Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Breakthrough in Minnesota!

The word "breakthrough" is being used comparatively there. I have given up counting how many months it is since Minnesotans voted in the election for their US Senator. It's eight. But at long last the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in ex-comedian Al Franken's favour. It's not decisive, however. Well, come on - what did you expect?!

In a bizarre swop of positions, Franken's opponent, Norm Coleman is now featuring in late night comedy himself.

EXCLUSIVE - Prime Minister resigns - new government taking shape


++BREAKING NEWS++

After 137 years as Prime Minister, Mr William Gladstone has finally called it a day and handed in his resignation to King David (of the Penhaligon - just in case you were wondering when he would crop up).

His Majesty has graciously offered Mr Gladstone the post of Minister for relations with remote Hellenic Islands and certain oft-visited parts of Soho, a post which Mr Gladstone has gratefully accepted.

His Majesty this afternoon requested the presence of Dame Shirley Williams at Buckingham Palace and duly offered his hand to Dame Shirley. Having kissed the proffered royal extremity, Dame Shirley is now in 10 Downing Street devising her new cabinet.

Mr Churchill has asked for a release from his onerous duties to spend more time building his wall. He made clear this resignation was nothing (much) to do with India.

Dame Shirley has already asked Nancy Seear to take up the post of Deputy Prime Minister - a move seen, by seasoned observers, more as "cock-up" rather than "conspiracy".

News of other cabinet positions will follow, but we already hear that Vince Cable's new duties may include something exciting to do with the very urgent subject of bees. Two Earls Conrad are tipped for jobs and there has even been talk of Sir James Graham, the 2nd Baronet, returning to the government. It goes without saying that rising stars Jo Swinson and Baroness (Emma) Nicholson are likely to be given key roles.

Dickie Bird gives Barnsley the finger


No offence intended. ;-) ...and many apologies to Lord Bonkers for doing a post about cricket without any mention of the .....-..... method.

Many congratulations to Dickie Bird, who's just unveiled a statue of himself where he was born in Barnsley (it was erected by benefactors in the town). There's not many people who have a statue raised to themselves while they are still alive. Indeed, Sir Michael Parkinson and Geoffrey Boycott have not been afforded this honour and they are both, by strange coincidence, Barnsley contemporaries of Bird.

There's a great video of the occasion here from the Yorkshire Post. It looks like a truly great occasion. Well done Barnsley! Well done Dickie Bird!

I didn't realise that Dickie used to put his finger up like that (i.e. palm turned towards himself as in the statue). See also above. Indeed, in this classic photo with Dickie doing his hilarious laugh-a-minute "two hat" routine and adjudging someone as "out", he didn't.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Grandiose fantasy Liberal cabinet

William Gladstone - Prime Minister
Winston Churchill - First Lord of the Admiralty and Deputy Prime Minister
John Maynard Keynes - Chancellor of the Exchequer

Now, who else is there?..........

Ah, yes

Vince Cable, Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Nancy Seear, Work and Pensions
Jenny Tonge, International Development
Roy Jenkins, Home Sceretary
Shirley Williams, Leader of Commons, Lord Privy Seal
Ray Michie, Sceretary of State for Scotland
Jo Swinson, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Herbert Asquith, Constitutional Affairs
Susan Kramer, Transport
Baroness Barker, Chancellor, Duchy of Lancaster
Lynne Featherstone, Children, Schools and Families
Baroness Nicholson, Leader of the House of Lords
William Beveridge, Secretary for Health
Nick Clegg, Foreign Secretary
Lloyd George, Defence
John Cleese, Culture, Media and Sport
John Pardoe, Business Innovation and Skills
Jo Grimond, Cabinet Office
Paddy Ashdown, Energy and Climate Change
John Stuart Mill, Justice
Charles Kennedy, Communities and Local Government
Jenny Willott, Secretary of State for Wales
Julia Goldsworthy, Northern Ireland
Menzies Campbell, Minister for the Olympics
Baroness Sharp, Paymaster General
Also attending:
Baroness Ludford, Housing
Baroness Neuberger, Minister of State, Business, Innovations and Skills
Baroness Northover, Employment & Welfare Reform
Lord Roberts of Llandudno, Africa, Asia and UN

Thanks to LDV , Caron and Irfan Ahmed.

The rats' nest of South Carolina politics

For lovers of political intrigue, there's a fascinating article here in the New York Times about the swirl of plotting and counter-plotting around the future of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. He's the governor who was supposedly nude hiking on the Appalachians and then turned out to be allegedly ending an affair with an Argentinian lady.

The varied responses of state political leaders to the affair serve as clues to their alliances and complex interests. Some have called outright for the governor’s resignation, while others have suggested that the gentlemanly thing to do is give Mr. Sanford enough rope to hang himself.
Such remarks have less to do with Mr. Sanford’s flaws than with the 2010 race for governor, which already had a full field of contenders because Mr. Sanford was limited to two terms.
One likely candidate in particular, Lt. Gov. André Bauer, stands to gain if Mr. Sanford resigns, because he will fill the vacancy and be able to run for governor as an incumbent. His expected opponents in the Republican field want to prevent that by keeping Mr. Sanford in office, no matter how much animosity they may feel for him.


The intrigue, complete with e-mail messages plotting the governor’s demise and
Twitter debates among high-level staff members, is playing out in a state with serious problems like extremely high unemployment, now led by a governor who has become a late-night television punch line.

If you think we've got problems, spare a thought for Ireland

Occasionally I get fed up of 'Today' or Five Live and resort to Terry Wogan during my morning journey. Today I took an even larger leap and listened to RTE Radio 1's 'Good Morning Ireland' on 252khz long wave. Now that was an experience!

The Irish economy is in a worst state than ours, with the IMF saying it will contract by 13.5% over 2008 to 2010. The government is having to look for a further 5 Billion Euros' worth of spending cuts (which may well involve cutting social benefits - including child benefits!) on top of 13 billion of cuts already made. And the IMF are breathing down their neck.

On a positive note, the abalone industry is booming! Yes, I had to look it up too. But RTE had a little report from Bere Island in County Cork, where they have a factory farming abalones (photo below). These taste a bit between an oyster and a scallop apparently. In a restaurant in London you can pay £80 for a bowl of abalone-based soup. The producer said that ideally, a full grown abalone should be "about the size of a rugby player's ear".

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Which Michael Jackson track will be number one in the singles chart?

Something in the nature of a 'live blog'...
Update: 'Man in the mirror' was the higest Jackson singles chart track at Number 11. La Roux was Number One.
Just listening to the Chart Show. (Which in itself is taking me back to my teenage years) They've already had the following in the run down: 'Earth Song', 'Beat it', 'Smooth Criminal', 'Billie Jean', 'Man in the mirror' and 'Thriller'. Shame that, I was expecting and hoping that Thriller would be Number One. Ho hum.

So what do we have left? 'Bad', 'Don't stop 'til you get enough', 'Black or White' or a load of dark horses. 'ABC' anyone? 'Rockin' Robin'? My money would be on 'Black or White' to be number one. And deservedly so.

The 'Number Ones' album is at number one in the album charts.
If another Jackson track is listed in the singles Top Forty, he will equal Elvis' record of having the most tracks in one chart (seven). Another two and he's broken the record.

It's all a fine tribute to to the man who, when all's said and done, was one hell of a musician and performer. (But we should still spare a thought for Jarvis Cocker ).


Michael Jackson 1958-2009 RIP

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson's death - "A seminal moment in Internet history"

Search Engine Land has detailed graphs and an interesting summary of the impact of Michael Jackson's death on Google, Yahoo News, Bing, Wikipedia and AOL.

A statement from AOL summed it up:

Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We’ve never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth.

David and Judy Steel win £30,000 "All star Mr and Mrs" jackpot

-All for charidee, of course. Many congratulations to them. Judy had to correctly identify David's first car (A Morris 8 ex-hen coop) and they both successfully agreed that Judy is the worst behaved (of the two of them) in bed (something to do with snoring, apparently).

Nick Clegg dressed up as Marge Simpson. Now there's a thought....

I hardly ever buy a daily paper during in the week nowadays. It seems silly when you can read so much online or watch it on the box. I do usually buy a Guardian on Saturdays, mainly spurred on by my nearest and dearest's enthusiasm for "The Guide" which is the handiest telly guide around (as well as covering a lot of other stuff which we never read).

Sometimes I miss a Saturday, especially if I haven't yet read the previous week's non-news sections. I then spend a weekend catching up. It is one of my small contributions to the health of the planet.

That is a very long-winded excuse for only now having read the two in depth party leader interviews from last weekend's glossy magazines.

As usual I nervously insist that I did not buy the Mail on Sunday. A relative of right-wing persuasion kindly gave me the MoS glossy Live. This featured Nick Clegg on its front cover and over several pages. The interview is a glorified rehash of the all the little Clegg Cacti arson/30 lovers/don't like to talk about drugs stories. It does, however, enlighten us with the fact that Clegg went to a New York fancy dress party with Marcel Theroux dressed as a female character from The Simpsons. What the article doesn't divulge is which character Clegg dressed as, although it mentions that huge wigs were involved. The next cutting-edge journalist who interviews Clegg really ought to find out which character he was dressed up as. Marge Simpson? I think we should be told. Oh, do let it be Marge! The vision of Clegg as Marge is absolutely delicious. Oh let there be a photo somewhere of this!

Anyway, apart from that, the MoS Live article is mainly notable for some excellent photography by Ian Derry, including the prominent cover shot which I reproduce below.

The Guardian Weekend article on Brown is really very well observed and written, by Katharine Viner. It's worth a read. You have to admire Brown's resilience, but it seems that his very resilience is born out of a lack of self-awareness. He is the ultimate bunker politician. He's not a very good communicator, he admits. That is a problem with a modern Prime Minister. Viner mentions that Brown is totally different in private, where he is very engaging. Well, that's no good is it? We're all good in private, for goodness sake. But if you are Prime Minister you have to C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-E. They also said John Major was very good in private. Big deal. He was also useless at communicating in public, which was his main job.

Viner ends with an interesting observation. During several long meetings with Brown, Viner "never once saw him perform that strange, lower-jaw breathing manoeuvre he so often executes in public." That's amazing isn't it? Brown reserves his goldfish impersonation just for the public. Very good of him.

Viner concludes interestingly:

His image is fusty and secretive, but he's the first prime minister to sit in an open-plan office in Downing Street. To me he spoke fluently and with passion. He sounded like a normal person.
The prime minister is a man of such paradoxes. He is now convinced free market solutions can't work, but is still privatising parts of the Royal Mail and the health service. He passes strong legislation on women while appointing few to top positions. He sees himself as a good person, but employs others to do his dirty work. He wants to stay as prime minister, but longs to get out of No 10, govern from a train, become a teacher. As he says himself, "It's a strange life, really."


Friday, June 26, 2009

Daphne du Maurier saved my life

...or at least my sanity on a couple of occasions. It's strange but true.

About eight years ago I was going through a rough patch. What helped me greatly was reading Daphne Du Maurier's The Parasites albeit at a snail's pace. It is a wonderful book, although not earth-shattering (which I wouldn't say for a couple others of the Du Maurier oevre which I have attempted to read). I read about a page a day, but somehow my absorption with the detail of the book enabled me to refocus my mind.

Now La Du Maurier is providing a similar anchoring service via her life as told in Margaret Forster's excellent auto-biography. I'm up to about 1956 so far, and it is proving a riveting read. It helps that I am the son of a Fowey girl, so the places and people mentioned mean a lot to me. Du Maurier stayed with a "Miss Roberts" at Bodinnick when she wrote Loving Spirit. "Miss Roberts" was my mother's'Aunt Rhoda'.

One of these days, I suppose I'll get round to reading Rebecca. I tried Frenchman's Creek once but only managed to get up to page 4.

Hindsight special: Did anyone believe that Michael Jackson would have completed 50 O2 gigs?

Paul Gambaccini's comments on the death of Michael Jackson have been very interesting, particularly in relation to the planned 50 concerts at the O2 over the next eight months:

I'm sorry, of course, I'm stunned but I can't say I'm really shocked because I had feared some kind of negative health result from these dates...I never thought he would be able to do them all because he was a 50-year-old man with a poor recent health history and to think he could subject his body to this vigour was unrealistic.

I'm just a few months younger than Michael Jackson. It has always amazed me how he has managed to defy time, in many respects, up until his untimely and very sad death yesterday, that is. While I have been ravaged as normal by anno domini, Jackson remained looking like a teenager.

With hindsight the following is easy to say. But it is absolutely staggering that anyone realistically thought that Jackson would complete 50 dates at the O2. At the age of 50 (and I am nearly there) it is unrealistic to expect yourself to do fifty anything, let alone fifty stage dates at the O2. I remember watching the Scissor Sisters at the O2. It's a huge arena and the shows tend to be very technically complex. The Scissors Sisters' lead singer, Jake Shears, is very fit but he went through enormous physical strain during the concert with all that leaping about and dancing. At the end he had sweat pouring off him. Jake Shears is 30 and he only did three concerts at the O2, albeit as part of a world tour.

It seems that, sadly, at last time has caught up with Michael Jackson but it seems very hard to believe that, had he lived, he would have been able to complete any but a small number of the planned O2 concerts. Indeed, reports suggest that even Jackson doubted his ability to do the dates.

But, as I say, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You know you're getting seriously old when....

...your early teenage crushes are dying off.


Farrah Fawcett 1947-2009 RIP

Lenny Henry's Kerching moment

It's nice to see Lenny Henry back with a couple of well made Premier Inn adverts. It's a shame Nicholas Ball isn't in these ones, though.

Note to Bercow: Ditch the interviews

After watching this little waspish encounter with Tom Bradby, that would be my advice.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Not nude hiking, just plain old adultery....move along now, nothing to see here

Nude hiking Argentina loving South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has finally ended his weeklong dance with the public. It was old fashioned adultery after all. One less Republican contender for 2012.

Naked hiking was bum steer

He was in Argentina all along, he says.

Yes, South Carolina governor DID go for a nude hike

From Daily Kos:

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) was sighted on the Georgia to Maine Appalachian Trail in the total buff, purportedly in support of the annual nude trail hike held every year in this part of the country! In a late report from the AP, Governor Sanford was sighted about 5 miles from the Georgia/Tennessee border, clad in little more than a Land’s End backpack, a pair of Gore-Tex hiking boots and a fanny pack holding a few bottles of Aquafina drinking water!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

US State governor goes missing...may have gone on a naked hike

From the highly cherished files of the You couldn't make it up department.

South Carolina governor Mark Sanford has gone missing. His aides and family haven't seen him since last Thursday. Until last night they had no idea where he was.

The latest theory is that he might have gone naked hiking on the Appalachian mountains.

No, really!

He's due back at work tomorrow.

Black-balled Bercow

Oh joy! What a pleasure to see Cameron, applauding Bercow, and looking as if he (Cameron) had swallowed a wasp. All those Tories with their arms folded. And Alan Duncan on BBC Breakfast managed only to bring himself to say that Bercow is "capable" and that the position of Speaker should be "respected".

But Bercow is, at least, a moderate break with the Gentlemen's Club tradition.

Sir George Young, patrician Eton-educated baronet - now he would have been the "Club" choice. What sort of message would that have given the country?

But Bercow? He's the son of a taxi driver! Dear, dear. Bought his own furniture. From MFI. Definitely a chap who would be serially black-balled.

It's just not on.

Monday, June 22, 2009

MPs use STV with extra flock instinct and faff

Despite opposing such a system for their own election, I note that MPs are using, essentially, Single Transferable Vote for the election of their new Speaker. OK. It's not STV. But it's sort of STV with flock instinct and extra faffing about thrown in.

Goodness knows why they don't just go the whole hog and use STV. But no, they have to have rounds and physical eliminations and print new ballot papers and spend hours doing it with the electorate walking in and out several times. What numpties! The only reason I can see to do the vote in rounds rather than just doing STV in the first place, is that it allows a "flock instinct" to enter the contest. MPs can see who others voted for as first preference before deciding their second preference or changing their first preference. One might call it "Grandiose STV".

With advance apologies to STV-nuts who will no doubt soak me in adverse comments.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thank goodness for Lord Carey

How wonderful to have my local neighbour (albeit in a rather more salubrious road than mine) Lord Carey regularly stating his views in the News of the World. We must all be most grateful.

Wise-cracking Obama

This is meant to be very funny. It's quite funny. It's Barack Obama's speech to the 2009 Radio and TV Correspondents' Association Dinner. There's a lot of US political in-jokes. But nobody can say this man hasn't got a sense of humour - even if the gags were written for him.

A reminder of the beating heart of the Tory party

Oh great. William Hague brings back hunting as a key issue for the Tories. And apparently they need hunt supporters to help them get elected.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mail readers reveal surprising caring, sharing side

This is priceless. Thanks, fellow humans!

It's the Daily Mail's National Bigotry Day

I've just scan-read NHS Primary Care Service Framework - Gipsy and Traveller Communities. It seems entirely fair to me. It is therefore entertaining to read the hysterical mouth-foaming bigotry which this dry document has aroused in the Daily Mail and Richard Littlejohn, culminating in what has been tweetily described as the Daily Mail's Worst poll here (vote early and often - and I wouldn't, of course, advocate voting "yes" to skew it - that would be terrible).

The Cost of the Freedom of Redaction Act

The thing which makes me fuming about this redaction business is the cost of it. Going through some MPs' expenses yesterday, great acres of it were more black than white! It must have taken ages for someone to go through all this stuff. And that was after 200 MPs asked for nothing on their expenses to be redacted. The authorities still went ahead. Apparently the whole exercise cost £2 million.

So, hang on a minute. We've been ripped off once by MPs claiming for all sorts of nonsense. Now, we're ripped off again to the tune of £2 million to carry out a ridiculous exercise to black out details which the Daily Telegraph already has, and in many cases, has already published.

This is past the point of ridiculous. It is an outrage. I am genuinely ashamed to be British because of this.

And to think that the MPs themselves passed the Freedom of Information Act in 2000! They've had nine years to get ready for this. It became effective in 2005 so they've had four years to clean up their act after five years warning. It is just mind-bogglingly disgraceful! They do Freedom of Information in the US and Sweden without turning a hair.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Euro election figures

A very civilised anonymous commenter has asked me to state some of the facts surrounding the BNP's performance at the Euro elections. I am happy to oblige.

From the BBC website:

Nationwide, the BNP got 6.2% of the vote, which was a 1.3 point increase on last time. In terms of absolute votes cast for the BNP, they had 943,598 this time, compared to 808,200 in 2004. Total turnout was 34.48% compared to 38.2% in 2004.

In the North-West, where Nick Griffin was elected, the BNP received 8% of the vote, which was a 1.6 point increase. The BNP received here 132,094 which was a 2% decrease on 2004 when they received 134,959 votes in the North-West. Turnout was 31.7% compared to 40.9% in 2004.

In Yorkshire and Humberside, the BNP received 9.8% of the vote which was a 1.8 point increase. They received 120,139 votes, which was a 5% decrease on their figure for 2004, which was 126,538. Total turnout was 42.6% in 2004 and 32.3% this year.

Ging-gang gooly....

Jam making? £50?

Whisper it softly: the Minnesota senate race might possibly reach a milestone

A much awaited milestone in the Minnesota Senate Race controversy might be reached very soon. But then again, possibly not. After all, it's only seven and a bit months after the voters voted. These things take time.

Cameron's £564 on new photos for his website

From Paul Waugh:

Cam claims £564 for new pics of himself on his website
David Cameron has called for the scrapping of the Communications Allowance - which allows MPs to spend thousands of pounds telling their constituents "how wonderful we are", as he once put it.
But what's this buried in his own exes claim today?
As recently as March last year, he claimed £564 of taxpayers' money for new photos on the gallery of his
website.

The gallery as it currently stands is here. There are some excellent photos there.

Tory MP warns that Tory government endangers Union with Scotland

Staggering stuff From Conservative Home:

Writing in the Local Government Chronicle the outgoing Tory MP, David Curry, concedes that the election of a Tory Government increases the chances of the Union breaking up:
"For Cameron now looks like the next prime minister. And if there is one thing [Alex] Salmond wants, it is a Conservative government looking and feeling culturally and politically wholly alien to Scotland. This will be especially so if Cameron feels he must curb the power of Scottish MPs at Westminster, reduce their number and revisit the spending formula that ships cash up to Scotland to fund services unavailable in England. Even if the Tories pick up a handful of Scottish seats in the general election, Salmond will feel that an independence referendum is winnable. Scotland will be able to vote for what it is against — which is how it likes it."

Why does any MP need to claim for five domain names ?

I pay a fiver a year for one domain name from Google. So why does any MP (no names no pack drill) need to claim (at £10 a year each) on their communications allowance for five domain names for their website?

It seems a bit like overkill to me. Surely one is enough isn't it?

Update: Costigan Quist makes a very point on the comments. I have had a look at other MPs and have found:

A. No web services claimed for
B. No communications allowance claim
C. 2 domains claimed for
D. 1 domain claimed for

and also variations in the cost of web services. One manages on £425, another in the next door constituency claims for £1000.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A goldmine of old Liberal party videos

Stephen Tall was bemoaning the paucity of videoes of Jeremy Thorpe on the web. This made me recall the excellent British Pathe News site which has loads of old films of Thorpe plus other gems from the past:

Jeremy Thorpe becomes new Liberal party leader

1970 Thorpe interview shots (mute)

1968 Thorpe's (first) wedding

Thorpe at a 1967 dinner for Kosygin, Russian Foreign Minister

Thorpe On a 1969 Oxfam walk

and this gem:

Miss Laura Bonham-Carter marries Mr Joseph Grimond

and these silent films:

Gladstone's funeral

Asquith arriving in Newcastle and Miss Asquith marries Prince Bibesco

"The worst is over" - Lloyd George in Manchester

You can search for more on the site.

Gladstone and Wavertree LibDems

I had a wonderful evening in Liverpool yesterday. Many thanks to my old friend Councillor Colin Eldridge and his superb team for welcoming me into the bosum of Wavertree LibDems for some targetted letter delivery. All the streets where we delivered looked, to me, as though they were part of the set of "Bread" - but I apologise for that somewhat patronising remark from a soft snobby southerner. Liverpool is a great city and it is marvellous to see the LibDems doing such great work there.

The nerve centre of the HQ of Wavertree LibDems has many historical reverberations, being regaled with a large portrait of Gladstone, plus another of Campbell Bannerman and a quote from Trevor Jones on the wall. I was reminded that the bicentenary of Gladstone, who was, of course, born in Liverpool, is being celebrated this year.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Miliband should heed Callaghan's words on the Franks report

Harking back to the Franks inquiry into the Falklands just won't wash as an excuse to hold the Iraq war enquiry privately. The Franks inquiry was held nearly thirty years ago before the internet and the Freedom of Information Act.

(David Miliband) said the government was "determined to match" the Franks inquiry into the Falklands war, which he said had set the "gold standard" in terms of thoroughness and access to papers.

Gold standard! Perhaps David Miliband should read the withering words of former Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan on the subject:

For 338 paragraphs he painted a splendid picture, delineated the light and the shade, and the glowing colours in it, and when Franks got to paragraph 339 he got fed up with the canvas he was painting, and chucked a bucket of whitewash over it.

That favourite British summer sport returns....

...I mean the one where the media and, presumably, some people, get all hysterically excited about the certainty that a British man is going to win Wimbledon for the first time since that fellow who is now a shirt. Fortunately, judging from BBC Breakfast this morning, the one person who is certainly not in danger of getting over-excited is Andy Murray.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Properrr Corrrrnish ice cream

I am probably slow on the uptake, as usual, but I was delighted to see last night that Kelly's ice cream has a proper national TV advertising campaign these days. I was brought up on Kelly's ice cream - it was always a real treat and seemed more golden and gorgeous than any other ice cream. But in those days, when I was a kid (about the same time as Noah) it was very much a county ice cream - you didn't really see Kelly's anywhere else but in Cornwall.

This posting is not sponsored by Kelly's. Sadly.

The truly astonishing longevity of Twiggy

Yes, she was a star as a slip of a lass in the sixties and she's still in the limelight with the 125th anniversary telly ad for Marks and Sparks (click below). But that very advert reveals the astonishing fact that Twiggy was actually around in 1884. How else would a cheeky barrow-boy in a Victorian market recognise her and say "Awright Twigs?" ?


Kingdom come

ITV's Kingdom was wonderful last night. Stephen Fry playing a sober solictor stoned on magic mushrooms - a joy to behold. Timothy Bentinck ("David Archer") played a wonderfully funny cameo as a judge in a extra-court hearing. How I laughed. And I've been to one of those things - it was not far off the mark for reality! And the ending of the episode was great too - you can watch the whole thing here. Oh, and there were some other gorgeous luvvies in it as well - like Colin Baker and Sandi Toksvig.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

If you read one thing today....

I would strongly recommend making it this superb analysis of events atop the New Labour project in the last few weeks from Andrew Rawnsley. He is particularly incisive on the relationship between Brown and Mandelson:

"What's he up to?" one senior Tory exclaimed to me the other day, simply unable to comprehend why Peter Mandelson saved Gordon Brown, the man with whom he conducted such an epically gory feud for 14 years before he returned to the cabinet last autumn. "They hate each other!"
Well, yes they did, but weirdly enough they have always loved each other too. It all goes back to the highly charged days that followed John Smith's death in 1994. Before then, Peter Mandelson was closer to Gordon Brown than he was to Tony Blair. It was the rational choice to back the younger Blair for leader when he was much more popular in the polls, with the media and with senior colleagues. Yet it provoked a wholly irrational response from Gordon Brown. The years of hate were so poisonous precisely because they were preceded by love.
Since his return, the two have rediscovered what they admired in each other before the great rupture. Peter tells friends that he has been "reintroduced" to Gordon's "good qualities. Gordon has clung to Peter's presentational flair, tactical nous, coolness in a crisis and loyalty in a crunch. It is highly doubtful that he would have survived the last fortnight without the presence of Baron Mandelson, the self-described "Prince of Stability" who bound in other members of the cabinet and guarded the Blairite flank.


The article is rich with Rawnsley's usual very funny epithets and spot-on judgments. I had quite a chuckle, as I read it in the sun in Newbury's "Peace Garden" (or one of them, by the canal). It occurred to me that Mr Rawnsley is very much my "high Priest" of political matters. I have read and enjoyed his columns ever since he was a slip of a lad fresh, from Uni, writing sketches in the Guardian and winning the "Newcomer of the Year" award. It is hard to imagine the British political scene without him.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Well done Susan Boyle!


Congratulations to Susan Boyle on successfully performing in the Britain's Got Talent tour this evening for the second time. She received a standing ovation this evening. This is quite a lady.

Zimbabwe - progress at last

I have a confession to make. I'm an old softie. I had a tear in my eye as I watched this video. It's the official footage of yesterday's meeting of President Obama and Prime Minister Tsvangirai yesterday. Just months ago I wouldn't have believed that such a meeting was possible. It really is heartening that the USA is providing demonstrable support for Prime Minister Tsvangirai and the people of Zimbabwe.

Hazel Blears.............................I think I need a drink

Hazel Blears

.....................................................................................................................................................................

That's a blank pause of incredulity, by the way.

I mean, what can you say? According to Sky News:

She claims she had no idea that resigning on the eve of a very important election would have any effect.
"I genuinely thought I could go without it sparking off this huge firestorm. In hindsight that judgement was wrong," she said.
"I should have waited until after the election. The effect on the party is something I will live with forever
."

.............................................................................................................................................................

That's another blank pause of incredulity. Let's see, Hazel Blears has been a professional in the world of politics since 1978 when she first joined Salford City Council as a trainee solicitor. OK, that was, at first, as a non-political officer but she would have been aware of political election cycles and that sort of thing.

So, she has thirty-one years of local and national political experience and she is asking us to believe that she had no idea that by resigning from the Cabinet of Her Majesty's Government on the day before a major election she would 'spark off a huge firestorm'.

.............................................................................................................................................................

I think I need a drink.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sarah Palin goes ballistic over David Letterman's jokes

On US TV, David Letterman made some jokes about Sarah Palin and one of her daughters. Sarah Palin and her husband went ballistic but seemed to think that Letterman was referring to her 14 year old daughter, whereas in fact he says he was referring to her 18 year old daughter. So here is David Letterman's reply on his show. It is worth watching. This demonstrates very well why Letterman has been at the top of his profession for thirty years.

Councillor Joe Mooney - an apology and retraction

On June 9th here I published an article concerning Conservative councillor Joe Mooney of West Berkshire Council. The article stated that he "travelled to Scotland by train first class and then claimed it back from the taxpayer". I now know that this statement, and therefore the whole article, was wholly untrue. I therefore retract the whole article. I unreservedly apologise to Councillor Mooney that I made this false allegation.

I have now deleted the article in question. I will be writing to Councillor Mooney to apologise personally. I will also, unprompted, be making a donation to Newbury and district Cancer Care Trust as a sign of my contrition.

Obama meets Tsvangirai today - a ray of hope

I see that President Barack Obama will meet Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, at 3.30pm ET today. Call me an old softie if you will, but it fills me with some hope that such a meeting is taking place.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Trivia question answer

I asked a trivia question the other day:

What is the link between the Daily Mail Television review page and Susan Boyle?

The answer is that Herbert Kretzmer, who was the daily television critic of the Daily Mail for eight years, wrote the lyrics for the song Dream a Dream, which Susan Boyle sang, beautifully, twice on Britain's Got Talent.

How accurate were some of the Telegraph's expensegate claims?

Here's an interesting article from journalism.co.uk on the accuracy, or otherwise, of some of the Telegraph expensegate claims, which includes copious quotes from the LDV team.

I am pleased to see that Andrew Brown has received a libel pay-out from Scotland on Sunday, which he is donating to a research fund in his niece's name. I was very sad that Andrew Brown was dragged into the expenses business. He is not a politician and didn't deserve such treatment.

A bad 24 hours for the Tories

1. Andrew Lansley assumes the role of shadow chancellor and announces their spending cut plans. 10% cuts on everything except for the NHS, schools and international development. That's a lot! 10% on defence, for example? I hear Tory retired colonels all over their country colectively spitting out their cornflakes!

2. George Osbourne has been reported in the Times for allegedly flipping his second home allowance and allegedly claiming for payments on a £450,000 mortgage. If your the heir to a baronetcy and a massive fortune (the Osbourne and Little wallpaper and drapery firm), I suppose you always need a little help.

3. There are signs we are moving or have moved out of recession. (It's the economy, stupid).

And to add insult to injury, the betting is that the Tories will get the last person they want as Speaker - their very own bĂȘte noire John Bercow.

At this rate, Labour will win the next election. OK then, forget that last bit - I had a momentary rush of blood to the head.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gordon Ramsay finally gets his comeuppance

Gordon Ramsay is behaving like an utter prat Down Under. But finally he has had to eat Humble Pie and apologise for his behaviour after his mother gave him a "bollocking" and the Australian Prime Minister intervened.

You can luxuriate in these You Tube vids:

-Behind the scenes footage at Channel Nine, showing Ramsay swearing at staff, described as a "ranting rampage"
-Television Presenter Tracy Grimshaw giving Ramsay both barrels.
-Gordon Ramsay making remarks about Ms Grimshaw at a food fair.
-A rather on-the-edge interview on Rove Daily from the show's website here.

Overall I think it is possible that our Aussie cousins may have slightly over-reacted, but it's nice to see Ramsay brought down to size.






Are we in the middle pointy-uppy bit of a W-shaped recession?

Well, we somehow need to reverse or recompense any negative recession-related thoughts we had during April and May. Why? Because we weren't in a recession in April and May. GDP was actually rising during those months. And, as a recession is normally defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth, by my book that means the recession ended, appropriately, on April 1st! Trebles all round! Let's see the BBC rolling out their special green upwards arrow graphic labelled "End of the Recession" (unlikely - good news on the BBC is normally confined to Springwatch and even that has enormously distressing blood and gore episodes in it).

However, that doesn't mean we couldn't now be plunging back into a recession, of course. Indeed, with Old Moore himself, Saint Vincent of the Cable Knit telling us to beware of an oil price hike, it is perfectly conceivable that there will be no "early bath" for the recession.

You don't need Tim Berners-Lee to open up government data

Brown couldn't resist another eye-catching gimmick in his statement on so-called "Constitutional reform". He's got your actual inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee to help in 'opening up government data to access on the web'.

Well, fair enough. You couldn't get a better person to advise the government on this matter.

But do come off it. The problem hasn't been, and isn't, prettily presenting data on the internet. The problem is prizing the data out of the hands of the government in the first place.

What is Alternative Vote?

The Electoral Reform Society web site gives an excellent summary of the pros and cons of the Alternative Vote system. On the same page you can click on other voting system names for similarly clear summaries.

Many people are turning to Liberal Burblings for advice on how to become a Conservative MP

It is endearing that many people googling for "How to become a Conservative MP" are landing on my post entitled:How to become a Tory MP: "Lick up" to Central Office and "hold your nose" . The article also carries a quote from a Tory insider saying "Prepare to lose a lot of money".

So, if any poor googler gets past reading that post and is still interested in being a Tory MP, then they have passed the first test and are obviously made of stern stuff.

The National Democratic Renewal Council - eh?

The title almost gives me nervous hysterics. This body is supposed to be the engine room for driving democratic reform in this country. So, does it include all parties, the church, Women's Institute, Boys Brigade etc etc like the Constitutional Convention which gave birth to the Scottish Assembly? Er...no.

So what is it then?

Well, it's just a Cabinet sub-committee basically. Downing Street says lists its members and gives other details - or highlights the absence of details - of the council. The members are:

Jack Straw, Harriet Harman, Lord Mandelson, Alistair Darling, David Miliband, Alan Johnson, Hilary Benn, Douglas Alexander, John Denham, Shaun Woodward, Baroness Royall, Jim Murphy, Peter Hain, Michael Wills, Nick Brown and Steve Bassam (the Lords Chief Whip - to attend when Lords issues were discussed).

So, nothing to get excited about. As for voting reform...last night it seemed to be "in" and that the Alternative Vote shambles would be conscribed. Now, after a night's sleep, Brown doesn't seem to be sure whether it will be included and certainly won't suggest a specific system (thank goodness):

On electoral reform, Downing Street played down reports that Mr Brown will propose replacing the first-past-the-post system with an alternative system similar to that used in the London mayoral election, where voters number candidates in order of preference.

A political source at No 10 said the Prime Minister was expected to say only that discussions would form part of the wider debate on renewal of British democracy, but any changes would have to be subject to a referendum.

He is not expected to put his weight behind any particular voting method or make firm proposals for electoral reform at this stage.

So, that could mean anything then. Great.

But we can be a bit hopeful that it is, sort of, on the agenda, at last. One thing's for sure, this is the last chance we have for Westminster voting reform for a good many years. As soon as the Tories get their mits on power they will pull the shutters down and the only "reform" there will be is a complete redrawing of the constituency boundaries to kill off about 50 natural Labour constituencies and keep the Tories in power for a generation.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Griffin is one step ahead of the protesters

No politician that I can remember has ever held a press conference on St Stephen's Green (I'll be happy to stand corrected if anyone can think of a previous instance). It's a place for interviews. Press conferences are held indoors. Virtually always.

So it is seems to me pretty darned obvious that Nick Griffin (who has been followed by UAF protesters at every press meet he's had during the Euro election campaign) planned an unusual open press conference on St Stephens Green specifically because he wanted to be interrupted by UAF protesters so it would make the news.

These UAF people were born yesterday it seems.

Stop giving this fat half-wit publicity!

Deeply offensive McCoys crisps advert

This is a deeply offensive advertisement which ludicrously reinforces unnecessary and outmoded stereotypes. I apologise profusely for the fact that I laughed my head off at it.



There's another one here:

Brown's confrontation with Labour MPs - blow by blow

Paul Waugh of the Evening Standard really is an awesome political reporter. He's assembled a blow by blow account of the Labour parliamentary party meeting last night. It is here.

Auctioning off the infamous Duck House for charidee - Expensegate - the Sequel

One good thing about the June 4th elections is that at last they have provided a firebreak for the Telegraph expensegate revelations. At one point I did think that the Telegraph would go on revealing expense claims details for ever. You know, actually add "The Newspaper of Expense revelations" to their mast head. I am glad they have stopped, in a way. Some of what they were revealing was just plain tedious. However, in toto they did the public a service.

We are now moving onto a new phase and seeing some post scripts or denouements coming out of the Telegraph expenses "revelations". In one sense, the elections of June 4th have lanced the boil a bit, and we seem to now be entering a less hysterical atmosphere, which is good.

So perhaps some of the expense revelations will now be seen in a bit more context.

A case in point may or may not be Sahid Malik MP. He's been cleared of any wrong doing according to the ministerial code of conduct, after an investigation by Sir Philip Mawer, the "independent" adviser on the code. He's being reinstated as a minister. Unfortunately, I cannot find any details of what the investigation did or did not find. So it is difficult to make up one's mind as to the degree, or not, of whitewash inherent in this investigation or, indeed, the degree of hysterical over-reaction, if there was any, in the Telegraph's reports about Malik.

On a cheerier note, the famous Duck House (which incidentally and ironically the ducks never used!) is being auctioned off for charidee.

The dead man walks on

Iain Dale says that Cameron is delighted about last night's Parliamentary Labour party meeting outcome:

Brown remains in situ. He's swinging from the gibbet but there is no one courageous enough at the top of the Labour Party to pull the rope tight around his neck.

I don't think courage enters into it. I very much doubt that either Alan Johnson or David Milliband want the poisoned chalice of the Labour leadership at the moment. They would not have any real leeway to radically change policies at this stage and they would just caretake the party until it goes down to an ignominious defeat. Why not give Brown that privilege? Perhaps nearer June 4th 2010, one of them might think it would be nice to go into the election leading the Labour party with a honeymoon effect surrounding them...I don't know.

I am struck by something I wrote about Brown a year ago in a post entitled: "Gordon Brown: One sandwich short of a picnic"- which is still true today:

To put it bluntly, (Brown) won't be a success as Prime Minister as long as he has a hole in his bottom.

Trivia question - BGT special

What is the link between the Daily Mail Television review page and Susan Boyle?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Will Cameron criticise PR for giving him a stunning victory in Northern Ireland?

If he's to be consistent, David Cameron should criticise Proportional Representation for giving him a stunning victory in the European Elections in Northern Ireland, the first for the newly formed Ulster Conservatives and Unionists. (After all, he's been slagging off PR constantly for the last few weeks, and William Hague blamed PR for the BNP's two seat victory in the European Parliament elections).

It is reasonable to speculate that, if the election had been run on Cameron's First Past the Post system, Jim Nicholson, the Ulster Conservative and Unionist candidate would have come third. That was where he came in the ranking of first preferences.

But, because the election was run on the Single Transferable Vote system, a variant of Proportional Representation, Jim Nicholson came second, scoring an historic victory over the Democratic Unionist Party, who came third (they came first at the last Euro elections).

That is because the second preferences of Jim Allister of True Ulster Voice, who was eliminated in the count, went mainly, according to observers, to the Ulster Conservative and Unionist candidate, and not to the Democratic Unionist party candidate.

Paradise for polinerds

Anyone wanting to drown in political nerdy paradise should look at Slugger O'Toole's Live Blog or here on CoveritLive or Tweet search for #EUNI.

The Northern Ireland count is absolutely fascinating - bearing in mind it is a STV system, unlike the rest of the UK.

Sinn Fein's candidate was the only one to be elected via first preferences.

The poor old DUP vote was split. Many of their votes went to Allister of True Ulster Voice. The second stage gave a seat to the Ulster Unionist/Conservative candidate.

Now the poor old DUP are having to scrap it out for 2nd prefs with the SDLP. Apparently, many DUP members have left the counting hall because they were so distressed! It is all too distressing...I can hardly stop laughing crying.

One fascinating snippet of info came to me via Mick Fealty, the gentleman (amongst other people) behind Slugger O'Toole. He said that the True Ulster Voice 2nd prefs went half to UCUNF (UU + Tories) and 1/3rd to DUP. That is interesting. So many people who were miffed that DUP went into power with Sinn Fein were so miffed they even refused to give their 2nd pref to the DUP and gave it instead to the "softer" UUP. Fascinating.

Update: The DUP have squeaked the third seat. "A close brush with death" says a tweeting Mick Fealty.

Nick Griffin: Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

Not me.

A system of proportional representation doesn't cause people to vote for extreme parties. But, thank God, it does give some fair representation to the normal, ordinary people who feel desperate enough to vote for extreme parties. The alternative is: masking that dissent and making people more angrier because they are unrepresented and thereby building up an even more dangerous political pressure cooker. I am delighted to see Nick Griffin disporting himself around the airwaves. People will plainly see what a complete burke he is. A man who is completely deluded and who has no practical civilised answers but to go round stirring up inferiority complexes which have no logical solution other than taking the UK ethnically back to 1914, which is his vision.

Labour's long march to the gallows

Quite a night. The Tories win Wales for the first time since 1918! The governing party on 15.7%!

I would have thought that Labour activists, MPs and supporters are seething with embarrassment that they let in Nick Griffin and that a second BNP MEP was elected. That is likely to shock them to the core and make them deeply ashamed of themselves.

Tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting will be an angry one.

But my guess is that Brown will survive. What is the alternative? Milliband obviously doesn't want to take over for 9 months then lose an election, so he's biding his time. It'll be Alan Johnson. And? What good will that do? You can't tell me that in the fifth year of a government he is going to suddenly change all the policies he ought to change (Dump ID cards, Dump Post office part-privatisation, bring in Nick Clegg's 100 days reform plan etc etc). He can't do it. You need a general election to have a mandate for any radical changes and, in any case, the Labour party as a corpus doesn't have any agreement on an alternative manifesto or policy platform at this stage. And, Johnson would have the added impediment of continually being asked what mandate he has to be Prime Minister (more so than Brown currently).

So, all Labour can do is stagger on under Brown or Johnson until the constitutional parking meter in Downing Street goes onto red and they have to call a slaughter election.

Which brings me to the Conservatives - who "held their own" in the Euro elections. It was hardly a rocket-charged performance. If the Tories had performed in the high forties or low fifties then perhaps Brown would be toast this morning. But UKIP aren't likely to repeat their success at a General Election, so that might be Brown's salvation (if spending another 9 months in limos and No 10 can be called "salvation" when, metaphorically, you have a baying mob outside No 10 and people taking potshots at your limo with rotten tomatoes).

Nick Griffin: Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

Not me.




A system of proportional representation doesn't cause people to vote for extreme parties. But, thank God, it does give some fair representation to the normal, ordinary people who feel desperate enough to vote for extreme parties. The alternative is: masking that dissent and making people more angrier because they are unrepresented and thereby building up an even more dangerous political pressure cooker. I am delighted to see Nick Griffin disporting himself around the airwaves. People will plainly see what a complete burke he is. A man who is completely deluded and who has no practical civilised answers but to go round stirring up inferiority complexes which have no logical solution other than taking the UK ethnically back to 1914, which is his vision.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Labour sixth in Cornwall

Dear me.

Cornwall Euro results: Con 46,589; UKIP 39,954; Lib Dem 29,436; Green 13,361; MK 11,534; Lab 8,483

Will the Welsh kill off Brown?

The BBC reports that the Conservatives might top the poll in Wales. It's unbelievable. If so, that could just be the straw which breaks Brown.

Will UKIP save Brown's bacon ? - LibDems win North East seat

Early indications show UKIP well up but the Tories well down. That is the picture, for example, in Christchurch and North Lincolnshire. That could well take the sting out of the blow for Brown.

The BBC's Mark Mardell says that there are rumours sweeping the European Parliament that UKIP have done stunningly well, perhaps coming second with 18 seats.

Early indications suggest that this success will be at the expense of the Conservatives. That's the crucial element which may well let Brown off the hook.

Mind you, news is coming through that the Conservatives may top the popular vote in Wales!

Now, that might do for Brown!

Contrary to Tim Montgomerie's early wishful thinking, the LibDems easily won a seat in the North East, beating UKIP by 13,000.

Griffin will NOT win seat - North West LibDems

20:59 The BBC's Mike Hamilton has been speaking to the LibDems in Manchester who say it is looking less likely that the British National Party will win a seat in the North West region, because in Burnley, where the BNP is traditionally quite strong - the LibDems are looking as if they will come first and Labour will come second. In Liverpool and Manchester, according to the LibDems, the BNP look on course to come sixth.

Pirates win a seat in European Parliament

But they are nice Swedish pirates.

Sweden:
The Pirate Party that wants to legalise Internet filesharing and beef up privacy on the web won a seat in the European Parliament for the first time.

Great news: BNP's Nick Griffin to be an MEP!

Fantastic news! Everyone will be able to see what a complete burke he is!

(Conservative Home are saying that BBC North West are reporting that Nick Griffin is likely to win a seat. Further link will follow as soon as I can find one).

The Lancashire Telegraph has a liveblog here which will, no doubt, reveal the news if and when it is confirmed.

Where to find the European election results

The official multi-language EU results site is here

The BBC results site here and their more general European news site is here.

Google's European election news collection is here.

The EU Information website has a great feed of news here.

The BBC has a live Text and Video update here which is strongly recommended.

There's some excellent pre-results coming in via Twitter search on #eu09

Liberal Vision has a superb European exit poll thread here.

PoliticsHome will give regular updates in its Green Box here.

The Guardian have started a LiveBlog here.

Conservative Home have a live blog here with their usual blue tinge.

The results will start coming in at 9pm GMT or 10pm CET.

The official site will also start publishing the turn-out figures then.

The Guardian has an excellent Tweetdeck of their various journalists here and the UK political parties here.

Please leave a comment below if you have found any other mines of info on this subject!

The Alan Sugar bluffer's guide to politics

An entertaining couplet of Alan Sugar interviews here on PoliticsHome. He's not joining the government and will be a non-political adviser on business - "a Giant Dragon's Den but not with my money". He says he understands he will become a peer but when asked if he would take the Labour Whip he said: "I'm sorry I'm not sure what that means. I'm not familiar with the technicalities of all this."

He also said he had checked his new role with the BBC and it was OK - so Dominic Grieve can go boil his head.

But the bit I found funny was this:

He went on to criticise the media's coverage of recent events. "The country is driven by this giant reality show. You, Paxman and the chubby fellow who hangs outside Downing Street," he said.
"Cameron at the moment must think he's won the lottery and it's you lot winding up the public," he said.


Who is this "chubby fellow" he is on about? It's not Gary O'Donoghue (pictured below) par chance, is it?

Or could he be referring to the svelte Adam Boulton?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

War with Iceland averted

It's smiles all round as a deal is agreed to repay the UK government for the retail deposits lost when Icesave collapsed. The UK will unfreeze Icelandic bank assets on June 15th. Phew. We can turn round the gunboats.

Councils will have to wait though - this deal only applies to retail accounts.

Celebrating 25 years of the Tetris effect. Eh?

Google is celebrating 25 years of the Tetris effect today. Of course, I hadn't got a clue what that was, so I looked it up. It's what I'll get one day from looking at LibDem blogs too much. Wikipedia summarises it thus:

The Tetris effect occurs when an activity to which people devote sufficient time and attention begins to overshadow their thoughts, mental images, and dreams. It is named after the video game Tetris. In the game a player rotates and moves different falling tetrominoes, or shapes made up of four adjacent square blocks. If the player can arrange the shapes so there are complete horizontal lines of blocks without any gaps, those lines are eliminated. The object of the game is to eliminate as many lines as possible before the shapes fill the screen.

On the subject of those celebatory Google logos, my offspring's school are doing a load of them in their Art lessons, to send in for a competition. Their given subject is "Our heroes".

Crack open the champagne!

...Or a rambling personal note on the council election results.

First of all, if you lost your seat in the elections, regardless of your party label or lack of it, do remember that losing at an election is God's/Fate's (delete as applicable) way of telling you to live a little.

Stephen Tall gives a very balanced view of the LibDems' performance here.

Overall, the Liberal Democrats projected share of the vote is cause for opening up the champagne! Trebles all round!

It's at 28%, compared to the Tories' 38% - just a ten point gap between us and the Tories. Compare that to the opinion polls in July/August 2008 when we were regularly twenty seven points - yes - count them - twenty seven points behind the Tories. If you don't believe me then look at this graph, which shows the LibDems around 18% in July/August 2008, with the Tories on around 45%.

Also, after all the nonsense we have had over the last few years about leaders, we have at last got a leader who is performing brilliantly, particularly over the last few weeks. Nick Clegg was particularly good and omnipresent on the media yesterday. This is cause for great rejoicing.

Oh, and, by golly, by gosh, we have at last got something which might be loosely described as that precious, precious commodity which the Liberal Democrats have searched and searched and searched for, for many long years. Yes, you guessed it - a narrative!

And let's savour Bristol a little shall we? Barbara Janke and her team have been plugging away at Bristol for many years. This is not an overnight success story. If you go back to the 1995 elections, Labour held a staggering 53 seats on Bristol City Council, with the LibDems on 9 and Tories on 6. So, little by little, the Bristol LibDems have plugged away and gradually built up their representation on the city council to the current level: LibDems 36, Labour 16, Tories 17, Greens 1. Well done team Bristol!

By the way, before any LibDems get too depressed, or indeed any Tories get too elated, they should look at this excellent analysis from Duncan Stott on Split Horizons. It shows that the Tories have grabbed seats way above their vote share. For example, in Staffordshire they won 79% of the seats with only 43% of the votes. How can that be good for democracy? Indeed, I'd argue that it isn't even good for the Conservatives. In a few years time they will get over-complacent, knackered and out of touch from too many council cabals, and then the electorate will take their revenge on them. It's all rather pointless.

I'd like now to focus on Cornwall and congratulate my fellow countryfolk (from, admittedly, my airey-fairey vantage point of exile in in a county where the trees go straight up and round) on establishing Cornwall Council. Yay! At long last!

And many congratulations to the Liberal Democrats for establishing an excellent representation on the new council - 38 seats. That, for Cornwall, is actually very good, bearing in mind it is an area with a tradition of many Indpendent councillors. I am particularly cheered that the whole of the Bude and Stratton area is now represented by LibDem councillors! Hurrah! So, many congratulations to Nathan Bale in Bude North and Stratton, Nigel Pearce in Bude South and Paula Dolphin in Flexbury and Poughill. This is a marvellous full house, when you consider that the area has been represented by independents (as well as some Liberal Democrats more recently) for many many years.

It was also good to see Glenton Brown being elected in Tintagel, a LibDem hat-trick in Launceston and a very strong LibDem showing both in Newquay and Penzance.

Many congratulations to Robin (Lord) Teverson on being elected for St Mewan ward and congratulations to David Hughes for being elected for Tywardreath ward, or the Du Maurier ward, if you prefer it (which you probably don't).

Finally, I would note that no Labour candidates were elected to Cornwall council. This is remarkable when you consider that Labour has traditionally been strong in the Redruth-Cambourne-Falmouth area. They used to have the MP going back years when Dr John Dunwoody held it, then Cathy Atherton from 1997. Indeed Cathy Atherton tried to get elected to the council in Carn Brea North but come third. The nearest Labour came anywhere to winning a seat was in Redruth North where they came 2nd.