Monday 27th November 2006

11:37 pm

Grade off to ITV - bring back Greg!

Gravatar Tonight's breaking news is that Michael Grade is off to ITV from the BBC - taking him full circle round the ITV-Ch4-BBC-ITV block. In yesterday's Observer it was reported that Greg Dyke would be willing to take the job. But now the prize is greater. There is ONE man for the job to fill Michael Grade's shoes. Tony Blair will have to hold his nose and admit that Greg Dyke is the man for the job.
11:26 pm


Gravatar Today I was supposed to go to a meeting of the Bethnal Green Area Residents Panel (BGARP). I knew there were issues about people having to send notification that they were going to attend, so I did that in good time. I was sent an agenda, minutes & a map. Today I was sent an email saying that I could not attend. Being me, I was tempted to turn up anyway. I hate being excluded from...
11:18 pm

ITV makes the Grade

Gravatar Michael Grade’s shock transfer from BBC to ITV is (pace the Norfolk Blogger) good news for television. The main commercial channel desperately needs a big hitter, a guy who understands budget lines - but, just as importantly, understands programming. As I’ve argued before, good television is not determined by having one public service broadcaster funded by a licence fee, but by having a
11:06 pm

Save Our Waterways

Gravatar As well as the Liberal Democrats' Canal Cuts Are Nuts campaign, there is a Save Our Waterways site. Both exist to protest against the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs's cuts in funding for the inland waterways. The real political issue behind this, as I have argued before, is the way that money for "rural affairs" goes overwhelmingly to subsidise the farming interest, even though the rural economy takes in much more than just agriculture.
10:52 pm

Nick Clegg on the Freedom Bill

Gravatar Nick has an article out today on the eGov monitor website about the Liberal Democrat proposals for a “Freedom Bill” which would axe unnecessary laws. You can read more about the laws the Liberal Democrats would axe - and nominate your own - on the party’s website and you can watch Nick’s speech from conference where he launched [...]
10:16 pm

Executed in Grecian drapes

Gravatar I took advantage of a day off today to watch my favourite episode (so far) of Adam Adamant Lives!, a 1966 Austin Powers-esque series about a swashbuckling Edwardian hero who is frozen in time and wakes up in the swinging systems. This particular episode is called To Set a Deadly Fashion and involves an absurd spying [...]
10:12 pm

Grade departure to ITV is dreadful timing for the ...

Gravatar Despite getting annoyed with various things the BBC do like having three Tories on every other week on Question Time or allowing Andrew Neil to rant absolute drivel every week or always leaving Everton until last on Match of the Day, I am a strong supporter of the BBC. So to my mind the news that Michael Grade has left the BBC today to go to ITV couldn;t come at a worse time. Important license fee negotiations are ongoing with the government. There are always those in successive governments who want to diminish the BBC either because Rup ...
9:48 pm

What Harriet Harman’s poll shows: Labour should el...

Gravatar ‘Harman would be most popular deputy PM, says poll’, according to today’s thegrauniad. Here’s what the headline should have read: ‘Harman most dis-liked deputy PM candidate, and would not help Labour’s re-election chances, says poll’. (I accept I’ll never make it as a sub-editor.) Here’s why… The YouGov poll begins by asking those surveyed how ‘warmly’ they feel towards each of the
9:47 pm

Narrow boat wars

Gravatar Britain's canal users took to the water yesterday to protest about cuts in the funding of British Waterways. The navigation was blocked by boats in many places, including Foxton in Leicestershire and Market Drayton in Shropshire. Chris Huhne and the Liberal Democrats have launched their own campaign on the subject: Canal Cuts Are Nuts. Photograph borrowed from the Malcolm Saville Society site. (Well, I was on that walk.)
9:37 pm

Nick Clegg: Why we need a Freedom Bill

Gravatar The Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary has an article on the eGov monitor site: The current Labour government is addicted to legislating; this has led to the curtailment of freedoms, confusion in business and crisis in our public services. In less than a decade in power the Blair government has clocked up over 50 Home Office Bills and created more than three thousand new criminal offences. They have added over a hundred thousand new pages of legislation to the statue book; the equivalent of more than two hundred copies of ‘War and Peace.’
9:29 pm

West End Christmas Week, No 72 bus service

Gravatar Useful meetings this morning with the Head of Finance and the Council Leader. This afternoon we had an excellent final meeting of the West End Christmas Week Committee before next week's activities. At the end of this blog entry, I'll list some of the activities - but do please look at for full details! Just before my surgery tonight, I met with two Richmond Terrace residents who made the point that the Number 72 service could be extended to Richmond Terrace - a helpful addition for elderly residents in the area - have taken up ...
9:22 pm

Cameron's First Year Survey at ConHome

Gravatar ConHome ask for questions for their survey of Cameron's first year.
9:10 pm

Birmingham Baywatch

Gravatar I always thought Birmingham needed a big river. The rivers Rea and Cole are relatively small although I have seen a nice old picture of the River Cole today. We have, however, had our own tailored version of Baywatch uploaded on Youtube.
9:07 pm

Charles Clarke will stand again in marginal Norwic...

Gravatar Charles Clarke has said he will stand again in his Nowich South seat which became a top Lib Dem target aftre the last general election. The EDP reports on this HERE. Interesting that Mr Clarke also believes he can remain a big hitter withinthe Labour Party. I didn't think Mr Clarke was even in the Gordon Brown camp, so presumably he is going to be a dissident in the future, we will have to wait and see. The next general election should be interesting in Norwich South. Boundary changs certainly help Mr Clarke and Labour, but the Lib ...
8:41 pm

Rainy Running Round

Gravatar The onset of cold days has coincided with my discovery of the “bag of hot chicken goujons for £1” stall on Oldham Market, and my lunchtime trips there have necessitated a return to the ways of the runner, in order to shake off my increasingly wobbly belly. I'm a bit bored of the old route into Whitefield, so tonight I varied my route to take in a bit more of the Ward and see if I could spot any
8:37 pm

Alexander Litvinenko's death: questions in Parliament

Gravatar Get a text from the Whip's Office that there will be an Urgent Question in Parliament from the Conservatives. The Urgent Question is to ask the Home Secretary, John Reid, to make a statement on the death of Alexander Litvinenko. Basically he just runs through the timetable of events - not really adding anything new. I manage to get called to pose a follow-up question on the lines of: Mr Litvinenko was my constituent. He was a British Citizen. Can the Home Secretary give me assurances that his death will be investigated without fear nor favour regardless of the diplomatic ...
8:20 pm

Dear Bromley Council, may I introduce you to Firef...

Gravatar Some of us don't like Mr Gates's Internet Explorer - though I see the new version (which they cocked up the launch of) has at least caught up with the world and got tabbed browsing. Anybody who like me uses Firefox and follows my link at Bromley falling apart this space will find that if they click on the little + sign to download agendas it doesn't work (and using the Firefox Agent
7:10 pm

Councillors spend as you wish

Gravatar The media, has per normal, caused a big stir about the Labour Party asking it's councillors to contribute towards its national debt. Now I know this is the second time in a mater of days that I have agreed with the Labour Party, and please believe me that I am not in the least going to join them, but I do feel the media has gone over the top. More importantly I hope that Liberal Democrats up
5:07 pm

Sepp Blatter - An idiot in charge of the world's g...

Gravatar After years and years of asking, Sepp Blatter has finally agreed to trial goal line technology at next year's World Club Championships. Read HERE. I saw a demonstration on TV about 8 years ago showing how this technology could be easily used, providing a referee with a small sensor that simply lit up when a ball had crossed the line. No delays, no need for replays, instant and correct answers. So why has it taken Sepp Blatter so long ? In great part it is because he is in debt to the African lobby whose block votes saw ...
4:50 pm

Children and Mental Health

Gravatar I have been reading an interesting report by National Statistics into the Mental Health of young people looked after by local authorities in England. It points out for example that for 5-10 years olds 42% of the children (looked after by local authorities) are thought to have a "mental disorder" as opposed to 8% of "private household children". There is a question as to why. Clearly there are
4:21 pm

Three jobs Bob romps home - but is he due for the ...

Gravatar I couldn't make it to the Orpington Lib Dem race night on Saturday - well to tell you the truth by the time we take my kids, buy some horse, sponsor a race, place some bets etc it is knocking on £140 for the night! But "Honest Viv" Ross informs me that one of my horses "Three Jobs Bob" out of Sorts romped home. But just remember, come the General Election, it's a two horse race - are you
3:47 pm

Regional diversity

Gravatar People often think of England as one country, and then assume that its therefore all the same (we make this mistake with most countries to be fair, I know the US has much diversity in many ways, I'm sure Scotland, France and any other large country does). The facts is that England is a wonderfully diverse country. My childhood was filled with English traditions, and I have become aware of the
3:30 pm

Why should we have to apologies?

Gravatar Nich at Norfolk Blogger asks why should we have to apologise for the slave trade? This is a good question, and like him, I believe we shouldn't. It was not something those of us living today had control over, we have not directly benefited from it. It is impossible to give compensation for (although those living in the US of slave ancestry are in a better position than those whose ancestors
3:26 pm

Can the Chinese Government Hold Fair Trials for Di...

Gravatar It seems that I spoke too soon. It appears that key witnesses are missing from Chen Guangcheng's retrial and his defence lawyer has argued that they have been kidnapped or are missing. The reputation of the Chinese Government will continue to take a nosedive as long as they continue to allow such conduct.
3:24 pm

Creationism is not an answer

Gravatar I am with the government and others when it comes to criticising the teaching of creationism within schools in the UK. Education Secretary Alan Johnson deserves praise for his robust criticism of schools who are teaching creationism, as does the national secular society. Read HERE for more details. There is within the teaching of RE the possiblilty of teaching concepts about faith and that people used to turn to religion in the past to answer questions that were beyond their understanding. However, schools choosing to throw away Darwin's theories on evolution are doing children no favours at all. Creationists ...
2:55 pm

Liberal Polemic in the news

Gravatar On Wednesday I reported that Peter Riddell had published a piece in The Times about the Number 10 petitions site in which he noted that "As one blogger has pointed out, there is no chance to say whether you disagree, apart from creating a rival petition." I suggested that this might be a reference to my article on the subject. I wrote to Mr. Riddell to ask him whether my suspicion was correct and on Friday he wrote back to confirm that it had indeed been my article to which he was referring. Mr. Riddell remains very interested ...
2:51 pm

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon but just two removes fr...

Gravatar Blogophiles will know already that Iain Dale, the doyen of the politicosphere, recently declared the “Top Ten Things I Would Never Do...” In so doing he also “start[ed] a Blog Meme” in which he invited fellow bloggers to follow suit and to further the chain. Nich Starling and Guthrum tagged Duncan Borrowman and Duncan has in turn tagged me. Of course, mathematical law means that within three iterations a thousand people have been asked to do this, but nonetheless I feel flattered enough to comply! I’m going to resist saying who I won’t vote for; as a card-carrying ...
2:34 pm

Help Free Vietnamese Cyber Dissidents

Gravatar Please click on the link above to assist the Amnesty International Campaign for the release of Nguyen Vu Binh and Truong Quoc Huy, two political dissidents whose crime was to exercise their right to political expression to discuss political reform in Vietnam. There are instructions there on how you can make a difference.
2:21 pm

Spin Doctors

Gravatar Among the many hundreds of Government announcements each month, one caused me to literally fall off my chair.   The preposterous idea that NHS hospitals could, and should, spend money on adv...
2:18 pm

Welfare is a product of state failure. It is time ...

Gravatar Independent liberal think-tank Reform have today launched an excellent report on Reforming Welfare. Britain faces a ballooning welfare crisis. A shocking 5.4 million working-age Britons (14 per cent of the working age population) rely on state aid, over two thirds of them for longer than a period of a year. The UK spends £79 billion on non-pension social security: more than we spend on Education, which Labour promised would be its priority and which in the long-run is the best hope for reducing poverty and benefit-dependency in the future. The Government is currently failing. Unemployment is falling more slowly ...
1:51 pm

The Pro Business Party?

Gravatar I see that the CBI- the Confederation of British Industry- is a little irritated with the Conservative leader, David Cameron for canceling at short notice his address to their conference. I am sure that they will be even more pleased to see that the Conservatives new pro-business policy includes considering a 35 hour week- a policy that seems to have added €100 billion to the French national debt since it was introduced. Perhaps next year they should invite Sir Menzies Campbell. The Liberal Democrat leader now clearly leads the country's most pro-business party. After all the Liberal Democrats manifesto in ...
1:16 pm

Network Rail Basket Case

Gravatar As I arrived on my station platform this morning I was greeted by the displays saying that due to a software fault they couldn't show train details. I opened my GPRS and went to the Network Rail "live departures" and my train was shown to be on time. I then scrolled to the BBC News page as usual - to read the headline "Network Rail makes first profit", I opened the story and scrolled down... as
1:07 pm

And now he's back from the dead

Gravatar After the crisis (or excitement) of yesterday, we are reassured that Silvio Berlusconi is well again. He tells us so himself - and we know to believe him. The mayor of Catania goes further and says that Berlusconi is immortal. He should hope so, as the mayor, who was the first to the stage to catch the collapsing Cavaliere, was once Berlusconi's personal doctor. Nepotism is a word which we inherit from the Latin language. It took Jesus Christ three days to rise again. Does Berlusconi see that as a record to beat?
1:04 pm

Is there a doctor in the house

Gravatar Been an eventful week for those around me... Darling eldest daughter has had her first three university offers - with King's giving her a conditional offer to study medicine. Grace has been elected as Chair of Orpington Liberal Democrats and on to the party's English Council.
12:47 pm

Lame Ducks - Blair, Bush and Ansell

Gravatar Well we all know that Tony Blair and George Bush are Lame Duck Leaders now, but Tom Ansell of Walsall can be added to the list. Blair will be gone by September of next year, Bush has a term limit which expires in January of 2009. Tom Ansell, Leader of Walsall Council and Leader of the Conservative Group has announced he will stand down as Leader in May of next year. Does this mean he is a Lame Duck and can Walsall Conservatives really go in to next May's election with a Leader who will not be the Leader after ...
12:19 pm

Jenny Tonge faces 'show-down' with whips today

Gravatar The BBC reports that “A Liberal Democrat peer is to face party whips over claims she repeated remarks critical of the political influence of the “pro-Israeli lobby”… The party has the power to withdraw the whip (removing her from the Lib Dem group of peers in the House of Lords) after the hearing on Monday, [...]
12:00 pm

Canal cuts are nuts, says Huhne

Gravatar A new campaign against Defra’s environmental budget cuts, which has meant a 7% cut to British Waterways funds in the last year with the loss of 180 jobs, has been announced. Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary, Chris Huhne MP said: “These redundancies show Defra’s budget cuts beginning to bite. Our canal networks will suffer as a [...]
11:58 am

Blair's sorrow over the slave trade, but what about human trafficking.

Gravatar Tony Blair expressed his regret over Britain's role in the slave trade today, yet human trafficking is still trapping thousands of people into modern day slavery. I would like to see more action rather than just talk from Tony Blair. The Government should sign the European Convention against the Trafficking of Human Beings and there should be an urgent provision of resources to support the victims of this human tragedy.
11:27 am

Why won’t we say sorry?

Gravatar Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British Empire’s Atlantic slave trade. Slavery had been outlawed on the British mainland for hundreds of years, yet for some reason, it was found acceptable to kidnap huge numbers of healthy Africans, cram them into ships and transport them under appalling conditions to work [...]
10:29 am

Don't Say a Word

Gravatar Via Charon QC comes the news from The Guardian that police chiefs are asking the government to enact a new law* that will allow them to arrest protesters for causing offence through the words they chant and the slogans on their placards and even headbands. Said Metropolitan assistant commissioner, Tarique Ghaffur: "... What we are seeing in effect is a rise in the politicisation of middle England
9:55 am

Pints of View!

Gravatar Sunday 26th November 2006 - Another busy day starting at Manchester University where I spoke at a Stop the War coalition meeting discussing the impact on British Muslims of the increasing imposition of legislation that is dividing community cohesion at a time when we need it most. Then it was back to Cumbria for the evening where I joined the Bishop of Carlisle for an entertaining meeting
9:43 am

Post Modern Stalinism

Gravatar As the reverberations of the death of Alexander Litvinenko continue, several interesting facts come to light. Firstly, the killers who planted the Polonium 210 have left finger prints all over the crime scene. Not physically, but in the Polonium 210 itself. As we know, it is an extremely rare isotope. Not only that but the precise composition of the poison will identify the reactor that it came from. That reactor will be Russian- it may well be the GRU reactor at the "Aquarium". It is a direct smoking gun. Access to the poison will be very limited, and under the ...
9:39 am

Funding devolution

Gravatar The warning by the Institute of Welsh Affairs that the Assembly faces a much tougher financial regime in its third term than in the previous two is very timely. They argue that Treasury forecasts show that year on year increases in the Assembly's block grant during the third term will drop from the current 3% a year to less than 2%, leaving very little room for manoeuvre. The average increase between 2000 and 2005 had been 6.6%. The point that there is an urgent need to establish an Assembly Finance Committee, where spending decisions would face rigorous scrutiny is ...
9:34 am

Could Chen Guangcheng Go Free?

Gravatar The BBC is carrying a report that Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist is currently being retried after a higher court in China threw out the conviction against him. I suspect that it also has a lot to do with the international outcry that came when he was convicted on fabricated charges in the first place. Chen led protests against local officials who had forced women to have late term abortions and sterilisations against their will - an illegal practice in China despite the one-child policy. In the light of the protests which went on in ...
9:21 am

Life beyond the relegation zone

Gravatar In the case of Reading well beyond the relegation zone as Reading find themselves pushing for Europe in seventh place with twenty two points and twelve clear of the relegation. This follows a run of three straight wins, the latest of which was a 1-0 win at Fulham on Saturday. Reading were everybodys favourites for relegation at the beginning of the season but are proving that prediction wrong big time. Meanwhile signs of a small revival at Leeds continue following Saturdays 2-1 away win at Plymouth. Leeds climb out of the relegation zone at last. The ...
9:05 am

The power and the glory

Gravatar Surely even the Police must realise that their latest demand to be able to arrest protesters for causing offence through the words they chant and the slogans on their placards and headbands is a step too far. Their justification that there is a "growing national and international perception" that the police have been too soft on extremist protesters, which has led to rising anger across the country is just too lame for words. They argue: "The result has been to create an imbalance in public perception that is manifesting itself in passionate responses from elements of the community not traditionally ...
8:00 am

Aspiring MEPs should start training now

Gravatar It has been confirmed by the English Council that the English Regions will select their European Parliamentary candidates between June and November next year, with the intention of giving candidates a clear eighteen months to campaign once selected. The English Candidates Committee is encouraging anyone thinking of applying to seek approval, if required, as early as [...]
7:38 am

Thailand Part 10 -Koh Samui Big Buddha

Gravatar The Wat Phra Yai temple is the home of Koh Samui's most famous landmark the Big Buddha. Most visitors will come to marvel at the sheer size and beauty of this remarkable statue at some point during their holiday even if they do not go anywhere else. Visible from several kilometers away and even from the air when arriving on or leaving the island the Big Buddha sits 15 meters tall and was built in 1972 by the local society to give visitors a place to pay respect to The Lord Buddha. If you want to know more about Koh ...
7:31 am

Whitehaven visit

Gravatar Friday 24th November 2006 - After another busy week in Brussels it was back to the North West to catch up with constituency business and a variety of events over the weekend. Friday evening saw me driving to Whitehaven for Copeland Lib Dems Annual Dinner, a round trip of over 5 hours but it is always good to meet up with members on the front line and the time in the car is put to good use
12:45 am

The problem appears to be with us for the foreseeable future...

Gravatar I don't quite know how I have managed to go through the last nearly forty years without seeing "Cathy Come Home" until tonight. Especially with my interest in housing provision. Have things improved? We've certainly demolished most of the women's hostels shown in the film. But what about absolute numbers in inadequate housing? The film quoted, I think, a million households in 1966. Government figures currently show just under a hundred thousand household accepted and in temporary accommodation. But take Oxford. They are shown as supporting 742 households in temporary accommodation. But four thousand ...
12:31 am

So, what to do in 2007?

Gravatar You might argue that I'm being a mite premature here, and you might even be right. However, having now been re-elected to all the things at a level beyond that of my Local Party, I can now think strategically. But first, a reminder of what I'm now on... Joint States Membership CommitteeEnglish Candidates CommitteeEnglish CouncilLondon Regional ExecutiveLondon Regional Candidates CommitteeNext
12:17 am

Liberal poverty

Gravatar There's been lots off discussion about poverty this week with the little tiff between the Cameroonies and the rest of the conservatives about embracing and addressing relative poverty and so on and so forth... Anyway, I want to proffer a different definition of poverty. One which leads to different solutions. A liberal definition as I see it. If the end of liberalism is personal freedom, then in the economic sphere perhaps the definition of poverty ought to be someone who has not yet attained "financial freedom". Financial freedom is usually thought of as the point at which ...
12:01 am

Catch Up

Gravatar Long time no write. My Real Baby Milk Project has got to stage 2 of the Big Lottery "Reaching Communities Fund". This is great news as it means this project now stands a 1 in 5 chance of being completely funded for the next five years and spread across other parts of the UK. Real Baby Milk has signed up all libraries in Cornwall to be breastfeeding friendly and also working with my council to implement one too. That's my first excuse for not blogging and I'm sticking with it! Other excuses include a whole load of case work ...

Previous days:

Sunday 26th November 2006, Saturday 25th November 2006, Friday 24th November 2006, Thursday 23rd November 2006, Wednesday 22nd November 2006, Tuesday 21st November 2006