Monday 14th August 2006

11:33 pm

From Inner West

Gravatar I've been having a discussion with Simon over on Inner West, to which he has now responded in detail here. As a practical example of my main thesis, I'll concentrate on discovering where we agree, or where we come close to it at least. Liberalism is primarily about liberty I agree, but it's also about equality and fraternity, (or community, if you prefer). Understanding and compromise are, to me,
10:59 pm

Brown's PFI timebomb

Gravatar There was a very good edition of Dispatches on Channel 4 tonight. Public Service, Private Profit highlighted the true cost of Labour's expensive addiction to PFI deals to fund public investment programmes. PFI, or public-private partnerships was always a bit of odd idea. The notion is that to speed up the building of large projects, for example a new hospital, the government can get the private sector to stump up the cash. In return they get a guaranteed income from the government for use of the hospital. Contracts, which are deeply complex, contain various clauses that transfer the risk ...
10:06 pm

How far is too far?

Gravatar I haven’t blogged about the situation in Lebanon, but that isn’t to say it hasn’t been constantly on my mind. The problem is, how do you articulate a position without instantly being jumped on by either side? As with Iraq, for so many people there is no space for nuance. But I will say [...]
10:04 pm

Conspiratorial Pots and Kettles

Gravatar Another incoherent article in the Observer by Nick Cohen again this week. The man truly is hopelessly confused. This week he manages to conflate people who see Zionist conspiracies in everything with people who believe in the conspiracy theory (for that is what it is) that al-Qaeda is a SMERSH-style international organisation with Osama Bin [...]
9:25 pm

"JLC Brings Back The IRA"

Gravatar I have some friends what do comedy. The two who appear in this video got married last week-end. Before they took that respectable step, they recorded this scurrilously funny sketch. If you enjoy good taste, prepare to shed it now... If you have RealPlayer, you should be able to watch it by clicking here. If you don't - or want to show your appreciation for their brilliance, or fulminate
9:11 pm


Gravatar British Muslim leaders are meeting with Ruth Kelly to talk about combating ‘extremism’ in sections of their community. This is the Ruth Kelly who attends Opu Dei meetings, although refuses to confirm or deny that she is a member of this highly conservative Catholic group. The same Opus Dei that provided spiritual comfort to Spanish fascism [...]
8:52 pm


Gravatar Can a Liberal Democrat MP ever scale such heights again? I have just put the television on in time to hear Lembit Öpik become the subject of a question on University Challenge. Jeremy Paxton asked with which astronomical cause is Lembit associated? Naturally, UCL got it right, though they did say meteorites rather than asteroids. Either way, Paxman gave it to them. After this Lembit just has to be the next party leader.
8:09 pm

Day 2043: V for España

Gravatar Monday Another exciting movie has arrived on shiny DVD today: it is called "V for Vendetta" and it stars Elrond as V and as Queen Amidala and EV. This is a movie that I should have sneaked into earlier in the year when it was on in cinemas, but we FORGOT! Fortunately, it is now available for me to let my daddies watch it on my television. It's certainly incredibly BRAVE to make a movie like this in the current time: a complicated movie that asks the audience to decide whether the central character is a SUPER-HERO or a ...
7:57 pm

Craig Murray on the UK terror plot

Gravatar The former ambassador to Uzbekistan (and former Liberator contributor) gives his analysis: Be sceptical. Be very, very sceptical.
7:23 pm

More channels on our box

Gravatar Yesterday after having enough of only being able to watch channels 1 to 4, I went out and bought a Freeview box. I plugged it in, followed the instructions and got BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three/CBBC and BBC News 24. So I went from getting four channels to four channels. So today I phoned for an aerial engineer call R W Parish, he was here for an hour. Installed a new aerial and replaced the coaxial cable as the old cable was pretty much damaged and now we have lots of channels. I got Freeview because I wanted BBC ...
7:10 pm

Condoleeza cash - labour U turn

Gravatar News today is that the government has, at last, says it will meet the policing costs from the Condoleeza Rice visit to Liverpool. They had already agreed to meet the costs for the visit to Blackburn, but said that merseyside police authority (in other words the council tax payers of merseyside) would have to pick up the bill itself. A bit rich given that the visit was at the behest of Jack Straw and not any organisation in Liverpool or Merseyside. Needless to say this attitude stirred up quite a controversy, and we are now told that ...
6:55 pm

Young people have sex: shock, horror

Gravatar The results of this year’s BBC Radio 1 sex survey are here. It’s been reported - with tedious predictability - by the Daily Telegraph here: Casual sex is rife among young Britons, who are putting their health at risk by not using condoms with new partners, a new survey has said today. The survey, BareAll06, found that nearly a third of 16 to 24 year olds lost their virginity before the age of
6:41 pm

airport debate

Gravatar It was neighbourhood committee last week and as part of the consultation we discussed the plans for airport expansion. It actually would have been better at the very beginning of the meeting as we had just about every point of view represented even in that short space of time. We had someone speaking about the benefits of new jobs, someone else raising the impact of aviation on global warming, someone speaking about the effect of a potential new road on the ancient woodland on the edge of speke, someone on noise and pollution, someone on consultation and the ...
6:28 pm

Not Another International Crisis?

Gravatar Full marks to James Graham for pointing out the importance of the International Astronomical Union's 12-day meeting that starts today in Prague. As the BBC explains: Astronomers are gathering in the Czech capital, Prague, hoping to define exactly what counts as a planet. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) hopes to settle the question of Pluto, which was first spotted in 1930. Experts are
5:25 pm

The borough's communities must stand united against terrorism

Gravatar Here is the text of my statement to the press about the terrorist threats. Thanks to their hard work and professionalism, it would appear that British officials have been successful in foiling a significant terrorist attack. Whilst the Metropolitan Police Service is playing a lead role in the ongoing investigations, the arrests made in London have been concentrated to the north of the...
5:03 pm

A reply to Bernie: what's not liberalism?

Gravatar Elsewhere an interesting discussion has begun to emerge relating to what is and is not liberalism. In that thread a comment by Bernie articulated a view which I think seems to be common among some Liberal Democrats – and some of those who consider themselves to be liberal. Below I have broken up Bernie’s reply to allow me to explore some of these themes more fully. ...liberalism can take many forms. But they all involve a willingness to seek to understand, to compromise and to govern by consensus. If not, it's not liberalism. Yes it ...
4:41 pm

Too much booze

Gravatar A BBC Radio One poll reveals that nearly a third of 16 to 24-year-olds lost their virginity below the age of consent, 43% of young people have had at least five sexual partners, with one in five having more than 10, whilst over half - 57% - claim to have had a one-night stand. Some 38% of young people do not always use a condom with a new partner, with being too drunk cited as one of the most common reasons. Alcohol was also strongly linked to a young person's first experience of sex, with 37% saying they had had ...
4:26 pm

Shopping and bucking (the market)

Gravatar An editorial in today’s Financial Times analyses the state of shopping in the UK today: People are not deserting the malls or the high streets but they are using them in a different way. The internet makes it cheap and easy to buy goods. That means consumers can devote more time to choosing what to buy - these days a leisure activity in itself - and they do so by browsing in the mall. Consumers
4:01 pm

Cobdenites and Palmerstonians...The flawed doctrine of Liberal Interventionism

Gravatar Your copy of the FT this morning contained a good article by Samuel Brittan. Sadly not much of is up for public viewing on the FT website (just this). So before I lose my copy, here's the gist of it. Brittan reviews two books: The British Moment paradoxically written in support of the "Scoop" Jackson society (Brittan says that Palmerston would be a better model for the authors of such a book); and What´s wrong with Liberal Interventionism by Roger Howard. The first is dangerous, the second disappointing. Brittan has characterises scepticism for the Liberal Interventionist argument in the figure ...
3:53 pm

On the MSPs Radar

Gravatar Well my latest focus leaflet appears to have caught the attention of Mary Mulligan MSP as she has attacked it in the letter's page of the Linlithgow Gazette. I have a number of issues with what is trying to convey to Local Residents. Firstly she say she was 'unaware of any such proposal' relating to there being no improving of the Burghmuir junction on the M9 for West Bound access. If that is
3:49 pm

Advance warning

Gravatar Good news This week’s edition of Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe is an extended 50-minute long US edition. Bad news As a result, it starts at 10pm and clashes with Time Trumpet on BBC Two. I know in these days of PDRs and the like we’re not supposed to care about such things. “Bah,” I say. Tags: charlie+brooker, time+trumpet
3:20 pm

Hames Whitewash

Gravatar once spoke against Mr Hames in a debate about the presidency of George Bush at the Durham Union. His case and his argumentation were pretty lamentable, rather like his article in todays Times. Let's just get this straight from a military perpective. When a military force attacks, it's objective is to shatter the enemies will, cohesion and abilility to fight by closing with and destroying the enemy. Under some circumstances, an attacking Army might settle for neutralisation rather than destruction of its opponent, but no amount of twisting and turning can avoid the simple fact that Hizb al-Allah remains an ...
3:15 pm

Dear Boris

Gravatar Via John Wilkes comes this (genuine) job advert: Boris Johnson MP (Henley) Salary -To be discussed Details - Wanted Urgent. Office of Boris Johnson is looking for a bright, motivated, highly literate individual to come and work in the House of Commons as a Researcher. Job will involve researching legislation and Bills going through the House, compiling briefs and reports, speech writing,
2:52 pm

Government booze stash

Gravatar According to Don Foster the government has a "hospitality" stash of booze which contains some 35,000 bottles of wine, beer and spirits worth some £647,000! Quite what they need such a large amount of alcohol for I do not know. I always find the local shops, supermarkets and off licenses well stocked with such items. We could have a brilliant party with that lot and so could they always assuming of course that they know how to organise a p*** up in a brewery
2:38 pm

At last, The Guardian has something supportive to say

Gravatar Following the dismally thin coverage last week of the Lib Dem tax plans in The Guardian, at last today the newspaper has something supportive to say. The following leader speaks for itself: “The party makes a compelling case: green taxes reached a peak of 3.6% of GDP in 1999 and have fallen to 2.9% thanks to a freeze on petrol tax. He party wants to reverse the trend, targeting air travel by
2:24 pm

Half a meme: the rock´n´roll hall of shame...

Gravatar There is the beginning of a meme are the Q Magazine list of records you should not like but do. Jonathan Calder managed to list his own ten (and included a couple of songs I quite like and wouldn´t worry about and one - The Logical Song - that ought to be specifically outlawed under the Geneva Convention). I listen to a wide range of music, and couldn´t initially think of any records I liked and was ashamed of. But a long walk in the country between showers solved that The top three - did he really sing ...
1:25 pm

Time to control taxation

Gravatar A few weeks ago, the Lib Dems put forward some outline ideas on taxation that involve cutting the headline rates of income tax. I welcomed those proposals then. Last week, more detailed proposals were put forward, which continue the theme. Indeed the substantive proposals are extremely well thought out. To my mind there is not much doubt that the Labour taxation plans have got to the point of pain. The salami tactics that they have used, while less eye catching than a straight forward increase in tax rates, have substantially boosted government revenues. Unfortunately the other side of the equation- ...
12:37 pm

Walking in a discourteous manner

Gravatar When I first read the Western Mail headline 'Plaid leader's 'discourteous' walk' I automatically thought of the famous Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks. It turns out however that the story is much more mundane. Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones has been ticked off by National Assembly Presiding Officer Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas after failing to inform local AMs that he was walking through their constituencies in his recent 'Wales-wide walk'. The original complaint came from Leighton Andrews who asked whether there is some kind of protocol regarding visits to constituencies by AMs who have no representational ...
12:17 pm

Being Discussed on Our Forums

Gravatar We’ve had a bit of a change to the forum following some feedback and it’s now full width, loosing the right and left hand menus. Topics currently being discussed include: ‘Guest’ asks if the blog has drawn people away from the forum The discussion over whether a TV ad is racist continues Dave explains why he thinks the council [...]
11:55 am

Cameron poll slip

Gravatar According to a poll of Conservative members on Conservativehome, Cameron's popularity has been slipping. Amongst the 1700 Conservative members polled, he has slipped to plus 49%, down from plus 59% in July. It should be remembered that these are Conservative members and are therefore far more likely to be positive about the party leadership. It is still a healthy plus percentage but the point is it is moving downwards. This reflects the Yougov poll on 21st July that saw Cameron's ratings amongst the electorate generally slip from plus 28 to plus 12 percent. This is not the ...
11:48 am

It's Not Rocket Science ...

Gravatar The Guardian reports today that the CBI is criticising the Government and the Education Sector for the falling numbers of science graduates from British Universities. Perhaps the CBI ought to examine the plank in its own eye. Science graduates quite clearly are not stupid; nor are teenagers picking GCSE and A-Level subjects. They can "do the math" well enough to work out that a poorly paid career in science or engineering is a less attractive option than one in the City or a profession that will earn them many times more. And I speak from experience on ...
11:43 am

The Afghan Kitchen

Gravatar Had dinner at a place called the Afghan Kitchen in Islington on Friday night. My initial feeling on entering its glaringly lit environs was one of scepticism, over whether our party of five ( what the hell is Party of Five? ) could be seated in such a small place. My second was one of mild disappointment at the standard Islington bright and trendy decor, as I had hoped it might be more in the dingy Middle-Eastern vein of places like Kaslik, the excellent Lebanese place on Greek Street (for the record, I do realise that Afghanistan isn’t in the ...
11:22 am

By the People, To the Government

Gravatar It is a fact that there exists within the UK a small number of young Muslim men who have become radicalised enough to commit acts of extreme violence. It is also a fact that in their own minds they justify these acts, either planned or actual, on the basis of the violence they see [...]
10:46 am

Cameron in new "product placement" row

Gravatar The Financial Times has been digging into Cameron´s endorsement of several blue chip companies. The common link? they all seem to be clients of his PR Guru Steve Hilton´s company Good Business. (In March the Sunday Times reported that the conservatives were paying Good Business twenty-three thousand pounds/month for the services of Hilton). According to the FT, not only has Cameron been endorsing these companies, he has been doing so in terms very similar to those of his spinner in chief. There are striking similarities between some of Mr Cameron's observations and those made by his adviser in his previous ...
10:45 am

The Boy who cried Wolf

Gravatar As I am caught up in yet another "critical security alert", I can not help wondering about the way that this has been reported. All these reporters are happy to quote unnamed "security sources". Are these the same sources whose judgment on Iraq we have so recently learned to question? If the majority of those who were arrested last week are released as they were after the Forest Gate Police raid, I for one will be extremely critical about the way that this is being handled. John Reid has been quick to take the credit for the work of the ...
10:32 am

Written Parliamentary Answers: from 25th July 2006

Gravatar Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what estimate has been made of the number of local NHS organisations which will bulk subscribe to the Drugs and Therapeutic Bulletin following the ending of the NHS-wide subscription; (2) what guidance she plans to issue to NHS managers responsible for deciding whether to purchase a bulk subscription to the Drugs and
10:18 am

The Trouble With ‘Profiling’

Gravatar The Today Programme this morning broadcast someone criticising airport security for carrying out checks on passengers like ‘grannies’, who ‘obviously’ aren’t terrorists, and called for passenger (racial) profiling instead. It was in my blearier part of the morning, so I can’t be certain who came up with this, though I think it was a representative of one of the airlines rather than the Daily Mail direct. Remember that several of the suspects arrested in the latest alleged terror plot are white, middle-class men described as ‘sons of the stockbroker belt’; might they not have been picked deliberately to beat ‘profiling’? ...
10:11 am

Will the ceasefire hold?

Gravatar The UN-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah has begun, the real question is how long will it last. Israel were still launching air strikes until just 15 minutes before the ceasefire begun.
9:59 am

Margins of Error

Gravatar Those of us who frequent Mike Smithson´s excellent politicalbetting site can hardly avoid getting involved in discussion about the vailidity or otherwise of opinion polls. Peter Preston has a good article on this on Comment is Free. His starting point is a Harris disclaimer: "All surveys are subject to several sources of error. These include: sampling error (because only a sample of a population is interviewed); measurement error due to question wording and/or question order, deliberately or unintentionally inaccurate responses, non-response (including refusals), interviewer effects (when live interviewers are used) and weighting. "With one exception (sampling error) the magnitude of ...
8:48 am

A small cheer before 9 am

Gravatar It has just dropped through my front door. A statement to bring a smile to my face and a feeling of hope of being nearly there. I have just received a statement telling me one of my student loans have been paid off. Now I have to get my other one paid off. I know I am lucky I am in a position to pay a bit extra but we must do more to campaign against student debt. After all many of these students
1:19 am

Planet X

Gravatar Spare a thought for the poor astrology community who, either way, will have their work cut out coping with the decision by the International Astronomical Union today. Either Pluto gets to remain a planet, and thus so will Xena and up to 50 other bodies circling the Sun, or it gets struck off the [...]
12:39 am

Judge Dredd: Origins

Gravatar 2000AD is beginning a 6 month countdown to its 30th anniversary with a new Judge Dredd story which for the first time explores the origins of the Judge System, Mega City One and Old Stoney Face himself. Probably the most hyped Dredd strip since Necropolis, and deservedly so due to its subject matter and being written [...]

Previous days:

Sunday 13th August 2006, Saturday 12th August 2006, Friday 11th August 2006, Thursday 10th August 2006, Wednesday 9th August 2006, Tuesday 8th August 2006