that is freely recognised.
And with regards to personal favourites? Well mine are; A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Cites. What are yours?

Monday, February 06, 2012

Sixty Years Ago Today

It's a remarkable achievement. The only other British monarch who has reigned for this long is Queen Victoria (1837-1901), and only recently overtook Richard Cromwell as England's longest living Head of State.
Let's not also forget though, that today is also the sixtieth anniversary of the death of King George VI. A man who never asked or wanted to be King, and yet managed to carry his duties fully and unflichingly

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Snow Across the UK: Where We Slack

Whilst it was sudden and ferocious, I have to say that there were warnings over the past few days and that given the bad weather we get over Winter at some point in recent years, why are we so bad at coping with it compared to the US or Germany?
We need to be more alert and organised in dealing with such things

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Oates's Sleeping Bag

Yesterday was a day off and, going to Cambridge for the day I took the chance to see the Scott Polar Museum and see the exhibition on Scott's attempt at being first to reach the South Pole.
Among the various artefacts, including a dairy, or notebook, of Wilson's, was a sight I never expected to see; the sleeping bag Captain Oates used until the day he died.
It was carefully cut along the front so that he could ease himself in, given that his hands and feet were heavily frostbitten, but given the size, the fact it had to be cut, and the sort of bag it was, it was not ideal for a harsh Antarctic autumn and given it was cut open and given the size of the tents (barely large for four, and given his condition, the poor man must have suffered a great deal before his death.
It says a lot about what we don't feel about history, but it also says not only about the bravery of Scott and his men, but how poorly prepared they were