Friday, March 30, 2007

If only Mark Oaten had defected to the Tories...

Iain Dale is right that the Tories were stupid to start saying that they were trying to attract defectors. But I find his writing rather like a self-justifying fantasist where he writes:

Oaten came very close to defecting to the Conservatives in the autumn of 2005.

As Lib Dem home affairs spokesman he was frustrated by the party's opposition to his tougher approach on crime, and, in particular, terrorism: but the Tories were choosing a leader and Oaten's bargaining position was weak, so he stayed put.

David Cameron nearly claimed his first scalp two months into his leadership.

"Nearly claimed his first scalp"...what utter drivel. It's like saying someone is "nearly pregnant".

But anyway, let us take this rubbish in the Torygraph at face value. What if Mark Oaten had defected to the Tories in Autumn 2005? One suspects that membership of the Conservatives would not have immunised him from exposure by the News of the World. Indeed, by being a defector he would have had the same profile as when he ran for the LibDem leadership. So we can safely assume that he would still have been spread all over the NoTW, with some acts not described because they were too horrific for the paper's readership.

So Cameron gets his first high-profile defector in, say, November 2005 and that defector defecates, almost literally, on Cameron's doorstep in January 2006.

That would have been a bit of a faux pas, wouldn't it?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Michael White destroys Guido

I have an interest to declare. I am the Number One Fan of Michael White, the Guardian's Political Editor. Not because of his superb political journalism skills, but because he is a St Austell boy and very funny.

Normally, Michael is quite affable and laid back during his television appearances. Last night he was on Newsnight with Paxo and Guido (the latter via a link and ridiculously blacked out). Michael went ballistic, as far as he can without punching someone, and it was a delight to behold.

The gist was: Guido looked silly even though, and, indeed, perhaps because, you couldn't see his face. Michael destroyed his arguments that bloggers are somehow above the law and that they can break stories that otherwise wouldn't get into the public domain. I don't altogether buy White's complete derision of these points and sympathise somewhat with Guido.

But I am glad that Guido was made to look a clot. Blogging is a bit of fun and and is an important exercise of free speech. It is mainly the province of the amateur, in the best sense of that word: people who do it for the love of it (the word is formed from the Latin word "amare" - to love). The moment any bloggers become pretentious and think they are serious "professionals" is the moment they deserve being publicly humiliated by Michael White, as Guido was.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Monbiot regrets Tory conference appearance

I have now got round to watching Channel 4 Dispatches "Toff at the Top" about David Cameron by Peter Hitchens.

The first thing which hit me was, of course, Peter Hitchens. A remarkable man. I sometimes think he lives on a different planet than the rest of us. But, give him his due, he produced an interesting programme. He was persistent and searching with his questioning. The rather pompous delivery can be put to one side.

It was remarkable to see Mr Hitchens donning the Bullingdon Club dinner garb. Cost: £3,000 for a teenaged student!

We then had the spectacle of Michael Gove spinning like mad: Oh no, David Cameron didn't write the 2005 Tory manifesto. He was a mere typist on the project. Oh no, Eton isn't elite, it's good that parents invest money in their children. Hilarious.

But the highlight of the programme was George Monbiot. You may recall that Mr Monbiot was wheeled onto the last Tory conference to give come green credibility. He recalls the experience as "dismal". He was speaking but he said the audience could have been the inhabitants of "catacombs". Dead.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams sit down three feet apart

...Never thought I'd write that.

Worrying developments in Egypt

Last year I enjoyed an excellent holiday in Egypt. Having seen the huge amount of police and soldiers on the streets, I did some googling about the state of Egypt on my return, the results of which concerned me. Constitutional changes are now being put through by President Mubarak:

..for many in the opposition this is a black day in Egypt's history as they say the changes spell the death of the constitution as the main guarantee of liberties and democracy.
The opposition says the changes will consolidate dictatorship, and that watering down judicial supervision of elections will make fraud easier.

This is very worrying. On holiday in Egypt, one is bowled over by the friendliness of the people. It is only when you research the set-up of the country that you start to get a trifle concerned.

Archbishop says Church must consider reparations for its role in slavery

I very much welcome the statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury that the Church of England should consider making or paying reparations for its part in the slave trade.

The Church of England received £9,000 in the 19th century as compensation for freeing slaves under its control. At the very least, this money, including a substantial amount for inflation and interest, should be paid by the Church as reparations. The Archbishop asks who it should be paid to.

I am sure he will think of someone or some body, or bodies, to pay it to.

One centre of the Church of England's involvement in slavery was Barbados.

A five second Google on "Barbados Charity Poor" reveals the Barbados Children's Trust. Sounds ideal. This charity has an added attraction: Cliff Richard has been involved with it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Blair reckons Miliband could beat Brown

Good grief. With friends like Blair, Brown doesn't need enemies. The Observer reports:

Tony Blair has told his closest political allies that if David Miliband challenges Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership 'he will win'.

Possible cop-out in Northern Ireland process

While acknowledging the historic nature of the DUP's decision to go into government with Sinn Fein (albeit with a delay), Peter Hain has left the door open for a delay on the 26th March deadline. If DUP and Sinn Fein agree on a delay, then, he says, that's OK. And Sinn Fein have said that the DUP must talk directly to them to allow a delay.

Crikey. It's a good job no-one is holding their breath.

Chancellor Straw seems a cert

Now that Jack Straw has been announced as Brown's leadership campaign manager, it seems that we know the names of both the next PM and the Chancellor.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Money saving expert

This site has been recommended to me by friends at work. They have raved about it, saying you can save a fortune on it. I have sent the link to my wife for her review. Her middle name is "reduced for a quickie", so she should be able to give me an objective view on it.

In praise of white tea

I have gone off normal black tea. After experimenting with green and red tea, I have now found the tea for me. White tea.

Harry Hill's TV Burp triumph

I know its cheap ITV tea time trash, but I thoroughly enjoy Harry Hill's TV burp. While being a mainstream comedian, he seems to incorporate a remarkable intellectual sharpness into his comedy. As a tribute, I have enshrined one of his zanier quotes in my sidebar.

Another delay in Northern Ireland?

Despite Blair and Hain repeatedly saying that the 26th March was a final, final deadline, UTV reports that the DUP will request and probably get a six week delay before nominating ministers to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It seems difficult to see how the British government will squirm out of this and save any "face"at all.

Should we enjoy Mr Black's trial?

It would be undignified to enjoy reading this too much. But we have to have our little pleasures in life, don't we?

The title, in itself causes some amusement: "Lord Snotty, his titanic ego and the strange case of a missing title."

The vision of a blue-collar Chicago jury ploughing its way through verbose emails from Conrad Black and the details of Barbara Amiel's "$60,000 birthday party...handbags, jogging gear and opera tickets" is a rare delight.

The question is: "Should we enjoy the spectacle of this trial?"

The answer must be: "Oh, go on then."

Tory attempt to find LibDem defectors - the ideal messenger?

The Tories seem to have chosen George Osbourne as the Defector-finder-in-chief. This is an ideal choice.

I was recently watching Mr Osbourne making some of his conference speeches. He reminded me of a particularly unpopular, smart-alec, fifth-former. He looks as though he has only recently acquired long trousers. Goodness knows how anyone can expect him to be taken seriously as a potential Chancellor of the Exchequer.

So, from my point of view, the man is ideal to attempt to get LibDem MPs to defect. They must have to swallow their laughter the moment they see him coming towards them.

2 days to go to Northern Ireland deadline

The news output from Northern Ireland has been a bit quiet for a while. But the deadline of Monday, 26th March has crept up on us.

The DUP and Sinn Fein meet today. The signs are that, hopefully, the deadline will be met:

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said: "Most observers believe the DUP leader, Ian Paisley, is ready, in principle, to share power.

"But his party has been looking for an eight-week delay which will put a new Stormont executive on ice until late May."

Mr Paisley held talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair twice within 48 hours this week, ahead of the deadline.

After the second meeting, Downing Street re-iterated that Monday's deadline stood.

Mr Paisley said a "great deal of ground" had been covered.

So it seems to be now or never. But in Northern Ireland you never know.

Menzies lays into Tories

Menzies will launched a stinging attack on the Tories at our regional conference in Maidenhead today. I particularly like this bit:

Political parties are more than their leaders and if the Conservative Party aspires to liberalism, Mr Cameron must convince his members of it. He must ensure that they are ready to leave behind the baggage of Europhobia, homophobia, and xenophobia. Not just in policy, but in language and instinct too. The evidence suggests that he has some way to go to achieve that.

Amen to that. I hear what some grass roots Tories say in off-guarded moments. It is not edifying. Their whole outlook seems completely at odds with David Cameron's "Hello sky, hello trees" approach.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bob Woolmer Trust Fund set up

The news that the Jamaican police are treating the death of Bob Woolmer as murder is utterly astonishing and very disturbing.

I have just heard on Sky News that his family have set up a trust fund here to preserve his legacy through such things as a Bob Woolmer Cricket Academy.

It is worth remembering Bob in his prime. This video shows his century in the second test at Old Trafford against Australia in 1977. The way he slogs the ball around is remarkable.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Budget light relief: Brown makes Cameron look a prat

With everyone on a income under £15,000 having their tax doubled, yesterday was a very dark day. I am still boiling at this. Brown deserves his come-uppance for this treachery towards the poor. Well done to David "Two brains" Laws for spotting the Chancellor's sleight of hand, and ensuring that Menzies' response was spot on.

This was in sharp contrast to David Cameron. To be fair, he only had a nano-second to think about his response, given that the old Brown fox threw his surprise out in his last phrase. Poor old Boy Cameron was left making a lame joke and saying that the Chancellor had done what they always said he should do. Gordon Brown covered his face with his hand, shaking his head, at this pathetic response. You had to laugh. On that very dark day yesterday, it was the one moment of light relief.

John Edwards fights on despite bad news for wife

This story puts things into perspective and makes you admire both Elizabeth and John Edwards. John Edwards is continuing with his Presidential campaign despite some bad news about his wife's health.

KPMG and IFS give verdict on budget winners and losers

KPMG have number crunched the budget and come up with the winners and losers based on the NI and Income tax changes.

BIGGEST LOSERS: Those earning £17,000 a year or less who will pay £131 a year more.

BIGGEST WINNERS: Those earning about £35,000 a year who keep £353 a year more.

In all this confusion, I usually head for the Institute of Fiscal studies, who say:

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says that in all, £13.2bn is being given away by the Chancellor, while £10.7bn is being raised by him in extra tax.
And the government argues out that tax credits are available to boost the incomes of the poorest families, offsetting the income tax increases affecting the lowest paid.
Critics of that approach say that all depends on the claimants actually claiming their money, and then receiving the right amount of money from an extremely complex tax credit system.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies concludes that most families will benefit from some of Gordon Brown's measures and lose from others.
"However," says Mike Brewer of the IFS, "almost 1 in 5 families in the UK will lose and the losers will come from across the income distribution, and include some families with children."

Labour's defence of Brown tax scam - hang on a minute

There's a neat little defence by Labour of Brown's 10p rate abolition scam in the Guardian:

Labour MPs acknowledged the cut was not a giveaway, because it required the abolition of the 10p rate. But they argued that it was a sensible simplification of the system. While Mr Brown introduced the starting rate in the first place, the subsequent creation of the working family tax credit had rendered it unnecessary.
Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda, admitted: "It sounds like you are giving with one hand and taking it away with another [by axing the 10p rate] but I looked at what happens to someone on £8,000, £10,000 or £12,000 and they're all better off."

But hang on a minute. Nick Robinson notes:

Brown almost mumbled his announcement that he was going to remove the 10p starting rate so few realised that he'd announced, in effect, an £8.5bn pound tax rise. So some who cheered his £9bn tax cut felt deflated when they learnt what had really happened.

If Brown is getting £8.5bn from the 10p rate removal, to pay for his 22-20p cut, then where is that £8.5bn coming from? It has to come from the people who are currently subject to the 10p rate, for goodness sake. So all this mumbo-jumbo about family tax credit from Chris Bryant is absolute bovine scatology. Unless, of course, Brown is taking away from one lot of people and giving money back to same lot, in which case what on earth is the point?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Slavery: If you read one thing today...

...Read this. Or visit this site.

Shameful disgrace of 10p rate abolition

I never thought that Gordon Brown, a man who at least tried to appear fair to the poor and less wealthy, would introduce a budget which damages the poor and less well-off so much, while benefitting the middle classes. The abolition of the 10p rate is an utter disgrace. The fact that it is funded by a cut in the middle rate from 22 to 20 pence makes it even more shameful.

Well done to Menzies for brilliantly highlighting this disgrace.

One can only surmise that Gordon Brown has fallen into the pocket of Paul Dacre.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gore - weight indicator of presidential run (or not)

Apparently you can tell if Al Gore is running for President or not by his weight. If he loses weight, he's running (presumably literally as well as figuratively). If he remains in a...ahem... porked-out state, he's not running.

His weight has certainly yo-yo'ed over the years. During his 2000 bid for election, he was described as having the looks of a "quarterback". Now he seems positively hewn from Mount Rushmore.

10,000 false passports issued - not a good omen for ID cards

Admittedly 6.6 million passports are issued a year, but 10,000 passports were given to bogus applicants last year. That seems an awful lot, especially considering several were given to terrorists.

For example, an al Qaeda terrorist who plotted to blow-up a train under the Thames and flood the London Underground managed to obtain two British passports.

Given the very thorough forms that have be filled out and counter-signed to get a passport, plus the longish wait and the huge apparatus issuing the things, this doesn't bode very well for ID cards does it?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The core of Obama

Hat tip to Dave Hill on Temperama for highlighting a very insightful piece about Barack Obama in the New Republic, called "The Agitator". Rather than me just re-quoting what Dave has quoted, have a look at his piece here.

What it tells us is that Obama is a real motivator and leader. A man of passion and real steel. I am bowled over by the chap, but I should declare an interest - I carry a link to his web site and I have a tenner on him with Stan James to win the Democratic nomination.

Then again, I also had a tenner on Black Jack Ketchum at the World Hurdle at Cheltenham on the advice of a colleague who said he was a dead cert and that he (my colleague) had inside information from a "higher source", dropping the name of Johnjo O'Neill nonchalantly into the conversation. There was much conspiratorial nose tapping.

Result? The third fence proved all too much for dear old Black Jack and he gave up the fight there and then. Bless him.

Mills told to stop bothering police

I have some sympathy with Heather Mills-McCartney. She is beseiged by the press and has been phoning the police when she has feared for her safety. This has happened quite a lot. The police have warned her for "crying wolf". I am rather surprised that precautions or security resources aren't available to protect her sufficiently.

I didn't realise she was short of a bob or too, and therefore couldn't afford the odd bit of protection. And Paul McCartney is hardly brassic. Whatever bitterness there is, I would have expected him to see her right. After all, she is the mother of his child.

Blair - Am I bovvered?

It was quite a nostalgic event to see Tony Blair exercise his excellent "common touch" with Catherine Tate, complete with Prime-ministerial "Am I bovvered?", on Comic Relief last night. Only he can do that sort of thing. I can't imagine Gordon Brown doing that sort of thing.

Though David Cameron might try and make a bit of a Eton mess of it.

Friday, March 16, 2007

"Phwoaarhh!" action photos prove highly popular

My flabber is well and truly gasted. These last 24 hours, I have been basking in the glow of mega hits for my Newbury Action Photos page. It was all because of this entry by "Brenda" on the discussion forum:


Am I the only resident who has spotted these steamy pics courtesy of one of our well known local bloggers?

Action photos? I'll say! Those thighs are enough to raise the pulse any red blooded woman and for the chaps there's our very own Mayor posing provocatively in numerous interesting positions. More please!

I never knew that me standing outside Greenham House Gardens pointing at a bush (don't) would attract such a wide audience.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Selfridges sin bins with DNA extraction thrown in

I have scanned the Home Office document Modernising Police Powers which reviews the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

I must say that I couldn't find anything to measure up to the salacious report in the Guardian this morning.

The Home Office official report talks about Short Term Holding Facilities. The Guardian either spins this (or had it spun to them) into a tale of perspex fronted "sin bins" in places like Selfridges where people would be held for about four hours. The cells would be "visible" and DNA, fingerprints etc would be taken while the people are held.

Why don't they just bring back the stocks and be done with it?

The government's answer to full jails seems to be "build more jails".

Blue Peter fake winner - all for 450 quid!

I imagined the proceeds of the Blue Peter phone-in with the fake winner to run to thousands for charidee.

No. The phone-in raised £450.52 for Unicef.

Hello! They could have raised that from a big jumble sale!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ted Heath's dying wish is 'rejected by Salisbury's Tory-dominated council' but supported by LibDem councillor

The Western Daily Press reports that Ted Heath's dying wish, to have his former home turned into a museum, has been "rejected" by "Salisbury's Tory-dominated local authority".

Local LibDem councillor Paul Sample comes out of this well. Speaking to the WDP, he spoke up for Ted's wish saying:

I think opening this magnificent house, with all of its mementoes, would be a fine testament to Sir Edward. I cannot understand why anyone would want to prevent it happening.

The 'wreckup-loving' modern Tory party

Serial Hattipperary to Peter Black, Iain Dale, Tom Watson and Paul Flynn.

This is a classic.

Cheryl Gillan chose St David's Day to sing the praises of a Welsh community councillor who, she said, is "a good man - in touch with the people". She even read out part of his MySpace profile, thus:

"The more I read, the more I was drawn to the...Conservative party—freedom of enterprise, freedom of choice, and freedom of opportunity for all members of society, regardless of their background."

She then added:

That is the Conservative message—one of which I think that St. David would have approved.

Paul Flynn MP was on hand to offer some other bits from the same MySpace pages:

“I’ve evolved from a little whining pussy to a thrill seeking wreckhead to a Conservative who still loves the wreckups.” On 16 June 2006 he was asked whether he had taken drugs that month. He said yes. The next question was:“Have you stolen anything this month?”and he said yes. Asked why he wanted to go into politics, he said that he wanted it for the power, the flash suits and the money.

I would emphasise that I refrained from posting about this when it first hit the blogosphere. However, the fact that Cheryl Gillan has mentioned this chap in parliament has taken the issue onto a new level which invites comment.

I haven't mentioned the name of the young lad in question. I suspect he has had enough sleepless nights already without me adding too much to the agony.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bush versus Gore: How Green is my house?

Iain Dale added to the Green debate with his attack on Al Gore, commenting that he would be addressing the Shadow Cabinet:

He will no doubt be instructing them all on the art of preaching climate change religion bollocks while at the same time creating a carbon footprint the size of a mammoth's.

I made a milder remark about Gore on the same day.

I was interested to read from Iain that:

It's a little known fact that George W Bush's Texas ranch is very environmentally friendly.

I googled this and came up with this interesting article from CNSnews.

Bush's Crawford ranch has indeed been hailed as "eco-friendly haven" with grey/black water recycling and geothermal heating/cooling system. That's interesting given his anti-Kyoto stance.

Gore, on the other hand, has been accused of consuming "more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year."

However, David Roberts, staff writer for the online environmental magazine Grist criticised this slamming of Gore:

It was unfair, he said, to compare Gore's electrical consumption to the national average, which "includes apartments and trailer homes and is an average across all climatic zones, some of which are quite temperate."Gore and his wife, Tipper, "both work out of their house" and "have special security measures for an ex-vice president, all of which naturally increases the electricity use in the home," Roberts added.Moreover, Gore "pays almost a 50 percent premium to buy the 'green power' offered from his electrical company," which generates its voltage from hydroelectric and nuclear power rather than coal, he said."If every national leader did as much as Al Gore does to ameliorate their impact on the climate, the world would be a much better place."

So all, is not what it seems.

Cash for peerages - any chance of a fair trial?

One thing we can be sure of is that Lord Levy has access to some very fancy briefs - barristers that is. We had last week's story in the Guardian and the BBC's story yesterday which states that 'Ruth Turner wrote of her concerns that "Lord Levy had asked her to lie for him". '

I would have thought any decent barrister would be able to argue that, given these suggestions in the media, any chance of a fair trial has been prejudiced. That is, if the matter ever gets to court.

Having said that, the BBC took a week to come forward with their story (they even resisted the temptation to quote the Guardian story last week), so, presumably, the latest "lie" story was submitted to scrutiny by copious bands of our learned friends, prior to airing.

But, there is a difference between avoiding a charge of contempt of court (which the BBC were presumably trying to do) and prejudicing a trial, I presume. You can avoid one, while doing the other, perhaps.

It is here that I fall off the edge of the cliff of my own ignorance of the law and leave others to make more informed comment.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Redwood: Global warming is good

Dear old John Redwood has been singing the praises of Global Warming:

We will benefit from the better weather for tourism, agriculture and outdoor sports. Fewer people will die of the cold and from snow and ice in the winter.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

March 26th - another final Northern Irish deadline which will be broken?

It is staggering how political deadlines get repeatedly blown in Northern Ireland, while the people plough on with their daily business. The last few years of "conditions" set by the UUP, followed by blown deadlines, have been a bit like "Groundhog Day".

In response to ratcheted demands from the UUP, Sinn Fein have got the IRA to put their weapons verifiably beyond use. Then the IRA declared the war is over. Then Sinn Fein passed a motion to support the Northern Ireland police service for the first time in its history.

But still Ian Paisley does not appear to be happy and wants Sinn Fein to "declare themselves for democracy". Hello? Haven't they just fought an election? Crikey! Another condition!

As we move towards March 26th, the question: "How much of a deadline is this deadline?"

As Dennis Murray of the BBC commented, Peter Hain has "made a career" out of saying that the March 26th deadline is "immovable".

However, the consensus seems to be that the deadline will be stretched again. Slugger O'Toole comments:

Senior Sinn Fein sources believe the DUP will bust the March 26 deadline.“We won’t like it,” one senior Sinn Fein figure said, “but we can live with it.”

As commented also by Slugger O'Toole, the Prime Ministers keep saying that a clear signal has been given by the electorate that they want the politicians to work together. However, is it really that clear? The electorate have voted in the most numbers for the two parties at the opposite ends of the extreme.

I hope the Prime Ministers are right. They seem to be supported by a poll on BBC local radio hosted by Stephen Nolan when 83 per cent of respondents called for politicians to enter government together without further negotiations.

It appears that filthy lucre is entering the equation, vis: a possible 1 Billion quid grant to the province from Gordie Brown. For once Sinn Fein and the UUP are in total agreement that they want this money, so perhaps, at last, the prospect of this pot of gold will at last bring the two old adversaries into government with each other.

Gordon Brown visits private dentist - Mail on Sunday

This is an interesting story. The Mail on Sunday publishes a photograph of Gordon Brown leaving a private dentistry clinic in London.

The disclosure that Mr Brown, who has fought hard to stop Tony Blair introducing private-sector methods into the National Health Service, has gone private may shock some of his Left-wing supporters.

But the Chancellor's allies played down his use of private medicine and cited the lack of NHS dentists - even though critics have blamed Government policies for the shortage.

"Using a private dentist is not the same as using a private doctor," said one friend of the Chancellor.

"Gordon is no different to the large number of people who have found themselves without an NHS dentist because he did not visit one regularly.

"If you have toothache, you have to find a dentist quickly and to do that you have little choice but to go private. It is not like arranging an appointment with your GP."

As someone who goes to a private dentist after starting with them when they were NHS, I can hardly criticise Brown. However, it seems a bit of surprise.

"Gore jets in to address (Tory) Shadow Cabinet"

That is the headline in the hard copy Sunday Telegraph today. It is delightful that Al Gore is relentlessly increasing his carbon footprint to encourage us to reduce ours. After his private jet photo-op trip to Norway, David Cameron obviously sees a kindred spirit in Al Gore.

Presumably, like medieval indulgences, Gore and Cameron are buying carbon off-sets like no body's business.

William Shatner advertising the Commodore VIC-20

I am grateful to Sven for alerting me to this glorious You Tube video of William Shatner advertising the Commore Vic-20 computer in the 80s. It is a classic!

Unrelieved Old hymns and King James - a recipe for the slow death of the Church of England?

Christopher Ohlson writes in the Guardian yesterday about the Church of England:

Favourite old hymns seem to have disappeared from the repertoire. Traditional Anglicans go to church for the King James Bible, the old hymns and the architecture. The Bible and the hymns have disappeared, which leaves only the great cathedrals.

Our church has the Bible very prominently featured. Indeed, I would be staggered to hear of any Anglican church that does not have at least one reading from the Bible during its services. It might not be the King James version though. But aren't "thous", "thees" and "wherearts" a little unlikely to bring children and teenagers flocking to the church?

Our church has an old style hymnal and a new style hymnal. We sing from both. I enjoy both.

I have often heard a Telegraph commentator, whose name excapes me, complaining that the Church of England has burnt the Book of Common Prayer. I fact, there are scores of copies kept at the back of our church and they are used regularly.

A little while ago Terry Waite announced he was joining the Quakers 'having tired of what he describes as "chirpy" vicars acting like television presenters in an attempt to engage their congregation.'

I am fortunate enough to go to a church which offers all sorts of services for all types and ages. What is important is that the congregation is not dwindling and it seems that there are new people coming in all the time. Purely using the old hymns and the King James Bible, without offering alternatives in different services, seems to me a recipe for the slow death of the Church of England.

The glamour of Planet Hollywood

It was so exciting yesterday to go for a meal at Planet Hollywood in London. The sheer excitement of being cheek by jowel with scores of other guests, the wonderful plastic hand prints of stars which you can press to hear their quotes, the sheer glamour of being in a place surrounded by stardom....

It was absolutely awesome. I particularly enjoyed sitting on the wonderful classic cafe chairs (pictured), asking three times before I got a drink and eating mash potato which only an arch cynic would say was made from powder.


We took our daughter and her friend to see Spamalot yesterday as a birthday treat. We all enjoyed it hugely, especially as we were so "up in the gods" that we needed oxygen. I have always been a great fan of Python, since the early TV days, but I have been pleasantly surprised how their humour seems to surpass the generations.

I felt a little uncomfortable when they played the song 'You won't succeed in Broadway if you don't have any Jews" but was comforted by the facts that the director, Mike Nichols, is a Jew, and the song ended with a madcap pastiche of a Jewish dance and the lowering of a huge, glittering star of David which put the thing beyond the risk of malevolence.

All in all, Spamalot is a wonderful piece of entertainment which is well worth seeing.

Timely reminder of Conservative conference views on cheap flights

The Tories are to launch another consultation on environmental taxes. It is timely, therefore, to remind ourselves that at the last Conservative conference "members rejected a motion suggesting cheap flights were "a false economy" by 57% to 43%, indicating the difficulties the Conservatives will face in setting out a green agenda." One Conservative member, a pilot from Norfolk, said during the debate:

Aircraft produce 2% of the world's carbon emissions - exactly the same as the world's cow population.

I would rather give up beef than air travel.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Richard Benyon revealed as extreme reactionary

Hard on the heels of proof that Richard Benyon does not practise what he preaches on global warming, comes news that he is an extreme reactionary:

(In the House of Lords vote last week), he voted first of all for the House of Lords to have no elected members at all. Mr Benyon would prefer a House of Lords full of Cameron's cronies to a House of Lords chosen by the people. This disdain for the voters of West Berkshire and for the principles of democracy demonstrates that he is one of the House's extreme reactionaries, a throwback to the nineteenth century, when the rich landowners thought they were born to rule.

Tory girl clashes with Mr Anarchist on Castaway

I predicted that Tory girl, Clare Hilley, would be at the centre of some fireworks on BBC1's Castaway, and, no sooner had she dried off from the swim ashore than did the said fireworks erupt around her.

Jonathan (unemployed, of no fixed abode) and Tory girl were at daggers' drawn almost immediately.

Jonathan calls himself an Anarchist. A more accurate description would be "pain in the neck". He must be the only anarchist who is also a control freak.

Anyway it all kicked off between Tory girl and Mr Anarchist - they were arguing day and night - literally.

However, the arrival of the second set of Castaways changed the dynamics. Now Tory girl and Mr Anarchist are bosom buddies!

It's a shame, really.

I had to stop myself turning into a retired Colonel when I heard the list of contestants and what they did (eg. Unpublished fantasy writer). I felt the words: "Not one of them have got a proper job"...but stopped myself in the nick of time.

PS Danny Wallace is an inspired choice of presenter for this stuff. I am a great fan of his.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Conservatives get 0.5% of the vote

The Conservative party received 0.5% of the vote - that's just 3,457 out of 690,313 votes cast - in the Northern Ireland Assembly election.

...A storming endorsement for David Cameron.

But they say, they "doubled" their vote. "We're going in the right direction", they say.

At that rate, is it worth the effort?

US Poll says race is closer in primary states

American Research group has published a poll of likely voters in the Democrat and Republican primaries which shows the race for the nominations closer than reflected in national polls.

For the Democrats, Clinton is on 34% with Obama close behind on 31%. That compares to a recent nationwide poll by NBC which showed the gap 40% to 28%. This perhaps reflects the focus that Obama has been concentrating on the primary states where he is said to be wowing the party faithful.

Guiliani leads McCain for the Republicans by just 34% to 30%. In contrast the NBC nationwide poll showed the gap as 38% to 24%. This may well reflect Guiliani's weakness with core Republican voters.

I would have thought that these American Research group findings are more significant that the national polls at the moment. If you do well in the early primary states, you can "flip" the election in your favour during the primary season.

Hat tip to Political Wire.

Newt Gingrich admits affair while gunning for Clinton over Lewinsky

Former US House leader Newt Gingrich has admitted he was having an extra-marital affair while he was leading a campaign to expose Bill Clinton's goings-on with Monica Lewinsky. In confessional mode, he says now:

There were times when I was praying and when I felt I was doing things that were wrong. But I was still doing them. I look back on those as periods of weakness and periods that I'm... not proud of.

Hat tip to Political Wire.

Has Ming played a bit of a flanker?

We seem to have been in a bit of a spin, in the last week. It seems that Menzies will draw a line under the 'confusion' at the Welsh spring conference. Just let me check I've got the sequence of events right:
  1. Menzies says last weekend what he expects from Brown in the "five tests".
  2. You could say that someone (A) span (if that is the past tense of spin) this as our demands for a coalition deal, noting that PR is absent from the list. Otherwise, you could say that the speech was explicit in this regard anyway, so it was Ming's fault anyway. In the scope of that latter scenario you could also add that someone (B) span that someone (A) span the story.
  3. That 'someone A' is suggested by Iain Dale to allegedly, conceivably, possibly and arguably be Mark Littlewood, LibDem Head of Media, although this is strongly contested in the comments of the same posting.
  4. Said Mark Littlewood confirms his intention, first stated last November, to leave his job in two months time
  5. Menzies takes advantage of major speech to underline that his belief in PR is 'absolute'.
You might detect that I am a mite confused. Correct. If you strip away all the arcane onion-like machinations, you are left with two basic observations:

a) It seems that in the political game, the interpretational equivalent of the width of a fag paper can separate triumph and disaster.

b)A bit of a flanker may have been played. That is, something seems to have been smuggled through into the public domain under the cover of all the smoke of the last week. Since I started supporting the Liberals while in short trousers, I always thought, and still think, that PR for Commons elections would be the price of any coalition deal. I suppose that didn't stop it not being delivered by the murky LibLab pact in the seventies. But Paddy Ashdown, using his normal florid language, still thinks it is the price of one now:

...You know the old phrase in English - 'If you dine with the Devil, you take a long spoon' - I would not dine with God if PR was not on the menu, but I would dine with the Devil if it was.

It seems that the Holy Grail of PR may have been quietly demoted to the sidelines. Goodness knows. I think I am due for a lie-down in my darkened room.

UPDATE: I thank James Graham for the illumination he has exercised on these events, which is timely and resulted in me making some late changes to this piece.

Ming sensation!

Sensational news about Ming from this week's Liberal Democrat News, bless them:

Ming Campbell almost forgot to switch off his mobile phone before he spoke on Sunday. He only realised just before he went on stage when Elspeth remembered to turn hers off.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Elected second chamber - most of the answers can be found in the US

It is always entertaining when there is a debate about the House of Lords. We get all sorts of pompous fossils who legislate on our behalf, such as Lord Strathclyde and that funny bloke whose ancestor got drunk with Pitt, coming out of the woodwork. Lord Redesdale is an exception to this observation - what a marvellous man!

Lord Strathclyde said last night that, although he was in favour of a 80/20 elected second chamber, he thought the House of Lords would vote against the Commons' favoured option because it would mean voting themselves out of jobs.

If the House of Lords, starting a debate about its future, was a council, all the members would have to declare a pecuniary interest and withdraw from the chamber. Any member who didn't leave would be reported to the Standards Board.

And we are getting all the usual arguments wheeled out: an elected second chamber would cause impasses between the two houses, it would all be political hacks, it would be just like the Commons, not distinctive...etc etc

The answers to all these questions are: "Well, it seems to work pretty well in the USA."

However, there is one rather dodgy thing about the US Senate. As Shirley Williams once said, more or less exclusively, you need to be a millionaire to get elected to it. In fact, I once read (can't find the link) that a US Senator has to raise $100,000 every single week, from the day he or she is elected, to get re-elected. And they have six-year terms.

So, we need campaign finance reform in parallel with any second chamber reform.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Unbelievable - we've finally done it!

The news from the Commons today is still sinking in. 94 years after the 17th Amendment in the USA created a directly elected US Senate, we have followed our colonial off-spring. An elected Second Chamber. I can hardly believe I can type the words. It is unbelievable! 7th March 2007 has got to go down as a major day in British history.

Cue: Dancing in the streets!

MPs vote on Lords reform

MPs have voted on Lords reform.

Survey: 60% support local income tax to replace council tax

A BBC poll reports that 59% of respondents think the council tax is unfair and 60% want it replaced with a local income tax.

"Scotland - the best small country in the world"

As an enthusiastic and frequent(ish) visitor to Scotland, I am always bemused by the large poster which greets me at Glasgow ariport declaring: "Welcome to Scotland, the world's best small country".

Until I first saw this, I always thought of Scotland as a really, really big country. I mean, it's hardly Monaco, is it? To walk across Vatican City, which is a country, it takes you about a minute. To walk from Berwick-on-Tweed to Muckle Flugga would take you a few weeks and a bit of a swim.

And one of my favourite Scottish bands is/was Big Country. How do they fit in with this "small country" business, then?

So, all in all, arriving with great anticipation at Glasgow, dreaming of seeing the vast mountains and lochs of Scotland, to be greeted with "welcome to the world's best small country" is a bit of a let-down. One's heart sinks, in fact.

What is going on? Is there an inferiority crisis in the Scottish Tourism office? What a crazy tourism slogan!

...And it doesn't just seem to be soft Sassanachs such as myself who think this slogan is daft.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Young blonde "Prospective Tory MP" on TV's Castaway

Clare Hilley is described by the BBC as a "Wannabe Tory MP" and "Prospective Tory MP" and is one of the contestants on the new TV reality show "Castaway".

As the alleged "youngest candidate in the country" she received 1489 votes at the election in Upper Norwood ward of Croydon Borough Council last year, coming fifth in a three member contest. Here is her blog. Her profile reads:

I joined Conservative Future when I was 15 years old and during this time have been elected to branch, area and national positions within the organisation; Chair of Lancaster CF, Area Chair for Lancashire, National Management Executive. After standing twice as a Council candidate for Lancashire and Croydon I am now the Area Chair of London South and the Chair of my local Croydon CF branch. I talk to 16-18 year olds for the think-tank Civitas on the right wing perspective of Europe and also how they can make a political difference at a young age.

In the BBC blurb it says:

(Clare) sees herself as a natural leader and a good communicator and admits to being hugely opinionated on issues like world poverty, the injustice pensioners face in the UK and political apathy.Highly competitive, Clare admits that she can be confident to the point of arrogance, and sometimes finds it hard to be diplomatic. She likes to be around fun and energetic people and admires courage in others. She dislikes attention seekers; people who are two-faced and those who are "uneducated and narrow-minded in their views".

Ah! Congratulations to the profilers who chose her. I think we can expect Clare to be at the centre of a few fireworks. ...Not too sure how this is likely to help her political career. She will be on the island for three months. Shouldn't she be doing some campaigning somewhere in the next two months, if she is serious about politics, rather than potentially ruining her career before it has started?

Why is it always "wannabe Tory" candidates who do all these smart-alec theatrics? It never seems to be wannabe candidates from other parties.

Voting by STV today

Voters go to the polls to place their 1,2,3 preference today in Northern Ireland. I see the BBC are explaining how many preferences voters can use (as many as they like, of course) and how the surpluses are allocated.

All this reinforces an aspect of Northern Ireland which has been observed before and which always stands out in my mind. The people of Northern Ireland are one of the most sophisticated, politically acute electorates in the world. There are not many other places where, for better or worse, the fine nuances of political maneuvering are discussed with such passion and command of the detail.
Goodness knows what the result of the election will be. Hopefully, at long last it will lead to a resumption of devolved government. Presumably that will mean the DUP in government with Sinn Fein. Remarkable bed fellows.
The people there deserve peaceful devolved government. I hope today will mark the beginning of a new and relatively joyous chapter in the history of Northern Ireland.

Why do we use so much loo roll?

...Just watching a fascinating programme about W.H.Auden. One of the talking heads said, apropos virtually nothing, that he was made to use just one piece of toilet paper per go, when he was a child.

In fact, I have been meaning to make a similar observation for some time. We used to make do with two pieces of paper (not on a roll in those days - it was in a box). In fact it would have never entered our head to use more. Nowadays I seem to use half a roll. Is it me? Or is it the quality of the paper? The old stuff may have had that annoying shiny surface but at least you knew where you stood with it. You knew you would never put your finger through it - no danger of that.

Sorry if you are eating.

Libby found guilty

Lewis Libby, former chief of staff to US Vice-President Dick Cheney, has been found guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury. This has got to be a major body-blow to the Bush administration, especially as Bush entered office promising to clean up what he saw as the sloppy practices of the Clinton days.

It is interesting that this trial did not address the original alleged crime, namely that of revealing the identity of a CIA agent. As such, it has eerie echoes of the Watergate scandal (where the cover-up became more important that the original incident) and perhaps (time will tell) our own little escapade close to home ("Cash for peerages")

Monday, March 5, 2007

Levy allegedly, possibly, conceivably, potentially in the soup? Number Ten spin machine in overdrive?

The drip, drip, drip emergence of details about the Cash for peerages enquiry has developed a distinct couple of new themes this evening:

1) The latest revelations appear to potentially leave Lord Levy possibly, conceivably, arguably and/or allegedly in the soup


2) a theme is emerging of alleged animosity, tension, discord (call it what you like) between Number Ten and Lord Levy.

I wonder whether this is all the effect of the Number Ten spin-machine at its finest.

Firstly, I was alerted by Chris Paul to the fact that the "email" being discussed as the basis of the BBC/Goldsmith injunction is in fact a document, not an email, allegedly:

BBC Gag: Document is NOT an Email
by Chris Paul - It is a document drafted by Ruth Turner which concerns Lord Levy and which was intended for Ruth's boss Jonathon Powell. However, unlike an email it is not possible to know whether the document was sent, received or read. ...

The Guardian appears to confirm this , the Number Ten versus Lord Levy and Levy-in-alleged-soup themes about an hour ago:

Detectives are investigating whether Lord Levy, Labour's chief fundraiser, urged one of Tony Blair's most senior aides to shape the evidence she gave to Scotland Yard, the Guardian has learned.
Police have been investigating whether Ruth Turner, the prime minister's director of external relations, was being asked by Lord Levy to modify information that might have been of interest to the inquiry. Officers have been trying to piece together details of a meeting they had last year. Ms Turner gave an account of it to her lawyers and this has been passed to police.

The BBC confirms the themes thus:

No 10 aide Ruth Turner wrote the document for Jonathan Powell. The document which sparked a probe into an alleged Downing Street cover-up over cash for honours was written by Number 10 aide Ruth Turner.
It was written for Tony Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell, and concerned Labour's chief fundraiser Lord Levy.

Should we be glad that the BBC et al misinterpreted the "five tests"?

The aftermath of Menzies' speech is one of those occasions when I feel baffled down here in deepest straw-sucking Berkshire. The speech seemed to me to be a simple, and much needed, reminder that Gordon Brown will have to deliver a direction which is a marked change from Blair's drift at the moment.

It didn't enter my head that this was some sort of coalition statement. Why would it be? We wouldn't even advertise such a list on the day of an election, let alone several years before it.

The BBC and other journalists are not thick. They know that the list was not meant as a coalition deal list.

However, I suspect they decided that the best way of making it into a "good story" was to invent the coalition angle. I suppose, "Ming gets tough with Gordie" is not as attractive a story as "Ming sets deal-breaker list for coalition". The media "sexed up" the story, in other words.

I suppose that we should be grateful that, as a result, as least we got a bit of coverage that we might not have otherwise got.

It still makes you seethe though doesn't?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

A good weekend for Ming

The BBC declares this morning:

Sir Menzies' victory on Trident marked a pivotal moment in his leadership. His success, secured after an 11th-hour personal appeal, follows criticism of his style of leadership.

Menzies' speech today will set these challenges for Gordon Brown:

First, end the Labour Government's authoritarian attack on civil liberties; second, grasp the challenge posed by climate change; third, break open the poverty trap; fourth, trust the people and free them from the yoke of Whitehall; and fifth, Britain's foreign policy should not be set in Washington.

Today's speech sounds like a corker. This has been a very good weekend for Menzies.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Superb nominee for Barperson of the Year award

Excitement is mounting in the run-up to the Publican Awards 2007, to be held at the Grosvenor House on March 20th. In particular, the competition is hot this year for the Barperson of the Year Award, sponsored by Fairy. The nominees are:

Tiffany Brown, The Alford Arms, Frithsden, Herfortshire
Hannah Walter, The Bay View Inn, Widemouth Bay, Cornwall
Hilli Scranage, The Fox, Lower Essex Street, Birmingham
Gerry Vernon, The Kitchen Bar, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Kate McGowan, The Royal Oak, South Brent, Devon
Lisa Shaw, The Station Hotel, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire

Of course, I have no particular favourites for this contest. May the best Bar Person win. Hannah Walter is, of course, no relation to me, I wouldn't dream of.............oh alright then, she's my niece.

I think Hannah is just delighted to be in the final. I suspect her hard working attitude is shared by the other finalists. I remember one occasion last summer. Hannah was in the bar tidying up etc until around midnight. I had to walk over to the pub at 7am the next morning to pick up my car. There was Hannah picking up the litter etc in the pub garden at that early hour.

This gives some idea of the remarkable hard work put in by bar staff across the country.

Tory celeb wannabe candidates - any common link?

Preston. David Van Day. Adam Rickitt. Mike Read. Patti Boulaye. These are all "celebs" who have been or want to be Tory candidates.

Any common link?

Well, one common link is that it takes someone with a fairly anorakish knowledge of the arcane minutiae of 70s and 80s pop to know all of them.

I know of another common link which unites all but one of them, but I would only divulge it in strictest secrecy on a non-attributable basis over a pint of decent bitter (and that will have to wait until after Easter).

Guardian calls for "tougher and quicker" Ming

In a leader entitled It isn't easy being a Lib Dem, the Guardian today calls for Ming to be "tougher and quicker".

It seems that ing has responded brilliantly by an impassioned and crucial appeal to the party conference on the subject of the Trident motion.

Switzerland invades Liechtenstein

Hat tip to Clowns to the Left of me. I love this one. Switzerland invaded Liechtenstein yesterday.

We've spoken to the authorities in Liechtenstein and it's not a problem," spokesman Daniel Reist said.

As well as the obligatory Swiss army knives, the troops were armed with assault rifles - however, they had no ammunition, Mr Reist said.

Officials in Liechtenstein, which is on Switzerland's eastern borders, also sought to play down the incident.

Markus Amman, an interior ministry spokesman, said nobody in Liechtenstein had even noticed the soldiers. "It's not like they stormed over here with attack helicopters or something," he said.

You've got to laugh.

Non-existent minister joins cabinet

An interesting one. Just think, most people sweat blood for decades and are then rewarded with a cabinet post. This fellow did nothing and got a cabinet post. "Did nothing" is understating it. He didn't even have to make the effort to exist:

Andre Kasongo Ilunga was the rising star of Congolese politics. Just 34, he had risen from obscurity to be appointed minister for foreign trade in Congo's first democratic government last month. Then, before he had even started work, he resigned. Sadly, Mr Ilunga will never be able to articulate the reasons why. For he does not exist.

The trouble with Guiliani

That is the title of a story today, as I continue my handy digest of "wot I have read in the Guardian today". I was fascinated to read some criticism of Rudy's 9/11 record, something I thought was Unamerican:

The most excoriating analysis comes from Wayne Barrett, a senior editor at Village Voice, and Dan Collins in their book Grand Illusion. They argue that quite apart from being the hero of 9/11, which they call a myth, Mr Giuliani failed to prepare the city for a major attack, leaving it fatally exposed. They investigate the faulty radio systems which put firefighters' lives at risk, and decry Mr Giuliani's decision to place the city's emergency command post, which should have been where the rescue mission was coordinated, in the worst possible position: 23 floors up the World Trade Centre, which was already known to be a favoured terrorist target.

Cumbrian rail crash

The remarkable thing about the Grayrigg rail crash were the photos of the aftermath.

Normally, rail crash photos show absolute carnage - smashed carriages, roofs torn off, sides buckled, debris all over the shop etc etc. However, the photos of this crash showed an intact train, carriages still linked, no smashed walls or windows. Sorry to sound like a Virgin Trains PR man (not a likely persona for me to adopt) but this seems to be a tribute to the new Pendolino rolling stock, with its strengthened walls and windows.

Moving to the dodgy points which are suspected to have caused the crash, I am staggered to read in the Guardian today that, according to Roger Ford of Modern Railways: "of the four stretcher bars at the site, three were unbolted and one was missing altogether. A visual inspection would have picked up a missing stretcher bar..." That visual inspection should have taken place on February 18th, but didn't. Oh dear.

Ruby Wax and David Cameron

I notice that Ruby Wax is pictured in the Guardian with David Cameron at some glitzy ball or suchlike. I said all along she was rubbish.

Peurvian government says "Adios to Manana" but turns up late

The Peruvian government is getting tough on lateness. It has launched a vigorous campaign to promote punctuality. This is in a country where "Peruvian time" means an hour late.

Unfortunately there is a slight snag, as reported by The Times:

Officials arrived 30 minutes late for an event to unveil details of their campaign against lateness.

My wife says of me: 'My husband doesn't do late'. The reason is I am genetically punctual is that I went to a public school where hell and earth came down on you if you were late for anything. I still have nightmares about not having the right books with me for lessons and possibly being a minute late for Double Maths.

The lessons of Estonia

Estonia seems to be at the cutting edge of technology at the moment.

During the week, the 'Safety Elephant', Charles Clarke, visited one of those three Baltic states swopped under the Treaty of Versailles which I had to learn for O' Level history. He was filming for a Channel 4 programme, Fighting Identity Fraud. The purpose of his visit seemed to be to "prove I was right all along" on ID cards. The official blurb for the programme said:

Identity theft is the fastest growing fraud in Britain. But how do you stop thieves stealing your identity? Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke believes strongly that ID cards are the key, and in a passionate polemic makes the case for the controversial plans to register the biometric data of British people on a national database. He's furious that people say supporters of the national database will help bring about a fascist state or British gulags.

In fact, there were some interesting observations coming out of the programme. It showed how Estonians can see who accesses their personal data and what it contains, and correct it, if they want. There were also some interesting comments from British A&E doctors who passionately want a better centralised database of health records, to allow them to treat us better.

Today the Guardian reports some more news from Estonia. It is the first nation to allow voters in a general election to cast their ballots online. Its parliament has already declared internet access a basic human right.

New Trident - we don't need this gold-plated comfort blanket

I am very grateful for Nick Harvey for kindly and thoroughly answering my and all the other questions in the recent on-line debate. It is very easy to get lost in the minutiae of the four boat/three boat/Iran/Korea debate. At the end of the day, this level of detail is not required. The fundamentals are very basic indeed.

It is worth remembering the scale of the USSR.

It stretched from East Germany to the border with China. It had fifteen constituent republics. At its zenith in 1985, it had 45,000 nuclear warheads stockpiled.

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had 5.3 million people in its armed forces.

That is the scale of the enemy we were facing when we commissioned Trident. Up against that, Iran and Korea are fly-droppings.

Now, we do not need a new Trident.

Some seem to see new Trident as a virility symbol. It would be more a sign of this nation's maturity for us to eschew new Trident and be peacemakers. It would restore some of this nation's good name after the Iraq debacle.

There are many other more pressing calls on this nation's purse, without foolishly investing in an expensive comfort blanket.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Blair makes rude gesture in photo

Well, he was only 21 at the time.

I am a machine, apparently

I spend a lot of time earnestly searching for material to blog about. For hours, I hunch myself over my PC, lovingly crafting my prose, fine-polishing my wordsmithing, checking references, putting in links and photos, answering comments and checking my Statcounter.

And what do I get?

A robot in Blogger thought I might be a machine and shut down my ability to post for 36 hours until some person at Blogger checked my blog to verify that it is created by a human-being and isn't machine-created spam.

The alert message read: "Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog".

Ah! I see. My blog has "characteristics of a spam blog" does it?!

How very dare they!

"Political correctness gone mad" alert - Actors have to go outside to rehearse smoking

Stage actors will have to go outside to rehearse smoking, but they can actually smoke during performances.

Confessions of a Diary Secretary - Prescott emerges smelling of roses

I watched Confessions of a Diary Secretary on ITV this week with half an eye.

I suppose there were some people drooling with glee in anticipation - expecting to see our beloved Deputy Prime Minister being dragged through the mud.

The actor who played Prescott, John Henshaw, is a favourite actor of mine. He was in Born and Bred and does an excellent bluff northerner. As a result, I think Prescott came out of the drama very well.

I don't condone or welcome sexist remarks or adultery. However, at the end, I was left feeling rather pleased that there has been this down-to-earth northerner at the heart of our government for the last ten years.

On the subject of favourite actors, I was very pleased indeed to see Tony Slattery playing Gordon Brown very well. It was interesting that Brown and Blair were portrayed, even before the last election, squabbling about when Blair is going to stand down. It seems to have been an obsession with Brown which leads me to suspect that he needs to consider the old Chinese proverb:

Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

Photos of puddle in Bear Lane

My colleague Cllr Roger Hunneman has taken these pictures to pinpoint this puddle in Bear Lane to West Berkshire Council engineers. The puddle is causing a terrible annoyance and inconvenience to pedestrians on the adjacent walkway, who are being deluged when cars pass through the puddle.

The head of the Highways and Maintenance department at West Berks council has pledged to get this situation corrected as soon as possible.

Women's Hour look for a man for Comic Relief

As I half-watched Top Gear going up a mountain last night, I heard them advertise a vote for a man to present Women's Hour on Comic relief day. "Vote for Richard Hammond" to present the show, they said.

As well as the Hamster, the contenders are: Kelvin Mackenzie and Andy Hamilton. Of those, I would choose Kelvin Mackenzie, as he deserves a bit of ribbing.

But think of all the obvious celebs they have missed out from the ballot paper! Jeremy Clarkson. Bernard Manning. Boris Johnson. Mark Oaten. The list is endless.