Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The moral question of dinner party invites

The grandly-named "Morality panel" at BBC Radio Berkshire was in my diary, and that of my good lady wife, today.

Nicki Whiteman, who hosts the 1pm-4pm show on our local Oracle, is an exquisite broadcaster who ought to have a show on Radio 2 (Cheques payable to P.Walter....).

The questions which came up were, as usual, quixotic:

Should prisoners get a pay rise ?

....Er.... yes.

Should Page Three continue ?

....Er.... yes.

Is it OK to ask for a pay rise ?


What should we do if we can't invite some of our friends to our dinner party? Will they be offended ? Should we tell them ?

...Er, invite the rest to a dinner in a few months times. If they are offended - hard cheese and they'll probably find out anyway, so don't bother to tell them.

I wonder whether the latter question is indicative of Berkshire, perhaps. I hope not.

-Children are dying of starvation all over the place.

-Glaciers are melting, promising impending doom to those most unable to cope with it.

-Food prices are rising, so that my friend in Kenya, for example, has to restrict himself and his family to one meal per day.

But the topic of conversation in Berkshire is: How do we appease those we have offended by not inviting to our dinner party?

Excellent. Well done, team.

Sorry if I am getting needlessly cutting in my old age....

Parliamentary cri de coeur on Zimbabwe

Well done to Norman Lamb for securing a parliamentary debate on Zimbabwe yesterday.

I would like to associate myself with, and unreservedly commend, the following views expressed in the debate by my member of Parliament, Richard Benyon (enjoy that sentence, you'll not often see it on this blog!):

I shall contribute briefly to this debate. We are all running out of adjectives with which to describe the regime in Zimbabwe. In a way, describing its actions is a waste of time, because we want to get down to discussing other details, but last night I sent to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), who is the courageous and highly respected chairman of the all-party group on Zimbabwe, some e-mails that had been sent to me about precisely what is happening. There is an organised campaign of terror by Mugabe's Central Intelligence Organisation and senior echelons in the army against the Movement for Democratic Change and the courageous people of Zimbabwe. It is highly moving and deeply distressing to hear exactly how brutal and vile the regime is being at this time.
To the outside world, one of Mugabe's most perverse acts is the abandon with which he prints money. The
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is printing money as though it were confetti, because Zimbabwe's Government believe that, by so doing, they have more money. That is the most economically illiterate thing that they could be doing. It is driving a nation that has been impoverished by the regime into even greater poverty.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for
North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) for securing this debate. In a debate on sanctions, we must ask how that Government are physically able to print money, because what is absolutely certain is that the banknotes are not being printed in Zimbabwe. As a Back-Bench MP, it is relatively difficult to find out precisely where they are being printed, but I suspect that it is relatively easy for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to find out. Through rumours and articles that we might read in Africa Confidential or other papers, we have been led to believe that they are being printed in Germany. If that is the case, I want to look into the eyes of the company's directors to see whether they are ashamed of their complicity in the impoverishment of Zimbabwe; I want to find out from the German Government what they are doing to bring pressure to bear on the company; and I want to find out from the European Union Commission what pressure it is bringing to bear on companies such as that one which support the vile and perverse actions of the Government of Zimbabwe.
At times, I have a problem with the approach of the
FCO to what is happening in Zimbabwe. I visited the country in 2000 or 2001 with my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), who was then the shadow Foreign Secretary, after having gone there many times in the past and having worked with members of the Movement for Democratic Change. I saw that the MDC was rising as a real political force in that country, but diplomats in our high commission were saying, "No, no, we should not be talking to the MDC. We should be talking to the young bloods in ZANU-PF. They are the future." That was not my reading of the situation.
I was alarmed recently to discover that an enormous amount of weight was being put behind
Simba Makoni as a possible future political figure in Zimbabwe. In fact, he did not have much traction with the electorate. I feel that the tentacles that diplomats put out in Zimbabwe are not really bringing back the true message—which perhaps they do not want to hear—that the MDC is the Opposition, whatever we hear about different factions, and we should be putting our weight securely behind the MDC.
I have often raised another aspect of sanctions—I raised it with the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) when he was the Foreign Secretary. Many family members and followers of the cronies and thugs who are part of
Robert Mugabe's coterie come to this country and benefit from our education and health systems and various other aspects of our tolerant western liberal democracy. The right hon. Gentleman said, "You cannot visit the sins of the fathers on their sons, daughters, cousins and aunts." Well, I am sorry, but we have reached the stage where we just jolly well can and we must, because if those people are denied education and benefits from our health service and are prevented from doing business in this country, they will take a strong message back to Zimbabwe and will be forced to live in the country to whose impoverishment they have contributed.
If Barclays bank has been complicit, it has strong questions to answer, but in a debate such as this we should really look at who the true villains are in supporting the Government of Zimbabwe. We all know from history that the
Government of South Africa can turn the switch off on the Government of Zimbabwe, given the way that Vorster turned the switch off on Smith in Rhodesia. I will not delay hon. Members any longer expressing my disappointment—that is a mild word for it—and deep frustration with the Government of Thabo Mbeki. I hope that Jacob Zuma will take a different approach. I sense that the new people moving into the governance of countries in the Southern African Development Community have a more modern, enlightened approach, and we must hope for more from them.
I do not believe that we as a Parliament can ignore—particularly at this time of the Olympics—the complicity of China in many of the problems in southern Africa. China supports the Governments of Sudan and Zimbabwe and they have been found out. Many hon. Members know that, while our
Foreign Office is deciding how to cut costs here and different missions there, China has been buying up Africa—buying the infrastructure and companies—and providing arms, financial support and, no doubt, banking support to Governments such as the Government of Zimbabwe. How could they do that at a time like this? I hope that the Minister will tell us today that the Foreign Office is being as strong as it possibly can in saying to the Government of China, "You are in the eye of the storm now. The world is looking at you at the time of the Olympics. You have to join the world condemnation of such regimes, not just by warm words but by your actions. You have the power, as the Government of China, to turn off the tap of your support for regimes such as the one in Zimbabwe."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Often in the political fray, one gets pulled into debates and gets overly worked up. I know I do. Last year was such an example and on a local forum, in which I no longer indulge, I made a hurtful comment about Leah Darbyshire. I want to say sorry to Leah for that remark. I also made a supportive comment about her on another web site at about the time, but I am sorry for the remark on the local forum, which I have now deleted.

Sorry, Leah!

The full Brazilian

It's a reasonably exciting title. But I haven't had a wax. This is merely an excuse to mention that I have been sweating away at delivering Foci/Focii (not sure whether it is fourth declension) in Reading and that Councillor Gareth Epps of that parish recommended an excellent Brazilian cafe and delicatessen in Silver Street. In turn, I would recommend it to anyone who goes within a mile or so of Reading. It's called Pau Brasil and I can do no better than repeat the comment of Faye on the Reading Guide:

29/10/2007 Pau Brasil Café Delicatessen By Faye:

I have been to Portugal nearly every year of my life and to find a little cafe like this specialising in some of the products stocked in local markets on portuguese streets was so sweet and exciting. This cafe is friendly and it's mismatch of furniture and strange position makes it even better place to grab a delicious coffee whenever I can. So much to choose from on the menu, I recommend it all. A proper little treasure!

They also do a fantastically exotic range of fruit smoothies.

Bush: Americans show great discernment - eight years too late

I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. George W Bush "has now become the most unpopular president since the Gallup Poll began asking the question 70 years ago."

So, he's more unpopular than Harry S Truman during the Korean War in 1952.

He's more unpopular than Jimmy Carter when his helicopters broke n the desert and he appeared on TV with wobbly legs/fainting while he was running.

He's more unpopular than Richard Nixon when he was revealed as a foul mouthed white-washer.

And Bush's "surge" plan is showing some benefits in Iraq.

I salute the discernment of the US public. It's a pity that it's eight years too late.

And to think some people predicted that Bush would be another Reagan.....!

Monday, April 28, 2008

The bare-faced hypocrisy of David Cameron on poverty

I thought Nick Clegg Today interview started very hesitantly for him, but got very much stronger as it went on.

I really thought the Piers Morgan/GQ interview was a refreshing example of a politician being open and honest, without thinking cynically of the spin-value of everything he says.

Of course, Groucho Humphrys painted the interview as a disaster because that's what political journoes do. But, as a commentator observed on one of the TV shows over the weekend, after Clegg's GQ "less than 30 lovers" revelation, the folks down his pub suddenly knew who Nick Clegg was and started talking about him. In other words, the "less than 30" talk endeared Clegg to the public as being rather human, in the same way that Paddy's poll rating went up when he was splattered over the front page of the Sun as "PADDY PANTSDOWN".

But Nick made an excellent point later in the Today interview, which I had been trying to think of but, as usual, not quite done so.

David Cameron is, with usual vacuous, opportunist, transparent, odious spin saying that he will "stand up" for poor people. Presumably this will be in the unlikely event when he is ever sitting down in his drawing room when a poor person, cap in hand, comes into the room. He will, out of old-fashioned politeness, stand up for them before giving them sixpence, sending them on their way, then sitting back down again to enjoy his cup of Darjeeling, little finger pointing up into the air as he raises his porcelain cup.

But of course, the only tax announcement David Cameron has made in the three years he has been Tory leader, was to give a huge cash benefit to the richest 6% in the country through his inheritance tax proposal. Well done to the Cleggster for pointing this out with quite a bit of passion.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Encouraging news from Zimbabwe

A partial recount of the Zimbabwean parliamentary election votes has failed to overturn the MDC majority. It now looks virtually certain that the majority will stand.

This is incredible news. I assumed the votes had been taken away for Farmer Mugabe's shredder treatment. But the Election authority is proving to have some independence of action. I only hope this now becomes infectious and they finally release the presidential election result.

Today is a world day of prayer for Zimbabweans, whether they be in Zimbabwe or outside it.

Labour LPs fear Brown has become poll liability

Disappointingly, there are no equivalent revelations concerning bears, woods, popes, balconies etc inside the same newspaper.

Levy does Brown a favour

Lord Levy, the man who brought us "My Coo ca choo", says there is a lack of strong leadership under Brown. Gordon ought to thank Levy for reminding us of the "strong leadership" of his mate Blair, against which comparison, Brown is a breath of fresh air.

Bill Clinton kills Hillary's 3am red phone argument

Bill Clinton seeks to excuse his wife's "mispeaking" about her trip to Bosnia by saying that "60 year olds are apt to confusion when they are tired".


That kills the 3am red phone argument stone dead then, doesn't it?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

When those "voices" are Richard Littlejohn...

Russell Brand was entertaining as usual on Friday night with Jonathan Ross (it only seems a few weeks since he was on it last time). Brand also writes an entertaining sports column in the Guardian. It tends to be a "stream of consciousness" affair, as you would imagine from Mr Brand. Indeed, I sometimes suspect that he dictates the column while on some sort of job.

This morning's offering is no exception as Brand explains how he will see both Chelsea and West Ham play this afternoon, hopping between the two on a "limo-bike". This brings forth this priceless paragraph from the Brandster:

...a "limo-bike" is a misleading piece of marketing language to inaccurately describe a motorcycle taxi service. A less disingenuous name would be a "motorbike" because that's what it is. There is no decanter of sherry, no boomerang-shaped television aerial or dividing screen between you and the driver, in fact you are forced to cling to his waist like one of Fonzie's girlfriends. Also his helmet is wired to your own allowing him to make a one-man radio show broadcast directly into your head, usually covering hot topics like immigration and gays. It's like developing schizophrenia and discovering your louder persona is actually Richard Littlejohn.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Heather Mills' dad is a good egg

Click here

Bruce Willis playing Murray Walker - you couldn't make it up

Click here

Pennsylvania win makes Clinton victory LESS likely

Political Insider have done the maths on delegates, and found that, after the Pennsylvania win for Hillary Clinton, she is actually less likely to win the Democratic nomination than before it:

...before the Pennsylvania, Sen. Hillary Clinton needed to get at least 63% of the vote in the remaining states to have a chance to win more delegates than Sen. Barack Obama. Clinton now needs 296 of the remaining 435 delegates up for grabs (or approximately 68% of the vote.) In contrast, Obama needs 140 of the remaining 435 to have the majority (or about 32% of the vote.) Therefore, despite her win in the Keystone State, the results have in fact made it less likely Clinton can win.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kelvin MacKenzie stands for his local council

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Kelvin MacKenzie, erstwhile Sun editor (Freddie Starr ate my hamster) is standing as a candidate for his local council in Weybridge, Surrey. He was spurred into action by a 43% increase in his daily parking rate at the local station.

I am not a fan of Mr MacKenzie, who puts the "loud" into "loudmouth".

But I have come across lots of people who have sounded off about the local council in their area. When you say: "Well, why don't you stand yourself?" they suddenly become all bashful and find a reason not to put their hat into the ring.

So full marks to Kelvin MacKenzie for having the gonads to stand.

Gavin Webb - ridiculous reason for suspension

Well done to Bob Shaw (though goodness knows what his blog is called this week) for nailing down the reason for the Gavin Webb suspension to the issue of hand guns where Gavin was advocating the opposite of party policy in his local press.

In one sense, I am utterly amazed that someone has been suspended for letting slip that they disagree with one element of party policy. I would be staggered if any movement to expel Gavin succeeded on this basis. In another sense, I am not surprised. It is frighteningly easy to suspend someone. You can do so under an emergency procedure - so you could do it with a green light from just three (overly nervous?) officers.

However, I am also rather amazed as to how Gavin has got into a local press scenario where they have cleared the pages to present him sounding off on a myriad of policy areas, none within his power to change as a local councillor. When I was a councillor I kept my head down and concentrated my comments on litter and planning applications etc. I kept schtum, for example, on my Republicanism, because it is not party policy, had nothing to do with my role as a councillor and would have frightened the horses. But I still discussed the subject in party circles and indeed in public forums other than the local press.

So, a LibDem councillor should not entirely open the kimono of their views on all subjects to the local press (certainly not without heavy caveats and disclaimers). Some discretion ought to be shown. But having said that, suspension for voicing one element of disagreement with party policy is just ridiculous.

But, as I say, it is frighteningly easy to suspend someone. There might just be a tactic here - suspend for the elections then everything is smoothed over and the man is reinstated quietly afterwards. If so, that is rather cynical and silly.

What David Cameron doesn't want us to focus on

I've got a feeling that the NUT strike today will stay as a grievance in the memories of many voters, long after they have forgotten about the chicanery of the 10p tax rate compensation, which was the talk of the Westminister Village, via PMQs, yesterday.

It is a sharp example of the contrast of the real world v the Westminster Bubble.

In the real world, parents have had to rush round to make sure their children are looked after today. Then there is the worry that 11 year olds are about to take SATs and older children are about to take they GCSEs and A levels.

In the Westminster bubble there was a load of hot air about something that didn't happen. I've just read Roy Jenkins' biography of Gladstone. In the 19th Century there were these sorts of parliamentary wrangles all the time on a much larger scale - the parties hardly ever voted as one, there were break-off groups all over the shop, legislation was brought in, then pulled back, modified and tried again - often with intervening dissolutions or government resignations, with Queen Victoria sometimes seeing potential Prime Ministers on a taxi rank basis until she found one who stuck.

I think we have become too sensitive to political debate, and the adjustment of proposals.

To hear David Cameron bleating on about poverty is pathetic.

The truth is that Gordon Brown, in his last budget, dealt a major blow to the Conservatives. He lowered the basic rate of income tax to 20 pence. This is a sort of Holy Grail for the Tories, which they have been trying to get to for years. Gordon Brown has "shot their fox" by introducing the 20 pence rate himself, leaving the Tories with very little else to offer on the tax front. Brown has left the Tories a bit flat footed. No wonder David Cameron is trying to divert attention from this by blowing up the 10p tax rate compensation debate out of complete proportion.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

David Cameron's ridiculous speaking habits

I think it was ITV's Headcases which first highlighted to me David Cameron's overuse of alliteration and repetition. It is now getting to the point where Cameron is sounding ridiculous.

Take this section of his remarks from today's PMQs:

It is always about politics, not policy. It is always about calculation, not conviction. It is always about his self-interest, not the national interest.

It's pathetic. He's forcing his speech to be alliterative and, in the case of the last sentence, repetitive.

Along with his annoyingly strained, posh, clever dick sixth form prefect voice he sounds ludicrous and is losing, if he ever had, any seriousness due to his light-weight smarmy delivery.

If he actually just lowered his voice, calmed down a bit and used a couple of reasonably sensible sentences, without trying to find a soundbite, he would do himself a lot more good.

Clinton "coup" would 'lose the Black American vote for the Democrats'

Thanks to the Free Think blog for an excellent assessment of The aftermath of Pennsylvania. In particular, Mark Bell links to a really excellent article by Dylan Loewe on the Guardian's Comment is Free entitled Hillary's new inevitability.

Loewe outlines why Clinton cannot win without an anti-democratic act by the super-delegates which would destroy, at a stroke, her "electability" anyway. He points out that a super-delegate coup for Clinton, reversing the popular vote and the delegate vote in the party's primaries/caucases, would be a historic betrayal of the Black American vote, on which the Democrats rely, which would lead to a probable permanent schism in the Democrat coalition:

Since Franklin Roosevelt, no Democrat has won the White House without the loyal support of the African-American community. But having watched the potential first black president denied his rightful chance to compete by party insiders may sever that loyalty permanently. The activist base of the Democratic party, which has been at the core of the remaking of the political landscape, will likely also be rocked by a Clinton coup. If the superdelegates nominate her, it will rip the base of the party in half and destroy the extraordinary progress that the Obama movement - and the Dean movement before it - has produced. Even if she is more electable before their decision, she will be unelectable after.

But hey, it's OK, because dear old Bill Clinton has worked out a way that Hillary is in fact well ahead in the nomination race:

"If we were under the Republican system, which is more like the Electoral College, she'd have a 300-delegate lead here."

Dream on Billy Boy.

The disgrace of "Davros" Clinton

From ABC News:

(Hillary) Clinton further displayed tough talk in an interview airing on "Good Morning America" Tuesday. ABC News' Chris Cuomo asked Clinton what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.

"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," Clinton said. "In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."

And this is the nuanced, subtle, informed and conscientious view of what we are told is an 'experienced foreign affairs hand'.

It’s taking Bill Clinton’s maxim ("When people are insecure, they'd rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who's weak and right,") to a remarkable extreme.

What I hate about Hillary’s statement is….oh well hang on...there’s so many things I hate about it.

1. “Obliterate them” – who is "them"? Millions of innocent Iranians struggling to lead their lives while President “I’m a Dinner Jam” cowers safely in a bunker ?

2. Isn’t Israel a nuclear power anyway ? They refuse to confirm or deny this, but one wonders whether (a) Iran would attack them knowing they probably have their own nuclear weapons and (b) the US needs to rush to the defence of another nuclear power.

3. It is disgusting that Clinton is using such phrases. It is patronizing to the American people to cynically assume these sorts of statements will bring her extra votes.

Whatever happened to the subtlety of Theodore Roosevelt and his quotation of the West African proverb “Speak softly and carry a big stick” ?

Did JFK use such language during the Cuban Missile crisis ? Of course not.

Hillary Clinton has shown that she is the last person who ought to answer that legendary 3am red phone. If she is going to play to the gallery and go round throwing her weight about, this is not what anybody needs. Where's the intellectual rigour of her approach ? She's got all the sublety of Davros and the Daleks: "OBLITERATE"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The shame of Thabo Mbeki

There has been a drought of TV news coverage from inside Zimbabwe due to a ban by Mugabe. So, the report last night by Neil Connery on News at Ten was extraordinary. There was footage of Mugabe's thugs going into villages at night on the rampage. And then shots of MDC supporters in a hospital recovering from appalling injuries and testifying to their torture at the hands of Mugabe's gangs.

It seems to me that Thabo Mbeki is the key to a just Zimbabwe solution. Zimbabwe depends on South Africa. It was the same in Ian Smith's days when he relied on support from the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Up until now Mbeki appears to have behaved like a complete wuss in respect of the Zimbabwe elections. His pathetically lax attitude to Mugabe can be sharply contrasted to that of Levy Mwanawasa, Zambia's President. Indeed, in an excellent leader article in the Guardian today, they report that Morgan Tsvangirai has called for Mbeki to be replaced as mediator for the Southern African Development Community in favour of Mwanawasa.

The VIP status afforded to Tsvangirai at the recent SADC meeting is encouraging. But they now have to step up to the plate to ensure that the second round of voting is fair. The signs are not encouraging. The votes for the recount (which just happen to be mostly where the MDC won) have been taken away from view for days. The electoral commission says that a lot of work is involved in the recount. Round spherical objects.

What also shows up the revolting lassitude of Mbeki is the completely contrasting view of his own party (who incidentally have dumped him as their leader) - the ANC. The Citizen reports from Johannesburg today:

...the ANC is going over President Thabo Mbeki’s head in a new initiative to meet Zimbabwean political parties in an attempt to harmonise the situation in Zimbabwe.

A source within the ANC told The Citizen the decision was taken because President Thabo Mbeki had failed to act on Zimbabwe, as he had a “soft spot” for Robert Mugabe, the “caretaker president” of Zimbabwe.

Mbeki has failed the people of Zimbabwe, African leaders and international leaders. He also made disturbing comments, saying there is no crisis in Zimbabwe while people are being beaten up, evicted and killed.

“The ANC had no choice but to take action directly to speak to political protagonists in Zimbabwe,” said a source

Monday, April 21, 2008

The genius of Harry Hill

Click here.

Mark Speight RIP

Click here

You couldn't make it up - Prince William lands Chinook helicopter next to girlfriend's home

It's a tricky one for the Ministry of Defence, but I think they have just about explained sufficiently (below) why Prince William landed a Chinook helicopter next to his girlfriend's home at Bucklebury, Berkshire.

This escapade comes under the heading of "you couldn't make it up". The Chinook is a massive, relatively noisy flying machine (below). Bucklebury (below) is a quiet, relatively densely populated rural village (Chris Tarrant estalished a second home there, leading to his estranged wife referring to the village with an "F" instead of the "B" at the start of its name). The idea of Prince William landing such a helicopter by his girlfriend's house there just seems astonishing.

...the MoD...told newburytoday that the trip had been planned and fully authorised as an agreed part of Prince William’s attachment to the RAF.They confirmed that the aircraft landed for 20 seconds, taking all necessary precautions. No-one left or boarded the aircraft.A spokesman for the MoD, Nick Manning, said: “Battlefield helicopter crews routinely practice landing in fields and confined spaces away from their airfields as a vital part of their training for operations. These highly honed skills are used daily in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. “Helicopter bases continually seek permission from land owners to use their fields and there are only two fields permanently available in Hampshire. Opportunities to use alternatives are therefore regularly seized. “This was very much a routine training sortie that achieved essential training objectives.”The Prince took off from RAF Odiham in Hampshire during a 100-mile, two-hour training exercise, according to the newspaper. The report claims Prince William came up with the idea himself and asked permission from Miss Middleton’s family, claiming a shortage of landing spots in Hampshire.

A Chinook helicopter


Nick Clegg pledges a pony for every child

Hello I'm Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats.....I pledge a pony for every child that will be gold and do spells, and we'll all live in windmills, and ride gingerbread trains and instead of money we'll all be paid in hugs.

That was the statement from the "LibDem leader" on last night's Headcases (all right - I took a bit out where I have inserted "....."!)

You can see the programme here on ITV Catch up for the next 29 days. You can't cheat by fast forwarding. The Clegg bit is at the start of the seond half.

It's a great programme and I see ITV seem to have invested heavily in it. Both Rory Bremner and Jon Culshaw are on the voice credits.

I like Prince Phillip as Dick Dastardly myself. And Heather Mills as Medusa is a hoot.

I think Nick Clegg can be flattered by the attention. Such animation isn't cheap.

Have the Republicans decided that Obama has won the Democrat nomination ?

My guess for Pennsylvania tomorrow?

Clinton will win and the slugfest will continue. It seems Obama cannot land a knock-out blow but the "points count" already shows an insurmountable lead for him. The polls show continuous leads for Hillary in Pennsylvania, which appear to have strengthened for her in the last couple of days. But, a last minute voter registration surge is helping Obama.

It's all getting very fraught. Obama is spending a fortune in Pennsylvania. The ante has been upped with Clinton's campaign calling Obama a "hypocrite" (sounds a bit petulant/sour grapey to me) and Obama attacking Clinton for being a Washington insider.

And Nancy Pelosi is getting ready to apply pressure to foreshorten the Democratic nomination race.

One fascinating development is that the Republicans appear to be going for Obama in a big way. Both McCain ("Hamas wants Obama") and Mitt Romney (revving up for the Vice Presidential ticket (?) by taking a swipe at 'elitist' Obama). I think Obama campaign can take this attention as a compliment.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Terminal 5: An apology to Willie Carson

I've recently flown out of, and back into, Stansted Airport.

It's amazing.

They actually take your suitcases off you and get them onto your plane before you take off.

All without any to-do.


This morning I witnessed a remarkable team at Monastir, Tangiers who were able to pull off the same trick as Stansted. Bless them. They did it with old generation computer programmes (remember - the ones where there is white text on a black screen and the cursor blinks enticingly at you?) and quite a lot of paperwork being shovelled about. But, by golly by gosh, pull it off they did.

No doubt several books are going to be written about the Terminal 5 debacle.

The most obviously stupid mistake of the whole sorry affair was: Why the heck did BA/BAA boast, before the opening, that there would only ever be one person in front of you in the queues at Terminal 5?

"You can expect no more than one person in front of you at check in,"
British Airways director of customer services, David Noyes. 14th March 2008.

That is the sort of childish mistake which wouldn't be made by any self-respecting business diploma recipient in their first week of work. (It only needs a trainee journalist to stand at the queues for a few minutes, note that there are queues of more than one person and - bingo - there is a story). It is a mistake born out of corporate hubris which cannot be shrugged off by sacking a couple of managers (and I note that David Noyes (above) is one of the directors who has left BA).

(I hesitate to load all the blame on BA. There is a fascinating article here from the deputy head of British Midland International, who offloads considerable ordure onto BAA.)

It is all frighteningly reminiscent of the appalling BA tail-fin repaint job. That was a corproate catastrophe which also prompted a few books and could also have been foreseen by a business diploma student ("What's your USP?"..."Oh your Britishness, is it?"...."Oh well, let's get rid of that for starters"....)

I joked a few weeks ago about Willie Carson running BA. I apologise to Willie Carson, his friends and family. I realise now that Willie Carson would make a better job of running BA than the current incumbent.

Friday, April 4, 2008

US Secret Service unprecedented workload - and they're not even protecting McCain

CQ politics has a very interesting article on the Secret Service protection for the US Presidential candidates. The Service has an unprecedented workload just protecting Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. As of now, they aren't even protecting John McCain yet - which seems very surprising.

Cobblers about Cleggover

Steve Richards on the Independent's Open House says Nick Clegg should be worried because three journalists think Nick Clegg was naive to give an interview to Piers Morgan about his private life:

For Nick Clegg there was univeral scathing disdain, largely for his naivety over giving an interview to Piers Morgan in GQ and then answering questions about his sex life. In a short time Clegg has had two nicknames, ‘Calamity Clegg’ and ‘Cleggover’. Neither adds to his gravitas.

I usually have great respect for Steve Richards' output but on this occasion he, and the other three journalists, are talking unmitigated cobblers. Reading the transcript so far released, it is clear that Nick Clegg is disarmingly open and honest in the interview. He is making a name for himself in this respect. When he admitted he didn't believe in God and revealed a liking for Bowie's greatest hits album, Changes, on Radio Five, he was also being unusually frank and open for a politician.

Yes, Nick Clegg is in great danger of being seen as a member of the human race.

Terrible isn't it?

Government to insist that sex offenders give them email addresses - WOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rarely is there such an example of crass government stupidity caused by complete incompetence.

This morning, Vernon Coaker, Government minister in the Home Office is boasting on the media of this new government rule. They will insist that sex offenders give the government their email addresses. The government in turn will give these addresses to social web sites so that the sex offenders' use of these sites can be monitored.

Crikey! Those sex offenders must be really quaking in their shoes!

How computer illiterate is Vernon Coaker ? I would suggest - not very.

You only have to Google "free email" to find thousands of sites where you can set up thousands of email addresses for yourself all over the world. All you need is a ZIP code (I recommend looking up the ZIP codes of Starbucks in various US cities - for example, Starbucks in Cincinnatti has a zip code of 45219 in OH) and, sometimes, another email address (which can be another one set up with a false address). (About eight years ago I had a little "farm" of email addresses for making comments on a forum - which is how I am familiar with the routine.)

It is just stupid to boast that this measure would be anything other than completely useless.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Jimmy Carter backs Obama - heavy hint

All eyes have been on Al Gore to do a bit of senior statesmanship with regard to the Democratic presidential nomination. But now that real old Democrat senior statesman, Jimmy Carter, has dropped a very heavy hint that he is supporting Obama. He didn't say as much, but his interview with a Nigerian newspaper leaves no real room for doubt:

Former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter has hinted that he might cast his vote for Senator Barack Obama to aid his emergence as the candidate for the Democrats in America’s bid to elect a new President.Carter, who is a Super Delegate from Georgia State, gave this hint at a media interaction after the Carter Center Awards for Guinea Worm Eradication in Abuja yesterday.Carter, who was accompanied by his wife Rosalynn, did not profess a direct support for Obama but rather choose to make a veiled statement.“We are very interested in the primaries. Don’t forget that Obama won in my state of Georgia. My town which is home to 625 people is for Obama, my children and their spouses are pro- Obama. My grandchildren are also pro- Obama. As a Super Delegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for but I leave you to make that guess," he said.

Hat-tip to Ben Smith and Political Wire.

Bloomberg via Political Wire also reports that Obama has passed Clinton in terms of support from Democrat elected officials:

Obama, an Illinois senator, has the support of 99 Democratic U.S. lawmakers and governors, compared with Clinton's 96 -- a dramatic turnabout since the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, when Clinton, a New York senator, had more than double Obama's support within this group, 91 to 43

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Has Robert Mugabe suddenly become sane?

It would seem possible. The official Zimbabwean parliamentary election results show the MDC with a majority. The Presidential vote is on a knife edge as to whether a second ballot is needed. One presumes and hopes that Mugabe will be fatally damaged by the need for a run-off.

A senior ZANU (PF) official has told a BBC correspondent in Zimbabwe that he believes Mr Mugabe has been fatally damaged:

The official, who did not want to be identified, said that by not declaring victory on Sunday or Monday, Mr Mugabe had shown weakness.
Now, he told our correspondent, civil servants and police were determined to show even-handedness in their treatment of the Zanu-PF and the opposition.

Another way at looking at that is that perhaps Mugabe has finally woken up and smelt the coffee.

Nick Clegg's 30 lovers

Or at least "no more than's a lot less than that" in answer to the question, in relation to the number of women he slept with before he got married: How many are we talking: 10, 20, 30?"

I thought it was an April Fool prank. Amanda Platell writes:

Oh to have been a fly on the wall at Nick Clegg's family home in South London yesterday morning!

You can just picture the scene as the LibDem leader's inquisitive young sons spotted their father's picture in the papers and asked: "It says here that you slept with 30 women, Daddy. Were you very, very tired? Was it an awfully big bed?"

I'm pretty sure that the response from his lovely and loyal Spanish wife Miriam would have been rather less amusing.

Frankly, who would blame her if, after reading yesterday's headlines, she had made her husband wear his porridge rather than eat it?

For this was the morning after the night before the publication of an interview in GQ magazine in which Mr Clegg had confessed that he'd had "no more than 30" sexual partners.

No more than 30! And the 41-year-old doesn't even blush?

What does "no more than 30" actually mean, anyway? Did he actually sleep with far fewer than 30 but wanted to appear virile?

Kira Cochraine compares the incident to William Hague bragging about how much beer he drank as a youth.

Clinton slipping in Pennsylvania

Up until now, Pennsylvania has been held out as the great hope for Hillary Clinton. A last minute surge here would sort everything out for her, we are told.

Well, now there have been two polls in quick succession saying that her previously strong lead in Pennsylvania is slipping away.

Rasmussen has the lead down to just five points:

For Clinton, that five-point edge is down from a ten-point lead a week ago, a thirteen-point lead in mid-March and a fifteen-point advantage in early March.

A SurveyUSA poll shows her lead down from 19 points to 12. Still a big lead, but this far out (the primary is not until April 22nd), there is still plenty of time for Obama to make up the ground. He is currently doing a leisurely bus tour of the State, nurturing the grass roots. The SurveyUSA poll report noted:

...the poll showed Obama gaining ground in the Keystone State, particularly in cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and among older voters, men and conservative Democrats.
Compared to an identical SurveyUSA poll released three weeks ago, Clinton is down two points and Obama is up five...

One interesting thing which seems to have happened recently in the Democratic presidential race is this. We have had a lot of people saying the Democrats are tearing themselves apart. However, since the Bosnia gaffe (which was an example of Hillary tearing herself apart anyway) things appear to have gone quiet. The focus seems to be on "When will Hillary give up (if at all)?"

Having said that, John McCain is still able to tour the country presenting himself as a latter day Mother Theresa...