Matthew Cain did an interesting post about the responsibility of bloggers recently. He makes some good points and it is worth a read.
Monday, 31 August 2009
There was an interesting report in The Guardian recently which highlighted the results of a survey commissioned by age related charities regarding older women in TV. It found that 71% of the respondents were happy to see Arlene Phillips on their screens and 80% agreed that TV favoured younger presenters.
Sunday, 30 August 2009
Saturday 22nd August
Friday, 28 August 2009
I knew this would happen.
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Understood the importance of national democracy, who understood why you need to live in an independent country and what that meant, as well as being a free marketeer and a small government Conservative.
Yet again, we are seeing the two faces of the Conservative Party. The one they want to present to the public and the one which attacks the NHS and praises Enoch Powell.
He was one of the great figures of 20th-century British politics, gifted with a brilliant mind
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Early in July I posted this about Leominster MP Bill Wiggin and his supposedly open meeting for constituents to question him about his expense claims. The meeting was clearly not open as many constituents who tried to gain access were barred.
Held in the local Conservative Club. An intimidatory tactic & it only holds 150 people, so ensuring many would be locked out, but Tory members would be there in the majority (they were told to come early).Supposed to have been a public meeting, yet the local press were not informed, but Tory members were, because one let slip they had all been told when he thanked the chairman for e-mailing him about it.At 4pm when many would still be at work.3 scruffy bouncers on the door as I walked in, another intimidatory tactic.Not recognised as a Tory party member so a Tory activist blocked my entrance at the door & asked for my name & address, despite my showing my driving licence ID as proof I lived in the constituency. He then wrote this down on a clipboard (pure dictatorship tactics).People still trying to get in after meeting had begun but Wiggin shouted to them because of H&S regulations they couldn't let anymore in. But the YouTube clip (see below) clearly shows Tory town councillor, Brig Peter Jones still letting in those who say they are Tory supporters. The guy with the black jacket & satchel is the guy who found the clip & posted it on YouTube.Result was approx 90% at the meeting were Tory supporters.Wiggin was asked through a window by people locked out why he hadn't booked the much bigger leisure centre (the venue they used to select him in 2001). He replied with a smirk to his many supporters inside, 'How was I to know so many would turn up, do I have a crystal ball?'When asked did he think he was morally justified claiming expenses of £1,300 mortgage payments & £400 for food per MONTH when many in the area don't even earn that amount he replied, 'Yes, I am'.When asked why he did not downsize from his £900,000 London home to ease the burden on the taxpayer he replied, 'Other people can live like that, I can't!'As a result of all this, along with other like-minded townsfolk we have started a Leominster Independents Group. Totally independent of Independents on the councils or any party our aim is to overturn Wiggin's 13,000 majority at the next election & work towards town council reforms.
It seems that "Information sharing orders" are back baby. They seem to be like a zombie at the end of a cheap B-movie. You think it's dead but then just as you relax your guard, it's up and shuffling towards you murmuring "uuh-uhh-uhh" or similar and then trying to eat your brains.
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
In 2006, Tony Blair refused to immediately call for a ceasefire in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict against the feeling of many in his own cabinet. Some think that the unrest this inaction provoked within the Labour party was the catalyst for the so called "Curry Coup" that a few weeks later led to the resignation of a number of junior members of the government and forced Blair to bring forward his retirement announcement.
Monday, 24 August 2009
Hadleigh Roberts has done an interesting blog post with the alliterative title "Cutting down the Commons will cripple Cameron’s government". In it he argues that if David Cameron got his way and was able to cut the number of MPs by 10% he would cause himself some big problems and that he would end up with more Hannans and less pliable lobby fodder as well as more forced government appointments.
There are only 630 MPs and a party with just over 300 MPs forms a government and of these 300, 100 are too old and too silly to be ministers and 100 too young and too callow. Therefore there are about 100 MPs to fill 100 government posts.
One of my blog readers Judy Jansons has sent a letter to her local MP (former Tory minister Peter Lilley) regarding the injustice of Credit Unions being made to help fund the banking bail-out that I posted about last week.
Sunday, 23 August 2009
Martin Bright has done a couple of posts recently where he has highlighted Phillip Hammond's use of an intern and also his justification of this by claiming it would be an abuse of taxpayer's money not to use the free labour available.
Saturday, 22 August 2009
Saturday 15th August
Friday, 21 August 2009
Cardiff Student Lib Dems (who have a very good blog) have posted today about the release of the Megrahi. It is a well thought through piece that urges Lib Dems not to attack the SNP and try to make political capital out of what was a very difficult decision.
Don't get me wrong. When it comes to sentencing, I think families of victims or victims themselves should be involved in the process. However, after the process, the decision must be made according to the law. It cannot (and should not) be held to ransom by the families of the victims
Notice: Submission of new petitions will be closed until 7th September while the Prime Minister is away from Number 10. You can still sign any petition during this time.
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Peter Black AM has a post on Freedom Central this morning entitled "The failure of joined up government" in which he explains a quirk of the financial regulation system that seems to have had unintended consequences. It seems that because Credit Unions (the bodies that exist in communities to help people get access to credit and provide other services to those on low incomes) are now regulated by the Financial Services Authority that they are now liable for part of the cost of bailing out the banks. This is due to the FSA levying a charge on every organisation it controls to help meet the debt. Apparently they are jointly liable for £8.5 million through this mechanism.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
At daughter's swim lesson. Why do 7 year olds need to learn butterfly? The swim equivalent of algebra; complex, elegant and utterly useless.
I love algebra, I use it all the time. Why is being numerate useless and literate useful?!
The International context for Basic Skills within the United Kingdom can be demonstrated from findings of the International Numeracy Survey 1996 (Opinion Research Business). This found that comparing the percentage of respondents who managed to give the correct answer for all the tasks, Japan emerged top. 43% of respondents tested in Japan achieved a full set of correct answers. This was followed by France (40% getting them all correct) and the Netherlands (38%). Respondents in the UK performed least well. Only 1 in 5 people tested (20%) managed to accurately complete all twelve given tasks. Australia was second from bottom (at 33%) but Australians still performed significantly better than the UK.When the results were reviewed for the proportion of respondents getting most answers right (10 -12 correct across the twelve tasks) the UK respondents do not improve their performance vis a vis other countries. Barely half (47%) were able to give the correct answer for 10 or more of the tasks, which compares very unfavourably with the rest of Europe (76% in the Netherlands, 68% in Denmark and 65% in France and Sweden).At the other end of the scale almost a quarter of the UK respondents (22%) could only answer up to 5 questions out of the 12. This compares with a lower 14% in Australia, 10% in France, 7% in Sweden, 7% in Denmark, 5% in Japan and 4% in the Netherlands.The following table provides a summary of the survey results.Scores achieved across 12 numeracy tasks:
Matthew Parris' article in the Times from Saturday this week suggests that MPs should be allowed to have outside jobs, it's just that too many of them have the wrong sort of outside job (by his definition that is things like Company Director, Barrister - i.e. the sort of job that is likely to give them experience of a rarified world that most do not inhabit). On the other hand he claims that MPs doing outside jobs like being a Doctor or participating in charity work are fine.
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
A few months ago there was panic as dire predictions of the CPI falling into negative territory abounded and the spectre of a potential deflationary spiral stalked the land.
Their eventual reply was that the figure assumes (among other things) that:
- All 36,000 who retired between 1948 and 1997 would choose to settle if they were able to do so
- None of the dependants (including spouse, children under 18, unmarried dependant children 18-30, elderly parents living with the main applicant - and assuming half of children 18-30 are married) work
- All settling families are on Child Tax Credits maximum award.And do not take account of any tax or national insurance contributions that former Gurkhas may have made in the past or that they may make in the future
The ridiculous figure quoted is just that, totally ridiculous. You are absolutely right, such convoluted assumption does, and should, not apply to any particular group, let alone us, the Gurkhas! It is this mean Government's yet another answer to deny us Gurkhas fair and equal treatment as agreed in the Tripartite agreement in 1947!
Monday, 17 August 2009
Sunday, 16 August 2009
I realise I am a bit late to the party but I have been on holiday so have only just had the chance to do a post in response to last weekend's Lib Dem Voice meme regarding the blog posts from our own site that we wish to self nominate for the imminent Lib Dem BOTY awards.
Well as usual when I go away for a few days there is a big story that I have come back to and have had to properly catch up with. This time it is the whole NHS debate kicked off by Obama's attempts to get healthcare reform proposals on the table in the US and brought into sharp focus in the UK by Daniel Hannan's disparaging comments about the NHS on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News (see below for embedded version) combined with the "#WeLoveTheNHS" Twitter campaign.
Saturday, 15 August 2009
I have just returned from my nearly 2 weeks of camping in Ireland (beautiful country which I had only really seen when out there on business previously and would highly recommend it as a holiday destination).
- Gerry Ryan is a fantastic radio host (he does the 9:00am - 12:00noon show on RTE 2FM) and I will probably still try to listen to him when I can online now I am back. I cannot think of a parallel UK FM radio show that has such time for its callers (some were given 10 minutes or more to talk on air) and the depth and breadth of subjects covered was remarkable. Are any readers familiar with his work?
- I read Douglas Carswell and Daniel Hannan's "The Plan" (in a 4 hour session whilst in Connemara) and was taken with some (not all!) of the ideas contained within. I will post a fuller review of this (possibly broken down into parts) soon. It seems all the more relevant now given Mr Hannan's recent comments about the NHS and one of the chapters in the book is devoted to this.
- Wimpy have a bizarre policy of not allowing you to specify water as the drink as part of a children's meal.
- I have finally found something on prescription called Scopoderm that for me, completely stops the symptoms of travel sickness that have plagued me since childhood (even on a choppy ferry bouncing around) although it is not without its side effects.
- I have been contacted by someone from Bill Wiggin's constituency who was very pleased to see my post on him and his behaviour in May and is astonished that no action has been taken against him by the Conservative Party. He also has some interesting details about his meeting that I was not aware of.
- The V Festival is on next weekend, not the weekend after as I had originally thought (we have tickets) which has led to all kinds of fun and frolics today trying to rearrange various things!
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
This blog post was originally published in December last year but my readership figures were low at that time and I thought I would give it another outing:
However there is an example in the article of something that I have noticed quite a lot of recently. That is to dismiss Lib Dems out of hand as being irrelecant or just not very good apparently by definition of them being Lib Dems. The particular bit is this:
Dominic Grieve was impressive in the Commons yesterday but he has failed to cut through in the media. He was outperformed on Newsnight the other night by Chris Huhne which is rather like being the second tallest mountain in Holland.
So Chris Huhne is dismissed out of hand as not being a worthy debating opponent. There is no attempt to define why this should be, it is just assumed that a Tory should be better than a Lib Dem and the fact that Grieve was "outperformed" is seen an an aberration. The truth is of course that Huhne is one of the best politicians of his generation and has huge experience both as an MP and MEP and also in business.
I have seen this attitude often on many of the more partisan blogs especially in the comments sections (e.g. Iain Dale, Guido etc.). Lib Dems are dismissed as an irrelevance or an annoyance.
This frustrates me hugely for a number of reasons:
- The Lib Dems in my opinion have a great many excellent MPs among their ranks. I would argue that they have most talent proportional to their size of the 3 major political parties in the Commons. People of the calibre of Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, David Laws, Evan Harris, Norman Lamb, Norman Baker, Susan Kramer and Ming Campbell. And I could go on. Frankly most of that list are better than much of the current cabinet and shadow cabinet. It is ridiculous to try and dismiss us with these levels of talent.
- We often lead the way in terms of policy formation with the other parties initially attacking us (or dismissing us - see any sort of a pattern here) and then a few months later our proposals get adopted and pretty soon they are in the mainstream. I am certain that if we did not exist as a political force then there would be a lot less pressure for these sorts of policies to be adopted by the other two parties. We are far from an irrelevance.
- Members and supporters of the other two parties act as if the status quo of power flipping between the two of them periodically is just the way it is. They often try to persuade voters to vote for them as a means of keeping the other one out. I recall Tony Blair doing this during the 2005 election warning that a vote for the Lib Dems could let the Tories in by "the back door". Well quite aside from the completely anti-democratic connotations associated with not voting for who you want to because the electoral system might hand the seat to someone you want less (which I have and will continue to post about), the status quo may not be there for ever. It is possible that after the next election, if Labour is defeated quite heavily that they start to implode and within another few years the Lib Dems could end up as the official opposition. It has happened in other countries. Labour and the Tories do not have a divine right to be in positions 1 and 2 in this respect and they and their supporters would do well to remember this. There is also of course the possiblity (quite likely judging by current polls) of there being a hung parliament after the next election. If that happens then all bets are off for how politics pans out over the next few years.
Sunday, 9 August 2009
This blog post was originally published in January this year but my readership figures were low at that time and I thought I would give it another outing.
With all the on and off speculation there has been ever since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister about whether and when he will or won't call an election, something has been bugging me.
We don't have a presidential system in this country and yet it is the PM and him/her alone who is tasked with taking the decision about when an election should be. Now I personally think that we should at least try and have some sort of fixed term parliament such as this campaign is trying to achieve. There are all sorts of practical barriers to this with our current system but I think they could be overcome with the political will.
Anyway, given that we do have a situation where the party in power via the PM can bacially dissolve parliament whenever it wishes I do wonder about the wisdom of allowing that power to reside in the hands of one person. I am not talking about this from any sort of partisan perspective, it is just from the perspective of trying to achieve a balance within democracy and not allowing one party to hugely dominate the House of Commons.
The problem as I see it is that because the Prime Minister can call the election whenever (s)he wishes, they are going to do so at a time that is best for them. Sometimes (often?) their own interests will coincide with their party's interests. However that is not always the case. I would suggest that the situation that Gordon Brown finds himself in now, or will do very soon as the recession bites is that Labour's poll ratings will keep sliding. If he was to go to the country right now, judging by the polls we may have a hung parliament and Labour may even be the single largest party despite being several points behind (due to our iniquitous electoral system which I have blogged about previously). The point is that most commentators think that Labour's position will worsen as the recession gets worse, indeed that seems to have started happening already.
I think that in say 6 months time, the polls could be getting pretty bad for Labour and it will look unlikely at that point that Labour could win. However it is likely that at that point, the Tory majority might only be a couple of dozen seats meaning that the subsequent election would be up for grabs. In 18 months time from now after the battering the country will likely take, when Brown will be forced to go to the country, the Tory majority could be 100+ meaning that Labour would likely be out of power for a decade or more.
Now I hold no candle for Labour and in a way they deserve many years in the wilderness after some of the things they have done in power. However after having seen the damage wreaked by both major parties when they have huge majorities and can push legislation through unopposed, I would much prefer there to be a strong, robust opposition challenging for power. It strengthens democracy and causes there to be better laws and better thought through policies.
But put yourself in Gordon Brown's position in both of the scenarios I highlighted above. In both cases in 6 months time and in 18 months time he loses and resigns as Labour leader (these days it is inconceivable that a PM will stay on after an election defeat - I still cannot understand how Wilson managed it in 1970). So for him in 6 months time the choice is to lose now or have one more year as PM. It is very difficult for those in positions of ultimate power to relinquish that power (look at how John Major clung on by his fingertips right to the very end and even had a 6 week prorogation of parliament just to eke out that little bit more time). As a commentator said in the weekend press, there always seemed to be something deep within Jim Callaghan that said 1976 - 1979 looks better in the history books than 1976 -1978. Brown may well be thinking the same thing.
Now put yourself in the position of someone like James Purnell or Ed Milliband, both able and gifted Cabinet Ministers who are young and in the ascendancy. They have been talked about as future leaders of their party. Which of the two scenarios (6 months or 18 months) are they likely to opt for given the choice? I am certain they would happily give up an extra year of power now in order to mitigate the scale of a defeat and leave them to regroup and be seriously challenging for power in 4 or 5 years time. Rather that than the best years of their political careers spent in opposition they will doubtless think. I suspect much of the Cabinet feels the same way. But of course they do not get a vote. It is a situation where the wishes of even very senior members of the governing party could diverge in the most fundamental way from its leader.
I don't suppose there will be a change any time soon with the current state of affairs, however if things start to get really bad again for Labour, the problems Brown suffered last summer could come back, fuelled by the knowledge of Purnell, Milliband et al that the only way to remove the prerogative from Brown's hands is to remove him from the premiership altogether themselves.
Thursday, 6 August 2009
At the start of the year, along with a number of other bloggers I published a list of my predictions for 2009. I thought just over half way through the year would be a good point to review how I am doing so far:
- Gordon Brown will not call a general election this year. I do not think he has the courage and he will run down the clock. This is looking like a safe bet and he may even be turfed out before he gets the chance. Either way, he will not call it himself.
- Labour's poll ratings will nosedive again in the first half of the year as the recession really starts to bite. They will not recover. It has happened as I predicted and I cannot see them recovering in the next 5 months.
- Peter Mandelson will be out of the cabinet again within the next 12 months. Looks like I was wrong on this, the opposite has happened as he is now arguably the most powerful minister in the government. I thought the old Manelson knack of getting mired in controversy would precipitate a final fall but it looks unlikely now.
- Ireland will again vote "No" in the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. We will wait and see on this. I still think this will happen.
- DD will be back in the shadow cabinet but not as Shadow Home Secretary. Looking unlikely now as he has burnt his bridges. I think the Tories need to make better use of him though rather than leaving someone of his talents on the back benches. I guess this will come after the election now though.
- Lynne Featherstone will be promoted to a high profile role on the Lib Dem front-bench. This has also not happened yet but she is heading up the Technology Board which I am involved with. There is still time for the party to promote her further!
- Eddie Mair will become the new host of Question Time. Dimbo is showing no signs of going yet. I still think Mr Mair would make a great host but he may need to wait a little longer for his shot.
- Jonathan Ross will leave the BBC. There have been murmurings in this direction but the fuss about Ross has largely faded into the background as he has tried to keep his nose clean. I think this is now not likely to happen.
- The US will make great strides in shifting their economy to low carbon. It is happening as Obama puts his campaign pledges into action.
- Solid state hard drives will start to become standard in laptops by the end of the year. This is not happening as fast as I had hoped. We might have to wait to 2010 for the tipping point to happen.