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.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

BBC Question Time and the BNP

I'm glad to see the BBC are being objective about BNP. Whether people like it or not they have two elected MEPs. Given the BNP are often spoken about on Question Time, why shouldn't we debate their policies with them? Ignoring or protesting against them hasn't worked, what harm can this possibly do?

There is more good, they have never shared a platform with the main parties, they've never had to really debate and justify what they stand for. Will polices such as: Deport all the two million plus immigrates who are here illegally, really stand up to scrutiny? As how much will it cost to find 2 million people in terms of money and police resources? What about Griffin's sink the boats of immigrants policy? That's something surely to challenge.

Yet in doing this it's important to listen to them, there are reasons why people are voting for them. Understanding that is the best way to make progress.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The G20 Again

Déjà vu non? They meet, they agree that something must be done, they meet, they agree something must be done. As long as we are in agreement, that's the main thing.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Money, Money, Money

The G20 finance ministers' are meeting this weekend and Nick Dearden on the Guardian has written an interesting article on ditching the dollar for buying oil. There has been growing talk of a Global Bank for some time now, but America had dominated the banking world, now however China does. There is a very interesting graph on the FT, that shows the influence that China will have on these talks. As an added bonus, if you move the slider at the bottom of it, you can watch Britain's wealth go

This subject however is of particular interest to me, given I'm a firm believer in following the money. Greed has shaped our history for thousands of years more land, gold, power, influence, whatever form it takes it will play a big factor in whether anything happens with moving away from the dollar.

Nigel Farage To Challage The Speaker

I don't largely agree with Nigel Farage's views on the EU, but I always enjoy listening to him, he is someone I'm glad is involved politics. The news that he is to stand as a candidate against John Bercow, is certainly a surprise though. Farage has said:
This man represents all that is wrong with British politics today. He was embroiled in the expenses saga and he presides over a Parliament that virtually does nothing. He is not a Conservative and yet he is sitting in one of the safest Conservative seats in the country. It means the people of Buckingham cannot vote for a Conservative even if they want to.
Bercow's election as Speaker of the House was always going to be a bone of contention. I do however find the idea that voters have a chance to pass verdict on the speaker very democratic, not just at this election but if it always happened. Bercow has a majority of 13,000, which makes Farage's chances of winning it slim, a shame in some ways he doesn't choose a more winnable seat, as I do think he would shake things up in Parliament and he would give the anti EU voters a voice.

Yet this election will bring out the angry voters. That will make for some surprising results, Michael Portillo of course had a majority of 16,000, he infamously lost his seat at the 1997 election. I wonder how angry people are? Watch this seat.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Blog Awards

I've not written anything until now on the Total Political Blogging Awards, this is simply because if I honesty cared less I would be arrested for political negligence, my blog would be taken from me by social workers and I would imprisoned following psychological assessment. Yet I post on this subject now as it's chance to explain why I blog and to also take pride in my edgy outsider status.

My first post on this blog was about John Prescott's campaign to stop bankers bonuses or "greed culture". I had been debating with the idea of starting a blog for while, yet writing isn't the way I naturally express myself, so self doubt kept me lurking. Yet I read Prescott's post and filled with outrage at the audacity that Prescott, John Prescott of all people could even suggest the bankers were being "greedy". I set-up this blog and wrote my post, linked multiple times to his post and sat there clicking on the links with vigor for a good 10 minutes.

A sense of outrage started this blog and is partly the motive for continuing to post, why? Because I look around me when I go out and I wonder will it get better? I read the news and think am I crazy? This blog allows me gather my thoughts and feelings in order to make sense of them, it's my pressure valve so to speak. If it can also be a blog that other people can relate to that's wonderful, if not I would be still blogging away.

Nudie on the Plinth

I wrote previously on the Fourth Plinth in London, since that post there have been many odd, funny, political and nude people stand on it. All of which have been met without complaint, until now, when a man stood naked upon it:
Mr Williams-Thomas, a former Surrey Police detective constable, said his three children, aged between eight and 13 years old, were "very shocked and embarrassed" by Mr Holwell's nudity.

"I fully expected that the surrounding police or organisers would stop this man. To my total surprise they stood by and did nothing."

He added: "This was a public place and therefore I should be able to take my children without the fear of them having a man naked exposing himself."
I would strongly advise against going to Florence then, as there's a 17 feet high nude man, that's a lot of nudity, the "family" might get really embarrassed. Also cover their eyes in Piccadilly Circus there's a naked cupid, oh and don't even think about going to the Tate Modern. I've been, there's a whole floor dedicated to the nude.

Sky News - Leaders Debate

In a very clever move by Sky News they've issued the three main party leaders a former invitation to a live TV debate. As of writing this Cameron and Clegg have agreed, no commitment yet from Brown. Though Sky News have said they will "empty chair" Brown any party leader that doesn't show up.

No doubt rather than just saying yes or no, Brown will have 5 or so press conferences where he edges closer and closer to giving an answer, until releasing memos which give a definitive one. Though he will continue to pretend otherwise, it is of course easier and clearer that way.

I wrote a post previously when this TV debate last came up in the news and maintain that Nick Clegg has the most to gain from this debate. Yet maybe, just maybe we the public do too. Given the Prime Minster has so much control of policy and the finial say, this is a chance to know what they think about issues, I want to hear answers to questions like: what are you going to cut in the budget? What are your plans for the NHS? What do you plan to do in Afghanistan? If it's chaired properly, unlike in the House of Commons, they will have to answer the question.

The icing on the cake for me however will be, it's going to be so much fun to watch, a beer, some tortillas and a live debate that will have Brown grinning from ear to ear and swaying like he's being electrocuted, oh what a night.