Friday, November 30, 2007

Calls for Gillian Gibbons' execution - contrast with calm British Muslims

After this week, I am a bit of a fan of Inayat Bunglawala (above), spokesman for the British Muslim Council. I first heard him speak about the teddy bear row on BBC Radio Manchester (his organisation are based there). He was absolutely unequivocal in condemning the prosecution of Gillian Gibbons:

There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith, British Muslims are embarrassed by the actions of Sudan.

I see that there have been demonstrations in Khartoum, calling for Gillian Gibbons to be executed by firing squad.

Oh dear. But what a gulf between those sentiments expressed by some Muslims in Khartoum and the immensely sensible Mr Bunglawala!

Huhne hits media pay dirt

We are constantly saying that the LibDems' biggest problem is getting media attention.

Well, ahem, we are now being treated to a masterclass on how to get media attention from Chris Huhne.

Chris Huhne has been all over the media like a rash in the last 72 hours, taking the government to task on Donor-gate. By judiciously "bagging" the role of formally asking the police for an inquiry, he has ensured a media "pay dirt" time for the LibDems and himself.

Fraser Nelson on the Spectator Coffee House blog observes:

The ability to jump on a news issue is a key skill required for a Lib Dem leader, and (Huhne is) demonstrating his credentials here. Where on earth is Nick Clegg? Where is his campaign? If he's not careful, winning the Spectator/Threadneedle newcomer of the year awards really will be the highlight of his year...I've just come out of a Radio Scotland phone-in I agreed to do ages ago. It was a good laugh, sparring with taxi drivers and MSPs. And then: "we're now joined by Chris Huhne who joins us on his mobile from the back of a cab in London". The man is inexhaustible.

Vince Cable - the best leader we never had?

Linked under the title "Invincible?" on BBC Online, Arif Ansari's profile of Vince Cable reflects that he is proving remarkably successful as acting Liberal Democrat leader:

Gone are the panto-style groans that have greeted previous Lib Dem leaders when they stand to take their turn in the Commons hurly-burly of question time.
Instead this week he brought the House down, with his quip about the "prime minister's remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr Bean, creating chaos out of order rather than order out of chaos".
It was the kind of ridicule politicians fear, as it might just stick.
Mr Cable reportedly wrote the line himself too.
Add to that his deft handling of questions over the Northern Rock crisis and the privatization of Qinetiq, the former defence research establishment, and it adds up to an impressive period in the hot seat for the unassuming former economist.

Gordon Brown - a kid's view

I mentioned the name "Vince Cable" this morning and my ten year old asked "Who's he?"

I said "He is the chap who said Gordon Brown is like Mr Bean".

"Ah yes", came the response "That was on CBBC Newsround".

So Vince Cable has sewn up the Popbitch market and the CBBC Newsround market. Well done.

I also started discussing different types of jobs and their stress levels, compared to their pay rates. I mentioned the job of Gordon Brown as an example of a very stressful job.

The response from my ten year old was priceless:

"No - it's not stressful - he's just rubbish at it".

...out of the mouths of babes and sucklings.

Spooky - Norfolk Blogger and Liberal Burblings pass 100,000 page views on same day

It is spooky ! Both the Norfolk Blogger and Liberal Burblings passed the 100,000 page views mark (not visitors) yesterday. But Nich has been blogging for six months less than me, so he is getting page views at a faster rate than me. But he has a lot of Tories looking at his site. I try to discourage Tories visiting mine.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

MOST WANTED: Information on Dr Evan Harris MP

Hugh Muir in the Guardian highlights a collection of photos of people outside the Oxford Union debate this week on Redwatch. The website asks for information on the people in the photographs, who are described as "Demonstrators opposing Nick Griffin and David Irving, Oxford University 26th November 2007". It says: "Any further info on the freaks below will be gratefully received".

Hugh Muir helpfully points out that photos 40 and 41 (see screenshot above - quite a nice photo of him, I think) are of Dr Evan Harris MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, and photo 14 is of George Galloway. (They are in good company. One of the other photographs on the site is of Tony Benn.) And, of course, far from 'opposing Nick Griffin and David Irving', Evan Harris was simply trying to get access to the building to take part in a debate with them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The local take on David Abrahams

It was fascinating hearing the local TV news angle on David Abrahams here in the North (a sojourn for me).

The reporter had been talking to people who knew Abrahams. They told how he used to be a vigorous attendee of party meetings and used this leverage to try to fight his de-selection as Labour parliamentary candidate for Richmond.

Stephen Pollard backs up this story in the Spectator, and asks:

Can he really have gone from being one of the pushiest and most self-aggrandising people I came across to being so afraid of publicity that he chanelled donations through other people? I don't think we have got remotely to the bottom of the Abrahams side of this story.

This really has all the hallmarks of a rather large open political sewer.

Vince plays John Smith to Brown's Major

There seems little doubt that the loss of those two discs was this Government's "Black Wednesday". It's all downhill from here. Gordon Brown is John Major without the underpants or the electoral mandate.
Spare a thought for Tony Blair. It must be hard trying not to crack a rib when you are laughing so much.
What we need here is someone to be John Smith to Brown's John Major. ("The reverse Midas touch"...."hotels fall into the sea").
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Dr John Vincent Cable:
The House has noticed the Prime Minister's remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr Bean, creating chaos out of order rather than order out of chaos.
Razor sharp. Hilarious. So true.
Vince Cable is (was) an old friend of Brown. So he knows his vulnerabilities. And of course, Vince trumps Brown on figures.
Right place. Right time. Right man.
Well done Vince!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Ahmadinejad has sense of humour

President Ahmadinejad of Iran has offered to be an independent observer at the next US Presidential election. Well, you can't knock his sense of irony.

However, it appears that he needs to brush up on the US Constitution. He seems to be labouring under the misunderstanding that the "Bush administration" is up for re-election.

LibDem poll rating plunges by 2 points

...due to Guardian cock-up. After LibDem Voice raised a concern about the Guardian/ICM poll of a few days ago flitting from 21% to 23% in one edition of the newspaper to the next, the Guardian today confirms in their Corrections and Clarifications column that it was 21% after all.

Well done Jonny!

Jonny Wright has written a remarkably gripping and detailed eye-witness account of the Oxford Union debate last night. It is a must-read.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Nick Clegg: The New Gandhi!

Blimey! We are truly blessed!

"Volunteer adviser" to Nick Clegg's leadership campaign, Nicholas Blincoe comments thus under his breath-takingly mean-spirited article on Comment is Free:

Clegg is Ghandi-esque (sic) to his core.

We are not worthy!

Thanks to Jonathan Calder and James Graham.

UPDATE: "Volunteer adviser" is how Nicholas Blincoe was described on the Guardian Comment is Free profile page for him at the time he wrote the comment above. Richard Allan, from Nick Clegg's campaign has since made clear that Mr Blincoe is not an adviser to the campaign and has asked Mr Blincoe to amend his Guardian profile. I note that Mr Blincoe wrote a similarly scathing article a week or so ago but his profile remained unamended.

At last - Greavesie, The Cat, and the rest get their just rewards!

The Oxford Union should hear Irving and Griffin if they want

I may be a nutcase, but generally I think that the more we hear from the likes of the BNP and David Irving, the better. The more we hear their views the clearer it is that they are ridiculous.

With the BNP you only have to start picking apart their policy on immigration which advocates:

...the introduction of a system of voluntary resettlement whereby those immigrants and their descendants who are legally here are afforded the opportunity to return to their lands of ethnic origin assisted by a generous financial incentives both for individuals and for the countries in question.

How much would be paid to such people? How would you determine what are "lands of ethnic origin"? Where would you draw the line? Would you pay money to the descendants of French Huguenots who came here in the seventeenth century to return to France? Would you pay money to descendants of the Africans who started arriving here in 1555 to return to Africa - and if so, how on earth would you decide which country to return them to? And would enough people take up this offer to make this policy worth a hill of beans? And wouldn't it divert vital funds from the NHS, schools and crime-fighting? And wouldn't you end up paying money to people who might have emigrated anyway without financial inducement?

There is also the venomous BNP attacks on Poles working in the UK. Surely most people in this country recognise that Polish pilots in the Battle of Britain helped to save our bacon?

And that phrase "indigenous Britons" which crops up all over the BNP website - is there any more stupid phrase? If people are descended from the Beaker Folk (and good luck trying to prove it, by the way) then they are entitled to call themsleves "indigenous Britons" - otherwise no-one is. And certainly not Anglo-Saxons, those Johnny-come-latelies who arrived here in AD 400-600 (Well, I can allow myself a little feeling of Celt superiority, can't I?).

The point is, the more you examine the BNP's policies, the more you watch the ridiculous cant of Nick Griffin, the more they are exposed for what they are. Yes, racists. But also ridiculous, idiotic buffoons.

So that is why I welcome any opportunity for the BNP and Nick Griffin, in particular, to speak.

I am glad that Evan Harris has decided to speak against Griffin and Irving in the debate tonight.

It should also be noted that the Oxford Union debate tonight does not contain a motion. It is 'A Night of Discussion on the Limits of Free Speech'.

Luke Tryl, President of the Oxford Union puts these powerful points:

These people are not being given a platform to extol their views, but are coming to talk about the limits of free speech. What is more, they will be speaking in the context of a forum in which there will be other speakers to challenge and attack their views in a head to head manner and with the opportunity for students to challenge them from the floor. It is my belief that pushing the views of these people underground achieves nothing. The best way to deal with these views was summed up by Home Office Minister Tony McNulty on Thursday and that is 'to crush these people in debate'. Stopping them from speaking only allows them to become free speech martyrs, and from my own experience back in Halifax, which has suffered from race relation problems in the past, groups like the BNP do well if they look like they're being censored. Unlike OUSU, I think it's patronising to suggest that Oxford students aren't intelligent enough to debate with these people and I do have great faith in the ability of Oxford students to challenge them.

I agree that it is doubtful that there will be any "crushing" of Griffin/Irving. But I am with Evan Harris on this. There should not be a "no platform" policy. Our views are not so fragile that we can't debate them and hold up the BNP's views for exposure. As Evan says:

The measure of our country's respect for free expression is our willingness to allow it for the most objectionable and offensive lawful speech, not just for those with whom we agree.

Lastly, I was very impressed by Oxford graduate and novelist Diran Adebayo speaking this morning on Breakfast on BBC1:

This seems to me to be relatively reasonable to invite these two people. Nick Griffin is a leader of a political party, David Irving is an academic and historian, let's hear what they've got to say.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Look Mum, no leadership blogs from me today!

Extraordinary restraint, I would say.

Another long term "sleeper" bet that could turn good

As well as my 20-1 bet on Hackabee to be Republican nomiee, I have a slightly less "slam dunk" tenner on Barack Obama to be Democratic nominee at 13/5.

My spirits on this one were lifted today by this article in the Observer. Obama has changed tactics from being "Mr Nicey-Nicey" to being "Mr Hardball" and, as a result, his poll ratings have recovered and he is looking very good in Iowa.

I have a Newsvine poll on the Presidential race on my right hand sidebar. If you haven't already voted on your preference, please do so.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Will I win my bet on US Presidential long-shot?

It's perverse I know, but any mention of Mike Huckabee as a potential winner of the US Republican Presidential nomination, gets me embarrassingly excited. Why? Because it could be one the of the few political bets that I have placed that pays out any money. (The last one was on the Newbury by-election in 1993).

It was just this "boy from Hope", "Governor of Arkansas"and "plays musical instrument" story which brought out the sentiment in me.

The Sunday Times is getting me all excited this morning:

A surprising surge of support for Mike Huckabee, the former Republican governor of Arkansas who had long seemed a rank outsider in the 2008 presidential race, has turned him into a target six weeks before voting in Iowa.

Running on a shoestring budget as an affable conservative with unrivalled religious qualifications (he is a former Baptist minister), Huckabee has previously been dismissed as an underfunded no-hoper. He is mostly known for a quirky sense of humour and his skills on bass guitar – he plays for a band called Capitol Offense.

All that changed last week when an opinion poll propelled Huckabee close to the top of the Republican heap in Iowa, the traditional launching pad for presidential careers.

I placed £10 at 20-1 on this man to win the Republican nomination in March 2006. Oh dear, I can hardly contain my excitement.

John Howard OUT in Australia! - Labour "win big"

Howard makes his concession speech

Joy and triples all round!

With the headline "Labor party wins big in Australia" Associated Press have just reported that Howard has addressed the nation thus:

"My fellow Australians, a few moments ago I telephoned Kevin Rudd and I congratulated him and the Australian Labor Party on a very emphatic victory," Howard said in Sydney in a nationally televised address. "This is a great democracy and I want to wish Mr. Rudd well."

ABC report "It's a Ruddslide" with Labour on 83 seats to the Coalition's 58. They predict 86 for Labor and 62 for the Coalition.

Kevin Rudd is just making his victory speech on ABC under the banner "New Leadership".

The BBC is reporting that Howard has accepted that he is likely to lose his parliamentary seat.

Mr Howard, who had been bidding for a fifth term in office, conceded the national election and accepted he was "unlikely" to return as MP for Bennelong.

It is interesting that Howard seems to have suffered a public backlash not only on Iraq, but on his refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol.

The Times on Huhne: A fighter who knows how to cause trouble

There's an excellent interview with Chris Huhne in the Times today. Having interviewed Chris myself with the bloggers' panel, their description of him seems absolutely spot on:

...interviewing Mr Huhne is like circling an intense, watchful cat that seems perfectly friendly but is probably quite dangerous.

The article talks about Huhne's experience in business and journalism:

Mr Huhne, you see, rarely gets into trouble. He makes trouble. When we put it to him that he was seen as harder-edged, the streetfighter to Mr Clegg’s nice guy, he did not demur.

Mirror: Clegg on the slide in Lib poll & does he enjoy rough and tumble?

The Mirror reports:

The front runner for the Lib Dem leadership was said to be fading yesterday as voting started.

Nick Clegg suffered a crisis of confidence after a shaky week.

...And makes this remark:

Clegg has said he found the past few weeks "neither fruitful nor enjoyable".

A troubled Clegg in Times interview

The Times interview with Nick Clegg concludes with:

Mr Clegg has benefited from the edit he gets in print. His vagueness is maybe due to puppyish enthusiasm but it gives the unfortunate impression that he doesn’t have a clear point.

There's more here, mostly focussing on internal ructions during the contest.

Interestingly, both candidates were asked by the reporters to write the introduction for the articles. Clegg did so. Huhne told them to write their own piece, eliciting this comment from the journos:

He would not fall for any of our tricks because he knows them all, and more...

...A busy week

It's been a busy week - Not only doing residents surveys for the three Thatcham Town Council by-elections coming up on January 10th, but also phone canvassing for the leadership election on behalf of Chris Huhne.

The typical sort of comments I am getting for the latter were summed up by one man who said: "I expected to be impressed by Nick Clegg but as the campaign wore on I wasn't as much as I expected".

Friday, November 23, 2007

Fiendishly addictive site

I am getting so addicted to that the same words are coming up again and again. I've facilitated a donation of 2000 grains of rice today and got my vocabulary level up to 44.

Since the site started on 7th October, they've donated 3,403,520,350 grains of rice to the hungry, all caused by people showing off their English skills!

YouTube endorsements for Chris Huhne

I was just tinkering around on YouTube and found these videos with people saying why they are voting for Chris Huhne.

Firstly, here's Markshark01:

Here's Seanoftheliving:

..and here's David Steel:

Vince Cable to appear on Politics Show this Sunday

Another reason to be thankful that Vince Cable is our acting leader - he'll be appearing on the Politics Show this Sunday to have a go at Gordon Brown.

The Generals - A very British coup?

Via Nick Robinson I was alerted to this blog from Ben Brogan which notes that as soon as Brown flew abroad the (former) generals took over the airwaves.

It normally happens the other way round though - African President flies to London and ends up staying longer than anticipated. This time Brown flew to Uganda - and, sadly, it seems likely that he will come back.

Thatcher: Is there any politician so terrifying?

Don't get me wrong. I met Maggie T and she seemed a nice lady. And of course, the title is provocative. There are and have been much more terrifying politicians abroad, but not many in Blighty.

I had the privilege to have a nose round the first floor landing of Portcullis House on Monday. They have some remarkable portraits of politicians there. Something for everyone, of all persuasions. I paused by Paddy, Shirl the Whirl, Charlie and Cyril Smith.

I also indulged myself in my guilty secret - my admiration for Harold Wilson. I paused by his lovely, typically blokey portrait.

But then I saw the portrait of our Mags. Crikey. It sent a shiver down my spine. A sharp blue background and a striking white suit, with a piercing expression on her face.

I walked on quickly, and tried to wipe the image from my memory as quickly as possible.

When computers don't bollox things up

When I tell someone that I work in "logistics", their eyes glaze over and the subject moves on to something else - rapidly. If I become insistent and actually explain what it means, they usually assume I am mad.

So it was nice to read an article in the Financial Times on logistics. The delivery of goods. But what delighted me even more was that the process described including an element of "reverse logistics" which is what makes up a major part of my working life.

So I was very excited about this. I know. What the heck am I on about? Well, most logistics operations involve simply delivering product from its source to the customer. There is sometimes a small element of reverse logistics involved in faulty returns. In my work, there is a huge reverse loop. Computer parts are swapped then taken back for repair and reissued for further repairs.

The article in the Financial Times was by Sarah Murray about the "dabbawallahs" in Mumbai.

Everyday, they get curries from their point of production in myriad home kitchens and deliver them to people in offices (bearing in mind that each curry is specially made for each recipient) and then get the flasks back to their respective kitchen for the next day.

It is actually a remarkably complex operation involving train journies and carts. But, my goodness me, it all works beautifully and, of course, the main reason it all works is because it doesn't involve what normally bolloxes up (technical term) most logistics operations:

A blinking computer!

The excitement of a three member Liberal household

Things are going to be interesting over the next few days here at Burble Towers. Our three ballot papers arrived yesterday. Of course, I immediately marked my "1" against Huhne and sent it off.

The other two members of the household are what could be described as "more normal" members. When I asked what was in the post, the executive comptroller of Burble Towers remarked "Just rubbish".

"Just rubbish"! These are hallowed ballot papers which will be independently examined by the Eletoral Reform Society electoral services doobrie-feature thingy!

As I am a Liberal, after all, I don't coax or prod. The two remaining ballot papers will lie on the dining room until finally the other two see fit to look at them, probably during one of the periodic "clear-outs" that we have. I will let them get on with it and then casually enquire how they voted after the ballot papers are safely in the post.

It's all very Liberal isn't it?

Last time we ended up giving our first preferences three different ways, thereby cancelling ourselves out!

Australian election gets tighter

Conservative Home calls it a "dramatic tightening". Dingoes kidneys. It's a tightening. 52 to 48 (it was 54 to 46) - in one poll. It's not all that dramatic. But it makes the contest all the more interesting. The Australian calls it a "cliffhanger".


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Come in John Howard, your time is up!!

The offending leaflet
Oh dear, dear, dear.
There was me saying that we bloggers love to see a head tumbling into the basket, and, my goodness me, it seems that we can look forward with relish to seeing the head of one John Howard hitting the cane work in the next few days!
Thanks to One Hour ahead for highlighting this report in the Guardian. It seems that the Australian Liberal Party (no relation) has been caught red-handed delivering fake leaflets falsely purporting to come from the "Islamic Australia Federation", calling on Muslims to vote for the opposition Labour Party.
Howard has made it clear the stunt was not authorised by his party, but the damage has been immense. With only two days to go before the country goes to the polls, it overshadowed the prime minister's final rallying call to voters today asking them to trust him with Australia's future.
I speculated the other day on John Howard's "search for a scapegoat" - but it appears that the old Howard scapegoat trick has at last run out of steam.

We love to see a head drop into the basket don't we?

There was an amusing moment in the Bloggers' interview with Nick Clegg on Monday. While Nick was answering a question on cannabis, Nick observed that he saw Alex making a "furtive glance" at Richard when Nick said something. With some exasperation, Nick said that it was almost tougher being interviewed by LibDem bloggers than by journos in the Westminster bubble - "and we're in the same party!"

It was a very funny moment.
We've come a long way, if what Nick says has some truth. One of the first Bloggers' interviews was with Ed Davey,as chief of staff. The first question for Ed from one of the bloggers was a real toughie:

What would you like us to write?

I am sure Nick recognises that, despite subjecting him to the third degree, our write-ups were very positive.

I am very cautious about "bigging up" the role of blogs. There are millions of them and most are read by just one person - the author. You can analyse the role of blogging 'til the cows come home, but in the end there is only one reason for anyone to blog - because they enjoy it. And it is only enjoyable if you write what you feel like - not write what you think someone else will like. And if noone likes what you write - then so be it. If some people read what you write - that's great. But insanity starts with thinking that there is some importance in what you write. There never is, in the grand scheme of things.
That said (and I will now sound like I am contradicting myself - but, hey, that's part of the joy of blogging!), I do think that blogging, particularly political blogging, does have a small "ginger" role and it is one that it is not new. In history, there have always been groups of people doing what bloggers do now - reminding politicians that they are human and occasionally pointing out that the "emperor has no clothes".

In Roman times, the soothsayers were on hand to remind emperors that they were human. There's a little bit of that strand in political blogging as there is in political journalism, and particularly in political satire and cartoons.

One tendency which we bloggers also have, which is perhaps not so attractive, is to repeat the role of the tricoteuse in Paris during the French Revolution.

Oh, my goodness me, we do love to see a head drop into the basket, don't we?!

Huhne reaches out

Well, we're supposed to be reaching out, being our natural constituency, so it is good to know that the Telegraph has gone a bundle on Chris Huhne's proposal to have a referendum on English votes for English matters in the House of Commons. (You can click below to see him being interviewed on Telegraph TV).

BUT - Chris emphasises that this should be part of a comprehensive constitutional reform package:

You cannot deal with all the loose ends in the UK's unwritten constitution - an unelected second chamber, unrepresentative first chamber, lack of entrenched rights and the messy anomalies of devolution - without a comprehensive settlement.

We should convene a constitutional convention of not just the political class but civic society, and come up with proposals that could be put to a referendum. So I agree that a referendum is the end process by which we approve new constitutional arrangements.

Chris Huhne also repeated the proposal for a EU membership referendum, and the Telegraph features this prominently also:

We should have a referendum after the Reform Treaty is approved on whether to stay in or leave the European Union, because the Reform Treaty for the first time contains a clause on secession and this is an obvious point at which to hold the referendum we should have had after the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty.

I also note Chris' "nuanced" (Stephen Tall's description) answer to the immigration question on Newsnight. We have had Chris described as the inward-looking candidate, so you can hardly criticise him when he reaches out to Telegraph readers and the like (without compromising our values and policies, I believe), can you?

I stagger myself

I have staggered myself at my first forays into posting videos on You Tube. Thanks no doubt to LibDem Voice and the power of LibDem videos on You Tube, I've received 139 hits for my question to Clegg/Huhne (below). I am also having contain my excitement at being awarded a five star rating for my video of a basking shark taken on holiday around the Isle of Mull last summer.

Would this happen in any other party?

I am getting loads of hits from being featured very prominently on Nick Clegg's web site. This is for my laudatory piece entitled: Nick Clegg - potentially a great leader of our party.
This is despite being a fervent supporter of Chris Huhne and being, some might say, an outspoken critic of Nick Clegg's public speaking and other aspects of his platform.
Would this sort of magniminity and kissy-cuddly behaviour happen in any other party during a toughly fought leadership contest?
I think not.
As Alix said, fluffy bunnies have been released over the LibDem blogosphere.
However, there are limits to this sort of good humour. After much consideration, I have decided that it is still far too early to embed a link to a You Tube video of Doris Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff's triumphant "pistol-packin'" role in an Academy award winning film from 1953. ......the wound is just far too raw at the moment!
Whip crack-away if you want to - I'm keeping schtum!

Pant wettingly awful / The consolations of being beaten by Croatia

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

UPDATED: The Times asks: Is Nick Clegg that good?

I declare, Duncan, that I am Huhne supporter and if you want something really positive about Clegg written by me, I commend you to this.

Danny Finkelstein in the Times, observes Nick Clegg's performance in the furnace of the leadership campaign:

Yes, er well no, hang on, or, sorry.” Thus Nick Clegg under a little light questioning on television a few days back, moments after he started an answer with the fateful words: “Let me be very clear...”

Now, “Yes, er well no, hang on, or, sorry” may not up there with “Time for a Change” or “Labour isn't Working” but I think it might make a rather good slogan for Mr Clegg's leadership campaign. Certainly it would be a pretty good summary of what we have seen so far.

UPDATE: I apologise that, due to rushing this post as I was about to leave for work, I quoted the personal bit of DaFink's article without alluding to the bulk of the article which referred to criticism of Nick being too timid in policy terms during the campaign and the need to challenge the party to move to get a mandate to change. I am sorry about this. There are indeed such criticisms in the full article linked above.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Huhne wipes the floor with Clegg on Newsnight

As a declared and joyously enthusiastic Huhne supporter (but who still, never the less, very magnanimously made a posting about Clegg yesterday that was so positive that it was linked to at the top of Clegg's campaign web site), I was mightily impressed by Chris' performance on Newsnight.

All right, Clegg won the opening gambit thingy but that was a rehearsed set piece. Huhne made a good pitch but hadn't worked out where to look.

But from that point there was something simple going on, and a viewer would have to be mentally retarded not to notice it:

On the left hand Cleggie side of the screen we were getting combustible flare-ups between Clegg and Paxman. These included at least two instances where Clegg exploded. Lots of heat but precious little light. Clegg had not taken his full prescription of chill pills.

On the right hand screen Chris Huhne was passionately but calmly and loudly getting his point across. Controlled and authoritative passion.

On immigration, Clegg just squeaked it. But otherwise, on every item Huhne managed to get more passion and substance across without this silly fireworks display which we got from Clegg.

This is precisely the sort of forum which will make up people's minds during the general election and it is clear than Huhne is the master of it.

Oh and - don't even think about it.

And Charles Anglin - don't come here with your violin case, you haven't thanked me for yesterday's post yet!

Why I am still backing Chris Huhne!

Yes, I posted a remarkably laudatory write-up on Nick Clegg today. It was so nice to get reams of comments from Charles Anglin and co. thanking me for this posting. ;-)

Also today I gave a donation to Chris Huhne's campaign and I'll be doing an hour or so's work for his campaign later. So, in case anyone wondered, I am still whole-heartedly backing Chris. I have known him as a very active MEP for our area for several years and he is the candidate I am most comfortable with. In particular, I am "in business" myself and therefore I have a great affinity with Chris' business record. I also value his seasoned journalistic experience which I think has shone through in his campaign this time.

With regard to the Politics Show, I look forward to Chris using his sharp elbows, as displayed a little over-zealously and a smidgeon misguidedly on that programme, on the Tories and Labour when elected. I accept that the briefing document was a cock-up, that Chris has apologised for it and Nick has accepted that apology and that it was not a good episode for the party. We should move on.

Partly because of the soured atmosphere around Sunday and partly because of people whose opinions I value (eg Nich Starling) making comments, I felt the time was right to write an adulteratedly positive posting about Nick, albeit with a prescription for a "chill pill" for him. It was especially to give credit where credit is due - I was really impressed by him yesterday. I have felt a lot better today having done the posting.

I may be developing "two brains" but in a party contest there is absolutely no room for anything else other than making it absolutely clear that I would prefer Chris, but will work just as hard for the party with an equally uplifted heart, if Nick is elected.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Nick Clegg - potentially a great leader of our party

Václav Havel, one of Nick's heroes

First of all, I'll repeat what I wrote yesterday:

I've just come back from an interview with Nick Clegg by a LibDems bloggers' panel. It was a big privilege to be part of the panel. Thanks very much to Nick for his time, to the Millennium Elephant for presiding over it and to his Daddy Richard for organising it.

I was lucky enough to sit next to Nick and see him answering the questions at close quarters. He is remarkably impressive - extremely articulate, very knowledgeable and with an obvious passion - impatience even - for the LibDems to do better. He has an interest in, and great passion for, a very wide range of subjects.

Now that I have been part of the bloggers' panels interviewing both candidates, I can confirm that, as a party, we are remarkably fortunate in having two absolutely first class leadership candidates on offer.

So, the interview. First of all, the highlight was having a cuddle with Linda Jack. Secondly, the next highlight was hearing Nick Clegg say the phrase "Flying Bat's Fart". It was also a delight to meet Richard Allan, who is a fellow IT industry worker. It's always good to swap notes with someone about the PDP-11. What a great product that was! It paid the first 20% of my mortgage!

James has written a brilliant write-up here. Mary Reid's write-up is here. Linda's is here. Fluffy is here. Oh, and by the way, Alex's excellent pre-interview post is here.

Richard started by asking Nick what he meant by getting us out of our comfort zone. Once I had prompted for examples and Nick came back to the subject at the end, Nick's answer was extremely good. He basically gave the example of immigration. Lots of party poopers told him to leave off it. But he raised it big time and spearheaded the party's plan to stop long-term illegal immigrants being a drain on police and Home Office resources, and get them paying tax.

Excellent example, hugely liberal and the sort of thing which meets a priority subject for the people, rather than a priority for party activists. Nick also gave the example of control of output to the media. Put more effort into disseminating the policies once agreed.

It seemed that what he was moving towards is a sort of "media grid" which has worked very well for Labour (when they were in "opposition" from 1992 to 2001) and the Conservatives under Cameron. The Cameron media grid strategy works so well you can almost see it, from reading the press. MONDAY: RAPE, TUESDAY: IMMIGRATION, WEDNESDAY: GREEN ISSUES.

So hear hear to what Nick was saying. We need more of a ruthless control of our media and public output.

James asked about some memo or Guardian article written in 2005. Good grief, I am so tired of all this claptrap about history (not a reflection on James' question choice, by the way, as ever he is a model of intelligence). I just want to move on.

Linda asked about school vouchers. Good for her. Nick's answer put the whole thing to bed, for me. He didn't mention the word "voucher" in the disputed interview with the Kilt-wearer's Gazette or whatever it was. He believes in a process modelled on the Dutch system, the pupil premium, which, most emphatically, goes to the school, not the parent. Brilliant. Thank goodness we got that out of the way.

And on the question of health insurance Nick was, as James has said, a walking textbook on the issue of public service reform. Indeed, he has written a text book on the issue. Again, look to Europe - better outcomes is what we need.

Nick was emphatic about the need for real local democracy in the health service. By that, he means elected health managers at local level. He said roughly: 'There is no point in handing power from unelected people in Whitehall and giving it to unelected people in local communities'. Good point.

I was particularly intrigued by Nick's idea of giving "consolidated budgets" to local patients' groups - this could be done with certain groups such as mental health patients or old people. Sounds exciting.

He quoted the works of the thinktank "In Control" and Charlie Leadbetter as one of the models of his thinking.

'Don't stop at devolving the mechanics - put people in the driving seats'

What he is talking about, he said, is not health insurance but being endlessly imaginative with public services. 'There is no place for another party in the UK which defends the status quo - restlessness with the situation at present just isn't good enough'.

My goodness me. This man is a firebrand on public service reform! Wow! (That's a genuine "Wow" by the way, not a sarcastic "wow" like in my previous post! ;-) )

Mary asked about local government and got an impassioned response about "humanising" councils - 'don't stop devolution at the doors of the town hall'. Make local government personal to the people.

Alex. Bless him. He always gets in his question about the monarchy. Right on, brother! Power to the People! Freedom for Tooting! Alex asked: "Don't you agree that the top job should not be kept to one family?" Nick's answer was: 'I would if I thought it was the top job'. Good answer. It's very powerful in symbolic terms, but he is less anxious - the monarchy has evolved bit by bit. On the whole it is "fairly benign and harmless".

Alex also asked about paying lip service to individual freedoms - what would Nick ban and unban. Unbanning was easy - his Freedom Bill. Banning, more tricky. The Politics Show?, I asked. No, but 'some blogs' he suggested 'but let's not go there'. What blogs could he possibly mean? He's not thinking of banning Lindyloo's Muze for crimes against spelling and font usage, is he? Shurely not.

No, it was advertising on kid's TV channels. Good answer. He mentioned the "Tiny Pop Channel". Quick google. Ah yes, here it is. He said that his kids watch it and every 15 minutes there is 4 minutes of advertising - exposure to heavy-handed commercial forces at age three. If we are to protect privacy by doing away with the "molestation" of ID cards, then we should protect three year olds from commercial forces and encroachment on their childhood.

Good answer. Except that although these adverts get kids talking, in my experience, you rarely end up having to buy, through pester power, the things they advertise. My little girl came up to me aged four and said "Daddy, do you know that you can consolidate all your debts into one easily payable loan?". Yes, dear, if only I had debt. The advertising on kids' channels is often directed at the parents who are watching with their kids.

Alex asked about drugs. Nick's answer was typically inventive and stimulating. Reform the categorisation and include both legal and illegal drugs. An independent body to set the classifications with legislation where appropriate. Alcohol and nicotine should be in the classifications somewhere. Base judgments on harm levels and scientific evidence. Like James and the others, the words "Ben Goldacre" were on the tip of my tongue on the subject of cannabis.

But it was on the subject of foreign policy that Nick really started pressing all my buttons to an almost embarrassing degree. I needed to borrow the communal LibDem drip tray from Linda.

I paraphrase his words. We need to get away from Atlanticism versus Europeanism. It's old hat and a dead end. Atlanticism is based on a complete misreading of the future interests of the UK. The US star is in the descendant (strangely enough my copy of that day's FT lay in the corner of the room. It said that the dollar is falling so much that Opec is considering doing oil deals in another currency and that the Euro is strengthening - so Nick's comment was all too topical). We should not be a "vassal state" of the Pentagon. We need to stop that nonsense. We need to spell it out. It is a "conceit" that we are a bridge between the US and Europe. ("Hurrah" say I). It's not true. Throwing all our eggs in the US basket has costs.

Where Nick really got worked up - absolutely rightly, in my view - was on "Son of Star Wars" - 'announced in a written statement to the House of Commons Library on 25th July.' One wonders who was there at the time...a librarian pining for the sun outside and Frank Field working on another treatise on Social Security?

And look at the mess that has caused. Putin has gone - literally - ballistic and is looking to put ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad. It's an enclave of the EU - it's between Poland and Lithuania. Bit of a weird place - like Gibraltar in many ways. Michael Palin went there recently.

Son of Star Wars is technically unproven and is destabilising relationships with Russia and others.

People in Washington don't give a "flying bat's fart" if the Russians are playing with gas and oil and ballistic missiles because it's not in their backyard.

Nick mentioned that the major achievement of his lifetime was expanding the EU into Eastern Europe.

He also mentioned that a highlight for him was meeting one of his heroes, Václav Havel. I was privileged to visit Prague Castle, the home of the Czech President, in the last few days of Havel's period of office as President. They had erected a huge red neon heart next to the Castle. So, Nick's citing of Havel as one of his heroes meant a lot to me. A playwright who helped to found a nation.

I digress. Nick said that reaching out the EU to North Africa, Turkey and the Middle East is the next big, great project. Not necessarily through full membership, by the way, bear in mind that Turkey already has a formal trade relationship with the EU. As a great fan of the Egyptians (as opposed to Mubarak's regime) and the Turkish, I am all for this.

Nick pointed out that both Brown and Cameron are complete NUMPTIES (forgive the veering into Fluffy-speak) on foreign affairs - no languages apart from English, no real friends overseas except US mates. Brown holidays in Cape Cod, always, except when he spends ten minutes in Dorset.

Cameron is amazingly flaky on foreign affairs, Nick said. Just look at his ridiculous promise to leave the EPP at the Tory leadership election.

James asked about diversity and Nick's academy idea. It's a great idea - a permanent body in the party to promote diversity in our elected ranks. Great. Nick enticingly mentioned "one and a half donors" (half a donor is presumably a bit like half a bee) who he has got in the wings, keen to give money if he is elected leader. Shame they won't give the money whoever is elected. The academy won't happen without the money, says Nick.

Nick mentioned several times that the first 3-4 months of the new leadership is crucial. But as Alex has mentioned, we never get a new leader bounce.

Last question: Which James Bond actor would you like to be? Richard only mentioned three choices for some reason. Nick said Sean Connery. Good answer.

So, all in all, a very exciting interview. One cautionary note, if I may be allowed one after extolling Nick's virtues with such elaboration. He needs to metaphorically buy a large packet of "chill pills" and keep it in his top breast pocket. At the slightest sign of any heightened pulse at a hostile question, he needs to whip out a "chill pill" and stick it under his tongue. Straight into the bloodstream. Calm, Calm, Calm. There, there, there.

Nick Clegg up close

I've just come back from an interview with Nick Clegg by a LibDems bloggers' panel. It was a big privilege to be part of the panel. Thanks very much to Nick for his time, to the Millennium Elephant for presiding over it and to his Daddy Richard for organising it.

I was lucky enough to sit next to Nick and see him answering the questions at close quarters. He is remarkably impressive - extremely articulate, very knowledgeable and with an obvious passion - impatience even - for the LibDems to do better. He has an interest in, and great passion for, a very wide range of subjects.

Now that I have been part of the bloggers' panels interviewing both candidates, I can confirm that, as a party, we are remarkably fortunate in having two absolutely first class leadership candidates on offer.

I will be doing some postings based on points from the interview in my usual "bite-size" chunks over the next day or so.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's not just me.....

I see that Barrie Wood has made similar observations to mine about the Bristol event, perhaps even stronger ones, about the Plymouth hustings:

Critics have likened Clegg to a kind of Liberal version of a Cameron clone. The alleged 'great communicator' proved to be heavier on style than substance at Plymouth. The lack of passion displayed on QT was replaced by a contrived 'passion' and a conversational-style address akin to that of Cameron at the Conservative conference. I cannot remember ANYTHING of note that he said just one day later !

...I attended the hustings with a view to assessing the next probable LD leader. Frankly I thought he was woeful on the day. From QT and Plymouth evidence it's 2-0 to Huhne ! I am hugely disappointed in Clegg. Moreover, the other two members of our party from Torbay were similarly unimpressed by Nick and one of those was genuinely undecided beforehand.

Let's keep things in proportion

I've just watched the Politics Show. I was expecting a televisual Armageddon, from some of the Blog posts I saw this afternoon.

I am glad the document at the centre of the debate has been withdrawn and apologised for.

In terms of the debate on the programme, I thought Chris kept his cool and validly questioned Nick on some of his positions. We're all grown-ups. It is valid to ask about policy positions which have been a little hazy.

I read through all the comments about the programme on LibDem Voice and was impressed by these from Mike Smithson and Alex Wilcock:

Mike Smithson:

This was a great debate and good television. There is a real fight going on with strong passions on both sides.
I think the party comes out of it well - just compare the passion today with Brown’s coronation because he did not have the guts to face a proper contest. All leaders should have to fight for their positions and in the process it makes them stronger.
On a general level I am still waiting to see an example of Nick “good communication skills”. Today he spoke far too quickly and his voice got squeaky. He isn’t a patch on Cameron.
My view of Chris was enhanced by the way he kept his cool when the “Calamity Chris” leaflet was produced. Whoever wins has got to be able to cope with things like that

Alex Wilcock:

Just an observation: I found Chris’ attack offputting earlier. But looking across the blogs this afternoon, while I’ve been nodding at the Chris supporters who’re feeling put off him, I’m finding the glee amongst Nick’s supporters – who throughout this contest have been far more negative than Chris’ – much more offputting and far more hysterical than the behaviour they’re crowing about.
Nick had the upper hand earlier today: Chris must be very relieved that the nastiness is now on the other foot. I’ve not seen a single blogger for Chris saying they couldn’t live with a Nick Leadership, nor a single blogger for Chris saying Nick should be left out of the Shadow Cabinet. That sort of negative hysteria against Chris now seems all the rage, and to floating voters like me makes me far more inclined to side with him against Nick’s horrible mob.

Tory big gun attacks Rifkind's English plan

I think it's fair to David Trimble as a "Tory big gun". He sits in the Lords, is a Nobel Peace Prize Winner and joined the Conservative party a while ago.

He has attacked Maclcolm Rifkind's English Grand Committee plan. Trimble, of course, speaks for Northern Ireland. Indeed, apart from one councillor, he is the only Conservative public representative from Northern Ireland.

He makes a strong attack:

'There is an unfairness about the way parts of England, for example, receive less money than, say, Scotland,' he said. 'I fully understand English frustration. But I believe in there being one sovereign parliament for the United Kingdom, and that parliament is in Westminster. There should be equality of representation for all of its members. To limit that would mean it is no longer the one sovereign parliament for all the UK.'

Quaequam Blog! excels

Cor blimey, James Graham writes an excellent post here, including a reference to Buggles in the title "Nick Clegg: video killed the media star?".

James puts into writing something I thought but didn't blog about, that the Guardian's leader yesterday which came out for Clegg "failed to give a good reason why".

James points to a Times article which I hadn't seen. It's from Danny Finkelstein, commenting on the Question Time debate:

Clegg is an intelligent and charming man, which is why journalists generally like him, but he seemed lightweight and uncomfortable last night. He hadn’t very good lines to take and his position on Trident (almost the only substantive thing he said) is incoherent.

James concludes:

This is serious stuff for Nick Clegg. Being “telegenic” has up until now been his biggest USP. It isn’t any more. He’d better manage to knock up something bloody spectacular on the Politics Show later today or his big mo will start to sink like a stone.

The farce of Brown's "government of all the talents"

Brown's "reaching out" style of government really has been exposed as a farce this week.

He brings in the "simple sailor" Lord Admiral Alan West. He hears West's advice, which is built on year's of experience, and then promptly tells West to reverse his opinion on the 56 days detention without charge period.

Then there is Lord Malluch-Brown. Being briefed against. The modern equivalent of being stabbed in the back in Roman days.

Simon Hoggart observes:

I know Admiral Lord West moderately well, since his sister is a friend and neighbour of ours. His wife, Rosie, is an artist and as unlike the popular notion of a senior officer's wife as it is possible to be. He calls himself "a simple sailor" but he is anything but; I'd say he's a very sophisticated sailor.

But perhaps not sophisticated enough to realise the sheer ruthlessness of politics. In some ways it must be easier to face an Exocet missile than a prime minister instructing you to change your mind, as Gordon Brown did on Wednesday; neither training nor courage will prepare you cope with that.

But of course the real loser this week was not Alan West, but Brown himself. He came into office promising to be open and candid with the public, and to make full use of experts from outside politics. Then as soon as one of the experts offers his own candid opinion, he is immediately instructed to change his mind. The effect is awful. Brown has begun to look evasive and shifty even sooner than Tony Blair did.

Observer: Huhne 'closing' in LibDem race

The Observer reports that grassroots methods have brought Huhne neck and neck with Clegg:

Until last week, Huhne, 53, the party's environment spokesman, was thought to be trailing well behind his younger rival, home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg. But several of the party's MPs privately believe the two are now running neck and neck, after Huhne concentrated on using the traditional election methods of local political networks and telephone canvassing to win more votes.

The Observer also says that the hustings are going well for Huhne:

..a series of grassroots meetings in British cities (have been) helping the underdog Chris Huhne gain ground to make it a tighter contest.

Clegg campaign manager: "I'm still in his team, as far as I know"

There's an intriguing throw-away line in the Observer:

There was talk in the party however, of a row between Clegg and Ed Fordham, his campaign manager. Fordham denied any rift. 'I'm still in his team, as far as I know,' he said.

I am glad to hear it.

John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand

Richard Reeves writes an excellent article in the Guardian about John Stuart Mills, entitled "Cry, freedom". It's to accompany Reeves' new book "John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand".

With the recent debate about inheritance tax, I was particularly interested to be reminded of JS Mill's pronouncements on tax:

On tax, Mill made a sharp distinction between earned wealth, acquired through individual effort and initiative, and unearned riches, acquired through inheritance. He advocated a single rate of income tax - an idea in vogue among some right-wingers today - but also argued for supertax on inheritance to prevent the passing down between generations of "enormous fortunes which no one needs for any personal purpose but ostentation or improper power".

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's Judge Judy - Basra style

A Sharia Court (left) and Judge Judy (right)

There's a brilliant report from Basra in the Guardian today by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. He describes the split in power in Basra between the British, the Iraqi authorities and the Mahdi army.

He relates a case brought before the sharia-based court:

The judge called on the case in front of him. A woman named Sedeeka accused her brother and uncle of beating her to force her out of their house. "They beat me, and they told me to leave the house or we kill you," she cried. She tried to pull her clothing aside to show the judge her bruises, but he turned his head away and told her to stop.

The uncle denied trying to force her from their home, but the cleric, after making the woman swear on the Qur'an that she was telling the truth, ordered the uncle to pay. A case that would have taken months in a civil court had concluded in a few minutes.

It's just like Judge Judy isn't it?

EXCLUSIVE: New film in new cinema in Newbury

(That's enough "news" - Ed)

It might sound hum-drum but it's fairly earth-shattering if you live in Newbury. I have just come back from the first public screening of a new film in Newbury for nine years. The last mainstream cinema showing new films closed in 1998. We've had to travel to Basingstoke or elsewhere to see new films since then. There is meant to be a cinema on its way (the history of the "search for a multi-screen" could fill a book of Tolstoy proportions).

Today I saw "Michael Clayton" in the new Screen One cinema in the Corn Exchange. The cinema itself is excellent - very comfortable seats and a nice big screen.

And my goodness me, what a great film to open the new cinema! George Clooney setting the world to rights as only he can.

Clooney gives a gripping performance in the title role. Tom Wilkinson (from "The Full Monty") is wonderful. And I thought Sidney Pollack was great - he played a very endearing boss for Clayton.

It's the type of film you want to go back and see again.

In its review of the film, Future Movies says:

Another contender for the award season, surely, and a fantastic turn from Clooney.

Even Rotten Tomatoes gives it a good review.

(All right - I know "newish" would be a better description for Michael Clayton, having been released in the UK on 29th September - but we're going from famine to feast here in Newbury).

Tie the pollock line to the rowlock!


Rowlocks (pronounced "rollocks")

Sales of the humble pollock are up 44% this year, the Times reports. It's being bought as an alternative to cod. It tastes like cod and, hopefully, these increased sales of pollock will ease the problems with overfishing of cod.

Dave Audley, president of the National Federation of Fish Friers said to the Times:

The name of the fish raises a laugh and keeps everyone cheered up

Indeed. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is helping the upward trend of pollock by extolling its virtues on River Cottage: Gone Fishing on Channel 4. In fact, as I write, Thomasina Miers is telling everyone how to cook pollock stew on BBC1's Saturday Kitchen.

I'm delighted that the humble pollock is in the ascendency. As a child we often went sea fishing from Polruan, Cornwall (below). The main thing we caught was mackerel. If you hit a shoal, you could have the mackerel coming up two to a hook or four to a line. They were very common. But the other thing we caught was pollock - but less commonly. On a typical trip we would catch, say, ten mackerel and two pollock.

If you wanted to catch pollock you had to put your line deeper than for mackerel. The mackerel tend to swim higher up and are a more lively fish. When you bring them into the boat they are clattering around for hours. As a result the fish itself is high in taste because, presumably, of the very active muscles/flesh.

Pollock are less lively and, as result perhaps, have a dullerish taste which is more akin to cod.

So the title of this post is explained: it's a maritime command which I doubt is ever uttered, but it is good fun imagining it.

Fascinating psychology behind Eurostar's urinating skinhead

The image of a skinhead urinating into a tea cup, advertising Eurostar to Belgians, is causing a bit of a stir (not in the tea cup).

It's part of a campaign which includes John Cleese and other quirky British things which the Belgians, apparently, like. Those crazy Belgians!

But one thing seems to have been forgotten in the coverage of this. The Belgians have a history of liking images urinating. Yes, I am sorry if it sounds a bit course, but it's true. I've seen their famous statue with my own eyes (below).

John Howard: Search for a scapegoat

It's all kicking off in Australia as the election campaign enters its final week.

Kevin Rudd, the challenger, has surfaced on You Tube (below - bottom) eating his own.........I can hardly say it...if you're eating look away now......ear wax.

There's a bit of a financial scandal brewing which could further hurt the government, who are already behind in the polls.

But John Howard is the great Houdini of Australian politics and he could still pull a "rabbit out of the hat" as he has done before. This YouTube clip (immediately below) uses a very entertaining style to speculate on what "scapegoat" Howard might come up with this time to save his political skin.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thank you for deep joy!

I promised myself I wouldn't do this, but it's a heartfelt thank you. After Nich Starling talked so glowingly of me yesterday, I was a little bit down in the dumps. But Liberal Burblings is now due to have 700 hits today - I've had that before but often it's been bulked out by Google hits for stupid things like "Winner, Britain's Got Talent".

Those 700 hits today are virtually all genuine political interest hits from LibDem Blogs, LibDem Voice, Political Opinions, Paul Linford and Nick Robinson. Thank you to all those boys and girls for linking to me.

That really means a lot to me (sad, I know), so thank you!

Also thank you for this great picture (above) - the Top Three on the LibDem hit counter this evening!!!!!

Deep joy! And the Huhne campaign has really developed an extra buzz! Brilliant!

Commenters tend towards positive verdict for Chris Huhne on Question Time

It's already been noted that there are lots of positive LibDem Voice reader comments about Chris Huhne's performance on Question Time last night.

There are also lots of comments about the programme on Political Betting including another "live blog" blow-by-blow commentary. There are over 300 comments there but, from a scan, it does appear that the preponderance (well you think of a simpler word!) of comments are very positive for Chris Huhne.

My response to Nich Starling

I have posted this reply on Nich Starling's posting from yesterday (it is currently awaiting moderation there):

"Thank you, Nich.

One small point of clarification, if I may.

You write:

And to think Paul was one of those critical of me for attacking Ming's record as leader

Not true. I strongly critiqued the things you said, but I was not critical of you "for attacking Ming". Indeed, in my response to your July posting, I went out of my way to say that I respected your right to speak out, while strongly disagreeing with the things you had said. My specific words were:

Nich, the last thing I would expect and want you to be is quiet. The very thought of a silent Norfolk Blogger is inconceivable

Those who know me are getting rather bored of me repeating the famous quote attributed to Voltaire, which is the maxim which always guides me:

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.

With very best wishes to you,