Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Tis The Season

I've been a terrible host of late and I offer my apologies for the lack of posting. Work and other factors will hopefully calm down from now on. Have to admit to apathy descending upon me too, polling is just scary at the moment, as scary as Brown's smug little smile. I hope too that the same old stories in the news will turn over soon as we start to enter election time. It's all been a little non eventful, with politicians going out of their way not to offend a single voter.

In the mean time, I take this opportunely to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a hung over free new year! May that enviable kebab late on new year not turn nasty on you and may it really be meat.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Information Visualisation

I was reading an interesting article about developing ways to communicate ideas, information and data easily. Mainly by turning information into images, rather than just text. The above picture is an example used in the article, click on it to view it in all the awful detail. As the problem with that example is, once you have something to compare it to, once it becomes relate-able, it's just shocking.

Though using this technique to show the dangers for vaccines for example is a very good idea (below), as I've no idea whether 25ug of mercury is dangerous to me, yet in the context presented I know I consume more in food. That's a brilliant way to inform people of the comparative dangers, rather than just sending out a bible sized leaflet and feeding scepticism over government information.

Essentially the point being made is with so much information available and surrounding us, we need to develop ways to communicate it effectively. That I completely agree with, what's so wonderful about this digital age is the freedom of information, yet that is limited by how we communicate and utilise it.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Iraq Inquiry Starts Tomorrow

Sir John Chilcot kicks off the non judgemental inquiry from tomorrow, in order to identify lessons that can be learnt from Iraq. Of course we wouldn't want to pass judgement on anyone, as that would mean taking responsibility for actions and events.

There is one upside to this is with no position of power to protect him and Labour facing the losing the election next year, Blair has reason to feel a little nervous. The Tories could shift the goal posts, if public opinion strongly shifts against Blair and New Labour in light of what will be disclosed.

It's the hope I hold on to at least. As someone who strongly believes in the rule of law, the fundamental principle that the law is above everyone and it applies to everyone. There little more distasteful to me than seeing Bush and Blair prance about on the world stage while blood covers their hands. They made a mockery of parliament, they made a mockery of democracy. That's before you even consider the human cost and how on earth can that be measured.

Lest we forget.

Hung Parliament

On seeing the recent polling, my first reaction was to grab a paper bag and control my breathing.

Conservatives 37%(-6)
Labour 31%(+5)
Lib Dems 17%(-2)

This is hung parliament territory. That kind of shift in polling I've only seen once recently and that was towards 'others' after the expense drama broke. Labour have done nothing to gain the jump, so I agree with general consensus that it's a rogue poll.

Yet if Labour were party more to the left, if they didn't have Brown in charge, if they didn't have the history they do, I wouldn't be worried about a hung parliament. As it would be the best way to keep the concerns over the Tories cuts, welfare apathy etc in check. Labour however are too similar to make a good opposition party and they really do need to lose power in order to reinvent themselves.

Vatican Tries To Woo Back The Art World

There's an interesting article on the BBC, about Pope Benedict sending out five hundred invitations to leading figures in the arts around the world. He plans to open a new dialogue between the Catholic Church and the arts, his mentor Pope John Paul wrote:
"The Church needs art, but can it also be said that art needs the Church?"
It's a strange situation given art was largely funded by the church throughout it's early history, as wealth became less elitist art expanded with it. On being given that freedom like society, it starting to look closer and in a different light at religion. Art doesn't financially need the church now, it does need something to comment upon, religion presents a prefect subject to do so. Some of the best art work I've see has been crafted with devotion or distaste.

Which does present a dilemma for the church, what would the Sistine Chapel be without the beautifully painted surrounding? The Church needs icons, it needs devotion and sacrifice expressed, what a prefect medium art is for that. Yet while everything has changed around the church, very little has changed within it, there is something quite poetic to me that they're artwork should reflect the time they stood still.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Queens Propaganda Speech

So the Queen shall be doing a party political broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party tomorrow. A government using the Speech for advantage ahead of an election isn't new, it stinks of desperation though. Nick Clegg has called for the speech to be cancelled and replaced with emergency reforms to "clean up politics". He makes a very valid point that:
The one gift this failed Parliament can give its successor is a fresh start.
They should be using this time to restore trust, it would be the right thing to do. Yet never one to miss an opportunity they're be promising the electorate the moon and stars, while only able to deliver the little paper cut out ones with dog eared edges and mute colours, which they'll grasp in there clammy outstretched hands. What's the point? I like to think British scepticism will win out over such a cheap stunt.

Harman jumped in to defend the Speech, saying it would include measures to boost financial stability, curb "excessive risk taking" in the City, crack down on gang violence and give more help to families caring for elderly relatives. Just like every Labour manifesto for the last 12 years then? Only difference is rather than pushing for less bank regulation, they've done U-Turn now we're bust.

All of this is about grabbing every headline they can before the election starts and coverage will be split between the parties. It doesn't change the underlining point that this government, this parliament and this prime minster have lost the confidence of the public. There are no better words than Cromwell's when he said to parliament:
Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation.
Here, here.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Doctor Who - Waters Of Mars - Spoilers

On the wonderfully named Bowie Base One, Captain Adelaide and her crew are manning the first human outpost on Mars. The Doctor turns up and is immediately concerned, it's the exact day that according to history, the base is destroyed in a self detonated explosion. This is as the Doctor repeatedly says as he tries to back out the door, a so called fixed point in history. Before he has a chance however, it's discovered that two crew members have been infected by a mysterious alien life form, that turns them into zombies with really badly chapped lips. Yes there is life on Mars and it isn't pretty.

I enjoyed the episode more than I thought I would, yet the ChapStick zombie storyline felt only there to put the Doctor into a situation that raised the question of what happens if all the power he has over time and life, finally gets to him? Without Captain Adelaide it would have felt even more disconnected, yet thankfully she pulled the story together enough for me not to complain too much. I did find her however the most interesting and entertaining aspect to the story. Which as a secondary character shouldn't really be the case.

Part of the reason for that was the Doctor just didn't seem the Doctor we've known through out the series, this seems to be a recurring theme with Russell T, wrap up a story by making the characters implausible or have a Messianic complex. It doesn't create good drama, it just feels like a bit of a cop out. In doing so he's certainly making the series feel like it needs to regenerate.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Rise and Fall of New Labour

The Wardman Wire have posted a video of Liberal Vision’s take on the rise and fall of New Labour. I'm quite surprised by how I felt after watching it, I didn't expect to be so angry and disgusted. Looking over my posts it shouldn't really be a surprise to me. Yet I watched it with a growing sense of it just being so beyond the pale, it's scary that so few can have that amount of power and can do so much damage with it.

You can see it on YouTube here.

UK Child Migrants - Government To Say Sorry

I hadn't heard of this before today, hundreds of thousands of British children were deported to former colonies.
The child immigration scheme, mainly organised by the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Nazareth, was intended to bring "pure white stock" to former colonies, and ran from about 1850-1967.

The full details of the scheme are only now emerging. It has become clear that about 85% of the children were not orphans at all.

Their parents were told by the church and state authorities that they had been adopted by middle-class parents in Britain. The children were unceremoniously told that their parents were dead.
Essentially the migration was intended to stop the children being a burden on the British state while supplying the receiving countries with potential workers of 'white stock'. Worst still, some of the people they were entrusted to abused, neglected or used them as cheap labour. I lack the words to express just how awful that is. I'm usually very sceptical about government issued apologies, they seem so hollow and inadequate. Yet in this case drawing attention to these shameful events will hopefully aid in reuniting these families. It is shocking however that Brown won't be issuing the apology until the new year, as if it's something he has to work into his schedule.

So often the sentiment of "never again" is echoed yet nothing is ever learnt, I truly hope lessons are leant from this. Devaluing human life, taking advantage of those that don't have the ability to stand up for themselves and brushing aside those we should protect, is just disgusting.

Glasgow North East By Election - Result

I lost my bet again, I would usually be humble in defeat, yet given the coverage of what a great victory it was and two losses in a row for me, it's starting to feel like a Brown stealth tax. I think I'll push decorum aside.

It's not a vote of victory for Labour, if they couldn't win that seat they couldn't win anything. A turn out of 33%, the lowest turnout in Scottish by-election history, is voter apathy. Is it really victorious that Labour voters are sitting on their hands on mass rather than voting, that's a shinning endorsement of Brown's policies? What wouldn't be then?

When you take into account apathy it's not a good sign for South of the boarder and it's English seats that win elections, as they account for the largest proportion of them. If they can't mobilise their voters in Scotland, in effect their heartlands, that doesn't bode well for England.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Afghanistan Letter

Afghanistan is dominating the news right now, casting a long shadow over Downing St. For the second day running Browns "scrawled" letter is across the papers. I'm no fan of Brown, I like him about as much as I would like to get E.coli, yet the behaviour of the press in this instance has been shameful. Using the death of a serviceman and the grief of his family as a stick with which to beat Brown, is journalism at it's worst.

Attacking him and this government over spelling mistakes made by partly blind man feels desperate and so exploitive. It was a stupid mistake, miss managed, I don't believe that even Brown would set out to offend Mrs Janes with intent. With questions over the troops numbers, reasons for being there or equipment, are these not the things the press should be pushing for answers and holding the government to account for? Yet instead we hear for two days how bad the man handwriting is.

I strongly support freedom of the press, it's a big part of living in a democracy. Yet just because you can say anything, doesn't mean you always should. Morality as Oscar Wilde said, like art, means a drawing a line someplace.

This Is a Non Party Political Message

I feel I've neglected my blog and readers lately, with the combined effect of not a lot outraging me in the news, and politics in general being quite slow while work has been busy. I have in my spare time been working on a couple of personal projects. To make up for my neglect, I post one of them on here, in case any of you are interested in what I do outside of this blog.

This is an animated fake fickbook test I'm working on.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Drug Advisers Resign - As Good As It Gets?

Dr King and Marion Walker resigned today in protest over the sacking of Prof David Nutt. I'm glad they feel strongly enough about this to do so, as they're right to. Just as Alan Johnson says an advisor shouldn't step into the political field, the political field can't fly in the face of scientific research. When it gets to the point that the state is saying the earth is flat and science says it round, there is something really wrong there. Never has the phrase what is he smoking been more appropriate.

What's been nagging at me about this though, is the policy just isn't working, why keep moving things around when you could rethink the policy? Embracing the research offers the opportunity to do just that. It really annoys me as it just feels so stagnant, is this really as good as it gets? This is the best policy they have to offer to tackle drug smuggling and protect people? Moving drugs up and down the alphabet.

Wonderful, nothing like progressive policy and government. This situation highlights for me something so flawed. Rather than protecting other people, it's about protecting themselves. Suu Kyi said:
It's is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it.
Wise woman.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Alan Johnson Sacks Drugs Adviser

Alan Johnson became Alan Sugar today uttering the phase "you're fired!" at Professor David Nutt. What could he have done so badly to warrant this? He based his opinion on, dare I say it, scientific evidence before it goes through the New Labour washing machine on full spin. Alan Johnson said:
I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy and have therefore lost confidence in your ability to advise me as Chair of the ACMD
No indeed, why on earth would you base policy on scientific evidence and advice? And why have people around you that would disagree, far better not to question anything, it can as this case shows, make your policy look populist and a little silly.

It's the role of the state to protect and inform, you achieve none of these points by not having an open discussion on drugs. How New Labour.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

MPs Kanye West Kelly's Expense Review

If your not familiar with the joke link

Yo Kelly. I'm really happy for you, I'm going to let you finish, but we had one of the best scams of all time.....

Cedit Cards Crackdown

These proposals were surprisingly released quietly, perhaps due to how late the government is in addressing this in the first place. The centrepiece of these credit card reforms is to outlaw customer repayments being used to pay off the lowest debt first, this obliviously leaves larger debts generating interest nicely for the bank, yet though common practise, they don't tell you that in the really small print.

Other proposed measures include:
  • Raising minimum monthly repayment levels to encourage people to pay off debt more quickly and so incur lower interest charges.
  • Banning banks from increasing credit limits without the prior consent of customers.
  • Restricting banks from raising interest rates on existing debt.
These are points that are hard to argue against, even though banks are trying. Yet if they're banned from belatedly punishing borrowers who turn out to be higher risk than they thought, it may encourage them to lend more wisely in the first place. Banks screaming about making sure credit is available, is all well and good now, after handing it out like candy on Halloween. Pushing them to be more upfront with people is an idea I support.

I would have liked to have seen the practice of selling on peoples debt to companies that specialise in getting to back, without warning or contacting the borrower addressed. For those that won't pay back debt this is a good tactic, yet it's not those people that this measure so often applies to.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Brown's Christmas Present

Isn't Brown that gift that keeps giving. After it was announced that economy shrank by 0.4%, which officially means that this is the longest recession since records began. Brown vowed to restore growth and reform the financial sector by Christmas. Isn't that like getting back the foot spa you gave someone else for Christmas last year.

I can't help but think though - why when writing out that big fat taxpayer funded cheque didn't he issue some terms? Banks sole purpose is to make money, they are by their nature greedy, a little native to be surprised when they get excessive. Which leads to asking why given the taxpayer is the main share holders in these companies giving out billions in bonuses, doesn't our representatives say something? I don't see the problem with a company that is part nationalised that the main share holder has a say over pay, particularly since that share holder was the one that propped their failing company up.

There is also at long last to be announced some consumer protection measures, which for a Tory Labour government is about time. This is really the way to reform the financial sector, empower the consumer. If the banks are foxes in charge of the hen house, arm those hens with tasers.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Baghdad Blast

Another bomb was set off in Baghdad today with devastating effect. Now I'm no explosives expert, but I don't see how this kind of damage was caused by a home made bomb. Which begs the question: where are they getting the explosives from?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

BNP On Question Time

Having just watched the well built up appearance of Nick Griffin on Question Time, I was stuck firstly by the anti fascist groups trying to stop Griffin entering the BBC and the programme going ahead. I seriously question their anti fascist credentials on seeing such video, perhaps reading up on what fascism is may help, as that just ironic.

I did feel sceptical as to whether the programme would really be a debate, but David Dimbleby kept it on track well, particularly since the audience clearly wanted to string up Griffin by his testicles. I would have preferred the programme to focus on questions covering a range of topics, yet it is inevitable that the spot light would fall squarely on the BNP. There was too much interest for it not to.

Jack Straw was the weakest link, the question of whether "the success of the BNP can be explained by the misguided immigration policies of the government" just floored him, combined with Griffin's comments on the Iraq War, Straw really showed that this government can't defend it's record. Which hardly puts them in a strong position to challenge the BNP. Bonnie Greer was wonderful, when Nick Griffin was up against her he was really shown to be second-rate. I loved that she lectured him on British history, inviting him at one point to go to the British Museum to understand more.

Out of every one on the panel though it was David Dimbleby that real shone tonight, he threw the incriminating material at Nick Griffin and pushed him to explain it. Those were the times that Griffin really looked awful, loony, racist and embarrassed. I don't think just this alone will expose the BNP or change the mind of their votes, mainstream parties addressing people's alienation will, at least this is a start though.

Vatican Wants Anglicans

Are you an Anglican dismayed at the growing role that women have in the church?

Are you disgusted by woman Bishops?

Do you feel it's scandalous that the church has become more accepting of "gays"?

Then join the Roman Catholic Church today.

Terms and conditions apply. See www.vatican/holysee/terms for details.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Just A Polite Note

I'm currently working quite long hours, so finding it difficult to find time and focus to write up posts. I hope to get back to blogging in a few days.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

37 Names

Since the last Prime Minsters Questions, 37 soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. 37 names were read out in parliament today by one of the men that sent them there, that's 37 families that will never see or speak to there loved ones again. In other news MP's are squabbling about money again, huddling around to talk about their favourite subject, themselves.

Alcohol And The Brain - Horizon

Horizon was really interesting last night, it was about our relationship with alcohol. It was strange listening to it be compared to a drug, as that's not really the way I've ever thought of it. Particularly strange having a scientist speak about the effect it has on our minds, it targets the same parts as cocaine and heroin, remarkable.

It's an interesting idea within the programme with regard to each of us having an individual relationship with alcohol, from and formed when we are young right up until we die. It made me stop and think about mine, which isn't something you usually do outside of hugging the toilet and vomiting.

It's viewable on iPlayer for the next 5-7 days.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Brown to Pay Back £12K

Brown is to repay £12,415 in expenses, I wonder what assets will he sell off to meet the bill?

Another Bet - Glasgow North East By-Election

In an attempt to turn around my betting fortunes my eye has turned to the Glasgow North East by-election, set for 12th November.

The seat

It's the former Commons Speaker Michael Martin's, who stood down disgraced and considerably more well off. In an area that has a high rate of poverty opinions are mixed, some having empathy for a local man saying he was a set-up, others that he's a greedy haggis.

The contenders

This seat is really a run off between Labour and the SNP. The other parties will take a vote share but this is essentially a show down between parties.

The outsider of interest is John Smeaton, who is one of the men who helped foil the Glasgow Airport terror attack. He standing as an independent for the Jury Team on a clean up politics ticket, he has a good back story and creditability. So he's likely to take some of the protest vote, something that the SNP would normally have to themselves.

The result

Michael Martin won the seat originally with a 10,00 majority, it's considered a rock solid Labour seat. Yet Labour dragged their feet over setting a by-election date, leaving the area without a MP for almost six months. Something the SNP are already exploiting to there advantage as "Labour's arrogance".

The SNP did win the Glasgow East seat right next door, which faces the same problems, yet they already had a foot in the door with the seats on the council. They also have to defend their government record as Labour will.

So in keeping with my betting on something that embarrasses the government, I'm going to bet on the SNP winning by a small majority, as I don't think Labour have done enough to keep hold of their core vote.

Update: for those interested in making a bet, the current odds and what bookies you can use can be seen here.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

MPs Expenses Are Back . . . . .

In a Parliament near you from Monday.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Berlusconi - Hold Me Close and Call me Papa

I always find articles about Berlusconi entertaining, from his choice of MEPs based purely on there previous modelling career, to his unbelievable comments made at inappropriate times. He's now describing himself as the most persecuted person "in the entire history of the world".

His completely non-dramatic statement comes as the courts have lifted a law granting him immunity while in office, he now faces corruption charges and trials. The BBC report that:
In an impassioned statement, he then mistakenly told reporters he had spent millions of euros on "judges", before correcting himself to say "lawyers".
A little Freudian slip there perhaps? I'm going to go out on a limb and say he's probably not going to see the inside of a jail cell.

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize, which is a little unexpected, I certainly didn't think I would be writing that so soon. I'm left though trying to think of what he's done in actions that deserves such an award, when others like Morgan Tsvangirai are truly more deserving.

I do however agree with the Nobel committee's statement that, with regard to Obama:
Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.

The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations.

Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.
Yet aren't you just giving Obama the award for not being George W Bush? Yes Obama isn't a warmonger, he has opened dialogue of more than two syllables with other countries, understands that climate change might be little worrying and of course also partly closed Guantanamo Bay. Yet he also legislated for detaining people without trial, rather than put them on trial. Released memos that show the Bush administration was torturing people, but declined to prosecute them for crimes clearly committed. Has has called for nuclear disarmament while sitting on the biggest pile of nuclear weapons in the world, not one of which has been disarmed.

He speaks of shared values, all while you can still be thrown out of the military for the crime of loving someone of the same sex, when only a handful of states do same sex couples have the right to marry and he's yet to retract the state terror/spying policy brought in under Bush.

Yes his words are lovely, so now he's got the Prize, earn it.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Tories Conference Policy

I've been following the Tory Conference this week, after Cameron's speech it's time to write about this Conservative utopia they speak of. In a nutshell the Tories want to tackle welfare dependency, anti-social behaviour, boost business, improve the NHS and put a cap on some immigration, which are all traditionally Tory areas. Yet there are some interesting ideas scattered among what you would expect and some bizarre ones to.

All parties are looking at the public sector to save money, Lib Dems were the first followed by Labour announcing policy just before the Tories on freezing public sector pay, I wonder what effect that had on George Obsboure's policy, as his goes much further than Labour's. It would of course be good tactics for Labour to try to create a stand off between the Tories and the unions, not so good for everyone else though if it escalates.

Policy announced that did catch my eye is their tax break for firms created in the first two years of a Tory government. In principle it sounds a good idea, employees are companies biggest financial burden, thus take some of the burden away and make people easier to employ. Also tackling the state pension, this has to be addressed at some point, people are living longer combined with the cost of living having gone up. I would have preferred to have seen some policy that supports people in taking out a private pension though, as that's really the way out of this. Otherwise their could end up a bigger divide between those who could take out a pension and those that couldn't.

Their education policy i.e Troops to Teachers programme falls into the bizarre category, send the troops into schools? How sane, reasonable and not at all gimmicky. Though I'm not really taken with their education policy in general, not only does Michael Gove look like the Child Catcher but his policy is a little child hating to. Yet in fairness just getting politicians noses out of the curriculum would probably be enough to improve the standard of education.

Tory foreign policy looks like just Labours, only difference is the Tories might listen to people rather than just keep doing the same thing. As unlike Labour they've not committed themselves to a course of action. I am disappointed though with Hague on this point and concerned about his little EU fixation, by that I mean his deep, heartfelt hatred for the EU.

Cameron's speech itself was quite pointed in places, I felt he identified the problems with Labour well, perhaps however a little too well. Everything was so calculated and Thatcher like, I even thought at one point he was channelling her. Yet what Cameron does have working in his favour is continuity, unlike Blair he's not just telling one person one thing and another something completely different, while doing whatever he likes and smiling like a manic. Cameron does have a vision, I wouldn't describe it as utopian, yet I can think of far worst.

Update - You can read Cameron's full speech here.

Monday, 5 October 2009

In light of Not Getting Post For The Last Few Days

Touché Nick Newman.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Conservative Party Conference

As the Tories kick off their jolly good conference from Manchester, raise your port filled glasses to what could be an interesting conference. As Labour shreds itself up like a copy of the Sun newspaper and throws itself on the floor of media martyrdom, this leaves room for David Cameron to show he isn't just Tony Blair in a blue tie.

I'm hoping to see some substance, rather than just strategy and tactics from the Tories. Essentially I want to see the difference between winning the election and Labour just loosing it. Particularly since the Tories look to be the next government.

Harriet Harman - Fail

While Harriet was talking on her mobile phone, she crashed into another car and drove off after shouting - "I’m Harriet Harman, you know where you can get hold of me." Clearly not at the scene of an accident you're responsible for Ms Harman.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The Lisbon Treaty - What Now?

Following on from by betting post, the Irish have voted "yes" to the Lisbon Treaty, I bet on a "no" vote. My Mum always said to be humble in defeat, humble is not quite what I'm feeling right now after loosing money. Yet what's important is what happens now for Europe, what the treaty means for Britain and the EU. In the interests of disclosure, I'm not anti EU but pro EU with reform, I don't feel the Lisbon Treaty as it stands reforms the EU, it's just another layer of complicated legislation and management.

Ireland now having ratified the treaty means there's only two countries left to do so, Czech Republic and Poland, they are expected to say yes and ratify by December. The purpose of the Lisbon Treaty is to replace previous treaties and streamline EU institutions. It does this by creating an European Commission, which will have an EU president, named by the EU governments and an EU foreign minister will take office along side the president*. This is where is starts to particularly effect Britain.

The name of the person thought to be the EU president in waiting is, Tony Blair. It's difficult to know if the British media are scaremongering or if he's really in the running, as opinion of him is hard to gauge across Europe. Some people though would argue that this good for British interest in the EU, I however would argue that Blair has never been good for British interest, anywhere.

It also has a national effect in that the Tories policy was to offer a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, if it's not in force by the election, it's unlikely referendum will be forthcoming under the circumstances. For David Cameron though this could become a much bigger issue, Euro-scepticism is a really divisive issue within the Tory party and among it's supporters. He has to keep the kettle from boiling over, the referendum was a good way to achieve that. Thus he may have trouble ahead.

For Europe at large the Lisbon treaty expands the EU's justice and police decisions it also creates a rights charter for things such as freedom of speech, religion etc, both of these Britain has opted out of. Which means such legislation will not have a direct effect, though in reality given how interlinked each country is, it's bound to have an indirect effect.

Consequently the Lisbon treaty will mainly in Britain, entrench peoples views and stir up resentment, it will be a centre point of rage for Euro-sceptics. Something that will have to be addressed at some point, I doubt our current government will be the one to do so though.

* For more details the BBC have a handy Q&A page here.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Sun Sets On Labour

Guess they didn't like Brown's speech either. They're including a pull out dossier of Labours failures in the newspaper to, nice touch. Only 30p which is a lot less than what they've actually cost.

Not an underdog now though, that's the headline which shows they're going to lose and lose badly. The Sun with a readership of almost 8 million daily, will be openly backing the Tories up until the election.

Update: Jon Snow has an article up on his blog which expresses what I've been pondering today about this story.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Labour "Fighting Back" Left and Right

Labour are "fighters, not quitters" is the sound bite of the conference. Though it does make you wonder whether it resonates strongly for Labour, rather than just enforcing the fact they're the underdog in this election. Granted the British do like an underdog, yet usually they're charming, quirky and harmless, not words I would use to describe New Labour.

Brown's "inspiring" speech to the conference today clearly illustrated their election tactic, Conservative policy socially to woo the middle and for the grass-roots, after 12 years Labour have chosen this moment, to remind the public of their '"socialist" credentials for dealing with the economy. Effortlessly brushing under the carpet being Chancellor for 10 years while not being remotely socialist, never let the facts get in the way of an attempt to woo back the voter though.

This mixing of left and right wing is partly what has kept them in power, yet with the Tories now doing the same, what reason will people vote for them? Their track record is hardy a shining endorsement. So unless they really pull something out of the bag here, their policy so far is what we've been hearing for the last 12 years, asbos', tough on crime, targets. . . blah, blah, blah. These policies haven't worked and it won't work. As rather than tackling crime you just create more paperwork, throwing paper clips at a wife beater is completely ineffective. Why not do something really radical, come up with policy for once that's not just a gimmick.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Brown Kicks Off The Conference

Bravo Morten Morland!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Political Party - How It Works

In light of the last few posts on the party conferences, I realised that I might be presumptuous in thinking everyone understands the significance of the conference. So a quick run down of the nature of political party conference.

A political party isn't just MPs who sit in parliament, but anyone who is a signed up member. Policy gets put forward at conferences and the party members vote on it. Perhaps the best way of putting it is, that the party as a whole agree the mandate, they also are tasked with electing or nominating the party's leaders and leadership bodies within the party. In essence the conference is general meeting of the political party in order to make decisions, for non party members, it's a good indication of what we will be hearing when election season starts.

Compulsory Voting?

Over on the Guardian they have an article on Labour debating adding compulsory voting to their election reform. David Blunkett* is unsurprisingly a convert and will be debating this at the forthcoming Labour party conference.
We should introduce compulsory voting between now and next May. Forty per cent of the population aren't voting, therefore they are leaving the other 60% to cast their vote for them and we know that those in greatest need are least likely to vote.
I always vote at local, EU and general elections, not just because I'm obliviously interested in politics, but out of a sense of self preservation. I don't agree with the principle of "voting by not voting", but understand that people want to show there disdain or feel they can't vote for any of the parties.

Suggesting that compulsory voting is reform though is a cop out, it doesn't address the issue of why people are staying away from the ballot box. The most common complaints I hear from people is that a) their vote makes no difference, b) it's only a change of name they're all the same and c) they can't endorse what the parties stand for. Yes people are apathetic about politics, compulsory voting won't change that.

Scepticism about this coming from the Labour party does linger over this "reform", given the large amount of Labour voters that have sat on their hands at elections. Most infamously leading to the election of two BNP members. Yet though you could argue that compulsory voting would have stopped that, those voters had every right to boycott the election. When the ballot box is the only thing politicians will listen to, voters have many ways to let it be known when they are unhappy and every right to express that.

I have no support for compulsory voting when rather than passing the buck, reforming parliament and voting are ways to get people to the ballot box. Parliament is out of touch with the people, bring it into line.

* Ask him what civil liberty he wouldn't sacrifice to the god of the state, he'll shrug his shoulders.

Reminder For The Labour Party Conference

The Labour Party Conference kicks off in Brighton this week. For any one attending remember the golden rule - you are there to vote yes and agree, not criticise. Walter Wolfgang forgot his place and was dealt with accordingly, nonsense you may say, just don't say it at the conference.

It will be interesting to see what policy Labour are taking into the election and how party members react. I find it difficult to believe they have nothing to say given the saga of the last few months. The coup of Brown story is firing up again in the newspapers, yet if MPs didn't manage it before, they won't now. They may however set the narrative that will over shadow the conference, it certainly won't take much for the media to run with the story.

This conference is going to be a minefield for Brown and Co, yet it also poses a chance to turn the tables on the Tories. Though I feel they may be too defeatist and divided to use it's potential. We shall see what unfolds.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Brown World Statesman of the Year

You just couldn't make this up, Henry Kissinger - the political adviser to Bush on the invasion of Iraq and the guy who's been accused of war crimes, has awarded Brown Statesman of the Year. He praised Brown's:
compassionate leadership in dealing with the challenging issues facing humanity, his commitment to freedom, human dignity and the environment, and for the major role he has played in helping to stabilise the world's financial system
I hear it was a difficult decision between him and George W Bush. Kissinger will be also awarding Fred Goodwin banker of the year later this week, Katie Price AKA Jordan will be awarded for her dignity in dealing with her divorce and they're hoping Kim Jong Il will attend to accept the award for his commitment to democracy.

Lib Dems Conference Policy

As the Lib Dems Conference in Bournemouth draws to a close, the sun setting on the sandcastles and empty pint glasses. What has the conference to offer the voter rather than a party member? I've been following with an interest in what policy the Lib Dems are taking into this election and there are several points that have caught my eye.
  • Tuition fees - This has always been a dividing line with the Lib Dems, yet given public worry over government spending Clegg will never be able to justify where the money will come from, he's right put this on hold. I want university to be available to anyone, yet it's impossible to fund the amount of people now attending. So I would rather see a fairer system in place, one that helps students, not penalise them.
  • Economic Policy - Vince Cable laid out plans to freeze public sector pay, pensions and limit tax credits for the middle classes. He's also not ruling out like the other parties raising taxes. He's right to look at public sector pay as it's a large government burden, for example 70% of the health budget goes on pay. Labour have been incredibly relaxed in this area simply for not wanting to clash with the unions. But the debt has to be paid back, whether this is the way though I'm not sure yet, I'll hear all the parties out first.
  • Ban/curb airbrushed photos - This is on adverts targeted at children, also having warnings on images that indicate the digital retouching done for adults. I'm glad this issue was raised, yet banning is not something I expect from the Lib Dems, in fact banning is not something I expect in general. Yet given how exploitative advertising has become, perhaps education on the realities of advertising i.e in a boarder capacity would be more of benefit. I don't see warnings really working practically, as all images go though a digital process these days, it could end up like a cigarette packet, just a warning message.
  • EU president Blair - Those wonderful Lib Dems voted not to support his candidacy until an inquiry had established his role in torture and Iraq. This has my complete support, I'm so glad they're keeping the pressure on the government over this. The only thing worst than President Blair is making him "peace keeper" of the Middle East. Which isn't at all like putting a pyromaniac in charge of the Fire Brigade.
  • Britain's libel laws - Lib Dems are the only party so far to really bring this up and want to readdress the crazy libel tourism our laws currently cater to. There have been a few references on the web to the Tories being interested in this policy, it will be interesting to see just how pro big business the Tories are.
  • Reform - Consisting of localisation, electoral reform, party funding and giving parliament greater power. The big difference between the Tories on this point is devolution, Lib Dems support devolving greater power. Vince Cable said he thought London was on a "collision course" with Edinburgh, I think he spot on with that. I certainly like that the devolution of power won't be just for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but they propose to address the democratic deficit in England to.
Overall it was a really mixed bag from the Lib Dems, pulling together all these strands to make a clear, defined narrative is going to be difficult for Nick Clegg. Particularly with an overlap in areas with the Tories. Clegg needs to find a way to make that message his own or it will be used as a stick to beat them with. His strongest asset is Vince Cable, at a time when few politicians are respected Vince* has managed to remain above it all. Clegg also needs to grow some sharp teeth and bite back or he will never be heard. Leaving this election just about David Cameron and how badly Labour will loose

*We're on a first name bases.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Smoking Rooms vs Smoking Ban

You may take my ashtray, but you'll never take... my cigarette!

This news article collects together many things I love - smoking, an artist and freedom. The wonderful David Hockey has joined a cross-party group of MPs who are calling to amend the UK smoking laws.

I'm not against non smoking pubs, clubs and restaurants, I have no desire to inflict my lifestyle on any one else, but I am against this blanket smoking ban and I'm certainly against this wave of self righteous non smoking that this ban brought with it.

Cigarettes aren't illegal, it makes sense to relax the law to allow businesses to decide whether to have designated areas for smoking or a total ban on their premises, thus catering to their clientele. I fail to see how having a pint and a cigarette is an issue worthy of such an interfering and dictating law. There is such a thing as freedom of choice, I can choose to work in a smoking pub, just as someone else can choose to drink or not drink there. So give people back their ability to choose rather than dictate.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Women Can Wear Trousers

I never realised that the Islamic authority in Cario were so fashion aware:
Egypt's top Islamic authority defended women's rights to wear trousers in public following a high profile court case in neighbouring Sudan were women were flogged for dressing in pants, the local press reported Wednesday.

Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said in response to a question during a public lecture that trousers covering women's bodies are permitted, though they should be loose and not see through. He specified that "stretch" pants were in particular unacceptable.
Good call sir, stretch pants, particularly the sparkly, pink or animal print ones are unacceptable. It's not the 1980s ladies, it's about 1900, two world wars to prove you are just as capable as a man and a social revolution later, and then you may be able to wear those leggings. In the mean time, they're not the most protective choice of clothing for the flogging, not such absurd advice from Grand Stylist Mufti after all.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Conservatives And The Surveillance State

Dominic Grieve the Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, has outlined plans to reduce the role of surveillance by the state. This is just what I want to be hearing from opposition parties, given we've had 10 years of silly laws that have no regard to fairness, legality, common-sense or that little thing called privacy.

Some of the Tories policies are perfectly credible and I would imagine easy to implement. The problem with these proposals is what it's always been, they want us to trust that they will not be temped by the power the surveillance state presents. When those buzz words "terrorism" and "public interest" are like a trump cards for anything and databases are a quick fix for everything, they the Tories unlike Labour won't be temped.

They include the proposal for a British Bill of Rights they've previously mentioned, which will protect personal privacy, it's effectiveness of course will be determined by how it's implemented. Oddly for something so monumental though, information is sadly lacking. I hope it won't end up like Jack Straw's Bill of Conditional Rights and Many Responsibilities.

Yet regardless of the Tories policy, I can't help but feel uneasy, this is an easy stick to beat New Labour with, as perfectly illustrated by the documentation released along side this speech, it's like shooting ducks in a barrow. Will they really do it? I'm not so sure, yet the balance needs to be readdressed. Which is something that does work in the Tories favour, we know New Labour won't do it.

Heeere's Gordy!

Great response to "cuts" from Dave Brown on the Independent.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Wise Spending Vs Savage Cuts

It seems the main parties are singing the same song of cuts now, just at slightly different notes and Lord Long Pretentious title is doing what he does best, spinning like a record. It's not cuts it's "wiser spending", the Tories are the cutters, "savage" cutters. Where as Labour will "prioritise and economise" the Tories will make "indiscriminate across-the-board spending cuts".

Yet Mandelson's media rounds were just to clear the way for Brown speech to TUC today, where after months and months of refusal to even mention the dirty word "cuts", Brown uttered it. In doing so he set up Labours new narrative. They will "protect and improve your front line services" and the Conservatives will "reduce public services at the very time they are needed most". Expect to hear that sound bite constantly for the next few months.

Labours narrative is simply put - to play the Thatcher card. It's a fairly good card to play since core Labour voters may be motivated by it and they may gain ground with those who hated her, and there are many, nothing divides a room quite like saying the name Thatcher.

Though by playing this card, it is a dressed up admission that they're trying to limit the damage of the election. As they need to woo back middle England in order to win it, they won't do that by playing the Thatcher card, she called middle England "her people". This could easily end up in Brown's clumsy hands, the finial nail in New Labour's ability to cross that divide that brought them to power.

The policies that Brown spoke of today in his speech to the union were certainly playing to the gallery, they had echoes of Old Labour. Which is the problem with Brown's speech, voters won't believe that New Labour will do it, they've become just, if not more tainted to people as Thatcher was. Which does pose the question - has this admission and narrative come to late for anyone to listen or even care?

Shortlisted For An Blogging Award

After my award mocking what happens, I get short listed for one, I believe that's called irony. I do feel quite conflicted in how I should react, I've being pondering all day on what I should write in this post. I usually like to rebel, yet that's somewhat curbed by it being the Lib Dems that have shortlisted me. If it had been Labour, sarcasm would be dripping from this post, I don't have to worry about a Tory award, having used the word "regulation" and "Tony Benn" on this blog in a non derogatory way - more than once.

Yet as irrational as it may be, it feels conformist placing a sticker on my blog. It would be like the shortlist I was on for class captain in school, but taking it seriously enough to not tell everyone I will give them 2p to place in their ties to stop indiscriminate peanutting. Or not running my campaign at Brownies on the issue of abolishing singing and jumping over the toadstool at the end of the evening. Perhaps however the compromise is just say thank you and leave it at that.

So I say to Lib Dem Voice, those that have/are voting for my blog and those that didn't but took the time to take a look.

Thank you!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

I'm Betting On?

I've placed two political bet's and in the interest of either being able to gloat if I win or be more inclined to keep my money in my pocket if I lose, my bet's are.

1) The battle of Buckingham seat.

The show down between John Bercow and Nigel Farage, I think could be one of the shockers of election night. As John Bercow won't be standing as a Tory candidate in a very conservative area, as he has done before, but as Speaker of the House of Commons. That will be like campaigning with terrible BO and food stuck in your teeth. It's certainly worth a little bet, given it would the biggest one finger salute the public have given parliament in modern history. How can I resit?

2) Ireland vs the EU

The Irish are voting again on the Lisbon Treaty after the EU tried to address their concerns regarding the legislation. I think the Irish will vote "no" again for numerous reasons. But largely because the EU are asking Ireland to trust that they won't move the goal posts, history indicates otherwise. This will be another one finger salute I believe. Ireland goes to the polls on the 2nd October, so we shall see.

It may seem that I'm inclined to bet on things that cause embarrassment to governments and that is quite correct. That beer will taste so much sweeter when brought by a politician.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Caster Semenya Gender Test Saga

I've been watching the story unfold with growing disbelieve and now just disgust. Recent "reports" say that Semenya, the 800m world champion is a hermaphrodite, this whole situation should have been dealt with privately, she's 18 years old. Yet this is printed across the headlines of newspapers around the world, she must be devastated by this whole saga.

There are no easy answers here when it comes to her racing career. As of course athletics shouldn't have competitive advantage, but she's done nothing with intention. That's what really bothers me about how this has unfolded, it's been played out in the media as some sort of freak show. When it comes to her private life, she is a woman. That's how she identifies, that is her gender, let's not forget about about a little thing called humanity.

Shameful journalism, if you could even call it that.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Petition Against Mandelson's Web Ban

A comment by Fanman drew my attention to his petition against the plans by Lord Long Pretentious Title mentioned previously. The petition reads:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to abandon Lord Mandelson's plans to ban individuals from the internet based on their use of 'peer to peer' file sharing. The use of P2P is neither illegal nor exclusive to copyright theft. Many free software providers use this form of distribution, as does the BBC’s iPlayer. If citizens are innocent until proven guilty, ISP’s would be forced to monitor internet usage to ensure that no copyrighted material is being transferred. This flagrant disregard for privacy is comparable to forcing the Post Office to search through parcels for photocopied documents or mixtape cassettes. Such requirements would place enormous strain on ISP’s whilst failing to prevent the distribution of copyrighted material through hidden IP’s, http or ftp.

Who is punished in the case of shared family connections? The increasing role of the internet in access to society should not be underestimated. Cutting off households deprives families of education, government services and freedom of speech. We do not see this as a fitting punishment, nor do we believe the breaches in privacy involved to be justifiable under copyright law.
You can sign it here.