Tuesday 30th January 2007

11:37 pm

Are Birmingham Council using public funds to support the Tory conference ?

Gravatar Iain Dale reports that the Tories are to hold their conference next year in Birmingham. What concerns me though is that the council, led by the Tories, but with Lib Dem support are apparently underwriting £2 million in costs to get the Tories there. I also note the word "subsidy" is being used. Surely the council should not be "subsidising" the Tory conference ? Would the council be doing this for the Labour Party ? Is the Tory led council showing massive political bias ? Certainly if this were a Labour council supporting the Labour Party conference ...
11:32 pm


Gravatar We don't often comment on opinion polls. But the latest Communicate Research effort has the lib dems soaring by 7%. So we'll make an exception.
11:30 pm

Singular encounters with famous naturalists

Gravatar Earlier today I was killing time by attempting to shop for rare and obscure camera lenses which I suspected (correctly) would not be in stock at a particular Oxford-street electronics vendor. As I waited for the shop manager to type boring stock-codes into his inventory system a large man adjacent to me asked another shop-worker [...]
11:27 pm

Short corners. Why do footballers take them ?

Gravatar Having returned from seeing Norwich lose 1-0 at home to Wolves, I feel rather bemused by what I've seen. Firstly, Norwich played probably the best football I have seen them play in two years, and lost to a team that had three shots in the whole match, which is what happened when they lost to Plymouth 3-1 two weeks ago. Secondly, why do footballers take short corners ? Norwich were obsessed with them tonight. Surely the opportunity of a "free cross" in to the box is enough of an option to take without pointless short corners that amount ...
11:14 pm

Whiff of Watergate

Gravatar This was going to be a headline in one of our Focus leaflets. Watergate Park which is partly in my ward in Gateshead, is having a problem over the lack of dog bins. People are leaving bags of dog poo hanging from a fence in the park in protest. I wish now I had used the headline!The first I knew of the arrest of Lord Levy was this afternoon when I was in a meeting with Ed Davey. He was called out
10:53 pm

Nick Harvey, Niagra............and why I'm a fan of Simon Hughes

Gravatar I have just returned from a pre budget group meeting.............OK and a quick trip to the pub (also frequented by our Labour cousins - so took the opportunity for an indepth debate on Trident, unitary authorities and quangos)........to find I have a couple of comments on my blog.........weh hey.....! The first was from the adorable Nick Harvey explaining why he didn't want a joint meeting on Trident at conference........but I am at a loss to understand why he has posted this on my post about Niagra......am I missing some deep political message here???! Anyway, if you want to know ...
10:11 pm

Aaron Sorkin on Studio 60

Gravatar I luh-ve* Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip**, a new drama from West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin that goes behind the scenes of a late night TV sketch show. So I found this interview with the said Mr Sorkin by TVBarn quite interesting. * That's the word "love" with an extra syllable. ** Entirely legally of course - it's coming to the UK on More4 at some point.
9:34 pm

Stan takes on Hewitt

Gravatar Veteran campaigner Stan Hardy and other campaigners from the Save the Maudsley Clinic campaign were in Camberwell yesterday to interrupt a government press stunt to launch a report on the care of the elderly. Patrician Hewitt had tried to sneak into Southwark to generate headlines without addressing the one issue we all care about, the closure of the Maudsley Emergency clinic and danger it presents to the health of vulnerable people: The gaff-prone Ms. Hewitt commented to 86-year old Stan "I'd be very pleased to meet you but I'm only here to talk to elderly people", ...
9:12 pm

Goodbye old floppy friend!

Gravatar The death knell has sounded for the floppy disk! PC World are stopping selling them. Later this year none of the machines they sell will have a floppy drive. That makes me feel old. It seems only yesterday when the first consignment of RX02 8" floppy disks arrived at the computer parts warehouse where I worked in the eighties. And there was some considerable excitement when the 5.25" RX50
8:12 pm

Denial is just a river in Egypt

Gravatar Frank Furedi has a new essay on the Spiked website. Billed as the first in a series on "Really Bad Ideas", it looks at the current popularity of the concept of "denial". As he writes: Disbelief in today’s received wisdom is described as ‘Denial’, which is branded by some as a crime that must be punished. It began with Holocaust denial, before moving on to the denial of other genocides. Then came the condemnation of ‘AIDS denial’, followed by accusations of ‘climate change denial’. This targeting of denial has little to do with the specifics of the highly-charged emotional issues ...
7:54 pm

Discovering Malcolm Saville

Gravatar At last, I am not the only blogger interested in this children's author, best described as "a thinking child's Enid Blyton". Now there's Henry on Crooked Timber too.
7:44 pm

Ed Davey: Cash-for-honours "has the whiff of Watergate about it."

Gravatar Ed was speaking in response to the news that Lord Levy had been re-arrested - in connection with a new offence.
7:34 pm

Good news from North Wiltshire

Gravatar Good news for the Liberal Democrats, at any rate. James Gray MP has been reselected to fight North Wiltshire for the Conservatives after a particularly unpleasant row within his local party. There have been boundary changes in this part of the world, where the most promising Lib Dem target is now the Chippenham seat. Nevertheless, the amount of bile spilt and the prospect of an independent Conservative standing against Gray must make it a great deal more interesting for us now. See the comments on this Liberal Review posting for more details.
7:04 pm

Liberal? I wouldn’t bet on it

Gravatar Today Manchester won its bid to host the sole regional super-casino, and the Lib Dems’ Culture spokesman, Don Foster, issued a predictably eeyore-ish response, arguing the Government “must get their gambling addiction under control”. It’s a shame he’s chosen to indulge in the easy sound-bite, as Mr Foster makes some valid points. He’s right to point out that the gambling industry should do
6:37 pm

Internet Porn and Incompetent Estate Agents

Gravatar A couple of things have happened today, although nothing of any great depth. Like my A-Level History essays all over again, I will write down everything I know, and leave analysis as an afterthought... It worked then, so here's hoping it'll work now. First there was the extremely irritating decision by my work to class the Blogger site as "pornographic" and therefore unsuitable for updating
6:16 pm

Is Manchester the best bet?

Gravatar So, roll up, roll up, it's time to spend Grandpa's inheritance money on 200,000 goes on a 20p slot machine... The super casino is coming to town. I think it's great news for Manchester, but a disaster for Blackpool. Looking at it from the ignorant by-stander's point of view (what other view point do I ever have?!), Eastlands has had, and continues to have, fantastic regeneration activities. A
5:59 pm

Super-Casino shock win – good news for Manchester?

Gravatar In a surprise result, Manchester has been chosen as the location of the UK’s first Super-Casino. The Manchester bid was a serious underdog, with the licence expected to go to either Blackpool or the Millennium Eleph … er … Dome. The bid will lead to investment and regeneration in a poor area of the city, and create up to 2,700 new jobs. Super-Casinos have strong critics. Problem gambling causes misery for around 300,000 people in Britain, and opponents say that if we improve access to casinos, and if we permit Las Vegas-style gambling complexes, we’ll put thousands more ...
5:55 pm

Levy arrested again

Gravatar BBC breaking that Lord Levy has been arrested for “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”. Oooh
5:54 pm

Lord Levy arrested again - the gun is still smoking

Gravatar Breaking News from the BBC - Lord Levy has been rearrested on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. This has got to be a strong sign that the gun really is smoking!
5:36 pm

Size 0 models draw my attention, again

Gravatar Yesterday I touched upon Size 0 models (a memory that will live with me forever!). Today, Tristan has noted and condemned the Liberal Democrats London Assembly motion on this issue. He writes inter alia “Size zero models are not causing direct harm to others [so] it is not government’s place to force restrictions upon them…” I think the counter-argument is that the modelling industry is causing harm to women and particularly to teenage girls by socialising them to believe that a distorted parody of the natural human physique is an ideal-type to which they should aspire. ...
4:51 pm

I'm sorry it is not Blackpool

Gravatar Of all the places that was bidding for a super casino, nowhere had more of its future staked on it than Blackpool. Blackpool is a resort town. The problem is that the resort that Blackpool "was", each year becomes less and less the resort people "want". That is a shame. I love Blackpool. I went in October and went as a child many times. A super casino would ahve given Blackpool a chance to become a resort that some people actually want to go to. It would have meant a massive investment, new jobs, better hotels, a richer clientelle ...
4:50 pm

A Haka for a really, really British School

Gravatar A story to make me dance a little, anyway. Oxley Park School in Milton Keynes opens each school day with the pupils dancing versions of the New Zealand Haka. The School is growing rapidly, sometimes with a new pupil every day, and so building community is important. This 280-strong school welcomes all newcomers, celebrating their diversityalong the way. And there is no sense that by doing this the inherent nature of the school will be squashed or compromised by "outsiders" - as opponents ofmulticulturalism suggest. This sense of inclusion is well expressed in the words of one ...
4:46 pm

Labour MP Des Turner fails breath test

Gravatar Apologies to anyone who has seen this before, but I've only jsut come across it. It should serve as a warning to anyone, not just MP's. Read it HERE.
4:27 pm

James Gray's re-selection makes North Wiltshire a top Lib Dem target

Gravatar The reselection of James Gray as Conservative candidate for North Wiltshire makes the seat an interesting prospect next time for the Lib Dems. North Wiltshire has for some years been a top Lib Dem target. The majority last time was just over 5000, normally the Conservatives would assume he would be safe. However, it has been alleged that he used the "sympathy vote" for his wife's illness at the last election and, of course, he would have built up something of a personal vote over the years, many of whom may now be angry at his actions. Indeed, a ...
4:25 pm

Area Committee Budget Meeting

Gravatar I enjoyed this enormously on Friday night, indeed at this rate I might have to stand for re election. I have been banging on for years about the insane way we make spending decisions on this committee. Finally my and others concerns have had an effect. The beautifully named "Inner North West Leeds" Area committee gets about £200k pa of Council money to spend on local priorities. In addition we receive about £400k of Capital funding for a three year period (due again in May). A million quid over three years will never change the world ...
4:00 pm

Restorative Justice - Warwickshire VIP

Gravatar I visited the Victim and Witness Information Partnership (VIP) this afternoon and had a very encouraging discussion on how we can make more use of Restorative Justice. This is something that has captured my imagination for years and seems total common sense. For non-violent crime's rather than just slapping on an ASBO, the offender can face a Community Justice Panel where they are made to explain and apologise for their actions. I heard how this can have a positive effect on the victim in terms of getting closure or understanding why this happened to them and for the offender ...
3:59 pm

The Chameleon

Gravatar Were New Labour's spin doctors fans of Stephanie's dad?
3:40 pm


Gravatar Currently sitting in London City Airport (having spent the last two days on "day job" business in London) - awaiting the ScotAirways flight to Dundee - 135 e-mails to get through, so next update tomorrow!
3:28 pm

I’ve never been asked this by YouGov

Gravatar James wants an answer to one of the burning questions of our time: If I ever acquire a John Hemming-style fortune, I’m going to entertain myself by commissioning banal opinion polls. For example, one thing I’m dying to know is whether the British public prefers kittens that are ‘hideous’, ‘ok-looking’, ‘quite cute’ or ‘very cute’.
2:58 pm

Ethelred goes to school

Gravatar Ethelred came with me today on a visit to St Paul's Primary, Hook. We were there at the invitation of the School Council, which has two representatives from each class. I started by asking them to guess Ethelred's name, and they now know a bit more about the seven kings who were crowned in Kingston. They told me about the kinds of things they have been discussing...
2:49 pm

Silent Calls success at last

Gravatar Ofcom has today imposed financial penalties on four companies under section 130 of the Communications Act 2003 (the “Act”). Penalty notices have been issued to Bracken Bay Kitchens Ltd, Space Kitchens and Bedrooms Ltd, Toucan Residential Ltd (formerly IDT Direct Ltd) and Carphone Warehouse plc, for contravening section 128 of Act by making an excessive amount of silent or abandoned calls.
2:39 pm

Me at work

Gravatar Mark Pack thinks there is something odd about this photo, I agree! It is the pinned up notice of "email error codes" you can see in the foreground on Mark's desk. What a propeller head he is!
2:32 pm

Ming Promotes Greater Minority Ethnic Participation

Gravatar On Thursday evening Ming Campbell encouraged those from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities to become engaged with the Liberal Democrats in an effort to make his party more representative of modern day Britain. Speaking at a specially held reception for members of the minority ethnic communities, Ming promoted the £200,000 Diversity Fund, set up to [...]
2:31 pm

Sport this weekend

Gravatar I’m not much of a sports fan, I enjoy my cricket (when England aren’t being slaughtered) and my rugby union (that league stuff just isn’t the same), but this weekend sees 2 days of sport I’d like to watch. So this weekend sees the start of the Six Nations. I’m hoping (but not holding my breath) [...]
2:29 pm

Are the sharks beginning to circle "wet" Cameron?

Gravatar The looking-glass world of praise from the Guardian and protest from the Telegraph continues for the Tory leader. But the Cameron Conundrum will have to be faced at some point.
2:23 pm

Well I would not have bet on that!

Gravatar Manchester wins all in casino bet, but the big news is that Wolverhampton has been given permission to have a small casino. Solihull has also been awarded a large casino (I assume that will be at the NEC).
2:19 pm

James Gray MP is reselected: LibDem hopes rise?

Gravatar His private life is his own affair. On the other hand his wife´s medical records were her affair. (Sorry - too many affairs in this post already).
2:16 pm

Mass Application to European Court of Human Rights

Gravatar Following discussions with a number of victims of the system of Public Family Law in the UK the suggestion has been put forward that there should be a mass application to the European Court of Human Rights. This would apply under a number of Articles including: ARTICLE 3 PROHIBITION OF TORTURE The maltreatment of pregnant women and women who have just given birth ARTICLE 4 PROHIBITION OF
2:11 pm

Aston to Aus?

Gravatar Apparently Australian James Packer is currently the front runner to buy Aston Martin off Ford. The company producing the most beautiful cars in the world is up for sale by giant Ford for around £500 million. There is a side of me that would love to think a British company would buy Aston but I know [...]
2:02 pm

Clegg in the Indy

Gravatar Nick Clegg makes a brave argument in the Independent. He puts together a valid and well-argued case for improving the way the criminal justice deals with offenders. But what should we do about the crimes that don´t get punished?
1:50 pm

No place for discrimination in liberal societies

Gravatar Commenting on the Government’s announcement that there will be no exemption from anti-discrimination laws for Catholic adoption agencies, Liberal Democrat Leader Ming Campbell said: I believe there is no place for discrimination in a liberal society. The Prime Minister’s conclusion regarding the Sexual Orientation Regulation is to be welcomed. Any exemption would have undermined this principle.
1:12 pm

Being 52

Gravatar Many Happy Returns to Peter Black! And thanks for making me feel more ancient! I am pondering now whether there is any significance in the number 52 - having recently reached that mini milestone? I know 50 was supposed to be pretty significant........and have to admit my 50th birthday party is running a tad late, tho I have promised everyone it will happen.....I know I am known in Beds BC circles as "the late Linda Jack" but now it is so late there isn't the same pressure so long as it happens sometime in the next 8 years. Plus, as ...
12:47 pm

Blackpool rocked by casino decision & Spurs news

Gravatar Strange news this lunchtime - Manchester has been picked as the site of the first (and possibly only) UK super casino. Blackpool was the frontrunner and the only thing stopping their bid being successful seemed to be the desire to make something useful of the Dome at last. But, unexpectedly, Manchester has got the nod today. At conference last September I saw the detailed regeneration plans for Blackpool based on the casino plan and they looked excellent. I took a special interest, as I went to school in Blackpool and so am only too aware of the regeneration ...
12:20 pm

Viva Las… Manchester

Gravatar So, Manchester gets Britain’s first supercasino: The decision is a blow for Blackpool and London’s former Millennium Dome which were the bookmakers’ favourites. … Manchester was a 16-1 outsider at the bookmakers to be selected as a test-bed for the UK’s first regional “resort” casino. I can’t help but wonder if this is the Casino Advisory Panel’s parting warning [...]
11:37 am

Let MPs do their jobs

Gravatar James has written an excellent post about an absurd opinion poll and the nature of MPs’ workloads. Read it here.
11:32 am

Size zero models…

Gravatar I received the LibDem London Assembly group missive yesterday, the first article is full of typical politician idiocy- It calls for the Mayor and sponsors to withdraw funding from London Fashion Week because of the refusal to ban size zero models. Whatever the merits of the arguments for or against such models being allowed, I have [...]
10:59 am

Chariddy begins at House?

Gravatar More opinionpollballs in the Guardian today. Apparently, the Great British Public wants MPs to do a statutory 7 hours a week for chariddy. If I ever acquire a John Hemming-style fortune, I’m going to entertain myself by commissioning banal opinion polls. For example, one thing I’m dying to know is whether the British public [...]
10:46 am

Austerity begins at home for the World Bank

Gravatar Is this a sign that the World Bank is responding to criticism of its role in Structural Adjustment Programmes? (OK I know that the IMF is more heavily involved).
10:30 am

The morality of torrenting tv

Gravatar One of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis, in fact the only daily one I subscribe to had a call from someone pondering whether it was OK to download TV shows from bit torrent sites. The caller was saying how he doesn’t download movies or music as he can buy them as downloads [...]
10:25 am

MPs should do more for charity says poll - They are!

Gravatar Today there is a Populas Poll out saying MPs should do more for charity. Well some are, there is an organisation called the Westminster Challenge that has been set up to ensure politicians do more for charities both directly and indirectly.
10:20 am


Gravatar There is a clear pattern emerging here: The Assembly Government defers a decision on transferring adult neurosurgery from Swansea to Cardiff until after the May elections;It is announced that a decision on whether or not to close Fairwood Hospital in Gower and Ward One of Hill House Hospital in Swansea will be left until June 2007:An enquiry is set up by the First Minister and the Health Minister that will delay a decision on stopping emergency surgery in Prince Phillip Hospital in Llanelli until after May 3rd. Llanelli is the most marginal Labour constituency in Wales.Are there any more examples? ...
10:17 am

Place Your Bets

Gravatar Feeling a little better this morning after an eventful evening.  Got back to my flat last night to find water pouring down the walls in the lounge from the flat roof above.  Called out the m...
10:12 am

Woman in underwear to be projected onto Newbury Town Hall - approved

Gravatar ...but it won't happen. There has been considerable excitement in the corridors of Newbury Town Council this last week. We probably all need to sit down and have a cup of tea with lots of sugar in it (or bromide in my case). Maverick Television contacted us to ask if they could project the image of a local woman in only "bra and knickers" onto the Town Hall building. This is for the Channel 4
9:36 am

Academic Stalinism

Gravatar To those of us of a certain generation, Cristina Odone's piece in the Telegraph Notebook today will have raised a wry smile. Her comment that a middle class background may become a barrier, ceteris paribus, to University entry was intended to be a humorous dig against government imposed political correctness. In fact, and certainly at Aberdeen - fairly middle of the road in most ways- a substantial proportion of the faculty were unashamed Communists even in the 1980s. Class background was the primary issue and the source of their entire weltenschaung. Over the weekend, I attended a ...
8:24 am

Day 2219: DOCTOR WHO: Phobos

Gravatar Sunday: HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY! Look at these lovely gifts that I have bought for you: JAMES BOND! AND CARS! Now you can buy all the rest for ME! {Posted by Picasa} Humph: Daddy seems more excited by finding this gold “Battles in Time” card {Posted by Picasa} It’s only some daft woman who’s stared into the heart of the TARDIS! Meanwhile, Sir Mr the Merciless showed no FEAR today – spot the daytime TV link – facing Mr Andrew "Ice ...
8:23 am

I am back!

Gravatar Sorry I have haven’t blogged for such a long time, but I am now back!
8:23 am

London Olympics- have we forgotten something?

Gravatar Every time a news item appears on the radio, television and in the newspapers a shiver goes down my spine. I totally agree that we deserve to have the Olympics, not just because London, and Britain, has only hosting it in the past because other countries have backed out, but because it will be great to host such a prestigious event in our country. I just feel we have missed one golden, or
7:57 am

How much do the Tories really want it?

Gravatar A good debate on Conservative Home regarding gay adoption demonstrates an interesting point, if one is a bit of a political geek. I don't want to get into the issue itself (its been done enough) but the politics is fun. Whenever Cameron has to make a tough call, i.e. backing new laws that do, whichever way you cut it, restrict the freedom of the Catholic Church, he's trying to continue to surprise and impress people who don't usually think of voting Tory. This inevitably causes problems on the other side of the party, with right wing traditionalists ...
7:56 am

You would, but really shouldn't

Gravatar One thing about working in politics, everybody earnestly tells you how they wake up to the Today Programme on Radio 4. Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Jim Naughtie, but I consume news 24 hours a day, and I like to wake up to Lauren Laverne on XFM. This morning's issue was "you would, but really shouldn't" - in reaction to the pictures out of Daniel Radcliffe from Equus.
7:44 am

Problems confirmed at Bangkok Airport

Gravatar There have been rumblings about problems at Suvarnabhumi Airport ever since it opened back in September. Most of the problems, be they with the runway or with airport equipment, end up being blamed upon the previous regime and alledged corruption in the awarding of contracts associated with the construction of the new airport. Last week it was annonced that the International Civil Aviation Authority had refused to grant Suvarnabhumi Airport a safety certificate (although to be fair apparently it does not need one). The government has now ordered the Airports of Thailand Plc to prepare for the re-opening ...
7:15 am

Being 47

Gravatar Today I am 47. Nothing remarkable about that except that I am told 47 is another one of those numbers that has some significance in the world of pop culture. Forty Two and its link to 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' I knew about but even though I have most probably watched every Star Trek episode, I had not thought, until informed by a member of my staff, that 47 might be Gene Roddenberry's lucky number and that he made a point of writing the number into as many episodes of the legendary science fiction saga as he could. ...

Previous days:

Monday 29th January 2007, Sunday 28th January 2007, Saturday 27th January 2007, Friday 26th January 2007, Thursday 25th January 2007, Wednesday 24th January 2007