Thursday, June 28, 2012

Interview With LabourList Editor, Mark Ferguson

Mark Ferguson is the Editor of LabourList, the Oppositions main answer to Conservative Home, and has been at the helm for just about the entire time Labour have been in opposition since May 2010. He says he got job after a call from his predecessor, Alex Smith. "I got to know Alex Smith (previous LabourList editor) during the 2010 elections when he was a council candidate and I was the local party organiser.", says Mark "Alex asked me at the general election count if I wanted to work for LabourList, but I was so delirious after 4 days without sleep I wasn't sure if he was serious or not!

Thankfully it turns out he was..."

It has been an interesting time for Mark, especially given the twists and turns Labour have gone through over the past two years, but he is, as he puts it, "cautiously optimistic": "We're in a better position than I thought we'd be in at this stage, and far better than we were just a year ago. However it's important not to get complacent - much of Labour's polling boost is due to  Osborne's economic failings. We don't have much of a policy agenda yet - if we have a big lead a year before the election (by which time we will have a policy agenda), that will be worth getting excited about"

One cause for cautious optimism is how the Conservatives under Cameron and Osborne are faring, he says they "...have put such great emphasis on their handling of the economy that their double-dip recession (coupled with a tax cut for Britain's richest) confirmed to the public that they are out of touch." and that " I do think Cameron risks being a short term PM, because he faces a triple threat. The Tory right, a resurgent Labour Party and the difficulty the Tories have in gaining extra votes and seats, especially in Scotland, Wales and the North. It's hard to see where the Tories make gains in those areas, where they need to in 2015. And when the Tory right realise a second coalition is a serious possibility they may move against Cameron.", but caution is Mark's watchword, as he puts it "Never. Underestimate. The Tories. We're still the underdogs for the next election." Possibly like me, the memories of 1992 run like a scar in the background of his political psyche

Then of course there is the Leveson Inquiry, which Mark feels could go both wyas, but may well be a more major issue than it is now "It feels like it has fizzled out. But I wouldn't be daft enough to suggest that's likely to continue. Some people thought it had fizzled out before 2011. They were wrong. My concern is that Leveson won't receive the cross party support or his recommendations and media ownership will become a full blown party political football." He then adds "And then there's the possibility that computer hacking could blow up as a major issue too, which shouldn't be overlooked."

Overall Mark's message seems to be the same as the Labour leadership, which is steady as she goes, enjoy the moment, but don't get complacent about the Conservatives for a moment!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chloe Smith: The Human Sheld

My view on this piece by Alastair Campbell are clear. When did Osborne last appear on Newsnight, Question Time, any major News Channel, or indeed be interviewed for anything other than the safe confines of the Andrew Marr Show where he is guaranteed a safe reception?
Putting fodder between oneself and big guns is not bravery or political genius, it is cowardice and people are not stupid and they can see that!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Handshake that will cross the divide

On the roundabout at the western end of the upper deck of Derry/Londonderry's Craigavon Bridge there is a statue. It is called Hands Across the Divide and is two people reaching out hands outstretched reaching and from most angles looking as though they are touching until they are side on when you see there is still a little way to go.

The fact that Martin McGuinness who was once an senior IRA man in Derry is going to be the first senior Sinn Féin politician to shake hands with the Queen this week therefore has added significance. It may not be a jaw dropping a moment as when Martin first sat down with Ian Paisley to form an administration but it is another significant step along the way to reconciliation and peace.

McGuinness is saying that his shaking of hands is symbolic of him shaking hands with every unionist in Northern Ireland and that he will still be as strongly a republican the day after shaking her hand as he is before. It will also take place at a cooperation North

But whatever he thinks the symbolism is there is no doubt that this is yet another mark of respecting others' culture which has been an ongoing journey over recent years.

But unlike the statue in Derry those two hands will close that gap and will interlock for a brief moment in history. Though brief another moment of great importance as the people of Northern Ireland look for a shared future.

Cameron's Proposed Welfare Cuts

It may be popular with some of the general public, but how the government may well differentiate in practice between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor remains to be seen. The fact this is mentioned now strikes me as a crude pre election gimmick and maybe the government should try and get us out of the mess we are currently in rather than slaying future enemies

Monday, June 25, 2012

Is Leveson Being Threatened?

What I find chilling about the recent criticisms actually involves what Michael Gove said, not that I agree with him, which I don't. What is going on here is an investigation into the conduct of the press, and whilst freedom of the press is essential, the freedoms of the individual is also important and for too long we have seen less genuine investigative journalism of the Woodward and Bernstein variety on our front pages than there are investigations into the private lives of football stars, models, actors, etc.. I think we are in for some storms ahead and those of us who have concerns over abuses in the media should speak out more loudly and practice what we preach!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jimmy Carr and Tax

I am in a no. of minds about this! For a start it is, whilst legal morally wrong, but at least tax avoidance in general is now being seen as a sin, especially with the current global economic crisis and the realisation that tax avoidance has a link with economic downturn.
A pity then that if Cameron was so quick to criticise Jimmy Carr he was not so quick to criticise Take That I hope it is not because Gary Barlow has donated to Conservatives in 2010, I also hope the PM has got his own house in order, the same goes for George Osborne, because there are some murmurings online about their tax affairs, or at least their immediate families' and if anything untoward comes out there then he really is politically up the creek without a paddle

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I am in two minds about this. For a start I think Twitter is adequate enough and there are hashtag links which help keep things on topic, plus the name seems egotistical. However I appreciate Twitter is not for everyone and therefore Menshn maybe okay for some people. Not perhaps for me and many others, but worth a look and a possible gap in the social media market filled. In any case for those Mars Hill readers who want to be involved, here it is!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RIP Victor Spinetti

A bit shocked to read this and he will be much missed. An outstanding character actor who appeared in a variety of stage, television, and film work as well as the Beatles films he appeared in! I hope he will be remembered as such

Friday, June 15, 2012

Progress Is Not Militant!

I was rather shocked and surprised to read this, as it strikes me as a clumsy smear that is spiteful, nasty, counterproductive and has no bearing on reality. As someone who has been to at least one Progress meeting and has friends and acquaintances involved with Progress I also find it a little bit insulting. If Paul Kenny and the GMB can provide evidence that Progress has been secretive, entryist, committed acts of intimidation, arranged block votes and rigged votes, advocated law breaking, and any other nefarious activities committed by Militant they may have a point. Otherwise they should publicly apologise!

Cameron at Leveson

A no of people comment on the "We're all in this together!" text, but what surprises me is the no of times David Cameron seems to have forgotten vital meetings and discussions. Some I can understand, but others not and what this says overall about the PM is disturbing and I fear he may well have put himself into a corner!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Interview with Lord Owen of Plymouth

On Saturday I interviewed by phone, Lord Owen; the former Foreign Secretary and SDP Leader, with regard to his latest book, where he argues for a two-tier Europe

PAUL BURGIN: Given the current Eurozone crisis which you did allude to. If the Eurozone to collapse within the next year or so, what scenario do you envisage happening as an immediate result of that and can you see anything that the European Union would try and put in it's place?

LORD OWEN: I don't think personally that the Eurozone will collapse. I think Germany will try and keep the Deutchmark and the Euro and insist that the Euro stays within a small no of countries so as to keep the economy growing, beyond that I'd rather not speculate on a situation that I honestly don't think will exist. More realistically there is the possibility that the Eurozone reduces it's numbers and if that happens a lot depends on how they manage it. For example were Greece to find it impossible to stay within the present austerity regime, then one way is that you cut the balloons and they devalue and I think the fallout of that would be considerable for every European country, including those outside the Eurozone. The better alternative is to arrange a timetable for Greece to readjust, with financial help and assistance, which really is a trivial amount in order to have, like, a smooth exit from the Eurozone rather than a chaotic exit from the Eurozone with consequential impact on European banks and the form of repercussion which none of us can anticipate the danger out there. Nobody anticipated what happened when Lehman collapsed, the contagion was considerable and far worse than anyone anticipated. So I am in favour of a managed Eurozone adjustment, and personally I think that should be part of an overall restructure of Europe itself where you'll provide a home for any country that comes out of the Eurozone and that home, in my view, should be the European Single Market.

PAUL BURGIN: What led you to the point you are now, in so far as, in 1972 you resigned from the Labour front bench, one of seven who did, and over the EEC issue. When did you decide that needed to be a two-tier Europe state, when did you decide it was becoming too federalistic, as I suppose the way it is at the moment?

LORD OWEN: Well my opposition to federalism goes back to 1962, when I took very much the same view, as a young man I was strongly influenced by Hugh Gaitskell, and he said it's fine to go into the Common Market if that's all! If it was a Common Market that pursued federalism there would come a moment where the UK would begin to look more and more like Texas or California within the United States of America. Now that position in my view, started to become a reality in the early part of 2002/2003, when lack of separation, was mooted, and then came the constitutional convention if you will remember by Giscard D'Estiang. Now we were saved from this constitution by rejection of it by the French people and the Dutch. Britain was promised a Referendum by Tony Blair, never had that referendum, and then we were eased into the Lisborn Treaty, which went far too far on part of the changes envisaged in the constitutional treaty and again in Britain without any form of Referendum

PAUL BURGIN: With regards to our current relationship with the US, which you referred to earlier, how do you see, what positives and negatives do you see in our current relationship with the US in conjunction with our current relationship within Europe?

LORD OWEN: Well I think we are being used by the United States, particularly President Obama who is obviously worried. The repercussions of the Eurozone crisis are beginning to impact on the US and it's hurting him in the run-up to his Presidential election, and I think Cameron has been conveying messages from the United States in part as a result of the G7 meeting which was held at Camp David outside Washington a few weeks ago. I think Britain is, quite rightly, insisting the Eurozone to make decisions, make and prepare to go deeper and wider on the implications, not just on call or waiting for something to turn up. The danger of this approach is that it's almost exclusively telling the Eurozone how to manage itself and we are not even a member of the Eurozone, I think they are getting a bit fed up with this.The last thing is Britain is not ruling it out, we are not making clear to the Europeans that if you go down this road of very much greater integration in order to make the Eurozone succeed, if you're ready to go because we are ready not to be obstructed, and we need to be facilitated, then you must realise that the real difference with the Europe with the one that we joined in 1973 then it is a very different action with the Europe of the Lisborn Treaty only a few years ago and that we must protect our interests and that means giving attention to the single market which we don't think is very good for us, good for the European Movement and could be bad for Europe as a whole, particularly when you start now to look at Turkey!

PAUL BURGIN: With regards.. You mentioned a proposal for a two question referendum. Is there any support for this that you have seen on the ground, can you see such a referendum taking place within the next five years?

LORD OWEN: Yes I can. Plus we will not be part of a single currency I don't think ever, certainly not in our time and I think that we should try and remain a member of the European Single Market, so I am not in favour of a Yes/No referendum where we'd want to stay in the present situation or would have to get out, but I am actually in favour that we should have both (questions) get out and I want to have a different choice given and that seems to me the biggest responsibility of the coalition government and I think they are (on this), very very explicit. But there is the consensus, I think, of the Conservatives in favour and even some Liberal Democrats. We've got to change the structure of the European Union, it is changing anyhow with what is happening in the Eurozone.
PAUL BURGIN: Lord Owen, thankyou very much for your time

Monday, June 11, 2012

Osborne at Leveson

He gave a good defence in part, but I do wonder about the fastness and losness of the language used. Some important questions to ask Osborne include:

1) Did he actually say of Coulson, "He stiched me up like a kipper, let's hire him!"

2) Does he still regard Andy Coulson as a friend?

3) Other than News International, did meetings with any one media group take up to a third of his meeting with media officials in general, and if not why not?

4) How does he clarify what constitutes a meeting with News International executives and what doesn't and with those non meetings, is anything concerning media ownership and government policy casually discussed and to what level?

Am sure there are more, but I have found that I still find Osborne's general political attitude a disgrace and that we need less people like him in British politics if what I have heard of today's reports (I only saw a little of it live) is true?

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Interviewing Lord Owen

This morning I interviewed Lord Owen with regards to his latest book on Europe. I will upload the interview in a couple of days, where he speaks of a Common Market Europe alongside the Eurozone and that he does not see the Eurozone collapsing

Friday, June 08, 2012

Osborne to be at Leveson Inquiry

About time. I think it is important given Osborne's past relationship with News International, not least his alleged advocating of Andy Coulson, but also given the nature of the relationship of the media with politicians in the past it is right for Gordon Brown to be called, and indeed the current Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg and the Labour leader, Ed Miliband. It's also good for Sir John Major to be called, no doubt to give an account of his relationship with the media in the 1990s.
Given the seriousness of the situation I think what we will eventually need to see is a wide scale reform of the media and I think the Leveson Inquiry needs to reflect that possibility

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Exercise Can Help With Depression. But..

I do find this a bit disturbing and it will be awful for those with depression to read and should be more balanced out (although the interview with a man who has had depression, which is on the same page, is worth a listen), but in my experience (I developed an anxiety disorder last year), it has, apart from the odd occasion, helped a great deal but exercise should not be seen as a cure in itself but as a significant part of a cure. Regular 7 1/2 to 8 hours sleep, taking up an interest in a hobby, regular contact with people and not spending too much time alone, all play their part

Ed Miliband on Britishness!

I agree with Ed Miliband here and if the past weekend has anything to go by we are a nation that values our institutions.
A lot of our national problems seem to stem from two factors. Lack of cohesive identity and being unable to listen to working class concerns. As Billy Bragg has shown, patriotism is not the preserve, and should not be the preserve, of the Right!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Does No 10 Need It's Own Lawyer

I  think not, as there is the Attorney General and a no of advisers with legal experience available. But doesn't it say something given that some of the problems the Prime Minister has faced in this regard over the past two years; Andy Coulson, Jeremy Hunt, etc.. are down to his own lack of judgement and basic common decency!

Monday, June 04, 2012

God Save the Queen

As I am working throughout the Bank Holiday weekend there will be little I will be doing to celebrate, but the level of public support shows how much HM the Queen is appreciated and recognition for the work she has done over the past sixty years. With respect, I suggest that instead of being po faced and smug, some Republicans may want to stop and consider that as well as consider that we don't live in a dictatorship, but a Parliamentary Democracy.