Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Should this be the end of Loo's Muze?

Someone, I can’t remember who, referred to my blog the other day as “the unfortunately titled Lindyloo’s Muze”. I have to confess I have been a tad troubled by this………what is unfortunate about it? Have I a gaping hole in my education, is Lindyloo a euphemism for I know not what? Is this what comes of dabbling in a male domain? Given the extraordinary range of names for blogs, maybe it’s a wee bit too pedestrian? So should I ditch it for one of my other nicknames (well one that I am aware of!) or perhaps my favourite pseudonym Dr Renie Selawi (an anagram of my former name). Or maybe it should just be entitled the rather more serious - Linda Jack and be done with it. Maybe you would like to vote, or maybe that would be just too boring……….

.........and another thing..........

With thanks for the feedback on my rant about the male dominated blogosphere, it also struck me that of course, nearly always, given the nature of the beast, my commentators are men. So I was delighted to get a comment from Alix who also posted on the issue.

Anyway, this is a first for me, blogging on the train on the way to York, actually demonstrates how addicted I have become, paying a fiver for the privilege! But I am paying more than money - unfortunately having decided to cart a laptop round with me as well as all my essentials for 5 days away from home (OK, it may have been the shoes as well!) - I have done my back in, so now having been sat down on the train for the last couple of hours I am wondering if I will be able to get out of my seat when I finally arrive........we shall see.

PS: Anyone know why my blog has gone off into some other, unrecognisable language,"Publicera Inlagg" and Forhandsgranska and Skriv and Lagg till lank till bilaga ?????

Is Blogging a Feminist Issue????........and another thing........

I watched Duncan Borrowman's appearance on Doughty Street last night. I thought he was excellent (loved the jacket too Duncan!) but being a woman I couldn't help but notice it was an all male panel. Has anyone done any research on why the blogosphere appears even more male dominated than the wider politicosphere? Is it just that the guys have more time than us gals to put in their tenpenneth? Does it matter?

Actually, I do think it matters - and having thought about it a bit I reflected back on a conversation I had with Jeremy Hargreaves at conference. I love Jeremy to pieces - he is one of those talented, erudite, beautifully behaved people I aspire to be like but unfortunately never quite (or even nearly) make it! But on this issue we disagreed. Whilst I fully appreciate the difficulty chairs have when choosing speakers in any debate, the lack of women and BME members in many debates is often noticeable. Jeremy had kicked off the Israel/Palestine debate by pointing out that he had had very few cards from women. In the end only two women spoke. Two who had put cards in didn't, one of whom was me. Apparently I had had more than my fair share of opportunities that week (and was opening the debate on the armed forces following). The difficulty for me was that this was my major issue. I asked Duncan Brack at the end of conference if the fact that one is judged on how many times one has spoken already meant was that my only chance was to keep my mouth shut until the debate I most wanted to speak on. Yes says he. That's fine if your issue is early in the week, but if it is right at the end its a bit of a challenge, especially if you want to be helpful and put cards in when conference is short of speakers/women. But there were two issues for me in Jeremy's decision. Everyone who spends a long time preparing a speech (which I had done on this occasion) is disappointed not to be called, but in a popular debate that is inevitable, what is disappointing is that at a time when we are trying to challenge the status quo, we think we can do it by calling women in proportion to how many cards they put in. I thought a balance was supposed to ensure a balance of male and female speakers, we do after all make up 52% of the population. How are we ever going to change anything if we call women only in proportion to the number of cards they put in. It may be subliminal but we get what we see. I have used this example before, but it makes my point yet again. Whilst watching ballet when my daughter was small I asked her if she would like to be a ballet dancer, but mummy said she, can brown girls be ballet dancers? I hadn't seen it but she had. We will never increase the participation of women or BME members in conference debates until it becomes the norm that all are properly represented. Scurrying around trying to get women to put cards in demonstrates my point. So, for me, trying to be helpful backfired. Now, surprising as it may seem, I personally don't need any encouragement to say my piece, so the fact I was one of the women not called in a debate with 2 women and about 10 men was not so important, what was disappointing was that the other woman not called was a Palestinian.

So I do truly understand the dilemma for chairs, but no party will ever get its policy making right whilst it continues to fail to truly reflect the people it seeks to represent. As for getting more women contributing to the blogosphere, that may prove more of a challenge.............

Rant over, and anyway I am feeling very happy this evening after a second day in the febrile atmosphere that is the Labour Party Conference. A young woman came running up to me when I was walking through the exhibition hall. She just wanted to say how much she had enjoyed my speech at Lib Dem conference, I asked which one, she said the one at the WATO fringe. This made my day, as anyone who was there knows I was wrongly briefed, having been told I only needed to do an informal 2 minute intro (as opposed to 5 minute speech) and not having been told I was expected to speak in favour of the motion (which I couldn't do because I didn't agree with it!) it was very off the cuff. Although I have to thank David Boyle, when I discovered this and panicked he reassured me saying "I've never known you not be able to speak for 5 minutes Linda!"...........

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Labour and the Liberal Democrats - whose progressive agenda?

Last night I went to the Fabian/Centre Forum fringe - Labour and the Liberal Democrats; whose progressive agenda? Labour front benchers were Angela Eagle and Michael Wills whilst we were well represented by Vince Cable and David Laws. I have to say I am warming more and more to David Laws, there is still a lot I would disagree with him on, but his commitment to social justice is unquestionable and both he and Vince put our case extremely well.

Michael Wills opened by acknowledging that there was an inevitable overlap in terms of shared policies but argued that the Labour Party occupied the progressive space more effectively. He suggested the reason for that was our position between Tory and Labour which meant we had to appeal to voters on both ends of the spectrum. He also suggested that being the party of government meant they could sustain their progressive agenda. He argued that the Labour Party brought real passion about social justice and acted to support the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Vince started by recognising that for all the panel their opposition was the Tories, he had Labour activists who helped him in order to keep the Tories out. He acknowledged that we were the third party in parliamentary terms but reminded his audience that we had control in many, particularly inner city areas at local government level. He recognised an overlap, we are both internationalist (although he questioned Labour commitment to tackling corruption), believe in income redistribution, both parties differing from the Tories in our shared belief in the concept of public services. Where we differed was on the role of an increasingly centralised state and as he described it Labour's "casual regard of civil liberties". His analysis of Brown's "Big Tent" politics was that it was designed to destroy constructive opposition. He concluded with the need for electoral reform.

Angela started by referring to what she called the emotional issue on the ground of relationship between Labour and Lib Dem activists in some areas. She did not believe anyone owns the progressive agenda, acknowledging that we were well able to work together on particular issues, for example discrimination. Her analysis was that the Labour were collectivist whereas we were individualist. She did not accept Vince's analysis of the problem of an overbearing state, suggesting they were as open to bottom up as to top down solutions, but argued that the state was an enabling state. Whilst it may need looking at, we threw it away at our peril. She challenged the party however over our lack of progress on issues of representation within the party, that whilst we were strong on issues of discrimination we were not prepared to look at positive action such as all women shortlists.

David picked up on the issue of us having different messages in different parts of the country. He suggested that we had a greater unity of purpose and argued that after all all parties are coalitions. He told us of the approach he had from George Osborne, no ideological pitch (what a surprise) just a promise of a cabinet seat when the Tories won the general election. David said he drew a line and explained to George - on the left side of the line were the two progressive parties, on the other side of the line were the Conservatives, the clue is in the name! David acknowledged Labour's strong commitment to employment related issues, poverty and inequality. He pointed out that as liberals we have a greater scepticism of the role of government and a greater commitment to green issues and civil liberties. Our concern was to provide security to those on low incomes and he criticised the way tax credits were not targeted enough and argued for raising the basic pension.

The main focus of the questions that followed was on dirty tricks of Lib Dems locally, there was clearly a lot of bad feeling amongst those who felt our campaigning tactics in some areas were inexcusable. Angela Eagle called for a stronger message to go from our leadership to local parties about what was and was not acceptable. I happen to agree with her, as someone who relishes a fight I believe our policies speak for themselves and if we need to stoop to gutter personalised campaigning we don't deserve to win. However, as was pointed out, Labour are not squeaky clean themselves, so maybe it's an area we all need to give attention to.

I did get the chance to question Michael WIlls about his statement that his passion for social justice lead him to act to support the vulnerable and disadvantaged given the widening gap between rich and poor. He didn't answer until David Laws stepped in and answered for him. Then he came back with an answer which was basically that it would have been a lot worse without Labour, well that's alright then.

Then onto the LGA reception which we were sponsoring. I got chatting to a couple of Labour activists who turned out to live in Disley, my former home. As we were bemoaning the fact that no Cabinet ministers had made it to support the reception, and how the problem with parliamentary parties was that they so often paid scant regard to local government, my new friend exclaimed "There's Gordon!" "Gordon who?" says I..........anyway great excitement amongst the troops and I have to give him credit for at least showing his face.

Later I met local MP Patrick Hall, who introduced me to Peter Hain. A man clearly far too important to spend time listening to low life like me (you know that feeling when you know someone is desperately trying to escape from you.........or does that only happen to me?!) but I badgered on making my points about financial inclusion. Then I spotted Ivan Lewis, someone who I have a lot of time for as he was a good friend to the Youth Service. I reminded him of the first occasion we had met, when I was chair of Unison's Youth and Community Workers Forum - and my national officer was kicking me under the table because one is not supposed to interrupt a government minister! Anyway I made my case for separate wards in psychiatric wings and promised to continue to badger him about it.

An interesting day, odd to be at a conference as an observer rather than a participant.....very odd..........

Gordon..........Never Mind the Rhetoric, what about the Reality?

I am just back from a wild night out at Labour Party Conference...........Bournemouth is a strange mix of memories for me, mainly from my Unison days, but this was my initiation into the eclectic mix of new and old Labour which passes for a conference. I arrived in time to watch Gordon's speech in the exhibition hall. He did go on.............and on...........and the end rather than watching paint dry I decided I had time to watch nail varnish dry. I sat on the floor and painted my nails. But, it has to be said, there was little for me to disagree with, apart from the usual attack on civil liberties. My question was, so where is the money coming from then? Lots of costly promises, no promises of increased taxes, gotta come from somewhere - my guess it will yet again be down to cuts to the less sexy services, such as mental health services. Lets see.........the Tesco approach to government, buy one get one free but the supplier pays. So, hospitals - deep clean, but do it within your existing budget.

More is a bit late even for a night owl..................

Monday, September 24, 2007

Waiting for Gordo.............

Just about to head off to the conference centre for Gordo's speech. This is my first Labour Party conference and I was amused to note just how keen they are on promoting democracy within their party, perhaps this gives a clue to their approach to governing in general! The Conference guide (glossy and red) is full of fringes (tho to be honest I think we have a wider and richer selection), adverts, rallying calls to the troops..........and two pages, yes TWO pages devoted to the main business of conference! And of course, no opportunity for the troops to participate in policy making, no motions, just "Policy Seminars" - no narrative, just, for example on Tuesday morning "Policy Seminars - 0900 - 10.30 - Britain in the World - Health - Education". Well if I was a Labour footsoldier I may be a little miffed that three of the issues I care passionately about were awarded half an hour each for me to possibly put my tenpenneth in! (That'll learn me not to be so critical of FCC!!!!!).

So, watch this space, will report back later.............................

Vivre la Différence!

If I had a pound for every time I had been asked why I had hitched my particular waggon to the Lib Dems.............the latest but one enquiry was Saturday night from my son who has just started his A level politics. "Mum, why do you want to be in a party that is never, well not in your life time, going to be in power?" "Son, you just joined that party!" "Oh yes!" Actually said son has just joined said party following an interrogation similar to that endured by the faithful wanting to be you believe..........are you willing to lay your life down know the score. Then yesterday evening a call from a very old friend who informed me she had got into a bit of an altercation with her housemate. "Why on earth is Jack in the Lib Dems when they are never going to win?" And therein lies the rub, if every pore in your body oozes liberal democracy, how could you ever be comfortable anywhere else? Is it just an accident of history that we find ourselves in this position? In a nation that regards itself as generally liberal when will we reach the tipping point that will give the electorate the confidence that it is worth voting for us? That if they vote for us they will get us and not allow the Tories/Labour in through the back door? In a cynical climate where people are more likely to vote against the party they don't like rather than for the one they do, to outsiders I can understand why they think those of us who stick to our party because of our principles and not our personal ambition are on a hiding to nothing.

But, perhaps to the chagrin of some of you (!) I am still here. Still here, partly because I don't expect I would last more than 5 minutes in a less liberal party, but fundamentally because apart from a few well documented differences of opinion at the margins, I believe we have the policies and approach to policy making that can change our country and our world, for the better. Our party is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. If I had a ......penny for every time someone had said to me, either on the doorstep or socially, well I think we should give you lot a chance......but under the current system, they don't always want to take that risk, then I would maybe be rivalling Chris Huhne for riches!

So, for me, despite the odd bit of evidence to the contrary, there is still clear blue water between us and the other two Tory parties, lets hold our nerve and even consider being more radical............(?!)the electorate deserve a choice, and the way things are going we may be the only party able to deliver that.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ming's Speech.............................................

The convenience of having an internet cafe right next to the conference hall has given me the opportunity to say a few words about Ming's speech before having to run off. I think it was much much better than last year, punchier, more confident and more inspiring. At one point (when he was talking about an injured soldier he had met) I confess I was dabbing my everyone will be waiting for the but........ I guess I have some little buts which I will return to when I get home, the biggest one is about how our messages will play outside. Rather like a big tent religious rally, we all feel buoyed up and inspired, in our little bubble everything is wonderful, but, we must remember we are talking to ourselves. On Monday I got the chance to ask Ming a question about what we are for and how we get that message across. His answer to what we are for was sound (Jeremy H observing that I looked enraptured and as if the scales had fallen from my eyes!) however, he didn't answer the second part of the question, without an answer to that we are in danger of taking two steps forward and one and a half back.

A First Black Mayor...........or Leader?

Along with others I lazily boarded the bus to the London Mayoral Hustings yesterday (its the shoes darling!) for what was a great and well attended event. Clearly I have nailed my colours to the mast in terms of supporting Fiyaz Mughal, but I was impressed by Brian Paddick it has to be said. Despite his public profile it can't have been easy for him being thrown into the deep end with a bunch of potentially lairy activists. I thought he spoke well, he came across as warm, funny and relaxed. Chamili was clear and articulate, with my background it was great to see a young Asian woman in the frame, however, I couldn't imagine her having much in common with the young people I have spent most of my life with, or much ability to connect with them. Fiyaz was clear and knowledgeable, but knowing him sadly none of his great sense of humour surfaced. It hasn't changed my view that he would be a great and formidable candidate.....and he and Chamili clearly both have an important role of enabling us to consider, not just that we could have a black Mayor, but also a black party leader in the future. That has to be important in raising our profile within BME communities and in supporting the aspirations of the many hugely talented BME men and women we have within our party.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Boris: I'll Ban Bendy Buses...........

Well, that's OK then, we'll all Back Boris! I was rather amused throughout the day (having traversed the city six times today) to spot this Evening Standard Billboard headline. Funnily enough I had travelled from Bedford this morning with Tory PPC Richard Fuller (I know I get into terrible trouble fraternising with the Tories!) and another Bedfordian, Hywel Davies. Hywel takes a bendy - sorry fold up - bike and from my point of view takes his life in his hands to traverse the city (one of my fellow commuters who works at Lehman brothers does the same thing all the way from St P to CanWaf and swears blind he sees us all getting off the DLR) so when I asked whether there was anything that scared him about cycling in London, there was only one thing.............the Bendy Buses!

So, Boris's no 1 priority says it all. He only understands London in the context of his own, largely privileged, experience............good for him to cycle, but please, dear Boris, there are a few other issues in London that may be a teeny weeny bit more pressing to Londoners than bendy buses.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate........Brian Paddick or Fiyaz Mughal?

Interested to hear from my pal Fiyaz Mughal this evening that he has been selected as one of our potential candidates for London mayor. Of course Brian Paddick, who is also on the list starts ahead of the game because of his celeb status; however, I would caution against thinking he is an automatic shoo-in. Brian may have been a Lib Dem supporter for some time, but he is a new kid on the block as far as the party goes...........and as we all know, us Lib Dems can be an arsy lot when we think we are being forced down a particular road!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Broken Covenant - Lib Dem Friends of the Armed Forces Launch

As a disaffected 17 year old, desperate to get away from home and to be free to do my own thing, I had a choice. Get a live in job as a receptionist in Radlett, or join the army. I joined the army! Surprisingly I found myself working as an analyst with Special Intelligence (I know scary isn't it??! But of course, one of the roles of military intelligence is to confuse the enemy and I'm very good at that!).

I often joke that my first attempt at collective bargaining was in the army, and it didn’t go down very well. In fact, on one memorable occasion I was threatened with a charge of mutiny! However, that was more than 30 years ago and frankly, despite the progress we have witnessed elsewhere, the lot of servicemen and women has seriously declined.

Our armed services, whether we agree with the political decisions regarding their deployment or not, deserve our respect and gratitude. They operate in often dire and understandably extremely risky situations. What they don’t need to be doing is fretting about the living conditions of their loved ones at home, or worrying about whether they will have the right equipment, or whether that equipment will fail, or their boots will melt. If they are injured they don't want to be faced with yet another battle to get proper compensation at home.

The British Legion is launching its "Broken Covenant" campaign rightly drawing attention to the military covenant - if you agree that by committing themselves to put their lives on the line for their country our servicemen and women deserve more from their government and share the concern about the growing sense of disillusionment among Service personnel and veterans about their treatment by the state, please sign the message board here.

As Liberal Democrats we have rightly been consistent, both in our opposition to the illegal war and occupation in Iraq but equally in our outrage at the iniquity of the failure in duty of care to our servicemen and women.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Damon Hooton who served in the army for 23 years and myself have established the Liberal Democrat Friends of the Armed Forces, to be formally launched at conference. Our aim is not to campaign on operational issues (there are other forums for that) but to campaign for the fair treatment of service personnel and their families.

The Lib Dem Friends of the Armed Forces will be launched on Monday 17th September 6.15pm in the Thistle Hotel. The fringe will be chaired by David Heath MP. Speakers include Nick Harvey MP, Michael Smith (Sunday Times Defence Correspondent) and Richard Bartle from BAFF (British Armed Forces Federation). Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Baby's First Haircut................

Oh dear, I swore it wouldn't happen, I wouldn't become a typical doting granny. But, sorry, here is the evidence..............................oh and note she has inherited her granny's weakness for shocking pink!

Late for a must read blogs!

Given my blogosphere problems over recent months I unfortunately didn't get to vote in the top blog awards. Even if I did I would find it difficult to rank.........anyways, since I now have oodles of opportunity to mess about in the said blogosphere my must reads are now listed left...........

If any of you think you have been badly done by by not being included, this may be an oversight, if not, let me know and I will be suitably contrite.

The sad thing is that the guys still well outnumber the blogging a feminist issue I wonder?????

PS: Still can't figure out how to change the pic Tim objected to.........I would change it for this one (the red eyes may be more appropriate) which is only a few months old

Or maybe this one?! (sorry, this one is two years old, my 50th special!)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Exploding Lipgloss and the Ubiquitous Paul Walter!

Just back from my jaunt across the Irish Sea to an amusing comment from Paul. As you can see, being able to spout forth to my heart's content given the internet has finally wriggled its way into my glorious old people's home, is proving irrisistable! (Don't worry I'll go to bed eventually).

But as for the lipgloss, actually I have real issues..........I didn't actually have any with me (I was trying to be poetic/ironic). To be honest, in some ways it is a metaphor for our current sorry political/social state. Not even here today gone tomorrow, here now, gone in 10 minutes......all gloss and no substance! What is it FOR?! I have tried, honest, but every time I wonder why I bother. Is it just that I am just such an unreconstructed liplicker, or is it just that I have the "wrong kind of lips"? Maybe the lips I got issued when God was handing out the lip genes were just impregnated with teflon? I marvel at the women (Mrs Beckham foremost amongst them) whose lipgloss appears to be genetic. How do they do it? If someone did a time and motion study, would they find that the time spent applying lipgloss was commensurate with that spent eating, sleeping or possibly...........breathing??????

However, undeterred and inspired by Mr W, I will endeavour to find my own brand of exploding lipgloss before have been warned!

Who says the camera never lies?

A couple of weeks ago, whilst at the Ross BBQ a fellow Lib Dem, a certain Mr Plater (actually Tim you remind me of Dave Aaronavitch on your pic for some strange reason?!), lambasted me about the pic on my blog. About time I changed it says he - subtext, why put a pic you took 20 years ago up and pretend it is you? Actually says I, it was taken in the last election. I don't actually get pix of myself taken on my own that often, and those I do would certainly not be suitable...... So the only one I have to hand was taken a few months ago and taken out of a bigger pic with my pal Martin, but try as I might the Big Brother Blogger won't let me change it? (help Duncan!) In the mean time I will be trying to find a photographer who is able to make me look the age I am on camera, as well as being intimate with the internal workings of the Blogspot!

Don't hold your breath but................

Now, there should be a choir of angels (or I guess for my detractors devils) singing at this point, I don't understand it, probably never will, but how come no one can call me but I can now get online at home? Technology was never my strong point, thank heavens I have a teenager! So, after a 5 month absence I finally have internet access at home. This is scary, it means in moments of boredom, inspiration, anger, pique, or plain devilment; whether that be in the morning before work, in the evening after work, or the middle of the night when I can't sleep, I may end up resorting to the blog to vent my spleen...................or alternatively lay myself open for being hung drawn and quartered by those who would rather I crawled back under the stone from whence I matter. Let's see how long it lasts. But for the time being this is sweet!

This Beggars Belief!

There are lots of things that beggar belief.........but this takes the biscuit! I have just arrived at Belfast International Airport to discover that, not only are we still subjected to the indignity of tipping out our perfectly packed handbaggage to find our potentially explosive lipgloss, toothpaste, shampoo et al, but now we are being charged for the privilege. Little dispensers have been set up emblazened with signs saying "resealable bags - 4 for a pound" you don't get that sort of bargain in the pound shop!

As is my want I started my moaning with the nearest couple who would listen. They kindly gave me one of their reusable bags - and wouldn't hear of taking any money off me! So, having saved myself a pound I am now investing it in 20mins on the net, especially since my other candidate for "beggars belief" award is BT - yes, I finally got myself online at home, and what telephone line goes down. It has been nearly a week and all I get are irritating texts telling me the engineers are dealing with it. If I were a conspiracy theorist.......