Monday, December 31, 2007

Phew, what a year!

Just off to a house party with Yas, so will sign off for 2007. A topsy turvy kind of year, I have just had a quick look at my posts over the past 12 months.

January started as I meant to go on, lots about Trident and leadership, and of course the Trident theme continued until and beyond Spring Conference. In February I enlisted a few guests to try and get a debate going about diversity. March began with a moan about gay men being gay, speculated about Nick Clegg's leadership plans, went on about Trident a bit..........April I moved into my own old people's home and my problems with BT began, but I still had chance to shout about some of the sexist attitudes about women on the front line after a woman was killed in Iraq.

Those Internet problems kept me relatively quiet through the summer, (I know what a blessing!) though I have to confess to have started asking questions about Ming in June, ending in August with "Jackgate" and me being hung from a lamp post by Paul Walter et al..........

September I almost got back to normal, attending all three party conferences gave me a fair bit to chat about as well as that old chestnut of women and the blogosphere. October of course everything kicked off with the leadership election, but November saw my record number of blogs ever (61 - heavens keep this up and I may catch up with Mr W and Mr S!)so now back onto a relatively even keel.

What will there be to shout the odds about in 2008 I wonder?

Anyway, a very happy and successful new year to everyone. On a personal note is is great to see the increase in the number of women bloggers over this year, I hope that numbers continue to grow next year and that we also become more representative in terms of ethnicity.

The Hum of the Helicopter...........

As I walked out of my front gate this afternoon I couldn't fail to notice the helicopter hovering over the river. My stomach sunk, that usually means they are searching for a body.

But my thoughts immediately turned to a discussion I had with a Palestinian friend last year. It was his first time out of Gaza, in fact he had risked his life and hurt himself jumping over the wall, having been kept waiting for days, to get out into Egypt to start university here in the UK. We were having a meal in Green Lanes when he told how that afternoon he had been sitting in a London park. He had heard the sound of a helicopter overhead and had frozen. For a split second he was back in Gaza, the sound of the helicopter gunships ringing in his ears. Those Israeli helicopter gunships are often spotted in the skies above Israel, but, however ugly and threatening their silhouette against the cobalt blue sky, they are no threat, they are en route to Gaza or the West Bank. As we leave 2007 with talk of a settlement in the Middle East by the end of next year, my hope and prayer is that for all our children the hum of a helicopter excites curiosity rather than fear.

Not Iain Dale's predictions for 2008

Laurence Boyce posted this link on Facebook. Very funny, though some of the comments that have been left are a wee bit scary, it has to be said.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Christmas Tale continued...............

Warning - this will make absolutely no sense unless you read the last episode - then it may make a little more sense!

Lindarella and Fim sped across the starlit sky. As they flew over the castle of the Great Giant Gord, Fim pointed out the landmarks. "Look" she cried "see that huge cedar tree over there? That is where the Repugnant Reid used to perch, how we all rejoiced at his demise!" As they reached the castle Lindarella spotted the gargoyles - they looked...........real. She asked Fim about them. "Don't worry" said Fim reassuringly, "Yes, they are real, but their days are numbered. Look, there is the Millipede, Great Gord has put him in charge of foreign affairs, would you credit it? He looks like one of those nodding dogs you get on the back of those dreadful iron and steel carriages they have in Mansionville doesn't he? Oh look, and there is the Straw man, how he is still hanging around is a great puzzle to us all." Lindarella was amazed, she spotted a tiny little gargoyle close to the door of the castle, but almost invisible. He seemed to be trying to say something, but no one was listening. "Who is that?" asked Lindarella. "He is the one they call a darling" replied Fim "can't quite see why, I always thought someone's darling was a.................well..........darling! But there is some debate about whether he really exists, or whether, possibly, he is just a hologram."

They seemed to fly for hours over the castle of the Great Gord, but it was late and they never spotted him. They flew on, over the forest, Lindarella had no idea it was so vast. Eventually the came to the edge of the forest and Fim pointed out the estate of Sheriff Dave. "Wow!" exclaimed Lindarella, "It looks bigger than the Great Gord's!" "That dear Lindarella, is is."

They flew on and on, through the night, over the mountains. The sun was rising as they reached the palace of the King who had been awarded the contract for collecting fallen branches in the forest. Lindarella rubbed her eyes. She had never ever seen such splendour. It was not a myth, this place really existed! It was true, all around golden turrets glistened in the light of the rising sun. "How did anyone ever get so rich?" Lindarella wondered aloud. "That's easy" Fim grasped her hand tightly, "He has built his wealth on the misery of others. He has taken what rightfully belongs to you and your neighbours to feather his own nest with no regard for those he tramples on to further his wealth" Fim sighed "he is a clever man, he is not only friends with Great Gord but secretly also Sheriff Dave, all the time he is smiling sweetly at Gord he is plotting with Dave............and that is Great Gord's Achilles heal, but he is just too arrogant to see it!"

Lindarella was troubled, but she had little time to ponder because suddenly they were flying over oceans and lands and mountains and lakes and deserts and oceans. She was awestruck, she had never seen the ocean, or mountains as high as these. Eventually they began to slow and Fim drew her back down to earth. They were in a village, one that looked very similar to Shambleville, but the houses looked beautiful, not as big as those in Mansionville granted, but just as fine. Fim took her quietly through the open window of one of the small cottages. Inside was warm and welcoming, no icy drafts. There were logs on the fire and plenty stashed up on the hearth. A family were seated around a long table, there were children of every age, laughing together and tucking in to what looked to Lindarella a feast! "Wow!" she exclaimed "They must be very rich!" "No" replied Fim, "Not so rich, but in this land they want for nothing. They have enough fuel for their fire to keep them warm through the winter months, they are allowed to take fallen branches from the forest. They get paid fairly for their labour and they never want for food. They have schools brimming with books and paper and pens and ink and if they are sick they are well cared for. So they are happy. They live simply but well, without fear." Lindarella was puzzled. "But how come it is so different here? Do they not have a ruler like the Great Gord?" "No" explained Fim "Their ruler is very different. Every month he has a great counsel when all the people of the land, from the least to the greatest, are invited to his palace. He listens carefully to what they say and if changes need to be made he makes them. In five hundred years no one has ever sought to overthrow him!"

Lindarella was in awe, but also sad, how could the land of Liberty be so different from Bewilderland? Why could they not have such a great ruler? "Ah" said Fim "But you can, that is why I have brought you here. To see how things could be for you in Shambleville. It is not the Great Giant Gord, or the Sheriff Dave, or even the King across the mountains who can change things. It is............." Fim broke off, as if going into a trance.........."Who, who?" shouted Lindarella................

State sanctioned abuse of children

Who will do something about this scandal?

Friday, December 28, 2007

I love these pix!

Just got these lovely pix of Lara's 21st, here with Ravi (not often I get a pic of him!)

...............................and here with partner Nafis, cousins Scott, Haley and Kirith and Ravi.

A Christmas Tale.............................

Christmas is often a time for reminiscing and this Christmas was no different in my family. My children were reminiscing about the bedtime stories I used to tell them. Favourites included the Farty Dinosaur. So, being as it is still the pantomime season and I am still procrastinating about doing my paperwork, here is a little tale in honour of Laurence Boyce who I know loves fairytales!


There was once a little girl who lived in a tiny little house at the edge of a forest. She shared her house with her mother, her three sisters and two brothers. Her father had been killed when she was a baby, fighting in a war she often heard her mother describing as “illegal, immoral and just plain wrong!”

In the middle of the forest lived a great giant called Gord. Lindarella had never seen him, but she had heard that he looked very fierce and anyone who crossed his path was likely to be locked up in his cellar for 42 days. Her friend's father had been there once and could still not bring himself to talk about the horrors he had seen.

Lindarella and her sisters often played on the edge of the forest, but had been warned by their mother never to venture too deeply in the woods. It was believed to be full of monsters, most feared amongst them had been the Repugnant Reid, a vulture like creature who sat high in the trees to keep his beady eyes on each and every citizen of Bewilderland. However, it was rumoured that he had recently fallen off his perch and there had been great rejoicing throughout the land.

The families who lived in Shambleville, the village on the edge of the forest, were all poor. Every year they found they had to pay more for the logs to put on the fire and they had even been forbidden by Great Gord to pick up fallen branches in the forest for fuel. That had been contracted out to a powerful king who lived in a castle beyond the mountains where everything was said to be made of gold!

On the other side of the forest from the great Gord lived a Sheriff called Dave. Sheriff Dave was the talk of the village, he had a nice smile and he was promising the villagers that he would help them depose Gord so that he could run Bewilderland himself. He promised life would be very different if he was in charge. But there were legends than when his Great Aunt Mags ruled the land things were worse than they were now under Great Gord.

In the village there was a beautiful school, children sat at their own desks brimming with books and pens and ink and paper. Sadly the children at the school were nearly all from the neighbouring village of Mansionville where houses were mansions and children were carried to school in carriages of iron and steel that made an enormous roar as they ploughed up the road with their giant wheels. Linderella asked her mother why she had to walk for 3 miles to the village of Notsofar to go to school when there was a school practically next door. And the school in Notsofar was tumbling down, the classrooms were not brimming with books and pens and ink and paper, but children. "Ah" said mother "that's what the great Gord calls parental choice - parents get to choose whatever school they like and this is the best in the whole of Shambleshire" Lindarella was confused "But you are a parent, didn't you get a choice?" Lindarella's mother looked very serious, she sat Lindarella on her lap and explained. "Well dear, you have to understand, we are poor. We are not so very important to the powerful giant Gord or his monsters. In my day I didn't even get to go to school, so I am afraid I don't know as much, or have as much money or influence as the people in Mansionville. This is how it works" Lindarella pondered, then had an idea. "I know, the Sheriff Dave is promising everything will be different if he overthrows the great giant Gord. Maybe we should all go and help him. Then I will get to go to our school." Mother sighed, "Lindarella dear, you have a lot to learn! In the days before the great giant Gord there was a wicked witch called Mags. She is Sheriff Dave's great aunt. And everything Gord is doing he learnt from her. We all cheered and smiled when he came to power, but, for us, nothing changed. In fact it got worse. We are even poorer now then when the Wicked Witch Mags was in control. So no my dear, I fear Sheriff Dave will change nothing except perhaps for his friends."

Lindarella was sad. This couldn't be right; surely, surely there was someone else who wasn't Gord, or Dave, who really cared about the people of Shambleville, who would be big and strong enough to defeat the Great Giant Gord?

Later that night as she lay shivering in the bed she shared with her sleeping sisters she saw a strange light on the windowsill. She froze. What was it? The strange light moved and hovered beside her. Now she could see, it was a tiny fairy, no bigger than her thumb! The fairy spoke "Lindarella, I am your fairy godmother but you can call me Fim. I have seen how your mother and family have struggled because of the Wicked Witch Mags and the Great Giant Gord. I know that Sheriff Dave will do no more for you. Now is the time for a change - come with me." Lindarella was confused, but she took the hand the size of a grain of rice and found herself shrinking to the same size as the fairy. "Hold tight!" said Fim as they took off and slipped through the gap in the window where the icy wind usually blew in. "Now" said Fim. "I am taking you to see how different things could be; I am taking you to another land, the land of Liberty!"

To be continued……..

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto assassination - a tragedy, not just for Pakistan

It has been a constant worry since she returned to Pakistan, that Benazir Bhutto would make the ultimate sacrifice for what she believed and thus it has proved. Whatever we think about Pakistani politics no one can fail to have been impressed by the courage of this woman. In this country the most we are asked to sacrifice for our political beliefs is our reputation or our dignity, whatever her faults she has always been a huge hero of mine and her loss is a loss to us all.

My condolences to all those of my friends who loved her and had pinned their hopes on her role in the future of their beloved homeland.

My 8 Wishes for 2008

Paul W tagged me with these so here goes:

  • Above everything real progress on the peace process in Israel/Palestine. Sometimes I can't even listen to the news reports anymore they are so despairing. Thus the news yesterday that the Israelis are demonstrating their commitment to this process by continuing to illegally build on occupied land beggars belief. How can anyone take their so called desire for peace seriously when they continue to flout international law? How does building an apartheid wall and deliberately stealing Palestinian land in the process contribute to peace? I have said it before and will say it again, it is no good trying to be even handed about this, the stakes are totally unbalanced. If you come and steal my house and force me to live in the toilet and keep me there by your superior strength, I may not think a reasonable solution is that you keep the kitchen the living area and let me have a bedroom, or that the onus is on me because I should not be trying to get you to leave. When people talk about reconciliation (which I absolutely believe in) and co-existence - my response is this. If you are sitting on my head I may need you to get off my head before I can be reconciled. If in the process of sitting on my head you blacked my eye and broke my nose, I may expect an apology. If in the process of trying to get you off my head I kicked you where it hurts, I may need to apologise too. I fail to see how peace can ever be achieved without at least a modicum of honesty about the reality of the situation.

  • Great success for Nick Clegg and the advancement of our party. We have an enormous opportunity with Nick's election as leader. My desire for his and by proxy, our, success, is not partisan. It is simply because neither of the other two Tory parties either give a real choice or have gone any way to tackling the real problems that face millions living in poverty in a rich country and the associated impact that has on us all.

  • The complete withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

  • A greater sense of our international interdependency - I was shocked earlier this year to hear a mother somewhere in Battersea saying she would continue to drive her monster 4x4 because she cared more about her children's safety than global warming. If they died why would she be bothered about anyone else? Her selfishness combined with a complete lack of understanding of the impact global warming will ultimately have on her children's future if she cares nothing for anyone else, demonstrates just what a challenge we have.

  • For this government to have a Damascus Road moment - and abandon all their silly ideas like 42 day detention, ID cards, compulsory education for 17 and 18 year olds, ASBOs, renewing Trident.........etc etc etc.........

  • Brian Eno's no 1 hit

  • To get to see Yas's latest play In-no-sense (we live in hope she has been writing it for over 2 years, but if it is anything like Bells it will be excellent)

  • To hold my 50th Birthday Bash (OK, 3 year late, but I'll get there eventually!)

So I pass the tag on to: Alex Cole-Hamilton, Bob Shaw , Lynne Featherstone, Peter Black

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How about "Old Year Resolutions"?

I guess I was about nine when I gave up with New Year Resolutions. I tried, honest, but I always found myself distracted. Maybe I was just a little over ambitious with my aspirations. That promise I made to read the Bible when I was 6 and never got past the first two pages. That novel I started writing when I was 7 and didn't get past the first chapter. That wild and unrealistic ambition to be good!

Anyways, this year I am trying a new approach. I have an "Old Year's Resolution" to get all my paperwork out of the way over the next week so that I can start 2008 with a clean slate. I will let you know how it goes, but in the mean time I am tagging a few of you to see whether you can come up with less dull and more imaginative suggestions!

So Colin Ross, Duncan, Fiyaz, Meral, Paul Walter, Jeremy, Jo Hayes, Millennium, Alex W, Alix, Mary, James G, Jonathan C and Jonathan F, Jo A, Andy Strange, don't disappoint me!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas...............anyone free to come help wrapping pressies?

Oh dear, it is gone 2 am on Christmas morning and I am procrastinating about the million pressies I still have to wrap, thus blogging is a shameful distraction! My normal pattern on Christmas Eve is to promise to go to Midnight Mass - then realise I am not going to get wrapped in time and pull out, listening to the radio or TV version whilst wrestling with the blessed sellotape! I rarely finish before 3 and in the days when my darlings got up at 5 (or earlier) this meant Christmas Day was somewhat of a struggle. In those days I would tiptoe into their bedrooms, willing them not to wake.

This evening my daughter Lara (who turned 21 on Wednesday and now has a daughter of her own, Sumaiyah) and I were reminiscing. About the time her brother Ravi (aged about 6), determined to "catch" Santa. He laid a trap. He used a whole roll of that blessed sellotape and sellotaped his Christmas "sack" (where Santa was supposed to deposit his pressies) to his head, presumably thinking that when said pressies were deposited it would wake him up. He also piled all his most noisy toys up under the door handle so that when I turned it they all came tumbling down! Lara was trying to convey the magic of her childhood belief in Santa to her Muslim partner Nafis who celebrated Christmas with us for the first time last year. Ravi, in the background, was bemoaning the fact it was all her fault he stopped believing in the first place!

Anyway, it has all gone a bit differently this year. Lara, Sumaiyah and I went to Luton for a Christmas service at my family church where my brother and two of my nieces were taking part. On the way home we made a detour to try and buy Halal chicken so that Nafis has something to eat tomorrow, but everywhere was closed and we arrived home a tad late. So, as I settled down wrapping (!) I got a call from my favourite Tory boy Andrew McConnell who has apparently incurred the wrath of a Labour Transport minister. He promised to save me a seat at St Paul's for Midnight Mass, though he was a bit fed up as he has done this before and I haven't materialised.

But, I dutifully left home at the prescribed time, I walked along the glorious embankment, was in sight of St Paul's when my phone rang. "Mum, where are you?" "On the embankment" "I've forgotten my key can you meet me back home?" Why am I such a soft touch?! But, I made it, in time. And it was a really lovely service, I had intended to head straight home and wrapping but Andrew asked if I would go for a quick drink with him, I hesitated........... Later, as I walked home I passed our Polish Church St Cuthbert's(actually my nearest) at about 1.15 (their service is clearly a lot longer than ours!) as they were leaving, the place was overflowing.

So, here I am, still procrastinating..........

Monday, December 24, 2007

Apologies to Jonathan Calder

Sincere apologies to Jonathan Calder. I am sorry to have misquoted Jonathan, pure slapdashness on my part. I suggested that he had questioned why we needed a female bloggers award "are we the weaker sex?" which was how I had read his comment. What he actually said was "If I am honest, the idea that women need special awards to encourage them to blog makes me a little uneasy. Doesn't this just position them as the weaker sex?"

Thanks for pointing this out Jonathan, I hope I am forgiven!

Anyway I am now off to do my Christmas Shopping.............

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Women..........what are they good for...certainly not blogging!

Having been rather distracted with work and parties over the last couple of days I am entering the women bloggers debate rather late. As I have commented before, it has been great to see an explosion of prolific women bloggers join the blogosphere over recent months. What the guys don't seem to get is that if you are in a minority you are acutely aware of it. So Jonathan's complaint about why we need a women's blogging award "are we the weaker sex?" rather misses the point.

Going into broken record mode I wonder how many all white male gatherings ever notice when there are no women or BME members present? I am reminded of being on a women workers conference many years ago where a huge debate ensued about whether sexism or racism was worse. A white woman said to her black colleague "But Pauline, whenever you walk into a room I don't see the colour of your skin" Pauline replied "But I do". That reply has stayed with me for over 20 years.

To repeat some Lib Dem specific examples (regular readers look away, you have heard all this before!). On getting up to speak on the "Meeting the Challenge" debate I spoke after 14 white men. My first question to conference was "notice anything different about me?" Afterwards William Wallace was gracious enough to acknowledge that until I mentioned it he hadn't noticed. At Spring Conference I went to a fringe chaired by Brendan Carlin. When it came to questions, along with maybe 2 other women, I had my hand up from the start. When Brendan finally came to me, following maybe a dozen questions from men I made the point. He also hadn't noticed what he had done. What happened subsequently was also interesting. Not only did he balance who he called, but around another half dozen women had put their hands up.

Now, some of the guys will tell us that this is women's problem, they should be more forthcoming and confident. But unless you understand some of the ingrained attitudes that spring from generations of white male domination of all our institutions and decision making apparatus you understand nothing. I am white, I would never presume to tell my black friends how they should be feeling, or to suggest that how they are feeling is their fault. I have never ever suffered the effects of racism except by proxy. But some men seem to think they can make excuses for their centuries of domination and tell women it is all their fault. OK, if you are a "WHAM" (white heterosexual able-bodied man) there is not a lot you can do about it, no one is asking you to! All I ask is that you recognise that you don't have our experience. Attitudes are sub-conscious as well as conscious. Something I have touched on before.

So, on to the question of women bloggers. My title is certainly tongue in cheek, but when I first started blogging I have to admit to feeling a little intimidated by the boys. There were codes and styles and expectations that I didn't understand. I was helped and encouraged very much by Duncan Borrowman (thanks Duncan!) but hard as it may seem to believe now, I was quite nervous, I felt as it I was entering someone else's world. The same nervousness that Pauline may have felt walking into a pub full of white men, you are not automatically "part of the club" and those in the club don't see that from outside it appears like a club. Yes, the fact that there is to be a women bloggers award is an admission of failure not success. We do not yet, particularly in our party (shame on us) do representative politics. If we can encourage more diversity in political debate through this award then I fail to see how this is a bad thing.

Rant over!

Anyway, I am going to nominate the following:

  • Alix Mortimer - Alix really should make a career of writing, she writes beautifully and with such sensitivity (something I covet, but it ain't gonna happen!) I first came across Alix when she left a comment on a blog I did on whether blogging was a feminist issue. Her own blog on the subject was far more erudite than mine so I am also nominating that as the best post.
  • Charlotte Gore - Charlotte is a great new addition to the blogosphere and I love her passion!
  • Jo Hayes - Jo doesn't post that regularly but when she does they are a must read. Jo combines intelligence with wonderfully dry humour. Her post on The Islamist is a must read.
  • I am only allowed three but I also want to include Meral Ece, this post on the leadership demonstrates for me why she is a woman we should all be listening to.

Women that I would like to see blogging.

  • My pal Yasmin Whittaker Khan - she is a phenomenal writer, when she gets down to it, and leads a fascinating life, so her blog would be controversial, funny and as the article I have linked to here demonstrates, sometimes disturbing.
  • Miriam Clegg - for the inside story on the challenges of being married to a party leader!
  • Sarah Ludford - Sarah is someone I don't always see eye to eye with, but I like her spirit and forthright manner, another woman likely to shake us up a bit

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.........

how still we see the lie...........

Will Davey crush the Millipede?

Will Davey crush the Millipede? Will Goldsworthy wipe the Cheshire Cat grin off Blears' face? Will Huhne hound the hapless Smith?

I sincerely hope so. I was particularly delighted to see that Ed Davey will be our Foreign Affairs spokes. I have to confess I wasn't always that enamoured by Ed, and there are a few (!) policy areas I would disagree with him on. However, I have got to know him a bit through FPC and the more I see of him the more impressed I am. So I look forward to seeing him take on the lightweight Milliband - an accident waiting to happen but having got off relatively lightly so far.

Julia Goldsworthy's sharp intelligence will also be well employed taking on Hazel Blears who frankly does my head in! Local Government is not well served by her support for the Labour Party's Stalinist tendencies and Julia will more than give her a run for her money in pushing forward our clear policies for devolving power away from Whitehall and back to local people.

Chris Huhne has a tough act to follow, Nick Clegg has been so effective as our Home Affairs shadow. But if the last few weeks are anything to go by, when Chris has clearly upped his game, I trust he too will have Slippery Smith shivering in her boots! I hope he will continue to challenge the way this government criminalises and demonises our young people. Yet another suicide in a YOI last night.

David Laws is doing a grand job in DCSF and I trust that will continue. I am a little nervous about his new overarching responsibility for public services, I wonder what that will mean?

So, undoubtedly a strong frontbench team. Time to go kick ass!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thanks Paul Walter!

I will be eternally grateful to Mr Walter for yet again pointing out the error of my ways. Thanks so much Paul for informing the world about my appalling spelling.......I hope you will note that I have immediately taken action to rectify my mistake. As for the formatting/fonts etc (also commented on by Nich Starling) I am afraid I need a clever bloggista to offer their services to help me make it as stunningly attractive as all my fellow bloggers who seem to all have it completely sussed.

Though, long suffering readers will remember the wonderful comment I got on Political Betting about my old look shocking pink and blue blog someone said "it would be a damn sight easier to read if each line were not centred, and if the text were not pink on blue. This study found fuschia-on-blue to be the least readable combination: Printing has been around for a while now. Look at a few books and you will find black-on-white remains a popular combination. People won’t buy unreadable books and they won’t read pain-inducing blogs" the time I was quite proud to have found such a combination by accident.......and I am still getting complaints!

Anyway Paul I think I am quite flattered that you like my blog even if it is so dreadful!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Clegg's inspired appointment - Brian Eno

Well, start as you mean to go on Nick! Great inspired choice to appoint Brian Eno as an adviser. Brian is not only an outstanding musician and artist, but also a hero in the anti-war movement. He will be a beacon to those who have been struggling to find a home to go to politically as well as bringing a fresh edge to the party. I am thrilled to bits and eagerly anticipating what other surprises Nick has up his sleeve...............

Clegg on Diversity - I will consider appointments process

At the bloggers interview yesterday Alex Wilcock and I both asked questions about diversity. Alex highlighting the urgency of the problem as those who flocked to us following Iraq now appear to be drifting away (well covered here). I pointed out to Nick that whilst I applauded his commitment to an academy to improve representation in the party, he had not addressed my concern that we already had a lot of talented BME members, many of whom are already being wooed by the other two parties as they begin to lose patience with us (in the middle of me trying to ask the question Nick cut across me, then commenting that this was a dangerous thing to do as people never usually got a word in edge ways when I was talking!). Nick repeated what he has said many times before that this was a serious issue that if we hadn't cracked in two parliaments we would need to bite the bullet of considering positive discrimination, however he was confident that there was a lot we could do. What he said, that I haven't heard him say before, was that he would consider his powers of appointment in making a difference now. Music to my ears! I trust this will include peers and that he will take a leaf out of the Tories book in bringing in new talent from the BME community - that would send a clear and immediate message that he is backing up his commitment with action. He also promised to bring in people with experience in from outside the party. He recognised the need for role models to be beacons to others.

I know it is a bit of a broken record for me, but if we want to represent we must be and look representative. If we don't see ourselves reflected in our party, whether that is because of our ethnicity, gender, sexuality or disability, we won't expect our party to understand our issues and actually, often, this is the case. This is fact, not fiction, however enlightened our current elite are.

Krispy Cremes with Nick Clegg - Don't expect a picnic!

It was a real privilege to be part of the Blogger's delegation to interview Nick Clegg last night and a clear sign of him putting his money where his mouth was, in a ridiculously busy schedule, to make time for us. Time was really short but Nick after grapping Millenium's bottom - trunkated (apologies for the pun) his answers accordingly. In between deftly managing to eat a jammy doughnut without spilling it all down his eye catching tie, he answered questions confidently and with that hint of steel which I am sure will become his trademark.

Having left the bloggers bash to go on first to the Mail on Sunday bash (like crossing an events horizon with the likes of Neil and Christine Hamilton, Derek Lord and David Mellor there), stayed long enough for 2 glasses of champagne a few nibbles and the chance to witness my pal Yas pinching David Mellor's bum! Then on to the Clegg celebration bash which was packed out with a load of very happy bunnies!!! Which, given I got home at some ungodly hour means that my blogging pals have beat me to it again. However, following on from James (how do you follow James?!) Alix and highlights.

I was interested in Nick's response to whether or not he was nervous about his first PMQs. He made it very clear that he wasn't but that we should not expect that he would always be on form, not just when it came to PMQs. He cautioned us that we must expect ups and downs.

Wise words, all too often we expect miracles. Sorry to return to my military metaphors (!) but in any battle there will be setbacks, unforseen hazards, weariness and even exhaustion, but if we are on the right course and hold our nerve we will eventually see the breakthrough. Nick also rightly pointed out that far too much store is put on PMQs as if it were possible to distill politics down to 30 minutes on a Wednesday afternoon thereby reducing important issues down to shallow soundbites. Absolutely and despite the success Vince has had in recent weeks, I hope Nick will make a feature of challenging this facile approach to meeting the very real challenges that face us as a nation.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Way to go......................Cleggtastic!!!!!!!!

This is an odd feeling for me...............................................backing the winner! I am really thrilled, I honestly feel we have such a great opportunity now. But, rather like Kennedy, we should be asking not what our leader can do for us and our party, but what we can do for our party.

All credit to Chris Huhne though (bet you never thought you'd hear me say that!) he has fought a hard campaign and come very close, much closer than I certainly thought.

So, from my perspective = the only way is UP!!!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Simon Hughes Rules..........OK?

The debate that has been raging about whether or not Simon Hughes as President should keep shtum on matters of leadership it seems to me raises some wider questions for us as a party of liberals. What are rules for, and should "unwritten rules" carry any weight?

Don't get me wrong, I am not against rules in principle, I am only against patently stupid rules and I am particularly against the attempted enforcement of those unwritten rules which are often the product of personal opinion and belief and not necessarily universally supported. All too often we make the assumption that because we believe such and such a thing everyone else ought to as well. This is particularly pertinent in the political and religious spheres. And we all do it, I do it, I will challenge those who think Simon was wrong by saying "but I thought we were all liberals?" but for others they have interpreted their liberalness differently.

It reminded me of an incident that happened with a young woman I was working with some years ago. She had been with me about 3 months and then went to work in the holy of holies (Chief Exec's dept) at County Hall. She had only been there a couple of hours when she called me in tears. "How come I can work with you for all those months and get on so well and I have come over here and been made to feel like shit". She had been told she was not obeying the "dress code". This was a very vulnerable young woman, had left home and school at 13, homeless, living on the pittance of £40 a week that the government gave her for being on a training scheme. She had worn her best trousers, her only footwear (trainers) a long sleeved top which slightly showed her (horror of horrors) pierced belly button! I called the person concerned who I knew from my time as Branch Secretary. I asked what the problem was and she told me the young woman wasn't obeying the dress code. "Oh" says I, "can I have a copy of this dress code" (of course knowing there was no such thing). " isn't written down". "Exactly", says I, "it isn't written down, it has never been adopted as a policy or negotiated with the unions, therefore it doesn't exist". The woman in the holy of holies was trying to impose her values and idea of what constituted appropriate dress on this young woman.

Within the party we had the situation of an actual rule - namely that candidates in the Euros could not be endorsed by a "known" Lib Dem (hmmmm, at what point do you become "known" that would be an interesting one to interpret if it ever got challenged). Now I don't agree with that rule, but I was prepared to abide by it. However, when that rule was interpreted to say as a Euro candidate you could not endorse a leadership candidate that seemed to me patent nonsense and an abuse of power. When I asked to appeal against this interpretation I was told I could but that this would hold up the whole election process - being susceptible to the odd bit of emotional blackmail I didn't appeal, but made it clear I intended to support a candidate and that if that meant being disqualified so be it. As it happened no action was taken against me (which rather undermines the ruling), perhaps because I was the only woman on the list, perhaps because I would have made a fuss, who knows. It is a shame I was the only one to do it as it would have been interesting to see what would have happened had there been a mass disobedience!

It beggars belief that as a party we will nearly all get behind our leader in defying stupid rules/laws like ID cards, but that we don't subject our own party rules and unwritten rules to the same scrutiny.

So, this unwritten rule about party presidents. Where does it come from? I would suggest that it comes from members' own value bases. I am not challenging that, so Ros Scott wouldn't do it, that's fine, that is her choice, she is obeying her own value base, interpreting the role as she sees fit and is entitled to do so. But that doesn't give Ros, or anyone else, the right to impose their personal values on someone else.

A friend of mine in the Youth Service summed it up for me, "We should be tight on values and then we can be loose on everything else, all too often we are loose on values and then try to be tight on everything else." And therein lies the rub. Let's be really clear about the values that we share, our "rules" should then proceed from them, rather than being plucked out of the air with no clear idea where on earth they come from.

All over bar the counting............

Well me dearies, that's it then - all over for another...........decade?

It has been a bit of a lack lustre campaign it has to be said. No real ideological battles. The only bit of drama being the Calamity Clegg incident which thankfully for the party blew over very quickly. So now we wait to see whether it is the expected or the shock result. Over on Mike Smithson's Political Betting, his punters are voting 3-1 in favour of a Clegg victory, but we will all have to continue to hold our breath until the official announcement on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Do bloggers/blog readers prefer Cameron to Brown?

The observant amongst us may have noticed that I have been running a couple of polls, OK hardly a scientific sample - but at the moment it seems the Tories have it! If we are going to consider a coalition with seems the blogging money will be on Cameron. But, as I say, hardly scientific..............


We hate Clegg blog

It is often very amusing to see how people have arrived on your doorstep having googled for instance "men in pink tights" (honestly!) so I was interested to discover that someone had entered my blogosphere having googled "we hate Clegg blog"..........hmmmm, Google getting its knickers in a twist again I fancy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Susan Gaszczak - PPC for South West Herts -Update

I just had a call from Susan Gaszczak to let me know that she has just been selected as PPC for South West Herts. Well done Susan!!!!!!! This is great news, she will be a terrific candidate and from those members I have spoken to in the constituency I have no doubt she has a very committed and supportive local party to back her up.

Update: Sadly for a number of reasons Susan stood down as PPC for SW Herts - she is now a candidate for Herts CC in Watford where she now lives. Susan will be an absolutely brilliant councillor on the County Council - not only for the people of Watford but also for all the citizens of Hertfordshire. The Tory administration should be quaking in their shoes!!!!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

If you can't make your mind up - 10 reasons to vote Clegg

With only a couple of days for folk to get their ballot papers in I have been truly flabbergasted at how many still have to make up their minds.

Even in the blogosphere it seems many are still contemplating.

Over the weeks I have been challenged about my support for Nick, given my being more of a 'lefty'. And of course, I have had to challenge myself - why would I choose to support a candidate who I disagree with on Trident, Tax and, that's where I think it ends. Nick may give more credence to the role of the private sector in delivering public services - but he is not closed minded about this - he is interested in what we all are I trust - people getting what they need when they need it and in a manner that best supports them.

On reflecting about why I chose to back Nick it struck me that my reasons were to do with his qualities, skills and commitment to liberal values. I am 100% behind many of his policy positions and those I do not support I tend to be a voice crying in the wilderness on anyway within the party! If there is not so much to choose between the candidates on policy anyway, what marks Nick out?

  • He is a visionary and inspiring leader
  • He is a liberal through and through
  • He is a team player and will listen to everyone - from the least to the greatest and his refreshing lack of deference means he will be his own man
  • He has exceptional ability to communicate with everyone, not just those who are on his undoubtedly highly intellectual wavelength
  • He has enormous compassion, particularly seeing one of his major roles as an MP being to be "a voice for the voiceless"
  • His passion and enthusiasm are infectious, they will infect not just the party but the wider society
  • He is genuine and committed
  • He will challenge received wisdom, both within our party and without and offer a cutting edge, anti-establishment, radical framework that we can all unite on
  • He is the candidate most feared by the opposition
  • Oh and perhaps above all, I would trust him with my life, so I know can trust him with my party

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Go James Graham!

Have just been listening to James Graham and Richard Grayson on the Westminster Hour. James and I haven't always seen eye to eye on everything (!) but we are clearly agreed on this, that Nick is the candidate who can best communicate with the electorate.

Torygraph on Clegg "Mr Cameron may not be shaking in his boots quite yet - but he must at least be tightening his laces"

The Torygraph on Nick.

On Coalition

The whole notion of coalition has stirred up some sediment (or should that be sentiment?!) about the issue. At the moment the voting from my visitors in terms of coalition with the Tories goes 11% absolutely, 26% never and by far the majority, 61% in certain circumstances. I am going to put up another poll to see if this turns out similarly re Labour. I am interested in what the circumstances may be in which we should consider a coalition? I am even more interested in what the red lines would be for people.

Whilst I feel sick at the notion of a coalition with the Tories, I am not against coalition in principle. Whatever I think of the Labour party there is no doubt that the coalition in Scotland meant that Lib Dem policies were implemented and that the people of Scotland are better off because of it. And yes, as has been pointed out, we do have successful coalitions with the Tories for example in Camden, where they are the "junior" partners - a different kind of relationship? We are not propping them up are we? And of course, if we had PR in this country coalition would be inevitable, but that is not what we are talking about at the moment.

So, let's say we do end up with a hung parliament next time round, what are we prepared to sacrifice? What is the price we will extract? Both leadership candidates have rightly made much of their anti-establishment radical credentials - how will that be squared with a reactionary conservative administration? Or do we have confidence that Cameron really is going to preside over a liberal Conservative Party?

I suppose I am influenced by the fact that I am old enough to remember the last Tory administration, the damage they did to the life chances of so many children and young people, the constant cuts to public services, the love-in with big business, the harsh judgemental approach to anyone who didn't share their values. I could go on. Perhaps I have misjudged Cameron and he really does have the strength of character to change his party, but from what I have seen so far I doubt it. But, as ever, I am willing to be proved wrong!

Why Vince is my Darling

On Monday morning I awoke to the dulcet tones of our acting leader on 5Live's "Wake up to Money". Vince was putting forward an eminently sensible proposal that rather than mortgage companies repossessing houses, they should look at a shared ownership option. Michael Coogan from the Council of Mortgage lenders tended to disagree. However, later this week, my own Managing Director, Clive Briault, warned that up to 1.4 million householders, with fixed rate mortgages that expired next year, could find themselves in difficulties.

Last year the FSA published the Baseline Survey an ambitious survey that measured the financial capability of the UK population. It found that although only a small proportion of the
population is experiencing problems with debt, they are often very severely affected. In addition, a further two million households (or around three million people) are exposed to potential difficulty in the event of deterioration in economic conditions, since they are constantly struggling to keep up with their commitments.

A combination of the credit crunch and fixed rate mortgages expiring is going to mean misery for many of our fellow citizens. It seems to me that if you had a choice between Darling, Osborne and man is head and shoulders above the rest. Darling seems scared and Osborne is scary. The people of this country need to be confident that whoever is responsible for the economic wellbeing of this country they know what they are doing, that they put the nation's interests before their own party political interests and that they will not be swayed by the need to keep the powerful financial services industry sweet.

Vince has always been ahead of the game in anticipating the problems, he has made tackling debt a particularly important issue, so when we met him on Monday I asked him whether he thought the problems we were facing were systemic. He did and he criticised Gordon Brown for not having had the bottle to face up to the banks - who he said operated rather like casinos - and implement the recommendations of the Cruikshank Report in 2000.

And Andrew Marr this morning acknowledged Vince's prowess as an economist, someone whose intelligent contribution to the debate on Northern Rock, the potential economic squeeze and the problem of tackling debt in this country, should not be underestimated.

On a personal note I was also delighted to hear Vince picking up the issue of the failure in the duty of care of this government in relation to our armed forces, and calling for the honouring of the military covenant.

Good for you Vince, you are making the running and some. Let's hope whoever takes over from you next week they will be able to pick up your baton and continue the fight.

So, Darling, watch out, there is a far more competent shadow chancellor waiting in the wings, and George ain't!

OK - time to stop being a liberal

I have had a bit of criticism for allowing a particular comment on my blog. I used to moderate comments but then thought it was a little illiberal, to be in favour of free speech, unless people were saying stuff I didn't agree with, or approve of. So, reluctantly, I have turned my comments moderator back on. I have no idea how to remove comments, so if someone can instruct me I will do that too. So, sorry Ms/r Anonymous, from now on, like me, you will have to own your comments.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Jack Chat.................chattin back!!!!

I am dead excited because I am actually getting comments on my new blog! OK to all you blogger hacks this is neither here nor there, but this was quite an experiment and I have been worrying whether anyone would bother reading me at all.............what is exciting for me is reaching a completely different audience, one that is anti-establishment, radical and totally committed to a different kind of society. Hmmmmm, let's hope they soon feel their spiritual home is with us!

Error of my ways - maybe it's time to consider jumping into bed with Cuddly Cameron?!

I take very seriously the helpful comments left by fellow LibDemmers, one who seems think I need to grow up and seriously consider snuggling up to Darling Dave. So, also having had a call from one of my Tory boys on the issue, I have decided to do the decent thing and link to his blog for the sake of political unity.....................

Huhne - I'm happy to jump into bed with Cameron

There are a few things, I must confess, that make my stomach churn. One is the idea of sharing a bed with David Cameron and propping up a Tory government. Now, I am quite prepared to be educated by the great and the good as to why I am wrong, but I am sorry, there is a limit and however "nice" Cameron may appear, his is the pretty, deceptive top of a hidden iceberg which is old Toryism. What we see is not what we will get.

So imagine my horror to discover this morning that Chris Huhne had told the Torygraph of his willingness to jump into bed with said Mr C. No wonder they are trumpeting their analysis that he has the activists' support! Wow, what a gift to the Tories, they may not win outright, but if they are lucky enough to get a Huhne victory, the world will be their oyster!

Chris told them, "I am used to coalition politics in the European parliament, it's in my comfort zone, I could go with either side. First they would have to agree to change the current voting system, you can't have a few marginals having such a dramatic effect on British politics, and second you can't have the Prime Minister deciding when to call an election."

So, I wonder what other price Chris would extract to sell our soul? Of course, a change in the voting system is something we all support, but at what cost? What will we compromise on, what will be our bottom line? I think this is an incredibly dangerous position for Chris to take. There are many many people out there who are liberal and support our policies but who would rather stay with a discredited Labour government than run the risk of letting the Tories back in by the back door.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Clegg - We can't build our way out of Prisons Crisis

I have commented before that one of my main motivators in backing Nick was my experience of having worked with him on the Crime Policy working group. His radical cutting edge really comes to the fore in looking for a new radical liberal approach to dealing with crime. Having blogged on the prisons issue earlier today I am delighted to here that Nick has come out all guns blazing to take on the lunacy of this bankrupt government.

Nick has said:

“At last the lunacy of this government’s strategy of mass incarceration is finally being condemned for what it is. A mixture of penal populism and utter administrative incompetence from the Government has produced one of the worst prison systems in the Western world.

“I hope the public now realise that and ever expanding prison population is, perversely, making them less safe rather than safer from the scourge of crime.

“92% of young men who go into prisons on short-term prison sentences now go on to reoffend within a matter of months. This Government has turned prisons into universities of crime and all the Conservatives can say is that we need more of the same.

“That is why the radical initiatives of the Liberal Democrats on prison reform must now be accepted in full.”

Nick Clegg led a campaign as Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman - ‘Making Prison Work’.

‘Making Prison Work’ called for the following initiatives:

The introduction of local community courts in which offenders must face their victims and members of the community and make up for the harm they have done.
Making training and education compulsory in all prisons
Creating a victim compensation fund, paid for by contributions from prisoners’ paid work
Moving the vast numbers of prisoners with acute mental health conditions out of prison altogether and into specialised secure treatment facilities. 1 in 10 prisoners is functionally psychotic.
Moving lower-level drug offenders into secure treatment facilities
Creating a real hard-work alternative to short-term prison sentences, which merely act as a temporary break in the criminal careers of repeat offenders.

PS: My fonts and colours have fallen off for some reason so apologies for the black ink and boring font!

Clegg SMF Speech on Building the Enabling State

Nick has just set out his stall on public services to the Social Market Foundation.

Nick said that he wants the party to propagate a strategy for public services based on an enabling state, empowered citizens and a cultural shift from administrative targets to individual entitlements.

‘The great paradox of our times [is that] in our private and professional lives, we have never been more empowered. But in our relationship with the state, we have never been so powerless. And make no mistake; it is the poorest and the most vulnerable amongst us who lose out the most.The old model was about constructing the institutional hardware of the paternalistic state. The new model is about developing the democratic software of the empowered society.’

The speech made key proposals including:

· Allowing new providers to enter the school system, including parents, but ensuring that all schools are under local democratic oversight and that there are no further moves towards selection.
· A new Nursery Education Tax Credit so that all children can get the best start in life.
· The Pupil Premium so that more money is channelled through schools to the most disadvantaged children
· An entitlement based health system, with personalised, tailored services involving the active participation of services users.
· Elected Primary Care Trusts accountable to the public with the explicit task of agitating on behalf of patients.

I really agree with Nick on this idea that we are powerful consumers, but often powerless citizens. Getting our public services right is key and we need to have more imagination if we are to see any real or lasting improvements.

My personal view (which differs from both Nick and Chris) is that we cannot look at improvements based on so called efficiency savings, or local determination alone. We have to be honest about what sort of society we want to live in and what that might cost, not about being "tax and spend" or "don't tax and don't spend" and whilst I of course approve of localism, we need to be honest about its limitations and also clear about our party policies. If I vote Lib Dem in Southwark or Shillington I want to know I get a similar product.

I would also want to know more about what new providers in schools may look like. Yes parents may well want to set up their own schools, but I am not too clear about how that will create more of a level playing field, whereas the pupil premium clearly can contribute to improving the life chances of all our children.

Nevertheless, I am convinced that Nick's passion, commitment and conviction, will ensure that we will have a clearer voice when it comes to a Liberal Democrat approach to public services.

Let's lock up our children, why don't we?

I find myself spitting blood this lunchtime. So Jack Straw is building more prisons. We already lock up more people than anyone else in Europe, what are we saying about the failure of our society? Dear Mr Blunkett, on WATO, "we don't want to lock up petty offenders but we want to stop them reoffending" er, right, lots of evidence is there, that imprisoning people stops them reoffending? We know that most prisoners have mental health or drug related issues, even the Tories drew attention to this, but why oh why didn't we hear an announcement that demonstrated this government is really interested in rehabilitation and cutting crime? I would have been the first to congratulate them had the announcement today been for more secure mental health facilities and more drug rehab units, combined with an injection of funding into preventative work. This is cheap populist rightwing press pleasing topsyturvy logic. I hope our party will have the courage to challenge it for what it is.

Last week I was really distressed to hear the story of the suicide of Liam McManus, a 15 year old, who was in Lancaster Farms YOI, half way through a 6 week sentence for breaching a supervision order. 15 years old, a child, what the hell are we doing locking up our children? And the truth is, as Nick Clegg has pointed out, that it is young men that get locked up at a rate of 3/4,000 a month. Young men, who with the right opportunities and guidance could be going on to turn their lives around, instead we send them to the best University of Crime known to man!

As Francis Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, says,

"The purpose such a short sentence was meant to serve a troubled boy of 15 utterly escapes me. Prison is simply not appropriate for most children and there is a threat that regimes will actually get worse. The Howard League has just responded on the use of batons in YOIs. We have reiterated our belief that batons will merely exacerbate the existing problems rather than tackle the root causes of their behaviour."

So, what a sad day and frankly admission of failure from a government bereft of vision and imagination and clinging onto power by their fingertips. When people ask what differentiates us from the other parties, I am proud to say a Liberal Democrat administration would have taken a far more enlightened, visionary and most importantly, effective approach, rather than the normal hysterical Tory/Labour knee jerk response.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Just a't they both do well?!

Irritatingly having been distracted by working today, I have come late to the analysis of our wannabe leaders on the Today programme. James and Paul (bless 'em) agree - but if you follow the thread on Paul's blog you will find that just because Paul thinks James is right and James thinks Paul is right, doesn't mean that Robin, Mary or Linda, think either of them is right! So therein lies the rub. We all observe our worlds through varying degrees of rose, purple, red, blue coloured glasses, from a range of angles.

So my verdict? Actually I was going to say that I thought they both did well, under pretty poor questioning. They got their points across, as well as their personalities. It should be remembered after all, it's not what you say it is the way that you say it!

Oh and er, em, I read somewhere that people respond better to the erers and ummers, remembering more of what they say.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Exclusive(ish) - Vince Cable's Lib Dem Choice

Having gatecrashed the Nick Clegg bloggers bash, I was feeling rather an interloper, but nevertheless I was delighted to join fellow bloggers to interview Vince this evening.

It was an interesting experience, Vince has such an understated way of expressing himself. He has none of the exuberant passion of Nick Clegg (I can't comment on the interview with Chris Huhne since I wasn't there). However, he clearly thinks before he speaks, chooses his words carefully, articulates succinctly and creates an impression of a man who absolutely understands his brief.

He said an awful lot that I found fascinating - particularly some of his comments about Gordon Brown. No, he didn't accept the notion that Brown had a psychological flaw (in answer to a question from Paul Walter), it was, he felt, an intellectual flaw. For a man with a 1st, this is an intriguing analysis. But, Vince believes GB does not have the intellectual capacity to grasp the complexities of daily life. This is why a lot of his admittedly enlightened schemes have ultimately failed, for example tax credits.

It is past my bedtime again so I will return to other issues tomorrow..........

...........oh, the question you are all dying to hear the answer to, Vince's Lib Dem partner him if he makes it on to Strictly Come Dancing! Julia Goldsworthy, because as Vince says, not only is she a member of his Treasury Team, she is also really good!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Liverpool - City of Culture and Financial Inclusion

On Wednesday I was in glorious Liverpool (don't you just know it is a LibDem city?) for a financial inclusion conference. Organised by RUFI. I was one of the speakers, but finding myself as the last one - after the audience had had nearly 4 hours of speeches by then I felt duty bound to keep my remarks short sweet and to the point (actually one of my local supporters once said that was a good description of me !! Maybe that should be the title for my next Blog???!). I wanted to mention this as I was really rather impressed with myself for having managed this feat. As David Boyle pointed out at the WATO fringe when I was panicking as I discovered, having been told I had 2 minutes for an informal intro, that it was actually 5, "I've never known you unable to speak for 5 minutes Linda!" . So, to manage NOT to speak for my allotted time was - though I say it myself - truly remarkable! And imagine my smugness when one of the participants in my workshop later in the day remarked that it was a shame I had been cut short since mine had been the best speech. Cheshire!

Anyway, enough of all this self congratulation, what's that about pride coming before a fall?

More on this topic later...........

The Real Christmas Story in Bethlehem

In the season of advent many thoughts turn to a mythical image of a pastoral and peaceful Bethlehem. However the reality is somewhat different these days.

On Thursday evening I joined a packed audience in Bedford for the latest Riding Lights production Salaam Bethlehem. Based on real life stories from the oft forgotten Christian community in Bethlehem it tells the moving story of those who are marginalised and oppressed in their own land. For Christians, Muslims, Jews, those of faith, those of none, this is a powerful and disturbing story. It has already incited the wrath of the Zionist lobby, presumably for uncovering that which they would rather leave covered. It is still touring the country and I would urge you to try and get to see it. Tour dates here.

Leadership - more facts about Nick Clegg's past in academia

Having blogged a couple of days ago in response to Jo Hayes's comments about Nick's qualifications, I heard from Dr Julie Smith, who confirmed that Nick had in fact had a position teaching on her course on the Politics of European Integration, taught to the MPhils in Contemporary European Studies and in International Relations in 2004-5, at Cambridge University and that it was a bone fide paid position.

I hope that clears it up and we can go back to considering the breadth of qualifications necessary to lead a political party.

Clegg near certainty

Good heavens - only 12% in the lead, why wouldn't the Clegg camp be all of a panic!

Come off it Jo - I would have hoped you would have noticed that I for one have toned down my criticism of Chris and even my biggin' up of Nick. There are still a lot to make up their minds, of course, but I would say it looks pretty clear that Nick will maintain and even increase his lead, if I was a betting girl, which I'm not, I may be taking Mike Smithson's advice at the moment...........seeing Clegg as a "near certainty".

Friday, November 30, 2007

What qualifies you to be a leader?

I am having problems leaving comments on fellow bloggers' sites, so unfortunately couldn't leave a comment for Jo Hayes about Nick's qualifications.

To be honest, it shouldn't matter a jot. If we think our leaders should all be blessed with Oxbridge 1sts to be worthy of the job we miss the point completely. I certainly don't think the fact that Cameron and Brown have 1st does anything to commend the award at all! One may need a certain level of intelligence in order to lead, but one also needs a hell of a lot more in terms of people, managerial and generally human skills.

For those to whom it does matter, I have checked and Nick got a 2:1 from Cambridge (and Masters) and he won the Cambridge-Minnesota Scholarship Award, studying for a year in the US, and also has a postgraduate diploma from the College D’Europe in Bruges.

While training as journalist he won the prestigious Financial Times David Thomas Prize for new writers.

So no, he doesn't have a 1st, frankly to me that makes him more attractive, probably spent his student career like me, learning in the school of life as well as the hallowed halls!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dodgy Recruiting in the North West?


Jack Chat - Live!

Yes, my brand new blog has now gone live! I'm a bit nervous to be honest, its bad enough chatting to a bunch of Lib Dems, but most youth workers I know would make Paul Walter look like a pussycat! (Only teasing Paul - just recalling your hanging me from the lamp post earlier this year!!!). It will be quite a challenge, particularly having to tone down the political commentary, but one that I will relish and an enormous honour to have been asked. As you know, I am firmly of the view that if Youth Workers ruled the world it would be a much nicer place!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

London Hustings? Was it that exciting then????

I had hoped to get to the London hustings this evening, but then decided, given I had conferences in Manchester yesterday and Liverpool tomorrow, it was going to be too tight and a bit exhausting to come back. So, I have been waiting breathlessly for all those infamous bloggers (Stephen Tall - I'll make a decision after the hustings today) who were waiting and seeing.........all I can think is that they are all off down the pub, oblivious to us poor souls sat in our hotel rooms, wondering if its best to go to bed and set the alarm for 2am?!

I did get one text from someone who was there who thought Nick was good and Chris was "poor" on BME issues.

So, I will just have to be patient I guess.....