Wednesday 22nd November 2006

11:47 pm

David Cameron blue-rinse update

Gravatar For the truly wonkish among you, MP3 downloads of the entire Economist/Stockholm Network debate David Cameron is just a blue-rinse Tony Blair? are now available here. A synopsis of the event (their's, not mine) reads: What is David Cameron for? He downplays tax cuts, is socially liberal and believes in a muscular foreign policy (and voted for the Iraq war). He would like to reform public services to give consumers more choice, and to involve private companies and charities in providing them. Sound familiar? And if so, is that a bad thing? After all, policies like these have ...
11:40 pm

I don't want to be adored for what I merely represent to you

Gravatar And so the results, or most of them at least, are in, and I've been 'gloriously' re-elected, both to the Regional Executive and to the Regional Candidates Committee. Many thanks to those of you who so kindly demonstrated your faith in me and I hope that I won't disappoint you in 2007. I'm vaguely torn as to the role I expect to play next year. There are lots of things that I could do, personally
11:34 pm

Starkey's Last Word on drugs

Gravatar Not surprisingly there's a reasonably well informed debate going on on Starkey's Last Word with Howard Marks on the show, Fraser Nelson from the Spectator - "I'm normally of a libertarian leaning but..." (you either are or you aren't IMHO) - has brought up some hackneyed cliches - The illicit drugs market is not like the smuggling of tobacco: He was worried that if you made drugs legal and controlled you would still have a huge amount of black market product like the fact that one in four packets of cigarettes are smuggled. The point is ...
11:24 pm

Michael Moore biography

Gravatar I have been sent a copy of Emily Schultz's biography of Michael Moore (the American film director not the Lib Dem MP). If anyone is interested in reviewing it for Liberator, please drop me an e-mail.
11:00 pm

Take That

Gravatar This is for Colin. Now get on with your work (Grace says don't look to closely at Robbie's shorts)
10:41 pm

Iain Dale's challenge - 10 things I would never do...

Gravatar Iain has challenged me to name 10 things I would never do HERE . So here goes 10) Vote Green - Sorry, oppositionist, opportunist, rose tinted spectacled eco fascists. Some of the are lovely individuals, but as a party, barking mad and dangerous for our country. 9) Take seriously "Gary Elsby Stoke-on-Trent" - Regular commenter and apologist for Labour on my blog. He's amusing, quite clearly educated, and I appreciate his comments, but I just cannot take them seriously. Someone suggested on another blog that he was Peter Mandelson's nom de plume ? 8) Grow a beard. ...
10:35 pm

Spamalot: go, laugh, laugh again, repeat until ribs hurt...

Gravatar As a belated forty-second birthday treat, my cousin Kim took my kid brother and I for a night out of outrageous entertainment last night. I admit, frequently, to being something of a fan of Monty Python, and had been quite keen (alright, very, very enthusiastic) to see Spamalot at the Palace Theatre. The plot will come as no surprise to fans of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with the classic
10:18 pm

government says - no extra police cash for liverpo...

Gravatar Today's Liverpool Echo reports the stunning news that a request for funds for extra policing for capital of culture year has been turned down by the government. This is a year in which we expect loads of extra people in the city, with all the extra resources for policing that entails. As the Echo says in its editorial today "no expense will be spared bankrolling and protecting the London Olympics. Liverpool is not asking the government for more on whim or out of jealousy. Only for what it necessary and fair". Hopefully the Labour Mps in ...
10:16 pm

Why Polly Toynbee hasn't got the answer

Gravatar Interesting noises are eminating from the Rainbow Tories. Apparently the Cameroonies want to abandon Churchill policy & embrace Polly Toynbee instead. The idea maybe of anyone wanting to embrace Toynbee, seems a little odd for me but for Tories it is even more bizarre. What Greg Clark, the moderate MP for Tunbridge Wells actually said was that the Tories should drop Churchull's attitude to social issues in favour of Toynbee's, in particular they should join the C20th and recognise the existence of relative as well as absolute poverty. This is welcome of course but has the rest of us ...
10:14 pm

State of the City

Gravatar Just back from the State of the City debate - about crime and anti social behaviour. We had a workshop for each of the five neighbourhood areas... and there was a separate workshop for young people. Lots of ideas from people in the South Liverpool workshop - which hopefully can be taken forward straight away. it was a good chance to share thoughts with the police, people from the fire brigade, housing association reps, community groups, officers and other councillors.
10:08 pm

Petitions what I’ve signed

Gravatar Credit where it’s due. Number 10’s e-petition website - Tony Blair’s new millennium answer to President Andrew Jackson’s ‘Big Block of Cheese Day’ - is a damn fine innovation. No one really expects the Government to take any action as a result, but democracy is about letting off steam as well as changing things for the better. Of course, one side-effect is that we can all expect to be
9:58 pm

Is Winchester a lost cause?

Gravatar If the so called political ‘experts’ are to be believed then the Liberal Democrats might as well give up trying to hold Winchester, thanks to the Oaten effect. The latest debate comes as a result of the Liberal Democrats apparently trying to get Sandi Toksvig selected for Meon Valley - the seat that is [...]
9:50 pm

Give it a rest, guys

Gravatar The determination of The Times to stick one on the Lib Dems for accepting that donation from Michael Brown knows no bounds. Despite repeated smear and innuendo - craftily spun to try and make the Lib Dems look as guilty as the debt-ridden, peerage-touting Labour and Tory parties - no one has yet been able to gainsay the Electoral Commission’s findings that the party followed proper procedures
9:33 pm

Text to voicemail

Gravatar Last week I set myself the task of phoning all the people who over the previous weekend filled in our post office petition. Unfortunately I didn't get round to doing it. And in the weekend just gone I collected over 100 further replies. More people to phone. So I decided to do a short cut today.If you haven't tried text to voicemail, I recommend it! For those who are not aware of it, you can send
8:53 pm

LibDem Mayoral Discussion

Gravatar LibDem Voice have started a poll and discussion on the question: “Should our next candidate for mayor of London be an MP?”
8:45 pm

Another story of poor customer service -

Gravatar Following up yesterday's story about Amazon failing to sell products at the time they state, I decided to e-mail them. I got back a standard automated response along the lines of "Sorry you were unable to but the Nintendo wii, etc, etc, high demand, etc, etc" Amazon have a box on their website that says "has this answered your question ?" When I clicked "no", and asked for further details about why they had not listed the product at the time they advertised, I have received no response. Neither has my friend who asked a similar question. ...
8:35 pm

I'm famous, or derivative, I can't tell which

Gravatar Peter Riddell's piece in today's Times presents a reasoned view of the new Number 10 petitions page. Interestingly, he notes that "As one blogger has pointed out, there is no chance to say whether you disagree, apart from creating a rival petition." I wonder who this could be? Could it by any chance be me? I think it possibly could. I think it equally possible that it could be any one of a number of others, though, so if you have also made this point and were feeling smug about yourself, perhaps you might post a comment below ...
8:32 pm

Independent comment is free

Gravatar In an unannounced move, the Independent seems to have made its comment articles freely available. In recent years you have had to pay to access most of them. Thanks to Chicken Yoghurt .
7:31 pm

ACMD call for Ecstasy downgrade

Gravatar It's an interesting day from drugs policy news. Here's another one: Call for ecstasy to be downgraded Someone at the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is suggesting the reclassification of ecstasy and LSD from class A to class B. They also want to... ...examine whether more could be done to reduce the harm caused by the drug, which is taken by an estimated 500,000 people a week. I can tell them how to do that of course: legalize it. Allow the brewers and pharmcos to sell it, regulated and safety ...
7:26 pm

School is called best of the best

Gravatar Today’s news of the Ofsted reports shows that my secondary school John F Kennedy Catholic School has now been mentioned “outstanding” three times. One of only 32 schools in the country to achieve this. Congratulations!
7:17 pm

In other news - police in new big brother shockers

Gravatar Whilst I might be happy about the ACPO drug idea, two other news stories today provide yet more evidence if any were needed of the creeping surveillance we are being subjected to. First, from the Oxford Mail comes a story that Thames Valley police are going to start setting up airport style metal detector arches in places like shopping centres at random to try and catch people with knives. I know, I know - the police are our friends, and if you've got nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. And it's voluntary - but you watch ...
7:10 pm

The future's ID fraud, the future's Orange

Gravatar Channel 4 news tonight exposed Orange for allowing shared log-ins on their computer systems which would allow people to easily take customer account information without any ability to trace who had actually logged in and accessed the information. The information they would have had access to could easily be used if someone wanted to steal your identity or access get your personal banking details. As ever, the person who revealed this information to Orange managers was subsequently fired, yet Orange say they are investigating the matter. If they are really investigating this matter properly, would they have ...
7:02 pm

Police on drugs shocker!

Gravatar Of course it's no big secret that I am a complete legalizer as far as drugs go. But it is good to see the police chief constables taking such an idea seriously. We know that a high proportion of property crime and crime against person are perpetrated by drug users funding the criminal underworld market to get their next fix. These crimes cost a huge amount both financially and emotionally on the rest of society, and an even bigger amount to incarcerate people who have perpetrated them, and they are still not getting the treatment while inside ...
6:28 pm

Annual General Ice-Cream Eating

Gravatar Tonight’s excitement centres on St Margaret’s Church Hall (when in the world does it not?!), for the Annual General Meeting of Bury Liberal Democrats. I believe that, were it not for ongoing industrial action, the event would be leading the BBC Evening News. However, we aren’t ones to be felled by anything, not even that, and so the meeting carries on regardless. I am standing for election to
6:21 pm

Public voice clear on Newbury market

Gravatar I attended the public meeting about Newbury Market last night at the Town Hall. A Conservative councillor wrote-off the value of this meeting before it took place, saying it would be "stacked with the usual suspects". I didn't notice any "usual suspects" at the meeting. There were a good number of residents who I have not noticed at public meetings before. They all expressed their views in a
6:13 pm

Tessa Jowell leaves Ken Livingstone to take the ra...

Gravatar Traveling to work this morning, I was listening to Radio Five Live, and was surprised that when the BBC were doing a story about the Olympic overspend just announced, Tessa Jowell had refused to allow the BBC to interview her, so Ken Livingstone had to take the rap instead. Now Ken, bless him, did his best. It is difficult for Ken to justify the overspend because it isn't really his fault. He was trying his best, but was offering only lame excuses. The problem was though, no matter how lame his responses were, you could detect his ...
5:24 pm

Are plans to leave Basra a sign that UK effort has...

Gravatar Margaret Beckett has today announced that the UK may be able to withdraw from Basra in the spring of next year. It appears that we will be handing over to the police, the very same police that UK soldiers on th ground say cannot be trusted. A BBC report from less than a month ago from Basra has the following choice quotes: "Over the weekend four Iraqi police officers were arrested by British troops after a search of their car revealed a roadside bomb. The officers' story was that they had found the bomb and were ...
5:18 pm

Brisbane and the Ashes

Gravatar Very late this evening I will begin a session of writing while keeping an eye on* the first session of the first Test of the Ashes series. I wish England luck. I understand that the Barmy Army will have some 10,000 supporters at the Test in Brisbane, including, possibly**, Norman Geras who - without doubt - has to be considered the Barmy Army's finest advocate of regime change. After all, what are armies for if not to free people and protect them from oppression? Personally, I have had quite enough of Warne and McGrath. Norm observes of Brisbane's habitus, and ...
5:11 pm

Speech on Public Family Law and Medical Ethics

Gravatar Youtube being as it is the 12 or so minutes of the speech is divided into two parts. (note that it starts with the end of someone else's speech) First part being Second part being
4:02 pm


Gravatar Currently sitting in Belfast City Airport waiting for flight back to Edinburgh. Really useful day (day job) with meeting in the beautiful surroundings of the Royal Belfast Golf Club at Craigavad. Apart from a useful meeting, interesting tales over lunch about the various exploits of our Northern Ireland Association Executive members (a) swimming from Carrickfergus to Bangor - no mean feat! and (b) windsurfing from the Northern Ireland coast to Scotland - absolutely no mean feat! Having checked my e-mails, note e-mail from the City Council's Director of Planning & Transportation about the Dock Street rail tunnel works ...
3:51 pm

Going Public On Private Business

Gravatar I have entered the ballot for private members' bills.  If in the unlikely event my name is among the first 20 drawn out of the hat, there is a real chance of changing a law or bringing in a new o...
3:33 pm

English vineyards

Gravatar make a guest appearance at top climate science site Real Climate. Not only are we growing some award-winning wines (good: the last English wine I tried triggered my gag-reflex), we're growing wine-producing grapes as far north as Leeds.
2:55 pm

Home Buyer

Gravatar Buying one's first home in Wales can be a very significant and joyous event for many people, but does it really merit five pages in the Western Mail?
2:43 pm

Twenty Seven AMs to rule them all

Gravatar Glyn Davies has already commented on the problems that Rhodri Morgan will face if he seeks to lead a minority Government with just 27 AMs after the next election. The first obstacle would seem to be his unrealistic optimism that there will be so many Labour Assembly Members. As I remember it the procedure for electing a First Minister is not straightforward. The two possible scenarios will be a straight vote between Rhodri Morgan and A.N. Other or the more likely possibility that it will be a question of confirming or voting against the single nomination of the present ...
2:40 pm

Ming's good day at PMQs

Gravatar BBC News reports that “The old Ming Campbell - and I mean that in the non-ageist sense - is back.” More
2:21 pm


Gravatar The Chief Inspector of schools has just given 'a much the same' report on standards schools are providing in the country. There are good schools and there are bad schools. The golf between schools have widen and parents need to become more involved. I believe, and feel free to stop me, but I belive this has been the general thread of reports since I was knee high to a grass hopper; the golf
2:09 pm

Vote now: Should the Lib Dems next London Mayoral candidate be an MP?

Gravatar In 2000 Susan Kramer (not an MP at the time) was crushed by Ken Livingstone. 2004 saw Simon Hughes MP receive the same treatment. The latest Lib Dem Voice poll asks whether the party should front one of its growing band of London area MPs (Susan Kramer, Simon Hughes, Ed Davey, Paul Burstow, Tom Brake, Lynne Featherstone, [...]
1:25 pm

A new public holiday - national "Margaret Thatcher...

Gravatar Lots of people complain about the long gap over the Autumn in Public Holidays. I would like to make a bid for today to become national "Margaret Thatcher resigned today day" (22 November 1990) People like me could throw street party's celebrating the resignation of the woman that made so many of us more politicised - in opposition to her policies. And those in the Tories who kneel at the alter
1:18 pm

The London Paper piece they dared not publish (or, more likely, it wasn’t good enough - and it includes the word “testicles”)

Gravatar The many churches that can be found in the City of London are an odd spectacle. Their message - ‘put your faith in God, and your money in the collection plate’ does not sit easily with that of the shiny temples to corporate greed surrounding them, namely ‘put your faith in the markets, and your [...]
1:13 pm

Oh my god

Gravatar         I’m going completely crazy. When I wrote my piece for the London Paper I told them I was 24, because I thought I was. I then woke up one morning and thought “silly me, I’m 26 not 24″. I was recounting this tale to a colleague over lunch who we established a while ago is only a [...]
12:50 pm

PMQs: Ming done good.

Gravatar The BBC correspondents generally agreed that today's bout was 'sober': David Cameron led on foreign affairs in troubled places so there was less playground behaviour than usual. Ming asked about the replacement to Trident*, specifically whether MPs would get a vote on the options following a white paper. (BBC's Daily Politics perception panel recorded a lot of public sympathy for Ming on this
12:33 pm

Toksvig to stand for Lib Dems?

Gravatar Top Lib Dem blog Hot Ginger & Dynamite reports that Iain Dale reports that Sandi Toksvig may stand for the Lib Dems at the next General Election. UPDATE: Local officials have confirmed Toksvig did NOT apply for Meon Valley, and that she is not on the approved candidates list. elections PPC news sandi toksvig [...]
12:33 pm

Are people abandoning Alexandra Palace?

Gravatar Am concerned over an email exchange copied to me because of my recent blog entries (such as this one) about the sale of Alexandra Palace to the Firoka Group. The exchange is between a newspaper journalist and someone involved in the Antiques Fair which takes place annually at the Pally. Apparently, the Antiques Fair is not going to be here next year because the contract has been changed (I don't
12:18 pm

Also happened on 22nd November

Gravatar 16 years ago, Mrs Thatcher announced her resignation. Can you remember what you were doing when you heard the news? (I was in South Shields about to go into a meeting of Tyne and Wear Museums Committee - those were the days!) And 21 years ago I first met David. 21 years later we are still going strong!
11:56 am

Is David Cameron just a blue-rinsed Tony Blair?

Gravatar Last night I attended a public debate hosted by the Economist and the Stockholm Network on the subject of whether David Cameron is just a blue-rinsed Tony Blair. Speakers included Professor Dennis Kavanagh (University of Liverpool), Dr Ian Kearns (IPPR), Peter Hitchens (Mail on Sunday) and Jesse Norman. It was excellently chaired by the Economist's Johnny Grimond. Strangely, Peter Hitchens was most brutal not about Cameron (whom he predicted would not win the next election) or Blair but about the Conservatives in general. He described the Conservative Party as both a ‘ghost brand’, like loose razorblades and Capstan full-strength ...
11:56 am

Wind turbines in Islington

Gravatar With Islington Lib Dem council forging the way with Green plans for the borough, good on Mark Pack for his posting Greening Islington - saved me a lot of writing. We have an Ecology Centre within Gillespie Park nature reserve in Islington which is built on a brown fill site. It is a marvelous learning centre for all things Green - recyled water, solar energy etc. With the council's fleet of cars going all electric and other marvelous energy saving/green programs such as green roofs and water saving measures being introduced throughout ...
11:54 am


Gravatar There's a bizarre story into today's Guardian that implies one of the Tories leading advisors has suggested the Conservatives change their anti-poverty policies to reflect what passes for thinking in the Labour party. Were that to be the case it would mark the latest twist in the strange theatre of national politics where the Tories are shifting to the left of Labour, the Liberal Democrats to the centre and Labour into whatever populist hole they can sink next. The poverty debate though is an interesting one. One of Labour's acts of government was to introduce the measure that poverty ...
11:05 am


Gravatar Iain Dale is reporting that Sandy Toksvig may be considering applying for the Liberal Democrat candidacy in the new Hampshire seat of Meon Valley; carved out of fallen Oaten’s constituency. There is a proud heritage of Radio Four luminaries in the party. Take ‘Just a Minute’ – Chaired by Lib Dem Nicholas Parsons, and frequently featuring former MP Clement Freud, party member Barry Took and Toksvig herself; it’s a Lib Dem fiefdom really. If this is true, I wish her good luck. I think she may be one of the few people who could ‘retain’ the seat.
10:57 am

Politics: hard or soft?

Gravatar Women are in the in the papers today.  Whether its Polly Toynbee being more of an inspiration to Cameron than Churchill (The Guardian); Tories selecting some female A-listers (The Telegraph); women drivers obeying the rules of the road (The Times); or this piece in the Guardian about what women want from their politics.  As Indra Adnan explains: As a feminist, I want to see more women in positions of power. But in order to create the conditions for more feminine politics, in which more women can feel free to express their difference rather than be pressured to compete on masculine ...
10:46 am

Willie Rennie MP arrives at Parliament February 20...

Gravatar Last night I was going through some video clips I took earlier this year and found these I took of Willie Rennie arriving at Parliament to take his seat. Enjoy!
10:43 am

Finger the road

Gravatar The first thing I do when I get to work in the morning is take a whistlestop tour of a range of news websites (would use RSS but I don’t like online readers and can’t install anything useful here). This morning you can probably imagine the look on my face when I saw ‘Police to fingerprint [...]
10:29 am

Paul Keetch MP to stand down - watch the Video!

Gravatar Paul Keetch MP has been interviewed by the Hereford Times you can now see the video online by following the link below:
10:25 am

43 years ago today (22nd November)

Gravatar The greatest source of conspiracy theories was born on this day 43 years ago when Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F Kennedy. The best theory I have seen was the one in Red Dwarf when Kennedy went back in time to murder himself to avoid Congressional hearings! Meanwhile 43 years minus one day later (ie last night) I got the second of the current email newsletters done for residents in
10:05 am

Smart Homes

Gravatar Smart enough to eat our rubbish according to this article in Sundays Observer The article highlights the need for a new generation of buildings constructed in a totally different way to our current housing stock. These buildings would "be wireless rather than cluttered with the electrical paraphernalia of a typical office or home, drawing 'whatever energy they can from their own environment' via geothermal, wind or solar energy. Such buildings would be lit by natural daylight harnessed through 'light pipes' channels up to the roof designed to let light flood through rooms. The buildings would have their own waste recycling ...
10:02 am

Labour's plan to steal the next election

Gravatar Regular readers will know that I do not “do” polls, however I couldn’t resist tapping off a quick e-mail to the Guardian after seeing this morning’s offering: “The claim in Wednesday’s Guardian/ICM poll that a Brown premiership would cause two percent of Liberal Democrat voters to defect to the Conservatives in disgust was, in itself, enough to [...]
9:54 am

Written Parliamentary Question: 22nd November 2006

Gravatar NHS Trusts Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the maximum amount each NHS trust may spend on marketing their services to general practitioners under patient choice and payment by results is; and what definition of marketing she uses; (2) what the maximum amount each NHS trust may spend on marketing their services to patients and members of the public under patient choice and
9:52 am

Selly Oak and Edgbaston Liberal Democrats AGM/IGM

Gravatar Last night was the Selly Oak and Edgbaston Liberal Democrat AGM and IGM. For some reason I seem to have become the Returning Officer for this local party, I used to live in Selly Oak and still have many friends so I suspect thats how I ended up with the task. Selly Oak has massive boundary changes for the next General Election losing half of its current wards and gaining new ones so we had to have the two meetings.
9:31 am

Polly-morphous Politics

Gravatar I am getting very confused about the British Conservative Party- although not, I suspect as confused as the party members themselves must be. Apparently the Conservatives should ditch Churchill and listen to Polly Toynbee, according to one of David Cameron's advisors, Greg Clark. Polly Toynbee is so consistently wrong in her analyses that it is almost comical to think that anybody, still less her political opponents, should take her seriously. Yet, there is a kind of mad logic in the idea. The Conservative manifesto in the 2005 general election was a collection of policies that were often mutually contradictory. The ...
9:22 am

Democrat illiberalism

Gravatar I know he's only one person, and given more LibDems in national government we'd hear similar lunacy, but Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) has renewed his calls for the draft - an illiberal institution which Don Bourdreaux rightly calls 'a heinous institution built on the presumption that people are property of the state'. A fundamental tenet of liberalism is self-ownership. We may grudgingly admit the
8:53 am

PMQ Again

Gravatar Prime Ministers Question time starts up again today. I wonder sometimes if PMQ's style of questioning drives and/or responds to the style of politics in the UK. It is more about entertainment than good government. There are important issues which need proper consideration. That will not generally happen through PMQ, however. For example the Quality and Outcomes Framework in the NHS is costing
12:14 am

Finest kind science writing

Gravatar from PZ Myers at Pharyngula. PZ's is consistently one of the most combative (and entertaining) blogs when it comes to intelectually smiting Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents. When he demolishes an argument he does it with rigour and with no little literary grace. He's also a damn fine science communicator, as this piece on evolution in the pre- and Cambrian period (600-510
12:13 am

Livingstone answers Tory questions

Gravatar Tonight was People's Question Time for Mayor Livingstone in Bromley. Only with Chair and MC Bob "Three Jobs" Neill MP AM, it didn't turn out to be People's Question Time at all. At various times he called: "the man in the pink jumper" - Tory councillor Julian Grainger "The lady waving her mobile phone in the air" - Tory councillor Alexa Michael "the man down the front" - Tory councillor Colin
12:04 am

Possibly the most objectionable man in the world

Gravatar Last night Crystal Palace Lib Dem Councillor Chris Gaster received a certificate in the middle of the full council meeting for 35 years of uninterrupted service as a Bromley Council member. Chris was first elected as a Labour councillor, and I believe he is the only founding SDP councillor still left. The whole chamber rose to their feet - except one person. Simon Fawthrop - the Tory mayoral
12:00 am

London Needs a Citywide Waste Authority

Gravatar “…we are working to make Southwark a cleaner, greener and safer place to live and work” proclaims the Southwark Council website. The site even has a section on ‘envirocrimes‘ - someone’s idea of marketing speak for what we used to refer to as graffiti, fly tipping and dropping litter. Anyone reading the site is advised they [...]

Previous days:

Tuesday 21st November 2006, Monday 20th November 2006, Sunday 19th November 2006, Saturday 18th November 2006, Friday 17th November 2006, Thursday 16th November 2006