How to put me off an issue

Certain pro smoking groups are still trying to get the smoking ban amended to that people can smoke once again in pubs. Personal I like now being able to go for a drink knowing I will not have to wash all my clothes immediately the next day to remove the smell of smoke. However, some groups do have plans for designated smoking rooms which may make some sense. But if one thing is going to put me off supporting them it is seeing that these groups are using Anthony Worrall-Thomson on their adverts.

Like Coral Vorderman, anything he does is an instant turn off for me. His politics too are not to my taste, just like his overly fancy food. Still, if you want to get people on side, why not choose a cook who let his own businesses fold recently because he did not want to secure the loans against his own personal wealth.


Alan Turing - A real British hero that we should all honour

One of the most annoying things about being British is the fact that our government, indeed virtually every government, never lives up to the high reputation that the people themselves deserve. The persecution of people who serve this country, the continued slap in the face our servicemen receive, the lack of gratitude to people who put their lives on the line is never ending. When you read stories of VC holders having to sell their medals to make ends meet, war heroes having the payments challenged by the government or the story of Alan Turing, you have to wonder what they do it for.

I found THIS article from the Independent which highlights how Alan Turing, the man who broke the enigma code, a man who should be lauded as the person with the greatest single contribution to saving Britain in WW2 was persecuted by the UK government because he was gay, and eventually killed himself as a result. The Pink News reports also on the petition that has been signed by nearly 5000 people already.

It is a shameful blot on the history of this country that a man who did so much to preserve the freedoms we love was treated so badly. So I would support any move to pardon him and feel a more permanent reminder of his contribution to British freedoms should be recognised.


The charade that is the X Factor audition

Firstly let me say that I am a big fan of the X factor, I have watched it each and every year and along with Harry Hill's TV burp, it is the only programme I watch on ITV. But does anyone for one minute actually believe the contrived series of events that they put out each week when they show the auditions.

Firstly, you only get to perform for the two judges if you are either very good or very bad. Everyone else is filtered out at a series of pre-auditions. You are expected to stand around and wave like a performing seal shouting "We've got the X Factor" so that Dermot can do his links in front of you. If you moan about anything you will be thrown out of the auditions. And finally, the signs saying things like "I've got the X Factor" and "I love Simon" are made by the production team and given out to the people for staged shots. Presumably this is also done for Big Brother.

Don't get me wrong, I know it is al part of the entertainment, but the show is appearing to be more and more contrived and controlled. Why not show some element of the pre auditions ? Why not allow through some of the god people and omit some of those who have no ability at all ?

If you want to read more about the X Factor auditions, there is an excellent article about them HERE.


Colonel Gadaffi looks like one of the Rolling Stones

Is it just me or does Colonel Gadaffi now have the look of an ageing rock star ?

He looks like a sort of cross between Phil Spector, Keith Richards and Tom Jones (with no insult meant to any of them, except perhaps Phil Spector).


What do party conferences achieve outside of political circles ?

With conference season approaching, it does leave me to wonder what they achieve beyond being a get together for the party delegates. In particular though, with Labour and Tory conferences being about talking from the leadership and listening for the delegates, are they a shop window for the public on the way parties operate and are they part of the problem with politics today ?

Taking the conferences in order, the Liberal Democrat conference is always the first to be held, but it is also the most democratic and open of all the party conferences. The Lib Dems do actually debate and decide on policy with members and delegates having a real choice and real involvement. The real fly in the ointment is that fact that you can be guaranteed to have a Lib Dem conference spoilt each year by some nutty motion which might attract the headlines, but puts the party in the dock with the public.

Whilst it might have been necessary when the Lib Dems had 18 MPs to get the press to pay attention, this really is no longer the case. So what is it with the need to have the motions on abortion (1993) , euthanasia (1997) , banning goldfish from fairground stalls (1992), hard porn for 16-year-olds (2001), or controversial policies such as abolishing the monarchy (2003), and liberalising dope laws (2002). Hopefully those days are gone, but it doesn't stop people suggesting some daft motion or other like privatising the NHS or other such craziness. I remember virtually every year having to placate a member or dealing with an unhappy deliverer who was upset at something debated at Lib Dem conference. One would hope that this year will see a real focus on the economy, on civil liberties and on dealing with the problems resulting from the depression.

Labour conferences have gone from one extreme to another in recent years. gone is the socialism, the mass block votes and the real debate. Instead Labour conferences are just incredibly bring. party of this is in part because ruling parties do not have the freedom to allow party conferences to dictate policy willy nilly, but in great part it is more to do with Labour's control freakery. the clearest example of this was the throwing out of a delegate a few years ago by a bunch of heavies.

Last year's conference was credited with giving Gordon Brown the mandate to carry on, but in truth the fact that nobody stuck their head above the parapet to challenge him had more to do with it than the conference.

As for the Tory conference, to describe it as anything other than a drinks party where party bigwigs gives speeches would be wrong. For that is what it is. Policy is never decided, a real debate is not allowed, disagreement is not encouraged and it is in no way democratic.

So what is the point ? Perhaps the biggest thing a conference does it to confirm the general view a party has towards it leader. Remember IDS and his "Quiet man" speech ? Then there was Tony Blair's "Education, education, education" speech. powerful at the time (even if it were a lie). Kinnock taking on the Militant left was also a mile stone. But in recent years the most notably party conference may perhaps have been the Tory party conference when David Davis speech went down like a lead balloon and David Cameron won over the Tory faithful with a rousing speech that nobody expected.

Perhaps though the best reason for a party conference was written some years ago in The Independent when they said

"It is also the one week in the year the party workers - the "poor bloody infantry" who stick leaflets through letter boxes - can let their hair down and have a week-long gang-bang with like-minded people."


I think I need to move to Scotland

I see that STV, who remain outside of the ownership of the rest of the mainland ITV network , have dropped certain ITV shows from their schedule and are producing more local programming in their place.

I have for some time stated that I think ITV turn out generic crap that either apes poorly what the BBC are doing or produces safe and uninspired drama that allows you to turn your brain off. It really should be no surprise to anyone that ITV are in so much financial trouble.

The problems at ITV started when their regional identity started to go. Locally here in Norwich Anglia TV had a reputation of turning out quality drama (Tales of the Unexpected, The PD James detective mysteries, The Chief, and other) and great wildlife documentaries through Survival Productions. The regional network might have been costly, but it allowed each area of the network to specialist and also provide competition. As soon as this diversity went from ITV, so did the originality and the quality. Now in Norwich all they produce is regional news.

So perhaps I should move to Scotland where at least they still value locally produced programming.

What have the Green Party achieved in Twickenham ?

Apparently nothing, according to their website.

Note the blank space where they list their achievements.


More Green problems ?

You may have read on this and other blogs a couple of weeks ago about the cancellation of one of the Green Party's own internal elections.

There is a new twist to the story the ERO who suspended the election has resigned; he isn't giving much away on his blog, but there is clearly an under-current.

On a more positive note from the Greens, Derek Wall has praised our own blogging peer and all-round good egg Eric Avebury.

What will the Tories priorities be in government ?

Letters from a Tory has an excellent letter regarding the Tories "back door" means of legalising Fox Hunting again after the next general election. I am unimpressed, as it A. Tory, but I wonder how impressed the electorate will be.

Imagine a Tory government coming to power. They have serious financial problems to deal with and have pledged to rid the country of needless QUANGOs. Then, by means of getting Fox Hunting within a legal framework they give teeth (and money) to a new QUANGO to oversee hunting (wasting more money) and are seen by the electorate as being more concerned about hunting defenceless animals rather than dealing with the economic problems.

It's potentially absolutely wonderful stuff for an opposition leaflet for the local elections in 2011.


Action at last over low flying US jets

Norman Lamb MP is calling a public meeting on Cromer regarding the persistent problems with US airforce jet undertaking low flying exercises late at night over Fakenham, Cromer and other towns in North Norfolk.

Having been brought up on one of the flight paths regularly used by RAF jets landing at the now closed RAF Coltishall, i have no problem with low flying jets. But when I lived in Fakenham I was always surprised to see US jets screaming very low and very fast across Fakenham, going in to steep climbs (needing an afterburner and making lots of noise) and failing to do what the RAF routinely do, which is to fly around towns.

I have no problem with jets practising as this is a small price to pay for our security. But the US airforce jets show a flagrant disregard to local towns and villages in North Norfolk.


Extraordinary people - Dean du Plessis - The blind cricket commentator

If I were asked to name any group of people I admire above any other it is the blind. When ever I see someone using a white stick to guide themselves to their place of work in total blindness I am amazed at their ability to live such normal lives with a disability that I cannot comprehend.

Now it is well known that when someone is deprived of their senses they then find their other senses become more finely tuned, with smell and hearing becoming far more sensative as the brain develops these areas. And there can be no greater example of this than Dean du Plessis, the blind Ximbabwean cricket commentator.

Dean du Plessis uses his amazing hearing from stump microphones and can detect the area of the bat that the ball hit, he can hear the unique way that players grunt, moan or excitely shout to the ball they have hit, and is then able to use this in his commentary.

I could go on, but I would suggest that you listen to the story of Dean du Plessis on the BBC Iplayer in the next four days before the programme is removed. He really is a remarkable man and somone I admire.


Do the Tories only say what they really think when they think nobody can hear them ?

The chairman of Gosport Tories caused something of a furore by giving his view that a woman candidate might be a decent candidate if she were attractive. Now, he has apologised and said he thought the interview was over.

This leads me to wonder if the Tories only say what they really think behind closed doors.

Proof that the Daily Mail really is your Daily Scum

Liberal Conspiracy, not a blog I always warm to, has a great article picking apart the Daily Mail story on immigrants outnumbering the number of people signing on for benefits. The implied bias of the Daily mail artcile was to make out that immigrants were over here putting British people out of work. In short the artcile was a BNP wet dream.

It's well worth a read and can be found HERE.

Whilst the Daily Mail's support for the Nazis in the 1930s (and indeed in to the 40s) might be a long time ago, its support for natioanlism still lives on.


How wrong can the Met office be ?

A few months ago the Meteorological Office declared that the UK was in for a good summer with temperatures in August expected to be warm (something that has not really happened since 2005) and sunshine expected to be seen more often than not. This was greeted at the time with some relief by the UK tourist industry and a bumper summer was expected.

Then a few weeks ago the Met Office declared that they were wrong and instead we could expect colder weather and showers.

Now since they have made this announcement I cannot remember it raining here just North of Norwich. I know it rained in South Norfolk for five minutes yesterday lunchtime, but apart from that, the weather has been glorious for nearly three weeks.

So the question is how the hell can the Met Office get it so wrong ?

A few weeks ago there was a reported sudden surge in people booking holidays abroad in the light of the Met Office's change of forecast. So who has benefited from the Met Office's incompetence ? Thomas Cook and Thomson, that's who.


Why people don't use public transport

Norwich fans returning from West London last night after watching Brentford beat Norwich 2-1 suffered another blow after their train arrived home in Norwich at 6.35 am.

The train, which broke down twice, took more than seven hours to get them home turning the usual two hour journey in to the journey from hell.

How many football fans will drive instead of using the train in future ?

Meeja studies

I found my self nodding my head in some level of agreement with the Tories when they stated that there needs to be some way of differentiating a media studies A level from a maths or chemistry A level.

For years, perhaps unfairly, media and film studies seem to have taken stick from the press for their perceived "easy ride" way of getting an A level or a degree. This may be unfair, but it does remind me of a chap I knew at university who excelled at nothing other than getting drunk. The be quite honest and fair, he really was not that bright. He told me he was studying a degree in media and film. One of his modules was on the films of James Stewart. Well as soon as he said this I started eulogising about The Glenn Miller Story, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, The Rear Window, Vertigo, Harvey, and of course, It's a Wonderful Life.

And what was the chap's response ? "What ... oh ... I don't know them". What the hell had he been studying if I knew more about James Stewart films than him ?

For me it justified the prejudice that some people study subjects which are ultimately worthless and really not worthy of equality with other subjects. Of course this is grossly unfair and there are, I am sure, some media courses that are really tough and genuinely a challenge but perhaps these need some form of assessment to make them stand out from other media courses.

If you want to know the sort of stuff media studies students should know then click HERE to do the BBC media studies test. I scored 6/7.

The right to bare arms - The right to bear arms

A report suggest the UK should be more careful about who we sell weapons to incase they are used against civilians. Tighter controls on who we sell stuff like this to should be welcomed, but we should be careful about the examples given.

Israel has been singled out because of the use of the military equipment they have been sold against civilian targets outside the borders of the country. This is a valid argument. However, the report sites Sri Lanka as another country we have sold weapons to which might have seen civilians attacked using the weaponry. Sri Lanka is, in my opinion, a different case.

Sri Lanka was dealing with an internal insurgency from within its own borders. Whilst there may be evidence of the Sri Lanka army attacking civilians, are we seriously suggesting that we should not have sold weapons to a country fighting a terrorist group within its own borders ?

It does remind me of the the days when Labour claimed it would have an ethical foreign policy. That seems like a long time ago now.

Update - Used the wrong "bare/bear" so decided to keep it in honour of the hot weather today.


When is it my turn ?

Two weeks ago, Harriett Harman was standing in for Gordon Brown. A week later it was Peter Mandelson. This week, apparently Alistair Darling is standing in for the Prime Minister.

At this rate it will be my turn to stand in for Gordon Brown in about three weeks.


Why this story is no surprise to me

The BBC reports on the detention at Newark-New Jersey Airport of a Bollywood film star for two hours, apparently because he has a Muslim name. This comes as no surprise to me from my experience of that airport.

In 2006 we returned to the UK from Mexico via New-New Jersey Airport, and the way passengers were treated in the name of security was preposterous.

When we were going through security to get back in to departures, having reclaimed our luggage from our connection, we were stood behind a white American man who was ordered, by security staff, to remove his shoes. He explained that he was wearing calipers and could not remove them. He was then ordered, with security staff arriving and standing around him with their hands on the gun holsters to "remove your shoes sir." Again, he explained politely that he was wearing calipers, he rolled his trouser legs up and revealed the metal and strapping. Now I would have expected anyone with a shred of decency to say politely to him "No problem, we need to sort this out, could you follow us to this room so we can sort this out". But oh, not in America. He was then grabbed by each arm, force marched to a desk, and another US security gut then shouted something about him being uncooperative and he would be required to undergo a DNA test. They then in full view started taking sample from his mouth whilst an armed guard stood over him.

We all know about the shoe bomber and 9/11, but this was a massive overreaction and appalled both myself and my wife.

So no, I am not surprised to read what happened to this Indian film star.


Please be nice to me

Those of you who have read my blog for some time will know that I am a season ticket holder at Carrow Road where I follow Norwich City, and that I have, since I was seven, been an Everton fan.

So after Norwich started the season last week losing 7-1, I was feeling a little bruised.

Imagine how I feel today with Everton losing 6-1.

So please be nice to me.

BMA share my concerns about flu jabs for children

A couple of days ago I wrote that it seems odd that tamiflu is dangerous for kids, but children will not be in the first wave of immunisations.

Now the BMA are saying the same thing.

I wonder of the government have noticed the correlation between infection rates dropping Scotland from early July (when their school holidays started) and in England from late July ( when English school started their holidays). It seems that children are one of the main ways in which flu spreads quickly (any idiot could tell you that but obviously the government do not know).

In the 1918/19 flu, US cities that closed schools noticed their overall infection rates and absenteeism from work was lower than those cities where schools remained open.

But do our government learn from history ? Course not.


Headlines for Daniel Hannan

Tories think you should die six months earlier

Based on the fact that the average life expectancy at birth in the US is six months less than that in the UK (using the NHS).

Tory MEP wants a higher infant mortality rate
Oxbridge educated wealthy man opposes free health care for poor people
Now it I were running a campaign in any Lib Dem seat I'd be doing mail shots to all voters asking them to sign a "Save the NHS" petition, particularly if I was in Daniel Hannan's South East region.

Here's a challenge for the local press in Norfolk

Following the story about Rupert Read and the abuses that appear to have happened in internal elections in the Green Party, lots of people have commented about whether the local press will follow up on the story. My guess is that they won't. The local press love the Greens and with a former high profile journalist running the Green PR in Norwich, the press seem scared to print anything that would paint the Green Party in a bad light.

So will the press report on what is happening ? I know you read this blog.


Government Logic

Two days ago we read that Tamiflu is not considered to be good for children to take and it may do more harm than good.

Today we hear the government are NOT, I repeat NOT, going to prioritise children for immunisations for swine flu.

So children are left to rely on Tamiflu, which is dangerous to them.

Warped and sadly fatal logic.

The not so clean Green Party

Rupert Read gained himself a lot of publicity (but few votes) for his so called "Clean Campaign Pledge" in the Norwich North by-election. the Lib Dems, knowing what he is like and that this was a worthless pledge refused to sign, and the local press fell over themselves to tickle Rupert Read's belly and give his campaign more credibility which the result itself didn't justify.

Well now the truth has come out about the "Clean Campaign" that Mr Read is currently running.
It appears, as well as carrying a scathing attack on one of his opponents on his campaign website, someone has been contacting Green local parties with further attacks on one of the candidates.

The election has now been suspended.

One wonders how certain Greens have the nerve to lecture us all on clean politics when their own internal elections are so downright dirty.

Update - There is more interesting stuff on the Greens HERE.


And in further news, Tory MP discovers he is six months late

Last week I wrote that Tom Watson MP was six months behind me in questioning why the DVLA were giving away Spanish built cars instead of British built cars.

This week a Tory MP asks the same question.

Nice to know that the Tories are six months behind the Lib Dems and a week behind Labour.

Hat Tip to Peter Black.

How many chances will Alan Duncan be given by Cameron ?

Before the expenses scandal really got a head of steam, Alan Duncan, when answering criticisms from Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You described his ability to claim for a second home even though he own half a dozen homes as "wonderful". He later described this as a joke, in poor taste, and he apologised.

Now we read that Alan Duncan has described the MPs salary of £60k as having to "live on rations". Again, Alan Duncan has apologised unreservedly.

Now what will Cameron do ? Come on Dave, show some backbone.

Do you get the impression that now the by-election team have gone home, Chloe Smith doesn't know what to do ?

During the Norwich North by-election Chloe Smith was the face of the campaign for the Tories, but everything else was, I have on good authority, done by outsiders from CCHQ. A blog (which nobody could comment to) mysteriously appeared overnight and her website was suddenly updated very regularly. Now, it appears, the people who did this have done home. Witness the mess that is now her website.

It seems the phrase is very much the order of the day.

If you want to join Chloe's campaign to supportEmptyParas click HERE, and HERE and HERE and HERE to read more.

Perhaps CCHQ should make a note in future that it is not good enough merely to turn up in the campaign and run it but also leave someone behind with the knowledge to be able to maintain those things the campaign started up in the first place.


The murky politics of the Green Party

There is some interesting stuff on the the blog "Another Green World" about some really rather dodgy internal party politics and the Stalinist nature of the Green Party.

A membership list, it appears, were being used without permission, in order for one side to campaign on the internal referendum on the issue of a single leader for the Green Party. Then it is alleged that people are being thrown out of the Green Party for raising issues of concern about party procedures being broken, with a kangaroo court using a catch 22 situation in order to force people out.

From a local perspective we read in the comment section of the post that at least one Green Party Councillor in Norwich has been forced out of the Green Party for a period of five years, but remains (oddly) a member of the Green Group on Norwich City Council. It seems odd that the Norwich Greens are so at odds with their own national party that the national party can exclude someone from membership of the Greens yet their own deputy leader (who sits as a Norwich City Councillor) can work with this excluded member in his own council group. What does this say about Norwich Greens or the views that their deputy leader has of the Green Party nationally ?

There was an interesting comment made to me by a journalist at the Norwich North count who mentioned that the Green Party had in its deselection of a local candidate in favour of another in Norwich North and through its other internal problems which have started to appear, discovered that it is a political party with egos, factions and all the same problems and divisions of any other political party.

So are the Norwich Greens going to tell us which of their members has been thrown out of the Green Party nationally ?

What unites Iain Dale and Roger Helmer MEP ?

Iain Dale writes today in support of the rantings of Roger Helmer, the most unpleasant of Tory MEPs in my opinion, with the title "What Unites Roger Helmer and me".

Come on Iain, we know what unites you. It's pictured below. It's a shame you can't see past it sometimes.

Is it any wonder HBOS are in such trouble ?

Bloody HBOS. Damn them. Every bleeding 30 minutes today we are getting autodialer calls from HBOS for my wife. She's not in, so I can't answer the security question, so the computer (for that is what is phoning me) calls again, 30 minutes later asking for my wife.

I phone up HBOS and they inform me that they cannot do anything about it because my wife has to phone them up. For what reason ? The woman on the phone from HBOS didn't know.

I bet I bloody know why they are phoning, it will be to try and sell us car insurance or home insurance. So, for the rest of the day I have to put up with bloody HBOS every 30 minutes phoning up.

If I had an account with HBOS I'd close it.


Getting on wrong on flu again and again and again and again

I've posted too often about flu and must be boring people, but I feel there is a public duty to go on about the level of incompetence the government have shown in dealing with pandemic flu both before and during this outbreak.

I've listed the various cock ups the government have made since April HERE, but we need to look very carefully at the government's whole flu strategy to see where they have gone so badly wrong, and in particular their reliance on the "silver bullet" that they think Tamiflu is.

The government announced back in 2005 that they were to order progressively (with about 3 million doses arriving each year) 14.3 million doses of Tamiflu in case of an outbreak of bird flu (which may still happen at some future point). The problem is that Tamiflu is almost completely useless against the bird flu anyway, and this has been known since 2005. Now we hear today that against the much milder swine flu Tamiflu will not save your life. Infact, all that tamiflu does is reduce the length of the illness by between 12 and 24 hours but in children can have nasty side effects. It does not stop you dying from flu if you are going to die, all it does is lessen the symptoms of those who are actually suffering from a milder type of flu. So much for the wonder cure that would save us if bird flu strikes.

So what's the government's strategy now ? Well its what it was before. Keep your fingers crossed, give out the placebo that is tamiflu and hope that a vaccine arrives soon (the same vaccine that was delayed because the UK government put pressure on the World Health Organisation to delay declaring a pandemic.

We just have to pray this shower are not still in charge when bird flu mutates to a human form.


No nominations please

I might be being very presumptuous even suggesting it, but anyone thinking of suggesting any postings of mine or thinking of nominating my blog for any Lib Dem Voice blog awards shouldn't bother.

Last year I wrote in Iain Dale's guide to political blogging that I felt the awards were too self congratulatory, rather too on message, and the judges rather self selecting in that the same people and the same "friends" get chosen every time. Those of you from the provinces (and I use that term loosely) and who don't get to conference really don't matter. Yes, I am sure I'll get comments decrying my views, but I would add that it would me hypocritical for me to seek votes or feign interest in these awards given my published views.

For my money, Stephen Glenn writes the best Lib Dem blog at the moment so perhaps he will get some credit for his good writing.


Horribly unfair posting alert !

Before the Norwich game this afternoon I saw new Norwich North MP Chloe Smith in the club shop (she looked slightly hassled so I didn't speak to her). Presumably (as many MPs do) she was going to attend the match in order to confirm her local credentials (although she may well have been a fan for years).

Anyway, it occurred to me after the game that I often used to see Ian Gibson (her predecessor in Norwich North) at Carrow Road, yet as soon as a Tory gets elected Norwich get their worst home result in over 100 years of their existence.

You see people of Norwich North, that's what you get with the Tories !!

(Note, I am trying to make light of a pretty dismal day and am not just having a go at the Tories or Chloe Smith)


Flaming Sambuca anyone ?

I think 95% of the population hangs its head in shamed ambarrassment at the way a small hardcore of British tourists behave abroad. So whilst it is, of course, terrible what happened to a British tourist in Crete, you do have to ask whether it will take THIS kind of treatment to get some British men to keep their shorts on and British women to keep their tops on in bars abroad.


Murdoch's plan to move his newspapers to the periphery of the web

Rupert Murdoch has announced today that his newspapers websites are to become subscription sites, charging a fee, and will no longer be free. Whilst this might generate some cash, it is going to drastically affect the influence his companies have on the internet.

For starters, the vast majority of people will not pay for news on the internet. If you want free news you can go to the BBC website (I know we pay a license fee but the website is free for everyone to use) or any other number of free to read sites. Murdoch believes other papers will follow his lead. Personally I don't think they will and those that don't will have a greater market share, more readers and more influence.

Then there is the issue of advertising. Advertisers are going to be less inclined to place adverts with Murdoch's papers if they have less of a market share. This will mean more money for his rivals and less for his subscription titles.

Then there is the issue of influence. Murdoch has an unparallelled amount of influence in the UK at the moment. His papers can make or break politicians and political parties. Yet with the growth of new media, he seems to be willing to let this go and diminish his influence.

The world, it seems, is moving on and away from newspapers. More and more young people expect things on the internet to be free. Yet the Murdoch's seem to thing that they can roll out a similar policy to that which works for SKY on to newspapers. The difference is that SKY has control of the pay TV market with very few and much smaller rivals. Newspapers and the internet are very different things.

As I see it I welcome the news from Murdoch today. Anything that diminishes his ability to manipulate our political system and moves his titles to the periphery has got to be good.


I don't begrudge John Bercow making his accomodation child friendly but ...

My initial reaction when I read earlier that the new speaker, John Bercow, has ordered £20,000 worth of alterations and refurbishments to his quarters was slight shock. Then I read that it was in order to make the accommodation more child friendly, and I thought it wasn't so bad. Then, however, reading the details I changed back to my initial reaction.

According to The Times he is spending money on making the place safe and having ducts checked to ensure his children will come to no harm, but I was shocked to read

"A further £3,880 has been spent on planters on the terrace to make it safer for the children.
The drawing room will get a new sofa and cushions for the window seat, costing £7,524.30.

Are these planters manufactured by Rolls Royce ? This is a ludicrous price and I could but planters from Homebase for considerably less.

But the real extravagance comes in his choice of sofas and cushions. To spend £7524.30 on a sofas and cushions shows a real ability to spend money without a care or concern for those paying for it.

Yes, I know it is less that Michael Martin spent, but then again Premiership footballers spend less on their mock mansions than Mr Martin spent, but I would have expected Mr Bercow to show a little more restraint.

And we went to war for this lot

I have discovered an only occasionally updated blog that tells us much of what happens in Kuwait, and to describe Kuwait as anything other than an authoritarian racist state would be unfair.

Remember, we went to war to remove a tyrannical dictator so that the rules of Kuwait could return to their opulent lifestyle, taking advantage of foreign migrant workers and perpetuating a racist policy which prevents foreigners from having equal access to the law and equal treatment.

Click HERE to read Q8 Undressed.

What's Iain Dale's take on this ?

Yesterday Iain Dale branded my concerns about the open primary the Tories held in Totnes as "pathetic".

I wonder then what he makes of THIS.

Labour MP agrees with me ... but does so 6 months late

Iain Dale brings our attention to the fact that Labour MP John Spellar is wondering why a UK Government agency is giving away foreign built cars as prizes instead of UK built cars.

I would at this stage like to point out that I raised this point six months ago !

Why has it taken six months to notice this ? .Nice to know you are keeping up Mr Spellar.


I am a Lib Dem (or so this website says)

Clicking on this website and answering the questions told me I am a Lib Dem. Interestingly my third choice is apparently "Green". Funny that as I don't support their policy of allowing people to stay out of work and earning a "citizens income" with no compulsion to work, I don't believe in the nationalisation of supermarkets and I don't support green plans to abolish stem cell research.

Open Primaries - Another way for a party with money to buy off the electorate

Forgive me for scoffing at the Conservative Party holding open primaries, but for me these do nothing for the democratic process as a whole an instead are a means of buying lots of publicity for the Tory party whilst giving a pretence of being at the leading edge of reform of the political system.

The cost of the Totnes open primary is reported to be in excess of £40000. This is a cost that Lib Dem and Labour constituency parties cannot afford. So instantly this idea is a one sided affair, with the Tories using their Ashcroft money (when will he get his affairs in order as he promised when he got his peerage) and and the rest of the cash that is flying in to their reserves in order to appear to be the bastions of electoral reform when anyone with any political knowledge will know that the Tories are the very last party who want to see a fairer electoral system in this country.

The truth of the matter is that this is an expensive PR exercise, and in many ways it has worked. But let's not pretend that this is a model for all constituencies or all parties. If the Tories were lower in the polls do you think they would do this ? Why are they not doing it in safe Labour seats ? Might the answer be that they know that in Tory seats the Tory majority of the electorate are more likely to choose the candidate the Tories want whereas in safe Labour seats the Labour majority could land the Tories with the least palatable candidate ?

So yes, I am a sceptic of this system because it is a system that discriminates against the parties without cash and a system that pretends to be more democratic than it is.

Update : Iain Dale has linked to this article referring to my arguments as apthetic, yet in the article above his Daily Dozen he points the the electoral reasons for the open primary being a good thing. The Tory Party can't have it both ways. Is it about opening up democracy (the Tory line) or PR and winning votes (Iain's line) ?


Is Mandelson the new Heseltine ?

In the dying months of the last Tory government, when all was doom and gloom for the Tories, when everyone knew they were going to lose the 1997 election heavily, there was one Tory who was unbowed, still took the fight to Labour and despite the polls saying otherwise, was telling the press he was predicting a Tory majority of 20 seats. In many ways Michael Heseltine was like the German propaganda ministry in April 1945 or Comical Ali in Iraq in 2003, talking a good war, making much of tiny successes whilst ignoring the obvious. It seemed slightly ludicrous at the time, but must have been offering some reassurance to Tories in those dark days. It appears Peter Mandelson has taken on this role with gusto for the Labour Party.

Peter Mandelson has nothing to lose of course. he has no parliamentary seat and has no reputation to lose with the press. By offering such a resolute defence of Labour even when they are in the wrong, he does not woo voters or the media, but he gives Labour activists some hope, he wins lots of kudos within Labour ranks and can then hope to play a leading role in reshaping the Labour Party after the next general election, and this is perhaps the most significant thing. Whereas Heseltine was coming to the end of his career in politics, Peter Mandelson is not yet at that stage and having been heavily involved in the creation of New Labour, he might be one of the few positives the Labour Party might have after the next general election. A man with a vision.
There are other interesting parallels between these two political characters. Both have stood on the periphery after holding ministerial office whilst they also share a love hate relationship between themselves and their parties. Mandelson is blamed by some on the left of betraying the socialist principles of Labour. Heseltine, in contrast, is still loathed by some Tories for having the guts to stand against Thatcher.

In the meantime we can expect another nine months of Mandelson defending the indefensible. Whilst it might look and sound ridiculous for him to do so, remember that with each utterance his position becomes stronger with the Labour Party.


Have Sat-Navs made road sign makers lazy ?

Having spent the last few days on a mini break near Windsor without a sat nav, I am left wondering whether the sheer volume of people owning sat nav systems has made those responsible for putting up road signs forget that there are some of us who do not use sat navs and actually rely upon signs.

I'll give you a couple of examples. Upon leaving Legoland on Friday we could turn left signposted for Windsor and the M4 (the way we came and lots of traffic) or right, which was signposted M4 Alternative route. As we wanted the M4, we thought we'd turn tight. After a while, we reached a roundabout which had one junction shown on the sign as M4. So we followed this road for another two miles, came to a roundabout, drove around it several times looking vain for any sign which the said M4. Not one did. So the directions simply dried up. It's like getting the instructions to a piece of flatpack furniture only to find that everything after the third instruction is missing.

Then there was trying to get back on to the M25 today. Driving along from where we were staying it told me to turn left if I wanted to go on the M25 South. Since I didn't, I stayed on the road. So having stayed on the road, was there a sign saying M25 North ? Was there hell. No, looking back at the map it appears the road sign should have said M25 North and South, but it didn't.

Now I know I am getting older and I have no aversion to sat navs. I simply don't own one because I have got around the country quite happily before without needing one. But I, like many others, rely on decent signing on the way, and lots of what I have seen over the last few days seems to be there just to conform to legal requirements but does not actually tell you what you need to know.


Separated at birth ?

I found THIS from a few days ago on the every excellent City Unslicker/Capitalists at Work blog.

They do sound somewhat similar, although someone suggest on a comment to my blog that Chloe looks like Ant from "Ant and Dec", but with a fringe instead of a forehead. She actually looks better in the flesh than she appears on TV and in pictures, although she is painfully thin.