Monday, June 30, 2008

20 Questions to a Presidential Candidate - Updated

I hope to get the answers to my questions (see below) soon, but in the meantime, wondered if there were other potential presidential candidates I should send them to - Chris Huhne? Chris Rennard? Susan Kramer? So, if you would like to suggest the candidate you would most like to see standing in the upcoming contest, I can include them in my distribution list!

My questions are as follows:

1. What motivated you to get involved in politics and does that still motivate you now?
2. Which political figure, living or dead, do you most admire and why?
3. If you could introduce a new party policy, what would it be?
4. If there was a party policy you could overturn, what would it be?
5. Have you done the “political compass” exercise and if so where do you sit?
6. What will you bring to the position of President?
7. What will be your priorities if elected?
8. What is your view on the marketisation of public services?
9. What is your view on our policy on Trident?
10. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in this country, what would it be?
11. If elected how will you advance the cause of Libdemmery?
12. As a party, despite our values, we still seem to find it impossible to reflect the diversity of the country we seek to represent, how will you redress this?
13. There has been a lot of debate, in the blogosphere and elsewhere, about our narrative. What should it be?!
14. What do you consider the most pressing issue facing the world?
15. With a resurgent Tory Party, how would you ensure that as a third party, our voice was heard?
16. If elected, what do you most look forward to about the role?
17. As someone more on the “left” of the party, why should I vote for you?
18. If you were stranded on a desert island, which politician – from another party – would you be happy to be stranded with and why?
19. If you were stranded on a desert island, which politician – from our party – would you be happy to be stranded with and why?!
20. If elected President what will you do to help elect a second MEP in the East of England? (Or anywhere else actually!!!)

Iain Dale v Political contest!

Iain Dale is very fond of biggin' himself up as the most read political blog in the country. However, the reality is that he is out hit 4:1 by Political Betting. Now, Mike Smithson is a well known Lib Dem, former Councillor and PPC, but his site is probably the most politically neutral in the country. Why? Because its focus is on the betting odds, not the political rhetoric. In contrast Iain (God bless'im) is overtly partisan to, on occasions, the point of hysteria! So I am pleased to see that Mike is taking on Iain's inflated claims by advertising just how popular his site is. Although, having met at a bbq on Saturday, he did slightly blot his copy book (!)- we were discussing the role John Major may have had in Gordon Brown's disastrous decision to abandon plans for an election last year, and for some reason got chatting about IDS. I said how impressed I had been when talking to him at an event last year. Unlike most politicos who talk to you with one eye over your shoulder in the hope of escaping/talking to someone more important (what do you mean it is only me that happens to?!), IDS did nothing of the sort. We must have spoken for at least 20 minutes with no sign of him wanting to escape. Mike pointed out that it may not have been my scintillating conversation, but because no one else would speak to him!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lib Dems - The Low Tax Party - has Nick Clegg got it right?

Mark Littlewood, ex Lib Dem Head of Media and well known exponent of dragging the party kicking and screaming to the right, urges Nick Clegg in an article in the Telegraph yesterday to make us the low tax party.

"Greatly to his credit, Nick Clegg has dropped some hints that the LibDems could become the party of low taxation at the next election. But he has yet to adopt the policies to make such a claim truly plausible"

He also has some wise words to say about our desperate need for a meaningful narrative and clear messages, though clearly his view is that the clear messages should be about low taxation alluding to the idea that this could be the only way our MPs in vulnerable seats can tackle the Tories. But my question is, if the choice is between a large low tax party and a small low tax party, why would you choose the small one? This for me gets to the crux of the issue. We are trying to get policies that will appeal to soft Tory voters so that we can hang on to our Southern seats, rather than returning to our values to discover what should drive us.

We are tying ourselves up in knots about narrative and clear messages, actually we have a clear message which is the sure foundation for our's the preamble to our constitution:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity

(My emphasis). This morning The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Kings College London published research that criticised the government's approach to tackling knife crime. They argue that the government's punitive approach is counterproductive and that it is the underlying root causes of poverty and inequality that needs tackling. So, my argument is, a drive for being seen as a "low tax party" without explaining how that relates to our core values is vacuous. We are starting at the wrong end. Now, if Mark et al could explain how lower overall taxes will contribute to ending poverty and inequality then there is a conversation to be had.

Thug or stooge? The police officer on the anti Bush demo - Updated....and updated again!

There has been a lot of coverage about the police violence during the STWC demonstration against George Bush a couple of weeks ago. In the middle of all this is an interesting and very disturbing story.

This was the first demo I have missed for sometime, but in the early evening I had a call from my pal Yas who was there. She asked me about a guy we had both met at a Christmas Party - she wanted to be sure he did what she thought he did - a senior police officer with a hugely sensitive role. He had been deliberately trying to agitate including chanting "pigs" at the police. There are only three explanations for what happened - and you can read all about it in Yas's article in the Mail on Sunday. Firstly, he wasn't who she thought he was (unlikely as he recognised her and responded to his name and is someone who is striking to look at), secondly, he was deliberately living dangerously and for some reason got a thrill from it, thirdly, he was working - this is the most disturbing of possibilities. Yas's article has generated a lot of interest. I trust there will be a full police investigation.
Update: Heard from Yas this afternoon that George Galloway has now written to Jacqui Smith about this. Full text of his letter, which names the suspect is here.
This whole affair has attracted a lot of attention in the blogosphere. I understand from Yas that it appears the police are taking the story seriously as she is being interviewed by them shortly.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Henley - time to reflect

A dozen red kites circling over Chinnor, someone in a brash Union Jack t shirt yelling at me that he was voting BNP, me shouting back that if the fascists got into power he'd never vote again, a woman congratulating Stephen on an excellent campaign, a guy (somewhat bashfully) admitting he voted Tory where he had always voted Labour - but suggesting we were knocking up in the wrong area "coz they are all BNP round here". A snapshot of my memories from yesterday in Henley.

Questions on the blogosphere are already being asked about what went wrong. I am not sure, we fought a professional campaign against a known resurgent Tory party - but as I have said before and will say again, the landscape is quite different from Bromley and that is what we need to reflect upon. The world is no longer one where we can pick off Tory seats in by elections, though the same may not be the case where we are second to Labour. I made this observation about Crewe and Nantwich and got roundly criticised - but we can't continue to do what we have always done when the goalposts have shifted and expect to score goals!

Firstly my heartfelt congratulations and commiserations to Stephen Kearney. He was an outstanding candidate and a great new talent in the party.

But, I hope this will provide the goad for us as a party to review where we are in this changed landscape. We have lost two battles, we need a time to consolidate, to rethink our battle plan, to consider if we have the right resources, to rally the troops. I hope this will start with a good think about what radical and risky, insurgent and anti-establishment (to quote Nick Clegg) looks like and in my humble opinion, the less like Tory/New Labour the better!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Will Chris Huhne stand for Party President?

At the moment we have two declared presidential candidates, Lembit Opik and Ros Scott, both of whom have agreed to answer my 20 questions (which will be posted as soon as I have them back from both of them). But will the contest take an interesting turn if there is a third contender? I have heard that the "anyone but Lembit" lobby are looking for someone else to take him on and that Chris Huhne is the name in the frame. Hmmmm, interesting. Of course Simon Hughes lost the leadership and then overwhelming won the Presidency. But then, the last time the Presidency was contested it was Lembit who lost, so there is a feeling in some quarters that it is his turn this time. So, having had the position uncontested last time, maybe we are in for a three way battle this?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hughes, Kennedy, Bruce, Ashdown, spy cameras,Fibber Magee and the ever flowing vodka

Phew, what a week! And here I am sat next to fellow blogger, Toryboy Andrew McConnell, in the city of Wloclawec on the Vista in Northern Poland, trying to catch up.

On Monday evening I attended the celebrations for Simon Hughes, Charles Kennedy and Malcolm Bruce's 25 years as MPs. It was a really nice relaxed evening, sparkling speeches from all three (in Simon's case uncharacteristically short!) and a chance to catch up with fellow libdemmers normally passed as ships in the night. This meant I missed the last flight across to Belfast and I was horrified that it took me over 2 hours to reach my hotel at Heathrow. Partly caused by the ridiculous fact that I had to wait 45 minutes for a taxi at terminal 1. One of the busiest airports in the world and you can't get a taxi! The result was less than three hours sleep. I arrived at the airport at some ungodly hour only to see Paddy Ashdown charging off on the other side of security - I guess he saw me first! This was the first time I have been to Heathrow since they installed the sinister looking cameras - so now you can't get through without having your picture taken and scanned on to your boarding pass. I questioned this and was told it was so that I could go into the international lounge. But says I - I don't want to go into the international lounge - and I don't want to have my picture taken! I was told I had no choice if I wanted to fly. Hmmmmmm, and then all through the lounge the even more sinister posters advertising IRIS - whoever she is! Someone who is even more likely to erode our civil liberties methinks!

So got to Belfast bright and early to speak at the launch of the Young People and Money programme that is being delivered by Citizen's Advice NI. Our chair was Nuala McKeever a comedian who was brilliant - very very funny. Then off to Edinburgh and back to Bedford Wed eve. Thursday I spent in beautiful Henley as I knew I wouldn't get down over the weekend - then a mad rush to pack and get down to Luton for another ridiculously early morning flight across to Warsaw and a four hour drive to Wloclavec our unofficial twintown. But now off to their river festival with my erstwhile councillor colleagues and members of Dom Polski! More later!!!!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

20 Questions to a Presidential Candidate

Later this year we will all be invited to vote for a new Party President. Simon Hughes has set the bar high. So far we have two declared candidates, Baroness Ros Scott and Lembit Opik MP. Regular readers will know I have a genuine dilemma about who to support - so I have written to both with 20 questions which I hope will help me, and others, decide.

I have heard from Ros that she is happy to answer my questions and I trust Lembit will do likewise - watch this space!

The Terrible Tale of the dog and the sweeping machine?

Did you hear it? How dreadful. Someone who was left holding his dog's lead as it was sucked up into a sweeping machine and killed.

Out on the "Shandy Run" with Lembit and Stephen

One of the attractions of the Henley constituency has to be the picturesque villages, liberally sprinkled with equally picturesque pubs, so it was fun to finish my day there yesterday joining Lembit and Stephen Kearney on the "Shandy Run" - touring said establishments until they closed. Apparently it was Lembit who recruited Stephen to the party and they have been friends for 12 years.

As you may expect Lembit's high recognition rate meant he was instantly engaging with the punters, but what was more impressive was that nearly as many people recognised Stephen and were happy to talk about the issues he has been raising. For those of you wondering whether or not it is worth the trek to Henley I would say here is evidence of the undoubted impact the campaign is having - every little counts and there is no doubt the Tory vote is soft. Even those who confess to always having voted Tory, the very people you would expect to by buoyed up by a resurgent party, are not sure if they will support them.

There is no doubt that everywhere we went people will be chatting about "guess who was in the pub last night?" but more importantly will also be able to talk about Stephen and how impressive he is as a candidate.

So, let's get out there and rattle the Tory cage - we have a great chance to do it, but it is a case of all hands to the pump.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Let's hear it for Chris Huhne........ you never thought you would hear me say that! But, he has come up trumps today - just got the following message from Stop the War Coalition re the planned demo against George Bush on Sunday -

The demonstration against George Bush's state visit to the
UK on Sunday 15 June will definitely take place, now the
police have accepted that we can assemble in Parliament
The campaign to get the ban lifted on us marching from
Parliament Square to Downing Street continues. Today, the
Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary, Chris Huhne, wrote
to the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, calling on her to
overturn the ban on the anti-Bush march.
Calling the ban 'the final straw' after Wednesday's vote on
42-day detention, Huhne says, "Just because the votes of
these protesters cannot be bought, it does not mean that
their voices should not be heard by those in 10 Downing
Street. In this country we have a long tradition of peaceful
protest and I would be shocked if British civil liberties
were curtailed at the request of a foreign government." (See
full text of the letter below.)
This is a very important demonstration against a war
criminal who should be on trial rather than "honoured" by a
state visit. But it is now also a key event in the battle to
reclaim our civil liberties, which have been under continual
attack under the guise of the "war on terror". The shameful
farce of Gordon Brown bribing through parliament his
detention without trial legislation and the ban on our march
to Downing Street are just the latest examples.
Stop the War urges all its supporters to join us in
Parliament Square on Sunday 15 June at 5.00pm, when we will
insist that war criminals are not welcome here and asserting
our right to demonstrate peacefully. It is still our
intention to defy the ban on our march from Parliament
Square to Downing Street.
Called by Stop the War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament and British Muslim Initiative


Dear Home Secretary,
I am writing to urgently request that you review the
decision of the Metropolitan Police to ban the anti-Bush
march taking place this Sunday 15 June from marching down
Whitehall. As you will be aware the Stop the War Coalition
have organised dozens of peaceful marches past Downing
Street, and I am deeply concerned that the request has been
In this country we have a long tradition of peaceful protest
and I would be shocked if British civil liberties were
curtailed at the request of a foreign government. I hope
that you can also confirm that the decision of the
Metropolitan Police was not made at the request of the US
A static demonstration in Parliament Square is no
replacement for a protest march down Whitehall and I urge
you to work with the police and the protesters to ensure
they are able to make their voices heard outside Downing
Street. Just because the votes of these protesters cannot
be bought does not mean that their voices should not be
heard by those in 10 Downing Street.
Kind Regards,
Chris Huhne
Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary

Thursday, June 12, 2008

David Davies - would he have resigned without Lib Dem support?

A it not? David Davies flounces out so what do we do?

Now. It may not of have escaped your notice dear reader, but I tend to have Messrs Clegg and Hughes so far up the pedestal they are hardly visible to the naked eye. But on this decision I fear they have got it terribly wrong.

So. Let me pose a question. Let's imagine that it was not David Davies taking this principled stand that we so agree with. Let's imagine it was Bob Spink (forget his actual position for a mo), who had taken the same principled position as us. Let's imagine it was Bob Spink who had flounced out and forced a by election. Would we have taken the same view and given UKIP a clear run? And if not why not?

Whilst I fully accept that David Davies is totally opposed to the erosion of our civil liberties, as was pointed out this evening, would it not have been better had he stayed as shadow Home Secretary and fought his corner there? I have never heard anything quite so absurd. Had he been Home Secretary in a Tory Government in these circumstances his decision would have been brave and appropriate. As it is, he is resigning from the party he supports....???? It is posturing of the worst kind and I fear we may be complicit in it. We hear that he spoke to Nick Clegg late last night. Why - if it was not to ensure Lib Dem support for his actions and an agreement to butt out of the by election? Had he been told we would contest the by election, would he have gone ahead and resigned?

Simon Hughes reminds us that we have done the same thing before in Tatton. We also bowed out in Kidderminster. But in both cases it was to support independent candidates. I am not sure I even agree with that, it doesn't quite accord with my notion of democracy. However, that is far more defensible than what we have here, we support one aspect of what this man is saying about civil liberties, but heavens, on nearly every other issue isn't he the archetypal right wing Tory??? And let's not forget, these are the Tories who can bang the drum about civil liberties on the one hand and talk about repealing the Human Rights Act on the other - shouldn't we be taking this opportunity to point out that hypocrisy? Instead, it seems to me, we are allowing David Davies to steal our overcoat whilst inviting him to take our shirt while he is about it!

For me Jonathan Fryer has hit the nail on the head. Mark my words, this is likely to come back and bite us in the bottom.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Shocking news on poverty....more news Gordon Brown wants to bury?

The figures have just been published.......100,000 more children living in poverty, a shocking 3.9 million. And the first increase in pensioner poverty since 1998, an additional 300,000 bringing the total to 2.5 million. Kate Green from the Child Poverty Action Group is calling for a further £3 billion to be spent on tax credits and benefits. What is disturbing is that these figures are from 2006/7, with the huge jump in the cost of living there is no doubt it will be even worse now.

But these figures are not just a problem for the government, they are a problem for us as we go round promising tax cuts at the same time as being committed to tackling poverty. Ultimately they will also be a huge problem for the Tories, wanting to cut taxes at the same time as presumably crying crocodile tears over these figures.

Frankly we have a choice. Ending child poverty, youth poverty, pensioner poverty will cost. If we are serious about it we need to have a serious look at either reordering our priorities, or reviewing our tax policy. What's that saying about not having your cake and eating it?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sensible Shoes - my secret vice

Given that I don't have to go into work tomorrow (tho having to make a torturous journey from Bury St Edmunds to York tomorrow evening)...I am uncharacteristically not worrying about what time I will surface tomorrow morning!

So, on the advice of one of my Tory boys I am reviewing my posts and adding "labels".....and came across this post, started in April. Well, started is perhaps slightly egging the pudding. All I had was a title. Can I remember what my point

Given the date, it probably had something to do with my purchase of some "sensible" canvassing shoes. Being "vertically challenged" I tend to rely on heels to bring me up to my full height. But, it has to be said, I have tried canvassing and leafleting in me heels and it is a sorry sight. So, I was delighted to find some luverly flatties, perfectly designed for canvassing. It reminded me of a feminist theatre group I used to do some work with years ago called "Sensible Shoes", a company that is sadly no more.

Does height matter? As liberals, clearly not. But, I am reminded of the time when as Branch Secretary of my union I went to a school to support some of our members in a dispute. The meeting went well. But, at the end, the woman who had invited me was brutally honest. "When you walked in" she said "my heart sunk when I saw the size of you!".....but, she had been (thankfully) impressed, when she saw me in action.... sat down I can be amazingly formidable!!!

How long til the Cameron bubble bursts?.............

.......17 days?

The world is an unpredictable place. We are fortunate to live in a part of the globe where there is more stability than in most countries. But, in relative terms, we are being shaken. The "credit crunch", falling house prices, rising oil, fuel and food prices - all are contributing to a feeling of insecurity. And then there is the terrorist threat.....hmmm that hot potato, 42 days, ID cards, islamaphobia. Add to the mix a smidgen of xenophobia, demonising of young people, fear of crime, dirty hospitals, failing schools, oh.....and don't forget that great demon Europe.

At the heart of all our relative insecurity is a deep cynicism about politics and politicians. No one, from any party, can surely deny that this has got worse. That cynicism was aptly displayed in Crewe and Nantwich. How will it be displayed in leafy Henley?

The smart money may be on a Tory victory, after all, there is no doubt the Tories are resurgent. In Crewe and Nantwich it was clear they were a shoo in. But in Crewe and Nantwich it was a Labour seat. We were third. In Henley the landscape is very different. Of course, the Tories may well consolidate and increase their share of the vote, but let's not forget, the cynicism isn't only about Labour and Gordon Brown, it is also about politics in general. The local elections and recent by elections have demonstrated that. As Lib Dems we have made some brilliant gains from the Tories. This for me makes me believe we could do really well in Henley. The Henley electorate can't send much of a signal to a Labour government by voting Tory.........but they can send a message to the political establishment by voting Lib Dem!

I am a great fan of chaos know, the butterfly flapping its wing in Brazil ultimately influencing the course of a tornado. We live in "interesting times". As a party that has at its heart the belief that no one should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity..........all too often we rely on that very conformity!!!! Ds and Ps, yes?!

So, back to Henley. As I said yesterday, we have the kind of candidate in Stephen Kearney who can throw the rule book up in the air. I confess, I didn't have that sense of optimism in Crewe and Nantwich. I am frustrated that we pretended it was winnable and now have the problem of a "cry wolf" backlash. However, to those of you who may be feeling downhearted, worry not! We are serious contenders in Henley, it is worth every second, minute, hour you can put into this. Every little will help.......who knows if it is your straw that will break the Tory camel's back, your "grain of sand" that will tip the balance?

Dear oh dear, I sound very melodramatic about this, but regular readers will know, I am not a great fan of spin. I was quite prepared to air my concerns about Crewe and Nantwich, if I thought we were banging a hollow drum in Henley, I would be the first to say so.

So, back to Mr C. Don't forget this time last year. He was unpopular with his grass roots (may still be so from my intelligence). He was struggling to find a foothold with Brown (who started well remember?), it is the incompetence of Brown that has puffed up Cameron. Where is the substance in Cameron? Where does Cameron stop being Blairlite? Our challenge is to highlight the clear fault line between Cameron and his party, "Liberal" Dave has a party that is still, conservative, rightwing, to its core!

A huge bubble has developed around DC. But, like a bubble, it may be big, but it is fragile, it could burst at any moment. My hunch is, this could be on 26th June..............

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Homophobic verbal abuse - should we report it?

On Friday night I was out for dinner with two gay friends, who happen to be councillors. We were chatting about all things political when they told me the story of a visit they made to their local pub last week. As they walked in someone in a group of people near the bar spotted them and shouted out, to the amusement of his friends - "Oh look here come the benders". My friends were rightly shaken and upset, particularly as they had had a similar comment when they were out canvassing the previous weekend. We got to talking about what they should do about it. One of them wanted to leave it, the other to report it. My view was very clear, I asked if a racist comment had been made to someone they knew, would they have felt it was OK to leave it?

I had a look at the Home Office website, and whilst it gives stats for numbers of hate crimes reported, it doesn't break them down. Where they are broken down - for example in the Met, they make up about 10% of reported hate crimes. This made me wonder, are people less likely to report homophobic hate crimes, or are they just less likely to occur? Also, what responsibility do establishments, like pubs, have, to take action against customers who verbally abuse other customers on the basis of their race, religion, disability or sexuality?

So, I am planning to visit said establishment next week.........will let you know how I get on!

It's not just Henley that needs Stephen Kearney as their next MP...Its the Country!

Greetings from Henley, where, along with fellow bloggers Millenium Elephant, Alex Wilcock and Helen Duffett, I have just had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Kearney.

Any one who knows me that there is one sure fire way to my about young people and youth work.....did someone tell him?!

I got to ask the first question which was to ask Stephen what motivated him to get involved in politics. His answer was inspiring and, it has to be said, music to my ears!!!

Stephen told the story of how as a teenager he had got involved with a project called Focus. He and other young people had been hanging around on the streets and got to meet a youth worker, one committed to experiential learning - who worked with the young people to develop a Cafe and Theatre and other groups from a building they took over. He reflected that the young people themselves were empowered to run everything, they became directors, managers, developing a huge range of skills in the process. And then as the youth club fell into disrepair the youth worker worked with them to reflect about what had gone wrong and what they needed to do to resolve the problems - linking what we do to the impact it has and making the link between personal growth and actions. This learning had influenced the rest of the course of his life. Learning how you influence policy, support communities and encourage them to take action.

Through the work he was doing through Regenerate and his contact with politicians like Alex Carlile, Simon Hughes and Lembit Opik, he came to the conclusion that the Lib Dems were the party that listened most. Following a meeting with Peter Luff in Henley in 2002 he made a commitment to put his heart into politics and devote the next 20-25 years of his life to seeing the Lib Dems move from a third force in politics, to government.

Stephen's commitment to young people shone through, his understanding of their needs and our responsibility to take those needs seriously as a key to dealing with many of the underlying problems in our society was a breath of fresh air.

The other theme that ran through what Stephen said, was his understanding of and commitment to, listening to and empowering communities. Apparently he was trained in the 90's by the same people who trained Barack Obama and has clearly put a lot of that learning into practice in the way he has developed his charity and also, impressively, has a clear route map of how he would do the same in politics.

His challenge was that politicians had to up their game and that as Lib Dems we could head the way through not only listening to what people and communities were saying but also by creating networks of people within communities to help us deliver. One of his first priorities after being elected would be to create his own listening team within the constituency who would work with him to explore concerns and implement solutions. His first task on a Friday morning after returning to the constituency would be to meet with this team to report back on what he had been doing in parliament and to get feedback from them about what they were doing, reflecting on concerns and deciding on actions.

He said a lot more and I will drip feed some of the specifics, for example on policy, later. But to start with I wanted to get the message across very clearly that here is someone we absolutely MUST GET INTO PARLIAMENT!!!!! Seriously guys, if you were feeling demoralised after Crewe and is the time to get your pecker up, dust down your walkin boots, polish up your Lib Dem rosette.........AND GET DOWN HERE - ASAP. Or if it is too far, pick up some of the telecanvassing. I am absolutely convinced Stephen can win this, he has the style, personality, drive......and above all a proven deep commitment to making life better for everyone. If elected he will be a breath of fresh air for our parliamentary party, but far more importantly a breath of fresh air for our country. In a climate where politics is stale, people are disillusioned and have lost faith, here is someone who can inspire them and show very can be different!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Obama - A historic moment

I should be getting down to writing up my notes from Nick Clegg's speech today, but I keep finding myself distracted. One such distraction was reading this post by Jim Wallis. Having heard Jim speak about his involvement in the Civil Rights movement last week, I found his words particularly heartfelt and moving, so am sitting with tears rolling down my face! He finishes by reflecting on the election of Obama as the Democratic candidate as being truly historic:

"But it is more than historic; it is very personal for many of my generation. A new generation just sees this as natural -- he’s an inspirational leader who happens to be black, which matters little to them. But for my generation -- I’m dating myself now -- this is a transformational moment, one we didn't think would come in our lifetimes. Race was the issue that changed us, shaped us, determined our path, and even defined the meaning of our faith. Now a black man is running for president of the United States. Amazing grace."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's Death

Today is the 40th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's death. Hardly seems possible (but I guess that is what all us 50 summats say!). One of those occasions that those of us who were around then will never forget. I got sent this quote from him, which has as much resonance now as it did 42 years ago -

Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.

Robert F. Kennedy, in a speech in Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966.

Another Lib Dems gain from the Tories!

Just got a text from Tim Huggan to let me know that we have gained Red Lodge in Forest Heath from the Tories! Result as follows:

Lib Dem 321 - 55.9%
Con 230 - 40.1%
UKIP 23 - 4%

Many many congratulations to new Cllr Pat McCloud! And well done to Tim too. He confessed to me earlier this week that they had given me the hardest part of Red Lodge to telecanvass, yet I had come away thinking we would walk it. Not least because Pat McCloud has clearly been working very hard in the ward and has built a great reputation.

So........what's that saying about "onwards and upwards"? The Tories may be whipping the botties of the Labour Party, but they still have a fight on with us.

Nick Clegg on Education - you heard it here first!

You can listen to Nick's speech this morning on Education and Social Mobility here. I will be putting in my tenpenneth later this evening - you have been warned!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

John Reid........Next Labour Leader?

According to Political Betting, Mike Smithson has just put £20 on John Reid to be the next Labour leader. Scary...........or what? Just as we thought our bleary eyed mornings were free from the grating tones of the aptly christened "attack dog"..........we are threatened with his potential return.

Yes. John Reid. Remember him? He of the reasoned argument, measured tone, gentle ways?

My abiding memory is of my encounter with him on the night the Commons voted in favour of the war in Iraq. With apologies to those who have heard this tale was he (in full attackdog armour) who was wheeled out to account for the government that night. He did his usual piece to Sky camera, justifying the unjustifiable, but was interrupted by a protester. He asked the guy to stop and said he would come back and answer his questions when the interview was over. As the interview finished he went to walk off. Leaning over the barrier I shouted after him that he had promised to talk to us. He came back, looked down on me disparagingly and said (clearly resisting the temptation to pat me on the head!) "When I was your age I was out protesting against Vietnam (subtext, you will grow out of it)...I know, young men fighting old men's wars" response "I'm not that much younger than you (dear reader, before you say anything, it was dark!)..." We then got into a barney, he trying to justify the unjustifiable - trying to claim UN support on the one hand and then justifying ignoring the UN on the other. Sky asked if they could continue filming (wonder if they still have it) Reid continues to try and fight his corner, until finally (to my mind) he admits defeat, stamps his foot and says " I said I would come and talk to you, NOT enter into a debate!" Turns on his heel and scurries off back to the warmth and security of the Palace of Varieties.

That was my only personal encounter with him, I found him patronising, sexist, bullying and arrogant; characteristics, I have it on good authority, he has apparently also displayed in office. A former Communist and by his own admission a Stalinist, one would be forgiven for thinking that whilst Gordon Brown may have changed from Stalin to Mr Bean, with John Reid it could be more like changing from Pitbull to Stalin?!

Haaretz.......does "liberal" mean supporting genocide and terrorism?

"Our land is not Arab land": An advertisement on the front page of leads to a website advocating genocide and terrorism., the website of the Israeli newspaper often cited as an example of Israel's liberal, critical media carries paid advertisements from a website openly advocating the total destruction of the Palestinian people, the murder of large numbers of Muslim civilians, the assassination of the family members of Arab rulers, and the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons against dozens of countries.The website, Samson Blinded, claims that Google banned its advertisements from its adwords program. If that is true, it would be consistent with Google's policy that prohibits advertising promoting violence or advocating against any group based on race, ethnic or national origin or religion. Yet the Samson Blinded advertisements appear prominently on the main page and article pages of Haaretz's website. For example the ad appeared on the front page of on 1 June, and also prominently on an article page headlined "Who didn't attend New York's pro-Israel march? Israelis" on the same date.Samson Blinded, whose publishers keep their identities secret, calls on Israel to eliminate all Palestinians from the territory it controls and to annihilate their culture. The site demands that Israel "destroy the Palestinian settlements [sic] and exile them far away -- not to refugee camps in neighboring Arab countries, or the conflict would be perpetuated." It argues that "Forced cultural assimilation of Palestinians should accompany deportation," adding that "With demise of Palestinians, Arab Israeli conflict would lose its impetus [sic]."The hate site advertised on Haaretz incites religious war, exploitation of children, and terrorism. It states for example that "Slavery is not an option in the modern world, but Israel adopting children from the poorest countries, indoctrinating them with anti-Islamism, and training them for low-rank military service in Israel Defense Forces may be feasible." It also proposes that "Israel could invite Western Christian radicals to police the Palestinian territories" as "they would be happy to get a training ground in Israel for their militia."The site adds that "To succeed, Israeli violence against Arabs should be immediately overwhelming. Israel should show itself a bloodthirsty monster to scare the Arabs into submission." Among the violence advocated by the site is the unprovoked wholesale murder of relatives of the rulers of Arab countries, civilians, and prisoners of war.The site even calls for nuclear strikes against neighboring countries: "Israel should legislate that a nuclear attack against her from whatever source means immediate, simultaneous nuclear destruction by Israel Defense Forces of everything Muslim -- capitals, temples, population centers -- by the hundred or so nuclear weapons in Israel's possession. Islamic terrorists who plan to use nuclear weapon against Israel must understand that the Jewish state will be commemorated with a really big bang."The website's call for the destruction of the Palestinians appears to violate the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The convention defines as genocide acts including killing, expulsion and causing bodily and mental suffering "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."The Convention, adopted in the wake of the Nazi holocaust, also defines as crimes "Direct and public incitement to commit genocide" and "Complicity in genocide." The treaty, ratified by over 130 countries including Israel and the US, calls for the prosecution and punishment of these acts whether the individuals committing them "are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals."Contacted by EI, Osnat Kohali, the manager of stated that the newspaper and its website have a clear policy of not allowing any advertisements that include "incitement against any side." In reaction to some of the statements on the Samson Blinded site quoted in this article, Kohali noted that the offensive statements were on the advertised website itself rather than in the advertisements that appeared on Haaretz. Kohali added, "We don't go through each and every website and make a complete review about what it says." However she undertook to review the Samson Blinded advertisements noting that "mistakes can be made."But the Samson Blinded ads are not the only case of Haaretz apparently profiting from extremism; its website has often carried advertisements for an organization called "The Jerusalem Summit" which also advocates the removal of the Palestinians from their homeland and holds that "the de-legitimization of the Palestinian narrative becomes a vital prerequisite to any comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue."This kind of militant Jewish extremism has been making steady inroads into Israel's political mainstream, as numerous parties openly advocate the "transfer" (expulsion) of Palestinians and Israeli leaders have done little to marginalize and discourage it. What is surprising is that the widely respected Haaretz, which publishes jointly in Israel with The International Herald Tribune, would profit from hate groups and their possibly criminal incitement.In 2006, the German newspaper publisher M. DuMont Schauberg bought a 25 percent stake in Haaretz, a move German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised as an instance of German reconciliation with Israel. In Germany, as in many other European countries, incitement to racial hatred is illegal.
I have just received this news, this is shocking. I wonder if Haaretz will offer an explanation?

Let's hear it for our transport policy......or not?

Nick Clegg launched our proposed Transport Policy today..........though you may have missed it! Having seen the press release I waited to hear if it was covered, if so, I must have been sleeping! All I have heard has been a short interview with Anita Anand on 5 Live.

This is hugely frustrating, if Cameron sneezes it is news. If Brown frowns, it is news. If Clegg shows leadership and a commitment to policies that will improve the lives of our fellow citizens - er......zilch. No wonder the electorate are disaffected. What I despair of in particular is the role of the BBC - the service we pay for - the alleged "public service broadcaster". If anyone has a responsibility to promote democracy it is surely they? I fear that the media in general and the BBC in particular, are fast contributing to the undermining of meaningful democracy. If the electorate are not informed about what the real choices are, where the real differences lie, no wonder the constant mantra is "you're all the same".

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Labour in Meltdown.....will Gordon be forced out?

There is no doubt that Labour, despite all the cash for honours, money from the Unions, money from the businessmen, money from those who could ill afford it and have been ill served by their support for the party...... as well as all their other woes, are in financial trouble. This piece on Labourhome makes very interesting reading. Not least the final point - There are hints that some donors are sending a message that they are happy to bail out Labour so long as the party finds another leader.

Mark Oaten - Will he go or will he stay?

I note that Political Betting has a further update on the Oaten story - in an interview with the Portsmouth News he does seem to be suggesting he will go early.

I do appreciate his heartfelt plea to be forgiven. Actually it is not for us to forgive him, it is his wife and she has so that is good enough for me. All I am concerned about is the timing of any early departure and I trust he will be taking advice about this.