Wednesday 11th April 2007

11:43 pm

Wolves in the Snow (John Gabriel Borkman - Donmar Warehouse)

Gravatar If tonight's theatre outing was experimental, Monday nights was very straight down the line, Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman at the Donmar. John Gabriel Borkman was a succesful and influential banker until he was imprisoned for fraud. 8 years after his release he now paces his upstairs room like 'a trapped wolf', while downstairs his estranged wife Gunhild broods over her family's disgrace and
11:32 pm

Can UKIP pull off normalisation?

Gravatar Nigel Farage is trying to re-badge his party as something more than a single-issue anti-European receptacle for protest votes. The Guardian claims “Nigel Farage promoted the party as a libertarian band of bureaucracy-busters that would slash council tax, put power back in the hands of local leaders and give people more control over their lives” while the Times suggests that he seeks to “woo disaffected Conservative voters by moulding itself as a main-stream right-wing party, with a variety of policies covering voters’ concerns.” Can Farage pull this off? And is he wise to try? CentreForum ...
11:10 pm

After you, Alphonse

Gravatar I was watching Newsnight tonight - unusual for me, but it was on after The Apprentice - You’re Fired!. I noticed Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary Chris Huhne quote the phrase “After you, Alphonse” in the context of the developed world not being prepared to tackle climate change until the developing world takes action. Naturally, my [...]
10:53 pm

Who's that girl? (Attempts on Her Life - National Theatre)

Gravatar Ann is a lover. Ann is a genius. Ann is a pornstar. Ann is a terrorist. Ann is a artist. Ann is a tourist guide. Ann is a suicide. Ann is a Mother. Ann is a sports car. Attempts on Her Life, Martin Crimp's '12 situations for the theatre' currently playing at the National, is less a play and more a piece of performance art. Exploring through the never seen Ann, the late 20th century obsessions of
10:41 pm

Lord Bonkers: Yet another diary

Gravatar Here is the old boy's contribution to the April Liberator. You can find an archive of these diaries on his own website. MondayI must apologise for my unwonted absence from these columns in February, though I was pleased to see that the amusing young people at Liberator magazine had the good sense to reprint some of my more informative diary entries – I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. I have been gratified, too, by the cards, flowers and jars of calves’ foot jelly that have arrived by every post, and only this morning Meadowcroft brought me ...
10:27 pm

Drama breathes new life into old music

Gravatar Peter Black's comments on the last episode of "Life on Mars" echo my thoughts on it. Brilliant, even if I still can't really work out what it is about. The LoM producers are following up the success of programmes like Heartbeat and Royal, in breathing new life into old music. Last night's "Life on Mars" featured, of course, "Life on Mars" from David Bowie's "Hunky Dory" album. It was
9:56 pm

Alright, so I have no design sense...

Gravatar Susanne Lamido has noted a certain difficulty in reading my blog since the last set of colour changes, and in her honour, I've changed to something rather more easy on the eye...
9:19 pm

Out in Edinburgh with Nicol Stephen

Gravatar Picture taken by Charles Dundas of me (far left of photo) out canvassing this evening in Balgreen Road, Saughtonhall (thats in Edinburgh Central for the uninitiated) with Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Nicol Stephen and Scottish Parliamentary candidate Siobhan Mathers. Excellent reception on the doorsteps. No Labour supporters and one SNP supporter!
8:32 pm

Almost forgot...............

Gravatar Wednesday 11th April 2007 - Oh, I forgot to mention that Rachel has got stars in her eyes after spotting Martin Sheen in the EP: "You don't understand, I just walked past Jedd Bartlett!" Tony Blair comes, she doesn't bat an eyelid: "Seen him once, seen him a hundred times;" Angela Merkel, nothing: "Oh she's always knocking about the place;" But a fictional President of the United States seems to
7:44 pm

The river, a steam railway, but no road

Gravatar What with Easter and everything I forgot to post last week's House Points column. Mind you, a lot of it can be found in an earlier posting on this blog. There is more about the reopening of the canal to Uttoxeter here. And Chris Huhne's campaign is here. Rural rants Agricultural subsidies are the very devil. They impoverish the third world while ruining the countryside. And that is when they are working properly. Our government has added to this damage an inefficiency all its own. As a select committee report published last week found, Margaret Beckett’s ...
7:40 pm

Come on Watford

Gravatar Let’s just hope that they manage to beat Manchester United in 90 minutes then!
7:32 pm

Poetry Confession

Gravatar I’ve been thinking long and hard lately about things to do when I’m having a blog Dry Day - the times when I can’t be bothered or can’t think of anything to write about. Well, in addition to the usuals like keeping a set of spare posts in the draft list, posting photos from my flickr [...]
5:44 pm

Metrolink news update

Gravatar Some news from GMPTE today about the Metrolink track renewals. I think we're all of one mind that the tracks need replacing, but how Metrolink, GMPTE and the Bury Labour Council are going about informing residents is very shoddy. HEre's what the website says: "Metrolink bus replacement services Replacement buses will run throughout the upgrade. Some buses will call at all Metrolink stops and
5:43 pm

Groundhog Blog

Gravatar The sunshine has returned to greet us as canvassing replaces leafleting as the main event of the campaign today. Unfortunately, the return of the sun was accompanied by my return to work. Even though I had managed to secure an extra day off, the desolate shuffle office-wards this morning was made only slightly more bearable with the thought that being ensconced there all day at least made me safe
5:39 pm

Latest West End Updates

Gravatar Firstly, following a call from a concerned resident today to the effect that the "infra red" detector on the traffic lights at the top of Shepherd's Loan have stopped operating (meaning that your car can sit there forever waiting on the green light), I spoke with the Planning & Transportation Department & the matter will be immediately investigated. I recently raised the condition of the roadway at the Glamis Road/Drive/Blackness Road roundabout and received the following feedback from the City Council this afternoon: "Over the winter, the roundabout at Glamis Road / Glamis Drive did receive temporary treatment for pothole ...
5:02 pm

Energy opinions

Gravatar Wednesday 11th April 2007 - I had a busy morning in Committee, presenting my views on the two energy opinions -- one on renewables and one on conventional forms of energy -- I am drafting. Trade can be part of the solution to the climate change challenge. If we are to drive the Liberal Democrat Green Agenda, we need to take on the climate change challenge from all angles. No single state, acting
4:50 pm

Bird of Liberty poll result

Gravatar Get the pigeon? Is it time to ditch Libby, the Lib Dem Bird of Liberty logo? Yes!: 23% (54) No!: 77% (179) Total Votes : 233 There you go then, a clear minority in favour of ditching Libby. Only the yes vote can beat the no vote here. It’s a two-horse, no-bird race. Oh all right then, keep [...]
4:44 pm

GLA shortlist announced

Gravatar Available in the members forum.
4:32 pm

Tory dirty tricks

Gravatar The other parties just love to accuse the Welsh Liberal Democrats of dirty tricks, even when it is not justified and that is what Glyn Davies has done today. He has reproduced on his blog the photo on the left taken from Welsh Liberal Democrat campaign literature and made the ludicrous claim that it has been doctored so as to remove the Tory candidate from the picture. I have enlarged the part of the photograph containing Lembit Őpik and Mick Bates below. Tory candidate Dan Mumford's feet can be seen behind those of Mick Bates' but ...
4:22 pm

Who is Labour’s mysterious fourth candidate?

Gravatar According to the Electoral Commission, which among other jobs monitors campaign contributions to party leadership elections, three Members of Parliament have informed them of donations. However, Gordon Brown is not one of them. Mr. Brown’s camp has no website and, officially at least, has received no money. Others have suggested that a campaign is being run, but that the infrastructure is buried in other organisations. Meanwhile, the more exciting question (as the idea of the Chancellor being secretive or circumscribing the rules is hardly newsworthy) is who has declared receipt of funds to the ...
3:42 pm

The ultimate political skills - saying Mss and avoiding masticators

Gravatar It's not easy. Even with years of experience you can't pull it off every time. But I occasionally manage to do it - to say "Mss" so it sounds like Mrs, Ms or Miss so I don't offend anyone. The trick is to emphasise the surname and make the title really quick so it collides with the surname. The sport has been reduced a bit this time, because our EARS seems to print a few Ms,Miss or Mrs titles.
3:22 pm


Gravatar This is a photo from Somaliland Times Their editorial reads: When the war between Ethiopia and Abdillahi Yusuf's Embagathi faction (a.k.a TFG) on one side and the Islamic Courts on the other side, sta...
3:16 pm

Vale of Clwyd Is A Two Horse Race

Gravatar   Fair green future Dyfodol teg, dyfodol gwyrdd    Dear All   EXCITING TIMES ahead………………………… with countdown to May 3 2007 now only 21 days away – 3 weeks to go   Spring is in the air, the weather is sunny and fantastic for being out and about meeting people and handing out leaflets and there is a positive buzz all around ! Since our leaflet has gone out, I have received phone calls, letters and well wishes!  People really do want a change and I do believe this could be ...
3:06 pm

Mistaken identity

Gravatar I received a letter this morning from Friends of the Earth addressed to Ms. A. Blair. Are they trying to tell me something?
1:35 pm

What David should do next

Gravatar What would you do if you were David Miliband? He’s already getting a whole load of advice, some friendly, some not-so-friendly - it’s a moot point which he finds least helpful. His options appear limited. He can either contest the leadership of the Labour Party against Gordon Brown, so long the heir-presumptuous; or he can choose to keep his powder dry. When in doubt, flip through the history
1:29 pm

UKIP in libertarian clothing

Gravatar Nearly all the papers cover the launch of the UKIP local election manifesto yesterday. The Guardian is typical - "UKIP trebles candidates for local elections". That report is one of the few that also covers UKIP's policy review. At the launch, UKIP leader, Nigel Farage sought to present his party as “a libertarian band of bureaucracy-busters that would slash council tax, put power back in the hands of local leaders and give people more control over their lives." The Guardian In part, this is about Farage’s attempt to ...
1:27 pm

Labour Executive Member admits colleagues are useless

Gravatar Last night Overview & Scrutiny Committee met to debate the call-in from my ward colleague Cllr Martin Newton - who spoke very eloquently against the Labour Council's plans to impose an unwanted pay & display scheme on Muswell Hill and Crouch End. You can watch the full meeting, if you have a couple of hours to spare, here. There was much debate over whether changing the scheme to allow the first half hour of parking to be free was enforceable... Incredibly frustrating, as the "arguments" being given by the Labour Executive Member were weaker than the plotline of ...
1:24 pm

Guardian rewrites history

Gravatar In a pro-SNP article in the Guardian, Geoffrey Wheatcroft says: All this comes on top of more polls which show, to a degree that must surprise even Gordon Brown's enemies, how much he is distrusted by the electorate. Whatever his successes with the economy, his career has been one of personal political failure, from 1994 when he wasn't even supported by a majority of Scottish MPs, to February
1:07 pm

Spot the difference

Gravatar This is the Council's photo of Patricia Hewitt's visit to Wood Green yesterday. On the photo on Page 3 of the Financial Times today, there is a different photo from the same visit (which I'll try and scan in and stick up here at some point). The Financial Times photo is notable for the lady holding up a big sign behind Patricia Hewitt which says: "FOR THE SAKE OF THE NHS: RESIGN"
12:47 pm

Bloggers right, Guardian wrong

Gravatar Now I know the people at the Guardian don’t always think that much of bloggers, so perhaps they should be ordering in some extra-large quantities of humble pie today, for the Guardian says: He [Gordon Brown] campaigned hard in the Dunfermline West byelection on his doorstep, and Labour lost the seat to the SNP. Yes well. That [...]
12:47 pm

North Wales Manifesto Launch

Gravatar Fair green future Dyfodol teg, dyfodol gwyrdd Contact/Cyswllt: Media line 029 2031 3649   Welsh Lib Dems launch manifesto for North Wales   An NHS walk-in centre, more affordable housing and investment in summer festivals are the highlights of the Welsh Liberal Democrat mini-manifesto for North Wales, launched today in Menai Bridge.   The fifteen point plan focuses on how Welsh Lib Dem policies in government would provide healthcare when it’s needed, make the green switch and improve housing across the North. Mike German, leader of the party in the Assembly and Eleanor Burnham, AM for North Wales, ...
12:45 pm

Welsh Lib Dems Would Scrap Government handout

Gravatar Fair green future Dyfodol teg, dyfodol gwyrdd   Contact/Cyswllt: Media line 029 2031 3649   Welsh Lib Dems would scrap government handout for air-link   As the first of the publicly-funded North-South air journeys takes place today, the Welsh Lib Dems have pledged to scrap the government handout for the service.   The flights, which will run from Cardiff to Anglesey, are expected to receive around £3.6m worth of Assembly Government funding over the next three years. The Welsh Liberal Democrats will divert that money towards sustainable and more environmentally-friendly forms of public transport.   Speaking from Menai ...
12:28 pm

Freedom to be a slave?

Gravatar I know a socialist anarchist who objects to me making the claim of self ownership as a fundamental right by claiming that it would allow you to sell yourself into slavery. At first glance this looks like a compelling argument, but when I think a bit more deeply about it I wonder whether it matters. So what [...]
12:06 pm

School discipline to be influenced by race

Gravatar Racism is racism no matter what form it takes. Discrimination is not defined by treating members of a group worse than others, but by treating them differently. Irrespective of the fact that to treat one group better is to treat another less well, it remains discrimination even if the treatment of two groups is equal, but distinct. “Separate but equal” were the watchwords of American segregation (though in practice there was precious little equality). So it is with shock and surprise that I discovered that the latest guidance on school discipline published by the Department for Education and Skills ...
11:56 am

Mixing pop and politics, he asks me what the use is...

Gravatar We had a Chinese buffet for West London LDYS last night. It was mentioned that Blur drummer Dave Rowntree is standing as the Labour candidate in the Marleybone council by-election in my local authority, City of Westminster. More details are available at the NME and Labour Watch. He hasn’t got a snowball in Hell’s chance of winning, but it still begs the question, "why?". I saw his erstwhile bandmate Damon’s The Good, the Bad and the Queen (yes, I know, it’s the album name not the band name) a couple of week’s back at the Hammersmith Palais’ closing weekend. Now ...
11:42 am

'Sarah's Law'

Gravatar My local newspaper ( had a front page splash earlier this week about the 'joy' of a neighbouring MP that a new 'Sarah's Law' giving parents information about the location of local paedophiles was going to be trialled in his area. The Home Office subsequently issued a statement which put a rather different gloss on the story - suggesting that the main change was to give a woman the right to know if a man who was about to move in with her and her children was on the sex offenders register. But either way, this is ...
11:17 am

Chris Huhne visits Ludlow to praise the Liberal Democrats environmental record

Gravatar Last week Liberal Democrat's Shadow Environment Minister, Chris Huhne MP visited Ludlow to help launch the South Shropshire Liberal Democrat's local election Manifesto . Chris Huhne MP visited the ground-breaking bio-digester in Ludlow and the Eco-Park before launching the Manifesto with Liberal Democrat councillors and campaigners in front of the Council Offices.
11:16 am

My advice to Richard Branson

Gravatar Richard Branson is a very rich man.  I am not.  So I hesitate to offer him business advice.  But, Richard, it’s time to stop the p*ssing contest with Murdoch and focus on the basics.  Like decent customer service.  Or, in my case, any kind of service. I was pretty narked by losing Sky News and Sky Sports [...]
11:00 am

Opinion - better to get the mayoral selection right than rush it

Gravatar Three men and one woman applied to be the party’s choice to take on Ken Livingstone - none were sitting MPs, MEPs, or Peers.  It seems that after consideration, the regional volunteers involved in shortlisting and running the process have decided not to announce a shortlist, and possibly to run a new round of applications.  The most [...]
9:47 am

Panic! Name not on list of candidates!

Gravatar A small panic yesterday. I started to play about with Live Local plotting the 12 candidates for Park Ward, when a colleague asked where were I? Only at this point (about an hour after printing out the list) that I realised my name wasn’t there. A quick email to the deputy returning officer and a reply [...]
9:13 am

Foreign policy 'undermining UK'

Gravatar There is a sort of arrogance implicit in neo-colonialism that we know what is best for Johnny Foreigner and they should be grateful for what we do. The fact is that there are things that are better in the UK and things that are worse than other countries. We do not have all the answers. However, the big mistake is to try to impose our solutions on other people's problems. We should be willing
9:10 am

Life on Mars

Gravatar The final episode of Life on Mars ended last night as enigmatically as the first had begun. To be honest I am too tired from campaigning to try and make any sense of it, but I enjoyed it immensely for the quality of the writing, acting and characterisation. I am indebted therefore to the Western Mail, who have encapsulated some of the best lines in a small article this morning: Suspect: I want a lawyer. Gene Hunt: I wanna hump Britt Ekland, what are we gonna do? Hunt: There will never be a woman prime minister as long ...
9:03 am

Saving Dolphins

Gravatar Ron Davies pursues his own independent course in this morning's Western Mail with a justified attack on Labour's Order in Council procedure and the creation of Viceroy Hain. Ron points out that the Secretary of State for Wales will be able to use a veto to stop law-making proposals made by the Assembly, when new powers take effect next month. He gives five examples of when Mr. Hain is likely to do this: Making St David's Day a Bank Holiday; Extending the Children's Commissioner's remit to cover children held in custody; Extending the Welsh Language Act into ...
8:29 am

unexploded bombs - That reminds me of a story close to home

Gravatar The news that there may be a number of unexploded bombs from World War Two on the site where they propose to build the Olympic park reminds me of a story of a local developer. When the local councillor found out that an area earmarked for a large housing development had been the site of a failed German bombing raid in Wolrd War Two, and that the locals who remember the raid still remember how several of the bombs sank in to the very wet, almost marshy soil, of course the councillor told the council and the developer. What happened ...
8:20 am

More local election news: Conservative splits and Lib Dems pull out of election

Gravatar Eleven Conservative councillors have quit the party in North Essex (continuing the pattern of a steady flow of councillors - and others - out of the Conservative party, including in David Cameron’s own patch), whilst in Bolton the Liberal Democrats have pulled out of the local town council elections. Meanwhile, I’ve spotted a fifth council the Liberal [...]
7:52 am

Putting away the winter coat

Gravatar After a week at home in Gateshead, I am now heading to London. My winter coat has been put into the wardrobe. Yes, spring is definitely here! So over the past week, I have managed to draft and print 6 councillors' annual reports, write and print 2400 letters, deliver 800 focuses, edit 19 videos for LDEG and eat a large quantity of chocolate easter eggs! So after my bit of annual leave I am
7:20 am

I feel old!

Gravatar Well a bit. Years ago I got to know someone in the course of writing my book about charity marketing. He was always interested in politics.. but we disagreed on a lot! We kept in touch and discussed politics when we spoke or e mailed. We stopped disagreeing on so much and I badgered him to join the party. He eventually did after hearing an interview with one of the Lib Dem MPs on the radio ( less my eloquence than simon hughes') Well he became an active member. is now standing for a ...
7:16 am

good news

Gravatar A lovely thing happened last night. I had just got back from doing one of my councillors' surgeries in Garston when I got a call from a lady I had spoken to a while ago. She had a very complicated problem involving a relative, some mental health issues, the police and the prison service. I had helped and had also linked her up with one of the Lib Dem MEPs to take up some of the issues. I remember how miserable the lady was when we first spoke. Anyway last night she was so different ...
12:02 am

close Guantanamo prison

Gravatar I thought readers may be interested to hear about a campaign to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, where President Bush is holding nearly 400 detainees without criminal charges or trials.

Previous days:

Tuesday 10th April 2007, Monday 9th April 2007, Sunday 8th April 2007, Saturday 7th April 2007, Friday 6th April 2007, Thursday 5th April 2007