Thursday 28th September 2006

11:48 pm

extremist bullies

Gravatar In an article in the Independent titled: "We won't bow to extremist bullies, says Reid"John Reid is quoted as saying: "We will go wherever we please, we will discuss what we like and we will never be brow beaten by bullies. That's what it means to be British." And I bet he doesn't see the irony.

11:41 pm

Liveblogging Question Time

Gravatar Okay, so I've not tried it before (and I may never again) but check back here at 10:40 pm, and I'll be commenting on BBC1's Question Time as it happens. Think of it as a bit like the Grauniad's Over-By-Over cricket commentary... but without the cricket. Or the jokes. According to the online Radio Times (pronounced: Raddy-Ot-Immys) the panel includes: Jack Straw MP, Leader of the House of Commons
11:28 pm

Actually we've just wiped the smile off the BNP's face

Gravatar The BNP were there in force at the Dunston and Teams by-election count in Gateshead Civic Centre to witness their great victory. They even had a photographer. In the event, they put the camera away. Labour held on with the same share of the vote as in May - 54 percent. That was a record low. And we kept our 2nd position, improving by 4 percent. The Conservative came 4th, a drop of 3 percent,So my
10:52 pm


Gravatar Stephen Tall is liveblogging Question Time, but my attention is wandering from the programme. Earlier in the evening, we were watching That Mitchell and Webb Look, in which ‘an MP’ was earnestly advocating stern new laws to control Mildly Socially Uncomfortable Situations such as asking in a pub (say) if a chair is taken. I immediately thought of one of ours, so while Stephen isn’t pleased Jenny Tonge is on Question Time I’m quite relieved it isn’t Sandra Gidley, or I’d not have been able to keep a straight face should she be given the option to well-meaningly ban something. ...
10:46 pm

Muswell Hill Library

Gravatar My latest column (for a local magazine) is about Muswell Hill Library. Do let me know what you think of the council plans!
10:40 pm

High tech - under the bridge

Gravatar Neighbourhood committee tonight and a showing of the computer generated 3d view of what Garston "under the bridge" will look like when the new houses are built. it starts with a view of the area now - you can zoom down streets or take off and look down from above the rooftops. Its a much better way to understand what will happen than looking at maps or plans. It makes all the plans seem so much more real. And things are moving now with the derelict buildings opposite the church being knocked down(hooray) and plans to ...
10:38 pm

Vaguely Exciting

Gravatar As I was browsing YouTube this evening how excited was I to find that Nouvelle Vague’s record company had posted up this video of the first track on their recent album. Love the album, entranced by the video, it’s a must have.
10:29 pm

Musings From The Window Of A Virgin Train

Gravatar Sitting on a train between Macclesfield and Stoke-on-Trent heading home to see the parents inevitably turns my thoughts to transport policy. My relationship with the railways is an unusual one; my father has worked for BR/Railtrack/Network Rail pretty much since I was born, and as a result I have enjoyed free rail travel throughout the United Kingdom. That freedom allows you to do things no sane
10:24 pm

Bremner, Bird and Fortune on the skids

Gravatar Last night I took part in an improvised comedy workshop in Leicester. It was great fun and reminded me of the television show Whose Line is it Anyway? from the 1980s. When it started it was exciting and new - the sort of show you stayed in to see. After a while you stopped doing that, but you certainly watched it if it was on. Then it drifted out of your consciousness until, if you happened to catch it, you were amazed that it was still on. A lot of shows go through this sort of cycle. Have I Got ...
10:15 pm

Should he stay or should he go?

Gravatar The BBC report that John Marek has resigned as Chair of the Assembly's House Committee....or has he? Is it a case of toys out of the pram or an attempted putsch? Like John Marek I was there but neither of us are allowed to comment. It's the rules don't yer know. So much for open government.
10:14 pm

Pigeon Removal Policy

Gravatar The Tale of the Holyrood Pigeon is just pure class. A pigeon has made its nest on the Holyrood Parliament. Don't worry, though. The situation is clearly under control. Someone has actually gone to the bother of writing a Pigeon Removal Policy for the building. For the tidy sum of £250, someone will come and remove it to a wildlife sanctuary. It's a flying rat, for goodness sake. Margo MacDonald
10:10 pm

At the count

Gravatar I am waiting outside the count of the Dunston and Teams by-election. It will start shortly. I have no indications how it is going but my fear, as I indicated in my blog entry last night, is that the BNP may come out of this smiling even though I doubt they will win. --- Sent via BlackBerry
10:06 pm

Brighton blogging article in place

Gravatar I have now posted my article on bloggers at the Brighton Conference. The print version will appear in tomorrow's Liberal Democrat News. It was originally going to be 600 words, but such was the cornucopia of exciting copy this week that I was cut down to 400. So apologies to all the people I did not have room to quote.
9:56 pm

Imitating Westminster

Gravatar Journalists are slowly working their way through Mike Russell's new book. In The Scotsman: Murdo Fraser, the Tories' deputy leader, said: "We welcome Mike Russell's conversion to progressive Conservative thinking and his adoption of Tory policy on areas concerning economic and public-finance matters."Full marks to Mr Fraser for trying so hard; it must be difficult to concentrate when your own
9:43 pm

Why Do I Bother Campaigning?

Gravatar Some days you wonder why you bother campaigning. Going out in all weathers, sometimes feeling guilty putting your family second but keeping up a cheerful demeanor even though you end up eating dinner after midnight and sometimes have sat up writing Focus until the very early hours of the morning despite having to go to work the next day. Perhaps fighting through colds and keeping going because you have to get that Liberal Democrat message through to try to build a better society. It can be very disappointing when some people, for reasons best known to themselves, and ...
9:41 pm

London-wide view

Gravatar Just back from a meeting of Lib Dem GLA members and reps from Council groups & Lib Dem associations across London. Good to hear the variety of themes and link common problems which are being dealt with, such as problems with TfL cleaning up after works and their lack of consultation. More worrying was the trend from the Mayor to target Lib Dem areas for activity and attacks - you would be more...
9:30 pm

The latest

Gravatar …from his Lordship, always an entertaining read, with full details of the new budget airline Air Lembit, and a rather exciting Time Team discovery. Lord Bonker’s Archives are also available. Would anyone like to lend me a hand on the Wikipedia entries for Lord Bonkers and Jonathan Calder?
9:24 pm

Red Waltz goes on

Gravatar Tommy Sheridan had been given 7 days to pay the £2203 rent due for a Glasgow SSP office by a crack legal team representing his former Collegues in Permanent Revolution. The stay of execution ends today. Will he pay? Will he feck. Instead he has issued what I believe is known as a counter-writ for £57,698: Mr Sheridan's solicitor told the SSP that if it did not comply "an action of payment will
8:49 pm

Flame wars - an update...

Gravatar Well, having just had a courteous exchange with Leah Darbyshire, I can't help feeling that the civilised option can work if we 'just give peace a chance'.
8:10 pm

Lord Bonkers' new diary

Gravatar His lordship's contribution to Liberator 313. Many readers will have collected their copy from our stall at Brighton. It will be with other subscribers shortly. You can find an archive of earlier diaries on the old boy's website. Monday Finding myself staying overnight in the Principality, I go to Welshpool International Airport to catch the morning flight back to Rutland. My curiosity is aroused when I see the name "Air Lembit" on the side of the Government Surplus Sopwith Camel and, sure enough, I find a familiar figure at the controls when I board. As we weave in and ...
7:22 pm

Markinch morning, recycling prize draw and "No HGVs sign"

Gravatar Early start today in order to help my North-East & Central Fife LibDem colleagues on polling day at a council by-election in Markinch. Lovely morning! Back mid-morning to Dundee in time to draw the winning entry from the recent City Centre Recycling competition - see photo of Graeme Dailly from Waste Management and myself doing the draw at the City Chambers! I'll not name the lucky winner of the £50 Overgate shopping voucher as the winner may choose to tick the "no publicity box" if you catch my drift, but assuming the winner is agreeable, we're aiming to ...
6:42 pm

Doctor Who lost without his tardis

Gravatar I was ready for a disappointment when I sat down to watch Who do you think you are? featuring David Tennant last night on BBC1. "Scotsman finds he is descended from Scots and a bit of Irish" didn't seem to promise a rip-roaring programme. However, the whole thing was unexpectedly fascinating. It was fascinating to hear that David Tennant is actually David MacDonald and chose his surname, as a
6:35 pm

What are daddy long-legs for?

Gravatar A few days ago, I asked 'what are daddy long-legs for?' As ever, the BBC is on the case, and they have found some terribly clever boffin to provide the answer: They are an important source of food for creatures that eat insects, including birds and spiders, says ecology professor Guy Poppy, from the University of Southampton. "Insect eaters will be feasting on all the daddy longlegs at this
5:37 pm

Have your say on health…

Gravatar The new consultation site for Liberal Democrat health policy is now up, joining the previous ones on climate change, crime, Trident and poverty. The Taking Power consultation is also still going strong. Unconstrained by the wonders of the party’s formal consultation process, it’s had videos, podcasts, daily polls and all kinds of other wonders to [...]
5:28 pm

Wood and Westley's Laws

Gravatar I occasionally read the Mises Institute blog (uh-oh, does that mean I'm part of the lunatic economic liberal fringe? ;) ). A particularly interesting article explains Wood's Law and introduces Westley's Law, both of which are intereting, and can be applied to some in the LibDems- Wood's Law is: Whenever the private sector introduces an innovation that makes the poor better off, someone will —
5:11 pm

Dear David Miliband, the plural of month is months

Gravatar Dear David Milliband, I think you seem like a pretty nice guy. You are always good humoured and reasonable. I actually tend to warm to what you say. But then, for some reason, you have chance to mention the word "months". But you don't say the word "months", the plural of month. Instead you say "month" as if it were a plural. Granted, "month" can be plural in the compound attributive form (i.e., "an eighteen-month backlog of asylum applications"), but to the best of my knowledge in other circumstances the plural of month is months. The problem is that your ...
4:53 pm

Lib Dem Climate change broadcast

Gravatar The Lib Dem climate change broadcast is on google video. It is one of the best party political braodcasts we have done. Worth watching again.
3:21 pm

Things worse under labour?

Gravatar Interesting story about John Cruddas MP on the BBC website. He's apparently one of the challengers for the deputy leadership. He told a fringe meeting that Tony Blair was living in a "parallel universe" and that he can't look his constituents in the face and tell them things are getting better. Now there probably are specific issues in Dagenham but this is an interesting insight into how MPs on the front line don't buy their own government's arguments any more.
2:52 pm

Get Out!

Gravatar Thanks to those lovely guys at MySociety (well, I would say that, but in fact I've known and admired their work for several years) who listed an idea of mine as one of the four runners-up in their call for new proposals. They have just announced the winner of the competition to find a new project - it's for a compendium of Freedom of Information requests and results. I think this is an...
2:20 pm

Government policy part of the problem not the solution

Gravatar It is not surprising that the Government were so upset by the linked BBC report of a British Intelligence officer saying that the UK action in Iraq causes terrorism. It was said before the Invasion that this would happen. It is not that the UK should give in to terrorism. It is, however, that certain types of actions cause massive resentment that can result in terrorism. When looked at
2:01 pm

the new school: good news, in part

Gravatar It's my 50th birthday today, so please forgive me if I am preoccupied with things other than Lewisham Council business at this very moment. The big news of the week is that yesterday the Mayor of Lewisham agreed to investigate two additiona sites for a new school in the north of Lewisham, and to reach a final decision on 18th October. The Ladywell Leisure Centre site is still being considered, but at least there's now a reasonable chance of survival. One option is Lewisham Bridge Primary school that could expand to accommodate a secondary school. The other ...
2:01 pm

Bestmates campaign to cut student crime

Gravatar 'PLAY Together - Stay Together'. That's the message behind a joint university and police campaign to cut student crime, launched this week. Thousands of students are set to start university and college this week across the region, many of whom are away from home for the first time. West Midlands Police have been working with all the universities and higher education colleges across the region to
1:54 pm

A criminal age of responsibility

Gravatar The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies wants the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14. A similar proposal to raise it to 12 was passed into LibDem policy at a conference a couple of years ago. (Needless to say, this was “slammed” by tough-as-old-boots Labour MPs.) I’m not sure where I [...]
1:36 pm

Does Labour Know What They Want?

Gravatar Bernie Hughes highlighted an article in yesterday's Herald which states that the MPs Ian Davidson, Jimmy Hood and John McFall amongst them who want restrictions on new migrant worked from Bulgaria and Romania when these state are welcomed into the EU next January. They are fearful of the impact a second wave of migrants could have on Scottish job markets, wages and services. However, this is in
1:31 pm

Sticky Question

Gravatar (Via Guido Fawkes)
1:14 pm

Local campaigning down the pub

Gravatar Okay, Okay, I am not always the first to the barricades for a "local" campaign, nor to fight against food miles. David Boyle and the New Economics Foundation do not always represent my personal strand in liberalism. But the Publican is reporting a campaign that gets my full support. No-one will need reminding of the gradual decline of the high street and local services - including pubs. But what you may not know is that pressure is growing for a new slab of legislation which could help reverse the trend. And it’s a campaign which needs your help. ...
1:14 pm

Land Tax 97 years on

Gravatar Well done to Peter, posting on Liberal Review for looking out a piece in the Guardian from today, 97 years ago, on Lloyd-George's proposed land tax: Land tax ninety-seven years on The Lords and Tories fear a land tax Tuesday September 28, 1909The Guardian That the Lords will reject the Budget - or postpone it, which is the same thing - till after a general election, the spokesmen of the Opposition seem now agreed. No one with eyes and a memory really doubts why they will; what they dislike, as they started by showing quite simply, are the ...
11:47 am

BBC1 meets Sky One

Gravatar Goodbye tired dancing people, hello…errr… what? No Tags
11:18 am

The Evil twin

Gravatar I do not have very much time for the current Polish government. The current Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski lives with his mother and a cat. Naturally he is fierce in his denunciation of homosexuality. His identical twin, Lech, has managed to escape the apron strings- in order to become President of the Republic. The twins are both backward looking backwoodsmen. Obsessive about who did what to whom during the Communist era, they have not had very much to say about the future. Even Lech Walesa regards them as strange. Their party- PiS- entered into a coalition with the Polish families ...
10:14 am

Who will play the Mandelson to Cameron’s BlairLite?

Gravatar Here’s some news you may have missed, via Hot Ginger & Dynamite. David Cameron’s latest bid to copy Tony in every way may be to move his troops in to the Millbank Tower complex. Tory MPs will not be pleased. They’re occasionally forced to visit Conservative HQ, and Millbank Tower is 0.7 miles away from Parliament [...]
9:46 am

Alzheimers Café

Gravatar Believe it or not, this is a cake. Well, the top of the Barbie doll is not edible, but the skirt, with its extraordinary icing, really is. It was made to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Alzheimers Café, which is a monthly get-together for people with the condition and their carers. I was moved by the stories of long-term care by partners - it must be desperately sad to...
9:44 am

Mr. Livingstone, I presume?

Gravatar We know that Ken Livingstone tends to get a bit aggressive when well oiled. The trouble is that he does not do a very good job when sober. Bendy buses are crap. How come Mercedes Benz got the contract? Skyscrapers in London- who makes the most money? Bicycle lanes? Don't make me laugh- and anyway the quality of London's road surfaces varies from "dismal" to "ploughed field". We told you before Ken- license the digging up of the roads otherwise a) they are always being dug up and b) the road surface ends up like a ploughed ...
9:38 am

Land tax ninety-seven years on

Gravatar This comes from the Guardian archive - and is probably out of copyright The Lords and Tories fear a land tax Tuesday September 28, 1909 The Guardian That the Lords will reject the Budget - or postpone it, which is the same thing - till after a general election, the spokesmen of the Opposition seem now agreed. No one with eyes and a memory really doubts why they will; what they dislike, as they started by showing quite simply, are the land taxes. It was only when the land taxes were found unexpectedly very popular ...
9:30 am

Mike is a member of the commune, yes.

Gravatar The Conservatives have announced they're moving from their digs above the Starbucks on Vic Street to... Millbank Tower. The significance of Dave and Franny Maude telling the party's well-healed young staffers to pack up shop and ensconce themselves in the iconic birthplace of New Labour will not be lost. The lucky devils also retain the freehold over their handsome and increasingly dusty premises in Smith Square. I would urge the Liberal Democrats to subtley occupy the building, a mere Rooney gob from Cowley Street. Put up some tie-die drapes, move some activists in and get them to write ...
9:21 am

One of the highlights of the Labour Conference

Gravatar was Gordon Brown's gurning, especially when complimented. Last time I saw something like that, it was on the side of a cathedral with water pouring out of its mouth. The lowlight of the conference was the The Big Lie: that Tony and Gordon love and respect one another. The conference seemed to be stage managed to establish this lie, and shame on us for accepting it with a resigned shrug. This
9:06 am

Sorry is the hardest word

Gravatar Two successive posts about Peter Hain may well appear excessive by anybody's standards and yet, as many commentators have remarked, he has been everywhere this week. He has been schmoozing at Conference parties, lobbying Trade Unionists, greeting delegates and holding impromptu press conferences. Anybody would think he was in the running to be Deputy Prime Minister. Today he is addressing the
8:58 am

Board Games: Ancient and Modern

Gravatar On Tuesday evening, with my councillor hat on, I was lucky to attend the opening of the new Across the Board exhibition at Luton's Wardown Park Museum. This is a really wonderful exhibition of games that have been played throughout the world since ancient times. There are objects related to Senet from Egypt, Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, and various chess pieces, as well as more modern games such as Monopoly and fantasy wargaming figures. But the highlight of the exhibition is a number of the Lewis Chessmen on loan from the British Museum. The Lewis Chessmen are beautifully carved ...
8:37 am

West Midland Liberal Democrat MPs visit Guantanamo Bay and the US to discuss foreign affairs

Gravatar The last week has seen two of the West Midlands Liberal Democrat MPs make trans-Atlantic visits to discuss foreign affairs and terrorism. Firstly Paul Keetch, MP for Hereford, visit Washington and Guantanamo Bay. Secondly Lorely Burt, MP for Solihull, has met with senior Senators and Congressmen along with Sir Menzies Campbell and Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Michael Moore.
7:06 am

Day 2093: Hang On…

Gravatar Tuesday: I wave a fluffy foot to "Halloo!" to two new diaries from my friends Mr Andy and Mr Theo. Mr Andy has a piece talking about talking about a hung parliament. This is good because we cannot just keep DUCKING this question. There are a lot of things to indicate that this might actually happen at the next election – although the Martin Baxter election predictor that all the journalists seem to use is NOT one of them: it always gets the number of seats wrong because it always underestimates the Liberal Democrats. Nevertheless, the calculation goes something ...
12:45 am

New poll: who would be the best Labour leader for ...

Gravatar In less than a year’s time there will be a new leader of the Labour Party, and (for that matter) a new Prime Minister. There will be plenty of polls asking Labour members, and the general public, who they/we think will prove most effective. This poll isn’t asking that. I want to know who you think would be the best Labour leader from a Liberal Democrat perspective. Put bluntly, I guess: who we
12:11 am

The Man Who Would Be vs The Man Who Is

Gravatar I understand there’s a rumour that Tony Blair will, within the next few months, announce his intention to quit as leader of the Labour Party. (Don’t ask me where I glean this kind of gold-dust gossip: some of us are just incredibly well networked). As a result, Labour is beginning to consider who would be best positioned to lead them to an historic fourth election victory. So let’s look at The

Previous days:

Wednesday 27th September 2006, Tuesday 26th September 2006, Monday 25th September 2006, Sunday 24th September 2006, Saturday 23rd September 2006, Friday 22nd September 2006