Monday 29th January 2007

11:20 pm

The Elgin Marbles & Mile High, a clash of cultures

Gravatar When I was in the British Museum for the photography exhibition at the weekend, I also popped in on the Elgin Marbles. The photo shows part of the East Pediment from the Parthenon. I first saw these just before a school trip to Athens about 15 years ago. We stopped off in London "on the way" to see the bits which we wouldn't be able to see when we got to their original home in Greece. Yesterday I picked up a British Museum leaflet entitled "THE PARTHENON SCULPTURES in the British Museum, Athens and other public collections". With ...
11:02 pm

We would make school meals healthier

Gravatar   Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for the Vale of Clwyd Mark Young said: “Feeding our children shouldn’t be about putting the easiest and quickest food on their plates, it should be a vital part of feeding their appetite for learning and feeding their ability to learn. “That’s why we will introduce new nutritional standards for school meals, based on best practice and research, which would provide children with at least a third of their nutritional needs. “We would re-direct funding from Labour’s free breakfast gimmick towards ensuring investment in delivering healthier and more nutritional school lunches. By making ...
10:33 pm

Holocaust Memorial Day

Gravatar Yesterday I attended Birmingham's Holocaust Memorial Day service in Centenary Square. The event is to remember all the victims of the Holocaust and to reflect on all those who have been the victims of genocide since the Second World War. This year's theme was "The Dignity of Difference". The service was led by the Cllr Paul Tilsley, the Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, and Cllr Mike
10:06 pm

“But frankly my dear…”

Gravatar One of the things seems to be doing more often is getting the shows ’stars’ to write blog posts - today they got the mighty JC to write a post on the first complaint. Yup that’s right - a complaint has been sent in about Top Gear already. The Scottish Green Party lodged a complaint about [...]
10:04 pm

A message to anti-arms trade MPs - how to phase out UK industry's arms-trade-dependence

Gravatar Another timely piece from Paul Reynolds in the light of the BAe debacle:- The benefits to the UK of these large defence contracts need to be assessed in as neutral a way as possible - neither to prove the pro or anti argument. A proper assessment of ALL the costs and benefits is needed if the government's public interest argument is to be considered (including subsidy, hidden and otherwise, costs of civil service staff, and opportunity costs in the medium-term monopolisation of limited UK engineering expertise). It is not enough just to rely on treaty obligations in objecting, since ...
9:53 pm

Is it time to start laying John McCain?

Gravatar Most of the attention focussed on the 2008 US Presidential race this side of the pond has been focused on the battle for the Democratic nomination, the rise of Obama nicely counterpointing the return of Hillary Clinton to centre stage. But the race for the Republican nomination could turn out to be just as wide open. As Toby Harnden points out the momentum behind McCain's bid seems to be failing.
9:47 pm

A bad time to come out of the closet?

Gravatar It's been nagging away at the back of my mind for some time, a sense that I am being less than true to myself. I'd given it some thought over the past three years, and have even joked about it on occasion. But it was only over the New Year, spent with my family, that I concluded that, deep in my soul, I am at heart a Catholic. I could have picked a better time, given the furore over the Catholic
9:45 pm

Area Board and Metrolink ....

Gravatar The two main items on the agenda tonight were the conservation area - which we'll look at again - after it's been to planning committee. The second, the concerns that we have of total road traffic grid-lock when our Bury to Manchester Metrolink shuts in order to replace the track. A tram driver was there - he said that they haven't been told what's happening to them so he's worried, commuters were
9:05 pm


Gravatar We’ve just received the new Campaigner from ALDC. I’ve got to say that it’s a massive improvement over Grassroots and for the first time I actually read it. It’s a lot more reader friendly and the colours make a massive improvement.
8:48 pm

Norwich Union to re-patriate 150 jobs from India

Gravatar Norwich Union have announced that 150 jobs dealing with household insurance claims will be re-patriated to the UK because of cultural differences. Apparently these "cultural differences" actually mean "language problems", or so said BBC radio this evening. Before we get over excited, Norwich Union are still movign another 1000 jobs out to India and will ahve 8,000 people emploed in India rather than the UK by the end of the year. At least Dell, GE capital, AXA/PPP Healthcare and Powergen have moved all their jobs back to the UK, and deserve to do well on that ...
8:33 pm

Lembit: Latest love shock

Gravatar Thanks to the Guardian .
8:26 pm

My head hurts

Gravatar Tonight, and not before time, I’ve completed my tax return. Happily, and for the first time, it appears the Inland Revenue is in my debt. As I’d girded my loins against the usual demand for a few hundred quid this makes me happy. It also makes me worried, since I’m now convinced I’ve made a mistake in my adding up. (Heck, I’m only the guy in charge of Oxford city’s finances.) And credit where
8:25 pm

Prisoners locked up for six months extra because prison service cannot get documents sorted

Gravatar It's little wonder we have a prison overcrowding crisis when you consider what Radio Five Live were covering early. In Norwich prison, a Jamaican national who has been serving a sentence for drugs offences, should have been released and deported on August 3rd, but has stayed in prison for the last six months because the prison service have not got his birth certificate so they can deport him. It turns out that one of the board of visitors, a lay person who monitors the prison, when he heard about this, managed to get the birth certificate himself by ...
8:07 pm

Paul Channon and The Winslow Boy

Gravatar Iain Dale reports that the former Conservative cabinet minister Paul Channon has died. Time, I think, to uncork one of my favourite trivial facts. Channon was the dedicatee of Terence Rattigan's play The Winslow Boy, as this article confirms: Rattigan began writing the play in July 1945 while Great Britain was in the midst of a General Election which would oust Winston Churchill, the hero of the war, from office. We know Rattigan was enthusiastic about the theme because he read portions of the work in progress to his close friend, the well-known man about town, diarist and Conservative MP, ...
7:46 pm

Dealing with the BNP

Gravatar The February 2007 issue of SEARCHLIGHT magazine- the consistently impressive and helpful journal which highlights and campaigns against manifestations of fascism and racism across the world, carries an interesting item in its editorial column. Headed "a dangerous precedent", it criticises 2 unnamed Liberal Democrat councillors in Burnley for voting for a BNP councillor (Sharon Wilkinson)rather than a Labour councillor to sit on the Padiham Life committee. Apparently they defended their decision by claiming she was a good councillor and the best person for the job. Searchlight rightly see this as a "dangerous and worrying development" and go on ...
7:39 pm

Top Gear insult to Crash Victims

Gravatar Like many people, including road safety charity Break, I was shocked and appalled by the BBC’s airing of comments made by Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson on last night’s (Sunday) episode of Top Gear. Following the clips of Richard Hammond crashing a vehicle at high speed, Clarkson said, ‘speed kills’ pointing to Hammond (who survived the crash). Clarkson’s comment was not only highly irresponsible but downright offensive to anyone who has been bereaved or injured at the hands of a speeding driver. Exceeding the speed limit or going too fast for the conditions is a ...
7:23 pm

Important meeting about our new secondary school

Gravatar Consultation is not Haringey Council's strong suit and I was disappointed to say the least when I attended a (poorly publicised) public meeting to discuss the bids to run Haringey's new secondary school and there were only six members of the public present. Thankfully Councillor Engert, our local Lib Dem Education Spokesperson, with support from myself scored a mini victory and the Council have
7:16 pm

Catholic adoptions - blimey!

Gravatar Just heard that, give or take a month or twenty-one, the Government has faced down the Catholic leadership.  I didn’t believe they had the bottle, so kudos that they have. Now on to Group.  Preliminary manifesto discussions tonight.  What fun.
6:07 pm

Good while it lasted

Gravatar So the Canaries cup run is set to come cashing to an end at Stamford Bridge then…  (That’s always asuming we can overcome the mighty Blackpool first )  I would have been tempted to take the Young Master to watch the game if I thought it would be value for money but with City playing like a team of peoplewhocantplayverywell and [...]
5:55 pm

I don’t agree with gay adoption, but neither do I agree with catholic adoption agencies

Gravatar In the debate over the last couple of weeks about Catholic adoption agencies, there is one thought that I just cannot avoid thinking. That is, that I do not agree with gay adoption anyway. Before I am accused of being some raving homophobe, it is perhaps worth pointing out for those who don’t [...]
5:17 pm

The Baghdad 'Surge' and the curse of Mercaneries, aka Private Military Companies ...

Gravatar This is really not encouraging… Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new top U.S. commander in Iraq told Congress that he might supplement efforts to secure Baghdad using the Iraqi Facilities Protection Service, a 150,000-man force that guards Iraqi government agencies. But that service is widely considered unreliable, and elements were described in July by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as "more dangerous than the militias"… Washington Post 27 Jan 2007 If the US ‘One More Heave’ so-called surge strategy in Baghdad is relying on this kind of support to succeed we are all in more trouble than ...
5:14 pm

Up 3 in YouGov: Lib Dem supporters not dead, just hibernating

Gravatar If you don't "do" polls, look away now! January's YouGov poll is out with a substantial bounce for the Lib Dems: Con 38% (+1) Lab 31% (-1) LD 18% (+3) Others 13% (-2) Lib Dems will have come to fear YouGov in recent months, as they give us by far the lowest score of all the major polling organisations. This is welcome news though and confirms the trend in the excellent January ICM poll showing
4:59 pm

Bigger than you could possibly imagine

Gravatar Rosemary Behan has written an excellent comment piece in today’s Times in which she takes apart the case for banning “Size Zero” models. (Blogger appears to be having HTML problems but the piece is here:,,6-2571535,00.html) I can add nothing to her arguments, but I would like to raise one point that had been lost on me and, perhaps, others too. (If I've missed something here and everybody else knew this, I apologise). Apparently, Size Zero models aren’t Size Zero at all. They’re Size Four. Go figure! This is an excellent example of scaremongering.A site for ...
4:34 pm

Wave to the camera

Gravatar As a child I remember being unbelievably excited while walking through the high street and saw a TV camera, I was with my Nan and we we’re in shot so my Nan told me to wave to the camera. Brilliant! Now of course it isn’t really necessary as there are cameras on every lampost, wall, building [...]
4:09 pm

Death Washed-Up

Gravatar Last year the Department of Environment, Food and Rural affairs cut the budget for post-mortems of Dolphins and Porpoises washed up on UK beaches, and for their disposal. Previously central funds su...
4:09 pm

Association for Improvement in Maternity Services backs Hemming on Adoption

Gravatar BABIES ARE BEING SNATCHED FOR ADOPTION JOHN HEMMING IS RIGHT, says Consumer Group FROM The Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS) The government is denying that social workers are targeting babies for adoption. Listening to desperate calls from pregnant women or mothers of new babies and toddlers on our help-line would quickly show their denials are not true. Health
3:21 pm

ID cards & antidiscrimination law

Gravatar A couple of petitions to the PM: to scrap the introduction of ID cards & to prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities on the grounds of sexual orientation
3:09 pm

Institutionalised stupidity

Gravatar John Reid's further problems this weekend have forced prisons onto the media agenda again, why we send people there and what prisoners achieve whilst banged up.  Johann Hari in The Independent today rehearses the kind of liberal arguments that most readers of this blog would agree with:"This waste is being replicated at Her Majesty's sadistic Pleasure across Britain. The Adult Learning Inspectorate has reported that 60 per cent of prisons are failing to provide adequate training, and only 8 per cent of prisoners are doing meaningful work."Johann Hari, The Independent More simply put is a very short filler in The ...
2:03 pm

Happy Milton Friedman Day

Gravatar Today is Milton Friedman Day, a celebration of the life of one the greatest evangelists for liberalism. Let us use this day to remember the essential creed of liberalism, that the individual should be as free as possible to pursue their own ends and that government should not interfere with this. However you think it best to [...]
1:57 pm

Time, Gentlemen, please!

Gravatar The sound of screeching tyres can be heard again as another government U-turn beckons. Not surprisingly, it is a liberalising measure from which they have decided to back away. The new licensing laws have been in force for barely a year, having come into force on 24 November 2005. Yet already the Government is backtracking. This is partly the result of an apparent rise in alcohol related diseases since 2002-3, though most of this occurred before the new licensing laws came into effect. While the government has a duty to consider public health problems, there is no excuse ...
1:42 pm

FA Cup 5th Round Draw: Fulham v Spurs

Gravatar Very good of the FA to arrange to do the draw for the next round in my lunchbreak. The news is that we will be going to Craven Cottage. Please, please, please let it be more exciting than our recent league match there was. Can't say I'm especially excited by the draw - but certainly there could have been harder draws. I expect Fulham fans are probably thinking the same too. And, as I went to school in Blackpool and have been to Bloomfield Road to watch them a few times (as well as to Cardiff when they ...
1:21 pm

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Gravatar From Orpington Lib Dem Gerda Loosemore-Reppen comes this email: Interested in improving your confidence in speaking and understanding German? If you can answer yes, then join our informal conversation group. We usually meet on the second Tuesday in the month. Place: Bar area of the Orpington Liberal Club, 7 Station Rd Orpington, from 8.15 pm. Members are very welcome. Further information can be
1:09 pm

A canker at the heart of our political system

Gravatar I’m going to stop writing about Liberal Democrat News soon, I promise! But one last thing: an excellent comment piece by Andrew George MP in which he examines the easy vacuousness of opposition. As he is writing for Lib Dem News, he’s unable to avoid a dig at David Cameron in the last paragraph, which is a shame as it slightly detracts from the main point of the piece: that it is easy to point the finger of blame but harder to propose alternative policies. Nonetheless it is a good piece and worth reading; so much so that ...
1:08 pm

Congestion Charging

Gravatar Lot's of people have been talking about congeston charge plans in Manchester in recent days. I always like to be first with the pressing issues, so here are my brief comments, only a week after everyone else made their's... My view is that there should never be road charging on commuter routes. I think it's a regressive tax that penalises poor people trying to get to work. Improve public
12:57 pm

Israel and Northern Ireland: lessons to learn?

Gravatar Three different Palestinian groups are claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing today, which killed three people in Eilat. It's the first suicide attack on Israeli soil for nine months. This wasn’t the attack of an oppressed victim against a powerful occupier. It wasn’t an attack against the failed policies of Arafat or Sharon or Olmert, which have turned the progress of the late nineties into the total deadlock of the mid-noughties. It was an attack on a bakery in a seaside resort, an attack against three normal Israelis buying bread. On the same day, in Northern Ireland, ...
12:50 pm

North Wiltshire Tory selection latest

Gravatar The row over James Gray's attempt to keep his Commons seat is becoming almost unbearably sordid. The Daily Telegraph reports: The wife of a Conservative MP who left her for another woman has attacked her husband for belittling her fight against cancer. Sarah Gray, the wife of the North Wiltshire MP James Gray, has written to the Conservative leader David Cameron to say she was "deeply hurt" by her husband's behaviour after he left her for Philippa Mayo, 44, a mother of three and fellow countryside campaigner. Mrs Gray, 51, said she had been forced to respond after her husband ...
12:22 pm

A Triumph of hope over reality

Gravatar I think it is fair to say that this morning's Guardian article about John Reid is an attempted pre-emptive strike designed to lower expectations and possibly prepare us for more damaging revelations. The paper records that Mr Reid is braced for further criticism this week when Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons, uses her annual report to highlight the rise in the number of prisoners serving indeterminate sentences to about 2,000. And in another potentially awkward intervention, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will deliver a speech to the Prison Reform Trust on Thursday. However, the Home ...
12:17 pm

Written Parliamentary Question: 29th January 2007

Gravatar WPC Yvonne Fletcher Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) recent steps she has taken and (b) steps she plans to take to bring the person who murdered WPC Yvonne Fletcher in 1984 to justice. A:Metropolitan Police Service officers last visited Libya to pursue the case in December 2006. We regularly raise the case with the Libyan authorities and I have done
11:19 am

Mac and PC (free advert space)

Gravatar Apple make some of the best adverts out there, some are online only but they’re still bloody funny. Now they’re creating a UK version of the best of the lot. I think it’s a sign that Apple is taking the UK market seriously, or it could just be a sign that they like British humour - [...]
11:04 am

Standards Board for England: what should be done with it?

Gravatar Andrew Stunell is the Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Scretary of State for Communities and Local Government: Lib Dem TV Official party films standards board for england
11:00 am

Cats ARE evil

Gravatar I’ve long argued that cats are evil, long before I got online, long before the birth of the blogosphere and its cat loving crowd and long before the cat videos on You Tube. They are horrible creatures hell bent on the end of the human race - they tollerate us while waiting to take over as [...]
10:35 am

The Trident Amendment

Gravatar Below is the proposed amendment to the motion on Trident for the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, also a copy of how the motion would read if the amendment was to be successful. If you are a Liberal Democrat Conference Representative and would like to support the motion please email me with your name, e-mail address, constituency or SAO and membership number either to or by using the comment facility.
10:26 am

Shilpa Shetty wins Celebrity Big Brother

Gravatar Celebrity Big Brother 5 came to an end last night with Shilpa Shetty emerging as the winner, Jermaine Jackson was second and Dirk Benedict third. Well done Shilpa!
9:46 am

Why I read blogs

Gravatar Digesting my morning’s serving of blogs, I read an article by Paul Walter about some developments in Northern Ireland. This reminded me of why I read blogs. I don’t have time to trawl through news sites or to read newspapers and read blogs, so I read blogs because they provide much more diverse commentry on news [...]
9:00 am

British tyranny marches on

Gravatar I said that the most recent edition of Liberal Democrat News was unusually good. The story about Fingerprinting in schools was truly jaw-dropping: ‘Schools have been fingerprinting pupils as young as three, often without parental consent, storing their biometric data for use in electronic registration and library systems, despite concerns over whether it is legal… [I]n response to a letter from Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, Greg Mulholland MP, Education Minister Jim Knight confirmed that the government will be issuing draft new guidance about fingerprinting in schools’, having previously refused to do so. Well done Greg! ...
8:34 am

How can Lordship Lane be improved?

Gravatar Southwark Council has engaged Living Streets (the national charity campaigning for better streets and public spaces for people on foot) to look at Lordship Lane (from Goose Green to the Plough, by the Library) from the point of view of local people. The idea is to identify ways to improve our main shopping street and make [...]
7:53 am

Liberal Democrat MEPs are being seduced by centralised power

Gravatar It was an unusually good edition of Liberal Democrat News (the in house tabloid that Mark Valladares once referred to as “our very own Pravda”) – if by good one means that it gets the pulse racing. The story on the European Parliament’s report on rail transport earned my particular ire. According to Liberal Democrat News: ‘Liberal Democrats have backed (CHECK) [sic.] a crucial European Parliament report that will vastly improve rights for rail passengers… ‘The Lib Dem Economic Affairs Spokesperson Sharon Bowles MEP said: “The Parliament has stood firm and is calling for this directive to apply to ...
7:43 am

Hats off to Ulises de la Cruz

Gravatar The usual impression of Premiership footballers is overpaid overspending fancy dans who do a couple of hours work a week and spend most of their time working out what the latest essential luxury is that they need to spend their over inflated salary on. But according to the BBC Ulises de la Cruz, who plays at Reading and was born in the Afro-Ecuadorian village of Piquiucho is spending his high salary not on fast cars and big houses, but on rebuilding an entire community where he grew up. I had my doubts about De la Cruz as a footballer ...
7:36 am

Doctor Who Heaven

Gravatar I would have thought that I would have been in the deepest of disgrace after my behaviour outlined in the previous post, but I was delighted when my poor long suffering husband came back from shopping yesterday with Season 2 of Doctor Who on DVD for me. I missed a few episodes due to the Moray by-election so am looking forward to catching up. I loved Doctor Who as a child and totally fell in love with Tom Baker when I was about 6. I am also one of the few who thought Sylvester McCoy ...
7:27 am

Life Begins

Gravatar This weekend seems to have disappeared quite quickly - partly due to some quite disgraceful over indulgence on Friday night. Our neighbour celebrated her 40th birthday with a wonderful and lively party in a local community centre and then we all went back to her house. My long suffering husband took our daughter home at around 2am and I said I'd be home in 10 minutes when I'd finished my glass of wine. Err, well, it was actually 8.17 when I rolled in. I always suspected disaster if I were ever allowed anywhere near a karaoke machine. I always ...
12:54 am

Women's Knickers!

Gravatar Ruud Gullit sitting on a shed
12:26 am

But worst of all, you've let yourself down

Gravatar ALDC have released the latest set of by-election results. See if you can spot what is missing from the first two on the list: By-Election Results: Thursday 25th January 2007.Cumbria CC, Brampton and Gilsland Con 717 (61.4; +13.6), Lab 363 (31.1; +2.9), BNP 88 (7.5; +7.5), [LD (0.0; -24.0). Majority 354. Turnout 23.3%. Con hold. Last fought 2005.Isle of Anglesey UA, Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog Ind 449 (57.7; +21.0), PC 273 (35.1; -28.2), Lab 56 (7.2; +7.2). Majority 176. Turnout 50%. Ind gain from PC. Last fought 2004. I'll give you a clue, if you're stuck: Coming on ...
12:25 am

From Salford to the Balkans

Gravatar A weekend conference at Salford University on the EUs expansion into South Eastern Europe – the sort of event that Tabman would doubtless have us all attend as a form of intellectual National Service A whole range of interesting speakers, papers and opinions.  Some of the points that particularly caught my eye and which [...]

Previous days:

Sunday 28th January 2007, Saturday 27th January 2007, Friday 26th January 2007, Thursday 25th January 2007, Wednesday 24th January 2007, Tuesday 23rd January 2007