Monday, April 30, 2012

Cameron. Unfit for office and worst PM/Opp leader at Dispatch Box in 20 yrs!

So today we saw Cameron called to the House to answer questions on Hunt's conduct on Murdoch affair and we see him patronise Miliband and former cabinet minsters (Straw), verbally abuse the elderly (Skinner) and I suppose we shld be grateful he didn't patronise or was sexist to any female MP as is sometimes is his wont! He had the opportunity today to defend his corner with honour and ended up behaving more like a s**t than a statesman. Miliband actually did very well out of it as well! But Cameron, he did what he always seems to do when his back is against the wall. Lashed out and got personal with his critics. Says a lot and he is the most badly behaved PM/Opp leader at the dispatch box in 20 years.It shows he is out of touch and unfit for his job Even a Hunt aide didn't see the writing on the wall and decided to brief against the Speaker of the Commons this afternoon!
PS It seems some Tories thought that Cameron's insults to Skinner were wrong. Perhaps another sure sign that Cameron and some of his tweeter fans are out of touch!

In Political Praise of: Iain Duncan Smith!

I have to say having met him, that while he can be politically misguided, he is one of the Conservative Party's good guys and to stand up to Osborne on welfare shows not just courage, but a moral inflexibility that the political arena can sometimes break. I am glad that when it comes to dealing with the vulnerable, the Work and Pensions Secretary shows some moral courage!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jeremy Hunt: Guilty of Bias If Not Collusion!

I wasn't too surprised, although somewhat dismayed by James Murdoch's comments (or revelations) regarding Jeremy Hunt yesterday and given Hunt's previous open enthusiasm for the Murdoch empire this does look damming. Dismayed? Well in that I would expect a cabinet minister to behave better!
Jeremy Hunt has never hid his bias for News Corp. That was why there was widespread concern from many of us when Vince Cable was forced to quit. This bias has now appeared to shown itself  in his discussions with a Murdoch aide shows that, like the way some MP's conducted themselves over expenses, if Hunt strictly speaking did nothing wrong, he certainly behaved in an unethical and immoral manner and, also taking into account is proclaimed support for News Corp in previous years, he should resign!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Robin Gibb Making a Recovery

Nothing short of a miracle and I honestly thought he was dying, but amazing what prayers, support, and grim determination can do! :-)
That said we are not out of the woods yet, given that the cancer is in the liver as well as the colon, but this news does look promising

Monday, April 23, 2012

Daily Mail and Le Pen

I have to say I was shocked and disgusted when one of the "bloggers" (Richard Waghorne) on the Daily Mail decided to back Mariane Le Pen this weekend. Even more shocked that the Daily Mail decided to let someone publish such a piece! For one thing a casual observer online would make the mistake (as I did) that it was one of their columnists, but equally while newspapers, magazines, blogs (and obv Mars Hill is one of them) allow writers to put forward views that go against the Editorial, there is a dividing line and for many that is accepting endorsements of fascism. For example if Goering were alive today (okay at about 120 something that may be stretching it), but one would not accept an article from him, so why any Nazi or Fascist?
I agree we do need to take on these people in debate but there are other ways. On a panel at election time for example (on basis they are a registered candidate), but otherwise one must not do anything that smacks of endorsement and the Daily Mail, not for the first time, has found itself with the accusation of endorsing fascists

Medieval Romance Exhibition

Malcolm Mann has recently been to an exhibition in Oxford. Worth seeing:

If I said to you, “I’m reading a romance” it is very likely that you would think I was reading a love story. It was very different for people living in the Middle Ages. For them, romances were ‘stories about public histories and secret desires’; they were heroic journeys and ‘dark fantasies of infanticide, incest, betrayal and exile’. This is not to say that they were not love stories, just that they were not of the Richard Curtis type!

The Bodleian Library in Oxford is currently running an exhibition in its Exhibition Room that looks at just a few of the Romance books in its possession to give us a flavour of what the mediaeval reader enjoyed. This week, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit it.

Among the books on display were the British Museum’s ‘MS Cotton Nero’ which contains (amongst other stories)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, it was opened at a illustration of Sir Gawain in bed about to tempted by Lady Bertilak and The King of Tars, Robert of Sicily and Joseph of Arimathea which come from the huge Vernon MS.

The two works mentioned above give an indication of how diverse mediaeval romance could be. Gawain is a courtly drama, with its roots in Arthurian legend while the texts of the Vernon MS are really narrative homilies.

The exhibition had more than ‘just’ mediaeval books on display. I saw some absolutely beautiful ivory carvings, the delicacy of which take the breath away. One carving was made up of various romance scenes, including a knight spiriting his beloved away from a castle and lovers playing backgammon. In another carving, which was originally the back of a mirror, a man held his hand on his lover’s breast as a squirrel ran down her arm (indicating, apparently, her ‘animal passion).

The nineteenth century saw a big revival of interest in mediaevalism, and therefore, the romance genre, through the neo-gothic and Pre-Raphaelite movements. On display was a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. I can’t remember what the painting was called but it featured a woman at the centre wearing a long green dress, an angel to her left and a man collapsed on the ground to her right. If you know the painting I mean, do let me know!
Inevitably, artistic tastes have moved on again since Rossetti et al but the exhibition made it clear that literature – and film – are still very much influenced by the mediaeval romances. Star Wars and the Harry Potter books were both cited, as was Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. By-the-bye, I also saw a copy of C. S. Lewis’ Gawain and the Green Knight on display; the page on display had been heavily annotated by him, even to the point of having in one corner a drawing by Lewis of a knight’s armour with all its parts named.

I have missed out as much as I have spoken about. For example, the exhibition had a copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works on display, The Laud Troy Book, which was once owned by Archbishop Laud, a MS of Philip Pullman from his book The Scarecrow and his Servant as well as other mediaeval works.

All in all it was a delightful little exhibition, which provided ample proof of the richness of the mediaeval imagination. I strongly encourage you to visit it.

If you can’t, the book that accompanies it is very helpful in opening up the world of the romance, one that has rather been forgotten, I think, as our modern world has sadly narrowed its understanding of what a romance is.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Interview With Gaby's Deli

This was going to be a Podcast but it seems that a new app I have started on has failed on me and cut out after 40 seconds, in spite of checking details and testing beforehand. So it is that I will rely on the transcripted questions and memory and rely on what I can from there and sincere apologies to all concerned.
I arrived shortly after a quarter to six in the evening and had a discussion with Gaby, the owner and Save Gaby's Deli campaigners Sara Nathan and Eleanor Lloyd. Gaby's Deli is a small eaterie just off Leicester Square and is L Shaped with room for about, what I'd guess is about fifty people, but is warm, cosy, and with a good selection of foods.
I started by asking for a brief background as to how the campaign started and the support they have been having. Sara immediately responded by referring to the letters and news article clippings supporting the campaign that are plastered over the shop walls and the high level of backing they have had, from people such as Miriam Margolyes, Simon Callow, Mary Portias, and a no of MP's, including the local MP Mark Field, who has thrown his backing into dealing with Gaby's plight. Concerns have also been mentioned by the Mayoral candidates, particually Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick The problem started when the Marquess of Salisbury decided not to renew Gaby's lease as he wants a the site to be part of a chain of restaurants. The lease has been extended into late summer but it still makes it difficult to plan ahead given the short notice. It is not as if Gaby's is not making any money either. It is one of the most popular Deli's in the West End and as Gaby told me, people from all over the World come here and love the place. Certainly it is popular among many who live, work, and visit the West End, as a place to eat and relax after a long day.
I asked them what they felt their chances are at the moment? The problem is I was told that everything is uncertain. They have a high level of support and a lot of signatures, but more needs to be done. More ideas are needed and Gaby's constantly needs more support. So if you have any ideas and contributions to give to the Save Gaby's Deli then please do! Their facebook page is called "Save Gaby's Deli" and the petition aclling for it to be saved can be found here
I finally asked what they's recommend to eat at Gaby's. Sara recommends the falafels, but both Eleanor and I rather like the Salt Beef sandwiches, which I have to say are really nice.All in all it would be a shame I think, so see a thriving business which has lasted some 47 years and has a cosy ambience, disappear into the abyss the way it seems to be ending up!

How Cameron Treats Off-Message MP's

I was a bit surprised by this. I appreciate that on one level Cameron was trying to give a non answer in the heat of the moment but it shows a lack of deft touch and diplomacy. If the PM cannot show respect to his own backbenchers who are held in respect by a certain proportion of the Conservative Party, then he is storing up trouble for himself

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stealing From Parliament!

Bit of a shocker, and not just because of the items. Anyone who has been to the Houses of Parliament knows how tough the security can be and whilst I can accept that it is easy to steal the smaller items how did four beer barrels manager to get past security!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The 1970s, Was It An Awful Decade?

Was intrigued by this piece on the 1970s and I have to admit that it is a fav decade of mine, but then I was born in 1975 and my memories of this time are coloured by Mr.Men, Flumps, Play School, and Camberwick Green. I also, circa 1979 till about 1982-3, had an obsession with road signs and car no plates, but maybe that's a different story.
Certainly many of us looking back at that decade were children at the time and therefore that perhaps colours our views of that decade with the sweets, the various types of bicycles, the TV programmes etc.. so maybe the best thing is to draw up a list of pros and cons, so here are mine


Raleigh Bicycles
Start of TV Programmes such as Newsround, Record Breakers, Porridge, Antiques Roadshow, Saturday morning programmes, Mastermind, The Dukes of Hazzard etc..
Space Hoppers
Super Noodles
Video Cassettes
Angel Delight
Star Wars
Saturday Night Fever
Pot Noodle
The Queen's Silver Jubilee
Blakes 7
Soda Stream
Space Invaders
Kate Bush
Pope John Paul I

Three Day Week
Wildcat Strikes
Growth of terrorism in UK, West Germany, Japan, Middle East etc..
Idi Amin
Winter of Discontent
Polarisation of British politics
Oil Crisis
Russian invasion of Afghanistan
Khmer Rouge ruling Cambodia four four years
John Lennon struggling to get Green Card
The Jeremy Thorpe Saga

There are many more pros and cons, but this just shows perhaps that the 1970s were not a decade one can perhaps easily write off

Friday, April 13, 2012

Aaron Sorkin Inspires Politics: Why I Love the West Wing!

You may wonder why I am bothering to write this as The West Wing seems to be a universally accepted piece of quality TV that, in the UK at least, tends to draw together people from Left and Right with regards to their shared love of politics.
So it was that I was a bit taken aback by this piece from Shana Pearlman on Iain Dale's blog. I don't know why I should be because she does state that she once worked for Fox News ;-) (oh and btw many of us lefties are aware that it was Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live that coined the "Russia from my house" phrase, but attributed quotes float around as much as the real ones).
Sorkin's West Wing is not what was or is, but what it can be! One could argue that it was the idealism of the West Wing that reminded many of the ideals of the social policies of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and helped propel Obama into the White House. There will never be a perfect West Wing but we can sure aim for it and after the cruel cynicism of the Bush era with stinkbombs of lack of moral judgement and loss of prestige abroad (Rendition and Guantamano for starters) it has been a refreshing change to see an administration (of which I am proud to have helped campaign for), bring in Healthcare that will benefit millions of Americans who have failed to go to the Doctors over ailments that could save their lives because they could not afford to do so. It helps increase insurance and more generous subsidies to lower income groups among many other things.There are also many other policies that the Obama administration have put forward which will improve the lot of not just the US, but many other countries as well due to their links with the US. That is not ruining politics, that is invigorating politics.
As for debating with others, how can we do anything else! The 2008 election campaign was hard fought and with much negative campaigning. I saw first hand the rebuttals made to some of the accusations made and that involved discussing policy. Smugness and superiority and not debating properly are not the preserve of the left. There are many on the Right who could be accused of being the same and who like to shut down debate by being insulting and cruel, take Rush Limbaugh's recent attack on Sandra Fluke! Equally there are many on the Right who are not like that just as there are many on the Left who are not like that. The scene in The West Wing where President Bartlett takes on Dr Jacobs in The Midterms episode was not trashing an opponent with facts it was exposing her bigotry and/or anxiety and cowardice. Incidentally Dr Jacobs could have turned back with facts about cowhide but that was not the point, the point was that there are some Old Testament rules forbidding various things that are not kosher that many conservatives practice. She could even have mentioned Romans Ch 1 vs 26-28, President Bartlett could have responded with the sexual norms and practices of the time, of the actual translations, and most importantly, the need to Love ones neighbour as oneself.
What I love about the West Wing is that while we live in a society that is sick of politicians, they see those who lie, are cynical, greedy, manipulative, and corrupt, The West Wing gives an antidote, not showing the lead characters as saints, but shows the toughness of the job and yet the determination to put ideals into practice. It has probably done a great deal to bring young people into politics on both Right and Left on both sides of the Atlantic and that must not be ignored. It's fresh, it's innovative and works at appealing to people's intelligence and sense of moral values, of not what is but of what can be! For that Aaron Sorkin deserves a medal

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Luke Akehurst's Tweet

A lot have made some heavy weather of Luke's tweet and it may seem harsh, especially to those who are unhappy with Ken Livingstone's candidacy (a position I can understand), but the fact is Luke is stating the obvious.
According to the Party rules anyone who openly supports another candidate who is standing against the Labour candidate faces expulsion. That is my understanding anyway and it is fair enough if you are a Labour Party member and to be honest I'd expect the same of the Conservatives and Lib Dems taking a similar attitude.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Titanic Centenary: An Alternate View

Earlier Paul posted about how he felt the centenary cruise that is following the route of the Titanic and will be over the wreck  100 years on from the time it sank is in poor taste.  I'd like to offer an alternative view.

Yes there is a cruise, but part of that cruise itinerary is lectures about the Titanic, its construction, voyage, passenger stories and legacy. The people who have paid for this cruise, yes even those who are dressed up in Edwardian costumes, are looking forward to this element of the cruise as much as anything else. They truly are Titanoraks. There is also the sense that the only way to mark 100 years from what though not the worst maritime disaster for a single vessel by lose of life is certainly the most well known is to have an act of remembrance at the site. Now forgive me for pointing out the obvious but the only way to do that is by ship.

The fact that the voyage is being followed does lead us on to the legacy of the Titanic, something that I am pleased to see is being covered in the new bulletins as much as the special programmes around the event.

There is the Safety of Life at Sea SOLAS convention that came into being in 1914. This learnt a number of valuable lessons from Titanic.

1. There has to be a lifeboat spot for every passenger that is carried. Because first class promenade deck views should not take precedence over the sanctity of life.

2. Bulkheads on ships have to go the whole way up to the deck, not just to above the water level as was the case with Titanic. Meaning that flooding sections could be sealed off if needed and water couldn't pour off into other sections.

3. The one I feel is a great honour to Marconi Telegrapher Jack Phillipps, who stayed at his post tapping away until he was probably engulfed in water. Radios are to be available and manned permanently so that emergency signals can be received and acted on. Some the ships with this equipment near Titanic had gone off duty for the evening as the device was mainly seen as a novelty for sending messages from passengers.

There is also a sense of pride in Belfast that the people here had built something great, the largest liner afloat and the most luxurious. Yeah an English Captain and a Welsh watch officer managed to crash it into some Canadian ice the wrong way. Bit of trivia if she had been turned into the berg Titanic may have stayed afloat had she hit head on.

The other thing that this centenary cruise and all the media around it has made clear is that Titanic was a real disaster not just some James Cameron inspired fiction. Though Jack and Rose are fictional and there are better ways to remember what happened 100 years ago that to listen to Celine Dion go on and on wherever you are.

Titanic: The Anniversary Voyage

Sometimes I think our fascination with history borders on the bad taste and even then sometimes leaps right into it's dubious realms. For example, recently Rachel and I visited the Tower of London and among the sites there, in the room where the Princes in the Tower were believed to be murdered, there was a machine where you could vote on who think was responsible!
Of course we are looking at an event that likely happened in 1483 and time can dull outrage, but recently the recreation of Titanic's only voyage was enough to start people to question whether such things are in good taste!
The fact that descendants of victims were on board does not, as Hadley Freeman of The Guardian asserts, make it any less awful, but surely people ought to question this. This was not a quiet act of remembrance where wreaths were gently tossed off deck at the spot where the ship sunk, instead, if pictures from the news reports are to be believed, we saw some passengers in Edwardian costume and a bit of a jamboree going on. As if time has dulled what we have seen!
Recently we have seen the anniversary of Captain Scott's death and two months ago I was in Cambridge and paid a visit to the Scott Polar Museum where I saw Captain Oates's sleeping bag. I blogged about it at the time and it hit home, as I said then, just how awful Scott's return journey was in ways that a history book could not describe. I do feel we must not forget Titanic as the anniversary looms, but to me a quiet remembrance as opposed to attending a celebratory voyage, or watching  that video of Celine Dion perform My Heart Will Go On with the backdrop of that cold April night, or tucking into a Titanic themed hamper, would be more appropriate

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Trenton Oldfield is no suffragette!

So Trenton Oldfield has compared his swimming into last Saturday's boat race, as a protest against elitism, to the suffragettes.
Well lets look at that comparison shall we!
The suffragettes campaigned for one simple human right. The right for women to vote. Some campaigned peacefully, others more violently, but that did not take away from the fact that there was at heart a breach of human rights involved! One woman, Emily Davidson, even died in her campaign to see women get the vote! What Trenton Oldfield is campaigning for is an end to elitism, a more undefined term, and perhaps misplaced when one considers that whilst Oxford and Cambridge may have much to change for the better, it is open to all and whilst there should be much to change the Boat Race, perhaps (I don't know so can't judge) their selection procedure, there is no one at either Uni, as far as we know, who is debarred from rowing apart from ability! In which case, perhaps Trenton Oldfield ought to reflect on the fact that there may be some who knew and were friends/relatives of suffragettes in this country who are still alive, who can remember the hard fought campaign to give women the right to vote and whether he owes them an apology!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Ken, Boris, and that argument in the lift!

Some may say otherwise but what happened yesterday was a classic example of what turns people off politics, irrespective of the truth. Ken Livingstone is right, the negative campaigning from all sides must stop. If there are genuine elements of wrongdoing and moral turpitude it will be/has been exposed and will be punished sooner or later, but this kind of thing does not attract voters into one camp or the other, it turns them away from the ballot box in droves and democracy suffers as a result

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Proposal and Inviting MP Meme!

Obviously when you get engaged the jokes start coming in thick and fast and so it is that Mars Hill contributor Stephen Glenn pointed out that there may be a tradition for politicos that they invite the MP for the area where the politico couple were in when the question was popped. I mention this and of course Paul Linford suggests it can be a Blog Meme so here it is:

Where were you when the question was asked/you were asked the question?

St Kenelm's Church, Church Enstone

Who is/was the MP for the area?

David Cameron, Conservative MP for Witney and Prime Minister

What role would you give/have given MP at wedding/civil partnership?


Would there be terms and conditions to such an invite?

Yes, Ed Miliband comes along as well

Would the MP be mentioned/have been mentioned in the speeches?

Very likely. The rule would be politeness, but criticism of the govts policies would prevail, albeit in light-hearted banter

Tagging: Living It Out Peculiar Times Mike Ion Luke's blog Skuds' Sister's Brother Dale and Co Paul Linford

An Announcement for Mars Hill Readers

A week and a half ago, I spent the weekend with Rachel in Oxfordshire and to cut a long story short I proposed to her on St Kenelm's Church in Church Enstone and she laughed and said yes. Of course I appreciate this took place in Cameron country, but I did spend part of my childhood living in Enstone, so it meant a great deal to me, as it does to Rachel who loves the area. Not many get to meet the "right person" from what I can see, but I have with Rachel and also means a great deal

Monday, April 02, 2012

Jerry Cans and Using Petrol Crisis for Political Gain?

If Charles Moore's allegations are true, and it's been reported by The Guardian, The People, and other news outlets, then we have a major problem. It can't be proven admittedly (unless, if true, one brave Tory member prominent in an association does his patriotic duty and send a photocopy to the press), but if true then we have a government who whipped up a crisis just to dish a political party and the Trade Unions for electoral gain, causing widespread suffering to many. That is a despicable way to behave and if true, deserves to be fully exposed