Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hillary borrows the John Kerry Joke book

In Iowa, Hillary Clinton tried to make a joke about her experience in dealing with 'evil and bad men' which would help her as president.

She seems to be learning comedic skills from John Kerry.

Oh dear.

New Home Secretary resigns after 37 minutes -

During a recent spate of "stickie" sticking, I found a "stickie" from to put on my sidebar. It updates the "news headlines" which are, the astute will notice, spoof "news headlines". For example:

At first, I wasn't too sure about this "stickie", but gave it a whirl anyway. However, on studying a few of the "news stories" over the last couple of weeks, I have begun to fall in love with the "DeadBrain" sense of humour. It provides an excellent release, and a sideways look at political news.

There is one particular story on there at the moment entitled: "New Home Secretary resigns after 37 minutes". It is what some younger work colleagues of mine excitedly call "Quality!":

The new Home Secretary was dramatically forced to resign today just 37 minutes after replacing John Reid. As DeadBrain went to press, tabloid editors up and down the land were rejoicing at the quick-fire dismissal.
The story continues:
The drama happened as the fiery Scotsman's successor was being unveiled at a press conference...Within twenty minutes, the Daily Mail had released the following statement:"In admitting that he won't be able to put all criminals behind bars, the new Home Secretary has shown such a lack of concern about the paedophiles, terrorists, rapists and feral children in our midst that he is arguably worse than the lot of them. If he has any decency at all he should apologise personally to all future victims of crime and resign immediately."

...and then climaxes with this:
After facing calls to resign at his inaugural press conference, it wasn't long until the new Home Secretary caved in. In an emotional resignation speech he said: "The first five minutes were a great challenge but after that I began to see why people say this job is the worst in the world. I can only hope that my successor is less incompetent than me and my predecessor John Reid, his predecessor Charles Clarke, his predecessor David Blunkett and his predecessor, whose name I forget."

So, I shall leave the DeadBrain "stickie" as a permanent feature of my sidebar. I see they are looking for contributory satirists, by the way.

And you should see what they said about our Ming during the leadership contest:
Liberal Democrat leadership contender Sir Menzies Campbell admitted today that he is straight and apologised for misleading people.
...Sir Menzies revealed on Radio 2 that the situation had become "unmanageable" as allegations of a 30-year relationship with a 58-year-old woman were due to appear in this Sunday's News of the World.
...Privately, though, a party insider told DeadBrain that Sir Menzies had "*******d his chances".
Come on, laugh!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Goodbye old floppy friend!

The death knell has sounded for the floppy disk!

PC World are stopping selling them. Later this year none of the machines they sell will have a floppy drive.

That makes me feel old.

It seems only yesterday when the first consignment of RX02 8" floppy disks arrived at the computer parts warehouse where I worked in the eighties. And there was some considerable excitement when the 5.25" RX50 floppies started arriving - customers lapped them up.

But nowadays the CD, memory card and USB stick have made the poor old floppy redundant.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Woman in underwear to be projected onto Newbury Town Hall - approved

...but it won't happen.

There has been considerable excitement in the corridors of Newbury Town Council this last week. We probably all need to sit down and have a cup of tea with lots of sugar in it (or bromide in my case).

Maverick Television contacted us to ask if they could project the image of a local woman in only "bra and knickers" onto the Town Hall building. This is for the Channel 4 programme, "How to look good naked". It aims to make people feel good about themselves.

It was decided that the Town Councillors themselves had to decide whether to give permission for this use of the Town Hall. So a virtual meeting of the Town Council Urgency Sub-committee was duly convened with the discreet title: "To decide on a particular use of the Town Hall". The committee decided to give the go-ahead to the proposal. ("We're not prudes" said the Mayor)

However, we then heard from the television company that our building is the wrong colour. It's too dark. So they are tyring to find a lighter building. Newbury Telephone Exchange (infamous local white elephant) was suggested ("the only time anyone has found a decent use for it" was one quip).

I enjoyed the announcement of the minutes of the Urgency sub-committee at our full council meeting last night. The lady from the "Newbury Weekly News" was gazing into the near-distance, pen un-exercised, when the Mayor read out "blah blah...minutes of urgency sub-committee..blah.... held to consider particular use of town hall...Maverick television..blah...image to be projected..blah blah". However, when the Mayor mentioned "woman naked except for her underwear" suddenly the Newbury Weekly News pen flew into frenzied action!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Historic day for Northern Ireland

Well, that's been said before. But the 90% vote by Sinn Fein delegates to support policing in Northern Ireland really is a milestone.

Quite incredibly, Gerry Adams actually had a good word to say about Ian Paisley in the Observer today: "he believed Ian Paisley was genuine in wanting to build a better future for everyone in the North of Ireland." Blimey.

All something you could not have imagined a few years ago.

At last reason for some hope. Thank goodness and well done to the people of Northern Ireland for sticking in there.

Letterboxes fighting back? There's a song there somewhere....

At the risk of craven me-tooery, accompanied by multiple hat-tippery, I would just point out that this Number Ten petition about letterboxes ought not to pass without mention of that wonderful song in the Liberator Song book called "Letterboxes", which was written by Chris Young and goes (to the tune of "Little Boxes"),in part:

Letterboxes on the doorfronts,
Letterboxes going snippy-snappy;
Letterboxes on the doorfronts
-Letterboxes hurt and maim.
There's a high one and a low one,
And a small one and a narrow one;
And they all stick or go snipy-snappy,
And they all hurt just the same.

The complete words are here - scroll half way down the page.

Mulitple hat tips to:
Tim Roll-Pickering
Stephen Tall
Liberal Action

Trouble brewing for Cameron on gay adoption

Conservative Home reports that "Cameron's hesitation on Catholic adoption row imperils his faith-based social action agenda". It reminds us that David Davies has already stated that he will vote "against the attempts by the Government to force the Catholic Church to consider placing the very vulnerable children in its care with gay couples." (That is an interesting way of phrasing the point).

Conservative Home goes on to pinpoint David Cameron's dilemma:

At the heart of Mr Cameron's 'social responsibility agenda' is a belief that faith-based groups can do a better job at welfare than the state. But a big part of the reason for the efficacy of faith-based groups is the religious ethos that drives them. If Government insists that faith-based groups adopt an ethos that it less authentic to their traditions (and more like that of government departments) the faith-based projects will decide that they had better remain independent of government. There is a deep and unresolved tension between David Cameron saying that he wants public policy to encourage more faith-based social action but then hesitating to support the freedom of faith-based groups to behave authentically.

Of course, it is always possible that David Cameron simply votes for equality. He'll then have to do a rapid re-think of his "social responsibility agenda" and possibly also defect to the Liberal Democrats.

Judge John Deed nearing its end, while Midsomer thrives

It is always nice to immerse oneself mindlessly in ITV dramas. My favourite is Midsomer Murders closely followed by Taggart and Heartbeat. Dear old Midsomer seems to go from strength to strength, year after year. The last two have been superb. Taggart too, continues to thrill. And I won't have a word said against Heartbeat.

Judge John Deed on the BBC has been an absolute corker of a programme. However, I think this series should be the last. It is getting very repetitive. These are the scenarios which get repeated over and over again ad nauseam:

  • John Deed defies the authorities and looks as though he will self-immolate himself, but at the last moment he wriggles out of the problem and emerges as a hero.

  • John Deed and Jo Mills have a terrific row

  • John Deed and Jo Mills make up with a terrific snog

  • John Deed and Jo Mills look as though they will get into trouble for sleeping together while working on the same case (surely this poor horse has been flogged sufficiently?)

  • John Deed and Jo Mills get away with it

  • Donald Sinden comes in like a Werther's original grandfather and snorts and grunts his way to help John Deed in the end, despite initial reluctance

  • The Home Secretary proves that he is very snotty (again) and, for some reason, lasts in office much longer than any Home Secretary since Peel the younger (check that Peel the younger actually was Home Secretary - Ed...and shurely it is "Pitt the Younger" anway?)

I am sorry, but there are only so many times flesh and blood can sit through these repetitive plotlines.

Has Hillary Clinton lost it?

Roger Simon at Politico reports that Hillary Clinton ducked a question about Iraq at an Iowa face-to-face meeting with voters. She didn't mention Iraq once, but mentioned ethanol twice:

In her first face-to-face meeting with voters since announcing for president, Hillary Clinton was asked about Iraq and ducked the question. A man, who identified himself as a Gulf War vet, asked the New York senator at a town meeting in a high school gym here Saturday if the surge of new troops to Iraq “was going to be enough?”Instead of answering, Hillary (as she is officially called by her campaign) said, “Thanks so much for your service” and then talked about how she visits military hospitals and believes America needs to provide good medical care for its veterans.In the one-hour town meeting, Hillary did not mention Iraq a single time. She mentioned ethanol twice.

Has she lost the plot? Like McCain recently, has she miscalculated the US public's anger over Iraq?

However, Hillary, despite her recent jettisoning of her surname, is, after all, a Clinton. So, this must all be part of some very clever strategy which is incapable of being understood by an average idiot like myself.

Blair goes under the water again - will he come up again? (Reid comes up for air)

Seeing John Reid and Tony Blair at the moment is like observing two drowning men, who take in turns to go under the water (which often appears brown in colour).

This week, John Reid has been well and truly under the liquids, struggling to hold his breath. This Sunday, however, the Lord Chief Justice has pulled him up from under the water, by the scruff of the neck, to allow him to gasp some precious cubic metres of air. The Observer reports:

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers said the Home Secretary had not sought to instruct judges to stop imposing prison sentences on offenders. In a statement, he described Reid's advice on sentencing as a 'helpful summary of the present situation'.

Meanwhile, our other deluge-defying drownee, A.Blair, has been enjoying a week of welcome fresh air. However, today he swops places with Reid, and is back under the briny. The Old Bill apparently have possession of an allegedly curious hand-written note from him about the loans- for-peerages scenario. And the Electoral Commission is calling for the whole thing to go to court. Sounds like it will rumble on for years. I suspect Houdini Tony will get to the surface for a quick blast of oxygen somehow.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Thoughts on the gay adoption row by a "long-suffering Anglican"

I am delighted to see that Alex Wilcock is on exceptionally good form at the moment, particularly on the subject of religion and equality. I cheerfully accept his description of me as a "long-suffering Anglican". In fact, I rather like it!

In case I overdid making my previous posting on this subject "Vicar-proof" (able to be read by my local vicar without spoiling his tea), I would reiterate that I fully support the "Sexual Orientation Regulations" going through at the moment - unamended. I do not support any form of opt-out for religious groups either related to adoption or bed and breakfast accommodation or anything else. I would support some form of tapered phase-in of these regulations, but only over a matter of months. I do, however, have great sympathy for the Roman Catholic brethren, as they struggle through this one.

I was and am a passionate supporter of openly gay Very Rev. Dr. Jeffrey John, now (I am very pleased to say) Anglican Dean of St Albans. I wrote letters of support for his elevation to Bishop of Reading to him, the Bishop of Oxford (at the time, Richard Harries), my local priest, my local newspaper and the Daily Telegraph (both published). Rather quietly, Dr John entered into a civil partnership with his long-term partner last August.

You might wonder then, why am I still an Anglican? Good question. Well, I tend to separate "faith", which is God-made, from "religion", which is man-made. I also define the "church" as the people who follow Christ, not the buildings and/or apparatus of the establishment of the church. (I would like to see the Church of England dis-established.) But I am mainly still an Anglican because I believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, first and foremost. Try as I might, I can find not a single recorded utterance from Jesus that would lead me and my church to be anything than totally open, loving and outstandingly compassionate and treat with utter equality everybody including gays and lesbians. There are so many examples in the gospels of Jesus treating the down-trodden in life with outstanding love, that it is just mind-blowing. There are, of course, many "down-trodden" groups in society today, but one of the first that springs to mind, without intending to be patronising, are gays and lesbians.

Throughout the Jeffrey John "controversy", I read and heard descriptions that the Church of England was in "turmoil". In fact, nothing could be further from the case in the down-to-earth community of the church. We carried on virtually unaffected. And quite rightly so.

As I said at the time, there is no nicer place in the world to have a disagreement with someone than in the Church of England. So "long-suffering Anglican" it is and will continue to be, then!

By the way, David Cameron has been very quiet on the subject of gay adoption, as reported by The Daily.

The President of The Gambia can cure Aids! a day!

Fantastic news! The President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, can cure Aids! Ben Goldacre reports in the Guardian:

"The cure is a day's treatment" he says: "asthma, five minutes". HIV and Aids cases can be treated on Thursdays, and within three days the person should be tested again. "I can tell you that he/she will be negative."

Job done!

All is not what it seems, however:

Gambian bloggers have described the president - the president! - marching triumphantly into hospitals and leaving patients vomiting and in agony. It's hard to tell what the treatments involve, but Jammeh explains his patients are not allowed to eat seafood or peppers, and "they should be kept at a place that has adequate toilets facilities, because they can be going to toilet every five minutes." The official news source meanwhile - in a country where journalists have been imprisoned and shot dead in unexplained circumstances - reported that the president's curative power left doctors and nurses "mesmerised and stunned".


I have somewhat made light of this story. However, on this subject it is worth reading the blogger, Ousman Ceesay, who is Gambian and covers issues in his homeland, on "Home of the Mandinmories". (I have just added this blog to my blogroll because it is so good). He articulates the tragic side to this farcical story:

The lunacy of Yahya Jammeh has no boundaries. The man is delusional and running the Gambia into the ground in the process. What kind of a prank is this fool pulling on Gambians? He will run to any dingy institution to get a title. Obviously being called doctor has gotten to his head. He is literally practicing some kind of voodo on patients admitted at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

My brother taught physics at Gambia High School (now Gambia Senior Secondary school) for several years. We spent a couple of weeks with him when I was a teenager. The President of the country then was Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, who led the country from its independence in 1970 until he unwisely decided to go on holiday to London in 1994, triggering a coup which deposed him.

When in The Gambia, on New Year's Eve we gathered at the former BOAC club and were "honoured" by a visit from the President just before midnight.

The Gambia is a wonderful country, mainly because of its absolutely joyous people, who, by and large, are dreadfully poor. There was also an extraordinary sort of pirate radio station, broadcast on the ship left over from Radio Caroline South. It was called, I think, Radio Syd.

Many congratulations, by the way, to the journalist who wrote the Guardian article about this, Ben Goldacre. He won the Royal Statistical Society's inaugural award for statistical excellence in journalism last week. It is marvellous that there are still journalists so highly regarded by such an honourable institution.

3 black-headed gulls, 2 Robins, 1 Magpie and a Bluetit

There, we've done our bit for the Big Birdwatch weekend. That was the count of birds by my daughter and I during a 30 minute birdwatch at Speenhamland School, Newbury this morning. (That followed some intensive bird-feeder manufacturing and bird collage sticking.)

We heard a lot more birds, but, as someone remarked, they haven't survived for millions of years without being a bit canny and hiding themselves.

We have duly sent off our report to the RSPB. As well as a schools birdwatch initiative, there is also one for gardens.

By the way, there must be something remarkable about seeing three black-headed gulls over 90 miles from the nearest coastline. My memory may be failing, but 30 years ago I thought you hardly ever saw them inland. Someone said I was "cheating" by counting birds flying overhead. I see. That's cheating is it? Like birds hardly ever fly overhead do they?

Absolutely gigantic jellyfish orgasm in House of Commons

Hat-tip to Recess Monkey and William Hickey of the Daily Express, and, yes, I know I am slow on the uptake, but this is a beaut. It was kindly recorded verbatim by Hansard without the usual "polishing":

Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon) (Con):The local area agreements offer important opportunities and possibilities. As the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport said, there is bound to be debate on who is embraced by the local area agreement. If one is not careful, one gets an absolutely gigantic sort of jellyfish of an orgasm— [Laughter.]

I wondered how many of my colleagues were awake. I am agreeably surprised. I meant “organism”.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Key Kerry supporters move over to Obama

The New York Times reports that key supporters of John Kerry are moving their loyalties to Barack Obama, now that Kerry has announced that he will not run for Presiddent in 2008. The latter announcement is to be welcomed, as the field is already a little crowded at the moment.

Downing Street "deleted secret" emails - Time for IT advice from Monica Lewinsky

The Guardian reports:

The cash-for-honours investigation took a fresh twist today as Downing Street was forced to deny claims that it had a secret computer network from which potentially crucial emails had been deleted.

Iain Dale has suggested that we are entering Watergate-type territory. Well, there was a 18.5 minute gap in tape three of the subpoenaed tapes in the Watergate scenario. In the end, it was the unwiped tapes which did for Nixon. However, I doubt whether there will be any emails in the current situation which cannot be recovered.

I am not a techie but I have been immersed in IT and sending/receiving emails for twenty-three years now (yes, email has been around in some form for more than that length of time now). The safest assumption to make is that you cannot delete an email once you have typed it in.

If you gather up all the hard drives of all the people to whom the email was sent, plus presumably the ISPs through whom it was sent, and then use a sledgehammer or an incinerator to physically destroy all those hard drives, then you might have a sporting chance of deleting those emails.

You might think you have deleted the email by "deleting" it on Outlook, for example. But you haven't. As a simple step, the mail can be recovered from the deleted folder. As a more complex step, it can be recovered from your hard drive. And you can't really wipe the hard drive unless you are using extremely serious high-tech industrial specialist software or, indeed, use the proverbial sledgehammer mentioned above.

I very much doubt that anyone on the political side in Downing Street knows how to really delete an email, even if it were possible.

If in doubt, ask Monica Lewinsky about this. She thought she had deleted emails to do with Bill Clinton and "Staingate", but she hadn't. The FBI recovered them. She has said:

They were things that I thought I had deleted. I certainly came to see that obviously I was wrong. While you may think it's deleted, it isn't. I mean it's there permanently.

It is a different matter if, strictly theoretically, someone in Downing Street thinks they have deleted an email which they might conceivably, allegedly and strictly theoretically prefer not to see the light of day. They are probably wrong, and, therefore, could possibly, allegedly, conceivably and strictly theoretically be "cruising for a bruising".

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Judge intimidated by the Almighty Bruiser Reid?

Could it possibly have been that the judge in Mold, North Wales was accurately following existing guidelines and actually felt that Derek Williams did not need to be jailed and instead should be put under supervision on a suspended sentence? Perish the thought.

Could it be that the judge took the opportunity to do a bit of grandstanding to re-immerse multiply-immersed John Reid in the proverbial doo-doo? Shurely shome mishtake?

Perhaps it might be educational to look at someone else who stood before Mold Crown Court yesterday:

A man who was obsessed with his estranged wife has been jailed for eight years for her attempted murder. Christopher Deakin, 37, travelled from Scotland to Llandudno, Conwy, after telling his wife Jane he was going to kill her, Mold Crown Court heard. She was stabbed 22 times with kitchen knives, two days after the couple's seventh wedding anniversary when they met and he left her a love poem.

Or we could look back to January 20th:

A Mid Wales gunman who terrorised two police community support officers after he took the law into his own hands has been jailed for two years. Russell Price Ellis thought the police in Newtown were not doing enough to catch the people responsible for thefts from his late mother’s house and he warned officers he was going to go after those he thought were responsible. But when he crept up to one intended victim’s house and found the two PCSOs on watch outside, he turned his gun on them, Mold Crown Court heard yesterday.

So it does appear that those wacky judges at Mold Crown Court are still sending people, which they regard as dangerous enough, to jail.

Of course, it is possible that the judge made a mistake in the Williams case. He could have been so over-awed by the almighty Scots dynamism of our "bruiser" Home Secretary that he was shuddering in his shoes when he decided on Williams' sentence and felt he could do nothing except follow what he thought were Reid's orders, against his better judgement. But this is unlikely, to say the least.

The point of all this is that, unless you actually sit through a trial, as the judge and jury do, it is very difficult, not to say silly, to second-guess the judgements of the court. The judge sat through all the details and made a judgement based on guidelines that have repeatedly been emphasised by the sentencing guidelines panel. We have to leave it at that, unless we want all sentencing done by the editor of The Sun, whose brain, of course, is fully intact.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Iain Dale's "dancing in the streets" - McClaren or Junor?

Someone might be able to help my ailing memory. Iain Dale wrote yesterday:

As Sir John Junor used to say, 'there will be dancing on the streets of Auchtermuchty' this evening, as the Conservatives announce the apparent demise of the 'A' List

I left a comment saying:

Iain, I thought it was Bill McClaren who referred to "dancing in the streets of (insert name of appropriate Scottish town) tonight"?

Sir John Junor used to refer, of course, to the maids and lads in Auchtermuchty but in all my years reading his pieces in the Sunday Express and Mail on Sunday, I can't remember him referring to dancing in the streets of Auchtermuchty.

Indeed, the only previous net reference I can find ( to "dancing in Auchtermuchtie" (you spelt it the right way I hasten to add) has been corrected by someone writing:"Please, it’s Auchtermuchty.And they don’t dance ……"

Anyone able to help? Did Sir John Junor ever forecast dancing in the streets of Auchtermuchty? Am I going mad or was Bill McClaren the originator of the Scottish public twilight hoedown forecast?

SS Napoli's real victims

Adrian Sanders was quite right to draw attention to the pollution flowing from the SS Napoli. In many ways it is a more worrying situation than the beach "salvage" exercise seen in the media.

We now see the damage and death to birds caused by the oil released from the vessel.

Menzies Campbell is agreeing with the head of the army on Iraq

Iain Dale says that Menzies Campbell's proposed British withdrawal from Iraq by October would lead to a "full-scale civil war".

Hello? There is a full-scale civil war there already!

Menzies Campbell's statement on Iraq is absolutely right and I applaud his courage in making it:

Given the lack of UK influence over coalition strategy, the deepening sectarian conflict, and the increasing antipathy of the Iraqi people to the coalition forces, the time has come for a controlled exit...We have done all we can and our presence is exacerbating the situation...The process of withdrawal should begin on in May and end in October. It is time to go.

There are some key points there.

Given the lack of UK influence over coalition strategy - The United States Congress does not have any influence over coalition strategy. So what hope have we? We should not be continuing to deploy our troops in a situation where we have no say over the strategy.

The increasing antipathy of the Iraqi people to the coalition forces - We are causing much of the problem, just by being there.

This isn't a "publicity seeking" statement by Menzies. It is a courageous statement made with the best interests of British troops, and Britain, at heart.

We've been in Iraq for four years. It is time for our troops to come home.

It is worth remembering that General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the army, said in October 2006 "that Britain must withdraw from Iraq 'soon' or risk serious consequences for Iraqi and British society". So Menzies Campbell is remarkably consonant with the head of the army.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Catholic Archbishop: We allow adoptions by single gay people - but couples are a no-no

I have now read the complete letter to Tony Blair from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York about the "Sexual Orientation Regulations". Most of it is a plea for tolerance and sensitivity. We can all agree with that. The last paragraph contains some firm substance:

It is vitally important that the interests of vulnerable children are not relegated to suit any political interest. And that conditions are not inadvertently created which make the claims of conscience an obstacle to, rather than the inspiration for, the invaluable public service rendered by parts of the voluntary sector.

The interests of the child are paramount in any adoption situation. I have not seen or heard anything to suggest otherwise either with respect to the current or the future adoption framework. I suspect that the Archbishops need some good-old-fashioned reassurance here.

Of course, it would be a shame for volunteers or agencies to withdraw their involvement in the adoption process. But it is difficult to imagine what sort of fair accommodation, consistent with the principle of equal rights, to which the government are committed, could be found to keep Cardinal Cormac Murphy happy.

Given Tony Blair's reported equivocation on this matter, this response from the Prime Minister's spokesman was refreshingly clear:

"This is an issue with sensitivities on all sides and the Prime Minister recognises that and that is why it is worth having some discussions in Government before we come to a decision...Each individual adoption agency must make its judgment on the basis on which it places a child, and the child's interests are paramount. But if we take the view as a society that we should not discriminate against people who are homosexual, you cannot give exclusions to people on the grounds that their religion or their race says 'we don't agree with that'."

Elsewhere, it is reported that the Prime Minister may be considering the compromise of a phased introduction of the new rules for Catholic adoption agencies.

There is one aspect of this which I have not yet fully got my head round: On Newsnight last night, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Birmingham conceded that agencies controlled by the Church already place children with single gay people. It does not seem such a giant leap, then, to allow consideration of gay couples as adopters, if you are already considering single gay people. But maybe I am missing something....

I was anxious to establish whether or not Church of England-aligned adoption agencies, as opposed to the Roman Catholic-aligned agencies, are in a similar predicament to their Roman Catholic colleagues, visa vis the proposed legislation. The answer appears to be "no". I looked up "Parents and children together" (PACT) which is part of the Oxford Diocesan Council for Social Work, and is supported by the Anglican Diocese of Oxford. A statement on their web site says:

PACT confirms that the new regulations would not affect its policy, where couples and individuals are assessed according to their suitability and to the needs of the child.

So it appears that the Anglican Archbishops are merely writing in support of the Cardinal, rather than actually being directly involved in this controversy.

My photos above are of the Anglican Archbishops of York and Canterbury.

Bush's "Change the subject address"

If you want to know what is in George Bush's "State of the Union" speech tonight, this 26 page factsheet issued by the White House might give you some ideas.

You only have to scan it to understand why Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford has called it "Change the Subject Address". He adds that the Democrats have lined up an interesting choice to respond to Dubya:

Tonight’s State of the Union address might better be called Change the Subject. Advance word is that George W. Bush’s speech to Congress will downplay his Iraq strategy, which has Republicans tripping over each other as they race for daylight between themselves and their party’s president. Instead he will talk up energy policy, immigration and other domestic issues where he might find common ground with Democrats who now control Capitol Hill. Which means that the big news tonight could be made by newly-elected Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia. The fiercely anti-war Democratic maverick will deliver his party’s response to Bush’s address and the betting is that he might just go farther with the harsh rhetoric than some in his own party would like. If that happens, the White House would not get away with changing the subject from Iraq.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ship-wreckers' "sheer greed" - Time for the spirit of Hawker?

The Dorset Echo reports a local Branscombe policeman saying that "Around 50 BMW motorbikes were carried off the beach."

I have great sympathy with my old friend Mark Clark, who is spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The BBC reports:

MCA spokesman Mark Clark said had warnings not to touch the containers been followed, they would have been removed and the beach returned to normality quite soon.
"They have quadrupled our task," he said.
"People are lighting fires beside the containers, getting on top of them ripping stuff out, and not heeding our warnings.
Unwanted goods were left strewn over the World Heritage site
"The MCA is deeply upset and angry because all the stuff which has been ripped out of the containers will be swept out to sea and have an environmental impact," he said.
"In 11 years I have never seen anything like it, it is sheer greed."

It seems to me that it is time for the spirit of the Reverend Hawker to prevail. When he arrived at the cliff-top Cornish parish of Morwenstow in the nineteenth century, there were numerous wreckers in his parish who "allowed a fainting brother to perish in the sea without extending a hand of safety".

Stephen Hawker set a different example, moving his parishioners away from "sheer greed" to show some humanity in dealing with ship-wrecks. He looked after surviving sailors and gave a decent Christian burial to those who perished.

He was the man who wrote the words to "And shall Trelawny die?", often regarded as Cornwall's national anthem. "Hawker's hut" is a clifftop shack where he would observe the sea. It still survives today in the stewardship of the National Trust.

The madness of ID cards - "We can cut crime" campaign

The Liberal Democrat "We can cut crime" campaign, launched today, is very impressive.

Just take point one of the five-point action plan: "More police on patrol - Don't waste billions on ID cards". The point highlights that "Labour are already wasting £97,000 a day on their expensive, illiberal ID card sceme. We would scrap it and use the money to pay for more police officers."

If ever there was a prime example of New Labour madness, ID cards are it. They won't even help to fight crime, as our "10 reasons to oppose ID cards" makes clear:

The police do not generally have a problem identifying people they arrest: the problem is in catching the criminals in the first place. ID cards would not present an obstacle to most terrorists either. The terrorists who attacked New York on September 11th 2001 and Madrid on March 11th 2004 carried valid identity documents. Knowing someone’s identity does not necessarily help you to predict how they are going to behave. The government believes that one in three terrorists use multiple identities, which would be much harder to do once compulsory ID cards were introduced for everyone. However, this leaves the modus operandi of 2 out of 3 terrorists unaffected, to say nothing of the way the one third with multiple identities might change their behaviour in response to the scheme.

We Can Cut Crime banner

Celebrity Big Brother - "unpleasant middle class intellectual snobbery"?

It is fair comment to call some of the attacks on Jade Goody "unpleasant middle class intellectual snobbery", as Ed Maxfield did.

I think the basis of the row is a little more hum-drum than that. "Celebrity Big Brother" became unbalanced or dysfunctional for a week. Channel 4 could have stepped in much earlier to correct the problem. In the end, after a couple of days, they seem to give Jade a talking-to via "Big Brother". They could have done so much earlier, or introduced a guest to support Shilpa Shetty. ...Or loads of other alternatives.

Instead we had Andy Duncan, the channel's Chief Executive and a man more used to marketing margarine than managing a broadcaster, fumbling his response, saying there was no racism involved. Channel Four's chairman. Luke Johnson, didn't even respond when invited to on 'Today'.

40,000 compliants to Ofom is an extraordinary amount. The previous record was five times less and that was caused by a more-or-less organised response to "Jerry Springer - The Opera".

But it is Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights who has reinforced the seriousness of Channel 4's mistake. Trevor has established an excellent reputation as someone who does not over-react to these sorts of things. He has said:

There is no question that if the Channel 4 board does not say that Johnson was wrong not to talk about it last week, that his executives were wrong to say that there was no racism involved ... if the board does not take that stand then I think Tessa Jowell has to step in and ask if this is a board that is capable of holding a public asset in trust for us. I think it is that serious.

So, this is not something which can be dismissed as "done to death". It cannot be dismissed as "class snobbery". A public broadcaster has made a serious error with extremely offensive results.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Who's the bloke on the RHS of the blog header bar?

That was the question I was asked earlier this week. I am delighted to answer it.

David Penhaligon.

He is my main political inspiration. I sent a donation to David Steel, Liberal Party leader at the time, when David Penhaligon died. I was so affected by his death. As a result, David Rendel came round to my house and joined me up.

When David Penhaligon was alive, my mother always said: "If the Cornish could vote for a King, they'd vote for David Penhaligon". He was a typical Cornish person. Down-to-earth but not abrasive. Passionate but not rude or over-bearing. And he had that great advantage that many Cornish people envy - a surname that begins with Pen- (Tre- being the other type of surname beginning which we envy!).

TV audiences: Ann Widdecombe beats Jade Goody

The impression may have been gathered that Celebrity Big Brother was watched by vast audiences, after Jade Goody started kicking off (photo -left - is of Shilpa Shetty because I don't want to show Jade's photo). You know, the entire nation, as one, huddled round their flickering cathode tubes (old technology - Ed) to humbly imbibe this seminal, epoch-making "Britain-in-a-mirror" cultural commentary.

It is probably daft to mention that the 1966 World Cup was seen by 32.3million but I'll mention it anyway.

In contrast, Wednesday night's Celebrity Big Brother was seen by an estimated 5.2 million

More people watched Taggart that night (5.3 million).

Indeed, more people watched Ann Widdecombe hugging hoodies on "Tonight" (5.5 million). Earlier in the week, Judge John Deed was seen by 6.2 million and Holby was seen by 7 million.

Corrie on Monday was seen by 12.3 million.

One EastEnders' episode this week was seen by 9.4 million.

That said, Celebrity Big Brother peaked at 8.8 million for the Goody eviction interview.

I am indebted to Media Guardian who publish these estimates in their "TV Overnights" each day. It is well worth the small effort to register with them.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hillary declares - Democrat campaign boss hides under desk

Hillary Clinton has formally announced that she is running for US President. Her web site only mentions her first name, fascinatingly.

Barack Obama has already taken the first step to join the race.

So we now have the scenario that Democrat campaign guru, Rahm Emanuel, feared when he said:

I think that I am going to hide under this desk if both of them ran.

Apparently he now says he is taking his pen and paper down under the desk with him.

Is "White trash" really a term of racist abuse?

I have seen a couple of comments recently (including on Norfolk Blogger) saying that everyone is laying into Jade for racist comments (e.g "Shilpa Poppadom" - but Jade says she said it because she couldn't remember Shilpa's real name so just thought of something Indian - oh that's all right then) but noone has taken Jermaine Jackson to task for calling Jade "White trash" which, we are told by these commenters, is a term of "racist abuse" to white people.

"White Trash". Let me see....would I be offended if anyone called me this..........nope. Is it really a term of racist abuse or just a convenient thing to throw into this argument?

Wikipedia says:

White trash is an American ethnic slur with a social class component. The term is usually considered interchangeable with trailer trash. It is comparable to "honky" in that it is targeted toward white people, but it also connotes low social status and poor prospects (i.e., downward mobility). To call someone "white trash" is to accuse that person of being culturally bankrupt. "White trash" is not a demographic group recognized by sociology.
Attitudes toward the phrase have softened somewhat in recent years, to the degree that some people describe themselves as "white trash", and there is a genre of rock music known proudly as "white-trash rock", but the phrase is still never found in polite contexts. "White trash" is usually associated with poverty; lack of education can also play a role.

Note the sentence: "The term in usually considered interchangeable with trailer trash". I have never considered "trailer trash" a particularly offensive phrase. I also note the phrase "attitudes toward the phrase have softened somewhat in recent years to the degree that some people describe themselves as "white trash"."

Yes, I know the Wikipedia entry could have been written by anyone.

So I also carry this definition from the Cambridge Online Dictionary:

An offensive way of describing poor white people who are not educated

...and this from

white trash
–noun Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
1.a member of the class of poor whites, esp. in the southern U.S.
2.poor whites collectively.

As Norfolk Blogger said the other day, if one person thinks something is racist, then it is. So I accept that it is conceivable that some people, reportedly, were upset by the term "white trash", so therefore it appears to be racist.

I would note in closing that Ofcom has had 38,000 complaints "about racism on Celebrity Big Brother". I have not been able to find out how many, if any, of these complaints were about Jermaine Jackson's "white trash" term.

Robert Kennedy Jr says he might run for New York Senator

I am too young (hark at him!) to remember what I was doing when I heard that John F. Kennedy had been shot. But I am old enough to remember what I was doing when I heard that Robert Kennedy was shot. I was posting a letter at the post box on St Michael's Mount, Cornwall. My father told me the news.

Political Wire reports that Robert Kennedy Jr is ready to run for the US Senate if Hilary Clinton wins the 2008 Presidential Race. (A bit speculative, then).

There is nothing like a Kennedy running for something to get excitement flowing. And of course, Robert Kennedy's synonymic father was New York Senator at the time of his untimely and tragic death.

Malcolm Rifkind puts his foot in it

Dear old Sir Malcolm Rifkind (do people really talk like that in Edinburgh?) has put his foot in it. Bless him.

Iain Dale reports somewhat sardonically:

ConservativeHome reports HERE that Sir Malcolm Rifkind (for it is he) is positively encouraging Eurosceptics to defect to UKIP. Thanks Malc. Really helpful. What is it with these relics that they feel they have to clamber out of their political tombs every now and then? It's a kind of Attention Deficit Syndrome - they're crying out 'See? I'm still here. Look at me me me me me'. Some of us stopped looking in 1997.

I have to say that dear old Malcolm does seem to have gone rather doolally on this one....

Iain Dale back in excellent form on English Parliament

After the wimpy bit of Blogger which he uses went down last night, Iain Dale is back with a vengeance on the subject of an English Parliament.

Old Frank Field, bless him, has tabled an EDM noting opinion poll support for an English parliament and saying that he believes voters now put this ahead of Scottish Independence and Lords reform as a priority.

The problem is that you cannot take any of these issues in isolation. A comprehensive constitutional settlement is needed for the UK. Otherwise, you "fix" one bit, only to find that another bit is then broken. The Scottish parliament and Welsh Assembly (leaving the West Lothian question unsettled) is a prime example of that.

United 93, and other films everyone else has seen already

I know. Everyone else has seen it. Finally, I have watched this film.

It is brilliant. They had a bit of a challenge on their hands. After Airport and then Airplane! they had to smash up the genre of the airborne disaster movie and start again.

They did that brilliantly using the shaky camera, reailty style, I-can-hardly-hear-what-they-are-saying-so-it-must-be-real-or at-least-not-George-Kennedy-type approach.

It was gripping and fascinating, as well as poignant.

While I am in old-movie-that-everyone-else-has-seen-catch-up mode, I have just watched the whole of The Shawshank Redemption. A wonderful movie to drown in - and it's got a happy ending. But the best thing about it was the narration by Morgan Freeman. Blimey! That guy has got a voice that could bubble chocolate. Brilliant. I could listen to him reading the Reading Telephone Directory all day, every day.

And....I have at last watched the whole of Life of Brian but was rather disappointed because I have heard people reciting all the jokes to me scores of times over the years.

I have added all these films to my movie roll of honour.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Prescott: "There were ten gay guys in a room and I said 'I'm not staying in a room like this' "

Dizzy Thinks makes an interesting report under the title, "Prescott says he can't stand being in the same room as gays?" (he added the question mark following a comment made):

According to a report in the Evening Standard, John Prescott has recorded interviews for a BBC Radio 4 show called Prescott at you Service about his time in the cruise liner industry. Amazingly in the interview he says:

"The thing that struck me most was that when I joined it they didn't sail out the North, they sailed out the South and there were a lot of gay guys on board and I was quite amazed at this.... And I remember saying, spending three months on a voyage and there were ten gay guys in a room and I said 'I'm not staying in a room like this' Anyway I went in another room"

Cameron pulls plug on Iain Dale's Diary

Well, alright then, if it wasn't Cameron, someone has! It's shame. I wanted to see what his 18:24 posting entitled: "You couldn't make it up No 94" was about.

19/01/07 22.13

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Mine's still up.

UPDATE: 22:23: I have found the last tattered, charred remains of Iain Dale's Diary posting of 18:24 this evening. Iain's "YCMIU No 94" began thus:

From tonight's Cambridge Evening News... A SMOKER was refused cigarettes at a Cambridge store because the Muslim shop assistant said it was against her religion to sell tobacco. A 31-year-old woman, who asked not to be identified, ...

UPDATE: 07:52 Saturday: Normal service has been resumed! Excellent!

US Presidential race - all the cards up in the air

The US political scene has a seductive pull.

It is always a pleasure to receive an update from Taegan Goodard's Political Wire.

A scan of some of his (it took me a while to establish his gender!) recent headlines shows quite a lot of changes in the line-up for the 2008 Presidential campaign:

Clinton, Giuliani are the Front Runners
Obama, McCain Lead in New Hampshire
Public Firmly Opposed to Bush Plan
McCain's Support is Crumbling
Edwards, Giuliani Lead in Iowa

It is quite extraordinary that "McCain's Support is crumbling". The man virtually had it in the bag! His vote in New Hampshire has "collapsed" apparently. Silly sausage. What a 42 carat plonker for supporting Bush's "surge"!

My own view is that Joe Biden is the best person for the job. He has the foreign relations experience and, more importantly, sound judgement, required. But, or course, that doesn't mean he will win. In fact, in the funny old world of US politics, it could well be a guarantee that he doesn't win!

Looking at the rest of the field, I think Guiliani is too much of a maverick to make a good fist of the campaign. He does not have a profile which is broad and serious enough for President. I think Obama is too inexperienced and Hillary Clinton has been shown to have somewhat defective judgement, especially on the Iraq war. But, somehow, if I was asked to bet on it now (and bear in mind that I actually did bet a year ago on Mark Warner (now out of the race) and Mike Huckabee (still possibly in it) so I am not one to watch in this area!) I would put money on Hillary Clinton. She has the dosh, the smattering of glamour and the family nous to do it. And with Bush imploding, I wouldn't bet on a Republican winning.

But who knows? Taegan Goddard warns:

As a point of reference, Bill Clinton was in eleventh place among Democratic candidates in a February 1991 (the same time then as now in relation to the forthcoming election) poll of Democrats; a little more than a year later he had zoomed to the top of the list.

Gordon Brown joins Channel 4 PR team

The following press release has just come in from Channel 4:

"Following the recent furore over "Celebrity Big Brother", Channel 4 is delighted to announce that it has recruited Gordon Brown, of Fife, to its Public Relations team. We are delighted that Gordon has hit the ground running with this excellent press release:

"Brown Urges Viewers To Back Shilpa Friday January 19, 11:11 AM

Gordon Brown has again waded into the Celebrity Big Brother racism row by urging viewers to back Shilpa Shetty to stay in the house, rather than Jade Goody. The Chancellor, who is on a visit to India, told reporters that by supporting Shilpa, people would be supporting British tolerance."

One of Gordon's main tasks in our PR team will be to increase the viewing audience and the use of our premium phone lines, so we are ecstatic that he has done this so well for Celebrity Big Brother with his latest press release. We have already arranged a generous starting bonus for him."

Blair aide arrested in honours enquiry - officials "taken aback"

Ruth Turner, Blair political aide, is arrested and bailed. A Downing Street source told the BBC that officials were "taken aback" by the arrest.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Celebrity Big Brother - Well done Carphone Warehouse!

Yesterday afternoon I wrote to the Chief Executive of the Carphone Warehouse, asking him to cease financing Celebrity Big Brother. I am sure many other people also complained to him. No doubt, he was also mindful of the 30,000 (and counting) people who have complained to Ofcom about the programme (a record).

Anyway, Carphone Warehouse have now suspended their sponsorship from the programme, and withdrawn the use of their logo. Good for them!

"I think she should *** off home." - Daniela. That's racist, before talking about the other remarks. And the whole unedifying spectacle of four people ganging up on Shilpa is detestable.

Having said that, I see that Shilpa is getting good support from Jermaine Jackson and some of the other men. And she is coming out of this very well. She laughed off Jade's rant about the Oxo cubes.

Jade on the other hand, is unlikely to find much celebrity work in future. Her fragrance has been withdrawn from the shelves. When you see her brooding and arguing she looks.....not pretty, let's leave it at that.

Jade is the bookies favourite to be thrown out this Friday. Shilpa is the favourite to win.

So I think things will resolve themselves, but I applaud the Carphone Warehouse for taking a stand.

There is an excellent collection of clips of the programme here.

Hutton kicks off a firestorm about Mao

The Tory blogosphere has been thrown a piece of red meat by Will Hutton.

He's written a Guardian article called: "Mao was cruel - but also laid the ground for today's China".

As usual, it is a thoughtful piece. But I always wonder with Will Hutton. Sometimes I have a suspicion that he has a tendency to conceivably disappear up his own exhaust-pipe when he writes some articles. He certainly provokes thought and debate, that's for sure.

At first glance, it is a balanced article. It is quite clear that he condemns Mao's murder and mayhem while seeking to draw some lessons from his reign:

The best option is (for China) to embrace democratic institutions - and the path to doing that is not to repudiate Mao but to see him for what he was. Wrong and cruel, but part of China's groping to find a way to cross the river.

There has been quite a lot of hostile comment below Hutton's article:

More waffle from Hutton, trying to hide his lack of knowledge of China behind big words and big claims in a desperate bid to shift a few copies of his book. - Angusbeefcake.

Mr Hutton says:
'Nobody wants to be an apologist for Mao.'
But then as others have pointed out, goes on to do precisely that.
- Bitethehand.

I used to assume that Will Hutton was a sophisticated commentator and I now recognise the error of my ways. He seems more a "man in the pub" type with simple views of the world and large gaps in his knowledge. - Quisling.

But I was particularly interested by comments on some Tory blogs.

Istanbul Tory screams:

Will Hutton has gone insane. The man has an article in today’s Guardian that almost defies rational analysis. His demented argument (if indeed it can be represented as a line of argument at all) appears to be that Chairman Mao, despite his “monstrous crimes”, wasn’t all bad.

Blue Crab Boulevard calls it "Defending the indefensible"

In a remarkably thorough piece (indeed, what could perhaps be described as a "fisking"), Matthew Sinclair concludes:

I continue to be amazed by the extent to which left wing academics are willing to attempt the most incredible intellectual acrobatics to cover for the Chinese Communist party's enormous abuse of its own people.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Shetty to Jade: "You need elocution lessons"

Contrary to a report in the Guardian, which featured in my post earlier called "Jade to Shetty: 'You need elocution lessons'", I have watched the "CBB catch-up" programme and it is clear that it was the other way round, according to Jade. This is confirmed by the Manchester Evening News.

I have left the comments from the earlier posting below.

Belsize LibDems hit the jackpot!

Alexis Rowell of Belsize LibDems has hit the jackpot! A mention in the Guardian Diary today for his passion for recycling:

We are, we confess, quite hopelessly smitten by Camden's Belsize ward Lib Dems and their thrilling young blogger Alexis Rowell. "We really need to install far more on-street recycling bins," enthuses the dashing councillor in a typically inspirational recent post. "Swiss bins tend to come in groups of 10: 2 x paper + cardboard; 1 x PET plastic; 1 x aluminium + tin; 1 x green glass; 1 x clear glass; 1 x brown glass; 1 x bio-waste; 2 x ordinary rubbish; and a small battery recycling bin thrown in for good measure. Crucially, they do not use commingled collection boxes. And their on-street recycling bins are attractive!" Stop, Alexis, lest we swoon: who would have thought politics could inspire such passion?

Lembit and Cheeky Girl to feature in Hello!

Oh No!

A good reason to avoid all dental and doctor's surgeries over the next few months.

Pass the sickbag, Alice (with acknowledgements to the late John Junor).

Well done, Matthew Taylor

Full marks to Matthew Taylor for putting his family first. Politics is an ultimately futile business with which to be involved. It always ends in tears, as someone once said. Matthew has had an excellent run of 20 years as an MP. He is lucky to now be having a chance as a father, and to be able to devote all his energies to that.

Good on him!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Close the Big Brother House or send in Trevor Phillips

Having just read some of the things which Shilpa Shetty has been called in the Big Brother House, I feel that the programme should either be stopped or Trevor Phillips should be sent in as a surprise guest to sort out Shilpa's tormentors.

3500+ people have complained to Ofcom. It's been raised in the House of Commons and now one of the programme's sponsors is, quite rightly, threatening to pull out. There is no way that people, in this day and age, should call other people the kind of things Shilpa has been called without someone giving them a "red card".

"Unedifying" is the most polite way to describe the whole saga.

Is it wrong to use your neighbour's wireless connection?

Last night we got a young man, who knows what he's doing (rather than just thinking he knows what he is doing and blundering around until he fixes the problem or throws the PC out the window, like me), encrypted our wireless connection.

There was a discussion on BBC Radio Berkshire with Andrew Peach this morning entitled: 'Is it wrong to use your neighbour's wireless connection?'

Of course it is wrong. It is also "technically illegal" according to the Forum editor on PC Advisor.

Where have we come to? We used to know all our neighbours' names and borrow cups of sugar from them. Now we don't know their names, or even say hello to them, and nick their wireless connection!

Awesome US law allows serving troops to criticise Bush's surge

Any troop increase over here will just produce more sitting ducks, more targets"

-So says Sergeant Ronn Cantu, who is serving with US forces in Iraq. His comments have been reported in the Wall Street Journal:

A group of more than 50 active-duty military officers will deliver a petition to Congress on Tuesday signed by about 1,000 troops calling for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

It is remarkable and, indeed, wonderful, that serving US troops are allowed, in an honourable way, to voice their opinions. Under the 1988 Military Whistleblower Protection Act, troops may communicate with members of Congress without fear of reprisal, even if what they say is reported outside congress.

Blimey! Once again, I find something in the USA which is absolutely awesome! I have also found plenty to criticise (e.g. Supreme Court decision on Bush in 2000, Deleting non-existent "felons" from the Florida electoral roll up to 2000 etc). But every once in a while, something in the USA constitution or legal framework just blows me away. I salute the good Old U.S of A! (...Stars and Stripes specially dusted off for the occasion).

(Don't go too over the top - Ed)

Dead man voting

Nick Assinder of the BBC notes that it is possible for the vote of a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly to be exercised after they have died.

Only in Northern Ireland?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

After ten months, Thames Water may lift its hosepipe ban!

...One of those occasions when it is worth the effort of checking the spelling of Hallelujah!

Younger-Ross: brilliant statement on LibDem attitude to Simone Clarke

I applaud the statement of Richard Younger-Ross MP, Culture Spokesman, on the Liberal Democrat attitude to Simone Clarke, the ENB Ballet dancer and BNP member:

The Liberal Democrats, while vehemently opposing the political beliefs of Simone Clarke, will nonetheless defend her right to hold them.

US Iraq policy - showdown takes a step nearer

Dick Cheney has been outdoing himself today. "Cheney to Congress: Can't run Iraq war by committee" - says CNN:

-Vice president says congressional critics won't influence Bush's troop plans, Cheney says

-Congress does have a role to play in terms of funding

I see. So, after one of the clearest election results in US history, Cheney tells Congress they just pick up the tab whatever George Bush decides to do.

I can't see Nancy Pelosi buying that one, somehow.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Intriguing comments by Councillor Richard Barnbrook about Simone Clarke

From today's Guardian there are some intriguing comments by the BNP's most senior elected politician, Councillor Richard Barnbrook, leader of the opposition on Barking and Dagenham Council:

Mr Barnbrook, returning to the subject of Clarke, said she had his full backing and that he did not object to her relationship with Cuban-Chinese dancer Yat-Sen Chang. "She's not racist - she's going out with someone who is not of her own race," he said. But he said, he hoped the couple would not have children.

"I'm not opposed to mixed marriages but their children are washing out the identity of this country's indigenous people," he explained, quickly adding: "That's my view, it's not the party's view."

Run that by me again?

...he hoped the couple would not have children.

Ah. I see. You join a political party and are welcomed by the party's most senior elected politician telling the press that he hopes you do not have children with your partner.

I see.


Update 15/1: Simone Clarke and Yat-Sen Chang already have an off-spring. This was mentioned in an interview in Ballet magazine.

LibDem news features sexy LibDems poll by John Tall

'People' in the LibDem News this week features the "Sexiest LibDem" poll in "John Tall's personal blog".

Who is John Tall? And where can I access his blog with this exciting poll?

He seems to be directly plagiarising his demi-namesake, Stephen Tall.

"Cheggers goes pop over bloggers"

Councillor apologises to TV star -

Cheggers on the warpath over 'squealing pig' claim - Independent

Question 4 in BBC Quiz of the week's news Forum discussion: "Wolfie apologises to Keith Chegwin"

Friday, January 12, 2007

Big Brother - thank goodness I haven't watched it

It's that time of year again. My wife is buying the Sun everyday for the "HOLS FROM £9.50" vouchers.

I give it a quick flick-through to keep in touch with what the biggest readership in the country is reading.

I stumbled across what I thought was an example of half-decent writing from Ally Ross today on the subject of Celebrity Big Brother:"No big dimella...just turn off CBB":

One of the great television cock-ups...From the best reality show on TV in 2006, to one of the worst this year. And Channel 4 won't just need an internal enquiry once this one's over, they'll need a full-scale bloody exorcism.

Lembit will always be Lembit

I just wanted to make a comment which is supportive of Lembit Opik. He got a bit of stick for his quips at Northern Ireland and Prime Minister's questions this week.

Of course, if Lembit was any good at stand-up humour, he'd be a stand-up comedian. He isn't.

But you can't knock him for being consistent. He has always been like that. A very model of chutzpah if not, altogether, wit.

In fact, I think "doing a Lembit" could enter the dictionary, meaning: when you get exposure for personal behaviour which is not illegal or immoral, you respond by doing things like parading down the local street arm-in-arm with two young ladies and making jokes in parliament about "I should be so happy" and "the other sister is still single". None of it is particularly funny but it takes the situation head-on, that's for sure.

Welcome news about Steve Irwin video

I welcome the news from Steve Irwin's widow that the video of Irwin's death has been "destroyed". Even though they may be kept under lock and key, these sorts of records have a habit of cropping up years later.

For example, there were the "confidential" recordings that the late Princess of Wales made to her speech coach. And there are some tapes somewhere of Linda McCartney, which are the subject of a gagging order.

I cannot think of many things more horrible than watching Steve Irwin's fatal encounter with a stingray. So, thank goodness the video will never be seen.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Low carbon emitting MPVs - manufacturers changing

After some recent correspondence in the Liberal Democrat News, I have been contacted with some interesting snippets of information about low carbon emitting MPV vehicles.

I highlighted the VW Touran 1.9TDI S, which has 162 g/km emissions. This would put it in Band D of our proposals (range: 151-165), attracting only an extra £25. It comes with up to seven seats.

Now I have been made aware of the new seven-seater Citroen C4 Picasso, which has a version that emits only 150 g/km. That means that it would attract no extra tax under our VED proposals. See our full policy here.

This is, yet again proof of two things:

1. Manufacturers are changing and producing greener large cars.

2. Our policy does not discriminate against large cars. It discriminates against heavily polluting cars.

Whatever happened to Tammy Duckworth?

One of the saddest things about the November US Congressional elections was that Tammy Duckworth wasn't elected. I read somewhere that the Democrats spent more on trying to get her elected than any other candidate in the whole US.

I am pleased to say that Tammy Duckworth has now been appointed Illinois state's director of Veteran affairs. reports:

Tammy Duckworth refers to Illinois' roughly 1.2 million veterans as her "buddies" and says each one of them deserves the most affordable and accessible care he or she can get. Period. Duckworth, an amputee Iraq war veteran who recently lost an Illinois congressional race, now has a new mission - director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

Continued concerns for Fiji

News coverage in the UK about Fiji has gone quiet. However, the military rule continues. New Zealand Radio reports today that the Council of Chiefs have finally thrown their weight behind the interim government, after weeks of refusing to bow to the blessed Commodore.

After initially condemning the coup, Mahendra Chaudhry (former prime minister deposed by the last but one coup - do try to keep up at the back) has joined the interim government, making some eye-catching comments:

The New Zealand government has rejected a challenge by Fiji's former Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, to visit and witness the damage he says was wrought by the Qarase government.

Mr Chaudhry, who himself was deposed in a coup in 2000, has been appointed as Minister for Finance, Sugar Reform and National Planning in the interim government.

Mr Chaudry says in condemning the coup, Australia and New Zealand have ignored the undemocratic nature of Mr Qarase's election.

The last comment is an interesting one.

We can only pray that things settle down and Fijian democracy is restored pdq. Although it is admittedly patronising to say it from this distance, sooner or later the Fijian nation is going to have to learn, in the words of Randolph Churchill, to "trust the people" and allow democracy to take its permanent course without continual military interventions.

Absolutely gigantic jellyfish orgasm

See here

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Keith Chegwin - An apology

On 20th December 2006 I posted a blog which included some remarks about Keith Chegwin. Unfortunately, I phrased these remarks in a way which could have suggested a sinister meaning, which was not my intention.

I apologise unreservedly and wholeheartedly for the distress and upset which these remarks caused Keith Chegwin. I want to make clear my admiration for his work on GMTV and that it is clear to me that the high quality of this work is the result of fine showmanship, and nothing else.

I have deleted the relevant posting and I have made a donation to the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund to demonstrate my sincerity in this apology and retraction.

BBC "dramadoc" on the London Nail Bomber

The BBC ran a chilling combination of documentary and drama last night to explain the story of the London Nail Bomber.

I am always rather nervous of mixtures of drama and documentary, but I think the balance for this one was about right, if a little sensationalist.

The programme highlighted some amazing facts concerning the case. It is unbelievable, but I suppose understandable, that such an amateurish bomber, albeit one with hugely evil intent, could carry out such bombings.

As an example of his amateurishness, he planned a bombing at Brick Lane market but went there on a Saturday. There is no Brick Lane market on a Saturday. It is on a Sunday. So he just dropped the bomb by a parked car instead.

Unedifying press scrum round Kate Middleton

Here we go again. The press scrum round birthday girl Kate Middleton today was almost precisely identical to that around Diana Spencer (as she then was) 25 odd years ago. Even the camera shot on the BBC was the same, with Kate Middleton walking in the same direction to her car.

Thankfully, Kate Middleton was wearing a slight smile in contrast to the hunted look which Diana Spencer wore all those years ago.

The whole thing is ludicrous.

Best Peacetime PM?

BBC2's Daily Politics is running a poll to name the best Prime Minister since the war. On today's programme, Tony Benn voted for Atlee and William let's guess......who would he have voted for................that's a toughie. Someone from Grantham perhaps?

Monday, January 8, 2007

Joe Biden runs for President

It's now 20 years since Joe Biden's bid for the US Presidency collapsed amongst accusations of plagiarising a speech by Neil Kinnock. It seems bizarre in retrospective that copying a line about "family/generations/first to go to university" or some such like statement from the Welsh Windbag, stymied his chances.

He is now back on the Presidential trail and will soon be Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman. So he will be in the limelight when there are hearings on the Iraq war. And he has a long and distinguished track record on foreign affairs.

In terms of experience and, some might say, "common sense", Joe Biden is ahead of the rest of the Democratic field.

Where he lacks, of course, is in the areas of star quality and dosh - fields monopolised currently by H.Clinton and (...careful how you type it) B.Obama.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Iain Dale - Crikey!

I wanted to do a posting on Iain Dale for reasons outlined here.

Gordon Brown - what a shambles!

When John Major became Prime Minister, I wrote to Norma Major with a helpful diagram, asking her to make sure her husband straightened his tie before appearing in public.

As someone who always had it drummed into me to straighten my tie, it annoyed me that the UK Prime Minister used to appear with a skew-whiff tie. After a few months of skew-whiffery, Major sorted himself out and seemed to get the gist of the tie straightening thing (I am certain not as a result of my letter to Norma)

Any road up, Gordon Brown was on AM yesterday with Andrew Marr. Tie completely off kilter. Very annoying.

That wouldn't, in itself, justify a blog post on the subject but, lo and behold, he sits down for an interview and...oh dear. It's almost too grotesque to mention. He had those horrid white gaps between his trousers and his socks. They kept on cutting to a shot of him sitting with those horrid gaps. I couldn't watch it and hid behind the sofa instead.

If this man wants to be PM, he needs to sort himself out - straighten his tie and pulls his socks up. Despite sending thousands unnecessarily to their deaths in Iraq, at least Tony Blair gets those presentational basics right.