As a committed Liberal Democrat I have no natural affinity for David Cameron, and tonight's Dispatches on Channel 4 hardly elicited great sympathy. But it did not trigger much righteous indignation either. This is partly because it has all been said before, but also partly because it was a rather unnecessary hatchet job. I was unimpressed. Cameron: Toff at the Top always threatened to be predictable. Peter Hitchens, the presenter, has form as a right-wing Cameron hater. However, I found the early part of his televised character assassination both distasteful and bemusing. On the one hand, I ...
Monday 26th March 2007
The much missed Chris Lightfoot used to do a lovely line in posts on adventures in customer services (unfortunately I can't seem to get his blog to work at the moment, but its all still in Google's cache somewhere if you look). This post from the BBC's Robert Peston about his problems with Vista brought them to mind. Quick synopsis, once our intrepid BBC business editor had finally got his new
Kingston marked the Abolition of the Slave Trade with a reflective service at Kingston Parish Church, beautifully put together by the Vicar Rev'd Jonathan Wilkes, and John Azah of Kingston Racial Equality Council. The choir sang three of Tippett's light but fiendishly difficult Negro Spirituals. The historical perspective was provided by John Azah, by Neslyn Watson-Druee, the Chair of...
I was at Methodist Central Hall tonight for the Sustainable Communities Bill Rally. Great speech by Ming on the impact of centralisation and multinationals in destroying local communities - closing local shops, post offices, pubs and destroying communities. Calling for the decentralisation of power, and the empowerment of communities to make their own decisions. I also agreed with what Dave C
Rosie Greaves (left in photo), the president of the Kingston branch of Soroptimist International invited me to their Annual Lunch yesterday, which was an event full of good conversation and food. You may not have heard of this organisation, but it is one for which I have the highest respect. To quote from the website: Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in...
I've had several supportive e-mails following the publication of this article suggesting any future proposal of a static wealth tax on houses would not be either the public interest or ours. Oddly I still haven't seen any credible commentary from people defending it. I hope this means it is being quietly reconsidered.
John Rook, a Parish Councillor in Tunbridge Wells, has switched from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats. His switch was triggered by Conservative plans to shut the council offices in Cranbrook, plans which the Tories tried to push through without any public consultation until there was a huge public outcry. Looking to the Liberal Democrats, he found [...]
This afternoon I attended a fascinating meeting organised by the Severn Tidal Power Group, a consortium of construction and engineering companies who want to see the Government's energy review include a commitment to an updated appraisal of the idea of a Severn Barrage. They made a lot of compelling arguments including: a barrage could produce around 5% of the current annual electricity needs of the UK; it would be a reliable source of power - the tides are pretty predictable! - and using a proven technology that has worked in France for 40 years; it would be a ...
It can’t have been easy to take over from Ming Campbell as Foreign Affairs spokesman of the Liberal Democrats. And it must be a pain having the same name as one of the world’s most famous alternative documentary film-makers. But Michael Moore is making a good fist of his new role, as well as being [...]
The Liberal Democrats promised a “fair, green future” as they launched their campaign for the Welsh assembly election on 3 May. They pledged guaranteed NHS service standards, a fund to help families go green and smaller class sizes. Mike German, leader of the Lib Dems in the assembly, said the party would take action to deal with [...]
Back in the late Middle Ages Tim Worstall established the BritBlog Roundup - a selection of the best posts of the week in the British blogosphere. He gave up hosting it a few weeks ago, and since then it has been hosted on a different blog each week. On Sunday it will be here on Liberal England. If you would like to nominate a post to appear there, please send an e-mail to britblog [at] gmail [dot] com giving me the link. Any posting from a British-based blog or British-born blogger made this week can be be ...
Exactly (glances at watch) two years ago tonight, Doctor Who returned to our screens in a blaze of success with Rose. In exactly five days’ time, it’ll be back again, when Doctor ‘John Smith’ will meet Martha Jones. In the meantime, look out for how Martha’s and the Doctor’s worlds collide in the trailers… “I battle with my textbooks…” “I battle with monsters.” “I try to save money…” “I try to save the Universe.” “I’m going to be a doctor…” “I am the Doctor.” “Well – let’s hope this box is big enough for the both of us.” ...
Hugo Chavez is following in Mugabe’s footsteps and seizing land to ‘redistribute’ and install collective farming. This policy has recently been tried in Zimbabwe and has been a spectacular failure, taking the country from being the breadbasket of Africa to being a country of rampant inflation and massive food shortages. Of course, Zimbabwe isn’t the only country [...]
A new mobile phone company launched in Jersey on 13 September 2006 - the first of two companies set to launch in competition to Jersey Telecom. This is the 2007 phone book - the first to be launched since Cable and Wireless launched their mobile service - the first to include the phone numbers of competitors [...]
Channel Four's dispatches programme tonight "Toff at the Top" will highlight, in Peter Hitchens view, that rather than having a real opposition now, all we have is an alternative version of the same thing. For what it is worth, I agree with the premise of the show. I will mightily underwhelmed when Labour were elected in 1997. Friends of mine were delighted at the fresh new broom that would change political life, whilst as far as I could see New Labour was morally vacuous and stood for nothing more than being in power. There are some interesting points made by ...
It is quite clear that the Family Court Proceedings need more truly independent scrutiny. The government appear to be backtracking on openness. What is needed is something to protect the participants from miscarriages of justice. One option is to use the same rules as the criminal courts where most material is handled in public, but the court can go into private session. The government's
Work is proving to be a petty irritant getting in the way of electioneering these days. Much as I lobby those in power at my place of work, they won’t give me the next six weeks off. Which is unfortunate, I must say. And that's where I was today. Still, now that the clocks have gone forward there is enough light to allow for leafleting in the evenings without the perils of slipping over on dark,
A funny thing happened to this blog last October, as reader numbers soared for three particular entries about the state of LDYS following its Autumn Conference in Colchester. In the spirit of giving the people what they want, I shall hope to provide the same service for LDYS Spring Conference 2007, held in Bristol on the weekend. In terms of the actual business of the weekend, we had a diverse
The BBC is reporting the release of a new privacy report by the Royal Academy of Engineering. The line Tony Blair and other technocrats should take on board is: No technology is 100% perfect, and no engineer will tell you that any technology is 100% perfect Another interesting idea is that the biometric data in new passports could [...]
Speaking at a rally tonight to promote the Sustainable Communities Bill, Liberal Democrat Leader Menzies Campbell will challenge the Labour Government to support the Bill. He pointed out that the original Bill was introduced by the Liberal Democrats in 2002. Menzies Campbell said: “I am here to pledge the Liberal Democrats’ support for the Sustainable Communities [...]
Did you see the final part of Adam Curtis’ “documentary” The Trap? I fear I was shouting at the screen so much last night that I didn’t make the detailed notes needed for a full rebuttal, so hopefully Tom Papworth will give it a thorough fisking while I just hit it with a hammer. Meanwhile, I’ve caught the far more satisfying first episode of BBC7’s thriller serial Rogue Male (listen again tonight). I’ve never read Geoffrey Household’s original book, but after discovering Michael Jayston’s superb reading last time BBC7 broadcast it, I’ve tuned in promptly now it’s come round again… ...
Happy Birthday, European Union! Now do the noble thing and scrap the anti-competitive Common Agricultural Policy. It is a giant waste of money (taking up nearly half the EU's total budget), it means Europeans pay more for their food than they actually need to, it means unsuccessful farm businesses are propped up by the government despite their failings, and it means that farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa find it incredibly difficult to compete with the barriers they face in selling their products over here. The intellectual, moral and economic argument for scrapping the CAP has been won. All that is ...
Part of a £2.4 million donation received by the Liberal Democrats from a disgraced financier came from a pensioner who is being forced to sell his home. Robbin Watts, a retired building contractor, unwittingly invested £155,000 with Michael Brown’s company, 5th Avenue Partners, in April 2004 believing that he was investing in guaranteed bonds. His money, which [...]
The best reality show on telly, The Apprentice, returns tonight on prime-time BBC1. The winner of the top slot can look forward to working alongside Siralan Sugar for one year for a not-to-be-sniffed-at retainer of £100k. But, if the trend of the previous two series continues, one of the losers will wind up elected a London Tory councillor: Series 1: Matthew Palmer, fired in week 5;Series 2:
Having missed the first two of these programmes, I was pleased to catch the third. I hope that my profoundest observations on it weren't lost during Desperate Housewives which was on immediately after. The thesis was, in short, that there was something missing from Isiah Berlin's negative liberty concept, which has led to failures in imposing negative liberty in Russia, Iraq and elsewhere.
Anyone being really observant about this website might have spotted a certain change over the weekend, when a ‘printed and published by’ imprint appeared in the footer. Seasoned political observers will know exactly what that means - I’m a candidate in this year’s Colchester Borough Council elections, specifically the Liberal Democrat candidate in Castle Ward. [...]
Stephen Tall has a good thesis about the differences between Blair and Brown. I particularly liked "Mr Blair’s speeches have a compelling narrative: they take you on a journey, even if you want to wind the window down half-way there because you feel sick. Mr Brown’s speeches take you hostage: gagged and bound in the boot of the car, he lets you out, disorientated and resentful, only once you’ve
Fair green future Dyfodol teg, dyfodol gwyrdd Release/Rhyddhau: 26/03/2007 Contact/Cyswllt: Gareth Price 07976 898285 Welsh Lib Dems launch campaign for a Fair Green Future Welsh Liberal Democrats launched their campaign for a fair green future for Wales this morning. At the launch Assembly leader Mike German revealed nine of the party's key pledges around the Fair Green Future theme, ahead of the publication of the formal manifesto in April. He also revealed the largest slate of candidates ever put forward by the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Brecon & Radnorshire AM Kirsty Williams and Cardiff South & ...
The Mail on Sunday had an exclusive about the ruling due this week on the use by David Cameron and other Conservative MPs of Parliamentary facilities to raise funds for their campaigns. In short - the Tories broke the rules, but so many of them broke the rules they won’t all have to apologise individually: David Cameron [...]
In three previous posts I have outlined the three episodes of Adam Curtis’s television series The Trap: Whatever happened to our dreams of freedom?, in which he argued that a narrow view of freedom and a distrust of public authorities had led us into a dead-end, a morally vacuous society prey to the positive promises of tyrants and demagogues. In this post I will comment on Curtis’s conclusion that what is needed is a new form of progressive politics, the revival of the positive liberty that Isaiah Berlin and Friedrich Hayek told us would lead to tyranny. Curtis was ...
Much time has passed since my last blog entry, the busy life of a student has been all consuming; whether i have been partying, playing poker or just occasionally working, i seem to have forgotten about current vision. But no longer, Gordon Brown's tricky, complex and ultimately shameful budget has provided me with sufficient ammunition to launch myself back into the world of 'blogging'. I intend to expose both the costs and missed opportunites of Brown's final budget, one that tries to please everybody and ultimately succeeds only in harming those most in need of governmental aid. ...
Last night saw the third and final episode of Adam Curtis’s television series, The Trap: Whatever happened to our dreams of freedom?. As I outlined in my reviews of the first and second episodes, this series has argued that the past thirty years has been dominated by a narrow and depressing view of freedom based on an assumption that cold rationality and a distrust of political leadership. Mr. Curtis has sought to undermine this concept. However, in doing so he has demonstrated his own failure to understand both the nature of freedom and the gulf between what has been ...
An interesting post from Greg Hands MP over at Conservative Home on the proposed additional £10,000 per annum communications allowance for MPs and on party funding in particular. This communications allowance is one item of expenditure that will not feature in the Assembly. We also have stricter rules on postage. In general I agree with him on the extra allowance. It has the potential to bring politics into disrepute by using public money to reinforce incumbency. What is worse is that on the basis of the House of Commons' present track record there will be no transparency on ...
Redcar and Cleveland Council planning officers will be available to personal or telephone callers at their offices in Belmont House, Rectory Lane, Guisborough for a trial period on four Monday evenings until 7pm next month. Planning Committee chairman Councillor Peter Spencer said: "The idea is part of the Planning Team's desire to be as accessible to the public as possible. Last year we were the most improved Local Planning Authority for e-planning, giving the public a One Stop Shop service. "However, we acknowledge there are times when only a face-to-face discussion or telephone call with a Planning ...
I have a great idea... we should put the clocks forward on a Monday morning instead of at the weekend. That way the dreaded Monday is shorter and the time difference doesn't eat into our weekend. Maybe I should start a petition on Number 10 Downing Street's website. Of course we would still put the clocks back at the weekend, to lengthen the weekend!
Monday 26th March 2007 - I was able to pop into my Constituency office this morning to catch up with the rest of Team Karim and collect the briefs for my diary appointments for this week before I left for Brussels. It also gave me the chance to meet with some of the Eastern European students who attend language classes provided by Nelson & Colne College that are held in our Nelson office twice
A short appearance on 18 Doughty Street tonight from 9-10pm for to talk about blogging-stuff. Will be joined by Stephen Tall & Christopher Ames. Stephen of course is Liberal Democrat Blogger of the Year 2006 (fix!), and in my view has one the easiest name in the world to get right. I'm forever getting marketing mail shots for Mr. Meyer, Mayo, May, Mayor etc. It is on the other hand quite hard to get either Stephen or Tall wrong... although Stephen has been a victim before, courtesy of Lib Dem News. Note the wry commentary from 18DS supremo ...
This was the first line introduction to an item on Today about the new cycling proficiency test (not proficient cycling tests, but Bikeability, something much more 21st century). So hardly a great introduction when we're trying to encourage more people to cycle, rather than highlight that occassionally you may get cold hands. (I'll come back to gloves...) As someone who took the CP test over 20 years ago, the new version sounds far more relevant: getting riders to experience actual roads. My test was in a school carpark on a saturday morning, so not a car in sight. It did ...
During all the bustle of the Speke/Garston by election campaign a few weeks ago, some of the stranger events didn't get mentioned. Perhaps the strangest was the fake bomb that arrived at the Liverpool Lib Dem offices. In a package with a warning outside, it was enough like a bomb to cause some worry. My colleagues called in the police specialists, who had a look and dealt with the package - sure enough there was a fake bomb inside complete with wires. Done to disrupt you was their verdict. I have no idea who sent ...
Last year I enjoyed an excellent holiday in Egypt. Having seen the huge amount of police and soldiers on the streets, I did some googling about the state of Egypt on my return, the results of which concerned me. Constitutional changes are now being put through by President Mubarak: ..for many in the opposition this is a black day in Egypt's history as they say the changes spell the death of the
Good schools are a top priority to parents and children alike, and a good school also reflects well on a community. We are lucky to have a school as successful as St. Martin’s Garden nearby. St. Martin’s Garden School, the Margaret Coates Centre and Sure Start Children's Centre are all excellent facilities. Many Combe Down and Odd Down children attend the School, but it is under threat. The Government's Planning inspector recommended that it should be knocked down and re-built on a smaller site to make way for a supermarket. Parents and ...
The last episode of "The Trap: What happened to our dreams of Freedom?" proved to be a final summary of Adam Curtis' argument. His hypnotic juxtaposition of images and narrative continued the high standards that had been set in the previous two episodes. Yet I felt that there was a slight misunderstanding of Isiah Berlin's views. Throughout, the idea of negative freedom was derided as being empty and meaningless, and the conclusion was therefore that a positive agenda was now needed. Yet that was the whole point of Berlin's arguments- that humans should not impinge on each others liberty ...
The doors of all three blocks of flats in Bradford Park are regularly vandalised (20 separate repairs in 2007 so far). We have contacted Somer Housing Trust to find out what they intend to do about this issue. Somer said that they are making plans to install high security entrance systems over the next two years targeted at areas with the biggest security problems. Bradford Park flats will be included in this programme, but at present Somer do not know whether Bradford Park will be included in the 2007/8 or 2008/9 programmes. Somer’s antisocial behaviour team ...
On Friday 23rd March a group of about 15 residents of Combe Road agreed to form a Residents Association at a meeting at Combe Down Primary School, called by Malcolm Bottomley. Residents in Combe Road have suffered from a lack of street cleansing (until recently) the road closure, cracking in some houses due to the work being carried out underground, parking problems and occasionally vehicles trying to get through the closed part of the road to get to North Road or into the village. The group agreed that to be able to put a collective view, for instance on the ...
I very much welcome the statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury that the Church of England should consider making or paying reparations for its part in the slave trade. The Church of England received £9,000 in the 19th century as compensation for freeing slaves under its control. At the very least, this money, including a substantial amount for inflation and interest, should be paid by the
On Saturday morning I had the privilege of joining the Education Minister and the Welsh Conservative Education Spokesperson in taking part in a hustings at an NUT Cymru event in Cardiff's Marriott Hotel. One of the questions asked was about the possibility of Wales creating its own terms and conditions for teachers, separate from England. In all my discussions with teachers around Wales I am very clear that there is no appetite for this sort of devolution. Teachers are concerned that if such a proposal were to be introduced then, because of Wales' record of low pay, they would ...
Ward - East Dulwich Age - 42 – and wrongly think I have the answers to everything First elected - May 2006 Position on the council - Vice Chair of the Environment and Community Support scrutiny committee Greatest political interest - Turning the ship of Southwark into the storm that climate chaos is starting to bring us, so that we can all come out the other side. At the moment most people seem to be running from the storm with the result that it is getting bigger, stronger and ultimately more devastating. Do you ...
Doncha just hate people who claim to be football fans and then reel off a list of ’second’ teams - they just don’t get that being a real fan means complete investment in a single team and ideally the developing of a profound and irrational hatred of the local rivals. Weeeeell, that would be me. Norwich [...]
It's been a busy weekend, being the official Guard-Dog-In-Waiting at the wedding of the year. I got to wear a lovely nice pink feather boa hat and everything. Aaah. Did my duty being guard dog overnight on the wedding rings and saw off the local mischievous cats who tried to sneak in and nick the rings. Scamps, the lot of them. The hotel had a lovely dog hutch for me. I hear that some of the denizens of the Third Floor did less well with their accommodation. Now call me picky - but if you turn up at a ...
The unfolding drama of Bob Woolmer's death has been playing on my thoughts all week. Some reflections: Kingston Jamaica has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, so there was real anxiety that the World Cup games could be spolit by violence. Sabina Park is close to the notorious downtown districts, and yet felt very safe when we were there. All bags were searched and...
Duncan and Pink Dog have already blogged the wedding we were at on Saturday. My joy and pleasure at seeing two lovely friends tie the knot was quite distinct from the joy and pleasure gained from eating six bacon sandwiches after the fireworks. There were still some left. *burp*. Hmm… perhaps Pink Dog and Button Head [...]