Monday 15th January 2007

11:26 pm

NCR, Magdalen Green, Surgery, Council meetings

Gravatar It is nearly 11.30pm and, having got back from council committees at 8pm to spend three hours on mainly day job related work, am seriously tired, so I'll keep this fairly short.A good turnout at this morning's Friends of Magdalen Green meeting - it was agreed to have a February meeting on 'practical' issues such as the damage to the Green (and do resident consultation on temporary actions that can be taken to alleviate the situation) and thereafter have a formal public meeting to launch the group. Together with two residents, I am meeting with a member of Leisure & ...
11:23 pm

The United Kingdom … of Britain and France?

Gravatar According to declassified documents which have just been dug out of the National Archives, Britain and France considered uniting in the 1950s. The French press are rather bemused about the stillborn “Union Franglaise”, which comes as something of a shock. French Prime Minister at the time, Guy Mollet, suggested a union between the two states, as a solution to the political troubles in the middle east, both in Suez and in Israel, which threatened to pit the UK and France against each other. Anthony Eden refused the request, which would presumably have resulted in France becoming the fifth ...
11:10 pm

Hecklerspray: David Beckham, Tom Cruise & Aaron Lennon

Gravatar After a long night discussing next month's budget setting meetings, some light relief was needed. I got it on Hecklerspray, reliable as always. And this article is especially good because, as well as the usual wit, it's also nice about Aaron Lennon. david-beckham-in-la-its-all-tom-cruises-fault/ 20076529.php#more-6529 As is the same with all links I post on my blog, I'm not responsible for the content (or language) of external websites. Incidentally, would be nice if Becks would do us a favour and come to Spurs on loan for the rest of the season. But it isn't going ...
10:47 pm

Minority Report Britain

Gravatar The ‘they just don’t get it’ tendencies of this Government are becoming quite frightening. The latest intimation of their wish to turn the make believe of Minority Report into a reality is demonstrated by the news that Labour is planning ‘behaviour orders’ for people thought to be “at risk” of committing a violent crime. We’re well used now to New Labour’s contempt for the judicial process.
10:37 pm

Down Time

Gravatar Apologies to those of you who wanted to use Flock Together this afternoon. The site (along with all the other sites I host with 1and1) was down for about 6 hours. Another reason to sort out some new hosting, I suppose.
10:08 pm

Getting to the root causes of gender imbalance

Gravatar The debate over how to make our Parliamentary Parties more reflective of wider society is riven with entrenched assertions, with very little actual data to help inform the debate, so the Campaign for Gender Balance are to be congratulated for doing this little piece of research. They have found that in the 63 constituencies where the [...]
10:08 pm

Can Obama win? Yes - but would we want him to...

Gravatar There was an interesting thread on politicalbetting yesterday debating whether Barack Obama can win the US Presidency. The consensus seemed to be no, but I think they are wrong. Obama can win, the interesting question for me is would I want him to? First things first, can he win? I think so. It increasingly looks like the Democratic nomination will come down to a fight between Hillary Clinton,
9:55 pm

Day 2203: Bully Pulpit

Gravatar Friday: EXCLUSIVE I have received an ANONYMOUS and ENTIRELY MADE UP e-mail: "Help, I am being bullied by Dale Winton! Signed, Mr Balloon " What SHOULD a fluffy elephant believe? Actually, there IS a serious point here. Sometimes there are ISSUES that ought to be raised. Who ate the last sticky bun? Where did all that ermine come from, Lord Blairimort? But is that an excuse to publish ANY accusation that you like? When does FAIR COMMENT turn into SMEAR and SPIN? And doesn't that just undermine EVERYBODY'S trust in journalism and politics? Look up the word ...
9:06 pm

The Burden of Civil Partnerships

Gravatar I've just become aware of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Burden and Burden v. UK, which could have presented a major challenge to the Civil Partnership Act. The Burdens are unmarried sisters who have lived together for thirty years. If each left their share of the house and other property to the other by will, the house would have to be sold in order to pay the inheritance tax. The case arose because if the sisters had instead been civil partners (or spouses), no inheritance tax would have applied. They claimed ...
8:19 pm

Council seeks independent members for Audit Committee

Gravatar Redcar and Cleveland Council is seeking applications from the public for two new part-time and voluntary members to join its internal Audit Committee as part of a process to bring an independent perspective on how public money is spent and how it conducts business in accordance with the law. Committee chairman Councillor Keith Pudney said: "Successful applicants will have an exciting and vital role in contributing and influencing the Committee's work. "It is responsible for providing independent assurance to the Council of the adequacy and effectiveness of its internal control measures, which include risk management and performance measures." ...
7:56 pm

Not a policy likely to win friends in Glasgow ...

Gravatar I see Dave is planning permits for producers of fatty foods. Read about it HERE. I always read and hear Tories going on about "the nanny state", but this is obsessive. Having a permit for fatty foods is hardly going to endear Mr Cameron to fish and chip shop owners in Glasgow who have been known to deep fry Mars bars. I guess though that the Tories have few votes to lose there !
7:28 pm

Oh dear! Labour is struggling to find candidates for the Council elections

Gravatar Selections from a Labour Party document found under the lid of a photocopier in Redcar & Cleveland Town Hall. (surely they were not using Council facilities? - CA). Leader's New Year Report for 2007 Dear Comrades, Campaigning. We were out in Eston on Saturday and Sunday with Vera Baird introducing the Eston candidates on the doorsteps in the Whale Hill Estate. This year we have our local elections taking place on Thursday the 03rd of May. Whilst all the "A" wards have been completed we still need candidates for some of the "B" wards and also the "C" wards. ...
6:49 pm

If the government could manage the data they've already got ...

Gravatar Put simply, the government have shown us in the last week that : 1) They cannot work out how mnay prisoners have escaped from an open prison. 2) They cannot log information of British citizens who commit crime abroad. Now if they could prove that they can organise the data they already have access to, then we might consider that they might have a case wanting access to more data. Until then, people will rightly have the opinion that this is a government obsessed with getting its hands on your data, even if they haven't got the first ...
6:32 pm

Reports of UKIP demise have been greatly exaggerated

Gravatar Just ten days after writing, in my opinion, that the writing was on the wall for a slow demise of UKIP, they have gone and surprised me (and hopefully a few others) by showing that they still have some purpose in the politics of the UK. I wrote before about the loss of party members in different parts of the country, but since then they've gained two previously Tory Lords, gained a notable Tory advisor and now two major Tory donors have said they may vote UKIP because of David Cameron's policies towards Europe. In my view, this does not ...
6:26 pm

Green Energy for Street Lighting

Gravatar In welcome news, the City Council has announced that it has reached a two year agreement with EON Energy for the supply of electricity from renewable sources for street lighting and traffic signs and signals across Birmingham (the old contract expired on 31 December 2006). If you are interested in switching your own home to green electricity then you can compare tariffs at http://
6:14 pm

Funny Old Week

Gravatar Back at work, as always it's as though holidays didn't happen (but 4 weeks to half term). Yes, many of my students did lots of work to keep me busy marking this weekend! My parcel to friends in Germany for Christmas was returned as I have put the wrong address. On checking, the address is correct but I put my friend's maiden name and not her married name - so there goes another £3.50 to send it
6:05 pm

Australian Open 1st Round: good luck Alan Mackin

Gravatar Aside from football, tennis is my favourite sport. Actually, the only difference with the two for me is that sadly I was always useless at footy, but used to play a lot of tennis. A couple of years ago I managed to do a sort of spectator version of the Grand Slam - i.e. I went to the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open all in the same year. Anyway, the Australian Open first round got underway today (or yesterday, depending on your timezone). Tuesday's matches include Brit Alan Mackin - who came through three ...
6:01 pm

Marks and Spencer - A real "Super" store

Gravatar A big well done to Marks and Spencer for today announcing that they intend to become a carbon neutral store. The news within this piece of news though that really impessed me was their determination to do this, as much as possible, via reducing their carbon footprint by saving energy, making use of renewable energy and through re-thinking the way they do business. They have not simply decided to carbon offset, so often used by businesses going green. Marks and Spencer have said that carbon offsetting will only be used as a last resort when everyavailable alternative has ...
5:57 pm

Au revoir, not goodbye, to Sardine Man

Gravatar As the photos of me dressed as a sardine were so popular when I did that launch in December, I thought I would post another one - the one that seemed to be the most popular with the press. Bear in mind that I couldn't actually see these ladies through the costume, so thanks to them for stopping to have their photo taken. I've posted this really as a goodbye to my colleagues at Transport 2000, where I finished working last week. I really enjoyed working with a very committed and knowledgeable bunch of people and wish them the ...
5:24 pm

Tim Ireland takes on Guido Fawkes

Gravatar Tim Ireland, independent political activist who has done some work for the Lib Dems in the past, has written a post taking on uber-blogger Guido Fawkes with an appeal to the bloggersphere’s better nature. From what I’ve skim-read there are some good points. If I might make a suggestion in one word, Tim: “footnotes”.  Any chance of [...]
5:20 pm

Scottish numbers

Gravatar UK polling report casts doubt on whether the LDs could be the largest party in Scotland after the elections. polls scotland
5:07 pm

Can LibDems offer something better than 'Database Culture'

Gravatar Back in January 2006 I commented on New Labour being the ‘Database Party’, and how LibDems can find something different and better in our own traditions by understanding the differences and links between Data, Knowledge and Wisdom. I am still hopeful about this - optimism perhaps? But the current ‘Foreign Offenders’ uproar shows that Labour are still in database thrall and are illustrating the limitations of that approach. The failure to keep the CNP records up to date illustrates once again the vulnerability of databases as administrative and political tools. Keeping a ‘live’ database up to date is an ...
4:58 pm

No news is...boring news.

Gravatar I have little to report today, sorry. It has been a day of thwarted ambitions and workplace irritations. I have stumbled back onto the diet-wagon after yesterday’s pub disaster. So I am hungry and irritable. I won’t give up with this until I can get into the “skinny fit” t-shirt I got free with an 8-pack of Grolsch without looking like I’m 7 months pregnant. The trials of my flat continue. I
4:26 pm

The EU

Gravatar Cicero has preempted me with his excellent post on Europe - Another Europe. The part of this post I am more specifically referring to is his comments on the failing of the EU, and it has many failings, but, he argues we should not simply leave the EU, that would be throwing away the baby with [...]
4:14 pm

Cameron Strikes Back

Gravatar A quick scan of the front page of today's Telegraph might suggest that David Cameron has blinked.Faced with various high profile defections to UKIP the Conservative leader has said what the Tory right were longing to hear:"The ideas that encouraged me as a young man to join the Conservative Party and work for Margaret Thatcher.  Those ideas are profound and enduring: freedom under the law, personal responsibility, sound money, strong defence and national sovereignty."David Cameron - The TelegraphHowever a reading of the whole text shows clearly that he hasn't blinked.  Rather than repositioning himself, he repositions the great lady herself.  ...
3:41 pm

Wi' Wallace bled

Gravatar Two quotes from "Scots Wha Hae" in a single day- what can be the meaning of this? Lepidus pointed out a story in The Economist about Poles coming to the Highlands in significant numbers, many of whom have names that were originally Scottish. I think that the story might have come from a comment I made to Edward Lucas about Lech Walesa, whose name has been said, without any confirmation, to be a corruption of Wallace. Certainly the family is very much part of the area- and may be Kaszub - and of course the City of ...
3:40 pm

Are Lib Dems joining Labour to vote for John McDonnell?

Gravatar I broke my new "don't talk about politics" rule again last night - have to confess. Meeting up with an old trade union pal, who is also a member of the local Labour party, I guess it would have been a recipe for sitting there in silence had I stuck to my guns! Anyway, it is always interesting to hear about what is happening in the local Labour camp and last night was no exception. What really caught my ear was to learn that an ex local Lib Dem supporter had now joined Labour in order to vote for John ...
2:22 pm

The Bush/Blair Legacy

Gravatar With more US troops being deployed in Iraq with the endorsement of our Prime Minister it seems neither Bush nor Blair have learnt the lessons of Iraq. Without United Nations authority the military a...
2:12 pm

Anti-trade rhetoric

Gravatar I’ve just come across this 2004 this article from the Times. It attributes some very disturbing statements to Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. These include claims that the 9/11 bombers had no choice in their actions and that Every transaction in the developed economies of the West can be interpreted as an act of aggression against [...]
2:12 pm

The coming crisis in the British Public Sector

Gravatar Once upon a time there was an Island country that had an independent civil service. This civil service attracted many good brains and so was a finely honed tool of administration. Senior leaders of the civil service were not extravagantly paid- indeed they usually earned less than their equivalent in the private sector, but there were regular perks: Knighthoods for the big bosses and good gongs for the rest that help to recompense the lack. In addition there was a pension that was non contributory and index linked, so overall the civil service was not that badly off. There was ...
1:54 pm

Putting Assunder

Gravatar The Sunday Times yesterday published the results of the poll claiming that 45% of married couples thought that divorce should be made harder than it currently is. Only 21% were against the idea, with the remainder neither agreeing nor disagreeing. In a time of increasing tendency towards divorce on demand in the Western world, this is perhaps surprising. In fact, divorce on demand is already a reality in England and Wales. On the face of the 1973 Matrimonial Causes Act, a couple must adduce evidence that their marriage has irretrievably broken down, using evidence in ...
1:23 pm

Scots Wha Hae

Gravatar The last few weeks, since the publication of a poll in November suggesting that the majority of both Scots and English support independence, have seen the debate on the issue grow much hotter. This is very far from the first time, in recent years, that the majority of Scots have supported independence- indeed it was the usual state of affairs for much of the last ten years of the last Conservative period in government. Perhaps then that we should not be surprised to see that Iain Dale has been running a poll about whether Scottish "Devolution" has strengthened the ...
1:22 pm

A good excuse to suspend the leadership selection in the Labour Party???

Gravatar See the Arab Times. Makes interesting reading........
1:13 pm

NHS up the creek

Gravatar NHS Blog Doctor has a nice parable about a rowing race between the NHS and Marks & Spencer: Patricia Hewitt was discouraged and depressed about the crushing defeat. She appointed a team of senior managers to investigate and to recommend appropriate action. Their conclusion was that the Marks & Spencer team had eight people rowing and one person steering, whilst the NHS team had eight people steering and one person rowing. Patricia did not like the report, so she hired a private management consultancy company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion. The ...
12:55 pm

Should we burn Guido Fawkes?

Gravatar Bloggerheads is back with a long and powerful post attacking Britain's best known political blog Guido Fawkes. He writes: Because this is long, it is 'boring', so here's the executive summary: 1. Guido, through a number of deceits, renders any meaningful interaction with his weblog inert... above all, he's a comment cheat and a disgrace to blogging.2. Guido is practically inviting politicians to avoid blogging or work to restrict the activity. It is honest bloggers who will pay the price.3. Most of Guido's 'scoops' are nothing of the sort4. Guido is a shameless opportunist and he's using your own frustration(s) ...
12:43 pm

Liberal bureaucracy and the free market

Gravatar I've been Regional Secretary for two years now, and was beginning to assume that it was a job that nobody else wanted. On Wednesday, my assumption was somewhat unexpectedly shaken when, in seeking nominations, I found that I am opposed for the post this year. Havard Hughes, our now former Chair of the Regional Policy Committee, indicated that he wanted the job and my initial response was to let
12:28 pm

More bad news for the Tories, and yes more UKIP news!

Gravatar I have more bad news about the Conservatives, some of which I heard on Friday but saved it for today. Firstly Cardon (in South East Cornwall) District Councillor John Yaxley has joined the Liberal Democrats, Councillor Yaxley was elected as a Conservative in 2003. The Conservatives also lost a former Councillor and activist (Alan Blumenthal) to UKIP in Birmingham and a couple of high-donors are threading to withdraw their funding.
12:13 pm

Because the pictures are funnier

Gravatar The Guardian carries one of those rather tired ‘Whither radio comedy?’ articles today. Y’know, the kind of article which appear every couple of years, citing past gems from the archives, and finds today’s current crop wanting: This Thursday Radio 4 is pointing out just how significant its role has been, giving over most of the night to Radio Ha Ha - a combination of features, archive programmes
11:56 am

Nathon Markets - Pictures only

11:56 am

Another Europe...

Gravatar The latest release of public documents throws up the interesting story that Guy Mollet, the French Prime Minister of the time, suggested in 1956 that France and Britain form a Union. The idea of France joining the Commonwealth- then an organisation of far more substance than it has today- was taken seriously at the time in London. France under the Fourth Republic was yet to develop the robust nationalism that has been the hallmark of the Fifth Republic. It is interesting to speculate what kind of Europe we would see today, had France moved so decisively into the British ...
11:56 am

Pop Culture Ramblings 3

Gravatar Spending 2 weeks back "Home" in Cumbria and thus with the family has ment I have had to digest 2 years worth of normal quantities of ITV 1. This is a double whammey. Apart from hours of badly acted, badly written soap opera you also have to endure the same poor actors singing badly as well. Last nights ITV new coverage of the latest British casulties in Iraq and Afghanistan made me wonder if state censorship had been introduced. The real reason for my grumpiness of course was being reminded what an appaling intellectual snob I have turned into. ...
11:48 am

Eston Park is outstanding and that's official

Gravatar Rising achievements at Eston Park School has earned top marks from Ofsted inspectors. The number of students achieving five or more GCSEs at the school has almost quadrupled in the last five years, resulting in an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating. The report says: “Students make outstanding progress given their starting points and develop into confident young people.” The Redcar and Cleveland school in Eston is now in the top 14 per cent of schools nationally for the progress students make from entering to leaving the school. Some students are given the opportunity to study GCSEs in Year ...
11:40 am

Bangalore via Strasbourg

Gravatar Monday 15th January 2007 - After a weekend at home and some constitutency work I am heading back to Strasbourg this morning for the first plenary session of the new year, although my time there will be limited as I am off to India tomorrow. I have been invited to attend a Partnership Summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, the equivalent of the CBI, where I will be speaking
11:10 am

Love Don’t Roam

Gravatar In the background of the wedding reception scene in 2006’s Doctor Who Christmas special The Runaway Bride, you might have heard Neil Hannon (off of the Divine Comedy) singing a rather good little song. It’s called Love Don’t Roam and was written for the episode. It’s available on the Who soundtrack album and really should have [...]
10:58 am

Written Parliamentary Question: 15th January 2007

Gravatar Dr. David Southall Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will re-examine all child protection cases in which Dr. David Southall was involved. A:It is the responsibility of individual local authorities to fulfil the child protection functions that fall to them under the Children Act 1989. In undertaking this, they frequently need to work in partnership with health and
10:46 am

Is it good to share?

Gravatar I have to admit, I had always assumed that any data held by a Government department was shared with all other Government departments as a matter of course. Maybe I am just too cynical, or perhaps I have too much faith in the efficiency and effectiveness of Civil Service record keeping. Why that should be, I do not know. After all I used to be a civil servant. So, we are now presented with a proposition from the Prime Minister that we have nothing to fear from consenting to a relaxation of the apparently "over-zealous" rules which stop Whitehall ...
10:38 am

How should council group leaders be elected?

Gravatar Following up on the piece I wrote for Liberal Review querying whether only councillors should have a say in the election of council group leaders (after all, party leaders aren't elected just by MPs) - London Region have put a discussion on the agenda for the regional conference coming up in a few weeks. Should make for an interesting debate - especially as lots of councillors normally attend!
10:37 am

The Westminster Hour

Gravatar It is so weird to go out at 9.30pm on a Sunday night to do a live panel discussion. That's the time of the week when I am normally just relaxing before the onslaught of the week ahead, making sure everything is done and ready. But last night (Sunday) was the first of the new era of The Westminster Hour with its new presenter Carolyn Quinn. One of the innovations is a live slot with a panel of
10:28 am

Poor Ron

Gravatar There are days when I feel sorry for Ron Davies. There he is, cast into obscurity, struggling to make a comeback, and yet he is knocked back every time. Today is no different. The Western Mail reports that his latest attempt to form an election alliance between himself and Blaenau Gwent by-election victor Trish Law appears to have been torpedoed before it was agreed. Apparently, the Peoples' Voice felt that Ron Davies and his Forward Wales party were seeking to 'hijack' their group. Unfortunately for them, that is the problem when you form an electoral alliance on the ...
10:18 am


Gravatar Before Christmas I wrote that I would love to hear again a new Christmas choral piece 'Rejoice, rejoice, with heart and voice' by David Nield. And my wish was granted yesterday evening at the Epiphany Carol Srvice at Kingston Parish Church. This time the church choir sang this demanding work, and with great aplomb. It was just one element in a beautiful, and at times theatrical,...
10:07 am

Wine and Irish dancing

Gravatar Older people living in Chessington and Hook were treated to a late Christmas Party yesterday at St Catherine's Church. The Society of St Vincent de Paul organises it every year, and all the party-goers were grateful to the many volunteers who made it such a successful event. This time they provided entertainment in the form of a group of Irish dancers. I hadn't realised...
9:31 am

The Trial of Tony Blair

Gravatar No Yates of the the Yard has not got him, but More Four will tonight be broadcasting their new programme The Trial of Tony Blair at 10pm tonight.
9:07 am

After ten months, Thames Water may lift its hosepipe ban!

Gravatar ...One of those occasions when it is worth the effort of checking the spelling of Hallelujah!
8:25 am

Another NHS spoof that's worth a click

Gravatar This one is on NHSBLOGDOC.
2:23 am

Bold as Brass

Gravatar I have just been reading the blog of Stockton Mayor Suzanne Fletcher. Suzanne is calling for Stockton to recognise Brass Crosby. Brass Crosby was the Lord Mayor of London in 1771 when Parliament issued a warrant for a printer who had published the proceedings of the House. I will let Suzanne take up the plot: In 1771 a printer of a newspaper called Miller was in deep trouble with Parliament for
12:35 am

Back from a flooded York

Gravatar I went to York on Friday for a weekend seminar for councillors on safer communities. Put on by the Association of Councillors (a cross party group to which Gateshead Council signs up all its members), I rarely find them of use and frankly I am finding it increasingly difficult to accept they are value for money. In my 20 years as a councillor (well, 20 years in May) I have attended one a year.

Previous days:

Sunday 14th January 2007, Saturday 13th January 2007, Friday 12th January 2007, Thursday 11th January 2007, Wednesday 10th January 2007, Tuesday 9th January 2007