Wednesday 13th June 2007

11:29 pm

The hijacking of the school curriculum

Gravatar Frank Furedi has a characteristically well-written and thought provoking essay up on the Spiked site: Johnson’s title, education secretary, is something of a misnomer. He seems to have no interest in education as such. His preoccupation is with using the classroom to transmit the latest and most fashionable prejudices.He can’t even leave school sports alone, recently announcing that PE lessons will now stress the importance of a healthy lifestyle and will raise awareness about the problem of obesity. So after children have received instruction on how to behave as green consumers, learned crucial parenting skills and feel very British, they’ll ...
11:03 pm

Yet more training.

Gravatar Down to Stafford again tonight for more scrutiny committee training - this time for the Standards committee. The Borough Council's legal advisor, Alistair Walsh, took us through a general overview of the committee's remit and explained the basic principles of the new Code of Conduct which will come into operation in the autumn. I understand that Staford has a fairly good record on complaints
10:16 pm

Mike Oldfield's extraordinary life

Gravatar The Oxford Times carries an interesting interview with Mike Oldfield. He is advertising his auto-biography, if you wondered why he has broken a lifetime of Kate Bush-like avoidance of the media. Oldfield has had a remarkable life. His family background was traumatic. He fiddled around with some instruments in an Oxfordshire studio when he was nineteen and, surprisingly, produced a phenomenal
10:11 pm

Man drives down M40 with trellis fence strapped sideways to his scooter

Gravatar My boss told me this, so it must be true. (I can't find anything on the net about it.) Apparently, yesterday, a man drove a scooter along the M40 with a large trellis fence strapped to his vehicle. This fence was approximately six to eight feet long and he had strapped it sideways to the scooter, so it was like the wings of a plane. The ensuing chaos around this scooter trellis driver, as other
9:46 pm

A Bridge to Peace? - Simon Hughes, Alistair Burt and Patrick Hall host Archbishop of Galilee in Westminster

Gravatar One of my particular concerns is the situation of the 20% Palestinian Arab Israeli Citizens who suffer daily discrimination in the State of Israel. Part of the reason their plight is usually overlooked is that the situation of course is so much worse in Gaza and the West Bank. On Monday night, the charity for which I am a trustee, Elijah Trust brought Archbishop Elias Chacour from the Melkite (Greek Catholic) Archdiocese of St. John of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and ...
9:46 pm

Reflections on the Falklands War

Gravatar Queasiness seems to be the order of the day. Was I the only one who felt a little queasy listening to Maggie Thatcher's broadcast about the Falklands War? It was indeed a broadcast in the old fashioned way. The picture of her sitting down at an old-fashioned table in front of two large microphones reminded me of Edward VIII's abdication speech photograph. No Humphries or Paxman, or even a
9:17 pm

Blair Rome trip: Taxpayer pays for Pope to see after-dinner speaker and book salesman

Gravatar I suppose you have to go back to Winston Churchill to find a Prime Minister of the UK who has had anything like the "long goodbye" that Tony Blair is having. So, to a certain extent, Blair is writing the manual for retiring PMs. One feels slightly nauseous watching his recent tours around the globe. It is very difficult to see where valid representation of the country ends and the advance book
9:17 pm

Momentum builds

Gravatar On the BBC website Adrian Browne speculates that the rainbow coalition option has not yet faded from Cardiff Bay. He may well be right. However, from conversations I have had today it is becoming clear that the Plaid-Labour coalition is starting to gather momentum within both of those parties. I have heard that some very senior and influential Plaid Cymru members are promoting the idea of going into government with Labour. Their view is that this is the best chance of getting a referendum on a full Parliament and they intend use that argument to try and sell the ...
9:09 pm

Local Transport Issues

Gravatar Went to the Transport Liaison Meeting at Lewisham Council on Tuesday evening. This is a regular meeting where councillors and residents' groups get to question the local transport operators with various complaints and suggestions for improvement. Unfortunately, not many councillors attend this, which is a shame as you can learn quite a bit about the trials, tribulations and occasional triumphs of our public transport system. I won't report the whole meeting, just the issues which particularly affected Lewisham Central ward. We began with bus issues, and the 181 was on the agenda again. This time because of ...
8:18 pm

A Gordon Brown Meme

Gravatar At the invitation of Prague Tory.... 2 things Gordon Brown should be proud of. His family, and the minimum wage. 2 things he should apologise for. Supporting the invasion of Iraq, and the Private Finance Initiatives. 2 things that he should do immediately when he becomes PM. Mmmm. This is a bit of a tough one. But I would say firstly select a cabinet with a lot of new faces, and secondly tell
8:05 pm

Baroness Miller defends Manor Garden allotments

Gravatar Baroness Miller has taken up the cause of the Manor Garden allotment site which is under threat from the Olympic quangos. (I wrote about them on 10th April.) She commented last week: "The London Development Agency seems determined to use the slash and concrete approach to these allotments. They... plan to bulldoze the lot, including 100-year old apple trees, concrete it over and call it sustainable. "It is ironic that the thriving community at the heart of these allotments are just the sort the Government talks of creating." It is indeed.
8:04 pm

The verdict is out on whether Britain's Got Talent - But Ant and Dec certainly have

Gravatar Although it is against my better judgement, I have for the last few days been watching the slightly excruciating spectacle of "Britain's got Talent", Simon Cowell's latest offering to ITV. After the rather poor production Simon Cowell put out for "Grease is the word", ITV's desperate attempt to jump on the "find a West End star", bandwagon, I was not sure that Britain's got Talent would be very good. The odd thing is that the show isn't actually very good. Yes, the panel of judges is a bit more heavyweight than "Grease is the Word", but only because ...
7:11 pm

If this isn't a good reason for a full inquiry into Iraq then I don't know what is.

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7:09 pm

It’s a sad world in which we live

Gravatar For most of my life, at least until my late-20s, the news that private jets are becoming so cheap that they are increasingly usable by middle-class people as air taxis would have been cause for rejoicing. It would be a sign that yet another play-thing of the elite was becoming more accessible, just as motor cars and mobile phones are no longer rich men’s toys but considered to be the bare necessities of life. Not now. I see a green-eyed monster on the horizon, hurling abuse and opprobrium at this new scourge of the airways. I’ve not ...
6:53 pm

Thoughts on Politics 2.0

Gravatar I'm very jealous I didn't get to go to a Joe Trippi seminar on "Politics 2.0" in Westminister this morning and had to read about it on the Britain and America Blog. A couple of observations based on their very detailed report of Trippi's comments. Trippi says that the web is shifting politics down to ordinary people - "an army of Davids" . I think this metaphor has probably always been true of the Liberal Democrats - we've always been a grassroots campaigning party, winning elections by deploying more of the little people, with better officers and better ...
6:34 pm

What a horrible day - NOT !

Gravatar Sometimes I wonder if weather forecasters go home hanging their heads in shame at the uselessness of their work. Just to summarise today. All week they have said we could expect heavy rain in Norfolk this afternoon. This morning at 8 o'clock, ITV weather, BBC and Sky weather were all predicting rain from midday and thunders storms. This was important to me because I was on a school trip today. So with rain coats, umbrellas and all other paraphernalia for a rainy to to hand we set off. And what happened ? Not a drop of rain, beautiful ...
6:28 pm

No go logo

Gravatar I mean, it’s just ghastly, isn’t it. Of the alternatives I seen my favourite is this one – simple and stylish (and I’m not alone in thinking that – it won a BBC poll).
6:22 pm

US military considered "Gay Bomb"

Gravatar Radio One's Scott Mills and his team have been having a lot of fun with the news that the Pentagon considered a "gay bomb". This is a theoretical chemical weapon which makes the opposing forces suddenly irresistable to each other, putting them off their...ahem...stroke. In fact, I was suspicious of another "Big Kidney" spoof story here and could only, at first, find mention of it in rather
6:21 pm

Hypocrisy from Peter Kilfoyle

Gravatar Dizzy has on his blog a little piece from Peter Kilfoyle using an early day motion to have a dig at Lib Dem run Liverpool City Council over Everton's proposed move to Kirkby. The problem is, from my point of view, that when the Keep Everton In Our City (KEIOC) group write to Peter Kilfoyle to ask for his support, his letter back was, to put at bluntly, a clear "piss off, I can't be bothered". If you read the story on the KEIOC website, and the story dated 18/04/07, and read the pdf file attacked, you will see ...
6:18 pm

One of those moments of despair

Gravatar I have had a moment of despair today in Gateshead. Labour councillors should hold their heads in shame after voting against a planning application that would have secured the future of the post office in Sunniside, the village where I live and which I represent on Gateshead Council. The Bank of Ireland want to install a 24 hour, free to use cash machine at the front of the Post Office. It will
6:10 pm

An amusing conversation

Gravatar Tom and a colleague are chatting by the kettle. Tom’s colleague is complaining that she has just received a parking ticket. Colleague: I was only there for 10 minutes. Tom: The problem is, there’s just so many of them these days. You can’t get away with it even for a moment. Colleague: The vultures! Tom: Admit it – we’d be in gridlock without them. Colleague: They’re just revenue raisers for the Council. Tom: Maybe we should retrain them all as plumbers. Colleague: We can’t even get a plumber round my way. ...
5:44 pm

Campbell makes Blair take the blame for BAE

Gravatar Liberal Democrat Leader Ming Campbell today challenged Tony Blair at Prime Minister’s Questions to name the minister responsible for withholding information from the OECD. Mr Blair replied: “If you want to blame anyone for this, blame me. I am perfectly happy to take responsibility for it.” Ming followed up by asking: “Whatever happened to Robin Cook’s ethical [...]
5:39 pm

Blair: Blame me

Gravatar Tackled at Prime Minister’s Questions today about BAE/Al Yamamah, Tony Blair took responsiblity on behalf of his whole Government. According to the Guardian: After being asked at prime minister’s questions about the £43bn arms deal between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia by the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, Mr Blair said: “If you want to blame [...]
5:00 pm

Fire escapes

Gravatar Almost every view of New York is somehow iconic. But this shot sums up all those classic movies set in the city. They always seemed to end with the hero chasing the villian down the steps, leaping from one floor to the next. The distinctive fire escapes were installed as an afterthought, after some disastrous fires trapped people in the newly erected tall buildings in the...
4:58 pm

Gore to run if Obama fizzles?

Gravatar Picked up on the Drudge Report. The New York Post says that Bill Clinton has told US political blogger Andy Ostroy that Al Gore may throw his hat in the presidential race when a candidate fizzles. Ostroy is tipping Obama to be the one that fizzles by September. My question is. Would Gore then invite Obama to run as his VP on a Gore/Obama ticket?
4:30 pm

The feral press

Gravatar Politicians love laying the blame for their troubles at the doors of the media.  The media love biting back at criticism from politicians.  And there are few things this blog likes more than tracking how such arguments play out.Yesterday, Tony Blair gave a speech denouncing the "feral" press in this country.The Telegraph leads the charge:[Blair] forecast his speech would be rubbished. We do not do that: but, given his record on liberties of the subject, we do find his argument deeply disturbing, founded on false premises and worthy of the strongest refutation.  ('Blair's last enemy: freedom of speech')The FT treads ...
4:17 pm

Minister won’t answer on “backdoor payments”

Gravatar Another day, another refusal by the Government to answer on Al Yamamah. From today’s Guardian: Des Browne, the defence secretary, yesterday refused point-blank to say whether his department’s £1bn backdoor payments to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia for arms deals were still continuing. Visibly uneasy and irritated at a lunch with defence journalists, he claimed “national [...]
4:00 pm

Ming tackles Blair on Al Yamamah

Gravatar Good to see Ming Campbell tackling Tony Blair on the Saudi Al Yamamah arm's deal today at PMQs: On Monday the Prime Minister told us that the Prime Minister was co-operating fully with the OECD inquiry into the Saudi Arabian arms contract. Can he tell us today which minister is answerable to the House for the decision to withhold information from that inquiry in relation to payments made by the
2:51 pm

A US Guru on social networking

Gravatar I attended a very interesting meeting this morning at Westminster hosted by the social networking site 'Bebo', and addressed by Joe Trippi - the mastermind behind Howard Dean's famous use of the internet in his US presidential bid, and now one of the advisers to the John Edwards campaign. Joe Trippi's view was that social networking would turn politics upside down. He said we have been used to a small number of 'Goliaths' but now we will have a large number of 'Davids' shaping the political scene. He reckoned that political parties which embrace this culture will prosper, but ...
2:42 pm

Moo approach to promoting recycling

Gravatar The arrival of a herd of recycling bins painted to look like cows in a field alongside the M5 has raised a few eyebrows. Apparently, the scheme is designed to encourage people to recycling. The bins will be given to Primary Schools later in the year for schoolkids to use. According to green boffins the children [...]
2:23 pm

Campbell demands investigation into Saudi Prince payments

Gravatar Liberal Democrat Leader Ming Campbell has called for an investigation into the Ministry of Defence’s role in processing payments - allegedly totalling £1 billion - to Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia. Responding to the Defence Secretary’s failure to answer questions on the issue, Ming told The Guardian: “We need a full investigation to determine [...]
2:00 pm

The Gatwick pole dancer: What a whopper!

Gravatar The Guardian has got rather overexcited about this tacky advertisement: A 100,000ft pole dancer is currently greeting air passengers flying in to Gatwick.100,000 feet? There are 1760 yards in a mile, which makes 5280 feet. So 100,000 feet is nearly 19 miles. Somehow I doubt the figure of the pole dancer is quite that big. What do they teach them in schools nowadays? Later. The story has been mysteriously changed and now reads: A gigantic pole dancer is currently...This blog is not without influence.
1:54 pm

Back again

Gravatar Now that the local election campaign is out of the way I am making a determined bid to return to blogging. So for anyone who wants to know more about me, visit my website for more information. And for those who have ever typed “Mike Bell” into google, I am not: Mike Bell Photography, though I [...]
1:42 pm

More than corruption to think about with BAe

Gravatar Why on earth did Saudi Arabia buy such a flawed bit of kit as the Tornado fighters and bombers in the first place? That thought is the underpinning of much of the bribery speculation... surely only greased palms could explain such a purchasing decision given the superior equipment on offer elsewhere at the time? Britain of course itself bought the Tornados and paid thousands of millions over the odds for equipping the RAF. If you accept the arguments in a polemic book* we have to ask whether our defence manufacturing industries are effectively blackmailing British Governments through the politics ...
1:30 pm

Keeping the seat warm

Gravatar Is Eleanor Burnham considering defecting to Labour so as to assume the leadership of their party? I only ask because of a throwaway line in yesterday's First Minister's questions in which she indicated that Gordon Brown had been keeping the seat warm for her: Eleanor Burnham: I had the privilege and the pleasure of being one of the first to ride on the Virgin biofuel train from Euston to Llandudno last week; I believe that I was sitting in Gordon Brown’s seat, after he vacated it in Crewe. It was a pleasure and a privilege. [Laughter.] Whether, it ...
1:17 pm

More visitors!!

Gravatar Wednesday 13th June 2007 - An early start this morning as I had agreed to step in for my goodcolleague and Leader of the ALDE Group, Graham Watson, to speak to agroup of students from the University of West of England, (UWE),Business School. I'm always happy to help, but I was particularly keen on this occasionas the group were predominantly from the US - Chicago, Illinois andVirginia. Anyone
1:08 pm

Lib Dems making all the noise

Gravatar I still find it highly curious that the "official opposition" haven't made more of the Al Yamamah story. The Lib Dems have been the only ones in the news cycle to be speaking out on it and through their campaign website Whatever happened to Blair's ethical foreign policy? (I think it got lost somewhere in the Middle East...)
1:08 pm

Park selects

Gravatar Park Ward Liberal Democrats selected their candidate for 2008 last night. After an excellent hustings and question and answer session Claire Darke was selected.
12:34 pm

Icky Thump

Gravatar No, not a Yorkshire Martial Art as demonstrated by The Goodies but the long awaited new album from The White Stripes released on Monday. Can't wait! You can order a copy from Amazon now: Here is the title track from Later with Jools Holland a few weeks ago
12:29 pm

Peer urges Government to back anti-corruption law

Gravatar The Corruption Bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Chidgey, reaches its Third Reading in the House of Lords this afternoon. The Bill aims to tighten the laws on British companies operating abroad. The current rules have been criticised by the OECD. Following press allegations that BAE paid up to £1bn in bribes to a [...]
12:10 pm

Blair and the media: what do you think?

Gravatar Surprisingly little reaction on the Lib Dem blogosphere so far to Tony Blair’s speech yesterday in which he labelled the media a ‘feral beast’. James Graham makes reference, and Stephen Tall attempts a ‘fisk’. So what do Lib Dem Voice readers think of the Prime Minister’s views? The first word can go to Don Foster, Lib [...]
12:01 pm

End of the road for Tory’s FOI dilution bill?

Gravatar The Press Gazette reports: A controversial attempt to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information Act faces possible collapse today due to lack of support in the House of Lords. Tory MP David Maclean has until the end of today’s proceedings to find a peer willing to sponsor his Private Members’ Bill in the upper chamber. Opponents of [...]
11:50 am

More on Digital TV ...

Gravatar You'll recall I have again raised the issue of the lack of digital terrestrial TV signals for many in the West End - click on headline above to view my letter to the Minister sent recently. I have now had a reply as follows : Dear Cllr Macpherson, Thank you for your email of 27 May to Shaun Woodward, concerning digital television in Dundee. I have been asked to reply. Current UK Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) coverage is not indicative of how things will be after switchover. Transmissions are currently broadcast in both analogue and digital. ...
11:50 am

meetings and glasses

Gravatar This afternoon I am attending the summer meeting of the goverining body of Butterstile Primary School. The last meeting took place in the middle of the campaign, and like the idiot I sometimes am I managed to turn up exactly 24 hours late, to the bafflement of many of the staff there. Today I have double checked that it is indeed the right day, so hopefully I can achieve something more useful
11:35 am

Boats up the Tay, Community Council, Grass Verges

Gravatar Yesterday, at the invitation of Fife Council, I attended a boat trip up the Tay from Newburgh to Perth and back to look at and discuss the Tay Regeneration Project. The picture (right) is of Newburgh as the boat left and the one (below right) is of the group of LibDem councillors who attended - from the right Cllr Andrew Arbuckle (Fife Council), me, Cllr Maggie Taylor (Fife Council), Cllr George Hayton (Perth & Kinross Council) and Cllr Willie Wilson (Perth and Kinross Council). West End Community Council met last night and the dominant issue came from ...
11:01 am

Three jobs Bob has moved to Bromley - but what about Daphne?

Gravatar In April I reported that a local Conservative Blog had reported Bob Neill was moving into the area - good about time too! This morning I saw a copy of his report to constituents, and sure enough there was a story with a picture of him outside his new home, which he has moved into with his partner Daphne. Now when Bob was on speaking terms with me he introduced Daphne to me at the Bromley
11:01 am

Sensible approach from the USA

Gravatar The link deals with In the Matter of JULIA BB which looks at the interface between medical knowledge and opinion and the legal processes. I think the USA is more effective than the UK in these areas. Not least it is easier to get the anonymised judgments in the USA. In the UK the system resists even giving written judgments to the parties - something that catches out parents who don't know
10:32 am

George Bush is right

Gravatar It is not often that I agree with George Bush, but this week I will make and exception.
10:24 am

Name That Boy!

Gravatar I read somewhere last week that Mohammed is now the second most popular name for newborn boys in the UK. It strikes me as a bit odd that you can get beheaded for drawing a picture of the Prophet Mohammed, but it’s perfectly fine to attach his name to your son. Still, there is much [...]
9:48 am

Friends of Stone Station

Gravatar Last night I went down to the Town Council chamber for an Environment sub committee meeting. I'll be reporting in another posting about the main agenda items but one item deserves a separate listing.It was agreed that the Town Council would encourage and support the formation of an 'at arms length' group, perhaps called Friends of Stone Station', who would 'look after and care for' for station's
9:06 am

An insidious Act

Gravatar As we continue to veer all ways on the journey towards stable government in Wales it is worth reflecting on some words spoken by the First Minister yesterday. He issued what the South Wales Echo described as a veiled threat to any potential rainbow coalition when he told journalists that Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats would struggle to get Welsh laws passed in such an arrangement. A spokesman for Plaid Cymru put his finger on the issue at stake when he said: “It would be preposterous for any Labour government in Wales to block any legislation passed by ...
8:45 am

Zero emission homes

Gravatar According to the BBC the first zero emission home has been unveiled. This two bedroom house (see above) is insulated to lose 60% less heat than a normal home. It also features solar panels, a biomass boiler and water efficiency devices such as rainwater harvesting. According to the report "The home generates all its own energy - and when you're away on holiday can send electricity back to the National Grid. The company says its annual energy bill would be £31, as compared to £500 for the standard new home of this size." This is all great news but ...
7:58 am

Day 2351: DOCTOR WHO: Blink

Gravatar Saturday: This proves it: I am SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD! I can beat Cuddly Cthulhu in a staring contest – stone angels hold NO FEARS for me! So that's three weeks running and the Doctor's barely been in it… In fact, that's only the third way in which "Blink" resembled Paul Cornell’s "Human Nature" two-parter. Firstly, it's a story adapted from a written work ("Blink" was previously "What I did on my Christmas Holidays by Sally Sparrow" from The Doctor Who Annual 2006) and secondly, there's more than a slight odour of Doctor number seven about ...
7:53 am

What does Gordon think about Europe?

Gravatar I’ve been trying to find time to sit down and try to read what runes exist about the approach that Gordon Brown will take to Europe, as Prime Minister. I haven’t managed to get down to it properly yet, but Jon Worth has a very good analysis of a pamphlet by Ed Balls for CER, which [...]
12:33 am

Who will Labour try next to sort out the NHS?

Gravatar Belatedly spotted this post on a Labour colleague's blog. Alan was the Chief Whip of the Haringey Labour group last year. Alan and I can certainly have a rare moment of agreement on some of his post: Patricia Hewitt survived an effective vote of no confidence the other evening in the House of Commons after a debate brought forward by Tory MPs over hr handling of the NHS. Now, I'm finding this quite difficult, but perhaps if MPs had voted her out my Labour Government may finally have woken up to see the mess and chaos that ...
12:31 am

Marillion to go top ten again?

Gravatar My favorite band are Marillion. I've mentioned this before. Once stereotyped as 'that scottish heavy metal band' they nowadays produce crafted contemporary rock music and deliver it with panache. I popped up to Leeds to see them at the start of their current tour which finishes with a gig in Cambridge tomorrow and two dates at the Forum in London on Friday and Saturday (which I can't attend due to a work commitment). If you like quality rock played with real emotion by top quality musicians I would get yourself along to see them. There ...
12:14 am

Hazel Blears' deputy leadership campaign collapses

Gravatar Literally, not figuratively. Story here.
12:10 am

Thank goodness for…

Gravatar … the letters pages of the local press. A correspondent from Abingdon, who finds himself bemused by which bin is collected when these days, has devised the perfect system by which to remember, and has kindly passed on his plan to readers of the Oxford Times. Get a small container and in it put one card for each collection for a fortnight. In our area that means two green cards, two ordinary
12:02 am

Help clean up royal finances!

Gravatar The finances of the royal family have long been the subject of debate. A number of parliamentary supporters of Republic have tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in Parliament calling for the accounts of the Duchy of Cornwall to be made clearer and more transparent, as demanded by Parliament's Public Accounts Committee in 2005.

Previous days:

Tuesday 12th June 2007, Monday 11th June 2007, Sunday 10th June 2007, Saturday 9th June 2007, Friday 8th June 2007, Thursday 7th June 2007