Friday, December 30, 2005
For example I was able to sign it with the entirely ficticious name of Ben Rammisatosser giving the email address as Ben.Ramm@libdems.org.uk.
Any news reort quoting the number of people signing it should be ignored as a result and any journalist reporting such figures as fact - without finding out first how The Liberal has verified the membership of each person signing - should be ashamed of themselves.
Monday, December 26, 2005
We pressed our red button when told to by David Tennant but the best that was on offer was Coldplay live.
It appears that the episdoe was not available to those of us on NTL, Telewest or quite a lot of Freeview boxes. The only reliable way to get it seems to have been Sky Satelite which I for one refuse to subscribe to.
The BBC trailed this episode widely and should have made it clear that access to it was so restricted. They should now make amends by showing the episdoe online.
There were just enough Christmassy elements to make it festive without getting in the way of the plot. And there was plenty of humour too - pulling out Tennant's Casanova costume in the wardrobe, the 'very Arthur Dent' comment and the Star Wars references all raised a chuckle with me.
And the final twist in the story was brilliant too, and could lead to some very interesting developments along with the forthcoming Torchwood series. Seemed to me to be quite a big hit at Thatcher's attack on the Belgrano and Blair's weakening as PM in one short scene.
And then the trailer ... Sarah Jane Smith, Cyberman and K9! What more could a small boy want for Christmas?
Monday, December 19, 2005
... I am sure they wouldn't be so hypocritical as to apply one rule to their servants but another to themselves ...
... would they?
Thursday, December 15, 2005
I am more than happy to promote this christmas carol service which is being held to raise money for medical aid for Iraqi children. And after the bombing they've had by the british and american invasion forces, by golly they need the help.
There seem to be some concern that such a service might be illegal. Personally I think such such a suggestion is so utterly ludicrous that it can't possibly be true.
Not in a country that is so keen on defending our 'traditional freedoms' that we are willing to slaughter thousands of innocent people just to prove the point:
You are cordially invited to a public carol service in Parliament Square at 6pm on Wednesday the 21st of December 2005.
This inclusive service will contain both Christian and secular verse, and is expected to last no more than an hour.
Candles and song sheets will be made available, with donations going to Medical Aid for Iraqi Children.
Please note that if you attend this carol service, it will classify as a spontaneous demonstration (of faith, hope, joy and/or religious tolerance) and there is a possibility that you will be cautioned or arrested under Section 132 of the Serious and Organised Crimes and Police Act 2005.
And merry christmas Tim Ireland and well done for consistently challenging Blair and showing him up for what he is.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
I saw Fish in Cirencester a couple of weeks ago on his 'Return to Childhood' tour, it being 20 years (where did they go) since Marillion's Misplaced Childhood album was released. The first half of the show was a variety of his solo material and the second was a full run through of the album. This is one of my all time favourite albums and it was a delight to hear it played in full.
I then went to see Opeth in Oxford. Opeth are a sort of progressive death metal outfit and certainly the loudest band I have seen for a while. They are from Stockholm in Sweden and the frontman was very amusing, playing on his limited english vocabulary to great effect. Incredible musicians.
Next it was Marillion at the Kentish Town Forum on the finla date of their Not Quite Christmas Tour. I was in the balcony due to the downstairs tickets having sold out. This was one of the best gigs I have ever been to. Two and a half hours including thre encores, finishing with a hilarious Pogues style parody of their most rcent album title track. This album 'Marbles' was a real return to form for the band and they looked and sounded like a band at the top of their game.
On Thursday I went to see Magnum at the Astoria. They are also celebrating a 20th anniversary - of their most successful album On A Storytellers Night. Again the first half of the set was a mix of material from their ecellent back catalogue with the second half being the album in full. Magnum were one of the first bands i ever saw and they are still a terrific live act.
And on Friday I am off to see KINO - a prog rock 'supergroup' which includes Pete Trewavas from Marillion and John Mitchell from Arena. I am hoping to meet up for a pre-gig drink or two with other Marillion fans before heading for what will be a good and christmassy final gig of the year.
It probably sounds a bit trite but it really is amazing to see the children's reaction. It is also interesting how the older ones know that they are in on the secret and don't let slip to the little ones.
Yet at their website you can buy several far more offensive products (hint - enter the f-word in the search bar).
At least they could be honest about the fact that they are a bunch of spinelss, hypocritical halfwits who gave in to an extremist pressure group.
More comment here and here.
So it's not a restriction of free specch to arrest someone for, er, speaking, then?
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Mo Mowlam was my MP at home and I met her onec in redcar and once a few years later when I was running what used to be called 'Youth & Student Day' for the Lib Dem Youth & Students.
Apart from the fact that she impressed me by knowing who I was have met my parents a few times at local functions in Redcar, I was struck by he down to earth approach and what was clearly a very genuine humanity.
That she managed to achieve so much in politics, particularly in the peace process, whilst remaining a warm human being, perhaps shows how politics could be so much better if we would let it.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Aparantly another batch of detainees have been charged, including a british refugee who has been charged with 'conspiracy to commit war crimes'.
The US Government:
Kidnapped a british resident, incarcerated them without charge, plans to put them on trail before a military tribunal of judges handpicked by the US government, is allowing evidence gained after torture, will not allow the accused or his lawyers even see all the evidence aginst him, and will then only allow appeal to another appointed tribunal.
If any country other than the US was doing this wouldn't our Government be going up the wall?
And this is apparantly all in the name of 'defending western freedoms and values'.
It is an utter disgrace. Blair, Straw and the lot of them should be hanging their heads in shame.
Apart from all the arguments about how devastatingly life-wrecking such detention would be to the individual concerned (usually an 'innocent victim' that Blair and co are supposed to be concerned about), I think it comes down to the fact that they are simply not putting forward a case.
Blair's argument simply seems to come down to 'there are nasty terrorists about and the security services assure me that they need these measures to fight them'.
But there is no real explanation of how these powers would actually help prevent terrorism, no examples have been given from recent times to illustrate the difference they would make, and no clear explanation of why the alternatives being proposed by politicians couldn't do the job as effectively.
Which means that basically they are back to the same justification that was used for invading Iraq: trust us and trust the security services.
The problem is that on Iraq they got it wrong. And on previous attempts to change the law they got it wrong too (eg. the Walter Wolfgang incident)
So I don't trust them, and I don't trust the advice of the security services, and I feel dreadfully sorry for those who end up being the innocent victims of this unecessary and draconian proposal.
Monday, November 07, 2005
In his rush to find out our views the answers to the questions he has come up with could be misinterpreted. I doubt it is likely, for example, that many people will say that the Police shouldn't have the time and opportunity to fully investigate suspected terrorists!
Unfortunatelt the survey form didn't provide an opportunity to add explanatory comments.
I have therefore, being the helpful chap that I am, sent an additional email adding some detail to the YES or NO options available:
Dear Labour Party,
I have just filled in a rather simplistic survey about my views on
The questions were extremely simplistic and the answers will be completely
open to interpretation.
Most online surveys of this type have a general comments box. I would
recommend this in the future.
As I am sure Charles Clarke is interested in arriving at properly thought
through solutions to the threat of terrorism, I therefore thought it would
be helpful if I sent more detailed comments:
Do you think that our laws should be updated to cope with the current
I answered NO because there are already more than enough legal measures in
place for the security services to take on terrorism and because I believe
that if we keep changing our laws every time there is a heightened threat
from terrorism then we have already let them win. There are perhaps a few
things the Government could do such as changing the rules on evidence to
allow phone tap evidence etc.
Do you think police should have the time and opportunity to complete their
investigations into suspected terrorists?
I answered YES (and frankly who is going to say NO to such a question?)
and as far as I know no-one is stopping them do this. The security
services do not have a very good track record on this. During the past
four years they have arrested nearly 1,000 people under the Prevention of
Terrorism Act 2000 yet only 23 have been convicted. There are clearly
major problems with the standards of evidence gathering which they need to
improve. Perhaps if they spent more time gathering real evidence and less
time arresting and holding innocent people the results would be better?
Do you think the government should make sure there are new safeguards to
protect innocent people?
I answered YES.
There are three things in particular I would like the Government to do to
protect innocent people:
1 Drop the plans to increase the length of time suspects can be held
without being charged. This is an affront to justice and will do untold
harm to innocent people whose lives will be wrecked.
2 Urgently review the code of practice for police use of firearms.
3 Admit that the basis for invading Iraq was completely wrong and
commit to not making the same mistake again so that thousands of innocent
people don't die again.
I hope Mr Clarke finds these comments helpful.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
If I was very clever I would probably also be able to add a link button to my site. Sadly I am not.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
I can still vividly remember excitedly waiting to find out what was in Lord Belborough's mystery crate.
Guess which DVDs my little one will be getting for Christmas!
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Then I found this:
Ahh, the ever-cynical and sarcastic speechwriter. Gutsy and not afraid to speak up or clash with authority, his dry wit is amusing. But under it all he's just a big teddy bear... and the world's biggest Yankees fan.
:: Which West Wing character are you? ::
Friday, October 07, 2005
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Monday, October 03, 2005
The two aspects of the incident that I find most worrying are:
1 That only one other delegate had the strength of character to intervene;
2 The use of the Terrorism Act to detain Mr Wolfgang when he tried to return to the hall.
I seem to remember lots of promises that these new police powers would only be used when absolutely necessary and that we liberals had no reason to get all hot and bothered about them.
Sadly, Labour trying to screen out dissent no longr surprises me at all.
Friday, September 16, 2005
In fact there will be several of our new MPs making speeches this week who I first saw making speeches at NUS conferences in the Winter Gardens.
Conference for me is not about debates in the main hall and fringe meetings, but training sessions and meetings with constuency teams. And of course the chance to catch up with the many friends I have made over the years in different parts of the country.
As usual the conference the media is reporting bears little resemblance to the one Lib Dems are heading off to.
Media comment seems to revolve around the leadership of the party and whether we will be moving to the right or the left.
To Lib Dem activists the leadership is not in question. I guess the journalists are just so busy reporting on the various other parties' leadership wrangles (I see that even the tiny Plaid Cymru are joining in) that they expect us to have them to.
And Lib Dem simply do not see our party in terms of being on the left or right - we just get on an apply our liberal principles to the problems acing the country and try and come up with solution that will work.
This seems very simple to us and it is difficult to understand why the journos don't get it.
I am looking forward to getting to my hotel as it has been built underneath the Pepsi Max rollercoaster at the Pleasure Beach. I know what I'll be doing when conference gets boring!
On of the traditional freedoms that we have enjoyed for a few centuries in this country is freedom of expression. Freedom of expression - the right to put forward your views on an issue regardless - is one of the fundamental liberties that has set the UK, the US and most western democracies apart from communist, dictatorial and other tyrannical regimes.
Yet now, in the name of fighting terrorism, the Home Secretary is proposing that people should not be allowed to 'glorify' terrorism. This is a significantly broader restriction than not being allowed to 'incite' terrorism, which means actually encouraging people to go and commit terrorist acts. It would effectively prevent anyone from putting forward any argument that might be considered to justify terrorism.
On the face of it this might not seem to bad, surely, you might argue, it is wrong for anyone to argue in support of terrorism?
But there are two key reason why this approach is wrong.
Firstly, it is simply wrong for the state to restrict people's freedom to put forward an argument. However wrong you or I might think an argument to be, someone has the right to put it forward. To remove that right is to remove one of the very traditions that make democracy worth defending.
Secondly it is wrong on practical grounds. How do you define 'terrorism' and 'glorify' in a watertight way that only restricts the really nasty advocates of outright terror, rather than catching all sorts of completely harmless theorising? Who does the defining? How can we ensure that they are in some way objective rather than subjective?
To give one example: during the second world war was it wrong for people to publically support terrorist cells active in France? (Otherwise known as the French Resistance)
Under the legal definition of 'terrorism' such public comment would surely be against this proposed law.
Every time there is a major act of terrorism Blair and co. tell us that the terrorists will not be allowed to change our way of life. Yet by the look of these proposals they are allowing probably the most control crazy Government we have ever had to restrict our liberty more than has ever been the case in peacetime.
Friday, September 02, 2005
And after being a fan of the band for 22 years I actually got to meet them after the gig.
I never quite know what to say when I meet people I am a big fan of, but muttered something along the lines of 'thank you for the music'. Very friendly they were too.
Friday, August 05, 2005
According to a Home Office spokesman:
Instead, the scheme would provide people with a more convenient way of showing their identity - something already needed to access public services, he said.
Strangely I've never had much of problem accessing public services so far. But it's always nice to know that yet another non-existent problem might be solved by ID cards.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
local libraries may be nationalised.
This is a compltely backward step and once again flies in the face of the Government's claim to believe in decentralisation.
Local authorities are perfectly capabalbe of running their local libraries, and local input should play a big role in a successful local library which should be a community asset.
What they do need is investment. For the past few years local authorities have received no money at all to improve library buildings. Imagine how much could have been achieved if all th money that was wasted on the Dome had been invested across the country in local libraries and museums instead.
Until recently I was responsible for libraries in Oxfordshire. We made a lot of improvemenst despite the lack of capital. A key part in that success was because we encourage local librarians to use their initiative and respond to local need.
If the Government goes down the route proposed in their consultant's report it will be a further diminishment of local democracy and our local liberaries will be poorer for it.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
However I was struck by these comments reported in The Times:
Pc Norman Brennan, a campaigner for the victims of crime who has called for all officers to be routinely armed, said the shooting was an unfortunate consequence of being "at war". He said: "The long and the short of it is that this country is at war with terrorists and in war there are casualties. Normally in the majority of cases it is the enemy but innocent people will suffer. I am afraid it is tragic but that is part of any battle.
I am sure the family and friends of those wrongly shot by the Police and armed forces as a result of the 'war' will be delighted to know that they are an 'unfortunate consequence'.
It is utterly counter-productive for the security services to take anything other than the utmost caution in their use of force. Allowing the security services to drop their standards when it comes to use of force will simply exacerbate tensions with minority communities and provide those recruiting terrorists one more message to use.
It is just as wrong for an innocent person to be killed or injured by the security services as it is for them to be killed or injured by terrorists. The only justification for using potentially lethal force is if it is clear that there is an imminent threat to life, and one which cannot be stopped in any other way. Anything less and it is inevitable that the security services will join the terrorists in killing innocent people.
It does nothing for the families and friends of victims of terrorist attacks to know that more innocent people have been killed.
There is a real irony in the description of PC Norman Brennan as 'a campagner for the victims of crime'. He doesn't seem to be campaigning for the victim in this case.
Friday, July 15, 2005
It was a very moving moment as everybody and everything stopped and many heads were bowed.
I thought about those who had died a week ago and their relatives who have lost them, I also thought about the many thousands who have lost thier lives and loved ones in Iraq, Afghanistan and so many other places because of mindless violence.
I thought about the people I have met and worked with in East Africa, the Balkans and the Baltic and the courage they have shown in coming through such conflict and working for peace, liberty and democracy.
It is a moment I will remember.
And then they changed the guard, which I have never watched before. It was very colourful and cheerful and demonstrated, I thought, that life in London goes on.
Well done to Mark Hunter and the brilliant Lib Dem by-election team.
The Tories ran a very nasty campaign, even by their usual standards, and it is a very good thing that the electors of Cheadle saw right through it.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
I have found listening to a lot of the statements by Blair, Bush and co. quite staggering. It really doesn't seem to occur to them that the pain and suffereing caused to each British or US family killed by a bombing is exactly the same as the pain and suffering caused to so many more families in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Sunday, July 03, 2005
But it happened. And he is not alone, several US states and more than 400 town and city mayors have already started work to tackle pollution and emmissions.
Republicans in the Senate even voted against the Bush line.
Surely it is now only a matter of time before Bush has to see sense?
20 years ago I sat and watched Live Aid with a group of my teenage mates. This time it was with the missus and small children - quitea contrast!
What didn't change for me was the effect. Live Aid was one of the events that motivated me to get involved in politics 20 years ago. I watched the coverage and read the papers and decided that I could not see any reason why so many people should live in abject poverty on a planet where so many others are so rich.
I remember the tears rolling when they played that memorable footage over 'Who's gonna drive you home' by The Cars and the tears were rolling again yesterday when Bob Geldof introduced Birhan Woldu, one of the starving children featured in that film.
There has been a lot of questioning about the effectiveness of Live 8. Isn't Bob Geldof on an ego trip? Why should we listen to rock stars anyway? Will it make a difference?
In my view it is not Live 8 we should be questioning. It is politics and politicians. We should be asking how it is that G8 leaders can possibly fail to take serious action. Why is it that western governments will spend more money this year subsidising their own farmers than the entire total of African debt.
As far as I am concerned Live 8 has already worked. It has got millions of people listening to the arguments and issues. It will energise tens of thousands of people into actively campaigning. And it certainly can't have reduced the chances of the G8 summit achieving something.
And if the issue is important enough to persuade Roger Waters to step on stage with Dave Gilmour after their 24 year grudge, surely a few billion isn't asking too much?
Sunday, April 17, 2005
First dear Michael got his crime figures wrong:
Then the Winchester Tory candidate got into trouble over a website:
And the Tory campaign in Guildford is accused of racism:
And Ed Matts (an amusing chap - I remember him telling me how he wa definitely winning Oxford West & Abingdon and that my County seat was a gonner at the last election) is in hot water in Dorset:
And then it's back to dear Michael again - and this time it's MRSA figures that he is exagerating:
I suppose you can't criticise these hapless PPCs - they are clearly just following the leadership line;-)
(And this is the guy who says Blair can't be trusted!)
It does contain some disturbing images so please don't view it if you are easily offended.
On a more humerous note:
is very amusing.
In the past week or so I have visited several seat we hope to win on May 5th, and overall the mood is very positive.
The highlight for me was visiting Folkestone & Hythe last week where we are running a very strong campaign to unseat Tory Leader Michael Howard. I drove into the seat from the west - through Romney Marsh - traditionally the weaker end of the seat for us. But even here I was greeted by a large number of Peter Carroll' stakeboards. In Folkestone itself the display was very impressive. There were hardly any Howard posters. Our candidate Peter Carroll is getting a lot of help from several Gurkhas - and boy can they deliver leaflets fast!
We are also doing well in seats where we are fighting Labour. The team in Watford are really boyant. It looks like many former Tory voters there have realised that the Lib Dems are the real challengers this time and are switching in droves. A brief visit to Brent East was also very positive - there are already more Sarah Teather boards up than we had by the end of the by-election. She has worked really hard since the by-election and the voters seem to be recognising this.
Another seat we are doing really well in is New Forest East. Again I was met with a very impressive poster display, and the campaign HQ is being deluged with requests for posters, offers of help etc.
Overall the feel is very positive with the Lib Dem vote solid and enthusiastic and voters coming across from both the other parties for poltiical and tactical reasons.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Saturday, March 26, 2005
The Tories seem to be willing to stoop pretty low to try and win the seat back.
You can find the site at http://www.bloggerheads.com/anne_milton/
I helped the excellent Sue Doughty a lot in the last election and have seen how hard she has worked since. Ms Milton will have to be pretty lucky to win this one.
Can't wait for next Saturday!
Thursday, March 10, 2005
My very good friend from University days Mr Daniel Hall has just had his latest novel 'Killigrew and the Sea Devil' published under his pen name Jonathan Lunn.
This is the latest story in the Killigrew series which follows our hero in a seris of swashbuckling adventures that will appeal to lovers of Sharpe, Hornblower and the like.
If you read all his books you will even find a bit part character called 'Fawcett' crop up somewhere ;-)
I should think you can buy it via the Amazon link on the Lib Dem website, it was also on the shelves in Borders and Waterstones last time I looked. Well worth a read.
At present we have bene given the usual pile of Government targets that we are supposed to try and meet, along with recommended size of library floorspace for any given population, but the Government allocated no capital funding to expand libraries. Nope, not a dime.
In Oxfordshire nearly all our main town libraries are way below the size they should be, because of decades of housing growth.
Despite these constraints I am glad to say that we have ben bucking the national trend of decline and actually getting more people into our libraries, buying more books and lending more out.
We have been able to do some redevelopments by some pretty clever schemes thought up by our staff.
We have just been able to commit funding for a new library in Thame as well, which i am delighted about.
BUT - we are only scratching the surface. With some real cash we could transform out town libraries and turn them into local centres offering traditional library services and much, much more. Libraries should be the base for the delivery of range of council and infromation services. They should have faciltities for every age group - parent and toddler sessions, child and teen sections, homework areas, book clubs, pensioner clubs, IT access and the rest.
Libraries can play a serious role in supporting learning for children and adults, for expanding aspirations and informing and engaging people.
And it wouldn't cost that much to act as a catalyst for real and rapid progress.
The Government claims to want to see all this happen, but they haven't so far put their money where their mouth is.
They then demonstrate this by showing how the average Headteacher, or households of several young professionals, would pay more than they do now.
Perhaps they ought to look at the IFS website (to which there is a useful link at www.axethetax.org.uk) and see where such people sit on the range of household incomes.
Without giving too much personal information away I was slightly surprised to see just how high up the income scale my household is. I would pay a bit more in LIT than I currently do in Council Tax.
Most households in my ward, families on incomes around or below national average, would pay a lot, lot less though. And quite rightly so.
One of the most shocking things about this Government is that after eight years those on the lowest incomes still pay a bigger share of their income in tax than those eanring the most. If Lib Dem policies move things just slightly in the other direction then this is a policy to be proud of.
And those who harp on about the losers should aquaint themselves with hte facts about what most households actaully live on. It's quite right that headteachers, and other households, in the top 10% of incomes should pay more.
In Oxfordshire we are once again seeing serious problems in the local 'health economy' as the local PCTs struggle with budget problems as the end of the year approaches.
On top of that we have two Minor Injury Units in local Community Hospitals closed currently.
I do hope labour will be able to explain how such things are still happening after eigh years in power.
That's right, only sixteen days until Doctor Who returns to our screens.
I know this because in an effort to prove that I am as sad as the rest of them I have now downloaded my Doctor Who screen saver!
Whether my children quite understand what they are about to be exposed to I don't know, but we have already moved the sofa a foot forward just in case.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
That this country's immigration system can allow such behaviour is shocking. The people in these centres have committed no crime, many have faced persecution in their home countries, and many will end up being allowed to stay.
And for a Government which claims that 'child protection' is one of its top priorities to allow any child to be locked up in such a place is utter hypocricy.
To think that a Labour Government is so concerned about out-flanking the Tories that they have allowed such a situation to develop is appalling.
But then this programme comes on the same day that the newspapers report comments by Government Minister Hazel Blears who apparantly thinks British Muslims should 'expect' to be discriminated against by the Police.
I feel ashamed that these things are happening in my country.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
According to the news US Governmen officials are still claiming that the four are a threat.
If they have any hard evidence to back up their claims why didn't they charge them with an offence and prosecute them?
Similarly, our security forces either have hard evidence that the people locked up in Belmarsh are guilty of terrorist activity.
It is quite frightening that, apparantly in order to preserve our freedoms, our Government appears to be willing to sacrifice our ... er ... freedoms.
I wonder if our Government would have stood by and done nothing for so long if the Guantanamo Four had been white?
Sunday, January 16, 2005
I stood against Robert at the last election and have met him several times since in my County Councillor role.
I'm not surprised by his decision. He clearly had misgivings about the direction of the Tories before the last election and his pro-European and pro-Tuition Fees views are well known. However much I might disagree with him on politics, he has always struck me as a thoughtful and principled man.
Are the Tories ever going to get any good news?