Friday 5th January 2007

11:47 pm

So much for a good scare story

Gravatar The most common incidents I have to deal with as a warden in a hall of residence are fire alarms. We wardens go to bed at night - we all have day jobs - so we have a pager each that goes off to wake us in the event of a fire alarm. Previously we had no discretion but to phone the fire brigade before we went to investigate the incident and organize the evacuees before the brigade arrived. Nowadays at the fire service's request we go and investigate first, so it's very much in ...
11:31 pm

TW2? Not!

Gravatar If like me you experience a little frisson of excitement on seeing this headline in the BBC newsfeed: Tomorrow's World to return to BBC you'll probably also have been as disappointed as I was to read that they don't really mean it... The BBC is bringing back the Tomorrow's World brand to help audiences understand new technologies. Presenter Maggie Philbin will be offering in-depth analysis on technology stories on TV, radio and the web under the Tomorrow's World banner. Although the programme - which ran from 1965 to 2003 - will not return, elements ...
10:27 pm

Next stop is Iran

Gravatar Suddenly the smell of Britons being prepared for an attack on Iran is all pervasive,says Robert Fox on The First Post. Read him.
10:22 pm

Blimey, it's Blakey

Gravatar On Post Political Times Richard Allan invites you to Have Your Say on Varney. My opinion? I thought he was quite good in On The Buses.
10:15 pm

Cricket quote of the day

Gravatar Richard Williams in the Guardian passes on a gem from Steve Harmison's newspaper column: We're hearing about a lack of team spirit and being undercooked and having too many distractions, and they're all wide of the mark. It's simply because we're 4-0 down. If we were 4-0 up nobody would be saying anything.
10:06 pm

Petula Clark is a goddess

Gravatar And not just because she sang "Downtown" and starred in Trouble at Townsend . On An Overgrown Path has further evidence: In 1968 Harry Belafonte, whose album Calypso was the first LP to sell more than 1 million, appeared on a primetime CBS television special hosted by British singer Petula Clark. In the show, the two singers performed a duet, and Petula Clark held on to Belafonte's arm, as my still from the programme shows here. After the first take the director asked them to repeat the song, standing apart. It transpired that an executive from the show's sponsor, ...
9:54 pm

Grass not Glass

Gravatar Interesting local meeting tonight with Simon Elliott of the Hill project and his team presenting their ideas as to an alternative to the Ken Livingstone/Berkley Homes Tower Blocks on Potters Field next to Tower Bridge. With the Mayor and government overriding local objections it will take a considerable plan B to persuade them to change their mines. Simon Hughes has been working hard on some alternatives, including a proposed museum of the Americas.. But this one could incorporate elements of that with a sustainable green vision and other cultural/arts spaces that are accessible and owned by the community. ...
9:00 pm

Have Your Say on Varney

Gravatar A few weeks ago the Treasury released a flurry of reports including one by Sir David Varney on ‘Service Transformation’. This is an interesting document for all students of public service use of technology. William over at Ideal Government has alerted me to this very good commentable version of the document. It is [...]
7:48 pm

A slap in the face for Migration Watch

Gravatar Yesterday I reported that Migration Watch had produced figures claiming that the economic impact of immigration from the 2004 EU accession countries is worth just 4p a day per UK citizen or “less than the equivalent of a small Mars bar a month”. As I noted in my piece yesterday, Migration Watch’s figures for how much each person has benefited do not correspond with those from the Government, the London School of Economics or the Confederation of British Industry. Today David Blanchflower, one of the nine members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, hit out at ...
7:24 pm

How do you turn a nothing in to a crisis ? Get Iain Dale to write about it

Gravatar I see Iain Dale has got a "turmoil" and "crisis" thing going on in his blog at the moment. Apparently we (Lib Dems) are in "turmoil" over candidate selection HERE and in "meltdown" HERE. The fact that Iain's statistics are wrong (it never stopped him in North Norfolk, but that's another story and I've buried the hatchet with Iain since then) and his "meltdown" in candidate selections ignores the massive number of seats who have selected and have on-going selections shows that Iain's stories, indeed his "EXCLUSIVE" stories are actually not stories at all. If it really ...
7:18 pm

Freedom to Discriminate

Gravatar So the CU at Exeter Uni has gone through with their threat to sue their Student Guild after they were suspended for breaching the Guilds equal opportunities policy. In effect they are seeking to argue that the Human Rights Act gives them the right to discriminate on grounds of religion and sexual orientation because of their beliefs. This of course is only one in a string of cases were UCCF
6:52 pm

MPs condemn BBC TV show "The baby Borrowers"

Gravatar The Eastern Daily Press reports that local MP's in Norfolk have united in condemnation of a BBC Three fly on the wall documentary "The Baby Borrowers", to be screened over the next few days. Read the EDP report HERE. The premise of the show is to allow teenagers and youngsters to be put on the position of looking after other people's children, and by this it means young and older children, some with physical and other handicaps, to see how well they cope. Norfolk MPs Richard Bacon (Conservative - South Norfolk) and Norman Lamb (Lib Dem - North Norfolk) have ...
6:37 pm

Stem cell research halted by christian zealots

Gravatar I was saddened to hear today that the Human Fertilsation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) are not going to allow research in to stem cells which could lead to cures for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other diseases. The HFEA's decision seems to be largely based on a mis understanding, propagated largely by Christians groups, that this is "Frankenstein science" and " an affront to humanity". Those opposed to this sort of research, and let us be clear, they oppose any sort of new development and have in the past, be it transplantation, blood transfusions and other widely accepted medical breakthroughs, ...
6:29 pm

Andrew Flintoff - Pull the other one !

Gravatar Has Andrew Flintoff been given a "stock" excuse for defeat that he must repeat each and every time England are humiliated at cricket ? The tired old line "We tried our best but it didn't quite come off for us" is the sort of excuse you offer when you lose a match narrowly once. It could have been said after the first test debacle as an excuse. After the second test, in which England spectacularly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, he might just have been let off for saying it. But to repeat this silly "it didn't quite ...
6:28 pm

Give Pace A Chance

Gravatar Tomorrow is a big campaigns day. We all go and help together in different wards - it's more fun than just delivering/canvassing in your own ward all the time, teamwork! That'll take up pretty much the whole day, but we'll probably work in a good pub lunch or dinner too - we're lucky, our HQ for Hornsey & Wood Green is based above the Three Compasses on Hornsey High Street. It's a great pub with great food, just what you need after a session of delivering in the cold/rain. Early Sunday morning I'll be making the trip to Ninian ...
6:20 pm

Simone Clarke, the BNP's ballet dancer - fair game!

Gravatar It's funny how little posts I do, which I think no-one will be interested in, suddenly take on a life of their own once Google gets its hands on them. Admitting the virtually subterranean level of traffic volumes to this site, one of the most popular postings I have done, strangely enough, was a Tribute to Paul Walters, Terry Wogan's late producer. There was no end of people putting his name
6:17 pm

EasyJet grounded... cos it's raining

Gravatar I've heard it all now. EasyJet have grounded their aircraft because rain on the runway at Bristol Airport is causing the craft to skid as it brakes. Do you remember the old joke about train services delayed when leaves fell on the line? Well now budget airlines won't fly out of provincial airlines if there is rain on the runway now-a-days. Not sure about the unacceptable face of capitalism... I blame the unacceptable face of British weather. This quote was published on Nick Robinson's BBC blog What is most frustrating is my sister-in-law was delivered by me to ...
6:04 pm

Just a cog in the machine

Gravatar I think I may have come across the epitome of Labour’s belief in command and control. It is also the most egregious example of government waste so far. The Taxpayers Alliance are going to have a field day with this one. The next Bumper Book of Government Waste is going to have a special chapter just for this. The Times reports that £7 million has been spent conducting a time-and-motion study, the upshot of which is that staff at National Insurance are being told not only what they may and what they may not put on their desks, but ...
5:44 pm

Saddam Hussein’s death - a libertarian response

Gravatar The ultra-libertarians over at the Ludwig von Mises Institute published an article after the death sentence was passed down to Saddam Hussein. I’ve only just read the article, but it really does lay into the Republican Party (which many may be surprised at, after all aren’t US Libertarians right wing?). Indeed, it makes many points commentators [...]
4:58 pm

Non-Council stuff

Gravatar This quiet period after Christmas has given me a chance to catch up on a number of non-Council projects. I've taken a break from writing this year but I have still offered to review chapters written by other authors for my publisher, Heinemann. So it has been good to get down to some serious reading and analysis again this week. Over the last eight years or so I have...
4:56 pm

City Centre Bus Changes from Monday

Gravatar Received an update from the City Council this afternoon regarding changes to public transport in the City Centre starting Monday (8th January 2007) due to the Scotland Gas Networks Main Replacement Scheme. You can view this by clicking the headline above. Also from Monday, the bus stops in Dock Street will be suspended for approximately 11 months to facilitate rail tunnel strengthening works.
4:50 pm

Is David Cameron set to be the new Jimmy Carter?

Gravatar I'm going to start up blogging again properly next week, but in the meantime I've added to my website an article I wrote about David Cameron (and Gordon Brown) just before Christmas: For Conservative supporters, I guess this might sound a hopeful comparison - after all, Carter led the Democrats, who had previously lost twice in a row, to an election victory against an opposition disgraced by
4:44 pm

Fear of Frankenbunny

Gravatar Fear of science is back in the papers. Once again irrationality is in danger of trumping reason. Caroline Flint, our public health minister, and Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, have become spooked by adverse reaction to a consultation and are rumoured to be about to block pioneering stem-cell research that may help develop cures for terrible illnesses such as Motor Neurone disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Now I am a firm believe in giving credit where credit is due. The Government has generally provided an excellent environment for medical research – so much so that Stephen Minger, one of the ...
4:42 pm

And long may the puns continue

Gravatar Steve Webb, the Lib Dem MP for Northavon, has a track record of being down with new-fangled interweb technologies, which led to him winning the Hansard Society’s E-Democracy Award a couple of years ago. It should be little surprise then that he has become the latest of the party’s MPs to take up blogging, with [...]
4:38 pm

Alderwood Avenue flats - latest news

Gravatar Someone commented recently that if you don't know the area very well, its hard to follow posts about some of the places I mention. Fair point. So I will start by saying these flats are at 130 to 148 Alderwood Avenue.. and Alderwood Avenue runs across part of Speke on the Eastern side of the estate. Its a road with quite a variety of types of housing.. but these flats have been empty for a while.. have been set on fire.. generally vandalised etc. And they have also acted as a magnet for anti social behaviour. ...
4:30 pm

Garston neighbourhood committee

Gravatar Off to the neighbourhood committee last night - at the community centre in Parklands, Speke. A good turnout from the public with lots to discuss. We went on for nearly three hours in the end (although I am not sure that people are particularly effective in meetings that go on for that long). Anyway.. we had a discussion on Faith Schools in Garston - which is part of the consultation around the future of three particular schools. Despite a number of invitations and attempts to get them there, there was no one there from the ...
3:43 pm

Better train services - but not yet!

Gravatar An interesting meeting this afternoon with a manager for First Great Western. The company took over the local train services around Bristol in December and it's been a shambles so far. Trains have been cancelled with no notice or turn up with too few carriages leaving people standing in the loos in some cases! I've been told this afternoon that these teething problems should be over in a week - so we'll see if the volume of complaints drops off. On a more positive note, there are plans to improve the major ...
3:18 pm

Slavery, Freedom Day and Gladstone

Gravatar I’ve noticed a few references to Freedom Day being the bicentenary of the end of slavery. This is of course incorrect - 2007 is 200 years since the trans-Atlantic slave trade was abolished. This is still a very important event, it marked the end of the horrendous inhuman trade in people across the Atlantic, and makes [...]
3:05 pm

Well, it had to come eventually

Gravatar For the first time in a long while, there’s a new post from me at The Sharpener on how the monarchy might benefit from a dose of the free market.
2:25 pm

Saddam's Death

Gravatar Whilst I am not a big fan of the death penalty, considering Saddam ordered the indiscriminate deaths of thousands of innocent people I did not loose much sleep worrying about it. I did find the way he was executed distasteful and detracted from the seriousness of the crime and the sentence. It was an indignity for the rule of law.
2:11 pm

No back rubs from Bush for German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Gravatar Shucks. Dubya has obviously been to diplomacy class - according to the BBC President Bush has revealed a policy change during a visit by German leader Angela Merkel - no more back rubs. In case you missed it the first time. Here is the Daily Show's coverage:
2:03 pm

I should be so lucky, lucky. lucky, lucky.....

Gravatar Kylie Minogue started her concert tour in the UK on New Year's Eve in London. She is appearing at Wembly again tonight. Alas, yes I am going! Had the decision been left to me I probably would have returned home this weekend. However, in July last year I made the mistake of letting Richard use my debit card to buy one ticket over the phone. "They cost only £20," I was assured. Two tickets and
1:18 pm

You can still vote in the BBC's Political Heros

Gravatar there are just a few days left to vote in the Politics Show Political Heros poll. The shortlisted seven are Tony Benn, Neil Kinnock, Alex Salmond, Clare Short, Norman Tebbit, Margaret Thatcher, Shirley Williams
1:17 pm

Resistance Is Futile

Gravatar I have had an absolute ball spending a couple of hours in a radio studio each Friday playing some of my favourite music and discovering that there is more than one person out there who shares my passi...
12:58 pm

Tory hypocrisy on human trafficking

Gravatar I was disappointed but not suprised to see that despite Cameron's recent rhetoric, the Tories are not delivering anything constructive in the run-up to Freedom day in March-the bicentary of the abolition of slavery following the campaigning work of William Wilberforce and others (liberals and Liberals and whigs!). This is not just about history though-there are more people in slavery in the world today and trafficking for sex or labour is an increasing (even if often hidden) reality for many in the UK. Responding to David Davis's support for international human trafficking treaties, Liberal Democrat International Development Spokesperson, Lord ...
12:03 pm

Very Cross

Gravatar It seems that the Exeter University Evangelical Christian Union has followed through on its threat, and served papers on the Guild of Students. I would imagine that they’ll lose, but I believe that the UCCF has some fairly well-off benefactors and are almost certainly in a better position to meet legal costs than the Guild is. I’ll keep a sleepy eye on this one. Update: the dear Express and Echo provide a great headline for their story on the issue - "Christians shun peace offer in unholy Uni row". Amazing.
12:00 pm

Students' Unions and Christian Groups

Gravatar The BBC reports on the suspension of Exeter University Evangelical Christian Union from their student guild and their frozen bank account (something I'm all too familiar with), which has lead them to take legal action under the Human Rights Act 1998. They were suspended because, whilst all their meetings are open, members are asked to sign a statement of belief in Jesus as their God and saviour
11:42 am

Wind farms

Gravatar Polly Toynbee's article in today's Guardian about wind farms makes interesting reading. NIMBYs are usually more of a bother than a benefit, since bad things (out of town supermarkets, nuclear power stations, airport expansions, etc) get pushed through anyway while good things get blocked. Wind farms are a case in point. Being anti-wind farm is the default Tory position, whatever David Cameron may say. I've seen this effect myself with my parents. While naturally quite green, being paid-up Conservative members and reading the Telegraph and Spectator have taken their toll. They now have the strange flat-Earth style faith in ...
11:10 am

Cameron, Brown and Iraq!

10:49 am

Thanks Ieuan!

Gravatar More evidence of Labour's gratitude towards Plaid Cymru for getting them out of a tight corner on the budget emerges on Leighton Andrew's blog: Plaid got away with murder following the budget debate. They contributed nothing to the budget but got a free run after it. They tried to take the credit for the budget but wouldn’t even vote for it. They believe they have undermined our message that they will ally with the Tories after the election. But nothing has changed. Ieuan Wyn Jones has refused to rule out working with the Tories after the May election. ...
10:48 am

Action Update - Tulle Court rat-run proposal

Gravatar I have been contacted by a number of local residents expressing their concerns regarding the proposed changes to Tulle Court in Prestwich Village. A planning application has been submitted, including changes to the road nearby. Whilst Prestwich Liberal Democrats welcome the proposed improvements to Tulle Court itself, we echo residents’ concerns that proposals to create a link road between
10:43 am

We live in a vacum

Gravatar Among last year's offerings from the enigmatic Mr Hannon, was this track Diva Lady. The album from which it is taken, Victory for the Comic Muse, is shithot.
10:29 am

Twelfth Night, Christmas is over - and here's Easter

Gravatar Today is Twelfth Night the official end of Christmas - trees will be coming down everywhere and Mince Pies being finished. It appears however Easter has begun!
9:58 am


Gravatar Today I want to highlight the jobsworth, a particular breed of individual who sticks to the letter of the rules no matter what, somebody for whom commonsense is just a word. This has of course been inspired by two incidents reported on this week's media. The first one involves an elderly skin cancer victim who was ordered to remove the hood she wore to cover her bandages as she entered a Wirral superstore for some post-Christmas shopping. Staff at the Asda store in Liscard insisted that great-grandmother Ruth Stoba's headgear had to be removed for "security reasons". ...
9:42 am

Thailand a struggle between the old and new powers

Gravatar This is how the bombings in Bangkok are characterised in this mornings edition of The Nation. I cannot find a link to the internet version of the article on their site but they seem confident that elements supportive of the old regime are crossing swords with the new regime. When the military coup took place and the interim government was installed the new regime initially decided not to drive the remnants of the old regime into a corner. However, in recent weeks the Assets Examination Committee has been moving at a much faster pace in ...
9:34 am

Cutout Doctor

Gravatar This cutout figure was standing, for no obvious reason, at the edge of College Green opposite Parliament earlier in the week. (Best picture I could get on my phone in the evening light.) It looked like it had microphones on the back of the shoulders and there was one of those temporary red and white striped [...]
9:00 am

Do you run a WordPress blog?

Gravatar If so head over to the party website to see the latest widgets we’ve made available for you - including one that allows you to easily drop in the latest party film, with your site being automatically updated when a new one comes out. Bug reports and feedback welcome. e campaigning
8:58 am

How do you eat yours?

Gravatar Three months early - what's it to you? I see in this morning's paper that a religious group is complaining that Tesco's Easter egg range has already gone on sale. Then as I got off the train I spotted Crème Egg posters announcing "they're here". Happy Easter everyone! But why do people complain about things like this? When Christmas stuff hits the shops in September (or earlier), it generates endless "news" stories. Retailers are running businesses - if no one was buying things for Christmas in September or Easter eggs in January, they wouldn't ...
8:12 am


Gravatar Graffiti is clearly becoming a bigger problem. Particularly in Yardley. Yesterday, therefore, it was agreed that I would chair the Constituency Graffiti Working Party. We need to catch the people responsible and ensure that they are prosecuted for the substantial damage that they do. A sensible punishment is spending all the weekends for months clearing up the mess.
7:12 am

The urgent need for discussion of OCTOPUSH

Gravatar Let's talk about Octopush. We are very good at it. Look at the photo - it's exciting. Or let's dicuss Morris dancing. Or Tiddly Winks. Or three-dimensional chess. Or Euchre - an excellent game of which some of the finest practioners can be found on these shores. Anything but the game with sticks and a ball.
1:18 am

Holes in the Brain?

Gravatar Can I recommend that anyone who is interested in drugs policy should have a listen to this Radio 4 documentary: The E Generation at 40. In theory the programme looks at the truth about the predicted health effects of "e" on the population 20 or so years after its explosion on to the rave scene in the late 80's. But much more fascinating are the insights it offers up into the attitude towards drugs
12:00 am

Does the Folkestone Herald Read My Blog?

Gravatar This is a speculative post since it seems that someone in the Folkestone Herald hasn't been reading my blog and keeping up with the fact that I now live in Sandgate Road, Folkestone with my family. To be fair it has only been since the 29th December but sometimes it is good to check these facts..... The answer to my rhetorical question is probably "no".

Previous days:

Thursday 4th January 2007, Wednesday 3rd January 2007, Tuesday 2nd January 2007, Monday 1st January 2007, Sunday 31st December 2006, Saturday 30th December 2006