Though Liberal Democrats are famed for having their eyes firmly focussed on pavements, I am often impressed how many local parties display an intelligent interest in Foreign Affairs. And certainly the Party’s Foreign Affairs Team in Parliament (made up of MPs and Lords, as well as knowledgeable ‘lay people’) is as good as any that the others [...]
Friday 20th April 2007
I was in Barnet this evening for a Lib Dem members discussion evening with Tim Garden on Foreign Affairs. One thing that came over early on is the depth of experience in our Foreign Affairs and Defence team, even before you add in Ming and Paddy! The depth of experience compared to the other parties is quite astounding. I remember all the years of "Well I would vote for you, but your people
The Girl's response to the Rose Tattoo may be true, but I'm guessing it was a close run thing. I'm not sure there was a single thing about this production that didn't irk me. The plot is thin, especially when stretched to a arse numbing three hours. The design with its isolated spinning house (look at us look at us we have a fancy drum revolve which we must use at every oportunity) just
The Birmingham Community Safety Partnership has published a draft Anti-Social Behaviour Strategy for consultation, which has been developed, on behalf of the Community Safety Partnership, by the City-wide Anti-Social Behaviour Co-ordinating Group. The Partnership brings together the Council, West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service, the Probation Service, Birmingham Voluntary Services
Readers of this blog may recall that last week I wrote a post that said Labour's leaflets were continuing a tradition of being dull, dreary and boring in Gateshead. Well, now they are attempting to brighten up their otherwise tedious trash by quoting the blog of a certain, ahem, Jonathan Wallace. They decided to quote a remark I made that was complimentary about Labour Councillor Frank Donovan.
My House Points from today's Liberal Democrat News. Silly skirmishes It’s typical of the lack of excitement around Gordon Brown that Des Browne is among his closest allies. Nick Brown used to be another. Under Brown, brown will be the new brown. It won’t be a surprise to see Old Abram and Sweet Georgia in a Brown cabinet too. Monday was meant to be the day the Tories forced Des Browne to resign, but it never looked like happening. In part it was because, unimpressive though Browne was (“I have expressed a degree of regret that can ...
Thursday: Listening to the The Today Programme this morning, we heard their "Yesterday in Parliament" slot (interestingly banished to the UNLOVED pre-7 o'clock slot, and an hour before the more LISTENER-FRIENDLY quarter-to-eight window given to "Fart for Today"). They chose to cover my chums in the House of Lords Club who were debating the place in society for those WITHOUT religion. And I am glad that they did! We hear an AWFUL LOT from so-called "religious commentators", and often they are demanding that THEIR opinions have got to be heard. What they don't say is that they ...
Ask Marina is good fun this week: If I were to choose my perfect dance partner to ensure competition gold, it would have to be none other than Sir Ming Campbell. He has enormous appeal with younger audiences who, responding to modern media coverage have seized ownership of this once deemed old fashioned dance form. At the same time his neat footwork and sartorial good taste has older generations gasping at his nimble footed elegance. Tony and Dave, by comparison are but a confection of tulle and sequins with two right feet apiece. No wonder the judges get ...
The BBC have used the Freedom of Infomration Act to get hold of the correspondence between the Tories tax-exile, millionaire donor, Irvine Laidlaw. The Tories proposed Laidlaw for a seat in the Lords back in 2004. (Aside from being the sort of chap who gets a peerage, he had lent them three and a half million). We now know that he promised to become UK resident for tax purposes with immediate effect. Robert Peston now knows why he has broken his promise.
Peter Black has a nice little story on the Greens posting five identical leaflets to five members of the same household HERE, highlighting that when it comes to elections the Green's eco credentials disappear as quickly as they claim credit for things. It reminds me of a Green rally held in Coventry when I was at university there in the 1990's. I remember they organised an event demanding that cars be taxed more heavily, that new road schemes be axed and that we move away from car use. What was the contradiction ? All the car parks around the ...
Yesterday I responded to Iain Dale's challenge to denounce a Lib Dem who signed a BNP candidate's nomination paper. I make it clear, he should be thrown out of the Lib Dems and I am pleased that Darlington Lib Dems have also disowned him, although due to the fact his nomination papers are already in, he remains on the ballot paper as a Lib Dem, even though the Liberal Democrats no longer support this candidature. To add some balance, I am reminded of this story from a week ago which highlights the rather unsavoury language and messages coming from ...
Yesterday we – finally - had the Schools Adjudicator Panel was sitting in judgement as to who (of four bidders) will get to run the new secondary school in Haringey. With £28 million being ploughed in - and this school a vital addition in a vital part of the borough - this is critical. Ironically, we (Liberal Democrats and Labour) are united in terms of a) believing that a community school is
I don't like filibustering, but today I will make something of an exception. Filibustering was a well known trait in recent years of one MP who is no longer with us. He used to talk out pieces of legislation that wide ranging ross party approval like bringing in minimum standards for mini cab drivers in London, and used to see himself as virtuous because of it. However, today's filibustering effort seems, for once, to involve MP's doing so not out of self interest, because it was self interest that would have seen MP's vote to exempt themselves free of ...
Haven't been keeping too close an eye on the race for the US Presidential nominations recently. Although one Kinks fan over there did tell me she was starting a campaign to change the constitution so that I would be able to stand in 2008! I'm more interested in the Democratic race and can't imagine anyone they select being worse than any of the Republican options. But a colleague pointed me to this news from the Republican side - specifically Senator John McCain. I know one of McCain's strengths could be seen to be that he has not been ...
Sad news: Terry Major-Ball, brother of the last Conservative Prime Minister, Sir John Major, has died, aged 75. Terry wrote a uniquely understated autobiography, Major Major: Memories of an Older Bother, which was garlanded by Private Eye (with equal amounts of irony and affection): “It makes you proud to be English. No foreigner could dream of such a masterpiece. It is one of the most
House!! New Series!! So there you have it – last night’s episode on bullying and what looks like will be serious consequences for House for coming up against an even bigger, and it seems, more powerful bully. One with Authority and Rules and Regulations on his side. Will House come out of this situation intact? Will this be a one-episode game play or will we see this one run for a few more weeks? I am guessing that we will, I hope, see things come to a conclusion in a couple of weeks yet, as ...
Liberal Democrat MPs have effectively sunk a bill which would exempt Members of Parliament from complying with the Freedom of Information Act. Norman Baker and Simon Hughes, with a handful of MPs from other parties, managed to talk out the planned bill by making sure the debate in the House of Commons continued past its deadline.
Foster Care: Vetting Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what Criminal Records Bureau checks take place before someone can qualify as a foster parent; and what criteria are used to determine a person's suitability for fostering following such checks. A:The approvals process for prospective foster carers is set out in the Fostering Services Regulations 2002. Paragraph 13 of
I wasn’t going to comment about this story, but I’m afraid Francis Maude has got me riled up: There can be no excuse for a mainstream political party promoting extremism and racism. The evidence is there for all to see. Menzies Campbell must get off the fence and sack Steve Jones. He must send a clear [...]
I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. The Mail on Sunday are giving away a free CD of the original Tubular Bells this week. I seem to remember reading a comment by Jonathan King that the composer/performer of these CDs gets circa £1 million from this sort of issue. So it is nice to know that the old multi-instrumentalist won't have to check around the cushions of his sofa for odd coopers
If Norman Baker did not exist, we would need to invent him. Today, the Lib Dems’ very own Stormin’ Norman is battling Tory MP David Maclean’s attempts, via a private member’s bill, to exempt Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act (2000). Mr Maclean is hiding behind the skirts of that much-abused notion, ‘public interest’, claiming his only desire is to enhance the privacy of MPs’
I too am deeply concerned by reports that the EU is to make holocaust denial an offence (Liberal England, Iain Dale). I’m intrigued though by the suggestion that the Religious and Racial Hatred Act already covers the scope of this law. What this means is twofold: firstly, a backdoor offence of holocaust denial has already [...]
The Deputy Police Commissioner for the Met was the chief guest at the graduation ceremony for new police officers based in Richmond and Kingston. They had all been through a new 31 week training programme that has replaced previous 18 weeks at Hendon, and they all seemed to value the new approach. Each student had been assigned to one of the boroughs where they had combined their...
The First Post - "the online daily magazine" - has been getting very excited about this story from The Mole, its "Downing Street insider": Tony Blair will finally announce his departure to the media on Wednesday May 9, triggering the Labour leadership succession. Weather permitting, he will tell us his decision on the Downing Street lawn. The Mole can exclusively reveal that senior cabinet ministers including John Prescott are already clearing their diaries. It will be just over eight months after the rebellion, by Labour ministerial aides and MPs, that precipitated Blair's decision to go. A May 9 ...
The Home Office’s enthusiasm for missing their self-imposed deadlines seems to know no bounds. Where is the six-monthly report on the cost of Identity Cards? It’s a year and twenty days since the bill got royal assent (30 March), six months and 11 days since the last report. Given they are required by law to publish this [...]
Via the Fluffy One, we learn about a book by a wannabe leader that rather shows up Gordon Brown’s efforts: Something that Mr James did not mention was the PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING book by a Mr Senator John F Kennedy: “PROFILES IN COURAGE”. What an UNFORTUNATE coincidence! Written in 1956, four years before he would become President, the book [...]
An e-mail arrives from a well-wisher. He is unhappy with the way that his local Green Party candidate is campaigning: All the parties must of course canvass for elections which includes house to house leaflet distribution. Most of the main parties therefore have posted 1 general leaflet and 1 local candidate leaflet but the GREEN PARTY committed to saving resources have just posted 5 identical individual leaflets to the eligible voting family members at my address, multiply this with each household and the waste of time and material is unacceptable. I dread to think what's coming next from them. ...
You have to feel sorry for Labour's Ynys Mon candidate, Jonathan Austin. He is obviously confused. Rhodri Morgan has made it very clear that he is not interested in doing a deal with the Tories. Peter Hain says there will be no coalition with Plaid Cymru. No wonder he believes that Labour are not in favour of coalitions after May's elections. Unfortunately, Labour still want to keep their options open and have disowned Mr. Austin's comments on S4C election programme Pawb A'i Farn that his party will not go into coalition with any other party under any circumstances. ...
The Daily Telegraph published a lot of dross earlier this week suggesting that David Miliband was poised to stand against Gordon Brown. ("The atmosphere around Miliband has changed", and "Browne has no future - unlike Miliband")Today is seems to have realised that this was all rather over-heated. As an act of contrition it publishes a piece by John Kampfner saying frankly that Miliband won't be looking for 45 Labour MPs to sign his nomination papers. What better way to say mea culpa than to offer space to the editor of the New Statesman to tell readers what's actually going on? ...
Last night, I went to the launch of Giles MacDonogh’s new book, After the Reich (John Murray), at Daunt’s, the wonderful travel bookshop in Marylebone High Street, with its atmospheric, galleried Edwardian interior and endless shelves of tantalizing tomes that make you want to leave immediately for Turkmenistan, or to start learning Finnish. I have only two [...]
That great Labour training ground, the National Union of Students (NUS), have taken leave of their senses and elected current President of RUSU, Dave Lewis, their National Treasurer. It is, as he puts it: "an opportunity that will help our NUS deliver reform, increased accountability and new national partnerships."Or as I would put it: "an opportunity to bankrupt the NUS, limit accountability as
Today is one of those days which gives Parliament a bad name. A Private Member's Bill is being debated which seeks to exempt MPs from various parts of Freedom of Information legislation. Given that Parliament passed the legislation in the first place, it seems a bit rich for MPs to seek to avoid being covered by it. Lib Dem MPs are opposing the Bill but it looks as though the Government are giving it a 'nod and a wink' which may mean that it gets through in any case. Obviously MPs ...
Francis Maude and Tories generally seem to have decided that the Liberal Democrats are bad because we don’t stand against the BNP as much as the Tories. I’m confused about their logic in this, unless its simply a crude way of trying to link the LibDems and BNP. Looking at this from the point of view of [...]
"This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England." These are the words that Shakespeare gives John of Gaunt to describe England. Of course ...
One of the pleasures of working in Westminster, for a politico-geek, is seeing our parliamentarians out and about in almost a natural habitat - collecting their dry cleaning, being interviewed on College Green, or just marching purposefully towards an important meeting. Our office is close to John Reid’s London pied-à-terre, but it was only a couple [...]
Several times a week I have the pleasure of passing through Clapham Junction railway station in London of a morning. This proudly proclaims itself to be ‘the busiest railway station in Europe’ which I don’t find hard to believe. As my travel is sporadic I don’t have a season ticket but have to buy one [...]
Have a busy day ahead at work today, but looking forward to an action packed weekend - and I don't mean delivering leaflets! Will be doing some Lib Dem campaign stuff with Monica tonight, but then tomorrow am off to the wedding of my good friend Gill. Well, I say good friend. Less so since she arranged her wedding to clash exactly with our match at White Hart Lane against the team formerly based in Woolwich. Really, you'd think people would check with their guests before picking the day. Another friend, Kirsty, has also arranged hers for the ...
The BBC reports that "The inquest into the death of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer has been postponed because of "significant developments" in the case." The "significant developments" are not explained officially. However, the Sun quotes a "senior police source" as saying: The toxicology tests show that he had significant traces of aconite. We are now entirely convinced he was poisoned.
Friday 20th April 2007 - I just about had time to grab a quick cup of tea after I got home from Brussels last night before heading out to attend a showcase event in my home patch of Brierfield with the Lancashire Black and Minority Ethnic Pact (LBME Pact) and the Lancashire Wide Network for Minority Ethnic Women (LWNMEW). The LBME Pact visited Brussels earlier this year but I was elsewhere on
The government is gripped by "political paralysis" over Iraq, Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ming Campbell told the Today programme this morning. "I can't remember the last time I heard a senior... minister on your programme defending the policy in Iraq," said Sir Ming, pointing out that senior figures, like Cabinet minister Hilary Benn, had distanced themselves from the phrase "war on terror".
The AGM of the Kingston Association for the Blind was the best attended of all the AGMs I have been to this year! It is a well supported organisation which is highly valued by its members, who include both visually impaired people and sighted volunteers. KAb isthe umbrella body for the Surbiton, New Malden, Social Eyes and Eye Contact clubs, they produce the local Talking Newspaper....
Question Time actually became too unbearable to watch last night. The panel where almost unflinchingly smug, boorish, conceited, ill informed and generally awful. The very worst of them was Lib Dem Peer Baroness Tonge. I don’t think I can have agreed with a word she uttered. If I did then it was on one of the numerous occasions when she delivered her views with such suffocating pomposity and self-righteousness that I was literally driven to muting the volume. The evening started pretty badly with her choice use of the expression “it infuriates me when people talk about individual freedom”. She ...
It seems that West Berkshire Conservatives are somewhat rattled and not confident of how they will fare on May 3rd. This is from the Newbury Weekly News this week: Laszlo Zverko (Westwood), the Tory who now controls the council’s finances, thinks that the make-up of the council could be sealed by a single family in next month’s vote. “The Lib Dems are giving an awful lot of attention to this
My day normally starts with me shouting something rude at the Today programme (actually I shout at the radio when Today is on). I'm sure I'm not alone. It is a good sign. It means the programme is doing its job. But the one item that can guarantee has me reaching for the off button is Thought for the Day. I wish they would just bin the slot and use the time to grill someone for longer on an issue of public policy. Nine times out of 10 this slot is used to air inconsequential ...
From the BBC: A Liberal Democrat councillor has been suspended after nominating a BNP candidate for May’s local elections. The party’s leadership has withdrawn all support for Darlington councillor Stephen Jones, who has quit as leader of the three-strong Lib Dem group. Daniel Brown, the candidate whose nomination he signed, is one of his rivals in the North [...]
Attended Blackness Area Residents' Association meeting on Wednesday evening and been spending much time campaigning across the West End.Yesterday, met with Housing Department staff at Pentland to look at the parking problems. We agreed that I will now formally request that the department carries out a feasibility study to look at options to improve the situation. There are clearly physical limitations - the steepness west of Saggar Street for example - although we did see scope for extending the turning circle area at the top end of Pentland Crescent & providing more parking. This could be done without a loss ...
Sometimes they have just the sort of news you want to read in the Times: The exclusive Populus poll for The Times also shows a significant upswing of support for the Liberal Democrats, reinforcing their position as key players in Scotland’s next ruling coalition after May 3. If the Lib Dems maintain their progress right up to polling day, it even raises the possibility that what is Scotland’s third-largest party would be able to demand — if they failed to strike a deal with the SNP — that Nicol Stephen, their leader north of the Border, becomes ...
Following on from my last post about how transparent MPs are about their earnings and those of their staff. I spotted an article about how Swedish MPs are being forced to reveal their outside interests: All of Sweden’s members of parliament are to be forced to disclose their financial assets and any paid work that they [...]
The Speaker has ruled that the names and salaries of MPs staff should not be made public and quite right too. Firstly, I should probably clarify that this wouldn’t effect me anyway as my salary is paid for by supporters of Sheffield Hallam Liberal Democrats and not by taxpayers. But what I do believe is [...]
I’ve just received in the post my winnings from the Ceredigion Liberal Democrat Supporters Club draw. It was just £17.50, (but then I don’t enter for the amount I can win), but as I worked in Ceredigion at the time of the last Welsh Assembly elections, it seems very appropriate that I have won this [...]
Ron Davies has announced that he believes that all Independents standing for election to the Welsh Assembly should sign a “charter” so that the voters know where they stand. In theory this sounds sensible. But these are some of the things that the charter is going to contain: The charter sets out a series of commitments, [...]