Thursday, August 31, 2006

Praise for Ming in 'The Times'

Peter Riddell in 'The Times' today writes a very fair assessment of the Kennedy resignation episode and Ming's leadership:

Sir Menzies...did not instigate, or organise, the anti-Kennedy moves last December. It was much broader than that.

Consequently, there is no reason to question Sir Menzies’s legitimacy now. He may be an interim leader...Sir Menzies has restored stability to the Lib Dems, brought on a new generation of MPs and has encouraged fresh thinking.

Elsewhere in 'The Times', it is nice to see Paddy Ashdown, being very complimentary about Charles, while acknowledging his weakness of "application". I was amused by this quote from Paddy:

I get up at 5-5.30 in the morning, do a hundred press-ups, not literally but metaphorically, and start ringing people at 6.30, having contained myself up until then not to disturb them too early, whereas Charles is completely different on that.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fascinating human drama but does it matter? - Boulton on Kennedy book

I take it all back. Adam Boulton is not mad. He has come back from his honeymoon beautifully refreshed. He has a very sane take on the "A Tragic Flaw" book:
It's fascinating human drama but does any of this really matter? Certainly the voters have so far taken the Kennedy Affair pretty calmly. In spite of it, and the attacks on the allegedly "lacklustre" performance of Sir Menzies, the Lib Dems have continued to perform relatively well. They won the byelection in Dundee and nearly won in Bromley. In national opinion polls their current share is around 20% (not much below their 22% at last year's Election). They are doing even better in Scotland, Kennedy and Campbell's home nation, ahead of next year's devolved elections.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Crown Office: Celtic goalkeeper cautioned for inciting crowd - not blessing himself

The Scottish Crown Office has clarified why the Celtic Goalkeeper was cautioned (see my earlier posting). In the words of the BBC, the Crown Office have confirmed that:

Boruc was cautioned for inciting an Old Firm crowd rather than for blessing himself... (and they said) the "very limited" action had been taken against the player for gesticulating at the Rangers support. He had also blessed himself in the incident during the Ibrox match. But the Crown Office stressed it would not take action against individuals for "acts of religious observance". "We would equally make clear that the police and prosecutors cannot ignore conduct which appears to be inciting disorder"

I am delighted that this has been clarified. The Observer report yesterday ("Storm as goalkeeper pays Sign of the Cross penalty") and Iain Dale's posting on it were extremely misleading.

Iain Dale, in particular, was at his most hyper-ventilatory on this matter. He used the posting title: "Fined for being a Christian". Breathe slowly into a paperbag ten times and you'll be fine, Iain.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cameron on South Africa: His party doesn't seem to agree with him

David Cameron's apology for the South African policy of Mrs Thatcher has stirred up a bit of a firestorm within the Tory party rank and file.

Norman Tebbit has disagreed with Cameron and declared: "The policy of the Thatcher government was a success."

Sir Bernard Ingham reacted by saying: 'I wonder whether David Cameron is a Conservative.'

Over on Conservative Home, despite a couple of supportive voices for him, Cameron is receiving a right old pulverising from Conservative supporters, raising the question: If his party doesn't agree with his apology - on whose behalf is he apologising?

Here are some of the choice comments on Conservative Home:

On what basis does David Cameron purport to apologise on my behalf for views I may or may not have held 20 years ago? Ridiculous.

...he is condoning urban terrorism!

Maggie's policy of constructive engagement with South Africa was very much the right one at the time and it received enthusiastic support among the Tory rank-and-file.
I am sure there are others here who recall patiently queueing at Blackpool to enjoy the hospitality of the apartheid-era SA ambassador, then one of the highlights of the Tory conference.
This, of course, was at a time when the far-right Federation of Conservative Students was urging "Hang Nelson Mandela" so let's not try to rewrite history. One of the leading FCS figures is now writing DC's speeches!
…What next? Are we going to spend time condemning the pre-war Tory policy of appeasing the Nazis?


I can't believe we are questioning the wisdom of Mrs T's policy on SA. It was the right thing to do.

Cameron does the easy things - a press release about history.He's incapable of doing anything difficult...

We are running the risk of being accused of blatant hypocrisy. Margaret Thatcher was only reflecting the views of the Tories of her day, many of whom thought Apartheid was rather a "good thing". Very few Tories opposed it...

Tory Hq's new address.
Conservative and Unionist Party

C/O The Minstry of Truth
Winston Smith Building
1984 Orwell Square
Airstrip One.
If anyone would like to apply for the position of. Re-writer of History of the above party, who is also an expert in airbrushing techniques, please apply to the above address. Cameron sycophants especially welcome.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Goalkeeper gets caution for breach of the peace

Posting updated at 18:07 26/8/06 (title further updated at 19:00 28/8/06)

This is an interesting story on BBC News. "Artur Boruc (the Celtic goalkeeper) was cautioned for a breach of the peace over (an) incident at an Old Firm match at Ibrox in February...the Crown Office said the decision was based on the player's behaviour, rather than a single act. In addition to crossing himself, the player was alleged to have made gestures to the crowd at the start of the second half of the game on 12 February. "

The BBC story gives the pros and cons of the case. An eyewitness, Mr Eugenides, gives his account. I will not jump in with a comment either way.

I would just add one little footnote. "Crossing yourself" with the sign of the cross is not necessarily a denominational thing. People of many Christian denominations do it. Certainly, I know many Anglicans who do it all the time. Indeed, on television at St Paul's Cathedral I have seen Prince Charles (next in line to be head of the Church of England) crossing himself. That said, I readily acknowledge that there were other actions and circumstances involved in this incident. Of course, I would never condone using "crossing oneself" as part of some sort of communication with a football crowd. It is a private thing.

Is Adam Boulton mad?

The man has just got married to Anji Hunter. He has been on a wonderful honeymoon in Micronesia. And yet he has been blogging from his holiday! Is he mad?

It is worth looking at some photos (all very proper) of Anji Hunter. I can honestly guarantee that if I ever get the chance to go on a holiday with my good lady wife (let alone a honeymoon with Anji Hunter) in Micronesia, I will not go near a computer.

Here's one comment left below a Boulton vacational blog posting:

"Adam, Relax enjoy your holiday - forget about this blog remember you might get lumbered with those awful party conferences when you return. "

And Adam replied:

"...there's been some comment about my continuing to blog while on holiday (and honeymoon). Thanks very much for your postings on that. As you know this is a very new medium - I think it's important to keep it well-nourished in its early months."

You are mad, man! For goodness sake, get some therapy - fast!

Proof that Norman Lamb MP's Village surgeries are on course!

You may be wondering why I have been silent from the blogosphere for the last two weeks. Then again, you might not be wondering. Either way, I can tell you that two weeks ago I quietly slipped my mooring in Blogoland and went under-cover and, indeed, incognito to North Norfolk to conduct vital, exhaustive and clandestine tests of the preparations for Norman Lamb MP's tour of the villages in the constituency.

Posing as a normal tourist, complete with laughably insufficient camping equipment for the English weather, I toured the villages of North Norfolk to check that the notices announcing Norman Lamb's arrival in the location were on the local noticeboards.

Of course, I had to be careful not to be spotted by Iain Dale's network of contacts. So silly cropped trousers and wet trench-foot-inducing campers' sandals were the order of the day.

But there I was, gamely fighting in the interests of Liberal Democracy by surreptitiously sidling up to the many parish noticeboards of North Norfolk:....Hoveton.....Little Walsingham....(er that it's)...you name any North Norfolk village and I may well have got there (and indeed, more likely, didn't) to carry out the vital task of checking that the local parish clerk had put up Norman's notice.

I can happily report that preparations for Stormin' Norman's tour of the villages are at an advanced stage and we can expect an excellent tour to take place, starting on September 4th at Hoveton.

"Huge victory" claimed over Hair's letter

Warning: This blog contains idle and unfounded speculation. There's a surprise.

The Pakistani Cricket team manager Zaheer Abbas has claimed a "huge victory" after the revelation of Darren Hair's letter to the ICC when he offered to resign for a $500,000 pay-off.

I am delighted that Mr Abbas thinks this and that, with the postponement of the ICC hearing into the cases against Inzamam-ul-Haq, it has been confirmed that the Pakistani team will be playing the one-day series against England.

The test series has consisted largely of very entertaining and excellent cricket. It is right that the due processes of the ICC are carried out very thoroughly and in a calm way. Giving plenty of time for both sides of the cases to be prepared is absolutely right and a huge relief. One of the saving graces of the current dispute is that relations between the England and Pakistan teams have remained very good (with the possible exception of the question mark over Duncan Fletcher's attempt to talk to the match referee last Sunday morning).

All the pressure has been on Hair, but we are yet to hear from Billy Doctrove, the other umpire at last weekend's match, who also took the decision to change the ball.

For what it is worth, I would guess that Pakistan will be found not guilty of ball tampering but guilty of "bringing the game into disrepute" by failing to emerge from the dressing room after tea.

There is a sort of justice and internal logic to that dual outcome. Umpire's are quite right to make "on the spot" decisions which, with the benefit of time, can turn out to have been wrong. The Umpire who is always right has never been born. I suspect this will be the case in this instance.

However, failing to emerge after tea (complicated as it was by the various comings and goings to and from the field of play) is a definite no-no and I suspect that Pakistan will be found guilty of this charge (which is far graver in terms of the possible consequences than the ball tampering charge).

From what I have read, the Pakistan team will be happy with this. I am delighted by that - it could be a just outcome all round.

I have to give great credit to Inzamam-ul-Haq. It has been said that his team "love" him like a father. This is remarkable and one might suggest, unique. However, one feels that the support and public relations work from the chair of the Pakistan Cricket Board and their manager, has not been as consistently excellent as it should have been.

One final point of idle speculation: I borrow the words of Dominic Lawson in the Independent.

In 2003, Darrell Hair moved to the UK and was quoted as saying:

“I intend to be actively involved in umpiring for the next few years, whether it be with the blessing of the ICC or village mates in Steeple Bumpstead,”

As Dominic Lawson wrote earlier this week:

"Steeple Bumpstead it is, then".

Friday, August 25, 2006

The BBC talks "crap"

In case you have missed it, it is worth going to BBC Radio presenter Eddie Mair's blog where he has left a recording of various BBC broadcasters saying the word "crap" in connection with John Prescott's reported comments about George Bush. It is a classic.

Charlotte Green is one of the "crappers". A poster to the message board has said that she makes the word "crap" sound like "honey". The veteran newsreader Brian Perkins is also on the recording. As one might expect, John Humphries says the word with particular venom and attack.

PS. The last time I linked to something and called it a "classic" I was accused of plumbing the depths. So, this time, I plead guilty in advance.

Vote for the Big Fluffy Heffalump!

I have cast my vote in the LibDem Blogger of the Year contest. I have voted for the Big Fluffy Heffalump!

My citation read:

"The Fluffy Elephant is unerringly spot on about current political matters, he combines a highly amusing way of writing with a seering ability to get to the heart of matters."

You only have to read Heffalump's posting from yesterday about Mrs Bucket. It is hilarious. As usual, things are reduced to simple concepts with the usual smatterings of funny names and things in capital letters.

Fluffy Heffalump - we love you!

The conundrum of George Bush's summer reading list

Much has been made of George Bush allegedly reading Camus' L'√Čtranger on his hols. I must admit that my frosty opinion of Bush thawed a micronotch when I heard this news. I enjoyably trudged through La Peste in the original French for A level and found it very rewarding. I also read the English translation of L’√Čtranger.

So I got a bit misty-eyed when I read that Bush had allegedly read L’√Čtranger. I was a little bit suspicious when the White House spokesman added that "He found it an interesting book and a quick read." A quick read? Well...er..yes. Except the whole point of Camus is that his books are on several levels of allegory and....oh what's the use?!

The spokesman also said: "We discussed the origins of existentialism." But he said he didn't want to go into that conversation too deeply - I bet he didn't!

Anyway, my suspicions were further excited when I read the rest of George Bush's alleged Summer reading list, according to the White House press office. This is it:

Quick Red Fox by John D. MacDonald
The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald
After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro's Regime and Cuba's Next Leaderby Brian Latell
Challenger Park by Stephen Harrigan
Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser
Finding Fish: A Memoirby Antwone Quenton Fisher
Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Differentby Gordon S. Wood
The Bridge at Andau by James Michener
Flash for Freedom by George MacDonald Fraser
Mayflower : A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
Through a Glass, Darkly : A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery by Donna Leon
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson
Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles that Shaped American History by Craig L. Symonds
The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruthby Leigh Montville
Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero by David Maraniss
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird & Martin J. Sherwin
The Messengerby Daniel Silva
The Places in Between by Rory Stewart
Beach Road by James Patterson & Peter de Jonge
Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power by Richard Carwardine
Polio: An American Storyby David Oshinsky
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural by Ronald C. White, Jr.
Promised Land, Crusader State by Walter McDougall
Cinnamon Skin: Travis McGee Mysteries by John D. MacDonald
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Come off it! He's hasn't read all that lot!!! The clue is in the last two. Macbeth and Hamlet. To read through them and make any sort of sense of them you really need to read through an accompanying commentary or textual analysis. The idea that George Bush has read through both of them on holiday is just absurd! Oh, we're back to Camus again.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Archbishop of York's peace vigil

On a Sunday it is always good to reflect on something positive being done in the world of faith. The peace vigil by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, is one such event.

He is giving up his holiday in Saltzburg (good choice for a holiday, by the way) to lead a peace vigil in York Minster. He will be there 24 hours a day for seven days, leading the prayer every hour on the hour.

This is precisely the sort of leadership which religious leaders should be showing. Well done Dr John!

"The archbishop hopes people will join him in prayer and fasting for peace between Israel and Lebanon, and good community relations in the UK. "

Amen to that.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Prescott speaks - and who said Music Hall is dead?

John Prescott has pulled himself up to his full height. He has spoken with the full weight of authority vested in him as "Deputy Prime Minister". He was there on BBC News at Ten. I can't find a link to it, but I swear I saw him.

Now, one can forgive old Reidy and Squeaky Alexander getting up at 4.30am on Thursday morning and doing a deadpan, straight to camera, never mind the questions, "the Scots have taken you over, you Sassenach devils" announcement of the terror alert.

But two days later, after John Reid had chaired several Cobra meetings, and Blair had spent hours on the phone to Bush, Chirac et al, is there any excuse for the "Deputy Prime Minister", John Prescott, to dispense with the independent minds of journalists and talk straight to camera?

And even if he had an excuse to do that, is there any excuse for the repulsive faux smiles he assumed and the asinine platitudes which he spouted? It could all be roughly translated as "I have got some sort of role here, even if it is just thanking people".

So there it is. The answer to the question: "What is John Prescott for?". It is:

"To thank people...oh....and he also serves to remind you of that bloke....that comic chap...started in the Music Hall.....northern chap...was it Les Dawson?...or Max Wall?...or Robb Wilton?"

At last we have been told. He gets paid £133,000 a year. That works out at about £1,000 per grisly smile and £1,000 per evoked memory of that chap who started in the Music Hall.

"Yes...that was it...Robb Wilton...the incompetant minor civil servant...it's all there:..'The day war broke out, my Tony said to me, he said..."Get back in the broom cupboard Presco...and come out once the dust has settled and thank a few people" ' "

Senator Ted Stevens' "Toobs"

This is a classic of its genre. Senator Ted Stevens represents Alaska on the US Senate. He has made some controversial statements about the internet. This has led a bright spark to produce this musical rendition of some of Senator Stevens' more inspired bon mots on the subject of cyberspace. It is a fascinating aural experience. As they say over the pond: "Enjoy!"

My thanks to my personal cognitive dissonance adviser for making me aware of this gem.

Late Conservative agent's son is a suspect

An interesting piece of background to the airline terrorist plot:

The Sun and the Guardian report that one of the suspects, Abdul Waheed, was born Don Stewart-Whyte, the son of Conservative agent Douglas Stewart-Whyte, who died nine years ago.

Friday, August 4, 2006

Boris Johnson loses it on road safety

..and the Criminal Justice Unit are reviewing his case.

Boris Johnson regularly road-tests flashy cars. When he went for selection as the Conservative PPC at Henley, he just happened to be road-testing a brand new Roller at the time. And, of course, he was forced to park it ostentatiously next to the front of the building where all the Conservative party faithful were entering.

Now he seems to have gone a little too far and shown his ignorance of basic road safety.

He was photographed with both his two sons in the front seat beside him, going down the M6 in a sports car.

Johnson's reply to the accusation of recklessness speaks volumes: "Mr Johnson told the London Evening Standard the boys had a seatbelt on. "

It would be interesting to confirm if he actually did mean "seatbelt". He probably did. There is usually only one seat belt in the passenger seat of a car. So it seems that is what he meant - seatbelt - singular.

Oh dear. If two people wear the same seat belt, any accident would end up with the hugely exaggerated weight of each child pressing up against each other and the seatbelt, resulting in a sorry mess.

No wonder the website, Kidshealth, says: "Never share seat belts. It may seem like fun, but two kids should never buckle up as a pair. "

Then, we should consider the mayhem which would be unleashed when the airbag goes off with two children in the front seat....

The Times reports that the Criminal Justice Unit are reviewing the case.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

'Disgraceful' attack on photographers in Lebanon - Greenslade

Former Daily Mirror editor and media commentator, Roy Greenslade, comments on accusations about photographs of the aftermath of bombings in the Lebanon.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Blair and his right wing chums flock together on Israel/Lebanon

I was rather struck by a statement by Tony Blair on the BBC this morning. He was asked why it seems that the UK and the US are standing alone in not calling for an immediate ceasefire by Israel.

No, he said, the UK and the US are not alone. The same position, he insisted, is being taken by Germany, Australia and Canada.

Ah!

Then I had a little think....

Germany - led by Angela Merkel of the right-wing Christian Democratic Union.

Australia - led by the right-wing John Howard and his nominally "Liberal" party.

Canada - run by a Conservative government.

So once again, the British Labour party led by Tony Blair, lines up with the pick of the bunch of the world's right-wing governments.

No surprise there then.

A lifetime of heaven in Somerset for £6,000

Butlin's are offering folk a holiday every year at their Minehead facility (I hesitate to use the old term 'camp') for the rest of their lives for £6,000.

You can't say fairer than that. Minehead is a most beautiful place and Butlin's everything you would want for a family holiday.

It all brings back some wonderful memories. We had a marvellous holiday there a few years ago. The standard of entertainment is always very high. You can understand why so many Red Coats go on to have show business careers - Butlin's gives them a superb grounding.

I also worked at Butlin's when it was a proper 'camp' before they brought in self-catering. I helped wash the dishes in the restaurant (canteen). The dish-washing machine was about 10 metres long. We had to wear white overalls and wellington boots because lots of smashed crockery ended up on the floor.

Wednesdays were a day we dishwashers dreaded. It was the day they served fried eggs. If the person putting the dishes into the machine didn’t wipe the egg off the plates properly, the machine, rather than washing the egg off, baked it on to the plate. I then had to stand at the end of the machine with a fork and sort of “grout off” the egg and put it back round the machine again. Happy Days. I had to do this about a hundred times on Wednesdays.

I really enjoyed the whole camp thing and had a little holiday romance into the bargain, which I enjoyed. I did evenings as a glass picker-up in the cabaret lounge. I saw Bob Monkhouse twice. The first time was brilliant. The second time was exactly the same as the first time!

The nightly disco was fun. You’d be dancing away to a loud disco record (eg. Donna Summer’s “I feel love” which was number one at the time – that dates me) and, all of a sudden, the record would be cut off and replaced by a very loud PA system with a voice shouting:

“THERE’S A BABY CRYING IN CHALET 447!!!”

That was great!